The Naked Eye
Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:03 AM
We didn?t even start the shoot before we took a big blow ? one of our actors got called in for a recurring role on a TV show and had to miss the first two days of the shoot; since everyone is coming from LA and we found out about 3 days before we started shooting, there were no options to change the schedule around and suddenly our 18 day shoot became a 17 day shoot. Our first day was very light ? we shot the very few things we could that only involved our lead actress (also the director) ? it wasn?t much. The only advantage to this situation was that it let everyone get into a good rhythm and let us work out some kinks. On this first day we did a fun day-time poor man?s process shot that worked surprisingly well ? I?m trying to figure out how to post a Quicktime file of it. It involved a bounce card and a 4x4 cucaloris swung around on a menace arm. All of our set-ups were pretty simple this day and it was a good opportunity for the director and I to finesse some larger ideas.
Days 2-4 were brutal ? we had to make up for the lost day and a half within these three days and it was all dialogue. In addition, this was my least favorite location both logistically and aesthetically. In the second chapter of the movie, our lead finds herself at a hospital and spends all her time with a Doctor there. These three days were all the scenes in his office and her room ? the director wanted his office to be stark and simple; a desk, two book shelves, and a therapy couch. She wanted these few pieces of furniture to be set inside a gigantic space that rolled off into black around them. The location she chose (despite my protests) was the second floor of a Church Activity center ? the walls were all white, there was no elevator, and the window the office was set around had the equivalent of an ND 15 on it.
We aren?t doing remotely as many set-ups as I?m use to; nearly all of the scenes are being done in 1-shots. In some cases this is an interesting choice on telling the story, but I believe it?s largely because the director doesn?t know much about editing, plus she comes from a theater background so she?d rather play the entire scene out as opposed to shooting it in pieces. This is creating a lot of headaches because I?m being forced to shoot 2, 3, or 4+ pages in one shot. My approach to these was to find a starting place for the characters in their relationship within the scene, then find how that relationship changes at the end; once we had that down, I?d work out a camera move to get from point A to point B ? this was the only way I could find an interesting way to visually represent certain ideas. I?m doing a lot more dolly work than usual (most everything is a camera move) and we spent nearly the entire week shooting on a 35mm lens ? it?s a happy compromise of not being too wide but being wide enough that I can maintain some deeper focus to avoid having to ping pong focus back and forth within in a long scene.
I?m surprised that I?m shooting a T4 most of the time ? I don?t think I?ve EVER shot at a T4 for interiors; I usually work at around 320 asa or 400 asa and a T2/2.8 ? here I?m working with 200 asa and a T4 (and on occasion I was shooting at a T5.6 to keep a deep focus look). I?m also using almost exclusively hard light, which has been a fun challenge to learn how to light faces with hard light. The office set was mostly a 20K on a lift outside the window (and even when dropped on the pin we only got a T8/11 through all the ND on the location window); I put a tweenie on the pin above each book case and had 2K BJ?s rigged into the ceiling as backlights. Over the past year and a half I?ve been getting away from backlighting, but in B&W I?m finding myself placing multiple backlights for people ? it?s been pretty common to have two crossing backlights to define the shape of our actors and then an inkie or a tweenice just as a hairlight. I?m also finding myself using primarily unmotivated light ? I?m always adding little spots and highlights on back walls and furniture ? we?re using them to create tonal separation between people and their environments. The onboard monitor has been invaluable this first week to get into the mind-set of seeing things in B&W. I dusted off my B&W contrast glass and that?s been very useful in seeing how colors will manifest themselves in terms of tone.
I?d originally planned on using some light smoke to create a big shaft of light from the 20K through the window, but between the ND on the window and the white walls (which partially motivated me to go for a deeper stop in an effort to get them to disappear more) I dumped that idea. One thing I?m doing that I?ve never done before is using lighting cues within a scene ? since we?re B&W I?m only using tungsten sources (no HMI?s or kino-flos) and they?re usually on dimmers. As characters move through various spaces I find that it?s impossible to light for everything without the scene becoming flat or uninteresting, so my solution has been to have my electric crew dimming lights on and off as people walk through spaces ? it?s been a challenge to get use to thinking this way since I?ve never done it before, but that?s been part of the fun.
