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"Dot"


David Mullen ASC
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Just finished the first two weeks on "Dot".

 

Director: Jamie Babbit. Producer: Andrea Sperling / Carolyn Pfeiffer / Burnt Orange (UT Austin Texas). Budget: just under 1 million dollars. 24P HDCAM (Panavision). 8-72 Digital Primo zoom mostly.

 

Burnt Orange Productions is a venture with the University of Texas, Austin to bring feature production to Austin and allow students to be involved at different levels of prep, production, and post. Most of the HD post will be handled by the University except for perhaps final color-correction.

 

The story is about a deaf girl, Dot, who goes to live in a foster home, where she discovers that the father is molesting his teenage daughter. Various characters confess their sins or private thoughts to Dot (thinking that she can't hear them) during this time but eventually it is revealed that Dot is not really deaf. It all climaxes with a murder.

 

Stars Elisha Cuthburt, Camilla Belle (as Dot), Martin Donovan, and Edie Falco.

 

While on the surface, the settings (mainly a house and a high school) seem deceptively simple, even mundane, the shoot has been quite a challenge. First of all, the story mostly takes place at night in a modernist house made up of big picture windows. Many scenes are set in rooms with only moonlight coming in. And in the last week, we'll have three huge night scenes in a row: a basketball game and a scene in a huge swimming pool, followed the next night by a river scene in the woods, and then a big prom night dance on the last night of the shoot.

 

We are halfway through the shoot. The budget has been so tight that the salaries offered the crew have been abyssmal, only $100/day for the keys and less than that for most of the crew. Plus some positions are filled by student interns. I?m not working with any of my regular crew. Everyone has been so nice and worked so hard that I am loathe to complain about any of them, only to say that things have not been as organized and efficient as I would like. I've got student intern camera assistants that are also handling the smoke machine for the sets, for example. I?m working in a glass house with picture windows up on a second floor with scaffolding outside constantly being moved around to provide the moonlight for many scenes.

 

The director has pushed hard for a very dark look, and of course this leads to the usual discussions of what dark means ? i.e. hard-lit and shadowy or soft-lit and underexposed. With big picture windows and moonlight streaming through light haze, some scenes can look more like daytime, just darker, so I find myself cheating a lot to create more shadows by breaking up with leafy branches or flagging the moonlight and then using little spotlights to bring out selected areas. Sort of theatrical rather than realistic. Smoke levels are near impossible to maintain in this large drafty house, plus I?m working with a hazemaker that needs two minutes to recycle everytime I shut it down, so by the time it?s running again, they want to roll cameras again.

 

In fact, poor or missing equipment has been my main problem. The HD package is donated by Dallas Panavision but they had no large HD monitors (all rented), so we had to rent one from a local company, Gear, only to discover it has no HDSDI card and needs three analog RGB inputs going into it. It took a few days to get a HDSDI-to-analog adaptor so I could run only one BNC from camera to the monitor. The monitor is a little on a green side, picture-wise, which I find very annoying.

 

I also was asked early on to submit a grip package list to production before we hired a Key Grip. Then I find out during the first few days of shooting that my list had been lost by production and they had actually never gotten my add-ons. So here I was for the first week calling for Dedolights (we don?t have any), or a low combo stand (none), or a 20?x?20? solid (nope), or blade flags (nada) only to have to reorder all of that stuff. Then when I finally get the Dedolight kit, it turns out I can only use one of the three lights because they only sent one working head feader cable. Now we?re halfway through the shoot and I still haven?t received the remaining cables!

 

This is my eighth 24P HD feature, but for many people around me, it?s relatively new. My camera assistant, trying to match our B-camera to the A-camera for our one day (so far) of two-camera shooting, tried to use the memory stick and download the settings. I?ve never really learned to use the memory stick, preferring to manually input my settings all the time. But the camera assistant assured me it would be faster to use the memory stick. Well, I come back to set and find that he?s accidentally caused all the settings in B-camera to be downloaded into A-camera rather than the other way around, so I had to manually input the settings for BOTH cameras. To some degree, the point of this shoot is a learning exercise, so I have to be patient, but that hasn?t meant that we still don?t have to make our days doing very complicated set-ups.

 

With so many night scenes, I find myself turning on the camera and setting the lens to T/2.8 and then lighting to that level. Occasionally I?ve been at T/4 or so when shooting under fluorescent room lighting, so I?ve used an ND.30 filter in the mattebox to shoot close-ups at T/2.8.

