My (not so) recent work
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:09 AM
I posted back in November about this short film I was shooting, actually selected scenes from the director's feature script. I asked the forum members for help with setting up a dolly/boom shot in a narrow apartment hallway/staircase. So thank you David Mullen, Brad Grimmett, and Jon Rosenbloom for your advice, it was very helpful.
This has been my biggest DP gig so far, though to almost everyone else on this forum, it will no doubt seem very small! I guess we all have to start somewhere... Anyway, I finally got my copy of the finished film and wanted to share some frame grabs with you.
There are two primary locations, a night exterior alley and a night interior apartment building. It was a two day shoot, and about 10 pages of script altogether. That broke down to 30 shots for the interior and about 25 for the night exterior, most on sticks, some handheld, and a few dolly shots. Our budget was around $1500, most of that going to equipment rental: 1.2k HMI Par, doorway dolly, track, Dedo lights, grip, field monitor, filters, etc. The rest went to art dept. props, costume, set dressing, expendables, and food. The crew was mostly favors and friends. We shot on my camera operator's HVX200. The rest of our lighting and grip equipment came from our local community college.
DAY ONE - INT. APARTMENT BUILDING - NIGHT
Our story is about a drug addict who hits bottom and goes on a phantasmagorical journey of redemption. The first scene we shot is from the first act, in which our hero Jeff is hounded by his drug dealer in a residential hotel. We found a great seven-story stone building with an old-fashioned elevator that was being used as a dance studio. But we had to load-in no earlier than 4pm and be out the door by 11pm. Also, we were only allowed access to floors 1, 2, 3, and 6. I had to fully light floors 1 and 3, plus set up an elevator light on floor 2. Here are my pre-production lighting plans:
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:13 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:20 AM
The drug dealer attacks Jeff, throwing him back into the elevator.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:24 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:32 AM
This was our last shot of the night, grabbed at 10:45pm (we were supposed to be out by 11pm). Needless to say, things were a bit rushed and we had to drop a number of shots. But day two was much more brutal.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:53 AM
We locked this location a few days before the shoot. We had originally intended to shoot downtown in "crack alley", just around the corner from where we shot the interior (7th St. and Market St. for those of you who know). Even though we planned several months ahead, we could not get permits to shoot there.
Instead, our art director found us this artists' commune near a freeway overpass with a suitably skeezy alley. The artists were very cool and let us draw power from their graffitied warehouse. They were also doing a live radio show at the same time, and there was no way to get lights on the roof. The ground was also extremely irregular, and we had a number of dolly shots to execute. We had an awesome key grip, Jim Serchak, who laid all the track and pushed dolly for us, very fast and efficient.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:08 AM
I used the 1.2k HMI Par to light the warehouse wall against which most of the action takes place. I later realized that my gaffer had dialed the HMI's output to the minimum (and I was thinking the whole time, if only this thing put out more light, I could light more of the street!). My biggest lighting units besides the HMI were three Mickeys, so I used those to create "strips" of light which would key the actors in the scene. That meant that Jeff, who would be walking around quite a bit, had to hit his marks very precisely!
I also used a battery powered "sun gun" to add a little definition to the tire on frame left. The sickly orange light in the foreground is an overhead sodium vapor streetlight.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:21 AM
The key was a Dedo on a dimmer. The unit was mounted on the dolly's push bar, and my gaffer dimmed the light up on Jeff. My camera op had to ride the dolly and pan 90 degrees from the two crackheads sitting on the ground and zoom out, tracking with Jeff's legs, then tilt up and zoom in on his face as Jeff turns into a close up. It's one of my favorite shots in the film!
I also had to do a 70 frame rotoscope job on this shot because Jeff's scar make-up above his left eye looked like a white worm under full light. Unfortunately, Photoshop was the only tool at my disposal, so the scar's shape varies a bit from frame to frame and is noticeably "twitchy."
Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:30 AM
He's keyed with one of the "stripe lights" and also a "box light" unit pushed back into the recessed instrument panel. The headlights are gelled ND 1.2 to keep them from going nuclear. We carried a set of black promists 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and I ended up using the 1/2 on almost everything because I wasn't getting as much halation as I had hoped for with the lighter grades.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:39 AM
It's basically a Kleenex box with a wire frame, a bit of Opal diffusion, and 4 LED flex lights (about $5 each from Wallgreens). They're output is rather bluish, but also quite powerful. I had a problem aiming them properly so you only see a little bit of their output on Bob's face. I've found they also make nice presents for an exhausted crew.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:44 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:09 AM
At first, while planning the sequence, I thought that both shots might have to be on the dolly. I ended up rewatching "Taxi Driver" and "Do the Right Thing" to see how Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee did this, and indeed, it works if the static POV (the person standing on the sidewalk) is represented by a pan. You can get away with a lot if you maintain the eyeline and screen direction. The previous dolly shot moves to the right, BTW.
(This is probably a good point to explain my relationship with the director. Paul is an actor and wrote the script as a showcase for his own acting skills. He is the actor playing Jeff. He's also a very good still photographer but he is not technically oriented at all and thus asks me to finalize coverage and shot selection, much more so than I'm normally comfortable with. Actually, I would prefer a director to come to me with his own shot list and a strong concept of how he would like to film a scene. But Paul is a director who instead wants to be presented with choices -- he really need to see something first before he can approve it. Thus we have extensive prep times, locations scouts, and tests before we shoot. Having now collaborated on three films, we've come to an arrangement that works pretty well.)
Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:14 AM
Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:38 AM
We used the HMI, still gelled Full Plus Green, to backlight the car. This turned out a bit too green for me, next time maybe 1/2. I had envisioned this sequence looking like "CSI Las Vegas" -- hard cyan backlight, soft frontal bounce for key) but it didn't work out like that. I found shooting a parked car conversation to be rather difficult as you're constantly fighting to get the front pillars out of the shot. Not to mention, it's practically impossible to have a hard backlight on the actors without having the light get into the shot (unless it's a convertible). I also should have insisted on having the passenger window open and frame a bit tighter, but I let the Script Super talk me out of it ("No, the window was up!").
Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:47 AM
I'm happier with this CU. Here we did actually open the driver's side window and it feels as if you're in the car with them. I really liked the blue flare on frame left when I saw it on the monitor, and I managed to talk the director into keeping it. Now I wish that we'd gotten rid of it, as it's rather distracting. I also boosted the taillight reflection in the background with a bounce board, and wish I hadn't done that either!
I believe the key is a either a dedo or a 300w fresnel with 216, don't remember.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:54 AM
The wide shot. You can see my attempt at car backlight here. It was freezing cold and the back window was frosted over, which diffused the beam. I opted to leave it, but now I wonder...
Again, diffused key from the left side. I'm pretty sure we used a spotted Dedo to avoid spill on the rest of the car. The reflection of the smoke on the car's hood was a nice bonus.
Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:03 AM
We had initially planned to do a slow push-in on Jeff as he submits to Bob's advances. Unfortunately by this point, we were already several hours behind schedule, so we turned it into a zoom, then a rack to the dirty window (created with hair spray).
Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:13 AM
After Jeff attacks Bob and flees, Bob spies his reflection in the rear-view mirror and screams. Again, the key is a Dedo off to frame right gelled with multiple layers of Opal, same configuration for the HMI.
Anyway, that's all! Thanks for reading (if you're still reading after the longest-post-ever, that is), and let me know what you think. The film's website should be up in a few weeks, so I'll post a link when it happens. Hopefully we'll be shooting the feature next year (my first).
Again, thanks you guys!