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"The Secret" short film


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#1 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:34 AM

Hi everyone,

Here are some DVD frame grabs from a short that I shot last week. The film is for the online FILMAKA short film contest through Buena Vista -- every month, contestants produce a 1-3 min. short based on the posted theme, and the top 20 films advance to the next round. The final prize is a feature film contract with Buena Vista. The film ("1-800 T-SECRET") should be uploaded onto their website within the next few days.
http://www.filmaka.c...ndex.asp?id=580

The producer/director is my classmate from directing class who hired me at the last minute after his regular DP dropped out. Very low-budget, two-day shoot, crew of three (director, grip, and me). The film is about a confused teenager and his single mother who has recently started dating again.

Our lighting package was (1) 1K open-face Arrilite, (1) 650w fresnel, (1) 300w fresnel, (1) 150w fresnel, and my kit of china balls, duvytene, gels, diffusion, gaff tape, etc. The director wanted the film to look as slick as possible. I interpreted this as being relatively high-key, saturated colors, with longer focal lengths, shallow focus CUs, and a 3200K diffused frontal key light and harder backlight on the actors, almost like a classical 40's Hollywood style, but more naturalistic. I wanted to actors to pop a bit in the frame, so I tried to light them a bit brighter than the background. I was not concerned with motivating sources, but rather keeping the look "pretty."

The two primary locations (an Art Deco bowling alley and an upscale home with tons of windows and skylights) were full of photographic opportunities and also posed many problems, given that the scenes were to take place in the late afternoon/evening in the home and at night in the bowling alley. We were able to schedule the bowling alley from 9pm-midnight, but the home was only available to us from 2:45pm- 7pm. Right away, I knew that we'd have to pick a look for the home scenes, the majority of which took place in the kitchen, and then match to that as the day wore on. I decided to go for dusk with the last warm rays of the sun coming through the kitchen window -- this would allow me to underexpose the soft 5600K-ish ambience from all the skylights and windows and use the strongest light I had to simulate weak sunset light coming thru the window. I ended up placing the lights on the very edge of the frame to get the maximum footcandles out of them. My overall strategy was to light the actors to key, use practicals and ambience to "light" the background to just under key, and block out windows with Duvytene and a 4'x6' ND1.2 gel sheet. Often the key was the 300w gelled with Full Grid or Light Grid, and the backlight was the 650w with Opal.

(NOTE: The script was re-written in post so that most of the home scenes became flashbacks -- these scenes have been graded B&W in post. I'll try to repost these in color next week when I get a hold of the orginal footage).

Secret_06.jpg

In this kitchen master, the large window just out of frame left was blacked out with Duvytene. The large window out of frame right was covered 2/3 of the way with ND1.2 gel. A 650w (the 1K died on us) with full CTS punched through the ungelled part of the window and keyed the actress. A china ball with a 250w 3200K bulb was taped inside the skylight just above the frame and rigged to a dimmer for warm ambient toplight. The practical above the stove helped sell the dim-lit look.


Secret_10.jpg

By this point, we were racing to finish our setups so this shot was taken as part of two handheld takes. The lighting is the same as the previous shot.


Secret_04.jpg

This follow shot begins on a long lens at the top of the stairs. There is a big window up there which we gelled from the inside with ND1.2 (there was no way to reach the outside of the second story window). The actor enters through a French door and trots down the stairs, momentarily out of sight behind a wall. He enters the kitchen and stops into a CU as he sees his mom getting ready to leave on her date. We underexposed the blue ambient light and put a flooded 650w thru the French door to create a noirish window pattern behind the him. At the bottom of the stairs, a 300w with Full Grid off to frame right was the key.


Secret_21.jpg

The bowling alley (Sea Bowl in Pacifica, CA) was a great location for shooting. We got it for free and the owner was very helpful -- he cleared three lanes for us, stripped the oil off of the two lanes adjacent to the hero lane so we could walk on them, and even turned on the exterior spotlight for us! I grabbed this shot from the roof of the director's van.


Secret_16.jpg

The "hot date" actor was keyed with the 300w plus Full Grid just out of frame left. The backlight is the 650w plus Opal, also just out of frame left. I wanted to backlight to be directly behind him, but there was no place to rig a light above the frame.


Secret_14.jpg

Same setup.


Secret_17.jpg

Here, I opened the lens aperture all the way and put on the telephoto lens converter for very shallow DoF. Same arrangement, 650w kicker, 300w key, 150w frontal fill. I was hoping for an eyelight from the 150w, but the angle was wrong, I guess.


Secret_19.jpg

Here's the matching reverse. Same lens setup. I dialed the Detail down from -3 to -6, but perhaps it was too much. The shot is a bit soft, and the DoF was a little too shallow -- her right eye was visibly out of focus! I forgot to mention -- shot on the DVX100A, stock lens, 24P, 1/48.

