EDEN- anamorphic AFI MOS project
Posted 24 June 2008 - 05:06 PM
I?ve been constantly inspired by the production journal that many of you have posted here in the In Production board. I?ve been especially inspired by the recent ones of David Mullen and Jayson Crothers. I usually roam the boards trying to learn as much about the craft as possible and this is my first major post. I?m a graduating fellow at the American Film Institute Conservatory and finished my final project recently. I wanted to write a journal about the experience and I hope others will learn from it as I have and I will learn from any feedback given.
The project is for the 35mm MOS requirement at the school, where each cinematographer receives 2400 feet of 35mm negative from Kodak as well as processing and printing from one of three labs in town, and an hour of HD telecine at HTV Inc. in North Hollywood. The purpose of the project is too guarantee shooting experience for all the cinematographers on 35mm and a chance to experiment and do something new without the extra hassle that burdens the other AFI projects.
For my project, I wanted to do things that I?ve never done or wanted to learn more about. Teaming up with director Jake Vander Ark, we came up with a VERY SIMPLE, but visually challenging fantasy idea about a couple that live in a half garden/half bedroom paradise (tentatively titled EDEN). The tranquility is then threatened and the woman leaves, leaving the man waiting for her in a dark and depressing, rain-soaked (raining inside) environment. I decided to shoot B+W negative and use anamorphic lenses. Aside from wanting to learn about lighting for rain, I wanted to really learn about working with shadows and tones and use that to tell the story in black and white. I also have a fascination with the anamorphic format and have always wanted to shoot in it. Thinking that I might not get a chance like this for awhile after graduation, I just decided to go for it.
After some basic preliminary exposure tests, I decided to shoot the entire thing on the 5231 Plus-X 64T/80D stock. The Double-X looked surprisingly good but the Plus-X just looked so much better. I also decided to rate it at 125 and push it one stop in the processing at Technicolor for deeper blacks, slightly more contrast, and also to help in low light. I knew that shooting by shooting in anamorphic the increased grain from the push wouldn?t be a problem. Plus I like a little texture!
Most of the camera and G&E equipment was provided by AFI. I originally ordered the Clairmont anamorphics thinking that they would be the only lenses that I would be able to get at a discout. But at the last minute they called mentioning that they didn?t have an available 75mm, but that they had a set of Hawk C-Series. So, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to use those lenses. I used the lenses on the Arriflex 35III body with a horrible anamorphic extension finder (constantly had to switch to he regular squeezed mode to check focus. We used Tiffen's LLD filter alot as kind of a light-lossless yellow filter, and used a yellow and orange filter throughout the shoot, along with Mitchell diffusion sometimes for the woman. I had mostly tungsten lighting that included a 6-light Maxi-Brute, a 10K, and two 9-light FAY?s, along with other smaller units. The shoot was an almost equal mix of daytime and nighttime at AFI. Our great designer BreAnn Vander Ark erected a great set outside on a patio that we partly covered for most of the daytime stuff with a 20x20 silk. I quickly learned my first lesson and wished I had HMI?s when we constantly struggled to light with the less powerful tungsten lights to compete along with the daylight. Even though it was black and white, having the output of HMI?s would have been useful. Another big lesson was with lighting rain. Even though I?m pleased for the most part, I learned that you really need a very large broad source to light rain the best way. In dailies, the rain feels directional for some reason and I think it?s because you can feel the direction of the light. I usually backlit the rain from over the set with the 6-light or the FAY?s. I also learned a lot about using diopters as well, and of course tons about working in black and white. Working with anamorphic and in the 2.40 ratio was very interesting and with the help of 1st AC Julia Joseph, for whom this was also the first scope experience, we pulled it off. The shoot went fairly well and smoothly, except for a few major L+D things during drop-offs at the end. I'm proud of the work we all did with limited resources, an EXTREMELY tiny crew and me and the director paying for everything. I guess I'll just appreciate larger budgets that much more.
Technicolor printed all the footage to 2302 B&W stock. I was fairly worried because the print was darker than I would?ve liked, but then when I supervised the telecine at HTV (with colorist Roger La Prairie), and also looked at the printer lights I saw that the negative was actually pretty good and the it was just printed to dark. The telecine was done simultaneously to HDCam and DVCam. The stills posted here are from the DVCam. Thanks to Jayson Crothers on the forum for his great info on working in B&W from his ?Naked Eye? posts and to Mike Williamson who gave me great tips on it as well. Also, thanks to Max Jacoby for all of his priceless info on anamorphic lenses on the forum. It was a big help.
One of my favorites from the movie. The man sits waiting for his love to come back on the swing that hangs from the tree in the house. The first wide shot was on the 40mm. We shot around a T4. There is a 9-light FAY hanging over the set above the tree backlighting the background as well as the rain. Creating the large splash of light on his lap, there is the 10K slightly spotted in from camera right. Lighting the cherry blossom and bookcase on camera right is a Mighty Mole hanging off the set. And finally, the soft halo that is behind his head silhouetting it is a small Midget with a snoot on it on the ground pointed to the wall.
