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T'was The Night Stills


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#1 Greg Johnson

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 05:32 AM

Here are some stills from a shoot I did 2 weeks ago. It's a short film of peom - "T'was The Night Before Christmas" for a DVD to accompany a children's book.

I shot it on the RED One (first time using that camera).

I'm really trying to work on lighting, so please tell me what you like, and what you don't like! We shot this over 3 nights, in a super cramped old Victorian mansion.

I quickly did a sloppy color correction and threw them online, so they're not perfect,.. yet.

Any suggestions, or compliments would mean alot! Thank you!

- Greg

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 08:08 AM

It looks pretty good so far, and nice to see a Red being really tried out. I'm my own opinion, the only shot I'm not thrilled about are the closes on Santa's hand; seems a little it too dark and I'd like to have seen the red on his suit pop maybe just a bit more. That's a matter of preference of course.
I'm curious, how much play room do you get with red in post as opposed to, say S16mm neg? I cant honestly see red replacing 35, but it probably is going to be competing directly with my arri package [personal opinion only, not based on any quantifiable fact!]

I really love the shot of the two boys, not only for it's overall look and the focus fall off, but also because I used to have that turtle lamp.

Best,
~Adrian
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#3 Alex Hall

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 10:41 AM

Really nice work Greg. The only thing i would of done different lighting wise is to throw some light on the roof in order to define it a bit. It kind of gets lost in the dark. other than that nice work.
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#4 Greg Johnson

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 11:23 AM

Thanks for your replies!

Adrian,
there's tons of room in post, the problem is I hardly had enough budget for lights. Had I had more light, and exposed things better there'd be a lot more room to play with. I was under exposing almost every shot.

I exported these stills as a .DPX file and quickly crunched the blacks and boosted the highs. I'm currently doing small effects and final reel conform on a 35mm DI for the feature print. The 35mm DI scan and the RED have a very similar low contrast high bit image that allows you manipulate the image quite a bit. I can upload a DPX frame if you want to play around with it.

Here's what the RED output looks like:
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And here's a 2nd pass on that shot, I brought it up a bit more:
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Alex,
I agree 110%! Even on set I knew that was a problem, but there wasn't much I could do. My budget was about $3k for the entire shoot. All I had for that shot was two 1200w HMI's and a 1k on baby risers. I just couldn't get the lights high enough. Originally I had the 20k and Condor but that didn't exactly fit in the budget, ha ha. I guess I shouldn't make excuses, it's my job to figure how to make it work!

The good news is all the establishing shots are going to be effect and matte shots. The effect guy is going to replace the roof, and animate a Santa flying around and landing. I suspect there will be a TON of work an that shot.


Thanks again for your comments, as you can image there's not much professional critique out here in Utah so thanks a TON!

- Greg
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 12:15 PM

That's pretty cool, in terms of post manipulation. I'd take the DPX but I've no way of messing with them myself. But it definitely looks damned good (especially got 3G!)
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#6 Christopher Arata

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 01:40 PM

Great work Greg!! To me night shots can be hard to pull off sometimes and look natural. I think you have done an excellent job in. I agree that some light on the roof would be nice, but as for the interior shots, very well done and natural.
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 04:41 PM

The lighting in the bedrooms look especially good, I like the little spots on the kids to make them pop while still keeping that feeling of night. Actually the one shot I have a problem with is the MCU of Dad peering around the corner - it's supposed to be a night interior but the window behind him is blown out! Maybe it's motivated, but it looks a bit sloppy to me. Other than that, nice work as always Greg.
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#8 Tom Lowe

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 10:55 AM

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What is the motivation for this light? The window?
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#9 Walter Graff

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 11:54 AM

Some of hte best I've seen on this site in a while and clearly shows you understand how light is not about illumination but about texture. Your understanding of the art is clear to me. Keep it up!!!
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#10 Serge Teulon

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:24 PM

Really nice images! I wonder whether narrowing the light beam and reducing the intensity a little further on the 2 girls in bed would have given you steeper fall off.

Cheers
S
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#11 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:26 PM

Friggin awesome man! Makes me want a red! Were the exteriors actually shot at night or did they go thru a day to night?
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#12 Walter Graff

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:37 PM

"Makes me want a red!"

You mean makes you want more talent. No camera creates great lighting, just records it. Talent makes great pictures, not tools. Good tools only make it easier. :)
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#13 Greg Johnson

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 01:50 PM

What is the motivation for this light? The window?


Yeah, all the sleeping shots are a dolly shot left to right with cool transitions. In the beging of the shot you see a window above the blinds that doesn't have shutters, that's where the shaft of light from the moon comes from. Sure it's not 100% practical, I was going for a little magic, and style.

