Thank you so much for your generosity. This inside look is so very helpful, interesting and just plain fun to read. What fun you must have on set!
Thank you so much for your generosity. This inside look is so very helpful, interesting and just plain fun to read. What fun you must have on set!
Some unavoidable but distracting reflections in car windshields may have to be softened or reduced in post, budget permitting for that sort of touch-up work.
The original RED shots have some mild camera diffusion though, Schneider Classic Black filters.
David, are you still preferring the LCD over the EVF?
The A-cam operator prefers the EVF mainly because the LCD image is so affected by the viewing angle.
Man David, even though I have a busy day today, you've kept me up until now reading and drooling over your frames while I should be asleep!
Great work man, you're truly an artist.
Thanks for sharing David! - All of us at Umeric stopped work 2 study your frames - looking forward to the next post..
Thanks for your wonderful job for managing this forum and for "Manure" picture courtesy. I would like to know, Whats you monitoring solution on set.
Is LCD displays reliable?
I recently supervised 2 commercials with RED and the cinematagrapher preferred good monitoring solutions and I asked to use the same film shoot rule for RED. Would we have in near future WYSIWYG with RED and a good monitoring solution.
Your thoughts and suggestions?
The only problem with the JVC monitors we are using is that if you don't sit directly in front of the screen, the image gets a stop brighter. So almost anyone watching from the wings sees a brighter washed-out image.
I’m so tired I can barely type these days… We did a string of 14-hour days capped by a 16 ˝ hour day on Friday, wrapping at 3:30 AM.
Monday and Tuesday were spent on Stage B, where Clark Hunter had to squeeze a five-room motel set on the small stage with a parking lot in it, and I had to light it… The long parking lot area required six Lumapanels through six 12’x20’ Light Grid Cloth frames overhead for the base soft skylight effect, plus four HMI Goyas to light the length of the backing. That’s just for starters.
Anyway, we started with some small hotel interior scenes. Most of these take place in early morning before the salesmen hit the road, so I lit some of them with a hot streak of orange light (a tungsten 5K Molebeam with the camera set to 5600K) cutting into the bottom of the window frames, lighting up the sheers and adding a warm glow to the rooms. I also had some softened light coming through the window (an 18K HMI through two layers of diffusion). Fill or key lighting for areas where the window light didn’t reach was often handled with some small Kinos or by bouncing an HMI Source-4 off of something.
A lot of these scenes involved all six principals (the five manure salesmen plus Rosemary, played by Tea Leoni) group around a small table in a small hotel room, most of which was taken up by the beds. For one night scene, I lit the group with a large Chinese Lantern hanging overhead, and turned on some practical lamps in the background. For scenes where the room lights were off at night, I used a 5K tungsten gelled half-orange for a streetlamp effect coming through the windows. All of the night work was done with the cameras set to 3800K for a warmer look than a 3200K setting would create, and I used tungsten lamps for those scenes.
We ended the night with a bedroom scene where the camera was mounted on a jib arm looking directly down on the bed, followed by a night exterior scene in the parking lot, which I lit with some strong orange backlights as if coming from the hotel behind the actors. Both scenes were “one-er’s” more or less, a 2-shot that contained all the dialogue.
As soon as we finish with a RED drive (we only record maybe 15 to 20 minutes per drive, though they hold more) we send it to our data wrangler Eric, who downloads and backs up the data. So it wasn’t until I got home on Monday night that I heard that the second to last mag for the evening, which Eric had started downloading right around wrap time, failed during the download, causing the table of contents for the files to disappear, making the two scenes unplayable or uncovertable. The camera recorded the scenes fine (otherwise we would have gotten a recording error message probably) but somehow the problem in the RED drive developed afterward. Conrad Hunziker spent part of the next day rendering all the footage to see what was salvageable, which was only about 20 seconds of the ends of the 60-second segments that takes are stored as. PlasterCity couldn’t recover all the data either, so the mag was sent to RED to see what they could do. Meanwhile we scheduled a reshoot of those two scenes for Thursday night, which I wasn’t looking forward to because of our excessively long days already. Luckily on Thursday afternoon, we got the word from Deanan at RED that they managed to recover all of the footage, allowing us to cancel the reshoot (the day ran 14 hours long anyway, so I can’t imagine adding another hour or so just for reshooting…) So I am very grateful to RED for working so hard to solve the problem for us.
