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Road Movie - Week 1


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#1 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 11:27 PM

Hey guys,

Here's the first update on the ultra-low budget feature I'm shooting. Quick recap:

XL2
16x9, 24P
'Cine' settings (I can post them if anyone wants)
Cokin P Filter holder system
Small lighting package - some 1ks, 650s, 300s, fluro banks (old kinos lol)

Horribly small crew; we've got some guys pitching in to help out, but they're totally green. So I basically have assumed the role of teacher, which has slowed things down somewhat, but they're good guys and fast learners. Though overall I'm basically DOP, Cam OP, AC, Key Grip and Gaffer for almost the entire shoot lol. Gotta pay those dues eh...

Day 1:

The first day went fairly smooth, which I admit was a surprise. First days on bigger budget shows usually go awry, but we made the day, and only cut one establishing shot of the street we filmed on, which we can get later without the actors. We were ext. all day, with a few quick shots after nightfall.

My aesthetic is to try to rimlight actors outside, but obviously we didn't have the lights for it. Basically throwing a 1k with 3/4 CTB through light opal at noon can often look like a mag light being shined on the actor lol. But most of the time it added just the right sunlight kick to a face.

I color balance all the day stuff slightly warm. For the first few scenes I balanced to 1/8 blue, then moved warmer to 1/4 blue to simulate more of a warm morning light.

One of our setups was quite nice as it was the last shot of the movie. Our main character has a short dialogue with his best friend while awaiting a ride to the airport. They're both leaning up against a iron fence in front of their house. I think this shot was at 1/4 blue white balance. We put the XL2 on sticks across the street and punched it to a thigh to head two shot of the two guys. Slapped on the Cokin Black Net diffuser, looked very nice I must say. I was very happy with it.

For close-ups I used either the aforementioned black net filter or the Cokin Soft 1 filter. It really helps take away from the 'video' sharpness of the XL2 (which is very very sharp :huh: This can sometimes create a soft glow on faces, but I really liked it to be honest. I know there are some people who hate any soft filters on the lens, but as I said I just really liked the look it gave for the scene and so did the director, luckily :P On occasion we used some bounce card for a bit of fill, but the overcast day usually gave enough of that.

Again for close-ups we punched it to maximum telephoto to give some shallow depth of field. Overall I was pleased.

For the night setups - the first one was a shot from the porch looking out into the street as the actor approaches and walks up the stairs and out of frame. Basically threw up the 1k fresnel with some ctb and a light green for moonlight, which gave a moody dark moonlight backlight, then put up a 300w with blue and diffusion on it for some ambient fill for his face as he approached the lens.

Second setup was in possibly the tightest location I've ever had to light. A narrow, enclosed, descending staircase maybe 2 feet wide leading to a white door. The character had to walk down the stairs, pause at the door, then enter. It was tricky, to say the least. I aimed the 1k with blue/green on it down the right wall of the stairway, then on the open door at the top of the stairwell I clamped a 300w with some CTO on it for a harsh lightbulb sort of effect. I put an ND grad on the lens so that the left side of the frame/left stairwell wall was fairly dark, and scrimmed the 1k hitting the wall for a nice but not overbearing moonlight effect. I made it bright enough so that it was still moody but not quite Wes Craven ;)

And that was Day 1. Next post will be Day 2.
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#2 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 11:50 PM

Day 2:

Today was a pain in the butt. We were shooting in a coach passenger bus inside a garage. Very cramped in there. Luckily there wasn't any power issues with the lights, which is a rarity in such low budget filming.

The bus we were given posed a major problem - tinted windows. Must've easily cut 60-70& of the light from outside. Made things very difficult, and lighting took 3 hours before 1st shot. But luckily it stayed the same for most of the day. We went handheld virtually all day, and for every shot on the bus. This was because a) it was too cramped for sticks in most cases, and B) the slight handheld movement added to the illusion that this vehicle was in motion. Post sound will aid a lot in that as well.

Another problem was that we couldn't remove any seats or even tilt the backrests at all. So there were times where I had a foot on a seat on either aisle and my head touching to ceiling to get a slight high angle two shot :blink:

All action was on one side of the bus, in the rear of the bus, which made lighting easier. Key was provided by a 1k redhead with half ctb on it through light opal through the tinted windows. This was our sun light. Right next to it but not shooting through the frame was our 1k fresnel with full ctb on hitting the last two rows of the bus for more daylight fill.

I was able to rig (with the help of the sound man no less) our four foot four fluoro bank across the aisle into the luggage compartments. It was fitted with daylight tubes, as was the two foot two bank which we used for ambient fill. I also used the two footer with some frost on it for an off-center key light for the female actresses whenever they were in frame.

At one point the female actresses turn around in their seats and look at the two guys behind them. We had to cheat this for lighting and time reasons so we went really tight on each of the girls. I used both the Soft filter and the Black Net filter for these shots since they were the first time their faces will be seen in the movie, and because I liked the effect it had. Smoothing, and very flattering, especially with the highlights from the backlights on them.

We moved outside of the bus for a medium shot of our four characters getting off the bus and leaving frame. I wasn't too happy with the results of this shot, namely a slight double shadow because I simply needed more light. In the edit the next shot would be these four characters in a reverse at an ext. day plaza of sorts, so I think that as long as we color correct it and properly grade it to match the reverse the audience won't notice anything wrong with it (it's such a short shot as well, maybe a second or two of screen time.

Our last setup was the bus bathroom. Wow, talk about a small space. We had our actor sitting on the toilet talking on his cell phone. We had the four foot fluoro on since we kept the bathroom door open so I could shoot it. I rigged the two footer for a toppy light in the bathroom and threw some plus green (I think it was half) to give it a bathroom on the bus feel :P

And that was Day 2 of our little adventure. Tomorrow I'll hopefully post Day 3, which will be a combination of daytime exteriors and a nighttime exterior/interior car shot which we'll be doing the poor man's process for. Should be a blast lol.

PS: I totally forgot about bringing the digital camera. I apologize, though I also think I simply wouldn't have had time to take any pics. I'll try to get some screen grabs in the next few days if I can.
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#3 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 07:58 PM

Day 3:

Day 3 was a pretty crazy day. It was split in two - first up was a daytime interior of an office inside a car repair shop. I'll explain the second part of the day in a bit.

We set up our scene in the office so that the desk and computer where the employee character types was in the corner so I could flag off the window and any natural light and instead use the 1k fresnel with 3/4 CTB through frost as our sun. The camera was white balanced for daylight.

Over top of the employee character was the two foot fluoro with plus green on it. Fill was provided by the four foot fluoro, also with plus green. I was pretty happy with this scene. The master looked quite good. The director has a preference for fairly loose close-ups, so that they're more mediums than tights, which I'm not, so I often find myself trying to push for a tighter frame.

After that setup was complete, we had to quickly get an int. wide of the characters entering and leaving the car repair bay. I kept the overhead fluorescents on and balanced with 1/2 CTB for a very warm image, then slid an 80C filter in so that it was still a bit warm (to match the sunny office we had just shot) while at the same time making all the fluoros a uniform color. I threw up the 1k fresnel through the frost with some CTB on it, just for some extra fill. We used the Canon 3x lens for this shot.

We concluded this location with an exterior wide of a car pulling into a space outside the building. Filters used were the 80C (again, with a very warm white balance), the pola, and a ND grad to get as much cloud detail as possible, though the clouds weren't very abundant at the time. This also allowed me to shoot wide open.

Now, for location 2:

Driving shots. Ouch. We don't have the budget for a car mount, let alone anything more advanced than that. The director thought backseat shooting while the actors drive around the city would be fine. I was very obviously against that. I don't want to go through the time and effort to make every other location look as good as I can and then throw in some amateur looking home movie type shots. So I suggested, first - could these daytime driving shots be at night? The director said yes. So then I got ballsy.

I convinced him that I could pull off the poor man's process. In his parent's driveway. In the suburbs.

Note: The first time I ever heard of this process was on the Frailty DVD Special Edition. All the car interiors in that film were done in a studio. I was very impressed, and tried to pull off our own version of this stunt via memory of those shots. Thank you Bill Butler! And thank you Blockbuster for selling used DVDs lol. That 6.99 purchase resulted in some great shots. :D

Somehow, it worked. We committed to tight mediums and closeups. The car was parked on the driveway facing the street. We put up a 12x12 black on two stands about 25-30 feet behind the car to black out any lights.

The 80C blue filter was put on the lens. Moonlight was provided by a 1k fresnel. Originally I had it through a frame of frost, but it killed too much light, so I used it bare and hard at a 60 degree angle to the car and maybe 8 feet away. I put half CTB I believe on it.

