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First Time Director Tackling All Jobs... Help!


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#1 Nick Robertson

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 05:08 AM

Hi everyone,

I've just been scanning a few topics that have piqued my interest and decided that this is an environment that can help me. (I sure need it)

As the topic states I'm making a film for the first time and I'm doing everything except for acting. I have a huge interest in cinematography and am reading like a maniac to become as knowledgeable as possible on the topic, however, my desire is to become a director.

Scene 1 is coming up next month and with the whole year of writing, learning, practicing and buying that I've done so far I still have a few questions...

These questions are about lighting, I'm shooting in a church and I'm due to go there tomorrow with my light meter and check the levels and make sure the shots I've roughly designed work within the space.

This building has fluorescent lights, it's a night shoot, the camera will track the entire length of the room (not very long). I have a Bolex Rex5, a 10mm Kern-Switar and an 18-86mm zoom Kern-Switar. I have absolutely ZERO lighting equipment, I can't afford it and there is nowhere to rent it even remotely close to where I live.

So... Looks like I'll be shooting with natural source light (I have one reflector disk) and since this light is fluorescent I don't mind what colour it reads on the stock, actually, the more 'off' it looks the better. I'm worried I won't have enough light to expose the film properly, I'll be shooting 500EI film. Would you recommend daylight balanced or tungsten balanced stock?
If there isn't enough light, I could introduce some lamps, candles, etc into the set and use those as creatively as I can but the colour temperature will be a mis-match, right?

Lighting isn't something I've looked into enough, I guess.

This film is completely self financed by my weekly first year apprentice pay and I've done quite well so far but this lighting thing is keeping me up at night.

Any and all recommendations are excitedly welcomed.

Thanks guys,

Nick.
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#2 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 05:33 AM

Given the type of questions you are asking, I think you are about to waste your money unless you are doing the shoot purely as a lesson for yourself.

Films are made by working with others. I'd find a student DP in your area and have him come aboard. Since you are shooting film, you are more likely to find someone starting out to work on it for little/nothing as he may not have any film on his reel yet.

Tackling all jobs is the worst thing you can do.
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#3 Nick Robertson

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 06:06 AM

Given the type of questions you are asking, I think you are about to waste your money unless you are doing the shoot purely as a lesson for yourself.

Films are made by working with others. I'd find a student DP in your area and have him come aboard. Since you are shooting film, you are more likely to find someone starting out to work on it for little/nothing as he may not have any film on his reel yet.

Tackling all jobs is the worst thing you can do.


I actually am doing this to learn. This is designed to teach me what I need to know, I wrote the script based on what I wanted to learn and after a year of going through everything It's time to shoot. I obviously don't know enough to shoot but it's time anyway.

I don't want to hire anyone and even if I did this is a 15 person town 2000kms from the nearest city. I want to see where my raw strengths and weaknesses are by going through every aspect of production.

I've put everything else out of my life and committed to making this thing, thousands of dollars already and an incredible amount of brain cells so I have certainly realized I'm 'wasting' my money but that's the plan.

I live in the middle of NOWHERE Australia and I haven't got the option to go to film school, I figured I'd learn myself. I've stolen books from libraries, recorded and transcribed conversations with people at labs, camera stores/repairs, etc to force as much knowledge as I can into my brain.

Could you please give me a few tips to help me out?

Tackling all jobs has been really hard but I'm learning - I remember reading a quote from Gilliam saying that as a director you should know how to do everyone's job, just not as good as they can. I think that's true.

Thanks x
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 07:52 AM

The secret of good film-making is preparation. Those gorgeous movies you see in your local cinema are the result of years of work. The more you plan, the better the final result.

If you truly are working by yourself shoot tests in the church first. Since you're a novice you'll make every mistake in the book...make them on your own time, not on your cast's time.

What type of fluorescents are in the church? Find out, then research what film stock and filtration to use. With a budget I'd change them out for GE Chroma 50's so I could use fast daylight film inside the church. People also use gels to color correct fluorescent lights like cool whites to something film likes. If you use daylight color temperature bulbs with good color rendering like Chroma 50's then practical incandescent lamps and candles will have a nice warm (orange) look to them which can be altered with blue gels to split the difference, a standard recipe is 1/2 CTB on practicals.

For camera filters: http://www.tiffen.co...blename=filters
For color correction gels: http://www.rosco.com...ts/lighting.asp
For film: http://motion.kodak....ction/index.htm
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#5 Nick Robertson

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 08:15 AM

The secret of good film-making is preparation. Those gorgeous movies you see in your local cinema are the result of years of work. The more you plan, the better the final result.

If you truly are working by yourself shoot tests in the church first. Since you're a novice you'll make every mistake in the book...make them on your own time, not on your cast's time.

