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Jennifer's Body


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Love your third still David, the wide shot in the woods looks very moody.

 

I agree, the interplay of the blue moonlight 18k HMI and the more warm foreground light which brings out the green in the trees is really nice. You mentioned all the lights were HMI's, however, the 18 K looks a lot more blue in relationship to the overhead balloon and the joker. Were any of them gelled, or is this one of the DSLR innacuracies?

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David your stills photographer was shooting 400 ISO at an f2.8 at night? How long was his exposure?

 

He was shooting at f/2.8, but at 800 ASA with a 1/100th shutter, whereas I was at 400 ASA with a 1/48th shutter, more or less the same exposure.

 

I didn't gel any of the lights in the woods shot, but this was uncorrected on my still camera set to 3200K whereas I plan on timing some of the blue out in the D.I., so in Photoshop, I subtracted a little blue and added a little red and green; this shifted some of the colors of things. I think the main reason the background light looks bluer is that the foreground light is hitting a brown tree trunk & green moss.

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jb6.jpg

 

Really nice. Kind of reminds me of a shot in Braveheart when Wallace was asleep, dreaming that he was talking to Muron in the woods. I wish I had that screencap handy.

 

Again, really well done.

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We've been working a week of nights, with one more week of it to go -- you never really get used to working from sunset to sunrise everyday and then going home to bed... Plus there are less than 11 hours of true night, so it's always something of a rush at the end to finish up as the sky is lightening.

 

We did our second day in the suburban park on Monday, which I lit with tungsten streetlamps (w/ 500w bulbs in them) plus tungsten lights coming from off-camera -- then I had the dailies timed with a half-orange look by shooting the grey scale under a 3200K light with half-blue gel on it. Just for some variation from the many blue moonlight scenes that we have. We had a long dialogue scene under a tree in the park, which I lit mostly from one side with a soft light, and a backlight from a condor (an 18K HMI with Full CTO on it.) Here is a shot of us at work -- the scene itself was exposed much darker than what you see. The frame of Half Soft Frost in the tree tops is not for lighting, but to keep the rain drops off of the actors. The week started out very cold and drizzly (but now it's sunny & warm today.)

 

jb9.jpg

 

This shot of the stand-ins is closer to the look (sorry but the focus is off in my snapshot). This photo is of the master, whereas the crew photo above was done while shooting one of the close-ups, where I switched to a much larger soft light:

 

jb11.jpg

 

Tuesday was spent finishing coverage under that tree and then moving down the road to shoot a stunt; because the car comes down one road, makes a turn, and makes a sudden stop on the next road, I had to look wide down three directions on two roads, needing a condor at three ends. Even though I lit two blocks up for moonlight, the director was still concerned that we didn't have enough roadway to get a sense of the driving, but all through the week, I essentially was lighting a couple of football fields of night exterior up and it was never quite enough for all the screen action. But it certainly made lighting go very slowly, being areas with no available light (and the location was supposed to look isolated anyway, so a lot of streetlamps or storefront lights made no sense.)

 

Wednesday we moved across town to a undeveloped parkland area, where a roadside tavern (three-walled exterior front only) was built for the production and then blown-up & burned down by the end of the first day, after which we shot aftermath scene on the following days. First time I've shot a major fire scene; I tried to get the light levels up, close to an f/4, so that the fire would not burn-out to white too much. This was a case where the extended overexposure range of the 5219 stock seemed to help because the fire kept its orange color.

 

The surrounding area of the tavern, the parking lot, had a metal halide lamp on a pole at each end with I augmented with a light on a high condor with a similar color (HMI with 1/4 CTO + 1/2 Plus Green). The hard part was lighting a scene without a big fire going and then turning on the fire just before we rolled.

 

Here is a shot of us shooting the aftermath scene. The art department got me three halogen work lights to dress in the rubble as if the investigators had set them up; I also backlit everything with an 18K HMI (no green this time) on a condor and added a soft fill from one side with a 4K HMI bounced into a 12'x12'. Again, this photo was exposed brighter than how I exposed the scene:

 

jb10.jpg

 

We had a 40' GFM crane with a Libra head on it.

