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"Charlie"


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#1 Matt Irwin

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:17 PM

I just finished a 4-week very-low-budget feature shot on the HVX200. The film takes place in and around a high school and revolves around a kid named Charlie (surprise!), a loner type who serves as a confidant to everyone. Our key locations were a Jr. High and a Sr. High (one for int, one for ext) as well as two houses. Production chose to work mostly with high school age actors, which was... an experience... and also played hell with our schedule.

The film is 90% day exterior and covered day exterior, so we were HMI and grip all the way. Our lighting package consisted of a 2500 PAR as our "big gun", four 1200's, two 800 Jokers, two 400 Jokers, and a 200 Joker, as well as a unit called a BFL (a 28-bank dimmable fluorescent head designed by Jay Yowler), Kino Flos and other custom-made flo fixtures. We carried tungsten fresnels, redheads, and blondes, but they hid on the truck until our last week.

--Camera-raw frame-lifts and some info below... I'd love some input / criticism!



Our major location was a breezeway which the main character uses as his "office." A lot of dialogue takes place there throughout the film, so it became our safety set. The breezeway is basically a dark hallway with a wide outlet to an open courtyard on either side, not exactly ideal with summer sun and an HVX. The director and I both wanted a partial silhouette look for masters and a cross-lit look for coverage, which was usually 4:1, 3:1, or 2:1 depending on the scene and where the actors were on the set. I ended up using a 12x12 silver lemay hidden around one corner and the 2500 bounced into styrofoam hidded above the enterances. Coverage normally involved one or two 800's or 1200's through Silent Frost as the key.
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For a climactic night scene in the breezeway, we rigged 1-bank 4' shoplight fixtures with cool white tubes above the lockers. The background outside was lit with HMI's +1/4 CTO.
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A few different school interior scenes...
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Frosted Opal on the window/behind the bars with a 2500 and two 1200's behind it. 800 Joker through the door, BFL through Silent Frost as the key.
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The Principal's Office. The windows were 2' tall and at the top of the wall. We jammed a 2500/WFL in close, a 1200 through the window in the BG, and a 200 though Silent Frost as the soft kick.
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Night for day. I always got screwed into shooting day interior classrooms at night. Wouldn't be a big deal, except that all the windows had an N.9 tinit on them! So... 1/4 white on the windows with every HMI we had behind it! Was barely able to blow out the windows at wide open.

(More coming in a minute...)
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#2 Matt Irwin

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:31 PM

(Continued from the first post...)


There were a few night exteriors on the Sr. High campus... I ended up liking hard light the most for everything. The "moon" was HMI + 1/4 CTO. Looking back, I would have liked to have gone less blue, but I don't think I could have without more powerful units.
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A few frames from a football game sequence. We used the existing Musco stadium lights, augmented with our own HMI's and silk frames.
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We shot this in the Sr. High's theatre. They were equipped with two xenon follow spots which we gelled to tungsten balance and used for the key on the speaker and a as a backlight on the audience members.
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12x Grid overhead, 2500 through silent frost as key, and a lot of negative fill.
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My favorite close ups.
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What a great time. Can't wait to do this again.

Questions, comments, criticism... fire away!
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 02:23 AM

Those are some great looking frames, congrats on your first feature!

The close-ups look especially crisp -- did you maintain a particular f-stop for the shoot? I like the telephoto lens shots especially. Did you use a 35mm lens adapter or just the stock lens? Did you use any filtration? Did you play around with under/overcranking?

I did notice a lot of clipped highlights in the stills which I found a bit distracting, mostly because the rest of the exposures were so well judged. Was that a concern for you shooting on the HVX, or did you decide just to roll with it?

I also noticed that the night exterior frames looked very clean and noise free, something which I've had a problem with, shooting with the HVX in low light. What did you do to get such a clean low-key look?

About the bluish moonlight, I think it would look good more desaturated, which could easily be done in post. Also, you could have set the camera to daylight balance and used 1/4 CTB on the HMIs, just a thought. Maybe that would have screwed with your use of tungsten lights for the overhead pools of light though.

Anyway, the frames look beautiful, nice work! Let us know when the trailer gets cut and put online, I'd love to check out your work in full motion.:)
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#4 Matt Irwin

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 03:09 PM

Hi Satsuki, Thanks for the comments.

I shot with the Black Press gamma setting to keep the noise to a minimum. HD Norm color marix throughout with the exception of the night breezeway scene where I switched to CineLike to get more green out of the cool whites.
The HVX needs quite a bit of light to get a clean image, so for the night work (where "a bit of light" was at a premium) I took the pedestal down so the shadows were reading under 10... often under 5... on the waveform.