 

The smoked sets naturally look a little soft, picture-wise, so I?ve shot the wider shots unfiltered and used a 1/2 Soft-FX for close-ups. For the non-smoked scenes, I?ve used a 1/8 ProMist overall just so the difference in sharpness isn?t as jarring. Occasionally I?ve added a 1/2 Soft-FX to the 1/8 ProMist for the close-ups. The director would like me to smoke every scene but I?ve used it mostly for the day and moonlight scenes, but not for night interior scenes where room lights are on. Partially because that seems unrealistic, but it?s mainly because I?m already losing time every day dealing with the hazemaker, so I needed to reduce some of the scenes where it was being used. Plus I?m one of the only people working on the smoked sets all day, during set-ups and during the shooting, with hardly any time off-set. So after two weeks of all-night shooting in smoked sets, I?m exhausted and I?m tired of coughing all night when I get to bed.

 

We had one night exterior where I had to boost the gain to +3db. Otherwise I?ve been at 0 db throughout.

 

Generally, I?ve been switching between 1/32nd to 1/48th for the shutter speed, a way of adjusting the exposure by a half-stop when necessary to avoid opening up the iris more than T/2.8.

 

I?ve had problems with the microforce zoom getting ultra-slow steady zooms during the shot. I remember going through four zoom controls on ?D.E.B.S.? and with the same problem happening again (stickiness in the zooming), I can?t decide if the problem is with the zoom control or the 8-72mm Digital Primo zoom.

 

?Moonlight? has been half-blue most of the time (occasionally if it?s just a little splash on a back wall or curtain, I let it be full-blue.) I?m a little concerned about the level of noise in the image when shooting under blue-ish light on the F900 (the Matrix is off.) I just read that ?Sky Captain? shot all their bluescreen stuff at ?3 db because of this problem. My HD monitor is on the old side and a little crappy, so I guess I?ll deal with the problem in post because I can?t tell how bad it is on the set.

 

After coming off a 35mm anamorphic production, it?s always interesting for me to compare my shooting methods when using HD. I rarely bring out the light meter and find myself using the zoom a lot to adjust frame sizes and ?hunt? for interesting shots. In many ways, it?s not really a film-vs.-HD issue but a prime-vs.-zoom issue. I generally avoid zooms when shooting in 35mm partially because they are big, slow, and heavy (and in anamorphic, it?s even a bigger problem) while in HD I like the zooms because it helps me shoot a little faster.

 

I still find the LENGTH of the Panavized F900 with Digital Primo zoom and HDSDI back rather annoying; it?s like balancing a teeter-totter on the O?Connor head. It takes up more space than a 35mm Panaflex. Last night I removed the HDSDI back and the battery just to fit the camera in a small bathroom, only to have the sound guy and continuity person complain because they couldn?t get an NTSC feed (it?s too complicated to explain but it has to do with the lack of HDSDI on my big monitor and the lack of analog RGB in on my smaller HD monitor?) I?m just amazed that people feel that you can?t make a movie without several video feeds coming from the camera; I?m mean, they are all sitting in a room with a 20? HD monitor so it?s not like they are blind. The more movies I make, it seems there are more and more director?s chairs lined up in front of the video monitor. You end up moving video village farther away just because you have to provide room for so many chairs contractually (producers, actors, writers, and of course, the director and script supervisor.)

 

I?m more convinced than ever that I need to get an operator for HD because I rarely have time to see the big HD picture, shooting so much behind the camera. I?ll here shouts from video village like ?could you tell if the camera accidentally saw that she is wearing pink underwear in that last shot??? geez, they are looking at a 20? HD color monitor and I?m looking at a 1? b&w monitor!

 

Two more weeks to go. We have one day left in this house and then we move to the high school, shooting mostly day scenes.

 

I just want to add that my two student intern camera assistants are doing a top-notch job and have learned their jobs really fast, so thanks to Jeremy Rodgers and Derek J.

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Wow, David sorry to hear about all the troubles. I think you are the right guy for this kind of thing though. I haven't heard any rumors about you being a tyrant or anything...yet. :P

 

I recall when I visited you on location you said something about using the Primo zooms on steadicam. Are you guys using a steadicam as B camera or just a two camera setup?

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Thank you so much for posting about your shoot.