Anyway, that's it -- hope you enjoyed reading! I invite you all to watch the film on the FILMAKA website and let me know what you think. http://www.filmaka.c...ndex.asp?id=580 The director and I will be shooting another one of these this month, this time on a bigger budget and more prep. Thanks guys!

P.S. I like the new attachments, opening to full size in the body of the post. Now, to get more storage space... :)
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#2 Matthew Buick

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 06:21 AM

I like the colour shots, they're very nicely lit. However, the B&W shots feel a little muggy to me.
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 03:38 PM

I like the colour shots, they're very nicely lit. However, the B&W shots feel a little muggy to me.

Hi Matthew,

What do you mean by "muggy"? Too flat, not enough contrast? Or maybe the actors are "mugging" for the camera? I'm a little confused.:huh:
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#4 Matthew Buick

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 05:32 PM

Well...the colours are flat and lifeless, there's not nearly enough decent black, if any. Quite frankly it looks as if someone let the fumes of a nearby chipboard factory waft in. :D
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 03:01 AM

Well...the colours are flat and lifeless...

Well, it IS B&W after all...

With the blacks, I was conservative with the master pedestal setting, having never shot with the camera before, so the blacks were not as black as they could have been. I guess it would have helped to make the kitchen interior a bit more snappy looking. Then again, I adjusted the black levels of the jpegs before I posted them, so maybe our monitors are just set up differently?
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#6 David Sweetman

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 03:25 AM

Nice grabs, that's awesome about the bowling alley dude going so far to help you guys out. The 'filmaka' link doesn't seem to work for me (on 2 computers), it opens the page but the video doesn't play...

Matthew, the way he describes it it sounds like the motion might be what sells the b/w shots.
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 05:40 PM

Nice grabs, that's awesome about the bowling alley dude going so far to help you guys out. The 'filmaka' link doesn't seem to work for me (on 2 computers), it opens the page but the video doesn't play...

Matthew, the way he describes it it sounds like the motion might be what sells the b/w shots.

Thanks, David. It looks like the Filmaka link only allows you to open the four or five films that they upload each day and only for one day (unless you're a member). I have no idea when they'll be uploading ours, so I apologize if you weren't able to see it. By the way, to watch the videos you have to click on the thumbnails on the right side of the page.

The black and white sections weren't shot or planned as such, that was just a decision made by the director in post, so the original color footage has more separation by color, 5600K ambient light and 3200K key lights. The light coming thru the kitchen window was gelled full CTS. And yes, the motion definitely helps sell the shots.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 10 May 2007 - 12:47 PM

I like the colour shots, they're very nicely lit. However, the B&W shots feel a little muggy to me.


I suppose by "muggy" he means that there just isn't much contrast in the b&w images. Looks generally flat with very little tonal separation. It would have helped to keep the light off the walls a bit more, I think.

The bowling alley shots look pretty good though. Maybe a little TOO high key for my taste and for a bowling alley setting. I think at least the man's face could have done with a bit more shadow detail just by cheating the diffused light a bit more towards a side key so you still have the wrap around of a diffused key but now there's just a BIT more character in his expressions.

Good work though!

cheers
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#9 Matthew Buick

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Posted 10 May 2007 - 03:35 PM

I suppose by "muggy" he means that there just isn't much contrast in the b&w images. Looks generally flat with very little tonal separation. It would have helped to keep the light off the walls a bit more, I think.


Thanks, Jonathan. That's just what I mean. Shame I'm not "Cine-savvy" enough to articulate what I was feeling.

You can be a nice guy sometimes. ;)
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 11 May 2007 - 03:23 AM

Hi Jonathan,

Interesting point about the key needing to be more "sidey" -- I would have loved that, but the key light was 15' out on the (2'6"? wide) stripped bowling lane, as was the camera, so the only way to get it more sidey would have been to put it even further away, which would have reduced its output to nil. I guess I should have cheated the actors instead. Also, I had a frontal fill light on him for the last take (I'm not sure which take they used in the final cut), so maybe that was a bad idea. I've had a tendency to light too contrasty and low-key in the past, so I was conciously trying to go in the opposite direction -- guess I went too far!

Funny enough, I've got another DV shoot tomorrow that will be posted in B&W (yay, advance warning this time!), so I'll get another try at lighting for contrast and separation. The brief is a 50's "Leave It to Beaver" studio look, so I'm gonna go hog wild with hard keys, 3-point lighting, hard cuts on walls, etc. We're shooting in a cramped 6th floor apartment with several big windows, so the trick will be to black them out with Duvytene, light to a high key, and stop down. I'm planning on using undiffused fresnels, plus blackwrap to create eyelights and gobo patterns on the walls. Should be interesting!
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#11 Daniel Smith

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Posted 11 May 2007 - 11:23 AM

Hi Matthew,

What do you mean by "muggy"? Too flat, not enough contrast? Or maybe the actors are "mugging" for the camera? I'm a little confused.:huh:

Not enough contrast I'd say. If nothing about the contrast can be done, then like Jonathon said, just keep the light off the walls, more 3D lighting.