 

We ended the week in the woods shooting coverage for a scene where the master will be shot next week. The reason is because the wide shot will be done at night in the mountains next to a big waterfall (which is a huge area to light) and the sound of the waterfall is deafening, not the mention that the site is remote and hard to light. So we shot reverse angles in the trees of the park for all the dialogue. Besides the moonlit look, the question was what other sources we might have -- we had some flashlights for when the characters walk through the woods to the spot, but the scene action meant that the characters shouldn't be holding flashlights anymore. I thought about having them hang a camping lantern (and the ones I was shown by the art department had green fluorescent bulbs in them, so there was some discussion of how to convert it to tungsten) but then in the last minute, we got permission by the park (and the park where the waterfall is) to use a burning torch for the scene (it makes sense story-wise) -- the efx people rigged up a propane-fed torch that was propped up in the center of the space. Then I just augmented the light with some flickering orange off-camera.

 

All week of nights, I sort of alternated shooting some scenes at 400 ASA with normal processing and 640 ASA with a one-stop push -- mainly it depended on balancing to other sources like flashlights -- I pushed the film when I didn't want to overpower those sources. In two cases above, the photos, I didn't have to push the film -- the park was lit to an f/2.8 generally at 400 ASA, and this aftermath scene with the police and fire trucks was lit to an f/2.8 at 320 ASA. However, I then switched to 640 ASA with a one-stop push for the flashlight & torch-lit scene in the woods.

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Great looking stuff David. I believe I can see the final look in my mind's eye. :)

And I'm not sure if it's the angle the photo was taken at or on account of something else but the 18k HMI on the condor looks like it's incredibly high up!

 

Thanks again for the notes and thoughts.

 

Evan W.

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But the hard scene that we spent nearly two full days on was a suspense scene inside the house with no lights on, which was particularly hard because the main corridor in the house was windowless and covered with dark brown wallpaper.

 

David, how much control do you usually have over production design? Obviously you collaborate with the PD, but in a situation where it makes it more challenging to light the space, especially in this case and for moody horror, what's the tipping point between "that will look cool" and "we need to be able to do this practically"? Kudos for making it work though. Thanks for the updates, and have fun!

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Thanks for posting the journal, David, it's informative as always. I'm glad you're posting the stills as well, they're very helpful in seeing what you're doing.

 

 

i second that. your reports along with the images showing the results have taught me a great deal. thank you very much.

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We just finished Week Five, our last week of all-night shooting... :blink:

 

It's pretty exhausting, dealing with the change in sleep schedules, and now going back to waking up at 5AM after spending two weeks getting up at 3PM.

 

Monday was potentially a nightmare because we had two scenes to get before sunset and then we had three large night exteriors to light, the front yard of a ranch house, then the backyard (requiring a different condor position), and then a rural road. Since almost everyone in the house was supposed to be asleep, there was only moonlight as a source for all these night scenes.

 

Anyway, we started out shooting a flashback with two small kids playing the younger versions of our leads. I used a 45mm and 90mm slant-focus lens (actually I just put a 2X extender on the 45mm to get 90mm) to throw parts of the frame out of focus, which is always tough for the focus-puller since you have to get eye-focuses for everything and if the operator slightly pans side to side, all those eye-focuses are useless. But it looked interesting. We then did another flashback at magic hour, of a little girl staring up at a "scary" bare tree with long branches drooping down. We used a 14mm lens in a low-angle under the hanging branches to make the tree seem to loom and surround the little girl, and then did a slight boom up into the branches.

 

We then did the wide night shots of the front and back of the house, a moving POV shot made on the Steadicam with a 17.5mm lens. This was done on 5219 rated at 400ASA.

 

Then we moved down the road from the house to shoot a scene of two people who meet each other in the middle of the night on a moonlit road. I had two 18K HMI's on a condor way up the road (maybe nearly two city blocks away) and even at full spot, I only got an f/1.4 at 640 ASA (5219 with a one-stop push). I had to add a 4K HMI on a high stand to light the midground up the road, and then hide a 6K HMI way up the road to rake another dark patch of woods at the top of the road.

 

As always, I've had trouble getting the lights in the air out of the frame even with 125' condors, because of their distance. I had to shoot the wide shot on a 40mm lens so that I could compress the space a little and not see so much into the sky where the lights were. This is a shot of stand-ins while I was working, shot at a f/2-2.8 split. There are still some crew members at work in the shot. I had to hide a 400w Joker on the right side of the road, hidden with some portable pine trees we stuck in there, to edge light the person standing with their back to the condor light, to separate them from the black road:

 

jb24.jpg

 

The next day we did some driving shots on two streets, one developed and occupied and the second, unfinished and without electricity. I had two condors with one 18K HMI each on them to rake each side of the unfinished / unoccupied / unpowered street, after getting the streetlamps disconnected (the occupied street was lit by an 18K HMI corrected to 3200K, but the unfinished street was lit for moonlight with 1/4 CTO on the HMI's). Again, even with 125' condors, I couldn't get them out of the top of frame with a wide-angle lens. Rather than use a 40mm or 50mm, I decided to use a 17.5mm but shoot the wide shot from a crane about 30' in the air, so that the lights were just above the frameline. But in this snapshot, standing on the ground, I had to stick my fingers in front of the lens to hide the two condor lights in the middle of the frame:

 

jb25.jpg

 

I decided to try and not push the film for this night work, so I got the light level up so I could shoot at a f/2-2.8 split at 400 ASA.

 

On Wednesday we drove up into the mountains where I had to light a tall waterfall and small gorge in the background of a scene lit by a torch. This scene was pushed one-stop, mainly to get more exposure from the burning torch. I had plenty of exposure on the waterfall from HMI's and had to scrim everything way down to balance with the torch in the shot.

 

On Thursday we moved to our week or so of stage work; even though we didn't need to be shooting during the night, we were on a night schedule anyway, so we shot this stuff at night. We have Friday off so we can get turned around to daylight hours for the rest of the shoot. We filmed in a prison detention "hole" -- a small room that was 16' tall with a window way up at the top. We shot a straight down angle on a 14mm lens from the top of the set; I had the art department make the set in the 1.85 proportions for our overhead shot. The light in the room faded from daylight to a blue-green metal halide security light look for the night; the color came from Cyan 60 gel on tungsten lights. As she sits in the dark cell, she has visions of dead characters moving towards her in the darkness. We put the dead character on a skateboard dolly and pulled them towards her; they were lit from a single Kinoflo tube below (on the floor) gelled with Cyan 60, doored-off so that they were in near darkness until they moved forward into the light. My stills are of the stand-ins, not someone in make-up as a pale dead person in the b.g. (so imagine a scarier face in the b.g.) Also the snapshot was not taken from the exact camera angle.

 

jb26.jpg

 

jb27.jpg

 

Next week we start with some "normal" night interior scenes lit with warm practical lamps, so hopefully I'll be doing less moonlit stuff, at least for one day...

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thanks David for the detail info about your production.

 

just wounder why you didn't use helium HMI balloons outside?

 

want it be easy to get them high up and move them out of frame.

 

maybe put them up high above the camera so you could shoot 360.

 

wouldn't they look more natural as moonlight?

Edited by Ram Shani
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It's hard to get a helium balloon to go 100' in the air actually, but of course in the midground, it doesn't have to get as high as a backlight in the background. A balloon is just a different look for one thing -- the location becomes top lit, not backlit, and everything beyond the balloon is front lit. You don't get hard shadows. This being a horror film at times, I want sharpness, contrast and deep shadows for some of the night scenes. I've used balloons as well in some scenes at night when it makes sense. But it really is a soft light that goes everywhere. The moon is actually a hard source in real life, just like the sun, so what's "natural" is just a matter of personal taste. Plus, being a semi-horror film, naturalism isn't always the right approach when you are trying to heighten the tension of some moment. I had thought of a balloon for the night rural road scene, but I was worried about not creating the right mood for the scene. It was a flashback describing some horrible night and I wanted it to be contrasty.

 

It's also hard for a balloon to put out enough light for some of the large areas I'm dealing with. But the main problem with them is the height and the fact that the wind can drive them down towards the ground.

 

The empty housing street location probably would have been better if I had created a "moon box" on a construction crane (similar to a balloon light look), not so much to be able to shoot 360 degrees, just to be able to shoot low-angles with wide-angle lenses -- but construction cranes are out of our budget. Besides, I liked the deep shadows on the street from the single backlight source.

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There's quite a bit of research that addresses changing one's sleep cycle. The main point is that the human body's natural "day" is around 25 hours. If you can, the best way to adapt to a change in sleep cycle is to stay up later each day. There are US labor union contracts that are aware of sleep research results that specify that when shift workers change shifts that they go to later, not earlier, shifts.

