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My 5 min 4K film


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#1 Ken Willinger

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 04:34 PM

Check out my entry to the 4K 72 hour challenge shot on Red. A vote for my film would be appreciated if you like it. But any feedback is also welcome. Please keep in mind it was a limited time production. Started on noon Friday, ended on noon Monday. We filmed Friday night and all day Saturday...then did a 24 hour edit Sunday to Monday. Very small crew (I had no Gaffer or Grips : (
http://www.vuze.com/...KFIXMPNZWS.html
Ken Willinger
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#2 Ken Willinger

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:17 AM

Here's a Behind the Scenes vid our PA made of the madness!

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#3 Ken Willinger

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 02:01 AM

Well not much time left in the voting...I think it ends on Monday. My film is currently in 4th place. Thank all of you who have watched it and rated it with a thumbs up. I don't win anything in this popular vote but my head may get a little larger! Please vote if you didn't. BTW, I didn't post the parameters of the challenge so here they are:
It had to be filmed in 4K. It had to be written, filmed, edited and posted in 72 hours. It could be no longer than 5 minutes (6 minutes including credits). I had to use one phrase and one prop provided from the list below. Genre, locations, story etc was all up to me.
Props:
1. An inflatable raft
2. A Toaster
3. A Laptop
4. A flashlight
5. A Red Scarf

Phrases:
1. "I take it Black"
2. "Everything in Life Changes"
3. "Gimme back my sweater"
4. "Don't put that there!"
5. "What is a DSMC?"

See if you can spot what we used.
Here's the link again:
http://www.vuze.com/...KFIXMPNZWS.html

And remember, this thread is "Please Critique My Work". If nobody says anything I may think it's perfect! Uh oh, I better bend over...
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#4 Gus Sacks

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 03:34 PM

Check out my entry to the 4K 72 hour challenge shot on Red. A vote for my film would be appreciated if you like it. But any feedback is also welcome. Please keep in mind it was a limited time production. Started on noon Friday, ended on noon Monday. We filmed Friday night and all day Saturday...then did a 24 hour edit Sunday to Monday. Very small crew (I had no Gaffer or Grips : (
http://www.vuze.com/...KFIXMPNZWS.html
Ken Willinger


Hey Ken,

I checked it out. From a purely cinematographic standpoint, irrespective of the acting or dialogue, I have to say the lighting gave it a really flat and sourcey look that basically took me out of the movie. I understand you had a non-existant GE crew, but just using soft sources, especially with a very high-resolution camera, and at angles that aren't motivated were a great distraction to me. Some of the framing and blocking seemed hurried (although I get this was a 72 hour affair).

The shot with the actor on the front of the dolly was interesting, but if you wanted it to look like he was walking, you should have had him move up and down at least a little bit to simulate stepping. If that wasnt' the intended look, then I spose you did it correctly. The editing speed ramp at the end was also not groovy.

I just feel like it's projects like this that really don't need to be shot in 4k and exhibited as such. Why not use your resources on a crew and some more selective units and a camera that won't make your mistakes so obvious. But, again, I understand you had a limited amount of time to do this, and I feel like I'm also just venting my frustrations about RED productions that seemingly don't need to be shot on such an expensive, high-resolution format.

But, Ken, if this is too harsh, or you disagee, let's talk about it. I don't do many critiques (for obvious reasons, hah), but I would like to hear what you think. I know you're a professional, but I think the resources constrained you a bit. But that doesn't mean I didn't find errors in the work.

- Gus
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#5 Ken Willinger

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 06:02 PM

Thanks Gus, it’s great to finally get some real feedback! I think you are correct in a lot of aspects. The high key soft source look was definitely a mistake in the boardroom scenes. It looks way too flat and there is very little contrast in those scenes (as well as lack of color). I like them the least. Actually the first shot in the boardroom makes me cringe every time I see it. The board room scenes were the last dialogue scenes we did and at that point we were in a serious time crunch to finish.

I know there are no excuses…but I do have a few!! Time certainly… and lack of gaffer and grip was also a real constraint. But also I had rotator cuff surgery 4 weeks ago, so I’m not even supposed to be moving heavy stuff and my range of motion is severely limited (if you watch the behind the scenes video you’ll see me in a sling!).

