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"Fortune Cookies" Teaser Lighting Notes

panavision genesis indie feature

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#1 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 06:54 AM

I recently shot a teaser/pilot for an independent feature I'm attached to called "Fortune Cookies. Shot over a couple of days primarily in a single interior set build, along with a small amount of location work in a supermarket. The script is set predominantly at day time, but to keep things visually interesting I tried to vary the time of day a little bit so that it stared out as morning, moved to midday, early afternoon and finally late evening. I cant show any of the finished footage yet but I've included some frame grabs below to give an indication of the results. The script is both a comedy and a family drama so it was a challenge to balance both genres into something cohesive and visually interesting.

 

I made the decision to shoot on Panavision's Genesis camera primarily because our budget was very tight so we couldn't afford to shoot on an Alexa. With both dolly work and handheld shots planned I didn't want to end up shooting on a smaller camera like the F3 - I wanted the form factor and convienience of a 35mm style camera with a reasonably good viewfinder, rather then a flip out monitor. Shooting to tape wasnt an option and the Genesis SSR deck was too expensive for our budget so Panavision suggested I record to a Ki Pro in Prores 422 using an external recorder tethered by a single BNC, a system Haskel Wexler used recently on a shoot in the US. I shot tests and projected them in Panavision's screening room and thought they looked great so off we went. I also tested recording to a variety of other recorders but ultimately we settled on the Ki Pro.

 

I knew the cast would be predominantly Asian and I knew the set would be predominantly white walled, so to help harmonise the skintones and highlights I used a combination of Double Fogs and Corals throughout most of the shoot.

 

 

The general lighting plan was to use a mix of large soft sources mixed with ocasional splashes of harder hot light, with the levels dimming and warming towards the end of the day, ultimately arriving at a mix of cold and warm color temperatures for the final evening scene (not pictured).

 

The studio we could afford wasn't ideal size wise so I struggled to get the large sources as far back as i liked and we couldn't afford a translite or a backdrop so i had to blow out the windows, which i tend to like anyway, but in the final grade ill pull a little bit more curtain info out of the highlights.

 

My main sources were a series of Maxibrutes and fresnels, pushed through two layers of Gridcloth, and then coming through the windows which were double netted. I'd use a pair of 5K's with Chimeras coming up and over the set to push soft backlight/Soft fill deeper into the set and then id add some harder sources, like a 10K fresnel or a Source 4 (or VNSP Parcan) to bring in splashes of sunlight. I used a variety of warm gels, mostly CTS, on the backlights for the afternoon scenes to help warm things up a little bit. For some scenes I'd push the Maxi's directly through the gridcloth and for others I'd turn them around and bounce them off the studio cyc for an even softer feel. I'd try to use large negative fill blacks on the camera side of the set, usually flying walls to faciliate, to help model the light a little bit. I had a large 20 by muslin bounce flying over the set but i found there was so much ambient fill from the set walls i rarely needed it so i kept it pretty high. Depending on which direction i was shooting in I could knock down the maxibrutes to keep the fill side pretty low key, while the combination of the 5K Chimeras and MaxiBrute/Gridcloth worked as a large soft wrapping backlight.

 

Over the camera I'd keep a Jemball, wrapped in a second layer of diffusion as an eye light and I'd occasionally use a second Jem ball as a soft wrapping key light. I rated the camera at approx 400asa with zero gain and a 180degree shutter and was able to keep my stop at T4 by using ND on the lens.

 

The Genesis recorded in Panalog so the images below are straight from the camera with a very basic LUT to correct the image density - other then that they are ungraded. I was surprised at how much highlight detail the Genesis captured so in the DI I'll use power windows to help flag some of the walls in the background and to pull a touch more highlight detail.

 

Overall I found the camera and recorder combo worked really well. Without the SR deck the genesis sits comfortably on the shoulder and felt great during the handheld work as well as on set in a traditional dolly mode. Because we ombined quite a lot of zooming and tracking i shot mostly with the Primo 4:1 zoom, which is a FANTASTIC zoom lens, and then supplemented with primes when needed.

 

[attachment=7964:fortunecookies_plot.jpg]

 

[attachment=7965:FortuneCookies02.jpg]

 

[attachment=7967:FortuneCookies04.jpg]

 

[attachment=7966:FortuneCookies03.jpg]

 

[attachment=7968:lights.jpg]

 

[attachment=7969:IMG-20130525-02045.jpg]

 

[attachment=7970:IMG_3636.JPG]


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#2 John Holland

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 01:40 PM

Looks good to me Stephen , and you used Double Fogs ! I Still my favorites used some last week . Maybe we can educate people back into using them again ?


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#3 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 03:23 AM

Thanks John - really enjoyed using the double fogs - will def use again. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the new filters coming from Tiffen - some of them remind me of DF's so we could see a resurgence of their use.
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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 09:53 AM

 

 

The studio we could afford wasn't ideal size wise so I struggled to get the large sources as far back as i liked and we couldn't afford a translite or a backdrop so i had to blow out the windows, which i tend to like anyway, but in the final grade ill pull a little bit more curtain info out of the highlights.

 

 

I know there are a few places in the UK that rent translites cheaply but they tend to have a rather uninspiring selection. Perhaps something could be done with them with some extra creativity tho?

 

I'm a bit curious about the idea of going to all the trouble of building your own set and then having white walls? Strikes me as a strange idea. However in the photos, it looks like there is stripey wallpaper or something?

 

Freya


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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 10:14 AM

Looks good to me Stephen , and you used Double Fogs ! I Still my favorites used some last week . Maybe we can educate people back into using them again ?

 

I think they really work on this. I would be put off by the name "double fogs" as it sounds like they are going to be really really foggy. I mean like take a fog filter and double it. Actually tho, it doesn't look that extreme. I'm a bit reluctant towards lower contrast looks since the rise of people shooting stuff in log and just calling it finished or the whole technicolor cinestyle thing which I thought just looked awful, but I do think this works.

 

I'm curious about the coral filters too, it looks like the effect is somewhat mild if the stills feature them?

 

Freya


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#6 John Holland

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 01:20 PM

Freya a Double Fog is a Fog and Low Contrast Filter combined . The frame grabs Stephen posted are from the Panalog files not corrected , so shouldn't take to much from them .


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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 02:31 PM

Freya a Double Fog is a Fog and Low Contrast Filter combined . The frame grabs Stephen posted are from the Panalog files not corrected , so shouldn't take to much from them .

 

Thanks so much John! That explains it! I think the name "double fog" is definitely misleading. I actually have a tiffen smoque and a low contrast. I wonder if I put them together if it will be anything like double fog? Or maybe it wouldn't be the same effect even if you put a fog on a low contrast? Maybe the "double fog" is its own special thing. Anyway your explanation explains what I am seeing so Thanks again! :)

 

Yeah I saw they were Panalog but I still thought they were looking quite nice. I did once also have an experience where someone had shot some Red One footage and were reluctantly saying they thought it looked quite nice as it was, (largely right off the camera) I was skeptical but I took a look and it did actually look quite nice. That's the only time that has happened tho and the guy seemed surprised himself. Usually if someone says look at this amazing footage we shot and we havn't graded it or anything as it looks so amazing as it is... it's usually horrible.

 

This footage does look quite nice already so I'm hoping the grade will take it even further. :)

 

Freya


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#8 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:29 PM

Thanks Freya - the set had wallpaper that had a pattern on it but was essentially white, although technically it was described as off white (not what I'd consider off white but there you go).
The stills are Panalog but they have been given a basic grade by me in photoshop to correct the density to something resembling what the rec 709 version looks like. Yes the double fogs and the coral filters can be subtle if you choose to use them that way. I'm becoming very fond of the double fogs. I saw the remastered print of Heavens Gate at the BFI at the weekend and it looks like Vilmos was using them throughout that - looked wonderful.
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