I hope it all goes better.

 

When you say you sometimes combine the 1/2 Soft-FX with the 1/8 Promist on closeups, is it something you decide in the moment / day of shooting, just becasue thats what works/looks the best, or do you have a set of like mantras or a list (based on your tests / experience) of when to do it (like "if its a lady's CU at a wide aperture with 3:1 contrast ratio or more lit from the side I'll use the soft fx" for example)?

 

Also, did you find that while the script supervisor and sound person and producers really wanted the monitor when you could'nt give it to them, was the director suportive and just saw the scene by your side or was he also demanding the monitor?

 

Best of Luck.

 

-felipe.

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We now have a B-camera with the original Digital Primo zoom (huge, T/1.9) but we only used it on one day. Don't really have the crew to use it.

 

We need to get a set of primes in order to use it on a Steadicam. Right now, we just have a 5mm Digital Primo prime.

 

The director is always supportive yet demanding, and with HD, she knows what she's getting so I can't slack off and hope she doesn't notice, which is sometimes a problem with time (sometimes I accept a compromise to save time, which she won't accept so I have to go back and change the lighting.) It's always tough because you feel obligated to make the days and keep them to twelve hours, yet you also know that audiences don't really care how much time you had to shoot the scene.

 

That one case where I had to remove the HDSDI back just meant she still got a picture on the big HD monitor, only I couldn't feed an NTSC signal to the sound cart and the script supervisor's laptop. I understand why they need it but, come on, people have managed to record sound and take script notes before the days of video assist. And the HD monitor was in the same room with them so it's not like they were blind.

 

I've tested filters before in the past for HD so I already know what a 1/8 ProMist will get me (I used one for most of "Jackpot") or the 1/2 Soft-FX (which I used for close-ups in "New Suit", "When Do We Eat?" and many other HD projects.) On "D.E.B.S." I tested various filters for shooting the women's close-ups and had them transferred to 35mm anamorphic and projected but in the end, we picked the unfiltered version (they were young actresses so didn't really need them, but that director had been convinced that HD must be filtered... until she saw the tests and then changed her mind and preferred it sharper.)

 

I generally don't use both ProMist and Soft-FX combined however. I either shoot an HD movie generally unfiltered and use the Soft-FX just for the close-ups, or I shoot an HD feature with a 1/8 ProMist on almost everything as a "ProMist look" project. However, in this case, when using the 1/8 ProMist for scenes without smoke, just to keep them from looking too sharp compared to the smoked scenes, I felt that some of the close-ups needed further softening so I added the 1/2 Soft-FX. In particular, often one actor in the scene needs the extra softening so I use it on all the close-ups of the other actors in the scene.

 

It is a bit of playing it by ear, plus sometimes you work so fast that you accidentally have the filter on a wider shot because the director suddenly told you to zoom out, or you don't have it on the tighter shot because you suddenly were asked to zoom in, and you lose track of your filtering approach. If I were sitting at the big monitor, it would probably be more clear to me as to when to change filters, but to some degree, I'm working so fast that I have to go on experience.

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David,

 

Just out of interest why do you apply the promist or soft fx in camera rather than applying a diffusion effect digitally? Is it because of lack of post budget or do you think you get a better result by filtering in camera? I'd have thought that with all the compression you could achieve a nicer look in post. In my experience a bit of work in shake/ discreet or even after fx can create really beautiful and accurate diffusion.

 

Keith

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After the online session to create the HD master, there is usually a color-correction session in a DaVinci suite. There is usually no budget leftover for any work in a Flame or Inferno suite. So until DaVinci starts offering digital diffusion as part of their software package, and I know that everytime I walk into a color-correction session, digital diffusion is an easy and fast option, I'll stick to using camera filters. But if it takes booking a separate session in another room, I can guarantee that it will remain an uncommon technique because it will be too easy for a producer to change their minds and cancel it, unlike the color-correction session, which is sort of inevitable.

 

Anyway, I like post diffusion effects but I think it looks different from optical diffusion.

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David, do you at least have an onboard LCD screen to give a vague sense of the image? I usually forgo the eyepiece and operate off that. Better than nothing and many models have the built in waveform to give some indication on the exposures.

 

BTW, say hello to Jamie for me! I shot a feature years ago in Michigan and she helped out by Script Supervising. Tell her howdy from New York. I've seen her name on a number of projects ("But I'm a Cheerleader", "Gilmore Girls").