The first shot was of the driver, so we put the camera just a bit into the street (around where a sewer/storm drain would be located) and zoomed in to achieve a shallow DOF. I shot at 1.6 with 0db gain.

Fill light was provided by the two foot fluoro with daylight bulbs which I rigged to the console of the car we used (an old Plymouth Acclaim). This shot up into the actors' faces and resembled an exaggerated dash light.

On either side of the car, about 10 feet away, we had 650s with double orange (it wasn't quite CTO or Straw, not really sure what it was lol, but it really looked like a street lamp). These lights hit the car from above ever so slightly to simulate street lamps.

Next we had the headlight situation. On the left and to the side (passenger side) of the car we had a pa/grip with a 650 do slow passes across the car, holding for 2-3 beats on the actors' faces. This was our passing vehicles.

Next we had another pa/grip with a 300w and directly in front of the car do the same to simulate oncoming traffic. I used one thumbs up/two thumbs up to signal them at random.

Next we had the director's father wash the car with a spray hose to simulate rain.

Finally we had the director's mother (!) behind the car and out of frame bump the car every few seconds to simulate road conditions.

It worked beautifully. It's not often I finish a setup and am 100% pleased with it, but this is one of them. I simply couldn't believe how well it worked. Total setup time was about 2 and a half hours. Two pa/grips and myself set it up.

We then did the reverse for the passenger, but the setup was lit so that there would be no changes necessary. We could have done a two shot straight on, but decided against it was we were already at a 14 hour day. And that was wrap.

Edited by blastdoors, 29 October 2005 - 08:00 PM.

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#4 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 08:34 PM

Day 4:

Today we were at a middle school. The scenes took place inside a classroom and the hallway outside the classroom. It's the first scene of the movie, and basically it's our two main characters, drinking, and urinating on some photos inside this classroom. A security guard hears them, and a confrontation in the hallway occurs, with our characters taking flight.

The classroom master was a slight high angle wide of the whole classroom. I put a 1k fresnel with full ctb on throw a window-like frame of flags, which simulated a window on the far side wall. Fill in that area was provided by the two foot fluoro bank with 5000K tubes.

The foot foot fluoro bank and a 300w with 3/4 blue into a bounce card provided some fill on the other side of the room. Unfortunately the director changed the blocking (block, light, rehearse! d'oh!) so the close-ups and medium shot we did afterwords wasn't too great. We were under a time limit with this location so I didn't have the time to relight for the new blocking.

Next up was a hallway lined with lockers. We blacked out all daylight spilling in. I put the 80C filter in front of the lens so that I wouldn't have to gel the lights to heavily with blue as I wanted to retain as much light intensity as possible. In four classrooms I put either 650s or 300s with varying degrees of CTB. At the very far end of the hallway I put a 1k fresnel with an Effects Blue gel blasting in from a side doorway.

Over the camera and raking the ceiling was a 1k redhead with 3/4 CTB. To the right of camera was a door which our characters would leave by. I had the four foot fluoro with 5000K tubes on the other side of the door for some extra fill.

I was pretty pleased with this shot. The guard walked in and out of light, giving a slight menace to the scene. The limitations of video vs film I thought were apparent as little detail was visible in the dark areas of the hallway when the guard was farther away in the frame. 35 and even 16 would've picked up more detail I felt.

We punched in for a close-up which I absolutely loved. Something about the way the light shaped his face combined with a hint of backlight and the Cokin Soft filter was simply very appealing to me. Possibly my favorite shot of the day.

And that was Day 4. Time to sleep :blink:
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#5 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 01:47 PM

Day 5:

Last day of Week 1. Today we were at Glendon Campus of York University here in Toronto. A beautiful looking spot surrounding by old buildings and greenery. Unfortunately both scenes today were night shoots :(

The first scene was in one of the dorm rooms. Oh my God. How do kids live in these things? It was about 16 feet by 7 feet, white cinder block walls, crappy overhead fixture, and fluorescents under the mirror and desk. It looked less like a bedroom and more like a cell at Sing Sing. And the bed was a foot and a half off the ground! Lighting wise it was a nightmare. Nothing like small spaces and white walls eh?

This scene was a make-out scene. The characters open the door, have a line, then kiss and make their way to the wall where they have a few more lines.

I blacked out the window first. Threw up the 1k Fresnel with light opal and 3/4 CTB on it and then placed a frame of flags around it to simulate moonlight through a window. This was aimed at the side wall. Fill was provided by a 300 with half CTB bounced on the ceiling and the two foot fluoro with 5000K bulbs aimed onto the bed. In the hallway I put up a 650 with orange on it for a hallway light that backlit and silhouetted our couple as they entered the room.

