Posted 07 June 2010 - 10:53 PM
"Pie" is a 4.5 page script I wrote a few years ago, which I knew would be "simple" to shoot, if I ever got around to it. The script involves a 4 page conversation between two men, seated at a table in diner, and a ½ page walk and talk on the sidewalk outside the diner. Simple stuff ... not so simple when you decide to go ahead and do it. The whole production comes out of my pocket, and, as with many discussions on this board, the basic riddle of doing this film was how to shoot it in a location that I couldn't "own," with a minimal crew - 1 grip, 1 electric - and still have it look professional. The first answer was to find the right location: an attractive diner, with enough windows - some of which face north - so that I could work fast and do little, or no lighting. The next answer was to shoot on 35mm. The next answer was to get a real dolly, since adjusting a 35mm camera on sticks soaks up a lot of time. The camera and the dolly sound quite pricey, but this is part of the story where I say it helps to have been a grip (and aspiring DP) for 11 years; I had some great references and relationships behind me when it came time to ask for "donations."
For a 4.5 page script, I bought 7500' of Fuji 8553, which in 3-Perf gave me a 21:1 shooting ratio. I got the film off a show I was gripping on, and I'm sure I had asked them for 250D. The whole deal was ready to go when I learned that 8553 is in fact a tungsten stock. The 85 filter would get me down to 160asa, and if I did my usual 1/3 over, that would put the meter down to 120. A little risky I thought, but the price for the film, plus the reliability of the short-ends was too good to pass up. If the day was cloudy, I figured I could go LLD, or skip the filters and correct in post. If it was really dark, I could push one and probably still get a good image. That was the beauty of shooting on 35mm. It turned out to be a blue sky day.
(The only problem with shooting on short-ends is that they were all shorter than advertised! Not a killer, but it does throw the actors a little bit when they can't finish the full scene.)
The lighting package consisted of 2 1.2k par HMI's, 1 575 par HMI, and 1 small, med, and large Kino. I had dreams of creating hot "Robert Richardson" slashes of light with the "big" HMI's. I also had a hunch that the sun would do the same thing if we timed things right. The HMI's never got plugged in. I had also thought the small HMI could liven up the background of some shots, but since I designed the shots to hide the fact that we didn't have any extras, the 575 stayed on the truck as well. Better to have them, and not need them, rather than vice-versa. In the end, all we used was the 4x4 kino for fill, the 2x4 kino for a little edge, and a 4'x4' solid for negative fill.
Some of the shots look out the window to a background that is lit by direct sun. This is where we used the kino for fill and a bit of nd .6 on the window, but, it's also where we really put the 8553 to the test. Fuji advertises a very long shoulder for this film, and I believe it. Also, on our EXT walk-and-talk, the meter read 8 on the fill side and 22 on the sun side. Again, the film just ate it up. The actors walk to a car, which was covered in a fine layer of pollen. Of course we cleaned it, and got a giant sun reflection in the roof. It's actually ok. The film holds it, and the 40mm Primo stays crisp. (If I ever shoot another car w/out a 40'x40' silk, I'll try to remember the pollen thing.)
It might be guessed from this discussion that my photography is rather boring. I prefer the terms "efficient" and "transparent." Every time I panned the actors onto the short side, I thought it looked cool, but out of place. Does that mean I'm disciplined, or unimaginative? I guess the final cut will tell. For me, shooting this film was all about trusting the lenses and the film, the nice looking location, the indirect sun, and making the day without doubling the location fee, and - most importantly - without wearing out the actors. If I eliminate the ugly, figure out a plan that minimizes the work the crew has to do, and expose the film well, I feel like I've done a good job.
I have lots of people to thank, but I'm not sure they want me to blab about giving away free stuff, or labor, so, we'll just have to wait for the end credits to roll.
Until then, my gaffer was good enough to post a set of great BTS shots:
Thanks for reading.
Posted 13 June 2010 - 11:56 PM
The dessert case: I spent a long time worrying about how I was going to put 1/2 minus green on the doors of this dessert case. And I also worried about the daylight reflections going horribly blue, but after I did the photoboards on print film, I decided to just shoot it and ask the colorist to correct halfway to tungsten - so the reflected incandescent lights go warm, and halfway to magenta - so the daylight reflections get a weird purple tinge. The angle is dictated by the mirror in the back of the case. It's not the dead on shot I initially wanted, but the layers of reflections and sources make it a very thick composition. Shot almost wide open, I think, with no overexposure, no filter.
Here's the master shot, shot on the 40mm. Looking at this now, I think I should have gone with the nd .6 right away. We filled the actors with a 4'x4 Kino, to a 4 stop with the meter set a 120asa. I was eager to start shooting the scene, so I took my chances with the background. It is compressed three times over; maybe I'll be able to bring it down a little during the tape to tape session.
Single on "Richard," played by Tyler Hollinger. The only lighting was a 4'x4' solid for negative fill, and a 2'x4 kino for the soft edge light.
Last is a frame from our steadi-cam oner Scene 2. This is the 40mm. I was going through the lenses during the checkout, and I really liked the 40mm. It was my honor to have Doug Hart assisting, and he said "Yeah, that was Gordon's favorite lens." What else to say but, "Great minds think alike." It gives you a decent field of view, but it's still long enough to have a tiny bit of "heaviness."
Shot about 6pm, the sun was absolutely blasting the street, so I put a soft edge nd .6 "upside-down" in front and crossed my fingers. I love the result.
That's 4 of 17 shots we did in 12 hours, with two changes to steadicam, and barely a second to spare.
"Pie" is really my very own vanity project - the only person who would ever hire me to shoot 35mm is ... me! But, damn it looks like a movie, and I can't imagine getting anything close to the image quality and ease of use with any other system.
Edited by Jon Rosenbloom, 14 June 2010 - 12:00 AM.
Posted 14 June 2010 - 08:52 AM
Posted 14 June 2010 - 09:09 AM
Have to ask my operator, Billy Green, about the switch to Steadi-cam. (You're a New Yorker, too? Billy's a good guy to know.)
Posted 14 June 2010 - 09:19 AM
Posted 15 June 2010 - 06:45 PM
Posted 01 February 2011 - 11:16 AM
The photographic basics: 35mm. Fuji 250T, over-exposed 1/3 stop. Panavision Primo lenses, 85 filter. Transferred on Spirit to HDCam-SR, edited in Apple pro-res 422hq, up-resed to 8 bit, then 10-bit, out-put to HDCam-SR. Awaiting festival acceptance!
Posted 28 May 2013 - 05:45 PM
Stand by ...
Edited by Jon Rosenbloom, 28 May 2013 - 05:46 PM.
Posted 29 May 2013 - 04:22 AM
Posted 29 May 2013 - 12:37 PM
I agree with Stephen , so nice to see Fuji's great skin tones and of course the way you lit/shot it .
Posted 30 May 2013 - 10:01 AM
Thanks for looking. I'd be interested in talking about how I shot it because it's a challenge to articulate what I was going for. I wanted the film to be "easy on the eyes," but I didn't want it too pretty. Also, the image had to have some weight, but I didn't want to over-sell anything. I think I owe much of the "look" to the location. There are rather drab diners, and then there are diners that are over the top. This one seemed just seemed attractive - easy on the eyes, without being distracting. All this stuff is so intuitive, if I were interviewing for the job, I'd make a total mess of it.
I believe I have secured permission to have people enter the password - jrocam - and watch the full length (6 minutes!) film. Thanks.