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Jennifer's Body


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Two comedies, huh?

 

I always get a kick out of how the older movies would mix a handful of real exteriors with sound stage "exteriors." Hitchcock did it to the point of insanity. Hahah. Sometimes with Hitch it seems like it was probably more trouble than it was worth having to try to match those shots up, but he stuck to it.

 

Yeah those definitely sound like potential RED features. I don't see why not. The workflow should be really nice by the time those pictures roll. You could probably get massive (even on-set) support from Jim and Co.

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The question would be whether to embrace the unreality and match the fakier look of old stagework in 50's movies, use tricks like rear projection, painted backdrops, hard lighting... or do your best to make the sets in fake sunlight look as believable as possible.

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The question would be whether to embrace the unreality and match the fakier look of old stagework in 50's movies, use tricks like rear projection, painted backdrops, hard lighting... or do your best to make the sets in fake sunlight look as believable as possible.

Are there still artists around who know how to do glass mattes, painted backdrops, optical effects, and other old school techniques? For instance it seems that when many people try to recreate a Noir look the final product looks much too neat and clean compared to the originals. There's an organic look to many old films that probably is the sum result of Art Direction, Cinematography, film stock, optical post, etc., etc.

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The number of efx shots are probably similar to other genres in this budget range that need some effects. I don't know the number but it's not huge. We also have prosthetic make-up effects to deal with, and some of those shots need augmenting with post digital efx. And some simple stuff like rig removals, wire removal, etc.

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The tech scout is a tradition, and part of it is that the major players of the crew get together for the first time and really talk to each other and listen to the director describe how the scenes will be shot. It's sort of the first bonding experience for the crew.

 

 

It sounds like it could be lots of fun, like lots of people going off on a little holiday in a bus.

There should be chocolate ice cream tho. Or at least flake 99! ;)

 

love

 

Freya

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It sounds like it could be lots of fun, like lots of people going off on a little holiday in a bus.

 

I don't know about it being fun or a holiday. That WOULD be nice. The films I have worked on, it usually is very intense, get on the bus, listen to production and the director, get off at a location, take notes, try to find everything you need, talk to other the department heads about their needs and yours, find common ground, get on the bus again and on and on for 12 hrs for several days if there are a lot of locations to film at.

 

Most films aren't fun to work on, unless one is calling the shots and even then, I have seen big name directors / producers (including a recent Oscar winner) flip out constantly and verbally abuse those around them. Maybe THEY had fun, us, not so much. It is no fun being at the bottom.

 

Unfortunately most people I have worked with make a hard job even harder for an infinite number of reasons. I still don't know exactly why. That is the main reason I only prep movies now. One week before principal photography starts I am ready to bail. When I get on I tell my key I can only prep the show, if he/ she still wants me on, great. Otherwise I just find something else to do.

Just yesterday I turned down a work offer on a film for that reason: I just can't deal with the madness and abuse for long periods of time, but then again, I usually am low in the totem pole, so it usually is hell. And I get disgruntled very fast. Commercials are shorter so the madness is not long lasting, and I can deal with that a lot better.

 

Again, that is my personal experience, and the definition of fun is subjective. I am sure that others will disagree, including people who have also crewed movies I have worked on.

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It seems like you've done a lot of work for this film in a short time. Bravo.

 

 

I did have a question about the D.I. process you're going through. I work at the datacine at Chapman University and we pipe all of the footage we scan into two sans that connect directly to a two lustre coloring stations. I was under the impression that when you do you coloring you can work in log/ lin/ or rec 709, that it was all a matter of preference, because it only changes which LUT you are using while you color.

 

Please give me any of you thoughts on this if you have time.

 

thanks and good luck on your shoot.

 

-Jon

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It seems like you've done a lot of work for this film in a short time. Bravo.

 

 

I did have a question about the D.I. process you're going through. I work at the datacine at Chapman University and we pipe all of the footage we scan into two sans that connect directly to a two lustre coloring stations. I was under the impression that when you do you coloring you can work in log/ lin/ or rec 709, that it was all a matter of preference, because it only changes which LUT you are using while you color.

