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Filming my 3rd short on the Sony a7S


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#1 joshua gallegos

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 01:31 PM

I've been in complete and utter despair over my past work, I feel like my brain is burning and I feel like murdering something, so I decided to make a slasher horror film for my next project. It's a voyeuristic tale of a lonely man who records women with a camcorder and enjoys striking fear into their hearts. I felt my past two short films weren't really saying something about me. I naturally despise happy endings, so I have written a very bleak ending. The short will be entitled 'The Strange Love of Ursula Hatchet'. I discovered it's best to work in genre, since film festivals are all about selling tickets, I figured I have to make something that someone would want to pay to see. I think the horror genre is the best way to slip into the industry, and slasher films are my thing. 

 

My main question was lighting for horror films. I over lit the scenes in my second short film and messed up the image even more by warming up the image, and it looked like someone poured a bucket of piss everywhere as you can see here  , and Canon cameras aren't really that great anymore, they can't compete with the quality a Sony a7S or Black Magic camera can give you. 

 

I'll be working with no budget at all again, and will be doing everything myself. The reason for that is that no one believes in my ability as a filmmaker, and it hurts a bit but I won't let that stop me. I'm trying to move on and not look back anymore, which is difficult- but I hope the despair will go away and I'll be able to make something that I'm proud of.

 

I really didn't want to make the film look like a horror film, I wanted to do something similar to what Robert Elswit did in 'Nightcrawler'. I love the very dark saturated look of the movie, but I think what I don't know how to do is controlling the light and hiding/rigging lighting instruments for wider shots. I'll be using a Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. 

 

For anyone who has shot "dark" films any advice would be great. I won't be using any film lights, just practicals.


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#2 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 01:46 PM

 I would not plan to use just practicals. But if you have no other option, you can supplement the practicals and make them look like theyre doing all the work with clip lights. Pick up a few of those at any Home Depot, gaff tape, some blackwrap and some gels. Won't cost too much and it'll give you way more control.

 

Clip lights are very easy to hide and rig overhead, tape to things.  the blackwrap will give you the control you need over the spill.  Purchase a variety of bulbs to put in them, extra zip cord so that you can plug them in and lastly, some work gloves so you don't burn your hands.  They can get pretty hot.  Good luck.


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#3 joshua gallegos

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 02:04 PM

I really liked the quality the soft light the Kino Flo gave me in my first short, but finding one in houston is actually difficult since I only see one rental house on google and their prices are insanely high. I wouldn't want to burn a house down by doing all that work, and I really hate the quality the tungsten Omni lights by Lowel from my second short, or just maybe I didn't use them right. I just can't light at all, it's awful. 


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#4 cole t parzenn

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 11:16 AM

Diffuse clip lights?


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#5 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 11:28 AM

Lighting takes time - to learn and to rig on a set. 

 

I agree with Michael in that you will need more than just practicals.  Any chance you could get your hands on a few 650s or even 300s?  As far as lighting control, you want to have black wrap, black flags and maybe a silk or two.  Since you're working with no budget, I'd look all this up on B&H and then figure out how you could mimic the effect these devices would create.


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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 11:52 AM

I really liked the quality the soft light the Kino Flo gave me in my first short, but finding one in houston is actually difficult since I only see one rental house on google and their prices are insanely high. I wouldn't want to burn a house down by doing all that work, and I really hate the quality the tungsten Omni lights by Lowel from my second short, or just maybe I didn't use them right. I just can't light at all, it's awful. 

 

I used the Lowel lights but I also had defusing screening from my still photo equipment set. So, I took off the harshness of the light by that means. I also have bounce screens, bounce cards using photo mount foam core board, and also have black sheets from Target for covering things in a small room that would bounce light were I don't want it. There was the issue of the heat of the Lowel lights, so I could not place the screen too close to the lights, for fear of melting or worse...

 

In any case DIY stuff can be done with Home Depot items. The biggest problem I have with the tungsten based 'work lights' is the stands are crappy, the lights are hot, and have potential risk if not really tied to something like my photo light stands. I've been thinking about how to do DIY C-stands.

 

In the last couple of shoots I participated with as the 'lighting' person, we did have a little bit better lights, but not any major name brand. Part of the problem that I saw with the group was how they got 'worried' about how long it took to set up the lighting... The shooting of the scene was maybe 1/2 hour... the setup was 2 hours...


Edited by John E Clark, 26 May 2015 - 11:53 AM.

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#7 joshua gallegos

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 12:06 PM

wow, great stuff. I suppose the problem on my second short was that I didn't soften the light, I just pointed them upwards to the ceiling, I don't know why I thought that would work, but it didn't. The most annoying part is leveling a tripod, it takes me forever to level it just right, I hate doing that so much. 


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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 12:11 PM

China balls are cheap and often work well to softly augment practicals.  But like everyone has said, you'll need flags and black wrap to direct the light.