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Just finished Week Six. Spent the whole week on a soundstage, which was nice and comfortable… but caught a heavy cold on Wednesday, not so nice.

 

Monday and Tuesday were spent on one bedroom set, Wednesday in a set presenting the second floor of a house under construction (with open wooden framework, plastic sheets, and pink insulation), and Thursday and Friday in another bedroom set.

 

All the scenes were night interiors, some with room lights on, some where the lights go out and the room is lit by moonlight. The construction site room was lit by candlelight and some moonlight.

 

The first two photos show some of the simple lighting set-ups for a night interior. First is one of our stand-in Tiffany sitting at a desk, lit from frame left by a tungsten lamp (1K I think) through both a Chimera and then a diffusion frame. There is some fill coming from a single diffused 2’ Kino tube plus the bounce from the real desklamp coming off of the keyboard. The backlight is from what my Gaffer, John Dekker, calls a “half dome” – a narrow Chimera (sometimes 1’x4’) with a homemade fixture inside that holds three or four 213 lightbulbs on individual switches, sort of similar to the concept of a bat strip. He has some smaller 3-globe versions and larger 4-globe versions.

 

jb18.jpg

 

The second photo has Tiffany lit from frame right by a tungsten lamp coming through the window above the bed, through a diffusion frame (not that scene was supposed to be lit by the window, just that the opening was convenient to shine the light through.) Everything has ¼ CTO on it:

 

jb12.jpg

 

The bed was difficult to light because it was set into a window box alcove with a low sloped roof above it. For angles looking straight at the bed, I opted to cut an opening in the alcove roof (advantage of being on a set) and hide a half-dome light up there for a soft toplight:

 

jb13.jpg

 

Here is a photo of the half-dome crammed above the bed in the opening we made. There is a little 400w softlight next to it that fades up at one moment to highlight a darker corner of the bed where someone’s head ends up, just to keep things from getting too underexposed:

 

jb14.jpg

 

The construction site room was lit by candles in the scene. We had a mix of single and double-wicked beeswax candles (the double-wicked made by a candlemaker in Vancouver, and they are not cheap and melt twice as fast as a single-wick candle.) I added a weak amount of soft orange light to allow me to shoot at an f/2-2.8 split at 400 ASA, with the faces about one and half stops underexposed. On the close-ups, I increased the light level so that I could shoot at f/2.8 with the faces only one-stop underexposed. Again, these are stand-ins:

 

jb15.jpg

 

In the second bedroom set, I lit a scene of someone sitting at their mirror with just the real practical lamp next to the mirror, and some weak blue light in the background reflected in the mirror. I thought the practical up close to the face provided a nice soft key light. We dollied from the wide shot until we saw the face revealed in the mirror. The only snag was that the actress found it hard to apply make-up in the scene with the mirror angled for the camera to see her, not for her to see herself. But she pulled it off.

 

jb16.jpg

 

jb19.jpg

 

Excuse my poor Photoshop skills erasing the face of our lead actress in one of the photos on the desk... The shot was partially a happy accident -- we dollied into the mirror, revealing the sad expression of the actress but there happened to be a photo of the smiling face of the actress on the desk, so I cheated it in next to the mirror for the visual juxtaposition.

 

Most of what we shot on Friday and through next Tuesday is a climatic scene in that small bedroom, a fight in the moonlight. It’s difficult because the action takes place both on a bed and several feet in the air towards the ceiling where the moonlight from a window would not normally reach, so I have a lot of cheating to do. Combine that with the fact that some of the action will be shot at 1000 fps on Monday or Tuesday with the Phantom camera (Kevin Zanit has come out here to help us on that portion) so I have to light those shots inside the room to around an f/16-22 split just to get an f/2.8!

 

I have one of the best crews that I have ever worked with on this show, so it’s been a real pleasure. Every department, even the ones not under my supervision, are doing amazing work. Not a single weak-link, which is rare actually.

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Excuse my poor Photoshop skills erasing the face of our lead actress in one of the photos on the desk...

 

 

You mean Megan Fox? Why are they making you treat this like some kind of a national security issue? They are aware IMDB has a whole thing on Jenifer's Body with a complete cast and crew list including pictures and your name as cinematographer, right?

