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One-take feature


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#1 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 08:55 AM

Hi!

I've just been offered to shoot my first feature by a directorfriend of mine which is fantastic. It's a bit of a tricky job though since the whole film is going to be shot in one-take. The plot is played out on and around a mainstreet in Copenhagen and there are four maincarachters whos stories intertwine in eachothers. It's going to be guerilla-filmmaking, since there is no budget at all and we all are doing it for free. The actors are all educated and very good, so the film has a great potential.
We're shooting in two weeks, and we are going to do it every night for one week so we can improve and chose from several takes. We're shooting longplay on miniDV which is kind of risky but the only way if I want a small camera. It will get way to complicated with a sholder camera since I'm both running, entering cars, small appartments etc. We will shoot the film in the evening, around magic-hour so that it will be really dark in the last scenes. I'm wondering which camera you guys would suggest that is good in low light levels? I've heard that the VX2100 is supposed to handle this well, but I don't know if I can get my hands on it. I can borrow a DVX100 which is nice because then I can shoot 25p but that also steals some light, right? How does the DVX100 handle low light in your opinion?
I figure that I'm going to have the whitebalance on auto since I'll move through so many different locations and light-situation. I will also use low shutterspeeds at times so I'll roll the triggerwheel on shutter and exposure while filming. It's not going to be pretty but it's necessary. Luckily the director likes this "amateur" style and look and he's more interested in the emotions portrayed opposed to a flashy or pretty look. I was thinking about putting a small whitecard under the lens so that it may bounce some light on to the actors faces during the dark scenes. The only lighting we'll use is practicals in some of the interiors, since there's no budget and we need to keep things as simple as possible, so I will probably use gain in the later scenes.

I will appreciate any advice or ideas from you all, for this fun but challenging project.

Adam
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 03:06 PM

I assume you mean one shot rather than one take.

If it's at night, I'd tend to keep the camera on 3200 preset and let the colours go. Having different colour lighting would be a lot more interesting dramatically than going for a "correct" colour temperature and having the camera hunting the colour balance.

You could use a china ball on a boom as fill, I'd tend to have a number of these. each colour corrected for each location. Otherwise for example, you'll have extremely fake looking 3200 tungsten under sodium street lights.
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#3 Gus Sacks

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 04:34 PM

See Russian Ark, they did it in one take.

Also, the DVX performs very well in low-light, but adjust your settings so the blacks dont go grey.
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#4 Toby Orzano

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 02:02 PM

1. Yes, do watch Russian Ark and the "making of" that they have on the DVD.

2. DVX sounds like a good bet, especially if you can borrow it.

3. I honestly don't know how much quality is effected by shooting LP, as I've always stayed away from it, but if you test it out and it compromises the image it might be worth looking into those fancy direct-to-disk dv recorders.

4. Good freakin' luck man!
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#5 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 05:29 PM

Hi again.

Thanks for the replies.

I just found out that there are 80 minute miniDV tapes. I guess the magnetic strip must be thinner than in the regular tapes, so they might be more fragile. It would really help out for this project since I think the take might take a bit longer than 90 minutes. Does anyone have experience with those?

Furthermore, is there anything I should in advance if we were to blow it up to film later on? Camera settings etc. Would it be better to film it in the 16:9 squeez mode than letterbox (or 4:3 and letterbox it later) Will I gain more lines and resolution by doing this? I guess the anamorphic lens would be the best solution, but I don't have prior experience with it, and I don't have much time to test it.

Thanks

Adam
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#6 Mariano Nante

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 10:15 PM

There are tons of threads discussing the crop vs. squeeze mode issue with the DVX. According to what I've read, you loose as much information when you squeeze as when you crop in post. So, I would choose cropping in post, because it gives you the opportunity to re-frame if you need to (and with your shooting conditions, that may be useful). Be sure to mask the LCD correctly.


Good luck!
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#7 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 24 July 2007 - 05:40 PM

Just got back from our second rehersal... a bit tired in my arms from holding the camera for so long, but everything is turning out great. The total time of the film ended on 1 hour and 45 minutes, but i'm hoping that we can make it a bit shorter tomorrow (i'm shooting LP on 80 minute tapes). I'm using a DVX-100A and since we're starting the shot at 9 PM it turnes dark after about half an hour. I was pretty much holding the same exposure througout the whole shoot, between wide-open and f4, so it will be interesting to see how the focus turned out. I'm watching the take with the director tomorrow. I pretty much shot the whole thing at wide-angle, except a few times where I zoomed a little. So hopefully the focus isn't way off. Since I didn't get the DVX until today I used the PD150 yesterday, but I felt so much more comfortable with the DVX. Somehow the camera felt much more balanced in my hands. The only downside is that I can't chance the shutterspeed while filming, which I had planned on doing. But I guess we can do something in post that car resemble the effect.