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I?m one of the only people working on the smoked sets all day, during set-ups and during the shooting, with hardly any time off-set.  So after two weeks of all-night shooting in smoked sets, I?m exhausted and I?m tired of coughing all night when I get to bed.

I got a surplus Israeli gas mask after the '91 war. It's absolutely great for smoke, dust, and even oil based paint. Now I won't even empty the shop vac without it. But unfortunately I got it too late. Particles that get in your lungs stay there forever, and I already have a permanent hacking cough. There are better ones now with smaller cannisters and much less restriction on your field of view.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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We've got an onboard HD monitor but the camera assistant can't figure out how to lower the brightness level (it's cranked way up) and neither can I. It has a knob that switches to control brightness among many other functions, but once it's there, there seems to be no way to raise and lower the level. I've pushed every button on the damn thing.

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In my view for fast shooting with inexperienced crew the Panavised HD kit is a hindrence. It is (well) designed to be operated by a full 35mm crew.

 

A video drama kit style is more appropriate, lighter, smaller but lenses not as fast, but then it maybe that the focus puller is inexperienced so T2.1 is better than T1.6!

 

It is always a tough call to let someone else operate and the director must be in on the call. Let the assistant operate on a partially lit rehersal while you watch.

 

If you are averaging a few takes per scene then jump in and operate *after* the first take, by which time you have nailed major problems, had a quick chat to the director about minor framing or camera move changes. Call the first take a final rehersal on tape.

If the first take was good for everyone but you ask for another take with you behind the camera.

 

Search for ways of turning the situation to your advantage... doesn't always happen.

 

 

Shot a monolouge in a studio recently, in a bit of a hurry, no focus puller, director sat by the 24inch. Pulled the camera back for a slightly wider shot, forgot to refocus, the experienced director didn't notice picture was slightly soft as there wasn't anything in frame that indicated focus was off. (no forground) Cringe when I see it on the big screen... everyone is too polite to ask how can a mid shot be soft?

 

Lesson?, there is no garantee that other crew members will notice that focus is off unless they are tasked with the task. Ditto mic coffee cups or call sheets in shot.

 

Low budget HD is a balancing act of comprimises in return for often *exceptional* production value for the budget, a team effort where no one individual can be truely satisfied with technical quality but can be proud of a collaberation and end result that defies the budget and limited resources. I refer to it as working for the audience, giving the best you can under the circumstances, having said that not risking health and safety of crew and talent is paramont and is difficult when as DP you are responsible for inexperienced crew on a manic schedule.

 

 

Mike Brennan

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We've got an onboard HD monitor but the camera assistant can't figure out how to lower the brightness level (it's cranked way up) and neither can I.  It has a knob that switches to control brightness among many other functions, but once it's there, there seems to be no way to raise and lower the level.  I've pushed every button on the damn thing.

 

I'm guessing it's an Astro monitor (the most common). The setup varies from model to model, but I know that the main function knob will get you to a value menu where you can adjust the settings and then select to save them. Usually keeps them even if power is removed, but this again varies from model to model. Is it the one with the waveform built in? I think on this model you have to select one of the function buttons on the side to get to the settings menu and the rotating knob has nothing to do with it.

 

I have not used the ERG screens except during a test so I can't speak to them. The Panasonic is the easiest to use. Really blows the others away in all regards IMHO.

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How I met Jamie and Andrea is one of the odder connections in my career. They were making a short film with another producer who was the younger sister of a high school friend of mine, back when I lived in the desert (Ridgecrest, CA) -- I hadn't seen her since she was thirteen (!), but she had heard I was a DP now and found my phone number and called me.

 

So I shot the short "Stuck" for them in 35mm anamorphic, it got into Sundance and won an award, then I got asked to shoot the feature version of "D.E.B.S." also produced by Andrea.

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David,

 

About your problem with the Astro monitor, it sounds like your using the old Astro 3000, underneath the main control knob there should be a small momentary switch with a "-" and a "+" on it. Set your knob to "bright" and then keep switching the switch toward the "-" until you notice it get darker. If this is not working then the switch might be broken. Good luck with the rest of your shoot.

