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What's a realistic shooting schedule for a HD feature?


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#1 Adam Paul

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 05:07 PM

I know this is tremendously subjective, but I wanted to ask the more experienced people here what they think is a realistic shooting schedule for a low budget HD feature shoot with a crew of 4 or 5 plus the Director? I mean in terms of script pages per day of shooting etc.
The feature is to be shot in HD with a Mini35 and a set of PL prime lenses. No zooms if that will make any difference. It would be great to hear your opinions. Thanks.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 02:41 AM

I know this is tremendously subjective, but I wanted to ask the more experienced people here what they think is a realistic shooting schedule for a low budget HD feature shoot with a crew of 4 or 5 plus the Director? I mean in terms of script pages per day of shooting etc.
The feature is to be shot in HD with a Mini35 and a set of PL prime lenses. No zooms if that will make any difference. It would be great to hear your opinions. Thanks.


What has the fact that it will be shot on HD have to do with the shooting schedule?

The truth is that a shooting schedule, unless everyone is working for free, is almost always based on the number of days you can actually afford to shoot, not on how many days you need to shoot. And if you can't make the movie for those numbers of days, then you start simplifying the script to match the schedule.

Also, how many pages a day you can shoot depend on the pages (the complexity of the scenes and the amount and type of coverage imagined), and on the ability of the crew. The classic example is a line in a script that says: "Atlanta burns." or "The war began."

I can tell you that the typical low-budget movie has a three or four week shooting schedule, just because that's the longest schedule most producers can afford to pay people for and rent equipment for, plus keep a group of actors together for. I did one 15-day feature, one 17-day feature, and several 18-day features. But they were a real grind.
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#3 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 07:46 AM

Just came off shooting a 23 day interactive feature. We had mostly 12 to 14 hour days of 6 day weeks for four weeks. Not a lot of time for a 120 page script. Still we managed to get everything but that's only because the director had a detailed shot breakdown that would put any script supervisor to shame. Otherwise, I think we would have gone way over schedule.

As long as the director is prepared or he/she has an experienced production team (A.D., Script Sup, PM,etc) you can easily do 5 to 7 pages a day. But the 35mm adaptor can really slow you down. We'd remove it when we needed to buy ourselves some extra time. It takes longer to light with it and longer to set up shots.

Another time saving measure is block shooting where you shoot out a location but you do it in directions. Meaning you shoot several scenes at once in one direction and then turn around. This involves wardrobe changes and having actors jump around in the script and sometimes lighting changes but it definitely saves a lot of time. Not a lot of fun for the actors though.
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 10:06 AM

Google "Script Supervisor" to get a feel for just how important that job is in making movies.
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#5 Adam Paul

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 10:24 AM

What has the fact that it will be shot on HD have to do with the shooting schedule?


I just thought I would mention it in case it made any difference. I somehow think shooting HD can go a bit faster than shooting film all things being equal. You don?t need to re-load every 4 or 10 minutes, you don?t need to check the gate, the camera is much lighter, so tripod and everything else is much lighter and so faster to move around. These may be just small things, but in my opinion, in the end of the day it adds up. May be just my impression though.

The truth is that a shooting schedule, unless everyone is working for free, is almost always based on the number of days you can actually afford to shoot, not on how many days you need to shoot. And if you can't make the movie for those numbers of days, then you start simplifying the script to match the schedule.


Well, I was shown a 100 pages action/thriller script and the production can only afford a 30 days shooting schedule with 4 people on the crew plus the Director. That would be about 3 and ½ pages a day. I was just trying to figure if it would be enough to do a good job or if it isn?t worth it because it would be too much pressure and too short time. The crew would be ?D.P?., soundman, 1 AC/PA and maybe one more PA. No AD. The Director would be doing the AD?s job. There would be a script supervisor but it?s just the Director?s wife. I was offered to shoot it.

Also, how many pages a day you can shoot depend on the pages (the complexity of the scenes and the amount and type of coverage imagined), and on the ability of the crew. The classic example is a line in a script that says: "Atlanta burns." or "The war began."


