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Plan 9 (from Outer Space!)


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#1 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 01:36 PM

A growing number of horror/sci-fi fans are expressing their views, sometimes loudly, as to whether or not doing a remake of a film made famous because it is "so bad, it's good", is a good idea or not, but like usual in independent film opinions are often ignored and things get done regardless. So with encouragement from one of the original actors of the 1959 classic film, along with lots of free help, state/regional film office support and enough budget to cover basics, two years of stagnation was suddenly dissolved and the production wheel was set in motion.

Not so much a "Dogme 95" doctrine but more one based on the reality of the current indie film market, this title is facing some of the same conditions that must have fallen on the first one, which has caused us to loosely self-impose some rules which should help get it done "no matter what". Entering into this with a clear idea as to what will not be available is important so some general rules are helpful to everyone involved and should speed up communication and douse some frustrations. These guidelines aren't concrete but do involve such things as using what light is available whenever possible, composing to hide set faults, using very little lighting and support so the small crew can move efficiently; the usual things you would expect but more often with smaller films that this and by small I mean in concept or scope as this one has a lot of set-ups, actors and locations. The only surprise might be that very little is to be hand-held.


Camera woes:
This was to be shot on film, even the investment trailer was on S35mm. As budget and crew size realities set in the idea was to explore options no matter how unconventional, while keeping in mind that we'd likely go to S16mm, which was my first choice all along given the material. I personally spent many nights until 4am doing research into the possibility of changing the whole look and shooting style by using the Super 8mm system. After exploring just about every camera/processing/scanning price and possibility, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't right for this one, mostly given the reliability and functionality issues with the 8mm camera options. (One surprise was that the pricing difference of 16mm vs. 8mm wasn't large) Also, the effect on distribution possibilities by what your technical choices are must be considered. This led me further away from a format that I love for so many other reasons. As time went on and more was put into narrowing down the best possible deals on 16mm, a budget comparison had to be made to what many might see as a comparable digital option.

Sony's new one:
When the usual suspects (as of April 2011) were looked into, an average savings of $10k over 16mm was too much to ignore for a film of this kind so, to make this short, the Sony F3 was chosen after all options were laid out and considered including red's stuff, SI2K, AF100, the SLR's, F900, etc. Ease of use, low-light abilities, quality of image, price, lens options, DoF control, post issues, reliability and support was why it easily won us over. My only concern was with the on-board codec which will certainly work for many applications, and is proven with the EX line, but for a feature that will surely rely on color grading at times and will have a few FX shots, I wouldn't settle for anything less than 10bit 422.

Some product releases occur at the best moment:
The AJA KiPro mini was just released which will allow us to record straight out to 10bit 422 ProRes. The fact that the F3 offers this out of the box, from its HD-SDI output, makes this a perfect marriage. We have two 32gb sandisk cards, which are one of the few approved by AJA, that will handle around an hour of recording.

Battery power is of some concern but with the KiPro and the F3 on, we are only looking at about 35 (40 max) watts total. I have some on-board aftermarket 95wh Series7 batteries with a power tap that will keep things running for more mobile occasions and a small block battery when needed. I'm building a couple of custom cables to make power work and to hook into the 6watt monitor if its own battery goes out. I'm still looking for the best deal on a set of older Zeiss primes to finish the package out.

Exhausted.
A lot of relief is now felt after deciding on a camera system. So many 4am bed-times have gone by trying to find a way to make all of this work efficiently. Some of this relief also comes from deciding to embrace the digital option differences. The F3 makes this even easier. It doesn't fall apart or look anything like SLR footage (which is something I have grown to really dislike) and doesn't have that overly "digital look" that some do. Having a perfect sized, metal-bodied camera with a little weight and lots of usable features like 8 user-programmable buttons, lots of 1/4 20 mounts, is a good thing too. The F3 does something a little different than the rest and this tool fits this film well, now, finally.

Keeping in mind the crew size and issues mentioned, and the fact that we don't want to do lots of hand-held zombie shots like is seen so often these days, we are going to use an updated Vancejib for several of our set-ups. It's very compact and light but will support a loaded camera well in tight spots. Cineventions, who makes the Vancejib, is going to release a new product called the "Zoomcrane" at NAB and we may get to test it out in the middle of production as well. The idea behind using a small jib much of the time is to keep the camera moving, even if very slightly in many shots, along with a compact dolly.

In keeping things small and mobile, the new-to-me and impressive "smallhd DP6" monitor is the main on-board reference. The camera's monitor is too small but I have to say, the focus/edge enhancement Sony built in is really nice in some situations. You can color it red, blue, yellow or white and with a little practice, you can grab focus in an emergency yourself. The smallhd monitor will update itself via a usb drive so we should have that done before shooting starts. The new firmware release is correcting a yellowish tint lean that it has, and is adding some frame-guide options to an already impressive feature list. Matching it's look before-hand via a high quality monitor will help in nailing down what we are recording in the field.

As far as the fairly deep F3 menu settings go, I am still testing/learning. This is little info out there to help someone understand it all. (When will Abel offer a class!?) What is obvious though is that using one of the Cine (1-4) settings under gamma options looks good as a first step. These Cine settings are what Sony people refer to as "hypergamma" apparently. A poor-man's version of their S-log, I was told. The F3 has an S-log update coming but we won't have it in time. It's no secret that I am not overly technical so I will end up using what we like most after testing and trying out some basic grading extremes, while closely watching the effect on overexposed (or close) skin and makeup/blood FX. Some of what you prepare for goes out the window in a flash, especially on this kind of film. That's part of the excitement though, I hear. In a rush, as long as we keep the blacks where they need to be and balance colors appropriately, we will be fine for grading.

More will follow over the next month or so. I'll post some grabs from testing if wanted. I don't know what might be of interest to people here, technically, so I will post what I can and more if asked (if I can).
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 04:33 PM

I think the F3's a good choice, robust and familiar like the EX line.

If your going to a KiPro mini, beware of this one "gotcha". In your menu settings, be sure Display Out is turned off completely. If you leave it on and set it to turn off and on using the Display button on the side of the camera, the image you're recording to the KiPro will have a bit of mosquito effect, subtle, but it's there.
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#3 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 03:19 PM

Thanks Jonathan, I saw the same thing when testing the KiPro out and have been sure to keep those settings off.

We are several days in now and I am very happy with the F3 so far. There have been a few shots that would have been very hard to do with most other cameras. I went to "1600 iso" more than a few times so far which really saved me. There is a little noise in the blacks at that point but its very acceptable to me; it appears a lot more like film grain rather than the typical noise I have seen in the past digital cameras. As long as the shot has some decent contrast, I feel good with that iso when needed.

We finally did some int. day shots two days ago and the DR is very nice. We have about 12 stops or maybe more and I'm using Cine 1 or 2 in the gamma menu mostly. I made two custom profiles for the film but have only used one of them so far. The other profile was set up to saturate color more, cool it off and increase contrast for certain shots that need a different look for some montage and credit sequence shots. My main profile has the color matrix option turned off. You can push the white balance either way automatically after setting it to your lighting so I set it to warm the shots over normal white-balance a tad, overall.

Working with a lighting package that would almost fit into most car trunks (along with the lighting crew) is making for some interesting challenges. Anything at night has been done with a 1.2 HMI (some off-brand model I have never seen with a crappy reflector and spotty lenses) and a 150w bulb from LOWES, or street lights! Having a very sensitive camera with Superspeeds has become a necessity to say the least.

I'll post more soon, on a day off. Tonight will go till 6am likely.
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#4 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:15 AM

For anyone curious, this is the set-up. (I switched to a TV Logic monitor.) The small built-in camera monitor makes life for the AC a lot easier. The focus-assist Sony built in has really come in handy.

The KiPro we were using had some major glitches a few nights ago but AJA was super helpful in getting a new one over-nighted to me. The new one was flawless last night after 98 takes. Playback is very nice with the KiPro as it's very easy to move through clips and pause, go frame by frame and back and forth, all with a few tape-deck style buttons. I'm using two 32gb Extreme Pro Sandisk cards which are among the very few approved for use by AJA. This gives you around an hour for regular 1080 prores 422.

Im using a Series7 battery (95wh) to power the KiPro and the camera when we go into a tight spot or handheld. Otherwise it is powering the KiPro only, which pulls about 15 watts. I modified a DieHard "12v power unit" with an XLR socket soldered into it to power the camera for much of the day. It has a 144wh battery in it and cost about $55 total.

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#5 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 01:24 PM

A close-up of someone dead, waking up on a city street. 800iso, T2, 35mm SS Zeiss. Open HMI 40 feet away with light bounce from a drug store foam board.

I find the differences in these posted frame-grabs on my Mac, as compared to my PC laptop, fairly frustrating. These same .jpg's on the Mac look so much better. On PC's, it's as if they have an ND .3 laying over them, as well as having a more compressed color range overall.

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#6 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 01:49 PM

Citizens fighting back. That's Brian Krause (Sleepwalkers) in the middle. This was all done with what lighting existed in the little, rural store we were given permission to film in. It was mostly a mix of old florescent tubes. We had no time/resources to change much and didn't want to disturb their store so I went with what we had, which happens quite often. The F3 deals with this kind of thing very well. 35mm SSpeed, usually at a 2.8 or 4. Camera was on a Cinesaddle on an apple-box to give a lower than usual perspective because "something short" had just run by, causing our team to quickly turn around.PLAN9_38TEST PIC89.jpg

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#7 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 01:25 PM

100w bulbs in the lamps with a dimmed Mole Biax keyed on the couple. We ended up really making use of the very low light capabilities of the F3 about 70% of the time. This was shot at 800 at a T2-2.8

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#8 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 02:23 PM

Vincent, I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but it looks really good! Congrats! Keep them coming, and if you have behind the scenes stuff, please go ahead and post it! how many days left in the shoot?

(I wish it was shot on grainy 16mm, but that's just me and my taste) :-)
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#9 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:02 PM

Thanks. It's not my favorite genre either but the shooting of horror material is rarely boring (nudity, gore FX, odd locations) and this one has a certain tongue-in-cheek humor running under it, partially due to the lack of budget! There are some funny little "mistakes" here and there that we let go. For example, you can see the price tag on the lamp above. We were given a model home to shoot these scenes in. It was already dressed for us and we didn't or couldn't change a thing. Another example are the cop characters in the film (like the original), if you look closer on a bigger screen you may notice the badges are actually "Loss Prevention" badges due to wardrobe budget issues!

Correcting the info for that living room shot: those may have been 60w bulbs instead. I was also using a 1/2 Classic Soft filter for much of the daylight and interior shots.

I agree on the 16mm but until the labs realize that prices need to drop 50% on scanning, cameras like the F3 will continue to gain.

Most of this shoot is being done in "survival mode" at this point and the camera is usually on sticks. We gave up some of the jib and dolly plans due to crew/time. We will arrive at a location that was often just secured that morning and figure out where to set a major scene within minutes, sometimes due to where light already exists! If light is needed, the PA will move the 3K genny far enough away so as not to screw up the sound or we may get lucky and find an outlet. Marcos, my AC, is often dealing with a T2 while I am pushing the limits with low/available light. Sometimes I am able to push the gain up enough so we can be at a T4 or at least 2.8. The noise at 1600 iso isnt that bad but the blacks do show it. It appears more like film grain though, instead of that typical video noise. This is indie movie making at it's most basic.