Other than that, nice work.

Edited by Daniel Ashley-Smith, 11 May 2007 - 11:26 AM.

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#12 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 12:51 AM

The brief is a 50's "Leave It to Beaver" studio look, so I'm gonna go hog wild with hard keys, 3-point lighting, hard cuts on walls, etc. We're shooting in a cramped 6th floor apartment with several big windows, so the trick will be to black them out with Duvytene, light to a high key, and stop down. I'm planning on using undiffused fresnels, plus blackwrap to create eyelights and gobo patterns on the walls. Should be interesting!


Sounds like fun! I wouldn't use too much hard lighting though if you're going for the Leave it to Beaver look. They probably used more diffusion than you would think.

Also, if your actor's hairdos are gelled/greased, be sure to have a top light to get some good glossy shine! That's the first thing I notice in most the films Cary Grant is in, ha ha!
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#13 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 03:03 AM

Sounds like fun! I wouldn't use too much hard lighting though if you're going for the Leave it to Beaver look. They probably used more diffusion than you would think.

Also, if your actor's hairdos are gelled/greased, be sure to have a top light to get some good glossy shine! That's the first thing I notice in most the films Cary Grant is in, ha ha!

Thanks Jonathan,

I ended up diffusing the 1k fresnel keylight with full grid, sometimes doubled up, and positioned from the side. The hard key just didn't look that good, as it turned out. I had constant hair lights though (very tricky in a small apartment!). I put up a polecat with two 150w fresnels 10' behind the actors, which worked pretty well and kept them out of the shot. Both of the actors were kneeling on the floor in front of a tv. The camera was behind the tv, framing a wide shot of the room. Both of the actors were quite tall (the actress is over 6') and I found that I had initially put the polecat too close to get a hairlight, as the lights couldn't be tilted down any further and we had to walk the polecat back.

We had an old prop tv that was gutted (just the outer shell and glass screen in front), so we papered the front over and I put a 200w fresnel on a dimmer behind it as a gag light. We actually had to shoot the tv and later composite in a plate (which was shot at the end of the shoot). We didn't have any green screen material, so we shot everything facing the tv locked down, with no crossing elements. The papered-over tv screen was totally blown out (over 100 IRE), so the editor should be able to make a luma matte for the screen and comp in the plate.

The two things that gave me the biggest headache were that: One, the art direction only covered 120 degrees of the room, and we needed to shoot more like 270 degrees, so I couldn't light the background like I had wanted to and basically had to get it as dark as possible. Two, there was no way to avoid shooting the windows, which extended in every direction. So we Duvytened the ones out of frame and put ND1.2 and black garbage bags on the rest and hid them behind the venetian blinds. We didn't have enough to cover the whole window frames, so I chose to only cover the lower halves, which didn't look too bad. I should have some stills by next week.
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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 07:30 AM

Okay folks,

Here are a few stills from the shoot, my second attempt at lighting for B&W with the DVX. I lowered the master pedestal to -7 after my last experience. The look is supposed to be 1950's "Leave it to Beaver." The scene is a directing class project from the film "Pleasantville."

two_shot_03.jpg

As described in the previous post, the key is a 1k fresnel with full grid to frame right, the light on the couch is a 200w fresnel also to frame right, and the backlights are two 150w fresnels on a polecat. Directly in front of the actors, we had a gutted prop tv with a papered-over screen and a 200w fresnel backlighting it. The gag light was on a dimmer, which I "performed" to the Don Knotts character's voice -- when he gets upset, I flickered it faster. I found that the flicker effect looked best between 1/2 up and 1/4 down on the dimmer.

Here's a pic of the lighting setup. You can see the ND1.2 gel on the windows - we shot it during the middle of the day in a tiny apartment on the 6th floor.

lighting_two_shot.jpg
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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 08:00 AM

A few more pics.

high_angle.jpg

Here's another angle of the same setup. The gag light works well here because you can also see the flicker through the vents in the tv.

don_knotts.jpg

Here's the Don Knotts character "in the tv." The final composite that the director did wasn't very good, so I'm going to try redoing it. Since he's supposed to be in a tv studio, I wanted to suggest this with the multiple hard shadows and undiffused keys.

profile_shot.jpg

Well, you can see here the effect of the partially ND'd windows. I actually think it looks pretty good in B&W, I just wish they were even. I probably should have had some frontal fill on the actor's faces, they're a bit dark. Also, the actor's head is cropped a bit more than I would like -- the operating cameraman caught a bit of the light in the upper right of frame, and I had to crop it out in post. Actually, a good number of our shots had all kinds of things sticking into frame. On the actor's CU, 1/4 of the frame was covered by a blackwrap sidewing on the lens shade!

Anyway, let me know what you think.
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