Considering the location I was fairly happy with this setup. We then did a reverse of later that night where the male character wakes up and leaves the girl sleeping. Only minor tweaks to the lighting here.

The next scene was exterior and it was a total nightmare. Our location was a bench next to some trees. Our only power supply was over 150 feet away, and halfway through my setup the circuit was tripped. I told the director we had to move to our backup location which was closer to a power supply because I didn't want to be halfway through the scene and then have it happen again.

So our backup location was this odd looking tree which formed a 'D' shape where our couple could lean against it as they had their dialogue. I put the 1k with 3/4 CTB on it as a backlight moonlight. Frontal fill was provided by a four foot fluoro with daylight bulbs. A 650 lit up the leaves of a nearby tree. I had a 300 hitting both characters as a backlight. I hated the wide shot of this scene. We simply didn't have the lights or the power available to use to light the large park area behind them, so it looked far too black, even at 3db.

I told the director that he should use the wide as sparingly as possible, preferably only at the head of the scene to establish where they are then run the rest of the scene in the tighter two shot and the tight singles. The latter shots looked much better, especially the singles where in addition to the Soft filter I put the Black Net filter to soften up the actors' (specifically the female's) faces. Getting closer also allowed me to move in the lights and shoot at -3db which is ideal on the XL2.

And that was that. Week 1 is done. In a few hours I'm getting some frame grabs off the master of the footage for some preliminary color grading, and hopefully I'll have time tonight to post them in this thread. I, like most here I suspect, have been reading Mr. Mullen's diary with great interest, so I think I need some pics to give this one a bit more attention :P

Cheers B)
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#6 Tim Carroll

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 02:39 PM

Matthew,

Great stuff, thanks for sharing. Most of what I have done is more along the lines of what you describe as opposed to my dream of some day working along the lines of what David Mullen describes.

Quick question. Except for the one shot where you mention using the wide angle lens on the XL2, what lens have you been using for the rest of the shoot? The 16x manual or the stock lens that comes with the camera?

Thanks,
Tim Carroll
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#7 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 10:03 AM

Hi Tim,

I too hope to one day have the budget and scope to do projects as well as Mr. Mullen; I guess until such time we have to just do our best to get a great looking picture on a shoestring budget lol :P

There have been maybe 4-5 shots where we've used Canon's 3x lens for the wide, but otherwise we're using the 16x manual lens. I don't even bring the 20x stock lens along with me.
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#8 Tim Carroll

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 12:45 PM

Thanks Matthew,

Have you had any issues with the iris on the 16x manual focus lens? I read a few reviews, and I used to have an XL1S with the 14x manual focus lens with the manual iris, but some of the reviewers were saying the iris on the 16x manual focus lens was difficult to set. Was wondering what your experience with it was?

Thanks again,
-Tim
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#9 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 02:09 PM

Thanks Matthew,

Have you had any issues with the iris on the 16x manual focus lens? I read a few reviews, and I used to have an XL1S with the 14x manual focus lens with the manual iris, but some of the reviewers were saying the iris on the 16x manual focus lens was difficult to set. Was wondering what your experience with it was?

Thanks again,
-Tim


The 16x doesn't actually have an iris control. You have to set the iris through the camera.
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#10 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 11:58 PM

Here's some stills from the first few days. These are uncorrected, straight from the camera. I hesitate to post them because my monitor is a bit old and renders everything a bit darker than it is, so I don't know what these actually look like, but whatever):

The first two are of the girls looking back over their seats. This is the first time you see the girls in the movie:

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This is the wide of the car repair shop:

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These two are the office of the car repair shop.

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I learned my lesson with the Canon 3x lens - it captures quite a bit more than the viewfinder indicates, as you can see by the far right. We'll have to crop that.

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This is the night stairwell:

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Here's some daytime ext of the first day:

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Couple of shots on the bus int. :

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Couple more of the bus:

http://www.thenumber...azz/still07.jpg

http://www.thenumber...azz/still12.jpg
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#11 David Silverstein

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 06:42 PM

If your on such a low budget howd you get use of the bus and pay for extras?
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#12 Matt Lazzarini

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 12:54 AM

If your on such a low budget howd you get use of the bus and pay for extras?


The bus company is owned by a friend of the director's father. The extra in the bus scene was a p.a.
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