In this frame-grab our stunt man, J. Sullivan (who has done major stunts on films like Pirates, Iron Man and Fast/Furious, etc) is made up as a zombie and is chasing one of many victims in the film. This was lit with one bare 1.2 HMI way off in the distance and shot with a narrower shutter to reduce motion blur since I knew it would be a freeze-frame shot later in the edit. I was surprised at how the F3 picked up the light you see on the grass/porch that was solely coming from the flames around his legs. I believe this was done at 800 as well at a T2.8/4 on our usual 35mm Zeiss. (I think 90% of this movie is shot on the 35mm.) I was trying to stay near a 4 to keep the fire from overexposing too much. Digital just doesn't deal well with fire at night, although this had more yellow in it than I was expecting.

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This guy had some tongue problems. Shot with available light in a downtown area. I was trying to color balance for the very odd looking mercury light that this shot was lit by which turned the sodium in the background into an interesting shade of pink, or whatever color that looks like on your monitor.

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#10 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 04:38 PM

A little girl walks into a kitchen, trying to find her mom after hearing her scream. I wanted to keep most of the kitchen a little dark but have one light appear to be the source, esp. in the wider shots we did. There was a 100w light bulb over the oven, under an exhaust fan, that served perfectly as a side-back light on her. I laid some 216 over it for this close-up. I then added a 150w blub as a key. This was placed on an apple box with some black-wrap blocking the direct light from hitting her. A small bounce board was placed in front of the exposed side of the bulb making for a nice soft source from about 7 ft away. Again the low light ability of the F3 made this one possible. 35mm, 800+, 2/2.8 I believe.

A few people will get a laugh out of that high-tech set up but my lighting help was absent during this shot, probably doing a PA's chore, so I grabbed a jar of jelly to act as a sandbag/clamp to keep the bounce in place. This is the only pic I can find. Obviously the lamp was rotated to give the FX artist some more light during a break. The kitchen was pretty messed up since it was the same one the crew was using to live on.

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#11 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:21 PM

I enjoy doing shots like this for some reason. This was a real army tent that we had put a single hanging light in. I ended up using a bare 150w bulb on a dimmer and used the 25mm. I thought the light would be appropriate in the frame. This is a very short shot where an army general was shouting a command and it felt right to be a little harsh with the light. I was actually trying for more flare but the old Zeiss held ground. I was surprised at how I could still see part of the bulb while playing with the highlights in the (basic) color grade.

I want to thank David Thies at Tvacom for the SS Zeiss prime lens deal and helping us out!!

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This was an extremely small office (maybe 8x7ft!) in an abandoned church that had to double as a police station office. I used the 25mm for most of the shots here, often out of necessity but also to help add a little space to the room. I used a 200w bulb bounced and a little 55w projection bulb on a dimmer for back-lighting. I kept light sources close to the actors, as if they are desk lamps, and kept the backgrounds darker or shadowed in general. Along with the obvious smallness of the office, I felt this added a subtle effect to the diminishing power the police have in trying to deal with what is coming to their little town. Other shots would show this better but I'm limited in what I can post for now.

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#12 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 12:50 PM

Looks nice.

From your low light setups & results it seems
the camera is also environmental friendly (energy (for lighting) wise) :)

Best

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#13 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 04:38 AM

Just to update the status: One scene is still left to shoot with a known actor but the budget for this one day shoot still hasn't been raised yet.

Hopefully things will work out soon enough!
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 06:59 AM

Just to update the status: One scene is still left to shoot with a known actor but the budget for this one day shoot still hasn't been raised yet.

Hopefully things will work out soon enough!


*:) At least that's in keeping with the original! :)
Although ideally you should have shot the scene with the known actor first and then made the rest of the film later! ;)

I'm curious how you guys shot the aeroplane scene?

