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The Predator


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#1 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:05 PM

Finally got around to finishing a short film that I shot this past fall.



This link should load the film in HD but if for some reason it doesn't then please please please click the HD option.

Film was shot in and around Denver, CO.
Shot on an HVX200 with no accessories or adapters.
When shooting I cropped the viewfinder knowing that I wanted the wide aspect ration (as close to 1.85:1 as I could measure out).
All natural light.

I'd love to hear what you think....

Thanks for watching!
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#2 Ryan Patrick OHara

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:53 PM

Finally got around to finishing a short film that I shot this past fall.



This link should load the film in HD but if for some reason it doesn't then please please please click the HD option.

Film was shot in and around Denver, CO.
Shot on an HVX200 with no accessories or adapters.
When shooting I cropped the viewfinder knowing that I wanted the wide aspect ration (as close to 1.85:1 as I could measure out).
All natural light.

I'd love to hear what you think....

Thanks for watching!


I am about to watch! But you seemed to have cropped closer to 2.39/2.40. :)
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#3 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:59 PM

You're right! It is closer to 2.39! I'm going to fix my previous post. Early morning Sunday brain mistake.
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#4 Ryan Patrick OHara

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 06:05 PM

Disclaimer: I'm going to skip over things that are good (unless I really like it) and focus mainly on criticism. Hang in there. ;)




The second shot does not cut well with the first or third. All three shots look great, but the second one brings down the whole sequence. They sky is clearly blue in the first and third, while very blown out in the second. What the tragedy really happens is that the second shot is the ideal and perfect composition for a grad ND filter... the perfect solution to this problem. Such an easy fix, I am wiggling in my seat. :)

The third shot (title shot) is classic. Awesome.

What was the motivation to start a pan, before the car is in frame? Just curious, seemed out of place in the so far established shot vernacular.

The next shot is that damned second shot again, with the blown out sky and kids..... ugh! Perhaps you can try sky replacement? Risky, but if you pull it off, will really help.

Why we go back to the car, is simply an editors choice which I don't agree with. Just thought i would mention that. It does not reveal ANYTHING new or help drive the story forward. Useless visual banter. :P

I like the next couple of shots during the voice over.

The shot where the car is driving in the way distance should have the horizon slightly higher. I understand what you were going for, but you are dangerously close to the edge of the screen. The 2.40 aspect ratio will probably save you due to televisions not having 2.40 ratio screens, but this is way too close for action safe! One projection mask error or projection slightly off screen and that small sliver of action is gone. Raising it slightly higher will still get that same effect. Picky, I know. Just remember that the images we shoot are never EVER shown as is on video, DVD, television, inflight movies, etc. They will crop, pan-scan, mis align, etc. You must protect your image as best as you can without compromising creative purpose. You are just to close for my comfort. :)

We are back to the kiddos playing in the field. I would have probably shot closer up to the girl with negative fill for a bit more contrast in the picture. I don't like the amount you have crushed your blacks, but I only notice it once in awhile.

Wardrobe! Work with the director and wardrobe dept! As a DP you must approve the clothes and make sure they help the story, character, and cinematography palette. All black is almost never the answer and in this case, I am looking into a black hole. Texture and exposure are paramount, so perhaps a dark gray or brown with either texture or pattern would have been much better. The little boys outfit is not much better but at least it's not total black.

Clouds timelapse shot... nice!

Usually the brightest object in the frame draws our attention. But, sometimes if the majority of the frame is the same brightness, the darker part can attract our eye. When the kids are running for dinner or whatever, all my eye is drawn to are their dark dark clothes against the bright reeds. Not looking at their faces or anything else. The wardrobe is fighting for my attention more than it should.

Wide shot looks fine. Nothing new... was expecting something to enter frame like last time but it didn't. I felt like I was withheld something I was expecting. This supposed to be the point? Maybe it was because she is talking about how she didn't arrive for dinner one day. Shot was good regardless. I just hope the meaning of the shot is supposed to be that way.

Liked the close up in the field. Crushed blacks disagreed with me again, but at least you are being consistent with the look.

The stuff in the field... same thing. Good, no big issues.

I liked how the truck was framed this time. There wasn't a pan like previously. Worked well.