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1131734/

 

You having to Photoshop the shot seems a bit silly to me....but what the Hell do I know. :rolleyes:

Edited by James Steven Beverly
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Everyone who works on a movie these days signs a non-disclosure agreement so that the production controls all information about the production, including images (especially images). By keeping thing dry and technical, and non-specific about the plot (even though the script was leaked online a year ago), and just using digital snapshots of stand-ins in lighting set-ups, I hope that I will be allowed to post what I do... because I feel it is educational. As for erasing an actress's face, well, I don't have permission to really publish anything, so I'm not going to go so far as to release photos of the actors, especially not one being hounded now by paparazzi...

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I COMPLETELY understand you not wanting to rock the boat and possibly jeperdizing your situation, I just think it's kinda crazy on their part, kinda like the government denying the existence of area 51. What ever happened to "There's no such thing as bad publicity" ? Micheal Cimino and Heaven's Gate I suppose. :D

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Karyn Kusama has been great to work with -- very smart, calm, creative. It has been a good collaboration. I've had to embrace her preference for wider-angle lenses and I think in this case, it works very well for creating strong, graphic compositions. But that style of shooting (moving the camera on a wide-angle lens up close to the action) tends to make using a second camera very difficult; I only manage to sneak one in on a couple of set-ups per day. But she prefers a precise camera design than a lot of sloppy footage from multiple cameras. Although we have shot a number of scenes handheld to lend a little more tension to the moment. Being a horror film at times, subjective camera angles become very important, so we have scenes with the camera shooting tight on a face, dead center, on a wide-angle lens (like a 35mm or 27mm, sometimes a 40mm) intercut with POV shots.

 

We are currently shooting a set piece scene where she wants to follow the storyboards she created very closely, so we've managed to add two days on the set (by taking a day out of another set and pushing some other things around) so we can get every shot. It's exciting to be able to shoot a fight scene carefully one shot at a time, but in some ways, it is also necessary since we are working with actresses who are not necessarily stunt people. Monday we start with some elaborate body rigs and hydraulic lifts to move the actors around in the air, requiring some efx work in post to remove the rigs. We'll see how quickly how all of that goes. Eventually we get into the Phantom shots, which will be interesting because normally you don't light faces for 1000 fps photography, just inanimate objects. The actresses will probably get a suntan from the 20K I'll have to point at them just to get a moonlight effect.

 

Kevin Zanit and Karl Herrmann, the 2nd Unit DP, already did some tests (which we will use) of a gold locket bouncing off of the floor at 1000 fps that was cool to see. I tried my hand once at tossing the locket, trying to throw it hard and get it to bounce off of the floor rather than slide -- it goes by so fast in real time that you think nothing happened, but when you play it back, it looks amazing.

 

We leave our comfortable stages after Tueday, to come back much later... we'll be at another high school this week shooting one shot on a cablecam rig to get it to fly across a football field, skimming the grass. That will be cool, the first time I've done a shot like that.

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David, I always enjoy your production diaries. I'm really happy with your digital stills, they're very informative. Thanks for taking the time to share. I'm really happy for you, that on your last few shows, you've had the chance to play with some nice toys. I look forward to reading about the cablecam shot.

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The last few days have been really tough and complicated, and I've been under a lot of pressure to move fast. I called out today that I was ready for the actors, sat down at the monitor... and noticed that the bed in the frame looked odd and realized we had left in four one-foot wooden extenders to make the bed posts taller than normal for a different shot. So I rushed back onto set to remove them before the actors arrived and in rushing to pull out this wooden post extender, it was jammed and then suddenly popped out as I yanked on it, smacking me in the face just below my eye. It was exactly like being poked hard in the face by the end of a wooden rolling pin.

 

So now I have a small cut and a big black eye (which Kevin Zanit can attest to).

 

Lesson is, don't rush and don't do someone else's job.

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Hey! This shot is almost identical to a scene from Dark Reprieve, the green light coming through the grating. Nice to see my work has had some influence on you :D

 

R,

post-4653-1209567196.jpg

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David, thanks for having me out, this movie is being made by a great group of people!

 

And I certainly can attest to that hell of a black eye, definitely looks like you have been bar fighting with your grip crew. Should get you some big dark aviator sunglasses to cover it up so you can surprise people every time you take them off ;)

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