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"Calling It Quits" week one


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#1 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 08:58 PM

Day One (of 20), New York:

After a week and a half of postponement, we finally started rolling today. We had 6 pages planned, but with our shooting style, that only amounted to 8 shots today. We ended an hour early.

We were in a park where the attendant never arrived, and so at deparment eventually arrived with a cutter after half an hour to saw off the chain and lock. All scenes were day exterior, which keenly reinforced my ill-sentiment toward conventional HD as a working method. We had wonderful shapely light and nice dappling from the trees, but I had to relentlessly bounce fill light into the shot. One time, the natural daylight was gorgeous for a walk and talk on one side of the street, but we had to set the dolly on the shaded side in order to have a workable contrast ratio. I had no means of providing a suitable moving fill light.

I also find it frustrating and slow to not have a director's finder, and even if I opt to use the F-900 as a huge clumsy finder, I have to always have a battery attached, and I can only find compositions in black and white. Perhaps I've been spoiled primarily shooting film the last several years, but I find working with HD to be very inefficeient, cumbersome and slow, with greatly inferior results after all the extra work. Especially with day exteriors today, my job seemed more 'damage control' than rewarding cinematography. Today was a first day, and everyone is feeling out the film and their working methods, but so far, everything is taking twice as long as it should. Of course I expect this to tighten up soon once everyone and everything settles in. This was the first day after all.

We did get a few good compositions and camera moves today, despite the contrast battle. We also did our few but effective shots and covered 6 pages in 11 hours. Tomorrow I happily take lights out of the truck and take much greater control of the image. I'll put up stills when/if possible, as we go along. My gaffer built/designed some modified covered wagons that we may get to play with for some scenes.

-Jarin
www.jarinblaschke.com
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 May 2007 - 02:04 PM

No doubt that the working parameters of HD are different from filmstock, but it seems like you're unfairly taking all the "problems" out on the camera. I mean, you'd be bouncing fill light into the talent with film too, no? And there is a color viewfinder available for the F900. It's not the camera's fault that it's not on there. I've also found that an "ENG" style camera, even with battery attached, is far less clumsy to use as a "viewfinder" than nearly any film camera with mag attached.

Clearly there are always difficulties with any shoot that must be solved. Whenever I'm questioned about my rate, I like to remind Producers that while any kid fresh out of filmschool can shoot while everything is going right, what they are paying the higher rate for is to hedge their bets that the experienced cameraman will keep things from going wrong. And if things do go awry, is it the cheap PA with an "eye" who they want in charge or the more expensive and experienced cameraman? Point being, it seems like you're blaming the HD camera for problems that would be there anyway, no matter what format you're shooting on. I'm not arguing with you, I'm just confused a little.

Anyway, good luck tomorrow! :)
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 May 2007 - 12:55 AM

"Perhaps I've been spoiled primarily shooting film the last several years, but I find working with HD to be very inefficeient, cumbersome and slow, with greatly inferior results after all the extra work."


Shhhhhh, you're not supposed to say things like this.

R,
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#4 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 12 May 2007 - 11:26 AM

No doubt that the working parameters of HD are different from filmstock, but it seems like you're unfairly taking all the "problems" out on the camera. I mean, you'd be bouncing fill light into the talent with film too, no? And there is a color viewfinder available for the F900. It's not the camera's fault that it's not on there. I've also found that an "ENG" style camera, even with battery attached, is far less clumsy to use as a "viewfinder" than nearly any film camera with mag attached.

Clearly there are always difficulties with any shoot that must be solved. Whenever I'm questioned about my rate, I like to remind Producers that while any kid fresh out of filmschool can shoot while everything is going right, what they are paying the higher rate for is to hedge their bets that the experienced cameraman will keep things from going wrong. And if things do go awry, is it the cheap PA with an "eye" who they want in charge or the more expensive and experienced cameraman? Point being, it seems like you're blaming the HD camera for problems that would be there anyway, no matter what format you're shooting on. I'm not arguing with you, I'm just confused a little.