This brings up the big issue on everyone’s mind these days regarding the RED ONE, which is reliability. No system is ever perfect and you lose footage when shooting on film now and then (and in this case, no footage was lost, just to be clear). All cameras and accessories fail in some manner now and then too. So when I get asked everyday what I think about the RED ONE in this regards, part of me just wants to say “wait until these two movies are done shooting and I go through post and THEN ask me what I think…” But I have to say that 95% of the time, it’s like any other shoot – I don’t really have to think about the cameras, they just shoot and shoot all day long. Just now and then there is some quirkiness or bugginess with the RED cameras that makes me feel like the kinks are still being ironed out. After the incident with the RED drive, I am starting to form the opinion that once the RED RAM is developed, or whatever solid-state flash memory unit RED creates, I don’t see much reason to use hard drives on cameras on movie sets, which are physically abusive places for computer equipment. Even when you are careful about it, let’s face it, these cameras are slapped on and off of tripod heads all day long, bounced around on dollies being moved across rough ground, etc. There is dust and heat (or cold) to deal with, humidity, etc. So while the RED drives seems to work just fine most of the time, they make me nervous.
My main annoyance with the cameras is quite minor, the time it takes to boot. We are doing elaborate scenes and at the last minute I might come up with a B-camera angle, so we suddenly grab the camera off of the cart just before the actors come on set or just before we roll and set it up… and then wait for 90 seconds before I can even see a picture. I feel momentarily blind. That’s the longest 90 seconds of my life, as the AD is yelling if I’m ready or not, when I can’t even see a picture to know what needs to be adjusted.
There also continues to be some minor color mismatches between the cameras, which I seem to notice more in the afternoon than I do in the mornings. We had one 5600K scene where the B camera image was a little warmer looking, but when we switched to a tungsten-lit scene and I set the cameras to 3800K for a warm look under 3200K lighting, well, the same B camera now had a slightly cooler image than A camera. Beats me what is going on.
On the plus side, the form factor is smaller than most 35mm movie cameras so, for example, cramming the camera into the back seat of a car or into a closet isn’t so difficult. There is less weight to deal with for the camera assistants, though most (out of pride) won’t admit to having any problems dealing with 35mm cameras and 1000’ mags all day long.
An even bigger plus, perhaps one of the best features about the RED, is the fact that you can see a larger “safe” area than what gets recorded, compared to most digital cameras.
And I like the picture it creates, which is the most important thing ultimately.
I like the fact that it creates a sharp, detailed image that doesn’t have that electronic edginess of HD cameras, even ones where the Detail is supposedly turned off. Actresses don’t look like they’ve aged a decade, like many HD cameras make them look. And despite all the talk about the dynamic range of the RED camera, I find it pretty decent in that regards, not as good as film but better than an F900. When I look at the RAW files, I’m impressed with how much overexposure information is actually there compared to the monitor output. So I know that if I like the lighting on the Rec 709 monitor image, I’ll have more room to work with later when going back to the RAW files in the final color-correction.
Anyway, on Tuesday we had director Gary Marshall on set doing a cameo as a doctor in one scene – I worked one day with him several years ago on a Super-16 movie where he did a cameo. Nice guy. We did some night scenes in the motel, again tungsten-lit with a combination of practicals and soft light from a 2K through 129 diffusion (my favorite new diffusion gel, a heavy frost closer to Full Grid Cloth in density.) Then we moved to Stage C where we somehow managed to barely fit a car and a dump truck on a small road set. In the scene, the dump truck buries a car that rolls up behind it by dumping an entire load of manure onto the car. But we found that even when the dump truck was filled, the entire contents only buried the nose of the car, so we had to do multiple takes where we kept dumping more and more soil (peat moss I think) over the car until it was finally buried.
