Saturday, 10 August 2013

"Fortune Cookies" Pilot shoot

I recently shot a teaser/pilot for an independent feature I'm attached to called "Fortune Cookies. Shot over a couple of days primarily in a single interior set build, along with a small amount of location work in a supermarket. The script is set predominantly at day time, but to keep things visually interesting I tried to vary the time of day a little bit so that it stared out as morning, moved to midday, early afternoon and finally late evening. I cant show any of the finished footage yet but I've included some frame grabs below to give an indication of the results. The script is both a comedy and a family drama so it was a challenge to balance both genres into something cohesive and visually interesting.

I made the decision to shoot on Panavision's Genesis camera primarily because our budget was very tight so we couldn't afford to shoot on an Alexa. With both dolly work and handheld shots planned I didn't want to end up shooting on a smaller camera like the F3 - I wanted the form factor and convienience of a 35mm style camera with a reasonably good viewfinder, rather then a flip out monitor. Shooting to tape wasnt an option and the Genesis SSR deck was too expensive for our budget so Panavision suggested I record to a Ki Pro in Prores 422 using an external recorder tethered by a single BNC, a system Haskel Wexler used recently on a shoot in the US. I shot tests and projected them in Panavision's screening room and thought they looked great so off we went. I also tested recording to a variety of other recorders but ultimately we settled on the Ki Pro.

I knew the cast would be predominantly Asian and I knew the set would be predominantly white walled, so to help harmonise the skintones and highlights I used a combination of Double Fogs and Corals throughout most of the shoot.

The general lighting plan was to use a mix of large soft sources mixed with ocasional splashes of harder hot light, with the levels dimming and warming towards the end of the day, ultimately arriving at a mix of cold and warm color temperatures for the final evening scene (not pictured).

The studio we could afford wasn't ideal size wise so I struggled to get the large sources as far back as i liked and we couldn't afford a translite or a backdrop so i had to blow out the windows, which i tend to like anyway, but in the final grade ill pull a little bit more curtain info out of the highlights.

My main sources were a series of Maxibrutes and fresnels, pushed through two layers of Gridcloth, and then coming through the windows which were double netted. I'd use a pair of 5K's with Chimeras coming up and over the set to push soft backlight/Soft fill deeper into the set and then id add some harder sources, like a 10K fresnel or a Source 4 (or VNSP Parcan) to bring in splashes of sunlight. I used a variety of warm gels, mostly CTS, on the backlights for the afternoon scenes to help warm things up a little bit. For some scenes I'd push the Maxi's directly through the gridcloth and for others I'd turn them around and bounce them off the studio cyc for an even softer feel. I'd try to use large negative fill blacks on the camera side of the set, usually flying walls to faciliate, to help model the light a little bit. I had a large 20 by muslin bounce flying over the set but i found there was so much ambient fill from the set walls i rarely needed it so i kept it pretty high. Depending on which direction i was shooting in I could knock down the maxibrutes to keep the fill side pretty low key, while the combination of the 5K Chimeras and MaxiBrute/Gridcloth worked as a large soft wrapping backlight.

Over the camera I'd keep a Jemball, wrapped in a second layer of diffusion as an eye light and I'd occasionally use a second Jem ball as a soft wrapping key light. I rated the camera at approx 400asa with zero gain and a 180degree shutter and was able to keep my stop at T4 by using ND on the lens.

The Genesis recorded in Panalog so the images below are straight from the camera with a very basic LUT to correct the image density - other then that they are ungraded. I was surprised at how much highlight detail the Genesis captured so in the DI I'll use power windows to help flag some of the walls in the background and to pull a touch more highlight detail.

Overall I found the camera and recorder combo worked really well. Without the SR deck the genesis sits comfortably on the shoulder and felt great during the handheld work as well as on set in a traditional dolly mode. Because we combined quite a lot of zooming and tracking i shot mostly with the Primo 4:1 zoom, which is a FANTASTIC zoom lens, and then supplemented with primes when needed.

Lighting notes Video

Lighting plot was once again designed with the Lighting Designer App for ipad

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