I was mostly around a 2.8 for covered day exteriors, around 4/5.6 for open day exteriors, and wide open for night scenes. We shot with the stock lens due to budget and schedule. The 2.5 stop loss would have killed me on the night work.
I used a Pola for all day exteriors and 4x ND filters as needed, but no other filtration. The night work was shot clean.
Overcranking was only used for a few scenes where we get inside the main character's head or thought process.

As for the clipped highlights, I agree with you somewhat. I may have gone a bit far in a few cases-- which frames were distracting to you?
I wasn't concerned with trying to make the HVX look like film and, mainly in the interest of time, I chose to let certain parts of the frame clip so long as the actors were in.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 03:54 PM

I think it looks great -- your director should be happy.
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#6 Matt Irwin

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 04:03 PM

Thanks David!
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#7 Matthew Buick

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 04:21 PM

Wowee!! That's the level of skill I'd like to reach to be satisfied for my entire life! :)

Good Show! ;)
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 04:55 AM

Cool, thanks for the info, Matt!

The HVX needs quite a bit of light to get a clean image, so for the night work (where "a bit of light" was at a premium) I took the pedestal down so the shadows were reading under 10... often under 5... on the waveform.

So what would you say your light levels were on those night exteriors, footcandles wise? Are you saying that lowering the pedestal basically hid the noise in the shadows by rendering them as black? If so, that's a great trick, I'll have to remember that!

I also wanted to ask you about your use of the existing stadium lights in the football game scene. What kind of color rendering were you getting from them on your subjects? There appears to be a kind of contrasty, desaturated quality to the light (almost like bleach bypass) which is very interesting and I was wondering if you found the Musco's color spectrum to be discontinuous like sodium/mercury vapor or fluorescents? I've been thinking about this because I recently watched "The Natural" on DVD, and the final ballgame in that film (night exterior, existing stadium lights) has a similar contrasty, desaturated quality to it.

THE_NATURAL_04.jpg

We shot with the stock lens due to budget and schedule. The 2.5 stop loss would have killed me on the night work.

You know, I've just AC'd two low-budget shorts recently that shot with the HVX/DVX plus the Brevis 35mm adapter and Nikon primes, and I have to say, the stop loss was very minimal (maybe 1/2 stop at most). Day exteriors often required stacked ND.6 and ND.9 (or ND.9 and a Pola) with an f4/5.6 on the taking lens and f4 on the camera lens, just to keep highlights from clipping. We didn't shoot night exteriors on either project, but large night interiors were no problem at all with very minimal lighting packages. On the HVX shoot, we had a 17" Panasonic LCD for critical viewing, and the image looked quite good, very little noise. You might want to look into the Brevis for low-budget shoots if you're interested in that kind of thing.

I wasn't concerned with trying to make the HVX look like film and, mainly in the interest of time, I chose to let certain parts of the frame clip so long as the actors were in.

Yeah, actually I found this approach refreshing (as opposed to getting rid of every clipped highlight); the hot rim lights and hot schoolyard backgrounds are really nice.

As for the clipped highlights, I agree with you somewhat. I may have gone a bit far in a few cases-- which frames were distracting to you?

Well, since you ask, the frames where the clipping was distracting to me were: #7 (wide classroom int. with blown window and doorway), #8 (med. 2 shot, principal's office), and #19 (last CU). In #7, the blown out window has a hot spot which looks like a spotted light blasting through, which makes it looks "lit" to me. The other two are minor nitpicking, but the dark-skinned guy in #8 has a hot spot on his forehead, and the blonde girl's hair in #19 is clipped badly. A little "shine control" make-up would have helped the former, not sure what you could have done with the latter aside from flying in a 20x net or something overhead. That's really getting nitpicky though since I'm sure in full motion those things would be much less noticeable.

Anyway, I hope my work will look this good some day, so rock on! :)
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#9 Matt Irwin

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 01:42 PM

So what would you say your light levels were on those night exteriors, footcandles wise? Are you saying that lowering the pedestal basically hid the noise in the shadows by rendering them as black? If so, that's a great trick, I'll have to remember that!

For frames #10 and 11, I was reading the moon at 5-10 fc from the actor's mark. The pool was a 150 fresnel at half spot, which I think was reading at around 40 fc.
For the scene with the football player under the "sodium" pool, the moon was around 15-20 fc and the sodium pool (a blonde w/ CTO and +GRN) was reading at around 80 fc. The camera stop was f2.8.
(I don't have my log notes with me as I type this, so that's all rough from memory).

In regards to the pedestal question, yes. The problem shadow noise on the HVX lives between 15-25 IRE, so taking down the pedestal will help to get rid of that. It works better if you give the chip more light and stop down. On frames 10 and 11, I was lit down to nothing, shooting at wide open, and the blacks seem muddier to my eye. The next frame was lit to around 20 fc and stopped down to a 2.8. To my eye, the blacks are more solid, and there's a bit more "snap."