Wednesday was spent (mostly) on another stage, Stage A, where we had something like a 20’x40’ bluescreen set-up, lit with daylight Kinos. We did a bunch of car interior scenes, too many perhaps because I didn’t have time to get all the bad reflections out of the car windows in a few key shots – the windows are a constant nightmare for me. When they rolled the car into the stage, the first thing I noticed was that, despite being painted black, you could see the stage rafters all over the windshield, so the grips had to put a 20’x20’ black over the car and then black out the stands as well. And even that wasn’t enough to always hide the lighting on the car being reflected. A nightmare, as I said. We moved to Stage C at the end of the day to do two more road scenes, including some plate shots for the bluescreen stuff we had just shot. Again, ending the day with an elaborate stunt scene that takes hours to set-up and shoot. The B-camera team went up into the catwalks to see if they could get a straight-down angle on the road set for a stunt, but the rafters, which are a few feet lower than the catwalk, are spaced together so much that they had to use a combination of a hi-hat screwed into the catwalk, then a camera offset, and then an underslung head, to get the lens below the rafters. And once they set all of that up, screwed-in, supported, safety-cabled, etc. -- I was told that the head now stuck out so far down from the catwalk that there was no way of now putting the camera onto the head without driving in a 60’ condor and doing it from below. The AD said something like “are you shitting me?” when I told him that we’d need to drive the condor onto the set, but then my Key Grip Brad Heiner (dealing with some other big rig at the time) ran upstairs and managed to find a way to get the camera onto the extended head from above – I just hope no one risked their lives doing it, because it’s a big drop.
Thursday we were back in the motel set doing some early morning scenes in the parking lot. I decided to expand upon the trick I used last week and put a 5K tungsten fresnel in the far background, in camera, pointed into the lens to look like the early morning sun. I had to also light the backing behind the 5K quite hot. So a “simple” morning establishing shot took: 6 5600K lumapanels through 6 12’x20’ light grid frames overhead, four HMI Goyas from above gelled with ˝ CTO for the backing, the 5K tungsten fresnel for the sun effect, a 12-light tungsten on a scissor lift behind the hotel for an overall warm backlight, an 18K HMI gelled half-orange hitting the backing, plus another 4K HMI and a 1200w HMI, both also gelled half-orange, to fill in the dark spots on the backing. And there were a few other lamps here and there, plus the hotel’s practicals and neon signs. Plus another 4K HMI bounced into a 12’x12’ UltraBounce in the foreground for fill. That’s just for the first shot.
As I said, we got word by the afternoon that RED had recovered all of our data from the two scenes shot on Monday, so we breathed a sigh of relief and cancelled the reshoot for those scenes on the motel set, which was going to be gone by Monday.
To give you an idea of how ambitious this little film is, with the crazy schedule we have, on Friday we jumped back and forth between two soundstages. We started on Stage C, which had been split up into two different farms, a corn field and a sunflower field. I had to switch the lighting between an overcast look we had established for some story days and a later afternoon sunny look… but the scenes could not be bundled together in terms of time of day / weather lighting, so we had to constantly gel and ungel our lights for the two looks. Three looks actually because the only night exterior scene for the farm landscape sets was slipped into the middle of all of this.
We spent hours dealing with stunt men parachuting into the cornfield, to the point where we broke an hour late for lunch. Then we had to move to Stage B and shoot part of a dialogue scene in a motel room, then move back to Stage C to give the effects people time to rig the room for a small explosion that demolishes a whole wall of the motel. On Stage C we set up for a stunt drive where a car crashes into the cornfield. As I was lining up the shot on the cornfield, suddenly I saw three men levitate to the ceiling in the far background and I realized they were already practicing the stunts for parachuting into the sunflower field behind the cornfield. So we then shot the car crashing through some corn, and then moved to the sunflower area to set-up for parachuting, switching again from late afternoon sun to an overcast look. While I was setting up those shots, a forklift was driving in behind me to put a now flipped-over car into the cornfield set. So after we shot more parachuting men in the sunflower field, we turned around and shot the second half of the car crash scene in the cornfield (again all of this required switching the soundstage lighting from an overcast look to a sunny look and back again and back again, etc.) Then when we finished the cornfield, we had to move again back to Stage B now that the room was rigged for the explosion and shoot the second half of the scene we shot right after lunch.
So moving from Stage C to B to C to B, lighting for overcast to sunny to night to overcast to sunny to night… hence why we finished after 16 ˝ hours. It’s insane.
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