 

Yes, that's one way of working (the better way for D.I.'s). Another would be to create a final HD master in Rec 709 gamma encoded video and apply a LUT for transfer to film in LOG form -- basically treat the whole project like it was for HD broadcast.

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We just finished the first week, only four days because Good Friday is a holiday here.

 

These were all the dialogue scenes at the high school, except for some exteriors and a gymnasium to be shot at a different school weeks from now.

 

The first two days were tough and easy simultaneously because they involved a lot of Steadicam walk-n-talks down windowless fluorescent-lit hallways. I thought about reglobing all the fixtures with 3200K tubes (they normally have Cool Whites) but there was a big lobby in the background of the T-shaped intersection of two halls that would have required a lot of gelling to convert to 3200K, so I had the ceiling tubes swapped to Kino 55 tubes.

 

We put an HMI Joker with a small Chimera on it at the end of a boom pole as a way of adding some fill / eye light, especially to help bring up the dark intervals between some of the fixtures, plus give me an extra half-stop on the actors. If the actors actually landed in a spot and the camera didn't continue the move, I sometimes turned off the overhead right over them and used a 4-bank Kinoflo on a stand so that the light wasn't so toppy.

 

At 320 ASA on 5219, I had a T/2.8 in available light and a T/2.8-4 split with my walking fill on. I used the LLD filter to deal with the daylight balance.

 

At the end of the two hallways the art department put a window flat that I backed with 1000H paper and backlit; this created a nice sheen on the floor and lockers in the far background.

 

The only creative twist to the hallway stuff was to make the window light at the ends of the hallway gelled half-orange for earlier scenes in the movie and half-blue for later scenes. I also added some warm spots of light coming through doors as if were sunlight in the earlier scenes.

 

I did do one 300mm shot lit for 60 fps (although we ended up shooting at 40 fps instead, which is also a safe speed for overhead fluorescents) -- we opened up some drop ceiling panels and put a series of HMI Jokers in a row so I could spot light the lead actress walking slow-motion down the center of the hallway. The sides of the frame fell-off more to make her pop out from the crowd. I ended up at at T/2.8-4 split at 40 fps, which was tough for the focus-puller on a 300mm as someone walks right at the lens.

 

The third day was in a classroom. Though it only had two small windows at each end of the room, I tried to light the middle with soft light from the same direction as the windows, side-lit, rather than just go for an overhead fluorescent-lit look. I used two 8-bank Kino Image 80's in a row along the wall, sometimes with the stands on the counter. Luckily I never had a wide shot looking straight at the window wall, otherwise I would have had to rig the Kinos or a bounce above the frameline.

 

I decided to light the classroom for 3200K. The reason was that for later scenes, I wanted some fluorescent tubes in background display cases to have a blue-green tint by using Cool Whites -- if I had lit the room for 5500K, then the Cool White tubes would have just rendered a sickly yellow-ish green, not a deep cyan. The earlier scene, again like in the hallway, had some warm light coming through the windows. I put Full CTO on the windows to correct daylight to 3200K and then 1/2 CTO on the HMI's shining in for a warm sunny look. I rigged a 3200K Source-4 with 1/2 CTO to give a partial backlight as if from the window for one of our leads, as if a piece of stray sunlight was raking her elbow and lower hair (I've started a habit of "misaiming" backlights so that they only glance or hit part of a person, which looks more natural than a perfectly backlit head unless they are standing right next to the window -- but as soon as someone stands several feet from a window, it's more likely that the late afternoon or morning sun would still only hit their lower body.)

 

Then in the later scene, I switched to 1/2 CTO correction on the windows for a cooler look inside on 3200K stock, and only soft HMI light shining through for a more overcast day look inside. Also, while in the earlier scene, I had Kino 32 tubes in the display cases, in this scene, I had Cool Whites so that there was this cyan color in the background of some angles.

 

I barely used any fill light since the key was soft -- the fill was a heavily diffused 4-bank Kino with just one tube on. And even then, in dailies, it looks like I used a lot more fill light. These modern stocks are almost too good; there is too much shadow detail on the negative. I guess I could compensate by using no fill at all, but I like seeing a little catchlight in the actors' eyes from the fill. But I've been knocking the fill down to almost nothing and yet it looks like (to me) that I'm using too much in dailies.

 

On close-ups, I put the 8-bank Image 80 through a frame of 216 to soften it further.

 

The last day was in a large atrium of the school, with two rows of skylights, which I had to cover with some grid cloths. Despite the large number of overcast days here in Vancouver, this had to be a partly cloudy/sunny and very windy day where the sun came in and out during takes, and with all those skylights, it really caused the light level inside to jump up and down, driving me nuts. It was almost like being outside. Then by the end of the day, it socked in and the levels started dropping. I had two small condors outside that could put some HMI light through these skylights (they were in tiers or rows along the side of the atrium up high, not on the rooftop.) We also clamped some UltraBounces to the high ceiling (it must have been 30' high) which I could hit with Source-4 HMI's from below.

 

We did one shot of two people talking on a second floor balcony where I looked down into the atrium below as extras were crossing -- I was able to use a lot of available light for that shot and then hit the two actors from the skylight with an HMI as if it were the sun. For fill on the close-ups, I just used some white cards to catch the window light.

 

Next week we move to one of the main houses in the story, which some darker and creepier scenes at night scheduled.

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I printed tests and then I printed a dozen different shots from Day One's footage. I may print some more next week once we're in a new location.

 

The video transfer off of the negative shows almost a stop more information in the shadows than the print, but the question is do I shoot for the negative with a D.I. in mind, or do I shoot for print contrast and perhaps plan on adding some contrast back in later? I guess the safe thing would be to light for the narrower range that a print can show and keep trying to convince the dailies colorist to crush the blacks a little more, then do what I want in the D.I.. But I also think creatively, lighting-wise, that I need to start playing things a little more dramatically and not be so conservative.

 

I've been watching the new DVD's of Deakin's work on "No Country for Old Men" and "Jesse James", plus just watched "The Yards" (shot by Harris Savides) and am impressed by how little fill light is used by those guys. They are not afraid of things rolling off to black.

 

But my technique for night work has always been to add a little light into the shadows and the faces, because a glint in the eye can make all the difference between a shot feeling too dark or having just the right amount of darkness, because you are catching something of the actor's expression in the dark. I always have felt that my best night work has always been well-exposed and printed down.

 

This is always the problem of shooting hundreds of thousands of feet of film in a feature and never getting to supervise the video transfer during that time, only months later after editing is finished. At least in my HD features, I put the amount of darkness or fill that I wanted for the final look right there on the set and had it locked in during editing.

 

One thing I pushed, partly because everyone staying at this nice hotel they've put us up in (Sutton Place on Burrard) has these big flatscreen 16x9 HDTV's in their room (though because you can't control the brightness or color yourself, I bought another smaller 16x9 TV with my per diem) is to finally get our DVD dailies to be true 16x9 anamorphic (with a 1.85 mask) and not 4x3 letterboxed as is tradition, a holdover from the days of VHS dailies and editing software that couldn't display 16x9 footage properly.

 

This took some convincing but since almost everyone is starting to watch these DVD's on widescreen monitors (and even if they have a 4x3 TV set, a DVD player can display 16x9 anamorphic properly unsqueezed as a letterboxed image) it seems silly to watch 4x3 letterboxed DVD's for dailies, where you end up with a windowboxed 1.85 image with black borders on all four sides.

 

I also wanted the DVD dailies to be 480P instead of 60i, but apparently that was harder to do without glitches or extra time. That would have also improved the quality even more.

 

There is an HDCAM-SR transfer of all the footage that I should be able to watch when I want to as well. The real problem is that we shoot Monday-thru-Friday during business hours, so making time for screenings in the evening is very hard. Luckily Technicolor is only three blocks from my hotel though.