I was just trying to get a picture of what it?s possible on a short period of time and at the same time trying to see what?s realistic to avoid setting an undoable schedule.


I can tell you that the typical low-budget movie has a three or four week shooting schedule, just because that's the longest schedule most producers can afford to pay people for and rent equipment for, plus keep a group of actors together for. I did one 15-day feature, one 17-day feature, and several 18-day features. But they were a real grind.


Yeah, that makes the 30 days shoot sound not so bad. How many were there in the crews?


Just came off shooting a 23 day interactive feature. We had mostly 12 to 14 hour days of 6 day weeks for four weeks. Not a lot of time for a 120 page script. Still we managed to get everything but that's only because the director had a detailed shot breakdown that would put any script supervisor to shame. Otherwise, I think we would have gone way over schedule.


I would be interested in hearing more about this ?detailed shot breakdown? in detail.

As long as the director is prepared or he/she has an experienced production team (A.D., Script Sup, PM,etc) you can easily do 5 to 7 pages a day. But the 35mm adaptor can really slow you down. We'd remove it when we needed to buy ourselves some extra time. It takes longer to light with it and longer to set up shots.


Did the footage match ok? I have the impression the footage wouldn?t match very well.

Another time saving measure is block shooting where you shoot out a location but you do it in directions. Meaning you shoot several scenes at once in one direction and then turn around. This involves wardrobe changes and having actors jump around in the script and sometimes lighting changes but it definitely saves a lot of time. Not a lot of fun for the actors though.


That sounds like more trouble than it?s worth for me. Shooting that way could throw all the performances off, not to mention would be very confusing too. I can see that working with simpler projects though.
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 10:35 AM

Hi,

I think you could probably go a little faster on HD, especially if it's tape, you avoid 35mm groundglass adaptors, use zooms, etc. There is, fairly unquestionably, considerably less fiddling about to do. Exactly what sort of difference it's ever going to make depends very much on the nature of the production. On a microbudget enthusiast-level thing, I guess it could save you 20% of camera-related time. That percentage will drop off as you become more professional about it up to the point where you're Star Wars and there's so many other departments around dipping an oversized ladle into the time pot that the difference will be negligible.

It also depends on the quality and experience of your crew. If your crew is experienced with HD, they'll be faster. There's the attitude situation as well; HD people will usually be used to much shorter schedules. Not to imply that 35mm people are lazy, but there's a certain slightly laid-back mindset that goes with it.

A lot of this has more to do with experience and expectation than technology, but I'd have thought HD could be faster a lot of the time.

Phil
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#7 Adam Paul

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 11:48 AM

Hi,

I think you could probably go a little faster on HD, especially if it's tape, you avoid 35mm groundglass adaptors, use zooms, etc.


Well, the Director wants the 35mm adapter no matter what. I kind of agree as it's nearly impossible to get selective focus with a 1/3" camera .


There is, fairly unquestionably, considerably less fiddling about to do. Exactly what sort of difference it's ever going to make depends very much on the nature of the production. On a microbudget enthusiast-level thing, I guess it could save you 20% of camera-related time. That percentage will drop off as you become more professional about it up to the point where you're Star Wars and there's so many other departments around dipping an oversized ladle into the time pot that the difference will be negligible.

It also depends on the quality and experience of your crew. If your crew is experienced with HD, they'll be faster. There's the attitude situation as well; HD people will usually be used to much shorter schedules. Not to imply that 35mm people are lazy, but there's a certain slightly laid-back mindset that goes with it.

A lot of this has more to do with experience and expectation than technology, but I'd have thought HD could be faster a lot of the time.

Phil


Yeah, I was worried 30 days would be way too short. But I'm starting to get the feeling it may more than just doable.
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#8 Michael Nash

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 01:53 AM

Yeah, I was worried 30 days would be way too short. But I'm starting to get the feeling it may more than just doable.