When the girl has her medium CU in the field, her face is pretty dark. Perhaps a bounce card for fill could have been placed camera left? Again, that black shirt is pulling my eyes into it's abyss! :)

This is extremely picky, but since clouds have been a BIG pictorial element in the story thus far, those wide shots of the truck approaching could maybe have a CG or compositor place few and distant clouds for continuity? You have wonderful clouds within this story and suddenly they are gone! :( You can get away with it when you only see small portions of sky above the horizon, but certainly not when you frame the sky with over half of the image.

Love the shot with the boy looking at the corn, and the car drives through! Wonderful!!!! Like it alot! Nice job. (Btw, the clouds are back and that shirt is still darkness.) ;)

After the truck drives by in the shot... (going right to left)..... it cuts to a shot going technically right to left again, which should be ok... but it seems odd to me. I don't know if it should have been framed better or this is the editor recycling a previous shot that wasn't meant to go here. Either way, I found the continuity of car movement jarring.

Love the kids running through the field after the car shot! The camera movement is perfect for the moment because near the end, when it follows the boy to the girl, it seems like it is gracefully wondering through the plants just as the children are/do. The movement makes me feel like they do.

I am now at 4:14, when she is arriving home. At this point, (not related to you) I feel like the story should end soon, but I realize I'm only half way. :P

Going back to constructive criticism for you, the shot of her arriving home needs to be framed lower. You can't have her that close to the edge, being not only out of action safe border area, but cutting her torso in half is not aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps you can go into editing and bump the shot up in the mask? If you shot 16:9 and placed a mask above it, there should be some information down there you can bump up.

Fade to Roller Coaster! What is up with the sky? Turquoise and over exposed? The film, thus far looked good... not to much like video. This screams video. Yikes! I think you are trying a different look for 'future' part of film... but it may have been to much of the wrong flavor.. you get what I'm saying? It distracted from the story, which breaks the illusion. It does not look like another time, but rather a different movie. Not the same thing. I felt like I went from something along the lines of Terrance Maliks "Days of Heaven" and into Tony Scotts "Domino" :P

Also, I would have rather you framed this more at an angle so we get depth when the roller coaster comes charging into the frame and off into the distance. This was rather flat. Maybe you simply needed a foreground element?

Boys skin tone is off the charts when he is hanging his head out the window "Are you coming?"

Her staring through the fence, getting into the car, and etc. Is acceptable considering the leap in look.

The clouds and roller coaster shot is cool looking, if considered independent from the films look. The shot design is closer to how I mentioned the scene should have opened. A little more depth.

I like the green plants, trying to get into this look, I think with a little less saturation, I get it. I don't mind the super green, but I am seeing artifacting from it, so I would back off a tad.

Driving home, Blacks are now unforgivably crushed. I can't wrap my head around this look that much! :o Remember to remove license plates too.

The two of them walking from camera right towards camera left w/ pan has a very nice back lighting.

**as much as I don't like your new look, I'm going to comment only when you seem to stray or go overboard on it***

Walking to the grave stone is hunky dory. A production design note: Don't pick a small little head stone unless it's a child or something. The wideshot of them standing at the grave has lots of really large stones in the background and the foreground. I will watch what I say, because I'm guessing (the director) picked that headstone for a reason (relative, etc?), but VISUALLY on screen, the small headstone suggests unimportance when mammoth headstones are juxtaposed next to it. If they were all uniform sized and foreground ones appeared larger, that is ok. But a larger headstone would perhaps speak more about the father figure. I don't think I have to spell out what those implications are. Great man = great stone. Etc.

Perhaps a taller stone between the two could have visually suggested a barrier which is clear to the audience as they seem more distant from each other.

Moving on!

Last shot: What is that?!


***Holy shamoly, you are the Director too?***

That might be your first problem! It is very hard to wrangle both positions!


I hope this was helpful. The beginning of the film looked like an up-and-coming DP who has promise, shot it. The end looked aweful, in my opinion. To much of a jump and very strange. It took attention away from the story and mood, which is the number one don't. Story first, always.

Hope I wasn't to hard on you.

And don't direct and DP, unless you have to.



PS: Just found out there was a limit on emoticons per post! lol what the heck : )
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#5 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 06:32 PM

Ryan,

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and watch the whole piece.

I'll try and answer some of your questions/criticisms.

1. I am not a first time director of photography or director. I've directed and DPd a pile of music videos, TV shows, documentaries, features, etc.