 

I like 5219, though in print dailies, it seems similar to 5218 but with a little more red saturation. It transfers well to video, very clean-looking. Maybe I've become too enamored of digital photography these days, but it is interesting to me to notice that grain is an aspect of all the stocks, even the 100 ASA one. And the sharpness is just... OK. I don't think there is anything lacking in the Primo lenses I'm using, just that I got spoiled by shooting in anamorphic 35mm and now regular 35mm, even Super-35, just seems a bit muddier in comparison.

 

To me, the 35mm anamorphic image has all the best attributes of both film and digital -- sharp and clean-looking yet with texture and wide latitude.

 

I can also understand Geoff Boyle's observation that the Fuji Eterna stocks have more "personality" than Vision-3, though you could say that is a weakness or a strength depending on what you wanted from the image -- but I admit that the 5219 is slightly more pristine and "sterile" compared to Fuji. This is one reason why I think Fuji and anamorphic is a nice combination; you get both more clarity and detail yet all the gentler effects of Fuji on faces. Grain-wise, I think they are all rather close, but I think Fuji Eterna 500T is slightly finer-grained than 5218 but 5219 is slightly finer-grained than Eterna.

 

I'm also always surprised at how shallow-focus f/2.8 photography can be once you get close to objects -- as my AC Stephen Maier put it, it's always harder when you are focusing at a shorter distance than the focal length number, i.e. less than five feet on a 50mm, less than 7.5 feet on a 75mm, etc. He's really good at his job. One thing he convinced me of doing is getting close-focus versions of the Primos for the lenses that are 35mm and wider-angle, since we have a lot of dolly moves that get close to objects. On Wednesday, we had a 35mm shot that dollied away from a specimen jar in a science classroom only a foot from the lens and then racked to see two students about ten feet away.

 

I have found that with almost anyone operating the camera for me these days, except for Theo Pingarelli, who knows my tastes, it takes a few days of constantly reminding them to stop cropping the tops of heads in a medium head & shoulders close-up. I don't see the reason why, unless you have a specific reason like Conrad Hall did in "Bobby Fisher", to chop the top of the head when you are wide enough to see the shoulders. Otherwise, my operator for the first week, Brian Rose, did a top notch job, especially on the second day that was all Steadicam work. Our main operator, John Clothier, couldn't start until the second week. So I guess I might be also reminding him to watch the headroom...

 

I have a great local DP named Karl Herrman who agreed to do B-camera so I have someone who I can send off to get landscape shots or shoot inserts. It saddens me though that ever since "Northfork" and parts of "Astronaut Farmer", I haven't been able to shoot much of that sort of stuff due to time -- I keep trying to get production to throw in three extra days at the end of the shoot for me and an AC to run around and shoot landscapes, etc. but it never works out to be cost-effective compared to getting a 2nd Unit to do it. I guess they want to wrap up the production office and return equipment ASAP when the main unit wraps.

 

The problem is that on the low to mid-range union shoots that I normally shoot, often the B-camera operator is handed the task of getting inserts and whatnot, and often they are not experienced DP's, just operators who occasionally get to shoot. I think it makes a big difference when you get a talented DP to shoot your inserts and second unit stuff. So often in my past movies, I've had some mediocre inserts shot by other people, which kills me because I really like shooting inserts and lighting them well.

 

My dream would be to have all my insert shots look as good as the one's Ridley Scott did in "Blade Runner"!

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Hi David,

 

Do you take notes on the set about aperture, lighting, etc. or are you blessed with a phenomenal memory for detail? I'm pretty good at remembering technical details but nowhere near as good at it as you.

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I tell myself that someone day I'm going to have to hire an assistant to take down lighting notes, but so far, I have gotten by on my memory.

