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Old February 6th, 2009, 02:02 AM   #1
5D MkII film submitted to Seattle International Film Festival
Jon Fairhurst Jon Fairhurst is offline February 6th, 2009, 02:02 AM

My sons, their friends and I have submitted a 14 minute short to the Seattle Film Festival. It's the pilot for The Murder of Dirk Snowglobe, a film noir detective comedy that will be a web series.

Mark Hahn, asked the following in another thread, so I created this one...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Hahn View Post
I have an indie in the script-writing phase right now. We are planning on using only the 5D2 and some rental accessories. My daughter works in Hollywood and she has many friends who are published writers, network soap opera actors, indie actors, director wannabes, etc. They are all in their late 20's (the little creeps). They all want to be in an indie to improve their portfolio. I've never done film production but I'm learning as fast as I can. I'm all that they've got for free shooting.

Could you share some more detail on your overall experience/process?
Did you use any kind of stabilizer?
Did you convert it to film for Seattle?
Did you use fixed ND or var ND?
Any chance for me to see it?

Maybe this should be a new thread?
For the stabilizer, we used the small SteadyTracker, which gave us a damped hand-held look. To my eyes, it's stable enough. Hopefully, it won't make people seasick on a larger screen. We didn't have any radical pans or motion, so it worked for us, but it certainly didn't give a smooth SteadyCam look. It was good for looking hand held without being hand held.

We had a separate focus puller, but no follow focus. It was hand on lens. It worked - mostly - but apparently led to many takes. (I wasn't on location. I composed/performed the music, and mixed the audio a few hundred miles away.)

We will deliver to SIFF on HDCAM, if accepted. They only accept DVDs for submissions, which was good, since we hand delivered at the last minute. Being able to render to DVD from proxies saved a ton of time.

SIFF allows us to list things we will change before a possible late May showing. We've still got work to do. Our last two scenes are perfect, but the beginning is weak. Doing 14 minutes of music in four days was tough. I'm glad I have time to polish it.

SIFF will be the premiere, so I'd rather not share it - especially since the final isn't yet done.

Nathan applied some unique color correction (no cool tones, muted warm tones, semi-high contrast.) The night scenes look especially good. It's not traditional B&W noir. It's our own look.

We didn't shoot anything in daylight, so there was no need for ND filters.

I like the look on the screening DVD. Any problems - and we hope to fix them all - are due to other factors than the camera. We'll there are some focus pulling problems, but those can happen with a Panavision film camera as easily as with the 5D MkII. Certainly, a follow focus and monitor would have been better than our mark, shoot and review (with magnification) approach.

I haven't seen the 1080p version, but Nathan claims that the bits he's looked at look great. (He pretty much went straight to proxies, and rendered to low res for me to compose to and then to DVD.) I haven't seen a single shimmer, so that means we can fix any aliased edges, if needed, in post with selective filtering.

Of course, the best parts about using this camera were the shallow DOF and night scenes. One murder scene was shot at my son's place. The kitchen is one of the backgrounds. (They even cleaned it!) There is just enough light spill in the kitchen to give it definition, but it's out of focus and desaturated, so it looks great. If this were shot directly on a typical camcorder, it would have been just some noisy, crummy looking old suburban kitchen.

Over time, we'll put more up at our website. For now, everybody is back at school and/or work and trying to catch up on sleep...

Best of luck with your project, Mark!
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Old February 6th, 2009, 04:09 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing,

a few questions how is the workflow to keep the same aperture for all the scenes? Do you always try to point the camera to the same neutral color everytime before shooting? did they use manual focus lens?
Thanks
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Old February 6th, 2009, 11:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
SIFF will be the premiere, so I'd rather not share it - especially since the final isn't yet done.
Another good reason for not sharing it is if you plan on taking it to other festivals, many of them will disqualify you if you've already made it avaialble on the internet.

However, when you get the chance to cut a trailer for it, you can bet we'd all love to see it. :)
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Old February 6th, 2009, 12:57 PM   #4
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@Andy,

Yes, we used manual lenses. I also have a 70-300mm 4-5.6 IS in the kit. I'm not sure if they used it (we have a 200mm f/4 Nikon), but if they did, it was partially unscrewed.

So, yeah, we had full control over aperture, shot everything at 1/40 (indicated), and used ISO (via the exposure compensation wheel) to optimize the overall exposure.

@Dylan,

We also submitted to the LA Film Festival, but probably few others. Our real goal is to launch the web series. The film festival launch is part of our promotional strategy.

And we will *definitely* cut a trailer; however, first, we need to finish the final version of the film.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 04:53 PM   #5
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I just spoke to Nathan in detail about the issues with setting exposure on the shoot. Here's what he told me:

* Many times he was able to point the camera toward a light, and place it in a certain exposure zone, get what he needed, hit AE Lock, adjust the compensation and shoot. About 80% of the time it was this easy.

* Night shots were easy (camera wise). The camera opens things up. You lock them. You lock and adjust the exposure. Simple.

* Other times, it was a real pain - especially on a tripod. In general, he was using the on-set lights for adjusting the shutter. This is fine on the SteadyTracker, but you lose your framing if you do that on a tripod. I expected him to use a flashlight, but as the director and camera op, he already had his hands full.

