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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 06:04 PM

This was Bruce Willis week, the week we had four days with Bruce Willis to get all of his scenes.

We started the week outside shooting two flashbacks in the parking lot. It was pouring rain outside but the continunity didn't matter, so we shot in the rain -- however, I was ill-prepared, with only a light raincoat, and got my pants and feet soaked and spent the day walking around in wet feet. We moved into the gym to shoot a scene with Bruce Willis in the homecoming dance, which we had left up the lighting for. Had only 20 or so extras for this pick-up scene, so we faked the angles to hide that fact. Again, I shot it at 800 ASA with the film pushed one-stop due to the low levels of the practical lights hanging in the set.

The next day was our biggest of the shoot, a pep rally in the huge cafeteria on the top floor, with big windows at each end, so it pretty much had to be shot in daylight hours. We had three cameras that day, one on a 15' Technocrane (I wanted and needed really a 30' Technocrane but it turned out there was no way to get it up to the third floor -- stairwells had too tight a turn and the elevator was tiny.) But the 15' crane got us the main opening shot, a crane-up to the ceiling to see the whole rally.

Trouble was... I hadn't slept the night before due to a low fever I developed, and by the beginning of the shoot, it had turned into a full-blown viral infection of the stomach, with dizziness, naseau, fever, vomitting. A doctor showed up by lunchtime to give me a shot for the naseau, but the pain of the injection sent me into a faint. By mid afternoon, I was sent home but ended up in the emergency room with a fever that didn't break until some 30 hours after it began. We also didn't complete the work for the day (although we completed all of Bruce Willis' angles luckily).

The next day, Day 3 of 4 for Bruce Willis, had me in bed at my apartment recovering. Luckily it was one of our few light days, all set in the hallways and foyer of the school which we had shot before, so the operator and gaffer were able to carry on without me, following the minimal lighting approach we had established.

I recovered enough to work on the fourth day, to shoot all of Bruce Willis' scenes in his principal office. This was one location we could not really find at the school, since the final scene of the movie took place there at night with 12 principle actors in it, so it had to be shootable and lightable. I had recommended we take one of the large wooden classrooms which had a view of the harbor out the old windows and convert it into an office, split with a glass windowed dividing wall being the inner office and the secretary's office. Trouble was that it was a budget problem to do this build, though it seemed reasonable to me (just a dividing wall with a door in it.) But when other options failed to happen, they decided to go ahead an convert the classroom and I'm glad we did because the view was nice, with all the bright orange sodium lights of the shipping docks at Newark, NJ visible across the water at night. But to complete all of Bruce's scenes that day, we ended up working 16 hours.

The fifth and last day, after Bruce Willis was gone, consisted of shooting some office scenes without his character there. Even that ended up being about a 14 hour day, finishing after sunrise -- luckily we shot in an order so that we ended up with coverage looking the opposite direction from the windows, so we could black them out to keep the dawn light from entering. I mostly lit the office with two muslin balls (like Chinese Lanterns) from above, skirted off to create soft pools of light.

The day scenes in the office we either lit with an HMI through the window, when I wanted to bring up the level so I could stop down and hold the view outside, or in available light only, with hot windows and semi-silhouette actors against them. I did one huge seven character scene in there with just natural window light, except for a white card to bring up the shadow side of the face in one angle.

So we're re-juggling our schedule to fit in the shots we owe from the big pep rally, which have to be shot in daylight. Next week is our last at the high school and then we hit the road.
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#2 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 06:28 PM

Sounds great that your lighting so much with found light, or with just simple adjustments.

Hope you've fully recovered from the viral infection, i've got one myself, but I can't imagine how awful it must be to have one mid-week in the middle of a big shoot.
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 01:54 AM

ESPECIALLY when you're set to shoot the film's big star! Damn bad luck, sorry to hear you fell ill, my friend, sounds like you're feeling a little better anyway which I'm glad to hear.

