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Shooting in "Days of Heaven" style, would like opinions


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#1 Antonio Cisneros

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 11:19 PM

Hey All

So I'm shooting a short film in October in a Days of Heaven / Badlands style. I'm excited but I would love to get advice because there are several technical elements that I've never had to opportunity to try before.

Just a few details about the film; we are shooting in the gorgeous plains and cornfields of Delaware. We are using super 16mm (SRII) in a 2:35 ratio with vision 2 50D and 250D (I'm hoping to shoot with Cooke S4 but not sure if it will happen). The film is set in the 1930's and we will making heavy use of tobacco, chocolate, and streak filters. The film is primarily exteriors and will be trying to shoot most of them at the magic hour. Lastly the film is heavy on movement and requires a steadicam op and a jib or crane. This is where my first concern lies.

We need to get the camera off the ground at least 20 to 30 feet with a large extension to follow the main character through the fields. I've have not had the chance to use this type of equipment and I don't know where to begin. What type of jibs or cranes do you recommend use? I've looked at the Arri Panther Super Jib but I need to know what else is out there. Any advice?

My second concern is cutting between 50D and 250D. Especially on Super 16mm I get a grain with 250D and to my eyes the stock always appear some what flat. I'm thinking of overexposing 250D one stop and pulling a half. This way to decrease grain, enhance my blacks, and keep a closer match to 50D. But should I do this also to 50D?

Sorry for the long post but would like to hear any or all opinions.

Thanks again.
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#2 Andrew McCarrick

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 11:29 PM

I'd throw in a recommendation of using a "SpyderCam" possible for the crane/jib shots. It probably does cost a little bit more, but you're not limited to the arc that a jib/crane tends to give during it's movement.
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#3 Tom Lowe

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 12:00 AM

Can you afford something like the Akela crane? That's what Toll used in TTRL to sweep across the grass, I think.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 01:09 AM

I'd overexpose the 250D by rating it as 125 or 160 ASA, but shoot the 50D normally or at 40 ASA to get them to match better. Anything more complicated than that is not worth the effort.

Remember that the bigger the crane moves, the better your grip crew better be...
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 02:04 AM

I'm thinking of overexposing 250D one stop and pulling a half. This way to decrease grain, enhance my blacks, and keep a closer match to 50D. But should I do this also to 50D?

Are you finishing in a digital format or will you be finishing photochemically? If you're going the digital path then I don't think it's worth the trouble of special processing. A well exposed negative should contain enough information to alter the look however you want in telecine. I also don't think matching the stocks in telecine will be a huge issue as long as they're both well exposed.

Keep in mind that a big part of the look of the magic hour scenes in "Days of Heaven" was a result of how Alemendros chose to expose his negative. He balanced his exposures to retain detail in both the skies and the ground, effectively underexposing the ground and overexposing the sky. So that helped create the feeling of "the garden of eden on earth" as a balance between light and dark. A more modern approach might be to expose the ground normally and use grad filters (or DI power windows) to bring the sky down. But that would create an entirely different mood. As far as I know, Alemendros didn't use any heavy color filters like tobacco or chocolate on the film. It looks like he just used an 85 for some scenes and pulled it when it got too dark.

For jibs, you could try the Jimmy Jib with a remote head - I believe max extension on it is 25'. That's actually pretty darn high with a wide lens on the camera. You would usually hire an owner/operator for this kind of thing.
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#6 Antonio Cisneros

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 11:16 PM

Are you finishing in a digital format or will you be finishing photochemically? If you're going the digital path then I don't think it's worth the trouble of special processing. A well exposed negative should contain enough information to alter the look however you want in telecine. I also don't think matching the stocks in telecine will be a huge issue as long as they're both well exposed.


As of right now the budget can only afford going to HD CAM tape but I would like to photochemically blow up to 35mm. Honestly this film should be more "organic" in its style but money will probably conform it to simple video.

For the Days of Heaven approach I've read that Alemendros did a kind of "open and hoping" approach to shooting the magic hour and printed down. I could be wrong but I would love to read anymore information about the the shooting style of the film. Please send me the link.

Thanks
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 01:16 AM

I would love to read anymore information about the the shooting style of the film. Please send me the link.

I don't have a link but there's an excellent interview with him in the book "Masters of Light." He and Haskell Wexler discuss shooting "Days of Heaven" in their respective chapters.

http://www.amazon.co...i...WDFT5V0AP1
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#8 John Holland

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 01:18 PM

You sure you got that right ? Underexpose the ground and over the sky in the same shot ? Are you saying he used ND's upsidedown to underexpose the ground ? would love to know .
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#9 Sam Wells

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 03:22 PM

Maybe in the sense that he shot when loosing full exp on the ground & the sky was still pretty hot (so really it's the non-grad approach) ? Don't know, I wasn't there...

That's a very small window of time for east coast - here in NJ magic hour is more like 30 minutes sometimes....

-Sam
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#10 Antonio Cisneros

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 05:53 PM

That's a very small window of time for east coast - here in NJ magic hour is more like 30 minutes sometimes....


Yeah I know that's why I'm kinda worried. I was thinking of faking it a lot with filters. Got any advice about limited time for magic hour?

Plus does anyone know a good place to get a jimmy jib in Delaware?
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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 07:09 PM

Antonio, I'd first call all the rental houses in your area. They'll probably know who the jib owners are.

Maybe in the sense that he shot when loosing full exp on the ground & the sky was still pretty hot (so really it's the non-grad approach) ?

Yes, that's what I meant. If you think about it, with the sun just below the horizon and no direct sunlight falling on the ground, it's probably going to be around 5-6 stops darker than the sky. Expose for the ground and the sky blows out. Expose for the sky and you get a silhouette. So you split the difference. That's all I was saying. I think I remember reading that Alemendros used an incident meter and pointed the dome at up to the sky, then toward the ground, and then split the readings, but I'm not 100% sure about that.

As for filters, in "Masters of Light" Alemendros said, "We didn't use any filters or any diffusion; we wanted the image to be very sharp and crisp. We didn't use any fog filters either. We sometimes took out the 85 filter in order to gain one stop in exposure, a supplementary stop. In doing that, of course, the image became bluish. In some situations, like when Richard Gere and Linda Manz are roasting a chicken in front of a fire, it worked very well and we left it as it was without color correction.... But in other scenes, we had the lab correcting the color so it wouldn't be so blue and so it would match with the rest of the film."

And about shooting in magic hour, he said, "We started with the normal lenses and we would change to the fast Super-panavision lenses which open up to f/1.1. Well, first we went to a f/1.4 lens, then there was one lens, a 50mm, that opened up to f/1.1, so we would rush to get the 50mm and put it on as the light went; then we would pull the 85 filter off to get another stop and then as a last resort we pushed the film. So we expanded this 20 minutes to 25 minutes of shooting time. Of course, we were quite determined to match everything. And it gave a quality that I don't think has ever been seen in movies. Because you don't know where the light is coming from; it's a strange type of light. The quality of the skin tones is extraordinary. I allow myself to boast about it because I credit that to Terry; I just helped him achieve what he wanted."

Later on, Haskell Wexler, who is credited with additional photography on the film revealed that he had used "very, very light diffusion filters" on the film's opening scene in the foundry without telling Alemendros. His interview can be seen in "Visions of Light."

* One more thing, heavy filters like the chocolate are going to eat a ton of light, several stops at least. You may want a contingency plan for when you have to pull the filter to more stop, since that will make matching very difficult.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 11 August 2008 - 07:13 PM.

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