What type of fluorescents are in the church? Find out, then research what film stock and filtration to use. With a budget I'd change them out for GE Chroma 50's so I could use fast daylight film inside the church. People also use gels to color correct fluorescent lights like cool whites to something film likes. If you use daylight color temperature bulbs with good color rendering like Chroma 50's then practical incandescent lamps and candles will have a nice warm (orange) look to them which can be altered with blue gels to split the difference, a standard recipe is 1/2 CTB on practicals.

For camera filters: http://www.tiffen.co...blename=filters
For color correction gels: http://www.rosco.com...ts/lighting.asp
For film: http://motion.kodak....ction/index.htm


Thanks for the advice, Hal. I appreciate it.

If you're a painter you can paint - if you're a writer you can grab a pen and a scrap of paper and write. Practicing filmmaking isn't that easy - I'm prepared to make these mistakes and learn from them. I'd just like to make as few as possible.

I've been thinking about it and I've devised a few solutions - I might shoot the scene during the day, there's nice big windows facing the afternoon sun - I'll shoot 500D.

Lighting is the only area I'm a little off on - I might just work on blocking and designing my shots and set detail and hope to do the best I can with the light. I'll get a few more books - I've got Film Lighting but I'm finding it hard to read.
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#6 Nick Robertson

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 08:21 AM

Also - these Chroma 50s - you think that changing the tubes for these in addition to daylight stock is a good idea? The stock will read these as similar to daylight, correct? These tubes give off 5000K, similar to actual daylight, yes? Sorry if I seem ignorant but as I said, I'm incredibly new at all of this and eager to learn.

Thanks again, Sir.

N x
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 10:25 AM

The only 500D stock you'll find is Fuji Rela, which is quite grainy on a good day on 35mm, let alone 16. I'd look into Kodak 7219, 500T which is a very very nice stock. Now, at the same time, the bulbs will render miss-matched, but that can be ok, and some warm candles can also be ok, if that's what you like. I like uncorrected floros in some instances, and in others I don't; it depends on what mood you want for this church, so the first question should be "how should it feel in here?"
Now you mention windows, I'd advise trying not to use them, as the sun changes and then you get matching issues. Better to just shoot it at night, and not worry about the sun's arc across the sky. If you want to have light coming in the windows, I recommend you line the outside of the windows with paper. We use paper called 1000H, it's basically tracing paper and keeps the light more even for longer, if that makes sense. It's cheaper than film gel and a lot easier to put of and take off. It'll make the windows glow white-- and if they're stained glass give nice illumination behind it.
Now, on 500T film you don't need that much light. For an example, shooting in a typical downtown here in Philadelphia, I normally get about a T1.3 off of 500T film in around the street lights. In a typically lit interior, i'd expect you to be at a base of about a 2.8/4. But take your meter to make sure.
Another question to be worked out is your post work flow.. how are you going to look at this film? It must be developed, of course, and then you can't just project it-- you'll need to throw it onto video or onto a hard drive to look at later on. I'd look into getting it directly onto a hard drive, prefferable in proResHQ422 which plays nicely with FCP.. if you have FCP that is.
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#8 Nick Robertson

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 03:47 PM

The only 500D stock you'll find is Fuji Rela, which is quite grainy on a good day on 35mm, let alone 16. I'd look into Kodak 7219, 500T which is a very very nice stock. Now, at the same time, the bulbs will render miss-matched, but that can be ok, and some warm candles can also be ok, if that's what you like. I like uncorrected floros in some instances, and in others I don't; it depends on what mood you want for this church, so the first question should be "how should it feel in here?"
Now you mention windows, I'd advise trying not to use them, as the sun changes and then you get matching issues. Better to just shoot it at night, and not worry about the sun's arc across the sky. If you want to have light coming in the windows, I recommend you line the outside of the windows with paper. We use paper called 1000H, it's basically tracing paper and keeps the light more even for longer, if that makes sense. It's cheaper than film gel and a lot easier to put of and take off. It'll make the windows glow white-- and if they're stained glass give nice illumination behind it.
Now, on 500T film you don't need that much light. For an example, shooting in a typical downtown here in Philadelphia, I normally get about a T1.3 off of 500T film in around the street lights. In a typically lit interior, i'd expect you to be at a base of about a 2.8/4. But take your meter to make sure.
Another question to be worked out is your post work flow.. how are you going to look at this film? It must be developed, of course, and then you can't just project it-- you'll need to throw it onto video or onto a hard drive to look at later on. I'd look into getting it directly onto a hard drive, prefferable in proResHQ422 which plays nicely with FCP.. if you have FCP that is.


Hey Adrian,

I was looking at the Fuji, I'm not the hugest fan of grain so maybe you're right.

When you say the tubes will render mis-matched, can you elaborate a little? With these tubes and some warm candles will it look warm in there or cool? If I want it to be cool will I have to use a filter on my camera?

If I used 500T I'd need a filter on the camera, that kodak stock sounds good.

I have final cut pro, quad core mac.
I've been having it telecined in Melbourne, the test day I shot came back looking awesome - only the do it on miniDV tape.

