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Escalante


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#1 J Van Auken

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 11:08 PM

Hey, all

I'm starting a thread to track the progress of the next project I'm DP'ing, as I'm sure I'm going to learn some absurdly hard lessons in the coming weeks and I wanted to share.

The project is a short period drama called "Escalante," to be directed by a long-time friend as part of his application to Grad school, portfolio, etc. It'll be his first time working with an actual crew, as well as having to cooperate with a DP, and deal with the film workflow. I'm definitely excited for him to cut his teeth, and I'm glad I get to be there to usher him into filmmaking for realsies.

A few project vitals: We're entirely on location outside of Grand Junction, CO. The story is set in 1895 and follows a German immigrant deserting from the Army to find a friend he met on the way across the Atlantic.

The director and I had decided on a very traditional and (sorry for the over-usage) painterly style. We're almost entirely locked down, save for some tracking along with horses, etc. We've also concluded that no artificial lighting is both entirely possible for our interiors and exteriors, and very appropriate.

The project did qualify under the Panavision New Filmmaker program, and we were offered a great GII package, but unfortunately shipping and handling became cost prohibitive. Not to say that I wouldn't have loved the gear, and Mark at Panavision was great to work with and very understanding of the situation.

After that, our choice was down to using an XTR and superspeeds (mine), and using a post crop for 2.40:1. My initial worries about cropping were put to rest after seeing Black Swan (like 5 times), and talking to Mike Bulbenko at fuji. For the record, Mike is an excellent guy, and the company was incredibly helpful and supportive. It also helped that my Vikings trashed his native Eagles the day before we spoke, which may have played a role in our discount. In the end we ordered equal amounts of vivid 160 and vivid 500, chosen for their intercuttability, handling of high contrast scenarios (thanks in part to Phedon's test), and (to my eye) an excellent handling of fleshtones.

The last 6 months of personal testing I've done has convinced me to process normally at the lab, and underrate the stocks only slightly. We are going through a 2K DI at pixelfarm in Minneapolis, who have also been extremely accommodating on this short, as well as for my directing debut later this year.

Principal photography will last six days, starting January 8th. We've got some challenges looming (horses, children, magic hour) but if all goes well, I believe we're going to end up with a phenomenal short. I recently picked up a plastic panoramic camera from goodwill that oddly enough crops to just about 2.40:1, so I'll be taking production stills with it, and posting here for anyone to see. I was able to crack it open and use the same netting on it's plastic lens as on the XTR, so hopefully it will mimic decently. In any case, it's a fun toy.

I'll be updating from my phone as the shoot progresses, and happy to answer any questions.

Thanks, guys
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#2 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 03:15 AM

Sounds like a worthwhile shoot. The 2.40 16mm is a wonderful choice, having been there myself (on Kodak and stuck to 50/200/250 stocks) Being able to tweak your frame a little is nice at times too.

I'm curious about the net you mentioned. Can you go into that more? Any test pics to post?

The plastic cam sounds very cool and looking forward to some updates.
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#3 J Van Auken

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 03:32 PM

The net is just a fogal nylon stretches across the removable gate and glue in place. After more testing, I've decided not the net the XTR. If I were on a larger format, and it wasn't snowy, I would be much more open to it, but I found that the halation we got wasn't quite worth the softening of the image, and to me, the rainbow aberrations around hot sources didn't fit the period. There are a choice few shots I would really like the heavy halation for, though, and I've resolved to accomplishing them in post (sigh). With the possibility of reshoots almost nil, I'm erring on the side of caution. But, it's nice to have the stills toy as a fun backup, and possibly as reference for the DI in regards to the blooming effect. My only concern is finding a (cheap) lab that will still print panoramic off negs. Does walmart even do that anymore? Before my time, me thinks.
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#4 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 08:15 PM

You were netting the gate? Not the back of the lens? I can understand the hesitation but that post effect will disappoint you I bet. At least that is what has happened to me.

I wouldn't let Walmart handle even normal prints. There must be a real photo lab around.?
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#5 J Van Auken

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 09:41 PM

With the toy camera the lens is plastic and non removable, however the gate comes right out no problem.
I've been running tests on the post work so I know the effect will work, I just think using the full net for 2 shots would be too jarring. The effect is pretty substantial in the eyepiece, and the small format would only amplify the softening of detail I'm trying to avoid.

