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Shooting Food Fight, a Super 16mm Black & White short - film


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#1 Miguel Angel

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 08:56 PM

One week ago I got the final grading of a short – film I shot last December on Super 16mm before starting uni, Food Fight, and I thought that it could be interesting to share the whole process.
 
I met Food Fight’s director, Natasha Waugh, while shooting a different project and as I had three cans of 16mm film stock at home that I was not going to use I asked her: Do you want to shoot something just for the sake of it!, maybe an experiment, with this? It has to be really short because we only have three cans!

 

After thinking about it, she came up with a short story about two food critics that get reunited in a restaurant and start talking about what happened in their previous date.

Pre – production…

Natasha wanted a 40′s / 50′s style and we decided that Black & White with a lot of contrast could be an interesting option so we started searching for the right place to shoot at.

 

After a couple of days going to restaurants, we went to a marvelous place a bit out of the city centre in Dublin called Cafe En Seine and we soon discovered that it was going to be our place as it had this extremely baroque decoration in the upper floor and we were going to have a lot of space to place the camera there too.
 

Hence, once we had the place, we started to see the different problems that we were going to have:

 

1) The restaurant was going to be open while filming and that is something terrible as she would have to deal with background noises and things that she might not want in her short – film.

2) We could only shoot for a very short span of time as the floor where we were going to shoot at had to be open to public around 6pm so we would have to finish shooting at 5pm and we were going to start around 10.30am / 11am.

3) As we wanted to have a lot of contrast in the image and a very dark areas I felt that the backgrounds were going to be really dark and as I love practicals I decided I wanted to place a visible single fluorescent in one background to help create the illusion of contrast and also for it to give me a bit of kick light.

This background was the guy's background and as he is the male of the story I wanted him to feel a tad rougher and mysterious than the girl who does not have that amount of light on her side and is treated [/size]gentler than the guy in terms of light.

4) We knew that we wanted to shoot with an aspect ratio of 1:2.40, however, the camera that we were going to use did not have 1:2.40 frames so we had to create them with a bit of cellotape and a pencil.

 

We were talking about shooting a 10 minutes short – film in around 6 hours hence I had to be quick and smart and I did not have to take a lot of time putting lights for each camera movement (which is what I had loved!)

 

To get the mood of the short – film we shot a couple of 35mm black and white rolls with different processes to see if we really liked black and white or if we wanted more density, or more grain, or less contrast, etc.. all those tests that a cinematographer loves shooting while in pre – production!

 

And we fell in love with four things, black and white, grain, contrast and how film rendered the high – lights so we decided that although the story was a comedy we were going to shoot it as if it were something a bit darker.

 

To shoot the whole short – film we said: let us be smart, shoot a master and then coverage in two sizes and that is all, you will have your short – film in time and you will have enough things to edit your short - film.

 

The whole shooting list is in the image below, not too long though!

 

FoodFightShootingList.jpg
 

The lighting equipment list was very short, as I said, I did not have a lot of time to put lights.

 

Lighting list

1 x Jem Ball
2 x 800w redhead
1 x Fluorescent tube
1 x Black silk 2.5meters by 2.5 meters
2 x Flags 1.5 meters by 1.5 meters
1 x White / Black polyboard

Open roll Cinegel #3402 Rosco N3
Open roll Cinegel #3403 Rosco N6
Open roll Cinegel #3404 Rosco N9

 

I would have loved to have Chimeras for the Redheads but we could not get them due to budget reasons, at the end of the day, this was kind of an experiment!

…On set…

As we did not have a lot of time I decided to go with the Jem Ball for an ambient light and use it to light the faces, which I was going to underexpose.

 

I wanted (and take this as an "I wanted" thing) her face in the zone 4 with a gradient towards the zone 5 so the reading for the zone 4 was T2.8 and I wanted his face in the zone 3 towards the zone 4 so I adjusted the Jem Ball when shooting his scenes.

 

Seeing the images now it is my thought that if I had put a diffusion frame under the Jem Ball I would have gotten a better quality of the light and the gradient between the light and the shadow would have been a bit wider, next time!

 

I used the Red Heads for the three quarters kick light (T8 1/2), zone 7+, and then let the fluorescent explode (T22 1/2), zone 9+, I decided to go further with the fluorescent during the grading and I left it super over exposed.

 

I wish I had had the time to think twice about some things as nowadays I reckon I should have put a fill light in their faces in the close ups and a fill light and a rim light in the wide shot too to help separate them from the background more.

 

My T Stop was going to be T4 but I hesitated a bit and I put T4 1/2.

 

I like really dense blacks!, if I were going to shoot it today, I am sure I would put T2.8 2/3 or T4 though.

 

We shot on Fujifilm Eterna Vision 250D[/size] with Tungsten sources, mainly because it was the film stock I had, we wanted to push it 1 stop to get more grain and also because I feel that tungsten lights look less artificial, I also exposed at 500ASA because I wanted to see the effect of not having that extra thing that you get exposing at 400ASA and I have to say that I will expose for 400ASA next time.

 

And here are some of the frames.

 

Frame 001

FoodFightSS1.jpg

3 quarter light and lateral Jem Ball (that you can see in the mirror creating a fantastic reflection)
 

 

Frame 002

FoodfightSS2.jpg

3 quarter light, side Jem Ball and fluorescent.

 

Frame oo3

FoodFightSS6.png

Jem Ball.

 

Frame 004

FoodfightSS3.png

Jem Ball and dolly out.

 

Frame 005

FoodFightSS7.png

Jem Ball and 3 quarter light for the hair (Ah! I should have done this in the wide shots too!)
 

Frame 006

FoodFightSS8.png

It is the same setup as the 1st frame but I added a bit more of contrast to the image, which one do you think looks better?

…Post production…

When we finished shooting, we sent the film stock from Dublin to London, to Cinelab London which took care of the negative from the beginning of the development to the end.

 

They really did a fantastic job and I cannot but recommending it as it is a superb lab!

 

We got a ftp address from where we were able to download the short – film (they sent us a HDD with the full project inside too) and once we got everything, we sent it to Mordisco Films a post – production company in Spain where one of the best colorist in Spain, Alberto Díaz, took care of it and delivered an amazing black and white image full of density and life.

 

...What else

Nowadays I would choose different light levels to shoot the short - film. 

It seems to me that I got it very dark and maybe I could have been played safer by not choosing the T Stop I chose. 

Fill light seems to be something handy :D and even if I had just placed a polyboard at the side of the camera that would have helped to see the actors' faces more.

 

The left part of the guy's background kills me every single time I see it, I can't believe I let it go so dark, I should have bounced something there!

 

I would put a "hair light" in every shot too for them to be more separated from the background as the fluorescent did not give me the rim light I wanted (I wanted it to be brighter). 

 

Surely I would expose at 400ASA and I would choose a Tungsten stock :D

 

 

 

And that is all! That is how we got a short - film done with friends! 

I hope you enjoyed the reading!

And all the feedback is welcome! :) :) At the end of the day, I am learning!! :) so please, post whatever you think about it! :) 

Short – Film Details
Director: Natasha Waugh
Producer: Natasha Waugh for Fightback Films
Cinematographer: Miguel Angel Viñas
First Assistant Camera: Curtis Morris
Gaffer: Oisin Lowry
Spark: Michael Gilbert
Lab: Cinelab London
Camera Rental House: Filmbase Dublin
Lighting Rental House: Teach Solais
Color Grading: Alberto Díaz (Mordisco Films)


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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 07:35 PM

Looks really nice!
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#3 Miguel Angel

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Posted 31 October 2014 - 07:01 PM

Thank you!

Coming from you it is a great compliment!!

Have a great day.
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#4 Marshall Bergeron

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 12:56 PM

These shots look amazing! What cameras were you using for this shoot? Thank you! :)


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#5 Miguel Angel

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 05:32 PM

Hi Marshall! 

Thank you very much for the compliments!

I used an Aaton Xtera with Super 16mm Zeiss Standard Lenses. 

 

Kind of super solid camera and very well built! I love Aatons anyway! :) 

 

Have a good day!


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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 05:01 AM

Really glad you found someone to work on this project with you who had a good attitude!

Aside from the people who can't be bothered to do anything when an opportunity comes their way, there would also be the people who would be like "it's not possible to do anything worthwhile in 1200ft" when people should have been excited to get to shoot something on film!

 

I liked the way you guys approached this to make it as straightforward as possible and to maximise the amount of film you had.

 

It looks great. I would have been scared to go black and white with this because often when people desaturate colour negative they do not get such great results. Film prints I have seen of big movies where they have tried to make this work have looked awful. I tend to find that Fuji looks better desaturated then Kodak too.

 

This looks really nice however.


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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 05:09 AM

And we fell in love with four things, black and white, grain, contrast and how film rendered the high – lights so we decided that although the story was a comedy we were going to shoot it as if it were something a bit darker.

 

Darker is better! :) I'm always nervous about the idea of shooting comedy. I always think you should shoot a more serious film because if it turns out to be funny you are still good whereas if you shoot a comedy and it turns out to be not funny then you are stuffed.

 

Having said that the words "Food Fight" made me immediately think of the movie "Daisies" and I guess that is kind of a comedy and I love that movie but... well it's not the regular kind of comedy and has a more serious aspect to it as well.


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#8 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 12:07 PM

 

I would put a "hair light" in every shot too for them to be more separated from the background as the fluorescent did not give me the rim light I wanted (I wanted it to be brighter). 

 

 

Some will say (and I agree) that the first light to be set should be the hair/back/rim light.


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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 03:56 PM

 

Some will say (and I agree) that the first light to be set should be the hair/back/rim light.

 

Just curious, but why? I usually like to start in the far background and work my way forward.


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#10 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 04:04 PM

 

Just curious, but why? I usually like to start in the far background and work my way forward.

 

Can't tell you, you're a camera department guy. 

 

Just kidding, it's a process, set the rim light before you key the character.  Like I posted not everyone lights this way, but if you try it, you instantly know if you've got the effect you want (often the camera op will shout out, "that's great!" or something).


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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 04:29 PM

Haha :) Makes sense. Always drives me crazy when the gaffer wants to set up the key before we even talk about the background when the key is usually the easiest light to put up.
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#12 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 05:17 PM

Haha :) Makes sense. Always drives me crazy when the gaffer wants to set up the key before we even talk about the background when the key is usually the easiest light to put up.

 

More experienced persons need to weigh in on this, but I totally agree with you.


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#13 Miguel Angel

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 03:49 PM

Really glad you found someone to work on this project with you who had a good attitude!

Aside from the people who can't be bothered to do anything when an opportunity comes their way, there would also be the people who would be like "it's not possible to do anything worthwhile in 1200ft" when people should have been excited to get to shoot something on film!

 

I liked the way you guys approached this to make it as straightforward as possible and to maximise the amount of film you had.

 

It looks great. I would have been scared to go black and white with this because often when people desaturate colour negative they do not get such great results. Film prints I have seen of big movies where they have tried to make this work have looked awful. I tend to find that Fuji looks better desaturated then Kodak too.

 

This looks really nice however.

 

Thank you for your kind words Freya! :) 

I agree with you on the point that there is always somebody who might be interested in doing something even if it is just with 1200ft! :) those are the people that need to be found ha! 

 

It is very interesting to take a look at what I did almost 3 years ago and think about what I would do nowadays, which would be more stylish but equally dark. 

 

 

 

Some will say (and I agree) that the first light to be set should be the hair/back/rim light.

 

I might say that in black and white that could be a very good start.

In color I don't think that you always need a hair/back/rim light as you can use color itself to give contrast. 

 

Obviously, if you are shooting something very classic and you go for that kind of lighting, you will have to use it but if you are shooting something more modern I might say that cinematographers find very interesting ways to create separation without hair/back/rim light. 

 

My opinion, of course! :) ask me in 5 years time, I might have a different one! :D 

 

Have a good day!


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