I shot 25p, and gained quite a bit to get enough light (up to 12db). It might not look wonderful, but it's necessary. There are two boomers who overlap eachother. They are really good at staying out of frame, only once in a while I see a shadow or some reflections in windows. Some of the passages where the characters are running, I'm skateboarding next to them, which hopefully will give a cool floating effect since it's in the middle of a long take (i've started out filming skateboarding so it comes natural to me).

One thing I'm uncertain about is the V detail setting. From what i've read THICK is the best if filmed for TV and THIN is best if it's for a blow-up. I used THIN since we're hoping to end up on film and it keeps more of the resolution. But what about the vertical flicker it can cause? Will it look horrible if it only ends up on DVD?

Tomorrow we start for real, and we'll shoot it once every night for the next five days. I'll write how it all went and maybe put up some framegrabs. Now I have to rest my arms...

Adam
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#8 Zamir Merali

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Posted 24 July 2007 - 07:42 PM

Did you ever consider putting some hidden cuts (disguised by wipes) in the movie? For example as your characters are walking and you are tracking with them you could pass behind an object that would make the entire screen black. Then you could cut to another take at the same spot and it would be seamless because the screens would both be black. I just thought a few of these might be good if you put them at strategic points through the movie. That way, you could cut between the different takes you do and if an actor messes up 3 minutes from the ending it wouldn't be such a huge deal. You could also switch tapes during one of the cuts and change exposure if you wanted to. I love the idea of a one take feature, good luck.
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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 03:59 AM

The total time of the film ended on 1 hour and 45 minutes, but i'm hoping that we can make it a bit shorter tomorrow (i'm shooting LP on 80 minute tapes).
Adam

So you're going to make it 25 minutes shorter? I don't see how this is possible. Good luck!
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#10 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 04:10 AM

So you're going to make it 25 minutes shorter? I don't see how this is possible. Good luck!

[/i][/i]


But i'm shooting LP on 80 minute tapes, so I have a total of 2 hours of recording time. So 1 hour and 45 minutes will fit on the tape, I just want to make it a little bit shorter for the sake of the film...

(quote Zamir Merali)
Did you ever consider putting some hidden cuts (disguised by wipes) in the movie?

We discussed it but the whole idea is to make it in one shot and not only make it seem like one shot even though it would help out in some cases. We just have to embrace the unforseen things that comes up and let small mistakes be part of the film....
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#11 David Sweetman

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 03:15 AM

This is awesome, I'd be really interested in seeing the finished project, it's a really cool idea. Good luck through the rest of production, seems like a solid 2-hour take would have to be at least 1/2 luck anyway!
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#12 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 30 July 2007 - 09:59 AM

Hi!

The project is done! Last night we shot the last take. It took us one week as planned. Monday and tuesday was rehersals. Wednesday and thursday went ok, but some of the timing were a little of so those takes can't be used. But the last three days things worked out really well and they all qualify for the final film. The interesting thing with this project is that the three good takes are totally different from eachother since the actors chose a new approach each night, so its really three different movies. I think that the director was most happy with yesterdays take which was totally crazy. Iraq won the Asian-Cup in Soccer yesterday which is their biggest sports achivement ever, so when we showed up at the first location the streets were packed with Iraqi immigrants waving flags and hundreds of cars honking their horns (the sound guys almost cried). But the cool thing about it was that the city played a totally different role in the film in that take and the actors interacted with the streets in a new way.
The shoot was very tough fysically, especially the first half hour of each take until everthing just flowed and my body was warmed up. Even a fairly small camera like the DVX can feel quite heavy after one or two hours of nonstop filmning. But the feeling after we wrapped each night was amazing, and that it acctually could be done is really astonishing. Since I didn't use any lighting at all some scenes are really dark where only the actors silouets can be seen against the lit backgrounds, but it fits the story and we really didn't have any choise exept for using the streetlights in the best possible way. The two boomers did an amazing job and in the last three takes there was only one time where the boom acctually showed in the picture.
The next step is to add the sound and then try to get someone to invest some money in the project so we can do all the post stuff on a proffessional level. And hopefully blow it up to 35mm so we can send it to some festivals and stuff. It was such a good experience, and it really made me realize that films can be done in so many different ways. It's not every week you film three features!!!

Adam
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#13 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 09:23 AM

Hi!

I made a quick litte trailer for the film the other night. You can see it here:
View on Vimeo
It's not graded or anything yet so the look might chance a bit. Hope you enjoy it.

Adam
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#14 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 12:01 PM

Hi!

The film is finally finished and had its worldpremier last weekend at Gothenburg International Filmfestival in Sweden. The showings went great and the feedback from the audience was really good. Hopefully it will be shown at several other festivals over the next year. So far we haven't had the money for a 35mm blowup, so we showed it on DigiBeta, but hopefully we'll get the transfer made in the future.

http://www.goteborgf...eText=preludium

Adam
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#15 Kirsty Stark

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 08:51 PM

I just read this thread for the first time and the project sounds amazing. It's great that you have managed to pull it off and get it out to an audience. Which take did you end up using, out of curiosity?

Congratulations. Let us know if it goes to any other festivals. I'd love to see the final project.
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