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 12:42 PM

Actually my first reaction to that vimeo video was that the still of the corridor looked pretty good!


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#10 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 12:42 PM

Actually my first reaction to that vimeo video was that the still of the corridor looked pretty good!

 

Yup.


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#11 John E Clark

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 12:56 PM

Actually my first reaction to that vimeo video was that the still of the corridor looked pretty good!

 

The corridor shots I think worked. But the heavy yellow cast shots of the room interior, to me looked like underexposed tungstenness...

 

Joshua --- you mentioned pointing the lights at the ceiling... this is a 'standard' practice... well for some people... I used it a lot when shooting weddings where I wanted to get a general overall light and less of the 'caught in the headlights' look on people during the reception or other 'candid' situations. Formal lighting for the formal portraits, that is strobes and softboxes angled such that the people were in the 'best of light'.

 

One of the problem's I've had with moving to moving pictures, is the fact that I had leaned on 'strobes' to dump enough light for the still picture... but for film, one has to have continuous light, and as such, one needs far more light than I sort of had 'internalize' due to using the strobes...

 

There are of course creative reasons to have a heavy yellow cast to an image, there's also reasons for having 'low lighting' and the like.

 

But if the goal was a image with a good amount of density on the character, then I think more light is needed, and you may have lost too much in the bounce on the ceiling.

 

Also... some ceilings are not 'white white' but have a cast to them, which then folds into the image you capture...

 

One could perhaps tape up a light foam core 'pure white' bounce to use for a ceiling bounce.

 

I of course don't know the location situation, and now much prep, and how delicate the walls/ceilings are, so perhaps one could only use stands for putting lights, and additional bounce, or flagging in the lighting setup.


Edited by John E Clark, 26 May 2015 - 12:57 PM.

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#12 JD Hartman

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 01:40 PM

wow, great stuff. I suppose the problem on my second short was that I didn't soften the light, I just pointed them upwards to the ceiling, I don't know why I thought that would work, but it didn't. The most annoying part is leveling a tripod, it takes me forever to level it just right, I hate doing that so much. 

 

Bouncing a light, off a wall, ceiling, foamcore, beadboard, show card, photo reflector, etc. makes it softer.  Perfectly acceptable practice.


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#13 joshua gallegos

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 03:45 PM

I remember I did expose everything correctly but ended up using lumetri looks, and warmed up the gamma more than usual and added a lot of contrast to make it look darker, but either way it looks god awful, I don't know why it looks different in different computers, on some it looks completely underexposed, but on my screen it look properly exposed, on an HD tv the colors bleed out and on others it looks fine. Color grading is a nightmare for me as I truly never know how it looks on different screens. 

 

The best I can do is work on my composition, and I want to film more exteriors, I think framing becomes a little more inspired in open spaces than just interiors. I hope this next one will be much better. 


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#14 John E Clark

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:41 PM

I remember I did expose everything correctly but ended up using lumetri looks, and warmed up the gamma more than usual and added a lot of contrast to make it look darker, but either way it looks god awful, I don't know why it looks different in different computers, on some it looks completely underexposed, but on my screen it look properly exposed, on an HD tv the colors bleed out and on others it looks fine. Color grading is a nightmare for me as I truly never know how it looks on different screens. 

 

The best I can do is work on my composition, and I want to film more exteriors, I think framing becomes a little more inspired in open spaces than just interiors. I hope this next one will be much better. 

 

 

The reason it looks different on different monitors or computer screens, is that few home tv or computer monitors are calibrated to anything. In fact the 'presets' often put the color totally out of whack, but the people watching, think it's great... especially sports viewers...

 

I do think some form of calibration is better than nothing at all, although sometimes when I read a 'pro' colorist, I seem to get the message of 'this is beyond your ken or pocket book or both'... attitude.

 

But I calibrate my monitor with what I have available, which happens to be the Spyder products. Yes, they may not be as good as the more expensive devices, but I believe they are better than nothing. Same thing for B&W strip charts and color wedges, I can't afford a DSC chart for almost all products they offer, but did by the, again Spyder Color Checkr.

 

As for using plugins... I've tended not to use them that much. Even for the major still work I've done in conjunction with the Wife's business, we have avoided heavy use of 'filters' or the like.

 

In any case, if filter, when applied yields a 'ugly' image, unless that was the goal for story reasons... I'd tend to dump it and start over on the grade.

 

While it's not quite the same, over the years of going to various conferences for still photography, seeing a zillion attempts at using 'filters' to spark up images... I'm sort of in the mind to minimize their use. I have seen some really good effects, but for the most part, results in less than pleasant results.


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#15 joshua gallegos

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 11:31 AM

I see, spyder products aren't terribly expensive at Best Buy. My goal is to learn enough to take on an entire feature, I think 70-80 minute features are the norm for new filmmakers. Plus the Sony a7S has 2k capabilities which is better than any canon dslr. Time to go to work, thanks for the help everyone. 


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