!!!!! Now I have yet another reason to be thoroughly jealous of your talent(s). :)

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It saddens me though that ever since "Northfork" and parts of "Astronaut Farmer", I haven't been able to shoot much of that sort of stuff due to time -- I keep trying to get production to throw in three extra days at the end of the shoot for me and an AC to run around and shoot landscapes, etc. but it never works out to be cost-effective compared to getting a 2nd Unit to do it. I guess they want to wrap up the production office and return equipment ASAP when the main unit wraps.

 

That sucks. Maybe you could request the time BEFORE the shoot for "scouting and cutaways", or just ask for very minimal equipment to it after? Of course, the cutaway shots from Northfork were some of my favorite from the whole picture. It probably depends on the type of picture, too. For a high school drama, getting epic cutaways would not be as vital as for a picture like Northfork or Jesse James or No Country.

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I was lucky on "Northfork" that they sent me up to Montana a few weeks before shooting started to get winter shots (in case Spring came too quickly) but generally my month of prep is pretty packed with work already. And for "Astronaut Farmer" we decided to make the title sequence shot in White Sands, NM, several hours south of Santa Fe, a one-day shoot with a small unit (me, the Polish Brothers, a camera crew) two days before we began the main unit.

 

But otherwise, the shoots I do aren't quite generous enough, schedule-wise, to allow me much time to grab that stuff.

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So that was basically a matter of luck that you had such a nice sunrise? Who was the guy on the horse?

 

I've never been to White Sands. I'm thinking of trying to shoot a timelapse at the VLA this year, so maybe I can sing by white sands, too.

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So that was basically a matter of luck that you had such a nice sunrise? Who was the guy on the horse?

 

I've never been to White Sands. I'm thinking of trying to shoot a timelapse at the VLA this year, so maybe I can sing by white sands, too.

 

Yes, luck is always a part of getting good skies in shots. The sunset at the funeral was also lucky. We had to wait for the final sunset (after he lands back on Earth) though -- we pushed that scene twice because the location had bald skies those days. But there was no way for the funeral scene or the opening to push those shooting days. The final scene could be moved around a little because it was just twenty minutes away from our ranch set.

 

The guy on the horse was a stuntman / rider.

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It's amazing how often you can get "lucky" when you're out in these beautiful places filming at 5:30AM or whatever. The fact is, a lot of sunrises are beautiful, but most of us are home in the suburbs still snoozing away that time of day. Half the battle is just getting yourself out to these great spots with a camera. :)

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I think it makes a big difference when you get a talented DP to shoot your inserts and second unit stuff. So often in my past movies, I've had some mediocre inserts shot by other people, which kills me because I really like shooting inserts and lighting them well.

 

My dream would be to have all my insert shots look as good as the one's Ridley Scott did in "Blade Runner"!

 

My hat off for caring so much about EVERY shot, even inserts. A lot of the people I have worked with don't seem to care unless it's a closeup, which I completely don't understand.

 

Have you considered trying to find an arri 2c or something inexpensive to rent to take and do those scenics and inserts yourself after main stuff wraps? I can't imagine, in the scheme of things, that it would be too pricy to pay you and an AC for a little extra time to do that well.

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Have you considered trying to find an arri 2c or something inexpensive to rent to take and do those scenics and inserts yourself after main stuff wraps? I can't imagine, in the scheme of things, that it would be too pricy to pay you and an AC for a little extra time to do that well.

 

That's not a bad idea, except for that whole "need some rest" thing after wrap... trouble is that I don't consistently shoot the same format on all my shows, some movies have been 3-perf, some 4-perf anamorphic, some HD. So I'd get into the issue of perhaps having my Arri shots in 4-perf for a 3-perf project. Not to mention getting a Panavision lens mount for Panavision shows, unless I got a set of lenses for the Arri too.

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So I'd get into the issue of perhaps having my Arri shots in 4-perf for a 3-perf project.

We mix 4-perf stock and inserts into 3-perf shows all the time. With optical printing a thing of the past, 3-perf features will be DI. Once you're into a DI, you can come from either 3 or 4, no problem.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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