Anyway, good luck tomorrow! :)


Actually, in that shot I wouldn't have bounced light into the dappled shadows because it was still early and hazy enough for film to read the warm highlights and the cool dappled shadows playing across the actors. If it was an hour or two later, it would have been harsher light with more contrast between sunlight and shadow, and indeed any format would have need the fill light. It was just one more example in which a more practical working contrast would have helped immensely, and would have kept the nice character of the natural light. We also could have played our walk-and-talk dolly on the sunny side of the street with the attractive light, as we had no budget to fill light into 80 feet of space. Instead the scene needed to be shot in drab shadow to appease the contrast curve of the camera.

I find a director's finder crucial to a quick pace and full creative freedom on set and am quite surprised that none has been devised for the 2/3" format. That is not the fault of F-900 but is presently one more thing about the 2/3 format that slows the process down by a good deal. There are even finders available for 16mm now, when putting a lens on a handheld SR3 to find a shot isn't really that bad. Anyway, in HD, the fact that I need a camera body and a battery to just walk around to find the right shot is just a bit silly. I'm also less apt to find the best camera placement with more of a burden on my shoulder. I learned how important a finder is after my first 35mm shoot without one.

The biggest problem with HD for me is being a slave to a powered camera in place, hooked up to a reliable and calibrated monitor/ waveform to know what I'm getting. With film I find the shot quickly with a lightweight director's finder and can begin lighting by eye before a camera is even put on the mark and leveled by the AC, nevermind the additional time needed to hook up, power and shade a workable video village. I can have camera and lighting departments working simultaneously, rather than toggling between one and the other, wasting time.

I'm excited to work with whatever raw digital capture that comes our way, as it seems to make a lot more sense. I look forward to emerging from the "digital dark age."

More about the actual motion picture to come, we just finished week one. Once dailies are down-ressed, perhaps some stills can come too.
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#5 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 12 May 2007 - 11:36 AM

"All scenes were day exterior, which keenly reinforced my ill-sentiment toward conventional HD as a working method."

How are you judging the lighting? 20" crt hd monitor in a black tent? 8" crt, 17" lcd w/ waveform???

"I had no means of providing a suitable moving fill light."

6'x6' checkerboard, or silver lame hand-held??? 8'x8'?
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#6 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 12 May 2007 - 12:30 PM

"All scenes were day exterior, which keenly reinforced my ill-sentiment toward conventional HD as a working method."

How are you judging the lighting? 20" crt hd monitor in a black tent? 8" crt, 17" lcd w/ waveform???

"I had no means of providing a suitable moving fill light."

6'x6' checkerboard, or silver lame hand-held??? 8'x8'?


We have a 20" tented CRT monitor and waveform. The subtle dawn contrast was off the charts, even in "hyper gamma."

For the 3/4 backlit walking dolly shot we wanted to do in the sun, we could have had a walking bounce, but a 4x4 bead was no competition for the sun from behind, and anything shinier looks very artificial as a fill source in my opinion. Even bead board has a sheen to it that can look sourcy at times, and 4x4 really isn't that soft when lighting a medium wide walking 2-shot. Unfortunately there was no room for two grips to walk with an 8x8. My bounce is routinely a white surface (bead, ultrabounce) covered in muslin to kill all specularity. A contrasty format also makes soft sources appear harder than they really are, compressing the fall off, so anything remotely sourcy looks even more lit.
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#7 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 10:08 AM

"For the 3/4 backlit walking dolly shot we wanted to do in the sun, we could have had a walking bounce, but a 4x4 bead was no competition for the sun from behind, and anything shinier looks very artificial as a fill source in my opinion ... A contrasty format also makes soft sources appear harder than they really are, compressing the fall off, so anything remotely sourcy looks even more lit."

Not to get picky ... Are you saying the only way to do it is to line up a bunch of 18K's and 12'x20' muslins on the fill side?
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#8 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 13 May 2007 - 04:11 PM

Not to get picky ... Are you saying the only way to do it is to line up a bunch of 18K's and 12'x20' muslins on the fill side?
[/quote]

For a contrasty format like HD or reversal film or cross-process reversal, something much simpler but similar, probably. If I had sidewalk room, a walking 6x6 or 8x8 might have worked reasonably well. A format with a more workable contrast, such as film negative or a raw digital format probably could have been shot under the raw conditions. Even if the highlights topped-out in places with film, it would have been much more pleasing than a video highlight clip.
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