Dave, I finally saw your pre-production post and was wondering, you had said one of the reasons you decided against or actually wouldn't even consider using anamorphics on this particular shoot was you would be shooting at 2.8 or so with long lenses for much of the film and the ulta-shallow DOF would be a problem for the focus puller as well as an increase of barrel distortion and other problems. What focal lengths are you using and if I can veer slightly off topic for just a moment, what are some tricks or techniques for making anamorphics work under conditions similar to this or is that impossible? If so what would you have had to done to make the conditions work for anamorphics had the director insisted on them?

I'm looking forward to some stills from this part of the shoot, especially the shots of Willis' office with the docks in the background if you had a chance to get any. Considering how sick you were, I doubt whether you felt much like trying to do anything but get through the day, which is completely understandable, but one can always hope! :D
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#4 Max Jacoby

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:02 AM

Dave, I finally saw your pre-production post and was wondering, you had said one of the reasons you decided against or actually wouldn't even consider using anamorphics on this particular shoot was you would be shooting at 2.8 or so with long lenses for much of the film and the ulta-shallow DOF would be a problem for the focus puller as well as an increase of barrel distortion and other problems. What focal lengths are you using and if I can veer slightly off topic for just a moment, what are some tricks or techniques for making anamorphics work under conditions similar to this or is that impossible?

If you'll allow me to chime in here Captain, from my experience from 75mm and up anamorphic lense do not have any barrel distortion anymore. The 50mm and 60mm exhibit some, but even with horizontal and vertical lines in shot, it is not bothersome. Barrel distortion becomes more obvious if you have lines in your frames anyway. For exteriors one can use wider lenses, like your 35mm and it should not be distracting. But I think a very idea would be to shoot some tests on your lenses and project them. One reason being is that I've noticed that distortion always looks worse when looking through the viewfinder than when one sees it on the big screen. Possibly the added viewfinder optics have something to do with that.

You can shoot anamorphic lenses further open than T4, but once again it depends on the situation. If you have an evenly lit scene and you use wide lenses then the drop off of sharpness around the edges when shooting wide open will be noticeable. But if you have a shot that is more contrasty and where the edges of your frame are dark anyway, then the lack of sharpness will be hidden because the eye normally goes to the brighter points of the image.

Focus-pulling on long lenses, well you need a good focus-puller basically. But you can also help it with direction/staging. If for a close-up neither the camera not the actor moves then focus should be a given. If one of them moves, it becomes harder. If the two of them move it becomes much harder.
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 08:41 AM

What I'd like to add is that my experience is based on the Hawk V-Series mostly. Different brand of anamorphic lenses have different levels of barrel distortion. The Hawks are better in that aspect than Elites or JDCs for instance. Since your Lomos are of an older design testing is a good idea to find out their characteristics.
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#6 Matthew Buick

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 03:29 PM

David, sounds like you've had Norovirus. It's a horrible illness I know. You probably caught it from contaminated surfaces of food 12 - 48 hours previously. I'm also afraid to say you'll be contagious for anything up to 14 days after the symtoms receed. The good point is that you'll be resistant to the virus for 18 - 24 months.

Get well soon. ;)
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#7 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:51 AM

What I'd like to add is that my experience is based on the Hawk V-Series mostly. Different brand of anamorphic lenses have different levels of barrel distortion. The Hawks are better in that aspect than Elites or JDCs for instance. Since your Lomos are of an older design testing is a good idea to find out their characteristics.


Max, I ALWAYS am glad to hear you "chime in" ! I did hear from Mr. Frisch FSF (who owns a set of the Lomos) and he said the Lomos were VERY good under low light conditions and even focus pretty close which, for what I want to do, is a God send. From what you're telling me, they should work great in the desert with the dark edge fall off I imagine much of own lighting set ups will have. I will, of coarse do tests as you recommended to confirm this but I DO have a good feeling about it. We may use an operator from Mexico, a guy my DOP worked with and said was VERY good and we can get him relatively cheap. He's familiar with Russian equipment. He may have a 1st he knows can do the job. I'll check when we get closer to production. Thanks for the info
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