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"What's the Kitsch?"


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#1 David Regan

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 04:32 PM

So I just started getting footage back from my most recent project, entitled 'What's the Kitsch?' a semi-parody in the style of 70's B-movie and exploitation films. The director is a great guy to work with and has a lot of good stylistic ideas that have been fun and challenging for me as a young DP to explore.

All the following are grabs from the HD transfer, done at Kodak in Rochester NY, off a Spirit scan.

Stock is 7219 500T

Our first main shoot was also the most difficult, a scene that will ultimately involve a fight with an oversize 12' stop motion ant. (I had this posted in the VFX thread a while ago) The stop motion has yet to be shot, we shot all of our plates and live action on this shoot, before we take it into the studio. I have never forayed into Special effects like this before, so it has been quite a learning and fun experience for both myself and the director.

This particular scene takes place in an abandoned warehouse, where this giant ant is being hidden by a mad scientist of sorts. The warehouse was quite large, and very unlit, with the exception of a few windows on the side, which we ultimately blacked out for this was a night scene. This is a student/low budget short, so renting lights was not an option. My package was small, 2x 575 HMI, a couple small Kinos, and some small Arri Tungsten units.

Thus the style of shooting this scene evolved both from story but also out of necessity, in that I new I couldn't be throwing up any 9-lights through grid, or filling in the entire warehouse. So I decided to play to my strengths of what I had, and keep it very dark, with small pin-points of light dotting the frame. To top it all off, my subject was black, and wearing black leather, and a black gas mask. My initial DP insticts told me to protest the wardrobe, but I decided to go really gutsy with the shadows and let it play out. And on the whole I was happy with the decision. Black leather looked quite nice I thought under a side/back light and it just popped out nicely against the rest of the black frame. It made for a very mysterious feel, as if we couldn't really be sure where our subject was, which in context of the story worked quite well.

At the start of the scene, the subject enters with only a flashlight. In the script the character is suffering from delusions of what his perceived world really is, so I wanted to set that by not establishing this world very well, or creating a single light source. So at the head of the scene, we have a practical on in the FG, and the BG lit by some other artificial source, as if our world really hasn't settled on any sort of solid visual. Then I just let him walk through a lot of darkness, with only his flashlight giving away his presence, sometimes flaring into the lens.

Opening_w__Flashlight.jpg

It's a lot of black in the frame, and I almost chickened out. But I felt it was better to favor one extreme over going halfway and having a mixed bag. I definitely feel it could use something to break up the black a little more, but the effect is getting where I wanted it.

Then as the character approaches the camera, his flashlight, just your everyday heavy duty maglight, illuminates the light switch, as he steps into the work light, and the left edge of the leather shines nicely.

Highlighting_Switch.jpg

When he hits the switch, of course with the obligatory lighting cue, the the once dark warehouse becomes a still dark warehouse with a couple of illuminated pillars. This was done with simple home depot reflector lamps, and 100w bulbs, all wired back to a single dimmer.
Wide_Warehouse.jpg
A closeup of the worklights:
CU_Lights.jpg

Another little gag in this was another character, a 'militant' who's actual existance is somewhat skewed int he mind of the main character. The director wanted the feel that this militant was a remnant of former police brutality and riots, so he wanted police lights to be involved. Ultimately I just simply swung my small fresnel units in backlight on and off him, gelled red and blue, and the effect came out quite well, almost as if this character is creating the light himself.

Police_Militant.jpg

As for close ups, while the wides were quite dark, I found myself taking a fair amount of liberty. My primary light was motived as if it were bounced off the pillars from the work lights, and were hitting the character. Obviously this wouldn't be enough so I just used my Kinos in closeups, and the edged them with a diffused 650w fresnel from far away. Sometimes I would even sneak in a light to hit the leather even if it wasn't entirely motivated, but the leather had a nice shine to it that reflected the light well, and made for a nice effect.

CU_Walter.jpg

Overall I was pleased with most of the footage. It's definitely darker than anything I've ever done, so on the one hand I'm glad I was able to go that dark, and now have a good feel of what's 'too much' and when to pull it back. I certainly think I could have used a few more wisely placed back lights, and fill on the actors costume, but at the same time, the effect of him disappearing is not altogether out of place in the script. Now the challenge is shooting the stop motion ant of course, and getting that placed in.

Oh and now that I think of it, we got some great time-lapse from the top of a building in downtown Rochester. It was a tad grainy in the sky for my taste but nonetheless...still cool.
Sunset_Time_Lapse.jpg


More to come, comments and/or criticism always appreciated.

Cheers for now!
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#2 Daniel Madsen

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:20 PM

I enjoy the practicals and the shafts of light they create along the wall. There looks to be some light leakage at the top of each fixture though. I would have gotten rid of those so only a single point source, the flashlight, was in frame. This would have helped to emphasize your character.

The flashlight is not that bright. Did you consider using something else?
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#3 David Regan

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:44 PM

Thanks Daniel. I agree the points of light are distracting, and in hindsight, taping them off would have been a quick and good idea. If our compositor has time I might check if he can paint them out, since it's just black behind them.

And yeah the flashlight isn't as bright as I'd hoped. It was the sort of thing that got forgotten about in pre-prod. until the night before, so we just went out and bought the biggest mag-light home-depot had to offer. Again, valuable lessons learned.
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#4 Sing Howe Yam

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:48 PM

Love the darkness of the shot, the lights add the depth to the frame with how they run down the right side. I agree about the point source at the top of the light.

Another option for a flashlight could have been a Scorpion flashlight that has a xenon bulb. Usually someone on the G&E team has one or local film equipment retailer carries them. Just an idea in the future.
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