Forget about the days, get more people! Your crew is overloaded with responsibilities for a feature-length film.
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 10:30 AM

Hi,

I think you could probably go a little faster on HD, especially if it's tape, you avoid 35mm groundglass adaptors, use zooms, etc. There is, fairly unquestionably, considerably less fiddling about to do. Exactly what sort of difference it's ever going to make depends very much on the nature of the production. On a microbudget enthusiast-level thing, I guess it could save you 20% of camera-related time. That percentage will drop off as you become more professional about it up to the point where you're Star Wars and there's so many other departments around dipping an oversized ladle into the time pot that the difference will be negligible.


Although with some HD cameras you need to check the backfocus all the time because any temperature variations throws it off on these particular cameras.
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#10 Adam Paul

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 11:53 AM

Forget about the days, get more people! Your crew is overloaded with responsibilities for a feature-length film.


That's the thing. They can't get anymore people. Budget won't allow for it. That's the reason I wanted to ask if 30 days is "enough" to shoot a 100 pages script with a crew of 4 or 5 + the Director.
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 12:18 PM

4-5 people? And people told me I was a kamikaze shooting a feature with a 10 man crew.

R,
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#12 Billy Summers

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 03:10 PM

If your crew is experienced, it is "possible", I guess.

But is the 4-5 man crew includes sound dept. as well?

I mean,

2 people on camera: DP/Operator and 1stAC/Focus Puller

2 people in Lighting: Gaffer and Grip

1 (2 would be alot better) person running sound and boom opping?

Sounds pretty gnarly, don't you think you could get a few more people if you really tried?

1stAD is of Monumental importance! (Script Super too...but)
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#13 Michael Nash

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 06:33 PM

That's the thing. They can't get anymore people. Budget won't allow for it. That's the reason I wanted to ask if 30 days is "enough" to shoot a 100 pages script with a crew of 4 or 5 + the Director.


So would the budget allow for more than 30 days? You spend the money where it will do you the most good...

I know what it's like to work in the no budget/independent world, but really, manpower is always your cheapest resource. It costs less to add another guy than it does to add another day. Usually a production will add extra crew on the heavy days that they're really needed, then cut back to the core crew for the bulk of the shoot.

If the budget is absolutely fixed, prohibiting more people or more days, then you start cutting or combining scenes to simplify the schedule and shots. This is part of what a 1st AD does.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 01:52 AM

I did a small HD movie with just a few crew members to help, two in fact... but they were comedies of people talking in bars and diners. Not action movies. You need a bigger crew to pull that off well and safely, depending on the action. For one thing, action movies tend to need a lot of set-ups, they tend to want moving camera shots, cameras rigged to things like movie vehicles, they tend to have stunts, etc.
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#15 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 02:39 AM

Well, I was shown a 100 pages action/thriller script and the production can only afford a 30 days shooting schedule with 4 people on the crew plus the Director. That would be about 3 and ½ pages a day. I was just trying to figure if it would be enough to do a good job or if it isn?t worth it because it would be too much pressure and too short time. The crew would be ?D.P?., soundman, 1 AC/PA and maybe one more PA. No AD. The Director would be doing the AD?s job. There would be a script supervisor but it?s just the Director?s wife. I was offered to shoot it.


You have not given us a lot of detail but this sounds a bit odd. If its an action / thriller script the action part of it will need to be minimal, and handled in a minimalistic way.

What is your sense of these people, are they increadbly well organized? Are they experienced and realistic? Has the director pre-visualized every shot and how its to be done? Does he have real plans to achieve what he wants or is he using sentences that begin with the phrase: "if we can get . . ."

Also if you are going to use the pro35mm adapter, be carefull, depending upon the lighting, f stop, focal length you will see the spinning ground glass more in some situations than others, so your footage will have different looks based on how much the camera was seeing the glass.

Edited by Douglas Hunter, 03 March 2007 - 02:42 AM.

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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 07:42 AM

My experience is that unless you've got people preparing for the days/weeks ahead you'll start running out of steam after about a week. You need those production office, location, design people to be setting up ahead of the main unit. This is extremely difficult to do if everyone is on set shooting and future scenes/locations have to be prepared after a day's filming and there's always some daily firefighting to be done as things go wrong - people fall sick, locations are no longer available etc.