2. All aesthetic decisions were made on purpose. The only thing I wished we could have avoided was the blown out sky in the shot with the kids walking on the road but alas we couldn't (remember no accessories shooting, just straight camera, taking it as best as possible with the basic device). All framings were done on purpose.

3. Color / Blacks All color was done in camera. The 2nd half of the film was shot like that in camera on purpose. There was no post production color changes. And yes, it is a digital version of a color negative film effect. As far as the blacks being crushed. Yes, this is digital video, and when you lower the master ped in camera you get crushed blacks but this is the only way to get a dark black and that level of saturation.

4. Wardrobe. Again, the decision to have them wear what they wore was made on purpose as well.

5. I shoot and direct often because it is very very very hard to find someone that I can trust as my cinematographer who is creative and knows what they are doing. That being said I am often hired as a cinematographer too. Remember this was a no frills video, shot with just a camera and a tripod, no bounce cards, no flex fills, no lights, no nothing. This was a test in simplicity and something fun to do.

I know I'm not answering all of your concerns but I should let you know that I'm rather happy with the film and the methods under which it was constructed and made!

Cheers,

Rod
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#6 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 12:34 PM

I liked it.
It has a bit of a Terrence Malik feel to it.
That HVX200 held up pretty nice, I liked how you used the long end of the lens for shallow depth of field and those super wide panoramic shots were nice, I'm not sure if you used a Pola but the sky could have been a bit bluer against those clouds.
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#7 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 11:55 PM

Thanks for the nice words, especially about Malick!
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#8 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 12:51 AM

Beautiful, despite the video look rearing its ugly head several times. :rolleyes: Sorry, big film fan here. Definitely Malik-y. Would suggest you put it on Vimeo HD instead of you tube, as the latter it is very stuttery on playback, and the former is awesome. Nice work.
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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 02:38 AM

Very nice work, Rod! I thought the first half of the film was gorgeously composed and exposed. I actually thought it might have been 35mm, it looked fantastic. Great tension with the intercutting of the truck and the kids, the ominous title had me all clenched up inside anticipating all kinds of horrible scenarios. Which you cleverly subverted through the slow pace, cutaways to extreme wide shots and long takes. Clearly you had some long lens focus issues with the kids playing, but I think it worked ok with the doco style.

However, I have to admit that I also thought the hyper-saturated, clippy "present day" look did not work - I don't know about calling it a "digital color negative effect" either, it looked more like clipped video than color neg to me. It was also noticeably softer than the previous scenes. In effect, the transition was extremely jarring and took me out of the spell you were weaving with the images. Anyway, I think you are getting so many comments about this because the first half of the film was so incredibly well executed by comparison that the second half suffers more as a result.

P.S. Like Saul, I also had a problem with what seemed like playback buffering issues, not sure what that was about since the playhead was always way behind what I had already downloaded. Perhaps Vimeo would offer better playback quality.
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#10 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 06:01 AM

P.S. Like Saul, I also had a problem with what seemed like playback buffering issues, not sure what that was about since the playhead was always way behind what I had already downloaded. Perhaps Vimeo would offer better playback quality.


Had the same playback issue, YouTube has yet to perfect the HD and surprisingly even SD 16:9 aspect of the site. Vimeo's been good for online HD presentation.
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#11 Chris Burke

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 03:41 PM

Bravo! I really enjoyed it. One thing that really sticks out on so many videos that people ask for feedback on is the acting or lack there of. Since this is a cinematography website, that is where most of the concern lies with many films, not yours. Most of the time acting takes a back seat to the shot. Funny thing is with film, everything matters, at least to me. So if you had mediocre performances, your film suffers for it. The audience is pulled out of the reality that you create. With your film, the performances, were just right. Not over done, believable and sincere. Although they seem a little green to it, they did a fine job. Hats off to them. Other criticisms have stated just about all that can be said. Notice that they are nit picking, in a nice way, and that shows how good the overall film is. I would definitely grade the film, if you intend to put it out there in any other form other than the web. I did see the short falls of using video, but it was easily forgiven given the beauty of each shot. Well done.

chris
:rolleyes:
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#12 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 01:29 PM

Chris, Jonathan, Saul & Satsuki

Thanks for watching as well. I'm going to heed your advice and upload it to Vimeo. I started an account there recently and have been debating whether or not to buy a Pro HD account.

Much respect about the color in the 2nd half. The more I think about it I might be with everyone on this. The issue is that I set the camera settings for the "video color negative" look and I'm not sure that even with some serious color correction in post that I can de-saturate it or make it look any better. It'll just look like more video!

I guess we live and learn.

And I have to say that I'm such a huge Terrance Malick fan that those kind words mean a lot!

Cheers,

Rod
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#13 Mark Williams

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 04:39 PM

First the cinematography was great some very nice well thought out shots.. But the story? The first half with the kids was held together by the narration otherwise just a collection of pretty shots. The second half was without narration and very slow. The actors were okay. But because of the slow pace and sometimes monotonous music. Many times I wanted to leave willing it to go faster in fact I jumped forward but then did go back. The volume here on my laptop was very low and maybe I missed the dialogue that contained the point of the whole thing.. Slow pace is fine as long as it doesnt cross the threshold of monotony and the payoff is anticipated.

The story as I understood it.. The crows killed a hawk when they were kids and it scared the girl but the boy didn't remember when they visited their dads grave when they were older..

Now this cant be all there was and I must have missed something So sorry about that if I havent given it a fair go..
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#14 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 04:40 PM

The story as I understood it.. The crows killed a hawk when they were kids and it scared the girl but the boy didn't remember when they visited their dads grave when they were older..

Now this cant be all there was and I must have missed something So sorry about that if I havent given it a fair go..


Mark,

This is it! You got it. Nothing happens. Its just a memory with some visuals.

Cheers,

Rod
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#15 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 12:20 AM

The shot at 06:11 (the rollerocaster in motion) just blew me away. It looked amazing!
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#16 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 12:21 AM

Infact, Im saving it as my wallpaper haha
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#17 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 12:38 AM

Infact, Im saving it as my wallpaper haha


Thanks Jamie.
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#18 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 09:51 PM

I posted it on Vimeo. Does the compression look better?

The Predator - Vimeo HD
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#19 Mike Rizos

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 12:38 AM

Having spend some time on the high plains, I was very impressed and moved by the film.

Especially the first part:
Obviously the slow tempo is perfectly suited to the landscape.
The composition and pacing are superb. I just can?t get over how well it?s composed. In a landscape like this, there is usually only one object that dominates and commands full attention, usually the sky, but sometimes a fence, or bird, or passing car, or a solitary tree. Certain shots that seem not to move the story forward don?t bother me at all. In that area sometimes you do watch a pick-up truck drive in to the distance. I do like the pan on the third shot, it seems natural. And the shot with the Rockys in the background should be a classic. This all about feelings, it takes a few minutes to accomplish this, and in the meantime we are also introduced to the main players. Great shots of the kids and their performances are very natural.

The music is appropriate. I think some soft natural sounds would had enhanced it further.
I think the narration is acceptable, but it seems a little overdrawn. Also, the tone seems a little overdramatic.
There are some focus and color issues as noted. I don?t think these are distracting enough.

Second part:
The transitional fade out/in seems a little fast. The fade in shot, and the ?are you coming?? make for a jerky transition, as noted. Maybe this was the purpose but I don?t like both of these, and think they are unnecessary and would prefer the scene to begin directly with the shot of the girl walking to the car. The rest of the second part works well enough for me. I like the way the girl put down the flowers, and the way he looks at her both in the car and at the grave. I think both of these actors did very well especially with body movements. The last two shots don?t work for me.

At the grave, on the close-ups, she seems to be lit by a much warmer light source.
Two or three shots seem soft.
It does look videoish compared to the first part which doesn?t.

I watched it many times. Great job.
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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 02:40 AM

The Vimeo version plays better for me, no buffering issues at all.

You got it. Nothing happens. Its just a memory with some visuals.

I don't think this is quite true - there's a lot happening in the viewer's mind because the ominous title colors his perception of everything that comes after it. When I watched the film for the first time, I first thought that one of the kids was going to get creamed by the truck. Then I thought maybe it was going to stop and one of the kids was going to get kidnapped (thus 'Predator'). Then in the final shot of the 1st sequence when the truck pulls up to the house and the kids walk toward it, I thought oh man, the father is the predator! The second half the film reinforced that feeling for me; the sister seems withdrawn, unsure of how to feel about her father's death, and unable to connect with her brother. Their relationship seems strained and uncomfortable. It all creates the feeling that some event that occurred shortly after the kids entered the house changed everything, corrupted their idyllic childhood, etc. Whether you planned all that or not, I think it's a legitimate reading of the film.
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