I also agree that 16mm would have been waaaay more suitable for this project but it's interesting from a cinematography viewpoint to see what the F3 can do.
Did you not consider lighting it a bit harder tho and making it more contrasty? It all looks a bit too softly lit to my eye!
I'm quite worried about the mention of "tongue in cheek" as I feel the actual film should be taken deathly seriously like Ed would have. ;)

Looking forward to seeing a trailer!

love

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#15 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 05:39 PM

Ideally you'd do lots of things with micro budget movies. It is actually better in this case to get 95% done since it can be shown to people that the film is real.

I lit how was possible much of the time and when I had time or the ability to do more, what was done seemed right. Does horror have to be overly contrasty? Those shots aren't enough? Horror with handheld work and burning highlights has been done enough, along with the teal blue and overly warm. The director is influenced greatly by 80's horror classics, by the way.

It can be more interesting to go against what you think might fit on paper, or a genre.

The intention was to take it very seriously but with this kind of film and what is needed from the script, the budget will inherently create some comedy to a modern audience, I will bet. There wasn't much intentional humor, though the movie is aware of it's limitations in some ways. It will be interesting to see how it's edited in the end. When all your gear and tech crew fits into a van....
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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 07:41 PM

I lit how was possible much of the time and when I had time or the ability to do more, what was done seemed right. Does horror have to be overly contrasty? Those shots aren't enough? Horror with handheld work and burning highlights has been done enough, along with the teal blue and overly warm. The director is influenced greatly by 80's horror classics, by the way.


Well I was thinking more in keeping with the original! So definitely no handheld etc!!! (Yikes that would definitely be off)
I was thinking more like harder old school lighting.
I can definitely see the 80's horror influence so that doesn't surprise me but it does maybe explain the look a bit more too!
It actually makes me think more of George Romero based on the stills but there's something about the overall look that makes me think of Phenomena
I definitely wouldn't have thought Plan 9 but maybe thats part of the idea?
I was just wondering on the thinking behined that.

It can be more interesting to go against what you think might fit on paper, or a genre.


Yes, I was thinking that in a way there is an argument that maybe it might be better, as it is shot on video, to break with the earlier
version completely and to go with a total re-imagining of the look! After all you aren't maybe going to get that close anyway trying to reference
the original on video, and you are shooting in colour to boot!!
OTOH it looks so different that it's hard to imagine it might be plan 9 and not something else.
Also it does look very like a horror movie in the shots but obviously the original is a mixed genre film.

The intention was to take it very seriously but with this kind of film and what is needed from the script, the budget will inherently create some comedy to a modern audience, I will bet. There wasn't much intentional humor, though the movie is aware of it's limitations in some ways. It will be interesting to see how it's edited in the end. When all your gear and tech crew fits into a van....


Hey I bet you had more than the original was shot with half the time! :) I'm glad to hear you guys approached it seriously. The trouble with comedy, is if you make a comedy and it turns out un-funny then thats really bad, but if you make a serious film and it turns out to be funny, well hey... ;)
Also if you treat it as a comedy, you risk being disrespectful to Ed.

You didn't mention how you shot the aeroplane scene? I'm curious how you would have gone about that, whether you stick to the way it was done originally or whether you went about it using more modern tech?

love

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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 08:19 PM

Ideally you'd do lots of things with micro budget movies. It is actually better in this case to get 95% done since it can be shown to people that the film is real.


er, that was a joke BTW Vincent! I'm not sure it would be ideal if your leading actor was dead and you had only shot one scene with him and you were going around trying to raise money for the rest of the film, even if that would be more like the original! :)

One thing that amuses me is that you keep apologising for only having limited means but actually, thats very in keeping with the spirit of the original!
It might be wrong to make it with oddles of money anyway.
It may be famous in some circles as the worst film ever made but obviously that's not true, Ed's films provide a lot of entertainment and I've seen many multi million dollar hollywood movies that were much worse movies than plan9.