I know studio set based features that have been shoot in a week. Coppola shot "Dementia 13" with a crew of 9 in 3 days (some say two days) whilst working for Roger Corman. I don't know if there were pick ups or any additional material needed after the main shoot. This tends not to be mentioned when you hear about these extremely low number of shooting days feature films.
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#17 Adam Paul

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 07:00 PM

If your crew is experienced, it is "possible", I guess.

But is the 4-5 man crew includes sound dept. as well?

I mean,

2 people on camera: DP/Operator and 1stAC/Focus Puller

2 people in Lighting: Gaffer and Grip

1 (2 would be alot better) person running sound and boom opping?

Sounds pretty gnarly, don't you think you could get a few more people if you really tried?

1stAD is of Monumental importance! (Script Super too...but)


Yes, 4-5 including sound. The crew is DP/Op, 1st AC (who is also working as a PA when he has time) sound person(boom and mixing) , a script supervisor (Directors wife) and a PA/grip. No AD. The Director would be doing the AD?s job.
I don?t think the budget allows for more people really.

So would the budget allow for more than 30 days? You spend the money where it will do you the most good...

I know what it's like to work in the no budget/independent world, but really, manpower is always your cheapest resource. It costs less to add another guy than it does to add another day. Usually a production will add extra crew on the heavy days that they're really needed, then cut back to the core crew for the bulk of the shoot.

If the budget is absolutely fixed, prohibiting more people or more days, then you start cutting or combining scenes to simplify the schedule and shots. This is part of what a 1st AD does.


What I understood is that budget doesn?t allow for more people or more days. If pick ups or re-shoots are needed they will be done on weekends with a crew of 3 volunteers.
But I?m trying to convince them to get an extra crew member.

I did a small HD movie with just a few crew members to help, two in fact... but they were comedies of people talking in bars and diners. Not action movies. You need a bigger crew to pull that off well and safely, depending on the action. For one thing, action movies tend to need a lot of set-ups, they tend to want moving camera shots, cameras rigged to things like movie vehicles, they tend to have stunts, etc.


It?s really more of a thriller than action movie. The action is basically a couple of punches, some shooting and a chase through town (on feet, not car chase).
What I?m worried about is that the Director seem to be planning using a dolly and a jib quite often.

You have not given us a lot of detail but this sounds a bit odd. If its an action / thriller script the action part of it will need to be minimal, and handled in a minimalistic way.

What is your sense of these people, are they increadbly well organized? Are they experienced and realistic? Has the director pre-visualized every shot and how its to be done? Does he have real plans to achieve what he wants or is he using sentences that begin with the phrase: "if we can get . . ."


The Director seems to be pretty organized and really looks like he knows what he wants.


Also if you are going to use the pro35mm adapter, be carefull, depending upon the lighting, f stop, focal length you will see the spinning ground glass more in some situations than others, so your footage will have different looks based on how much the camera was seeing the glass.


It?s actually a Mini35 rather then the Pro35. I?m aware of the ground glass problems but the Director is bent on using the adapter because he wanted to shoot it in 35mm with an old Arri, but budget didn?t allow it. So he wants to at least get the 35mm dof.


My experience is that unless you've got people preparing for the days/weeks ahead you'll start running out of steam after about a week. You need those production office, location, design people to be setting up ahead of the main unit. This is extremely difficult to do if everyone is on set shooting and future scenes/locations have to be prepared after a day's filming and there's always some daily firefighting to be done as things go wrong - people fall sick, locations are no longer available etc.

I know studio set based features that have been shoot in a week. Coppola shot "Dementia 13" with a crew of 9 in 3 days (some say two days) whilst working for Roger Corman. I don't know if there were pick ups or any additional material needed after the main shoot. This tends not to be mentioned when you hear about these extremely low number of shooting days feature films.