Thanks for the help.
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 06:53 PM

What i mean by mismatched tubes is two things, one, the tubes won't have a hi CRI-- or Color Rendering Index-- So each tube will be slightly different depending on age and use etc even against other tubes of the same type, and also that chances are they haven't been replacing all the tubes at once, so you may have varying brands and more importantly varying color temps up in their fixtures. Also they won't look on the film as they do to your eye. You kinda get a feel for how they'll look if you look at the reflection they give off off of your skin tone (v what a "normal" light reflects). At least that's how I guesstimate it. Takes some practice and seeing results, though, to be sure. I highly recommend shooting 100' or so of film in there before hand to see how the lights look just on their own.
You'd only need a camera filter if you're going to try to correct out the color of the floros, or for daylight. If you're using just tungsten lights you're fine as it's a T stock. It all depends on what the main source of illumination is in your shot. If it's primarily lit by the floros you might want to throw a floro filter on there and +green on any lights you bring in yourself (obviously you can put +green on the candles if you use them). Or you can leave it as is and try to get it out in the TC; which can be done pretty well/easily as it's something that comes up a lot. I can't really tell you which one would work best unless we could see the location-- so I recommend taking a stills camera in there, setting it for as close to 500asa (normally 400) that you can, and shooting it with 1/50th of a second exposure time, to match what you'd be doing on the camera @25fps and a 180 degree shutter. White balance the camera for tungsten, see how it looks just natural, then try it again with a "floro" setting if your camera has one, or dial it in yourself around 4500K. take a few shots to get a general idea-- MP stock will see more than a DSLR will, though and in truth shooting on the actual film and lens and camera is a much better test, so if you can do it!
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#10 Hal Smith

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 09:35 PM

Also - these Chroma 50s - you think that changing the tubes for these in addition to daylight stock is a good idea? The stock will read these as similar to daylight, correct? These tubes give off 5000K, similar to actual daylight, yes? Sorry if I seem ignorant but as I said, I'm incredibly new at all of this and eager to learn.


Chroma 50's are indeed daylight balanced at 5000K.

Have you considered shortening your learning curve with a relatively inexpensive HDSLR like a Canon T2i? I believe the model number in Oz is 550D. Use it in manual mode, use fixed ISO speeds, film-like settings, and then learn a lot about Cinematography without going though all the extra steps required to shoot film. Yes, film ultimately is best but there's a lot to be learned with an HDSLR.

Don't be tempted to use an HDSLR's automatic functions, if you want to eventually shoot film with a camera like a Bolex you don't want to make it easy on yourself.
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 11:06 PM

I recommend a Nikon FM10 if you can find one used... totally 100% manual, no auto anything and the world's simplest light meter and shoots film (which I feel teaches you conservation of stock! one of the big problems with a lot of shooters these days is they like to shoot at a 40:1 or larger ratio.. nothing wrong with that, 'cept when you can't afford it!). It is a good idea to start out on stills. .. when I first started "playing 'round," with with with a Kodak point and shoot, then an RCA VHS camera (and 2 VCRs to edit), then a SLR, and not until a few years ago did I ever actually buy and own and use my own higher-end cine cameras or HD or anything of the sort. Granted, things were a lot more expensive then; but the point is to work towards mastery, which takes a lot of practice-- which sadly when you're talking S16mm film, or even HD in a lot of ways, starts to cost a lot of money.
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#12 Nick Robertson

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 01:57 AM

I'm an apprentice electrician and have access to many many lights and fittings, even for loan from the wholesaler so there shouldn't be a problem in getting anything I need, it's just knowing how to tell everything will work. Basically, I'm not super concerned with how the scenes are coloured, just as long as they're exposed right - my main interest is getting enough light, with an f1.6 lens and a 500 stock I should be okay.
I'm going out there soon and I'll take some stills. I was initially happy to see that the place has fluorescent lights because the scene has to have a slightly 'off' kind of feel.
I have to shoot on Fuji, they're cheaper - I'll give 500D a go in daylight conditions.

I can't take 100' of film and shot some tests because I've done that once and the telecine alone cost me $500 odd dollars for 300' (they charged me a full hour)

I wish I'd bought a prosumer digital camera and just gone with that in a way, that way I can look into my display and see what I'm getting, I could even track without having to lock off the viewfinder and know where the friggin' camera is pointing! Having said that, I love that I have to REALLY plan and block my shots out to make sure that I'll get what I need...

Thanks for your help guys, I'll make it happen.

N.
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#13 Ben J

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 04:22 AM

Where in Australia are you?
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#14 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 07:02 AM

You should look into some short end dealers out your way. You can get your film very cheap that way ;)
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#15 Nick Robertson

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 08:41 AM

You should look into some short end dealers out your way. You can get your film very cheap that way ;)


Thanks for the advice, I just purchased 32,000 frames of 16mm film... or 800'.
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