In the close up (100mm at 48fps), we moved the 10K to the window and scrimmed it down, kept the Mighty in place to backlight the rain and blasted a 1K onto his head and back from camera left. In the first take we had a complete silhouette, but then for 2nd take (shown here) we pushed in a bounce board until his face levels were at 3 stops under key.
In this shot (50mm), we wanted to show a dramatic turn from the daytime utopia to the nighttime sadness where, after sex the angry woman, leaves the man. One of my regrets for this shot was that it was near eye level. It was supposed to be the end of a dollyshot from the nightstand but it was too difficult to get the school's Fisher 10 in the tight space. So we just kept it here. But because there's no motion, I feel like it needed something more dramatic to highlight this important part in the story. I wish I had it more above their eye level. Anyways, I still kinda like it. The woman is keyed with a 650wFresnel wit some 250 diff on the head. There's also a slight blackwrap lamp-left sider to feather it off her face just a bit. There is a 9-light FAY off camera left hitting the man and providing some rim for the woman. There's also a Mickey Mole downlighting the flowers behind her.
In this shot (75mm, 30fps) the woman finally returns to the man. She walks in through the door and puts up her umbrella to cover herself from the rain. We used the 6-light maxi over the set to backlight the rain, and the 10K outside the door to rim her before she walks in. Then she enters and walks into a soft 9-light FAY with opal on the head and pushing through a frame of light grid. I like the way her umbrella glows when she walks into the path of the maxi. Accidentally, we got a take where the 10K reflects off of the glass door and flairs the lens but its kind of interesting and we're deciding whether or not to use it.
Here, the woman returns and comforts the man by sitting next to him and sheltering him from the rain, in the same shot, the rain stops and the movie ends. We have the same maxi backlighting the rain, A Mighty Mole is downlighting the decor on frame left, which also provides a rim light on the face of the woman when she looks to the man. The 9-light Fay from camera right also rims the face of the man when he looks to the woman as well as lighting her shoulder.
This is the end of a push in (on a 75mm) from the outside of the set which was dressed with brick. We wanted to show that it was not raining outside but was raining inside their little environment. We also wanted to show the man still waiting desperately for his love. As the shot pushes in he paces back and forth and then trashes a dresser and finally ending in this shot. He is keyed from camera left by a 1K, and filled in for an eyelight by a 2K bounced from outside the window (which also served to slightly illuminate the brick wall outside to show that it's not raining out there. The FAY above the tree is still there to slightly backlight the interior as well as the rain.
Here are some daytime shots before everything gets dark and sad. The silk is up above the set but we didn't cover the set from the tree and beyond them because we wanted the hard splashes of sunlight in the background. Luckily, we shot at the perfect time of day. We just added a beadboard from camera right for some passive bounce. And the book she's reading is filling her in angelically. In the wide shot, the apple in the foreground is plucked by the man entering from camera left and then he kneels in front of her on frame right, then feeds her the apple. Here's the wide (40mm):
*I have no idea why this frame grab seems wider, I have to look into that sorry*
And here's a close up of the woman (75mm) with just another beadboard added closer:
Posted 24 June 2008 - 05:07 PM
And then they have sex after eating the apple (I know subtle symbolism right?). Here (100mm) they are under the silk for the softest light on their bodies, after we started losing light we helped it out by bouncing the Maxi into the silk over them.
Jeez now that I'm finished writing this, I see what people go through to write these...JEEZ! My hands are tired. Please let me know what you think...I wish I did this earlier when the shoot was fresh in my mind. I hope people learn as much from this as I have from other people's posts. I had alot of fun shooting this, and now that I'm graduating and going out into the professional world I hope what I did on this project will help. You can see some of the footage in my reel at www.richardvialet.com
Posted 24 June 2008 - 05:53 PM
Posted 25 June 2008 - 02:07 PM
This looks great - it's fantastic that you put so much work into your 35mm MOS - most people are burned out by the time they get to it and blow it off a little. =)
I tested the Clairmont Anamorphics once and thought they had a really beautiful look wide open - almost like a moving water-color painting. Beyond that, though, they only start to really function when really stopped down so it's great that you got to use the Hawks.
It's interesting that Technicolor printed on 2302 - I had my print dailies done on color stocks because of cost issues (gave a very slight red hue to everything). Again - great that you got that experience.
I love the shot of him sitting in the tree swing and the flare from the door is part of the joy of shooting anamorphic - those great long flares.
Rain is always tough - the wider the shot the wider the source you need, or you need multiple sources. The last rain sequence I did was on a back-lot set and we used 3 12-Lights to get the spread we needed down one street.
Is this shot on the AFI campus?
Congrats a great looking short!
Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:21 PM
Did you utilize colored filters at all to stylize or exagerate the contrast during shooting?
In hindsight, were there any disadvantages to shooting in B&W over shooting color and digitally or optically removing the color in the printing process?