* I mentioned my suggestion to Canon that when you press AE Lock, it should NOT lose lock when you press STOP during video recording. Nathan responded that the AE Lock button should also be a toggle. (I agree.) You can press other buttons to stop AE Lock, but they don't make intuitive sense, and you have to move your hand to do it. Anyway, we would both prefer that AE Lock be fixed until a) you leave Live View, or b) you stop the lock by pressing AE Lock again, or the other buttons that disable it (but not when you stop recording.)

* The need to set the exposure for every single take was definitely annoying.

Other stuff he learned is that hats suck for lighting! There is one indoor scene where the woman was lit perfectly, but the guy had a shadow on his eyes, so they had to adjust the lights. In retrospect, the first shot should have been of the guy removing his hat, as he was indoors.

The outdoor lighting we really tough because of the hat shadows. You can't really have them take the hats off outdoors. But the camera worked beautifully.

Anyway, Nathan is now noodling over the trailer. And I'm going to re-do some of the music this weekend. The fun never ends!
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Old February 7th, 2009, 04:20 AM   #6
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thanks Jon, a few more questions:

You Said:
"set an optimal ISO with the histogram"
-did you use an ISO higher than 1000?

"We always used 1/40"
-Do you always play with the Aperture to archive the above?
-or play with the ISO to Archive it and use a Small aperture to have a nice DOF?
-Do you always shoot in Exposure Simulation to see the histogram and find optimal ISO?

Hope Makes Sense, Cheers
Andy
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Old February 7th, 2009, 02:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Corleone View Post
-did you use an ISO higher than 1000?

"We always used 1/40"
-Do you always play with the Aperture to archive the above?
-or play with the ISO to Archive it and use a Small aperture to have a nice DOF?
-Do you always shoot in Exposure Simulation to see the histogram and find optimal ISO?
Hi Andy,

We were able to keep the ISO under 1000 for all of our scenes by using a small light kit. We open with a montage of downtown scenes of a small city at night. Those might have been higher, but they look great.

For exposure, we set the aperture for the artistic look we needed, which was somewhat open, but not all the way. A lot of our shots were with the 50mm lens, so unless something was very close to the camera, the DOF was moderate.

We'd then offset the exposure compensation to -2, point the camera at or near a light to get to 1/40, and hit AE Lock. Once locked, we frame the shot and dial in the desired ISO, based on what we saw on the histogram.

1/40 was chosen simply because it's the only exposure that allows full control of ISO. We use it consistently, so everything matches scene to scene.

We shot in "Video and Stills" mode. All the setup was in Live View with the shutter pushed part way. By pressing the Info button multiple times, we could get to the view mode we wanted.

For color balance, we use an Expo Disk, shoot a photo and use that for the WB reference. We'd also shoot photos and look at the histogram to confirm the exposure.

It's definitely not a one-man-under-pressure, critical-event-NOW, run-n-gun procedure. But when you're working sets, props, costumes, make up, and lights, it's fairly reasonable. Once you know your settings and have the WB set, then, for the second take, you just dial the wheel down, point at the light, lock the exposure, and dial the wheel back up to your previous setting and hit RECORD. Of course, if the camera didn't lose lock when you stop recording, it would be that little bit better, and wouldn't upset the flow on the set.

The camera isn't perfect, but is by far the cheapest solution for a mostly controllable, multiple lens, variable DOF narrative project.
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Old February 7th, 2009, 03:22 PM   #8
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thank you for all the information
Your help is much appreciated

Good luck with the film looking foward for the trailer

Andy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Hi Andy,

We were able to keep the ISO under 1000 for all of our scenes by using a small light kit. We open with a montage of downtown scenes of a small city at night. Those might have been higher, but they look great.

For exposure, we set the aperture for the artistic look we needed, which was somewhat open, but not all the way. A lot of our shots were with the 50mm lens, so unless something was very close to the camera, the DOF was moderate.

We'd then offset the exposure compensation to -2, point the camera at or near a light to get to 1/40, and hit AE Lock. Once locked, we frame the shot and dial in the desired ISO, based on what we saw on the histogram.

1/40 was chosen simply because it's the only exposure that allows full control of ISO. We use it consistently, so everything matches scene to scene.

We shot in "Video and Stills" mode. All the setup was in Live View with the shutter pushed part way. By pressing the Info button multiple times, we could get to the view mode we wanted.

For color balance, we use an Expo Disk, shoot a photo and use that for the WB reference. We'd also shoot photos and look at the histogram to confirm the exposure.

It's definitely not a one-man-under-pressure, critical-event-NOW, run-n-gun procedure. But when you're working sets, props, costumes, make up, and lights, it's fairly reasonable. Once you know your settings and have the WB set, then, for the second take, you just dial the wheel down, point at the light, lock the exposure, and dial the wheel back up to your previous setting and hit RECORD. Of course, if the camera didn't lose lock when you stop recording, it would be that little bit better, and wouldn't upset the flow on the set.

The camera isn't perfect, but is by far the cheapest solution for a mostly controllable, multiple lens, variable DOF narrative project.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 09:53 AM   #9
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I did not know that festival in Seattle so big.
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