The dailies from Technicolor have been great ? the best dailies I?ve ever seen from anything I?ve shot. They?re consistently solid and despite being on DVD they?ve been a surprisingly good presentation of what I?m doing on set. Technicolor printed a few rolls for me from this week so I could compare the prints to the DVD dailies ? it?s a little funny to see them cropped so strangely (since we?re shooting Super 35 the printed dailies are only a lighting and exposure reference and not at all for composition), but they held up very closely to what I was seeing on the DVD?s. Technicolor has also sent me an email or a phone call every day with my printing lights ? something they suggested and pushed for me. I can?t say enough good things about them.
The last day of this week was one of my favorite locations ? it?s an old hotel from the 50?s that?s now being used an office supply store. It has a gigantic lobby with a huge chandelier, original tiled flooring, and oak paneling. We scouted the location originally for just the roof (which we?ll shoot next week), but I suggested we move a lot of the hospital office scenes to the lobby and stage it as the hospital lobby. There were two challenges here ? the first was a series of small windows scattered through-out the main lobby and along a second story balcony that were full of office equipment that we couldn?t move ? to solve this problem I asked the art department to dress each window with linen curtains that I could then glow to mimic them as windows to the outside ? the issue there was that each window had a window decal on it that we couldn?t remove (Service Department, Show Room, etc) ? any light we placed behind the window would project a razor sharp shadow of the decal on the curtain. The solution was to place cutters a few inches away from the decal and then use multiple sources through multiple frames of diffusion (in this case, each window got 2 2K BJ?s through 4x4?s of first opal and then 216) to create a very soft, very bright light that backlit the curtains ? by making the light soft, it wrapped around the cutter on the decal and still blew out the window. The other big challenge was that the lobby had windows running along the entire south side ? while there was very little direct sun-light that came into the lobby (thanks to an awning on the building?s exterior and the time of year), there was a constant ambient light. This worked for the first half of the day by giving me a base ambience to work from, but when it came to scenes that had to shoot towards the windows I couldn?t possibly compete with the exterior exposure. Instead I placed a 20K and a 10K to create hard light and long shadows for wide shots ? then I underexposed everything by an additional 2/3 to a full stop (additional to what I was already doing) and counted on the extreme overexposure to flare the lens and make up for the extra underexposure. For nearly everything this worked quite well ? I tried this idea on a short I did earlier this year and it worked out; since I?ve used Zeiss Superspeeds so often, I have a good sense of how they react to overexposure in terms of flaring ? I was able to minimize some of the overexposure by setting the lens to a deeper stop and the flare compensated for the extra underexposure ? I was bit by one shot that I should have underexposed some more (it?s very washed out), but otherwise my idea worked well. I did one 270 degree dolly shot around our lead as she dances with the memory of her dead lover ? we shot at 40fps on an 85mm (the first time I used that lens for the whole week). I used the 20K as a hard sidelight on them with a 2k BJ spotted on them for a backlight to pull them out from the background ? as we dollied around them we were flared from the 20K and during that transition I had the original 2K BJ dimming down while another 2K BJ on the opposite side of the room was dimming up ? when we clear the flare they?re still in a hard side-light and have a backlight. The flare was a lot of fun because the 20K was broken up by the architecture of the front windows and their moving bodies, so we got a fractured quality of light ? it?s not one overpowering flare but rather a myriad of little flares.
I?ve been finding that an edge-light 1 ½ stops over with fill being 3 stops under is looking quite nice ? our lead actress is very pale and I?ll expose her at key (key according to my incident reading ? in reality her skin tone is nearly a full stop hotter). B&W lighting is very unnatural to the eye, but the more contrast the better ? and the grain is less apparent in higher contrast shots as well, only appearing when there?s a large area ?at key?.