Finally, did pusing Plus-X a stop still give you much less grain than with Double-X rated a third to two-thirds of a stop below box speed?
Posted 25 June 2008 - 04:50 PM
*Yea, it turned out to be more ambitious than i expected but i wanted to do a good job on it and make it turn out well, I was disappointed with my thesis experience and wanted to leave AFI with a something more.
* It would have been really interesting to work with the Clairmonts, I like lenses that have little personality traits (lol) like that but I enjoyed the Hawks very much. I crewed for a friend on his thesis when he was using the Clairmonts and they seemed cool.
* I was really happy to watch a print of the work on B+W but was disappointed the it was pretty fairly dark
* It is shot on the AFI Campus. The set was erected outside on the patio area next to the Sony Digital ARts Center. Funny tidbit: I had to act as my own rigging gaffer the night before and run 450 ft of banded cable myself down the steep hill next to the patio to run power off the stage. I didn't have enough power for a generator!
* Thanks for your feedback. I CONSTANTLY referred to your Naked Eye posts while prepping. Great help!
* Long Live B&W! I really wanted to shoot some real black and white for a long time. I wanted to practice lighting monochromatically and I also just miss black and white images on the big screen. And even though there's been some great B+W work with desaturated color. I just prefer the look of the real thing i guess.
* I mentioned the filters briefly somewhere in that OPUS that is the original post But, in detail I mostly used yellow filters and Tiffen's LLD for the contrast and for smoothing out exaggerating skin tones. I got the idea of the LLD after reading the I'm Not There article n AC magazine where Ed Lachman used it for the B+W sequences. Because of the low EI I was rating the film with, the LLD was great because it's designed for no lightloss. It's usually used as a daylight to tungsten filter when shooting in low daylight so because of its color and acted like a slight yellow filter. I also used an orange filter once for a POV of the sky and trees.
* Well, as its been said before the Kodak B&W negatives haven't really been improved upon for a while so the superficial quality of the negative isn't as good as their color stocks. The stocks are definitely grainier and a little less sharp. Also, you don't get a stock faster that the Double-X which is 200T/250D. It was definitely a little harder shooting at EI 125 and staying around a T4 on the lens at night. Those are the major disadvantages over shooting in color. Oh and plus, by shooting in color you won't have people reacting weird when you want to process and print in B+W lol.
* During the test I did discover that the pushed Plus-X still had less grain than rating the XX slower. I thought the grain of the XX was pretty cool but was a little too distracting for this story.
Oh and by the way, in my test, both stocks looked their best rated normally at kodak speed.
Posted 26 June 2008 - 03:55 AM
one thing that bother me is, if the pics are from the same scene then i think you might have problem with continuity of the light
the first 3 look very contrasted and hard light and then when the girl come it's look more soft and open in the shadows
like the movie has to light style one is noir and one is french new wave b&w Raoul coutard style
but again maybe it's not from the same scene
my good friend studied with you his name is kobe zaige
if you see him say hellow from me
Posted 27 June 2008 - 12:52 PM
Yea Kobi graduated with me. Cool guy, great energy! He shot his MOS project right after I did. I'll tell him you said hi.
Posted 27 June 2008 - 02:19 PM
My favorite shot is the last one you posted, with the couple kissing in the grass, very beautiful frame. Nice work, let us know if you get it cut together and there's somewhere online to view it.
Posted 27 June 2008 - 03:58 PM
In this shot (75mm, 30fps) the woman finally returns to the man. She walks in through the door and puts up her umbrella to cover herself from the rain. We used the 6-light maxi over the set to backlight
I was hoping she would travel the universe making love to demons and alien creatures.
Oh well I guess you wouldn't have had the budget for that!
I think you were right to shoot B&W and anamorphic as they will probably be the things you will have the least opportunity to shoot out there and thus it wil be an extra special experience and if someone does want either you will have experience of them both.
I love that you did soooo much on such a tiny budget too!
5231 is a magically beautiful stock, although I now wonder how it would have looked on 5222.
I think it would have looked worse myself but I'm really intrested to see what can be achieved with 5222 (for the very selfish reason that I have a box full of it and can never get 5231). I think you made the right decision here too tho.
I love the first shot the most!
...and the production design is exceptional!
How did you pull it all off!
You should be very proud!
Posted 27 June 2008 - 04:09 PM
Except the last still which looks a bit Ingmar Bergman to my eyes!
Posted 01 July 2008 - 11:24 AM
Glad u liked it.
My director will be thrilled to hear you thought of ingmar bergman. He one of favorite directors. And 5222 would have definitely had an interesting look. I'd really lie to use it in the future for another project.
Mike, thanks alot for checking out the post. Yea I'm really glad I shot slow stock in anamorphic. I was kinda tired of people proclaiming that it was SOOO hard to shoot with a slower speed. If the guys and gals before us did it why can't we. I mean, of course it is harder, and I don't think that slow stock is right for everything but it's not horribly different and its a great discipline.