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My (not so) recent work


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#1 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:09 AM

Hi all,

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:

3rd floor.
INT.HALLWAY__NIGHToverhead.jpg

1st floor.
INT.LOBBY__NIGHToverhead.jpg
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:13 AM

Much of the action takes place inside the elevator, where Jeff thinks he has escaped from the drug dealer, only to find when the lobby door opens that the dealer is waiting for him. The elevator was fantastic for shooting, about 3'6" by 7', with a sliding glass door and a man-operated lift mechanism. There were even three edison plugs and a switch to turn off the overhead fluorescent! My lighting was a Dedo on a polecat -- it created a very harsh toplight which I combined with a 1/2 black promist filter for halation ("Bringing Out the Dead" was a big influence on the look of the film). On the 3rd and 2nd floors, I had a 650w fresnel filtering through the glass so that as the elevator descended, we would have intermittent light inside.

Paul_Elev_02.jpg
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:20 AM

On the 1st floor, I had a 650w fresnel or a Mickey (I forget which) gelled Primary Red and on a dimmer for a neon light effect and the HMI gelled Full Plus Green and bounced off a mylar board for ambient moonlight.

The drug dealer attacks Jeff, throwing him back into the elevator.

Elev_wide_02.jpg
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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:24 AM

Here's a close up of Jose, the drug dealer. I'm holding a piece of foamcore below the frame. Otherwise, There was quite a bit of bounce from Jeff's yellow sweater, which lit Jose nicely.

Sal_Elev_01.jpg
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:32 AM

Here's a MS of Jose outside the elevator after he's chased Jeff out of the building. He steps into a CU and we zoom in on his metal grille.

Sal_Elev_02.jpg

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.
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#6 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:53 AM

DAY TWO - EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

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.

EXT._ALLEY_overhead.jpg
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:08 AM

He's the extreme wide of the alley. In this scene, Jeff gets picked up by a creepy john who trades crack for sex. Jeff ends up beating the john, stealing his wallet, and running off into the night.

Alley_wide_01.jpg

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.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:21 AM

In this series of dolly shots, we track behind Jeff as a blinding light fades up on his back. He turns ...

Alley_Paul_01.jpg

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."
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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:30 AM

... And we dolly left from Jeff's legs to reveal Bob the john, creeping in his car.

Alley_Johnnie_01.jpg

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.
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:39 AM

Here's the box light rig.

box_light_01.jpg

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. :)
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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:44 AM

The next dolly shot in the sequence is from Bob's POV. The camera is overcranked to 48fps. I believe the key was a 300w fresnel with full grid, but I really don't remember.

Alley_Paul_02.jpg
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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:09 AM

Cut to: Jeff's POV (120 degree pan left @ 48fps, Bob creeps by, leering).

Alley_Johnnie_02.jpg

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.)
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#13 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:14 AM

The car screeches to a halt.

Alley_wide_02.jpg

Bob: Hey, you partying tonight?
Jeff: I'm not working tonight.
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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:17 AM

Alley_crack_pipe.jpg

Bob: You wanna get in?

Pan up and rack focus to...
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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:20 AM

Alley_Paul_04.jpg

Cut to black, car door slams. Jeff's in.
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#16 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:38 AM

Jeff and Bob park in a secluded spot.

Car_Johnnie_01.jpg

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!").
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#17 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:47 AM

Bargaining for a hit.

Car_Paul_02.jpg

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.
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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:54 AM

Car_wide_02.jpg

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.
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#19 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:03 AM

Car_Paul_04.jpg

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).
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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:13 AM

Last one.

Car_Johnnie_03.jpg

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! :)
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Visual Products

The Slider

Paralinx LLC

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

CineLab

Opal

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Glidecam

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly