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#1 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 02:43 AM

We just finished week 3 which unfortunately was not a week that was technically very interesting.

A lot of it was more of the same thing: Day and night interiors in small locations, with the director wanting to be able to shoot in any direction.

The biggest problem of the week was that the majority of the scenes took place at night, but we were not able to shoot at night as we did the previous week. This meant that I was always tenting and then ?glowing? windows for a nighttime look. It is extremely time consuming.

For some of the night INT. work, rather than tenting and lighting a window I would just put up a double net on the window, and then light to a stop that brought the windows way down. Other times we would tent the window in, and bounce some light into the window. I almost always made sure the production designer had put in a translucent curtain over the window so I did not have to worry about seeing detail outside.

We started with a kitchen table scene. I simply cross lit the two actors from wall spreaders. This scene was our first scene with Karen Dyer. Karen is black, and the other actor is white, so when the two are moving around the lighting situation can get a bit tricky. That said, Karen is not particularly dark skinned, in fact I really enjoy photographing her because she takes hard light so well. The only real change I have made is that I add ¼ blue to her light because she has a very warm skin tone. In some situations where I wanted to go really dark with the scene (such as a ?no light? look during a scene with her waking up from a nightmare) I asked the makeup people to add some shine to her face. I find it helps me get away with less light. I also have been using a polarizer with her, whenever I have enough light.

The biggest challenge of the kitchen stuff was getting a wide two shot in the kitchen. I had to have my operator (Chris Rice) go outside the room and shoot through the window.
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Latter we did a shot of the actress going to get something from the fridge. I used a Mini-Flo with ½ plus green on it to act as the refrigerator light.
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We later did a night exterior. It was pretty simple, just the front of a duplex with the actor walking in.
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I used some 650s on the roof as architectural lighting to bring the shape of the building out some. I then used a 1k PAR on the roof toward camera to make a bit of an edge on the actor (and building), then when the actor got to the door I had an Image 80 with 250 in front as a soft side light I then used a large(ish) unit as a general ambiance (it was either a 2k or a 10k, I can?t remember, nor can I tell from the picture), but once I got it up and played with it on and off, I decided not to use it at all.
We then latter did a profile shot of an actress looking out through her front door at the person we shot the exterior for.
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I went really dark with this scene. This particular character?s story is very dark. The director told me he wanted to shoot her story like a horror film. We shot it with more wide shots, and dolly moves as opposed to the handheld we have previously done so much of.

To light this shot I used a small unit bounced off a bounce board to make some ambient light on the wall behind the actress (for separation), and then when she looked out the blinds, I used an Image 80, but really far from the window so that the light took on a harder quality. The shot came out really nice.

The next day we did more work with Beth Grant. The scene was her coming to the door of the duplex (again).
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(Beth ? Sorry I took that picture with you in mid sentence ;) )
The biggest challenge for this scene was that she was under an overhang, and I did not want to blow out the background. I metered under the overhang at an F8, and outside of it was a 22 (and spotted off the white walls behind her was between a 32 and F48).

To combat this huge contrast I did a few things:
One: I brought down the background as much as I could. We flew two 12x12 solids from the roof to bring down the sunlight for as far a distance as I could.
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This really just took down the white walls, and also made the middle-ground darker, and thus less distracting.
Two: I brought up the foreground (the actress). I used two HMI PARs (don?t remember what size) through a frame of 250.
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Then for fill, my crew made a cool way of holding a bounce board (we could not get a stand in because of the shot):
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(The white walls were not at an optimal bounce back angel, thus the board)
For additional fill I used an Image 80. The scene worked out real well.

We latter did a scene of the character throwing up into a toilet.
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I used a single source through the dirty windows in the bathroom, and just cut it up.

We then shot a close-up of the actress at the mirror. I just used that same HMI with Opal on it. She takes hard light really well.
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(I don?t know who that odd looking person behind the camera is ;) )
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#2 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 02:44 AM

We latter went back to the same profile shot of her looking through the door, but this time at day.
By this point I was just bored sick of Kino Flos, so I just wanted to do something new. We shot a small HMI (1.2k PAR) through two 4x4 frames ? One 250, one ¼ Grid. It was a super soft light that looked great.
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The character we have mostly been dealing with this week is, as I said, is scared of the world, and thus we are shooting her story more like a horror movie. We had a scene where she was carefully, and timidly making her way down a dark hallway to find a light switch.
The thought of shooting in this boring white hallway, and creating a ?no light? ambience just was really un-appealing, so I asked the director if she could be walking with a flashlight. He agreed, and so I just told her to hit the white wall some, and this bounce board we made with small squares of shiny material (Mylar I think) on it.
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I explained to her that she controlled when we could and could not see her, so she could play with that concept. Worked out good, but required a lot of rehearsal to get it right. I also had makeup department make her shinny.

In that same hallway we had a tracking shot of the character placing nightlights down the length of her dark hallway. The problem was that the hallway was way too narrow to fit a dolly in.
To make the shot work, we used a furniture pad on the smooth wood floor as a dolly.
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It worked surprisingly well (despite it looking ridiculous). As you can see in the picture, I had a mini-flo attached to the dolly, and as she got more lights in place, I brought up the light level on her.
I just placed the mini-flo ballast at monitor, and dialed the level to taste during the shot.
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We finally moved to a new location on Saturday (six day weeks are fun . . .). I lit most of the scenes all from the outside, and cut all the lights from the outside. It made a clean working environment in small spaces, and I think that helps the actors.
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We just used two 1200s again, and cut to death. We really have been using the 1200s more than any other units because they are so small and light. Plus, we don?t have to run cable up flights of stairs, etc. They pack plenty of punch.