I also wanted to ask you about your use of the existing stadium lights in the football game scene. What kind of color rendering were you getting from them on your subjects? There appears to be a kind of contrasty, desaturated quality to the light (almost like bleach bypass) which is very interesting and I was wondering if you found the Musco's color spectrum to be discontinuous like sodium/mercury vapor or fluorescents?

That footage was shot under the 3200K preset for a blue/green look. It's not supposed to be a normal/happy football game-- there's a negative undertone to the scene so I wanted a more unsettling look.
I think the Muscos (these looked like mercury vapor-- we didn't get a scout of this location, so I can't say for certain) were recently installed because our HMI's were nearly a dead match! I think 1/8 +GRN would have brought them in, but I left the gel off to get a whiter blue from them since they were intended to be rim/kick/edge lights.
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 06:20 PM

Awesome, thanks for the reply! :)
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#11 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 09:22 AM

the very first two shots reminded me of "Brick", is it the same school? Or do US school look so much similar to each other?
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#12 alfredoparra

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 01:10 PM

good job!

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#13 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 02:53 PM

It all looks great. I really like the high-con look of the exteriors.
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#14 Matt Irwin

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 03:08 PM

Thank you Justin and Alfredo.

the very first two shots reminded me of "Brick", is it the same school? Or do US school look so much similar to each other?

Funny you should mention "Brick"-- That was a key visual reference for the director.
This was not the same school- Brick was shot at (I believe) a school in Oceanside, CA. We shot on Jr. High and Sr. High campuses in Upland (which is +/- 70 miles inland from Oceanside).
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#15 Bill Totolo

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Posted 07 October 2007 - 03:59 AM

Hi Satsuki, Thanks for the comments.

I shot with the Black Press gamma setting to keep the noise to a minimum. HD Norm color marix throughout with the exception of the night breezeway scene where I switched to CineLike to get more green out of the cool whites.
The HVX needs quite a bit of light to get a clean image, so for the night work (where "a bit of light" was at a premium) I took the pedestal down so the shadows were reading under 10... often under 5... on the waveform.


Thanks for sharing your settings and your images. I think they look very crisp with nice attention to detail.

Just a few questions for clarification:

You mention HD Norm as your Matrix setting but that option is under Gamma which you mentioned you used Black Press for. So I assume you used NORM under Matrix options?

Under Operation Type were you using Film Cam or Video Cam? And did you ever adjust the detail settings?

And lastly, if you remember, how far did you lower Master Ped?

Many thanks. Again, nice images.
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#16 Matt Irwin

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 12:39 AM

You mention HD Norm as your Matrix setting but that option is under Gamma which you mentioned you used Black Press for. So I assume you used NORM under Matrix options?

Under Operation Type were you using Film Cam or Video Cam? And did you ever adjust the detail settings?

And lastly, if you remember, how far did you lower Master Ped?


Thanks Bill,

Yes, you're right: Gamma was Black Press, Matrix was Norm. I was working in Film Cam mode, simply because it makes more sense to me. We didn't have to deal with any TV sync, so I never switched to Video Cam during the shoot.

I don't remember exactly, but I think my pedestal was at -5, I was using Skin DTL, and was + a couple points on coring, detail, possibly v-detail (?).
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#17 Bill Totolo

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 08:18 AM

Thanks for sharing, Matt. And keep up the good work.
Very inspiring.
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#18 Marc Levy

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 03:44 AM

Matt,

The stills look great. I especially like the last CU's (with the higher contrast ratios), the theater audience shot, and the classroom shots (specifically the one of the kid bent over studying and the one with the kid and his teacher).

You mentioned that you lit the ext. day CU's with the 2500 HMI PAR through Tough Frost. I love the soft quality there. Did you warm that lamp up a bit? How large was the diffusion? And approximately how close was the lamp and diffusion to the actor?

Congrats!
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#19 Matt Irwin

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 01:03 PM

You mentioned that you lit the ext. day CU's with the 2500 HMI PAR through Tough Frost. I love the soft quality there. Did you warm that lamp up a bit? How large was the diffusion? And approximately how close was the lamp and diffusion to the actor?

Thanks Marc!

The diffusion is actually Rosco Silent Frost. I tried it during tests and fell in love with the soft shadows and high transmittance. It ended up being the only diffusion I lit through (with the exception of windows, which was either 216 or frosted opal).

Those last two day ext CU's were keyed with a 2500 PAR and an 800 Joker on either side, all through a 4x8 of silent frost. The lights were gelled with 1/8 CTO and the diffusion was roughly 5 ft from the actors.
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#20 Marc Levy

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 02:04 PM

Good stuff, Matt.

Best,
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