Ed virtually invented indie cinema as you might think of it today, and he did so "by just doing it anyway", by not letting any lack of resources stand in his way, it's for this reason that many see him as a hero of cinema. Ed made his films happen, even when it was completely impossible.

Hey you may have had very little equipment and all had to cram into a van but at least you didn't have to get baptised, along with the rest of yr crew, in a swimming pool, by a bunch of 7th day adventists. ;)

It's great that you are struggling with limited resources because more than anything that will help you tap into the spirit of the original, whatever else ends up having to change!

love

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#18 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 10:25 PM

Well I was thinking more in keeping with the original! So definitely no handheld etc!!! (Yikes that would definitely be off)
I was thinking more like harder old school lighting.
I can definitely see the 80's horror influence so that doesn't surprise me but it does maybe explain the look a bit more too!
It actually makes me think more of George Romero based on the stills but there's something about the overall look that makes me think of Phenomena
I definitely wouldn't have thought Plan 9 but maybe thats part of the idea?
I was just wondering on the thinking behined that.
....
Hey you may have had very little equipment and all had to cram into a van but at least you didn't have to get baptised, along with the rest of yr crew, in a swimming pool, by a bunch of 7th day adventists.


Well there wasn't any discussion about trying to look like anything else and the original didn't play into this film, as far as looks/lighting goes. I purposely didn't even watch the original just to help keep things clean. We did do one or two shots with similar framing/feel however, but when you can't really build sets or plan locations, even trying to make one or two shots look like something else is rarely possible or practical.

I think we did this film in a similar way that Ed and crew would have done it if they were working these days.

While maybe not being baptized for it, I think the director basically went through similar enough circumstances to get the little bit of money we did have. The words "I have sold my soul" were heard more than once!


You didn't mention how you shot the aeroplane scene? I'm curious how you would have gone about that, whether you stick to the way it was done originally or whether you went about it using more modern tech?


While we are not really following the original story or scenes very closely, we did do some airplane stuff. We shot the plane scenes as basic as possible. We found someone who owned an old one and shot it sitting on a rural runway. I crammed myself onto the wing with a cinesaddle and apple box, shooting the two actors through the doorway. i had to use the 24mm to fit both actors into the same shot and tried to close down to keep both in focus. It was stupidly tight/crammed. The trees and skyline that were visible through the windows is all being "CGI'ed". I was going to put up some green screen but was told it wasn't needed anymore for these kinds of shots. I also did a couple of experiments with a small jib for establishing the plane in the air (wides): I used the 24mm again and got in front of the plane and moved the camera up over the nose to give a sense of a "high-budget" move. ;) Removing the background will be tough though I would think. I did some shots like that from the sides as well. I am very curious to see how that comes out.

That jib's brand badge was changed by someone and I didn't notice till late in the shoot. I need to make that clear!

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#19 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 10:42 PM

How we lit a parking lot at night with our biggest pieces of gear. Sorry for any grip etiquette issues you may spot. PA's were setting lights half the time.

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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:28 PM

OMG you had a REAL aeroplane!!! Wow! I was wondering if you were going to have to chroma key it!
Amazing!

I can't believe you were doing a remake having never seen the original! I love that! :)
It kind of reminds me of this ET toy as I was given when little. It was made in china and it was clear they had no idea what ET looked like.
They only had a photo of his head! :)
They had to improvise for the rest so he had the body of a sort of bear creature, it was like a huggy bear toy and would hold onto a rope.
Looked a bit like a Koala bear in fact. Only with ET's head!
I was facinated by a culture where they were making all this stuff having no idea what it was? Seemed amazing.
I liked it because it made me think of other possibilities, other worlds and ways of doing things.

When you get it all in the can, you should check out the original.
It's a bit of a surreal experience and it's interesting just how much gets past your suspension of disbelief!

http://www.archive.o...uter_Space_1959

BTW, if you havn't shot the last scene yet, are you going to rent the f3 again for that or how will that work?

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 11 November 2011 - 08:29 PM.

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