For this characters story I used ½ CTO just to subtly make the image more golden (the HMIs were burning at 6200 K, so ½ CTO is really more like ¼ on these lights).

Pretty basic week, but we did get to do some interesting things. We are behind schedule some, so I am sure there will be additional days added. The biggest time killer is the amount of coverage we are getting. Despite mine, and the AD?s best efforts, the director just wants/ needs a lot of coverage. So I try not to fight him on it anymore, and I just try and light fast to give him more time. This is just the way he wants to make movies, it?s just lucky they budgeted for more days.

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#3 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 05:06 PM

looks great - I cannot wait to see some of the footage.

Are you still using the genny or are you using the house power?

Have you had a chance to use a book light yet :)

enjoy

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#4 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 11:50 PM

We did for a little, but we sent it away because there was really no reason to have due to the cable runs being extremely annoying.

I think it comes back sometime this week, but my gaffer and best boy are more on top of that than I am.

Due to last minute location changes, etc we have been having a lot of back and forth of gear to the rental house.

I still have yet to be able to do a booklight on this show, but I am trying ;)


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#5 Ckulakov

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 01:11 PM

Will this film come out on DVD because I really whant to see it after all these behind the scenes photos. When will it be available and how can I get access to it.

Thanks allot this is really interesting and helpfull.
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#6 Ckulakov

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 01:13 PM

Oh, and for the fridge shot, it looks like you have a filter on your mattebox. What type of filter where you using?

Thanks
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#7 Ckulakov

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 01:44 PM

Sorry for another question, but what was the wattage of the mini flow you used and do you like how it works.
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#8 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 02:41 PM

Hi,

The film is targeted for festivals, and will definitely be available on DVD at some point (whether it be through a distributor or done by the small production company is up in the air).

I think I was using two filters: 1. A POLA as is my practice when working with black actors, and 2. a 1/2 or 1/4 black pro-mist.

I have no idea what wattage the unit is, but it is not very high. The unit itself puts out a decent amount of light for its size. The one thing I don't like is that the globes are not proper color temperatures. The tungsten is very pink and the daylight is a little better.


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#9 Kris Carrillo

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 04:14 PM

I think I was using two filters: 1. A POLA as is my practice when working with black actors, and 2. a 1/2 or 1/4 black pro-mist.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Kevin,

Can you talk a little bit more about using the Polarizer when shooting dark-skinned actors? My guess is that you use it for an opposite effect of what the pola is designed to do--that is increasing the reflections from specular light. That would also explain your requests of the make-up department to add a sheen to actor's face.

I'm wondering if you set your lights and then dial in the pola to taste, keeping an eye on the highlights? Do you find that you're using the maximum effect obtainable from the pola, or somewhere in between?

Also, does your use of the pola on dark-skinned actors include a shift in saturation that is desirable or negligible?

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts because I'm shooting a music video in August and the artist is black--obviously I'm considering the pola now. ;)

Thanks for posting your production journal. You seem to have everything under control and I hope you guys catch up on the schedule. Good luck this week,
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#10 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 04:57 PM

I use the POLA to just dial in the amount of sheen I want. Sometimes I want more sheen, sometimes I want less, and thus I just light the scene and then play with the POLA to see what it does. When I ask the makeup department for extra sheen it is usually because I know I will want/ need the reflectance for the scene and the way I am lighting it. The makeup girl on this show (Alexis Williams) and I have a good relationship as far as me giving some input on the makeup because I consider it to be so critical, especially when shooting video. I try not to make her (or anyone) feel like I am trying to step on her toes, and I think I have been successful thus far.

The POLA does affect skin tone. I find dark skin tends to have either a warm, orange look or a cool, blue/ green look. When using the POLA you can sometimes adjust how the color appears (generally just adding "white" highlights over the color).

All this depends on what the actor's position to the filter and light is. The best way to see what the filter does is to just look through the filter and rotate it.

You have to be careful when using the POLA because when you add or take highlights off someone's face, you affect how the camera perceives the shape of their face, and features. Thus, you have to carefully look at what is happening to their face, as well as any background elements you are affecting with the filter.


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#11 Tina Coggins

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 03:54 PM

Kevin, I know I'm a bit late to the thread here, but can you tell me what you think about the camera. Is it something that you feel would be good for a film student to have, and will it be something one can grow into for a while?

These threads are great. It's always instructional to see what filmmakers on a shoestring can do to make the most of resources -- and sometimes almost just pull stuff out of the air, as it were.

Thanks!
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#12 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 09:26 PM

For the money I really like the DVX.

It has some fairly professional controls that you don?t tend to find in cameras at this price range (well I guess the XL2 does, but I don't pay much attention to the Mini DV market, so if I am wrong, yell at me at DVXUser.com not here ;) ).

The camera is less important than the lighting. You can make the images look terrible or great; it?s all about what you put in front of it.

That said, with good lighting, this camera can produce very professional results. If you are in the market for a camera, this one is a good tool because it is accessible to most people, but good enough to allow you to work in a professional way.

It is still a fairly consumer camera, thus focus and zoom controls are limited, not to mention the fixed lens (but most Mini DV cameras have this problem).

The one thing to be careful with is the Cinegamma. It can really help extend the latitude, but when it clips, it is completely gone in a very ugly way. I find that when I am shooting a day INT. with sunlight coming in from an on screen window I change the gamma settings to find one that best handles the situation (usually low).


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#13 Tina Coggins

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 01:32 AM

Kevin, your posts have been incredibly helpful to me (and to others, too, I'm sure). Thank you. :)
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