I thought the make-up room scene worked much better as well as the news anchor office. I lit the anchor harder. I wanted the assistant to look softer.

As to framing and focus, again no excuses, but the operator was a first time (literally) narrative operator and comes from a news and doc background. Because I had to light the next scene while a different one was being recorded, I couldn’t be next to him continuously and check the frame and focus. So I would set things up in the scene and then leave to get the next scene going. There are a couple of shots where the focus is slightly (and one not so slightly) off. Again I cringe every time I see it. And trying to get him to frame the way I wanted it was difficult to say the least.

The dolly shot with actor in the hallway was cool. I didn’t want it to look like he was walking and I don’t know why he kept moving back and forth as if he was. He was supposed to stay motionless as he went to meet his fate while in the background the faithful assistant is seen in total despair. I thought it was an effective shot. BTW that scene was shot 2K at 60 frames.

I couldn’t agree with you more about the edit slo-mo ramp. It’s ugly. I wish we had done the ramp in camera…but it wasn’t until we got to the edit room that we realized that’s how the shot should be. We actually had picked up the shot from a longer take.

The first cut of the film was about eight minutes so we had to take quite a bit out to make it fit the rules for the challenge. We lost a lot of dialogue (maybe that’s good!).

I also wasn’t happy with the color correction. Neither I nor the editor are well versed as colorists and it was our first time navigating through the color program in FCP.
I disagree with you about the use of the camera for this type of production. I wish I could have had the opportunity to do this kind of stuff with a pro 35mm cine camera when I was younger. What a great experience to learn and to make mistakes. Nobody is getting paid. No client is on the line. I don’t think it’s a waste of recourses and I hope that in the end it promotes the use of my camera and services (and others as well)…after all, this is how I make my living. Also it gives us an opportunity to put the camera through its paces worry free and allows us to experiment and push it (though we didn’t push it very far I agree…especially in the boardroom!).

This was the first time I ever participated in a challenge like this. I know there are 48 hr film challenges around the country often. I have a newfound respect for those that do it. Honestly it was very difficult…fun, but difficult. I think we assembled a pretty good team, though if I ever do it again I’ll get more help in the camera department.

Thanks again for checking it out Gus…and for the honesty. We all learn from this stuff. Was there anything you liked about it? I don’t suppose you gave it a thumbs up…hahaha!!
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#6 Jaron Berman

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 02:59 AM

There are a lot of people watching this thread and very few people commenting. Nobody gets better without a good critique, so I'll follow Gus' lead, and speak towards the lighting and camerawork. Keep in mind this is my OPINION, certainly not fact. Take or leave whatever you feel, and understand that I'm responding in the spirit of critique not insult or posturing. Anyways....

Nothing about it struck me as "shot on red"...which could be good or bad. Yes, I screened it on my computer off the online feed, but still - nothing about it looked as though it originated on anything in particular....certainly not film or high-end HD, but other than that it coulda been anything. And as Gus pointed out - that makes it a big "so what." For productions of this speed and simplicity, it appears the camera is getting in the way more than it's helping the final product. There was no shallow-DOF that could not have been achieved with a smaller cam and there was no uncontrolled lighting which was saved by a wide dynamic-range camera. In fact, I'd imagine that rendering and coloring the footage took a disproportionate amount of your allotted time, meaning that shooting on a lesser (and natively-editable) camera would have allowed more time to light, block, rehearse and do the bread and butter of filmmaking. In the end, for web delivery, your audience will never care that you used a great new camera. They'll see a compromised product and not care at all. This is an example of why lower-budget productions can be hurt by shiny new technology. I say this knowing full-well that the competition is based around "4K." Regardless....

Had the camera been a lower-end offering, like the one used for the behind the scenes footage, I think you would have been more pressed to creatively block, light and shoot the film. The camera operating was interesting in the beginning, then "forced" later on. In terms of coverage and simply keeping people in the box, it worked. The director's and operator's inexperience showed in the blocking though - lots of uninteresting compositions that could have been "fixed" with simple changes in direction. If you have a doc shooter in that situation, it may behoove you to free him a little to find frames. Because the focus fall-off of the RED is so short, it appears that you guys didn't utilize any cheats. It looks like the camera was just placed, moved for the turnaround and the scene was re-shot for coverage. Had you been using an infinite-dof camera (1/3"), you probably would have taken the time to try and cheat some of the reverse shots to make them more interesting and to create space between the actors and the back wall.

In the final product, you have a lot of medium shots into brightly-lit white walls. But overall, the movement of camera in the first couple of minutes was good. The operator seems to have come from TV of sorts, because the closeup was framed as a TV-closeup, instead of the usually wider film CU (being that TV is delivered on a small screen, film on a large). If you're used to seeing your footage on a macbook or a TV, and all of a sudden you're using a camera intended for theatrical projection, you have to completely re-think your coverage as it will play on the larger screen. You have "4K" of resolution to push around and ECU's aren't as mandatory as they used to be on small-screen tv. Just a tip.

The lighting.....aye. I'll echo Gus in saying it was something, though I wouldn't call it flat so much as all over the place...The low-budge formula seems to be turn on a bunch of lights, put diffusion in front of them, point them near the subject, and while the scene is being shot go make business cards with the letters "D.P" under one's name. One of the BIGGEST rookie mistakes is to burst in with lights and start re-making reality. See what you get for free FIRST, then decide what needs to be shaped and what needs reinforcement. If the goal is to match the real look but make it prettier, LOOK at the real light with your eyes before ever setting the first light. Soft-light spilling everywhere may look like reality in some situations, but there were so many tells in the room that even to the untrained eye, it just looked...wrong. A perhaps underused mantra to cinematographers is - it's not the light you add it's the light you take away. I understand your limitations in G/E, but if that's the case it's even more critical to use only what you need and control it absolutely. This whole competition was an exercise, so perhaps next time you participate, impose more restrictions to yourself....see if you can limit yourself to a single movie light for each scene. Not necessarily the same light, as you'll probably need different lights for different situations, but as an exercise it'll start making you look at your frame from a photographer's standpoint instead of a camera owner's. With only a single movie light at your disposal, you'll need to work a LOT more with practicals, flags, and layers of contrast within the frame in order to build an interesting composition.

I looked on vuze for other entries, and most of them fell into the same pitfalls. Bottom line is - a camera is a camera. If its the cost of entry into a coveted competition, then so be it. But a camera can only, at best, capture faithfully what is in front of it. Learn to light and block and when RED delivers on the 28K camera, you'll be in a much better position to utilize its potential.

I know this all comes off as mean-spirited, but it really is not meant in that manner. We are all students, no matter how long we've been at it. Everyone sees the world differently, and I know that personally every new DP or gaffer I work with describes light in a different way...and I learn something every time not just from their work on set but also their choice of words when it comes to explaining their thought processes. And without anyone commenting you already looked back on things you would have changed..which is good. If you can look at your work from a week, month, year or decade ago without seeing things you would do differently now then you're either arrogant or dead. We all learn, we all progress. Congrats on taking on the project and good luck in future film-races or longer-form projects.

Edited by Jaron Berman, 26 January 2009 - 03:03 AM.

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#7 Ken Willinger

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 12:17 PM

Jaron, thanks so much for the very detailed comments. I think you hit the nail on the head in a lot of areas. This is great stuff, very helpful and for the most part not mean spirited (except for one comment…and I’ll let it go!).

There is so much to go over but let’s start with “shot on red”. You said it could be good or bad. My take is that it doesn’t really matter in the end. I don’t think Red has to look like something special or unique. It’s just a camera, another tool. What it has to do is look good and be able to give you what you need for whatever application you may be using it in. It’s certainly not film and doesn’t have the DR film has and it is not perfected as a camera yet. I do think it will be a tool that you will see more often than not in the future.

When we were cutting and we could see the data in full res, it really looked better than any video including varicam and the F900 to me. I’ve used those cameras a lot. What I would really like to see, and unfortunately I won’t have the opportunity this time, but all these shorts that were involved in this challenge (or most of them) will be shown on a theatre screen in LA on the 31st. I’d like to see how it looks when projected rather than having to judge it solely on seeing it on a computer screen. I think that is where it will really have an advantage over the high end video cameras.

And I especially wouldn’t judge the camera based on a 72 hour film challenge. Yes, this challenge was particular to the 4K based camera/workflow. But the people involved (at least on my end) were not seasoned pros making big budget movies. I think the idea behind this challenge was to show that there is a workflow for the Red data that works and that you can use the workflow in a timely manner. This has been a sticky issue with many clients (and some production folks) looking at using the system.

So as far as the camera is concerned, in the end it’s going to come down to who’s using it and do they have the skills, talent and creativity to make it shine. That’s the case with any camera be it still, video or film. In that category it seems I was somewhat lacking. But I’ll get to that further on…

As to rendering and editing natively. This was one of the cool things in our workflow. We were able to work with native files through FCP. And rendering wasn’t as brutal as you’d expect. For this particular project, we started filming at 8P on Friday and finished at 1A. We got one scene done. That was rendered in a really short time over night. We picked up production at 7:30A on Saturday and filmed again till about 1A. Again all the footage was rendered over night. So when we went into the edit room on Sunday morning, all the data was ready and was available natively in FCP…and in the color program. It was really easy. I honestly don’t think using a lesser camera would have made a marked difference in our production time regarding light, block etc. Having a GE crew certainly would have helped!

When you say the camera operating was interesting in the beginning, are you talking about the handheld credits opening? Or further into it. Where is it that you feel it is “forced” and if you don’t mind can you expand on what you mean by forced? Thanks. You are correct in that we didn’t use any cheats. It certainly would have helped. We just didn’t have time.

Obviously the scenes that really stand out as a lighting mess is the boardroom scenes at the beginning and at the end. These were the last scenes we did at the end of our 2nd day of filming. I’m of course as displeased looking at it as you are pleased in letting me know how bad it is (don’t you love dirty laundry?).

Give me some ideas as to how you may have approached the first and last scene where the 2 main characters are sitting/standing in the boardroom. The room is about 20X18 with a big immoveable conference table in the center. It has beige walls. The practical lighting was in-ceiling fluorescents. The only area that had anything of interest in the room was a light wood bookcase/credenza on one wall. Since we were trying to make the whole movie appear to be in a TV station, we brought in a world map to put on one wall in the scene. The space we had between the bookcase and the table was about 4 feet.

I know it’s sort of impossible not being there to accurately reply to what I described but I’m open to hearing different approaches. I like your suggestion to assess the practical light available and compliment that as necessary. Obviously a lot has to do with your ASA and the speed of your glass. And I think it would be a great exercise trying the “one light” for the scene. In the time crunch of the challenge it never occurred to me. I went in thinking I needed a blank slate and started with the room black. I tried using a china ball as I knew the actors wouldn’t be stationary (and I thought it wouldn’t work well if they were moving in and out of light for the scenes…I may have been wrong) but it really needed to be flagged. And then to create some definition I used a few specials and quickly it got out of control in that room. I don’t deny it.

I thought some of the other entries were quite good, especially the foreign entries. It certainly was a good and learning experience and I appreciate the frank feedback. This is how we learn. Hey...my Mom liked it!
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#8 Gus Sacks

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 03:25 PM

Thanks again for checking it out Gus…and for the honesty. We all learn from this stuff. Was there anything you liked about it? I don’t suppose you gave it a thumbs up…hahaha!!


Ken,

I read your reply to my post and I figured you were aware of most of it. I unfortunately didn't give it a thumbs up, haha.

Best,
Gus
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#9 Ken Willinger

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 05:14 PM

I unfortunately didn't give it a thumbs up, haha.

I figured that...but one should always be optimistic!
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#10 Ken Willinger

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 11:30 PM

There were 5 films that placed. Ours was number 5 (not by popular vote but by judging). I think the best film won 1st place (it was a German production and was very well done). All the films play tonight in LA at the Downtown Independent at 10P. Wish I could be there.
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#11 Paul James Savarese

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 08:56 PM

Beautifully done!
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