The Director?s is doing the AD?s job himself, but the plan is to have it all prepared, storyboarded and broken-down with shot lists etc all before shooting. Locations are all practical locations so not much to prepare there.

Thanks for all the inputs. It?s really helping to clear the picture and have a realistic idea of what could happen.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 12:09 AM

I wonder if the production really knows what it is doing, if they say that can't afford to hire more than 4 or 5 people yet have the budget to shoot for 30 days. And the director is going to act as his own AD? That seems like a total distraction -- an AD shields the director from a lot of crap that keeps the director from doing their job properly.
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#19 Bruce Greene

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 01:37 AM

Adam,

From your crew list, it looks like you won't be doing any lighting. In that case, I think you should have no problem shooting the script in 4 weeks. Yet, it may look very "documentary" in style, for lack of a better description.

The 35mm lens adapter will be a real obstacle though as you will be required to work at miniscule depth of field, which will require expert focus pulling, probably beyond the ability of a 1st ac / PA.

Also the adapter will use up two stops of light, requiring that you shoot all day exteriors. I would strongly suggest that you test the 35mm adapter in advance in the type of lighting conditions that you'll be using, along with a very good HD monitor to see if you can keep the moving actors in focus and have enough exposure for the camera. Personally, I would skip the expense of the 35mm adapter and lenses and get at least a few lights and reflectors and a lighting crew person, otherwise, what there is is what you'll get lighting wise, good or not so good...

-bruce
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#20 Adam Paul

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 04:22 AM

I wonder if the production really knows what it is doing, if they say that can't afford to hire more than 4 or 5 people yet have the budget to shoot for 30 days. And the director is going to act as his own AD? That seems like a total distraction -- an AD shields the director from a lot of crap that keeps the director from doing their job properly.


He would even like to have a AD, but this is a small town and he just can?t find one and to bring somebody from the next bigger town would cost too much. It would probably mean having to let 2 people go to hire an AD. Maybe 3, because you would have to factor in a hotel etc for the AD for the 30 days. The reason for the 30 days as I understood is because he really thinks less than that isn?t enough. I mentioned we could maybe shoot it in 20 days and maybe add 2 more crew people, but he doesn?t think 20 days is enough, even with 2 more. Because you have to know that we are not talking about a big town with professional crew people available on every corner. From the whole crew, besides me, the script supervisor and the sound person, the rest are just people who have done work with video, but never worked a feature. So adding 2 more of those people wouldn?t really improve things up more than having an extra 10 days. But he seems to be a pretty competent guy and I truly believe he can do it. Since the crew is not big, he may be able to pull it off as long as he prepares very well.

Adam,

From your crew list, it looks like you won't be doing any lighting. In that case, I think you should have no problem shooting the script in 4 weeks. Yet, it may look very "documentary" in style, for lack of a better description.


Actually, I?m the one doing the lighting and also operating. Documentary style is exactly what the Director doesn?t want.

The 35mm lens adapter will be a real obstacle though as you will be required to work at miniscule depth of field, which will require expert focus pulling, probably beyond the ability of a 1st ac / PA.


They are not going for the extreme shallow focus look. The Director wants to shoot everything with a T4. That?s to make the AC?s and actor?s life easier. Remember it?s a 1/3? chip camera.

Also the adapter will use up two stops of light, requiring that you shoot all day exteriors. I would strongly suggest that you test the 35mm adapter in advance in the type of lighting conditions that you'll be using, along with a very good HD monitor to see if you can keep the moving actors in focus and have enough exposure for the camera. Personally, I would skip the expense of the 35mm adapter and lenses and get at least a few lights and reflectors and a lighting crew person, otherwise, what there is is what you'll get lighting wise, good or not so good...
-bruce


I don?t think lighting will be the problem for the style he wants. He owns a pretty decent lighting package actually. Tweenies, Babies, Juniors and a Senior, plus a mighty-mole, couple of Mickeys, a Blonde, a Redhead, a couple of broads and an array of reflectors, flags, a couple of softboxes, china lamps and grip gear. Power for all locations is sorted out too.

Thanks again for all the input.
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