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David you are a very patient man. Your assistant should certainly take the monitor into Panavision Dallas in his off time and have the problem resolved. If real world experience is the goal this is what he/she must do in the real world. You are working in the land of Rodriquez and so there are HD savvy crewmembers in the Austin, TX area. Perhaps someone has a contact and can bring in an experienced camera tech to watch and help your camera crew improve their working practice. Teaching the crew to use the gear is not your job obviously but one must do the best with what is available. On the slow zoom trouble I wonder if undoing the zoom motor and hand zooming several times from long to short and back might spread and warm up the lube and help keep the zoom smooth on your slow zooms. Your grace under fire is admirable. Hope things improve for you.

 

David Campbell

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  • 3 weeks later...
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"DOT" Part 2

 

Weeks 3 & 4

 

I just wrapped on ?Dot? last week. We spent Week 3 mostly at Jim Bowie High School. Most of the scenes were day.

 

We had a large cafeteria with a 17?-high ceiling, lit with Cool Whites. In available light, I had a T/2.0-2.8 split, with some natural daylight coming from windows on the sides. Unfortunately, we were shooting splits, going into night while in the cafeteria. We hated the view out the windows ? red-roofed buildings that were out of our blue-green color scheme ? so we papered the windows with 1000H, after which I was told that we used up ALL of our 1000H roll with no budget to buy some more. First time I?ve been on a show where they couldn?t buy tracing paper! This meant I had to be careful about the number of times I pulled down the paper and put it back up, for example, to let hard light beam in. It also meant that in my later locations, I couldn?t rely on papering the windows. I gelled the lamps with 1/2 Plus Green to match (somewhat) the overheads, which I also was mostly overpowering by bouncing 4K HMI?s off of the ceiling. I guess I could have just turned all the overheads off and saved myself some trouble gelling everything Plus Green, but I was never sure when I was going to need to sweep back my lights and have to rely more on the overheads to light the shot. There were some big cement columns in the center of the room; I mounted a 1200watt HMI PAR at the top of one to backlight the main character?s table. For some scenes, I used a narrow lens to get a really hot backlight. For one scene, I turned it off (bored with the look) and went with a hot slash of sunlight coming from the side. Overall, in the widest shots, trying also to make it look like it was still daylight through many windows and glass doors in the background, I used every light I had: (1) 18K HMI, (2) 4K HMI PAR, (2) 2.5K HMI PAR, (2) 1.2K HMI PAR, plus most of my Kinoflos. Then the director noticed another room in the far background that was dark but I had to tell her I was out of lights and power ? and time.

 

This brings me to another odd problem I had: all the HMI PAR?s we rented from Panavision Dallas did not come with spot lenses; some had nothing narrower than a medium lens! Apparently they figure that if you want a spot, you just pull the lens but I think this looks odd with all of the color fringing.

 

We did one scene in the cafeteria serving line area, a separate room. This had a row of small windows to one side, so I turned off the overheads. I played around with the color temperatures a lot in this scene: I gelled the windows with Full CTO, set the camera to 3200K balance, had HMI light (gelled tungsten now) shining through the windows, and lit the faces, backlit by the 3200K ?sun?, with daylight Kino tubes mounted to the underside of top counter of the hot food serving table. So this threw a soft blue glow from below on their faces. The background cafeteria visible through interior windows and doors in the other background were lit with uncorrected Cool White flourescent, so went cyan. Looked sort of moody for a cafeteria, but I just couldn?t bring myself to shoot another overhead fluorescent-lit scene!

 

I shot a lot of scenes with the papered, HMI blown-out windows in the background, flaring around people?s heads due to the 1/8 ProMist on the camera. Looked a little surreal, but I sort of went with it rather than bring down the brightness of the windows. Sometimes you risk balancing things too much in HD and suddenly it looks like a video soap opera.

 

The last week was the toughest due to big locations each night, no room to shoot much beyond 12 hours, past sunrise, because we would lose night unless we started no later than 7PM each day, but I had to factor in crew wrap time, yet still give myself 12 hours of shooting time. For some of the days, we managed to get the pre-rig crew, working on the gymnasium for two big scenes, to visit us on location and become the wrap crew. Shot in a boring cafe location, just a glass wall looking out into a dull street. Tried to make it interesting by taping bare Kino tubes, alternating bluescreen and greenscreen tubes with ND.60 on them, onto the glass in a pattern of vertical lines. That same night, we moved to a movie theater. I needed to rig every shot to go from soft overhead lighting, fade that out, and then fade up a movie projector effect playing on the faces. I double-armed two Chinese Lanterns overhead, on dimmers, and for the movie lighting effect, I had three 2K?s, two on flicker boxes and one on a dimmer, all shining through a large frame of Half-Grid. I put 1/2 Blue on the lights so it felt different from the overhead Chinese Lantern look.