I did use a 4' 4bank kino with gel to fill in the foot of the beds, maybe I should have turned a few banks off. I can fix it in the DI though, there's tons of give.

Thanks everyone for your feedback!
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#14 Walter Graff

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 02:16 PM

"Sure it's not 100% practical, I was going for a little magic, and style. "


Good for you. No one said that everything has to have motivation. Sometimes you create the motivation. If half the shots I saw on TV each night were called into question, I'd see a lot of style and little real motivation, but then again I'm too busy watching a program to tear apart things that help, but don't hurt. Problem with looking at a still is you don't have motion to distract you or script or music to compliment it so one looks and looks and says hey that doesn't look right. But in the context of a program it's far harder to see or notice.
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#15 Michael Nash

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 03:05 PM

Sure it's not 100% practical, I was going for a little magic, and style.


I would describe that as a more "theatrical" approach to lighting (as opposed to naturalistic), which seems totally appropriate for this kind of story. Little "cheats" with the lighting don't bother me in this case.

The only shot I had a problem with was the two boys sleeping; they're pretty front-lit with no edge or anything else for depth. Regardless of any issues of motivation, it ends up looking a little flat and two-dimensional. You could have tried giving a faint rimlight, and breaking up the window "key" light a little more to keep the overall tone down where you want it.

I didn't have any problem with the exposure on Santa's hands. I thought the first pass looked spot on -- the second one's too bright for that nighttime feel (especially with the white milk pinging away). The only issue is that you sort of lose the hands into the background. But instead of bringing up the exposure, again I would have added a very subtle edge light for separation (perhaps motivated by the fireplace) and you'd keep the dark feel.

Nice stuff, looks good!
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#16 Greg Johnson

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 03:48 PM

Thank you for all your kind words Walter, they mean a lot!

Satsuki,
the reason the door is blown out is because I wanted TONS of moon light spilling in from out side. The poem reads: "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below". So yeah, I pushed it to the max, almost to a horror movie, ha ha. That shot may have been too much though, you're right. Thanks for the critique!

Dory,
All the night shots were shot in the authentic dark cold winter night, ha ha. The worst part is I didn't tell my gaffer there were any out-door shots, so he trudged through the 3 foot deep snow in new-balances, and a hoody.

Michael, the boys shot ends on that frame, the camera actually has a 45 degree circular dolly track and starts high angle at the foot of the older boy's bed and curves around to end low by the younger boy. To the lighting at the start has a hard side light, and then ends flat. That room was so cramped, and time so short (4 hours with the kids for the whole shoot) that I couldn't get any back light in there. Thanks for the critique though, next time I'll pay more attention.

I really hope to finish my current project so I can upload some video. The 4k resolution is nuts. The original res is 4096 x 2048, these web stills are 1024x512, so they're 1/4 size.

I'm really excited about this project, and about honing my skill so thank you all again for your comments! KEEP EM' COMING!

- Greg
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#17 Michael Nash

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 04:26 PM

Michael, the boys shot ends on that frame, the camera actually has a 45 degree circular dolly track and starts high angle at the foot of the older boy's bed and curves around to end low by the younger boy. To the lighting at the start has a hard side light, and then ends flat. That room was so cramped, and time so short (4 hours with the kids for the whole shoot) that I couldn't get any back light in there.


I totally understand. A single frame never tells the whole story of what you actually had to deal with on set. The thing I've learned about 180 degree moves like that is that you almost always have to do a "light gag" of some sort, either with dimmers or grips "hollywooding" flags, so that the light at both ends of the move looks right.
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#18 MZolomij

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:01 PM

Here are some stills from a shoot I did 2 weeks ago. It's a short film of peom - "T'was The Night Before Christmas" for a DVD to accompany a children's book.

I shot it on the RED One (first time using that camera).

I'm really trying to work on lighting, so please tell me what you like, and what you don't like! We shot this over 3 nights, in a super cramped old Victorian mansion.

I quickly did a sloppy color correction and threw them online, so they're not perfect,.. yet.

Any suggestions, or compliments would mean alot! Thank you!

- Greg

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Man, I think these are some really pretty shots. My only thoughts are the two kids' bedroom shots - the motivation of the light for the girls' rooms doesn't jibe (in agreement with previous post) and I think the boys in the foreground could have used a little hit of back light movitated by the night light. You should be very proud... these are great shots... food for thought.

z
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Abel Cine

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Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

Wooden Camera

Willys Widgets

Ritter Battery

Technodolly

CineLab

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Rig Wheels Passport