My 1st AC gave me his cold on Day 2 and I just barely got over it by the last day of this week ? I?m happy to be working with a great Producer and a great 1st AD who both make it possible to still be out at 12 hours despite the workload.
Below are some frame grabs - I recently updated my mac and with the update my screen-grab program stopped working - I ended up using a bit of a backdoor method, but it's not very good and there's no way to toggle to an exact frame, so a lot of these were a matter of luck in terms of what I could pause on. Anyone have suggestions for DVD screen capture software for Mac OS X?
The opening shot of the film and the very first thing we shot - I like the abstract nature, but looking back I would have used a hot spot behind her instead of the hairlight, or perhaps I would have just added a little hot spot in the very bottom left (the cropping on this is wrong - I somehow grabbed the still incorrectly). A baby for the hair-light and a Studio 2K thru a 4x4 of 250 for the key light (and an 8x8 negative fill off to camera left).
Also shot on day one - this is an example of how a movie changes during the shoot - while I like the shot well enough, I've come to believe it was a bad choice for this film - it's too self conscious I think. A 2K BJ thru a 4x4 of Lite Grid and a bounce card below camera for a little fill.
A shot of our lead and the doctor in his office - one of our brightest scenes in here (it's towards the end of their affair and I continued to open up the office in terms of brightness as the story progressed to reflect how the doctor is losing his sense of mystery to our lead). A 20K blasting through the window behind them, a 2K BJ as an edgelight on them (mounted into the ceiling), a 2K BJ thru a 4x4 of Opal, then another 4x4 of 216 off to camera right with a 4x8 negative fill off camera left. The bookcase on frame right in the background has tweenie in the ceiling pointing straight down on full pin.
Our lead's first scene in the doctors office - this shot is while she's waiting for him to arrive. The 20K is hitting her as a backlight and her shirt is acting as a bounce on her; a 2K offscreen on camera right is giving her an edge and the hotspot at the bottom of the frame is a tweenie aiming down towards the bookshelf (which is off screen in this shot) - a little 2x2 beadboard card added just a kiss of fill for her.
Our lobby - ambient light serving as fill and a 20K at full flood for the long shadow - a meat-axe is creating the cut on the wall to the right. The window is an example of the multiple soft sources wrapping around a window decal to blow out the curtain evenly - in this shot we had to use Par 64 cans. The window had two with medium lenses thru 4x4's of Opal and then 4x4's of 250 to diffuse the light more. The window decal can't be seen.
Part of a pull back as our lead crosses the lobby and goes upstairs; this is half way through the move. The opening was the camera on an offset arm shooting down over the edge of the railing - we dolly back as the lead crosses and goes upstairs - all the lines in the location were a lot of fun.
This is the shot towards the windows that I should have underexposed more - it's too washed out because of the flare.......
.......but luckily a little adjustment of brightness and contrast can remedy the error. This is just the available light outside and a 10K on the pin as an edgelight on her (at some point she smokes and the 10K really helped punctuate the smoke). This is a favorite shot of mine because it starts as a wide shot of her lying there and rapdily pushes into this when she realizes the ghost of her dead lover has arrived.
These are aren't the best grabs on my behalf, but these kind of show the edgelight that begins on them as they dance and we dolly around them - the third frame shows that the edgelight is now on the other side of the room via two electricians and some dimmers.
A behind-the-scenes of the dolly shot in the lobby - you can see the second backlight 2K on the right; otherwise it's just the 20K and some ambient light.
Posted 31 October 2007 - 03:51 PM
Thanks for all the great info. I really like the composition in the second frame.
Posted 31 October 2007 - 06:04 PM
Wow, those grabs look amazing. I just love B/W Film. I'm anxious to see the Quicktime clip.
Thanks for all the great info. I really like the composition in the second frame.
I've been following your posts on this, and I hope to see it when it's done. The stills look great! I know you've mentioned the possibility of using some DNR to clean up the grain, but if for some reason you don't get to do that, I personally won't have any problem with a bit of grain:)
Posted 31 October 2007 - 11:32 PM