Walmart might have been hyperbole, but I've my own issues with the 'real' labs here.
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#6 J Van Auken

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:52 PM

Alrighty, here we go.

Day 1:

The first day was all scheduled as interiors in the cabin set. We got permission for a period cabin built at the base of a canyon outside Delta, Colorado. I was worries at first about how much light the two small windows would allow in, and for a while I considered supplementing with some light panels. However, when the sun rose over the ridge, it happened to hit the red rock on the opposite side, and bounce it straight in. Exposing for 320 Asa, I was able to maintain an f4 inside, which was great. I have to say that this might be the most naturally photogenic interior location I've ever been. Every frame basically framed itself.

A note on shooting children: our lead is a 9 year old boy who's done a terrific job. His name is Ryder, and we ended up developing a system of "Ryder-snacks". These are very similar to scooby snacks, and serve the same purpose. Pretzel goldfish are good.

The drive to set was under two hours each way, and the weather could not have been more ideal. The perfect skies opened up the option to go DFN if the director wants, and the landscapes were very easy to compose for. All around, a very successful day.

I'm not sure why more shooting isn't done in Colorado.
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#7 J Van Auken

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:17 PM

Now I know why more shooting isn't done in Colorado.

Day 2:

Today was a longer scheduled day. Previously, we had our star for only a half day (he had a basketball game to play in the afternoon). Call time today was 6:30. Preliminary weather reports indicated patches of snowfall with a clear afternoon. This was grossly incorrect.

By 7:00, a full 8 inches had fallen, supposedly unheard of for the place at in this season. Go figure.

At 8:00, we began rolling towards the location with gorse trailers to test the road to see if we can get them where they need to be. Aside from it snowing and being completely overcast, I wasn't too discouraged.

Then our other lead called the director to inform him that while driving around (for fun) before call, he flipped his truck into a ditch, and not to call the police since his license is (very) suspended. The first 6 hours of the day were spent sorting this mess out, and by the time it was, 3 shootable hours of light remained. The canyon scenes were scrapped in lieu of closer landscape shots on horseback.

A note on shooting with horses: horses are butts. They hate all other horses as well, and Donnie play nice with them, or with cameras on tripods.. My great hope is that CG will be able to replace them shortly.

So, after a lengthy meeting with the dept heads, it has been decided that shooting should resume in may, as one lead is unavailable by Tuesday, the horses are no longer available, and we're all snowed in far past our grace days.

I'll wait to see dailies before declaring this particular project a massive bust.

On the upside, just about every shot was a total winner. We also made friends with some local mechanics I now refer to affectionately as 'Keys' and 'Speak & Spell'.

Looking forward to posting grabs for all.
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#8 Chris Burke

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:01 AM

Sorry to hear about the set backs, I am suffering through similar issues back east. Scheduling is the bane of indie film making, not funding, not ideas, scheduling. When you see your shots, could you post video clips rather than stills? I am very curious S16 cropped to 2.40. especially with those tow stocks. Frame grabs don't cut it for me. They seem a bit too soft or grainy than they are in motion. Just asking, no problem if you can't.
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#9 J Van Auken

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 11:33 AM

Can do.

I'll also find a host for some short prores 2k clips for anyone interested in the raw data.

A note on the lensbaby: it definitely works with super16, although the effect is harder to achieve as your negative area is so small. I used it for landscapes and insert stuff ala Jesse James, and I'm excited to see how the effect renders.
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#10 J Van Auken

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 02:10 AM

Got the scans back and am very very happy with the Fuji.

Here's a link to some shots with no processing of any kind. Later I'll post how they clean up and how far they can get pushed around.

Escalante
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#11 Chris Burke

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:37 PM

Got the scans back and am very very happy with the Fuji.

Here's a link to some shots with no processing of any kind. Later I'll post how they clean up and how far they can get pushed around.

Escalante


looks great, can't wait to see the finished product
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#12 J Van Auken

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 11:11 PM

Here's the one light and degrained version. The Fuji did a great job, and although I don't think it'll be my go-to stock, I definitely think it has its place.
Escalante CC
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Rig Wheels Passport

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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Ritter Battery

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Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

Wooden Camera

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio