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Old January 12th, 2011, 11:46 AM   #1
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We made this one a little more difficult than necessary I suppose. We really wanted to try something a little different, and challenge ourselves. We planned a couple near impossible shots, and luckily with some simplification and borrowed construction equipment we were able to pull it off.


Our original idea, was a single 5 minute take. After deciding this was out of reach we decided to break it into a couple long one take shots. The longest of which is the first shot which lasts for just over 2 minutes, starts 16 feet in the air, tracks through the house dollies around a corner, and eventually comes to rest. It was a lot of fun to plan, but the reality of lighting several several different locations within a single shot proved very difficult.

We hoped that by not cutting, and forcing the camera to break the fourth wall, and walk away from it's subject to change perspectives, we'd shock the senses into realizing that this change of perspective is what makes the story interesting, without it, we'd simply be following a man walking through a house.

On top of the literal camera perspective aspect, we played with the idea of an audience's perspective of a character changing. Through the camera perspective shifts, we are able to realize the character we are watching is not exactly what we thought. Changing perspectives which change our perspective (how's that for meta-cinematic?)

I'm glad we pushed ourself with this one, hopefully we be able to pull off something similar a little better in the future.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 01:10 PM   #2
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That was a really impressive tech feat, what exactly did you use to allow you to travel through that opening tracking shot? - my only suggestion would be that it might be worth building some kind of steadicam/ stablization device to cut down on unwanted camera movement, or was that a consequence of the construction equipment?

The whole short was very atmospheric; the end shots in particular exuded menace, partly because of your main actor's excellent performance, and partly because of the really smart framing - I loved how the masked man loomed out of the dark. Very Halloween (in a good way!).

Very much look forward to seeing what you guys come up with at the next comp.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the comments Henry. I agree about the steadycam. For the work in the basement, we tried a makeshift using a tripod as a counterweight. Though the first shot was handheld, with Benji pulling the camera strap as taught as possible.

I was a little bummed with how shaky it wound up (those damn DSLRs really need a lot of stabilization.) But I think I learned how to work on that in the future, which is good.

We used a crank meant for delivering shingles to roofers while on a roof, we just had Benji stand on it, and try to keep balance, then slowly lowered him down. Then handheld from there, until he eventually sat on a rolling computer chair, to try to simulate dolly movement.

It was a Jimmy-rigged set up, but it was fun to try something new.

Thanks again for watching.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #4
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Hello Cole,

Some interesting long sequenses there. Maybe a tiny bit too long for my taste.
Unfortunately there are a few details which distract the viewer quite a bit. (at least me)
Some of the camera movements were too shaky.
(ex: when the car arrives, and at 1:15)

At about 1:00 after the actor enters the house, the framing is a bit low, cutting his head out of view.
I would correct this.

Nice to see you experiment.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:33 PM   #5
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Yeah, I appreciate that. Unfortunately we were left with little option as far as shake when the car enters. The camera was on an ancient machine we used a crane, and wasn't meant for film work. A tripod didn't help much, and made the following tracking shots nearly impossible.

As for the cutting of my head out, that was intentional. We used a 50mm lens which we knew would be too close to really see everything, yet we sort of liked the claustrophobic effect this created. Though I can see how it might be disconcerting, and possibly it wasn't the right choice.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:38 PM   #6
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Yes, I can imagine how the crane caused problems with the camera movement.
Did you by any chance try handheld? Would maybe be a bit shaky too, but without such rapid shaking as you got here. And this might have been less distracting.
(I shoot a lot of handheld nature/wildlife video myself, if I don't have tripod available)

Keep up your good work!
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Old January 12th, 2011, 07:57 PM   #7
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Hey Cole,

Very worthwhile experiment for you and Benji. Always good to try new things! So...because you are experimenting I am going to get picky with you two.

Funny, at first I thought the shaky cam was intentional and thought it fit the car driving up to the house scene...very well. As the shot progressed to the house is when I started not liking it so much. That said, I didn't feel distracted until the cut to the inside of the refrigerator--that shot felt a little clunky to me and I could almost hear someone wondering how best to make the transition from the long sequence to the next scene.

Had to smile when you hit the F# on the piano. Reminded me of an old upright I used to have that could have stood a little tuning. :) It was an interesting scene; however, it's at the piano, when you weren't playing yet the same song was still playing without you, that I was taken out of the story again. A creative choice that didn't quite work for me.

So the good guy was the bad guy...and a really bad guy, at that! You got me; I didn't expect to have to change my perspective of him. Nice.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 08:26 PM   #8
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Hey Lorinda, thanks for all the feedback! Picky is good!

The shaky cam was indeed unintentional, as our original hope was a smooth transition from air, to ground, to dolly. Yet without a real steadycam this was near impossible, and we opted to go handheld (which we learned is not as simple with a T2i as it is with an Xl1.)

The fridge shot, you called us on. As I mentioned the original concept was to carry the shot beyond that. However it was too difficult, and we decided to cut. On top of the basic simplicity factor, we thought it'd be fun to continue our obligatory shot of a door opening from blackness to reveal my face (like the toilet, and the dryer in our previous entries.)

The piano is another thing that is quite a shock to the senses... and I think I even agree that it takes you out of the story. That was sort of the hope, though. The camera leaves me as the protagonist, a classy guy playing the piano, after the revelation of the hostage the camera returns to reveal me for who I am, a very bad man. The break of the 4th wall was meant as a deliberate system shock to allow for a sort of reset and reassessment of the character and situation. It may not have quite worked, but that was the intent.

Thanks again for watching, and for the notes! We'll keep them in mind for our next entry.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 11:21 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone who has commented on our film so far! We really appreciate any feedback whatsoever, and is really one of the main reasons we love entering contests on this forum.

As Cole has stated, we definitely experimented with this one quite a bit, our most ambitious being that we used long, continuous takes. Very challenging to light, set up, and work out without any extra equipment that wasn't salvaged and used on the spot. We're aware of some technical issues that we really couldn't avoid without scrapping the whole project, but we're working on getting the equipment needed to add that extra stability and polish to our projects.

Story wise, we wanted to create something jarring and tense. We felt like we had put together something very solid, and just about everything presented was created that way to build up our atmosphere. Considering we had no dialogue, we attempted to convey an understandable plot, conflict, and emotion through every other way we could. Sound, lighting, camera movement, framing, etc. were all consciously decided on to help tell our story.

I understand it might not be the easiest thing to watch, but I would urge you to give it a few tries. There may be more to it than you might think. We were pretty happy with the end result, and we've already been going over what we need to continue to work on and improve for next time. Once again, I'm extremely thankful for the feedback we have received so far, but I really want to see how you guys felt about it, good or bad!

Thanks everyone!
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Old January 13th, 2011, 04:32 AM   #10
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Hi!

Liked the long shots very much, but agree with others who mentioned that there is a bit too much camera shake, and the fridge scene looked out of place.
I also am a bit confused who the third person holding the knife is? :) Maybe you can clarify.

All in all I very enjoyed your film and applaud to your long takes. Nice plot twists too, kept me interested. :)
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Old January 13th, 2011, 08:10 AM   #11
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HI Cole,

Now that was different! I liked the changing angles, changing lighting, camera shake and not shake, the good-guy bad guy shifts; all delightfully confusing with a wrap-up that was equally of more than one possibility for interpretation.

Well done.

Alan
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Old January 13th, 2011, 12:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andris Krastins View Post
Hi!

I also am a bit confused who the third person holding the knife is? :) Maybe you can clarify.
The guy with the knife started as more of a cinematic device to expose our technique. The camera gives up on me, and basically walks away to find something more interesting, where it finds that there is a man with a knife breaking in. The idea was to create a dramatic irony, as the audience knows danger lurks for me just around the corner, yet I am completely unaware.

Yet later, as it is revealed that I have a hostage being bound and (tortured?) in the basement, hopefully a this brings as perspective shift, and as we realize the villain is truly my character, perhaps the man with the knife is simply someone coming to save his friend from me.

That was our intent with the character.

Thanks for commenting Andris!
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Old January 13th, 2011, 03:52 PM   #13
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Cole,
After watching your film, I have a surrealistic feeling.
In that perspective, the loosely handheld camera boosts these experiences.
Shaky camera movements are not always bad for the result.
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Old January 13th, 2011, 06:56 PM   #14
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By the time I've finally gotten around to commenting, I think most issues have been hashed through. So just a couple of comments to add:

Although my feeling is that the shaky camera thing is an overused device these days, it worked for me here so I was surprised that it was unintentional. I'm trying to imagine the opening scene as super smooth and not seeing it.

I didn't feel taken out of the film, as Lorinda did, by the piano continuing to play. (That's ok, Lorinda, this just means I'm wrong).

I felt like the trussing up of the victim was a bit overdone and the lighting of that scene was too bright (almost a daylight feel?). My thoughts would be to have him look a more "roughed up" and restrained in a less elaborate way -- but more "trapped" than bound -- and use perhaps either a red cast on the lighting or a desaturated, darker look.

Really interesting work, and very good acting -- really like the expression and head movement in the final scene, and the little smile when going to check on the victim -- so keep at it...but you should really quit snorting that powdered sugar!
;-)
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Old January 13th, 2011, 08:29 PM   #15
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Alan,
Thanks for watching! I'm glad you liked it. Sometimes it's fun to try something a little crazy.

Finn Erik,
I'm glad you got a surrealistic feeling from our video. I'm a big fan of surrealism, and I find that it permeates into a lot of my work. So I'm glad it can actually be effective.

Pete,
Thank you very much for your insightful feedback. I hadn't even thought about the actual way we'd tied our victim, but as you mentioned, perhaps we should have approached it differently. Also, the lighting was something we struggled with (particularly the transitions between one light setup and another without cutting) but you really hit the nail on the head with that one. We really wanted to go darker with both the lighting and and color grade of the area with the victim. We will certainly make a point to plan for necessary drastic lighting changes next time we attempt something like this.
I really appreciated your feedback!
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