 

Then, wouldn?t you know it, they couldn?t get one of the Chinese Lanterns to work. Electrics spent ten minutes taking it apart, replacing the bulb, the socket, etc. Turned out that the plug, pressed into the end of some zip cord, was not put on properly and hadn?t made contact with the wire. Rather frustrating considering a Chinese Lantern is probably the simplest lighting unit ever designed.

 

Just the day before, in our last scene at the high school, a nighttime corridoor shot, I used the Chinese Lantern as the key and because I was told that the other cables finally arrived for the Dedolights so I could use more than one, I decided to use all three Dedolights on the background since they needed to be scissor-clipped to the ceiling tiles to be out of the shot. Well, after rigging all three lights, the Dedolight ballast died. Then the Chinese Lantern died. They thought it was the bulb but it turned out that the socket was melting. I had assumed we were using porcelain sockets in all the Chinese Lanterns but it turned out that we weren?t carrying any. Anyway, we got the Chinese Lantern to work by turning it off between takes, and we re-rigged all of the Dedos with Inkies and Peppers.

 

I hung 40 tungsten 1K Parcans in the gymnasium (well, I didn?t, the pre-rig crew did). For the basketball game scene, we put a piece of opal at the bottom of each one, or maybe it was 250, because I didn?t want a lot of hot spots on the gym floor. We left the room after lunch and moved across campus to shoot a love scene in an Olympic swimming pool room. This place had lots of windows, which I mostly lit with a single 18K on a rooftop of a neighboring building as ?moonlight?. Then I took a 4K HMI PAR and skipped if off the water to create rippling light patterns on the walls. Played the exposure fairly dark. We shot the wide establishing shot from across the other side of the pool, looking at the two actors in the distance, sitting on the edge of the pool. We did a slow sideways dolly move on a wide-angle lens (8mm end of the zoom, sort of like an 18mm or 20mm in 35mm). When we moved in for the coverage, we realized it would look better if we crossed the line and shot the close-ups with the pool behind their heads.

 

The next night we were at Bull Creek State Park for a scene where two girls talk at the river?s edge and then cross it. The river ran right past a small parking area; we picked a shooting spot upstream from the parking lot, which was ideally hidden in the background by some trees. I was hoping to get a 100? Condor to get the backlight up over the trees and centered over the river. Budget forced me to settle for an 80? Condor, but then production failed to get us the extra 20? of cabling we needed, forcing the Condor to extend no more than 60?! Now I couldn?t get the light OVER the treetops; it had to peek out from one side of the trees. And now it was too low to keep the flare out of the lens at 8mm and I also had to shoot the wide shot slightly at a high angle to frame the light out of the top of the shot. It also now couldn?t hit the spot where the girls were standing, so I had to set up a 2500watt HMI PAR on some parallels off to one side as a raking three-quarter backlight on them.

 

We also did a scene where the girls run through the woods. One section was just backlit by the Condor, by now only using a 4K HMI because the 18K HMI broke down. It was a Steadicam shot chasing and following the girls, which we shot looking the same direction to keep the shot backlit. The only fill came from a 2? 2-bank Kino handheld, but because we were rushed and lost Steadicam image reception at our monitor, we didn?t notice that the girls ran so much faster than the Steadicam and light that the fill did not really show up on them when I played the shot back. By then, we had to move on because we were so far behind. So if the shot ends up in the movie, hopefully people will like how silhouette it looks. We also shot a sideways tracking shot of the girls running; here the problem was that the woods were so dense that the backlight could barely penetrate. It was mostly lit with a soft fill from above provided by a row of Chinese Lanterns with blue-dipped photofloods (sort of stole the idea from Stephen Burum, who lit some jungle scenes in ?Casualties of War? that way.)

 

Last day of the shoot was back at the gym, now redressed for a high school prom dance. The overhead lamps were gelled blue & green, but at this far point in the story, we introduced the color red, so I had some backlights gelled red for some shots. We had SO much to shoot this night that it really was just about hopping around the gym floor and adding a few lights on stands. We had two cameras and to save some time, I suggested shooting both directions at once since I could use the extras to hide light stands. So we plowed through the scenes, perhaps a bit brutally for my tastes.

