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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 06:29 PM

The movie I did in New Orleans finally got released this week, straight to home video.

I pulled some frames, generally the look was pretty straightforward, except for the flashback and dream sequences. Day exteriors were almost all available light (until we lost the light). Night exteriors used some lighting balloons (due to the nature of working around swamps) sometimes a light on a condor if I could find level and dry ground. Generally the movie was shot clean, on Fuji Eterna 250D and 500T, using Primo lenses, in 3-perf. A very few close-ups in the movie used the lightest Classic Soft or ProMist.

By the end of the story, there was an awful lot of night work in the woods and swamps, which is always tricky to light to see the action and acting but not have it look too bright. Because we end in night work, the early part of the movie has warmer scenes so that we move visually somewhere else.

Here are some frames:

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 06:33 PM

The flashbacks and dreams were shot with an #1/8 ProMist, but during the D.I. session, I decided to add more digital diffusion. The flashbacks set at Christmas were given a warm bias, and the nightmare dreams were given a cyan look. Even though this looks a bit heavy-handed, these scenes used a lot of flash cuts and quick editing so you don't really dwell on them.

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#3 Matthew Buick

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 07:06 PM

Simply wonderful! This has to be some of your finest, David. :)

Maybe I'll be able to buy this one in the UK. ;)
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#4 Kirsty Stark

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 08:05 PM

Looks fantastic!

When you say the cyan is heavy handed, was that a personal choice, or was it graded that way without your knowledge / approval?
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 08:50 PM

Thanks David, I'll have to look back through your production threads to refresh my memory of what techniques you used where.

Looks like a slight bit of green in your moonlight -- what gel colors did you end up using, and how much of that was changed in DI?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 09:25 PM

If you see the movie, those cyan shots are flash-cuts, so the heavily stylization is not too annoying...

We planned on playing around in post with the footage - originally I lit some of those shots in orange light (like the shadow figure behind the shower curtain), to match the Christmas flashback, and some in blue light because they were moonlit scenes -- but the producers asked me if I could make it creepier, so we switched to the greenish look instead. Also, originally a lot of those shots weren't meant to be in the same flashback-vision, so giving them all one tone made more sense once they were cut so short.

The movie went through three editors, partly because the story is more of a supernatural mystery, not a scare-fest horror film, but I think the producers wanted it to be more commercial, i.e. scarier. So they amped up the editing, sound fx, and we added a few new shots, and one new scene... but it is still more of a mystery with supernatural elements.

--

I used half-blue for the moonlight, but timed a slight cyan look to them (plus we were surrounded by greenery). But some interiors where I used Kinos for moonlight went a little green due to the heat on location. We built the second floor bedroom as a set in a warehouse in New Orleans -- I had this shot that panned from the bed to the hallway (below) and you can see that the half-blue Kino light on the bed is greener than the tungsten + 1/2 CTB coming through the window:

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#7 Mike Williamson

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 05:24 AM

The stills look great, David, thanks for posting them and keeping everyone updated. I just added the film to my brand new Netflix account, so hopefully it will show up soon, very much looking forwards to seeing it.
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#8 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:18 AM

Very Nice David - I really like the night exteriors in the rain.
S
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#9 Michel Hafner

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:46 AM

Any hope for a HD release?
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:29 PM

Any hope for a HD release?


No idea.
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#11 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:37 PM

David, could you tell us about the firelight scene in your stills. What gags did you use here? It all looks very natural.

Actually, just found your log where you describe this scene. Thanks anyway....
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:50 PM

David, could you tell us about the firelight scene in your stills. What gags did you use here? It all looks very natural.


For the wide shot, I buried an orange-gelled Kinoflo tube in the ground between the fire and the actors to augment the real fire exposure a little. I may have also had an orange-gelled tweenie on a flicker box to hit the person on the far left of frame from going too dark. Most of the light is from the fire though. I think I shot this at T/2.8.

Because of the noise of the real fire, the sound person asked us to lose it for the close-ups, so I lit them with two orange-gelled tweenies on flicker boxes going through a frame of diffusion. However, we ran out of time to get the coverage on the girl (Elizabeth Harnois) both frontally and then her back when she turns to look away with the fire behind her. We also didn't get Shawn Ashmore's coverage as he watched her.

So on the last day of the shoot, in a field next to a warehouse in the city of New Orleans, we shot those extra close-ups of Sean and Elizabeth. This time we had a flame bar that was fairly quiet, so I could have fire in the foreground of the close-ups, and behind her head in that one shot on her back. I augmented the real firelight with the same gag of the tweenies through a frame of diffusion though now I had more exposure from real flames.

I wish I had that flame bar on the night I shot the fire scene because it would have been great to shoot everyone's coverage through flames, but it didn't occur to me in prep that a real fire would make so much noise on the audio tracks. Or maybe I had a flame bar but it was buried in the real fire and I couldn't dig it out because I needed the fire in later shots when she walks away and it is in the background.

In the far background of the wide shot was a condor with an 18K HMI with 1/2 CTO to light up the ground, plus we had some haze pumping through clear plastic tubes on the property.
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#13 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 10:06 PM

Still look amazing David! What was it like collaborating with Daniel Myrick?
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 11:57 PM

Still look amazing David! What was it like collaborating with Daniel Myrick?