 

But we finished the movie, on schedule. The last three days could have fallen apart, but thanks to careful planning and spending some money on pre-rigging, mostly handled by our Best Boy Electric, Josh, it all worked out. Despite the faulty equipment and some inexperience among some crew members, I must admit we got the job done mainly through hard work on everyone?s part, for which I am grateful.

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Sure, but there's always compromising going on. The trick is to not make it show up too much in the final product. An audience doesn't know what you intended to do, only what you did. Hopefully the editor will help too, to minimize the weaker shots in favor of the stronger ones. But ultimately, you just have to have faith that the story and performances will hold the viewer's attention even when the photography isn't shining.

 

Actually, a lot of the movie turned out looking better than I thought, mainly because the director, Jamie Babbit, pushed so hard on all fronts to make this movie look like more than its budget, from costumes, to make-up, to locations, to art direction -- she always wanted it better, always held out for something more if possible. So my biggest disappointment was when I couldn't make it look as good as she wanted it to, either due to a lacking on my part or limitations imposed on me. What helped me, to some extent, was that she didn't feel we had to be too constrained by naturalism -- i.e. if the scene looked more interesting to leave the room lights off and play it all in moonlight and silhouettes, she'd rather do that even if in real life, someone would turn on a lamp. Of course, the end result is that the nocturnal world of the family home is more expressionistic and atmospheric than the daytime high school world, which is justifiable storywise.

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After the online session to create the HD master, there is usually a color-correction session in a DaVinci suite.  There is usually no budget leftover for any work in a Flame or Inferno suite.  So until DaVinci starts offering digital diffusion as part of their software package, and I know that everytime I walk into a color-correction session, digital diffusion is an easy and fast option, I'll stick to using camera filters.  But if it takes booking a separate session in another room, I can guarantee that it will remain an uncommon technique because it will be too easy for a producer to change their minds and cancel it, unlike the color-correction session, which is sort of inevitable.

 

Anyway, I like post diffusion effects but I think it looks different from optical diffusion.

 

 

Just wondering what your thoughts were on using the defocus key bus on da vinci 2K, perhaps in low levels, in comparison to optical diffusion. I'm not sure if you have used the defocus on da vinci, do you mean something different when you say "digital diffusion"?

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I've used Defocus with Power Windows with the DaVinci, once to create a soft vignette and another time to try and hide some bad join lines on some prosthetic make-up, so it's a useful tool.

 

However, diffusion is not the same as soft focus. Diffusion, whether digital or optical, is achieved by overlaying an out-of-focus image over a sharp image. This is the principle behind the bubbles or "lenslets" in filters like Classic Soft or Soft-FX; it's also the principle behind nets. To create this type of diffusion in post requires something like a Flame or Inferno, or editing software with this sort of efx software. Phil has demo'd the effect here, by creating a layer effect (unsharp image over sharp image), sort of a Gaussian Blur I guess.

 

A color-corrector like a DaVinci currently does not offer this.

 

You could use Defocus to soften a close-up, but I'd suggest using Power Windows to at least leave the area around the eyes sharp. Otherwise the image just looks blurry.

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I'm doing some extra diffusion work on the final grade to smooth out some keying issues, I'm using sapphire fx on After Effects and even at 2k the render times are not too bad. This type of digital post can be done effectively and cheaply on desktop machines (although the mac system i'm using including cards and monitors does run in to the tens of thousands). Its time to stop relying on expensive post houses and overpriced sushi and inferno combinations!

 

Keith

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Has anybody else here played with the 55mm filters? I really like the diffusion effects you can get out of them, and again, they render pretty fast on a G5 with After Effects (and work in 16-bit RGB too).

 

Of course you have to balance the fact that this non-real-time workflow can take days to render, especially at 1920x1080. Even if it took 1 second to render per frame, then we're talking a 24 hour render for 1 hour of footage/film (this is per processor or machine, so render farms not included, but that of course increases the $$$).

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Hi,

 

> Its time to stop relying on expensive post houses and overpriced sushi and

> inferno combinations!

 

I have been saying this for years... remember to get Truelight for accurate colour reproduction in Shake!

 

Phil "Yes, I work for them" Rhodes

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