One of the smartest and nicest guys you'll ever work with. We had a similar twisted sense of humor, which helped. The two of us at video village were like something out of Mystery Science Theater 3000...

It was a good collaboration. The only decision I was not completely sold on was setting the movie in a realistically "nice" refurbished summer house in the woods -- I was hoping to shoot in something very Old South, a little creepy, but Dan felt that wasn't logical. He didn't want to delve into any horror cliches.

So the idea was to be very natural and take more of a Terrence Malick approach, natural light, etc. Trouble was that we had such a short schedule that I never had time to shoot more than one or two landscape shots. My B-camera operator, Theo, got a few shots, and they bought some stock footage in post, which was disappointing for me, to be surrounded by these great-looking swamps and not really get to show them off. We only spent a few days deep in the swamp areas and had to shoot the story action quickly there, no time to dwell, create atmospheric shots, etc. Most of our shoot was spent around the nice house by a lake. I begged them to budget for me to have three days after the shoot was over just shooting swamp elements, landscapes, driving shots, etc. but it never happened. Then I thought they might send me back to get some of that stuff but they bought stock footage instead.
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#15 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 06:30 AM

One of the smartest and nicest guys you'll ever work with.

Agreed. I did a movie with him last year and really liked him. Always a nice calm demeanor on set.
I love the stills by the way. The first three you posted are fantastic. Netflix it is.
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#16 Tim Terner

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 07:05 AM

Really lovely stills. I'd be interested to know how you meter the really lowlight scenes
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 12:30 PM

Really lovely stills. I'd be interested to know how you meter the really lowlight scenes


I use my incident meter, decide how much to underexpose the key, set everything else by eye. I was rating Eterna 500T at 320 ASA, so I gave myself a safety net when I was underexposing a lot. For a backlit moonlight scene, I'd normally underexpose the backlight by one stop and the soft fill / side "key" on the face by two stops. For scenes lit with an overhead soft moonlight from the balloon, I'd underexpose two stops. But remember that I'm overexposing the stock by 2/3's of a stop in my rating.

There is some running around the woods stuff where I lit as best as I could but it's quite dark, but with rain and smoke, you can make out the shapes of people running through the woods. Once we set down some dolly tracks through the brush, we'd have the actors run right to left and left to right, on different lenses, to make it seem like we lit more woods than we did -- at night, you can't really tell it's the same stretch of trees & bushes, it is so abstract.
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#18 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 12:58 PM

We planned on playing around in post with the footage - originally I lit some of those shots in orange light (like the shadow figure behind the shower curtain), to match the Christmas flashback, and some in blue light because they were moonlit scenes -- but the producers asked me if I could make it creepier, so we switched to the greenish look instead. ...I think the producers wanted it to be more commercial, i.e. scarier. So they amped up the editing, sound fx, and we added a few new shots, and one new scene... but it is still more of a mystery with supernatural elements.


Yikes!

Quite an eye opener there. The director of BLAIR WITCH, his project is relatively cheap DTV and yet the producers are seemingly calling the shots.

Was this movie originally planned for theatrical distribution? I am quite suprised just how little control this director had over his project. Are you shooting his next project?

PS If only every movie looked like those Christmas flashbacks. :)
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#19 Dan Goulder

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 01:16 PM

The film looks good. Are you bouncing the sunlight in the first posted image?

How do you like the super 35mm, 3-perf format? (Other than the possibility for even greater reframing latitude in post, do you see any other advantage in 4-perf super 35 over 3-perf?)
Thanks.
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 01:53 PM

The film looks good. Are you bouncing the sunlight in the first posted image?

How do you like the super 35mm, 3-perf format? (Other than the possibility for even greater reframing latitude in post, do you see any other advantage in 4-perf super 35 over 3-perf?)
Thanks.


We quickly shot that scene as the sun was going down. The Steadicam follows her from inside her car and down the road towards this bridge, looking into the sun. I had an HMI through some diffusion to light her face inside the car so she comes into that light when she's getting in and out of the car, but by the bridge, I think I just walked a bounce card with the Steadicam. The reverse angle was worse where we faced her as she walked towards the bridge and sun because I knew that I'd have problems with the sun throwing a shadow of the Steadicam over her possibly as we moved around. So I walked a 4'x4' frame of Opal behind the Steadicam so that as she reaches the bridge and the camera moves in closer, the setting sun was softened by the Opal, and so were any camera shadows.

I had one last shot to get of the bridge reflected in her side window mirror as she notices a dark figure on it, after she gets back into her car -- luckily that was shooting into the last glow in the sky, though I had to push the 250D stock one stop for that shot.

The advantages of 3-perf are mostly economical. You also get 25% more running time on the mags. I actually like the fact that the negative is essentially limited to 1.78 : 1 -- it's almost like putting in a hard matte in the camera. Since I'm cropping to 2.39 anyway, the 1.78 : 1 negative has enough "extra" space if I really needed to reframe in post (which I don't like doing anyway, hence why I like anamorphic.)

With so much night work, I didn't want to deal with anamorphic on this show. But having done another 3-perf movie, I'm sort of missing the extra quality of anamorphic. However, when you have a lot of low-light scenes to shoot, the trouble with anamorphic is that the backgrounds get so soft that you lose the sense of where the scene is taking place.
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