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Old December 13th, 2003, 06:14 PM   #1
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Screen test look

Hello -

First post, I've been lurking and reading for a long time. I am planning a low budget DV shoot for distribution over the web. My idea calls for a mood I have not yet attempted and I thought to ask for feedback here.

My background is in still photography (5 years), been shooting DV for about one year.

camera:xl-1s

location:650 sq. ft. hotel suite

grip/electrics: 2 lowel DP lights (500 - 100 W bulbs)
stands, flags, barndoors, diffusion, c-stands, seamless paper, practicals, access to rentals

post tools: avid dv xpress, aftereffects, protools

The premise:
A pair of nefarious producers lure aspiring models and actresses into a 'casting room' to try out for a part in an upcoming (nonexistent) B feature. The willing victims are seated under a single lamp to 'read', and are engaged in various 'scenes' from the script.

The plan:
To turn a hotel room into a tightly framed, cold and uninviting casting room. The frame is tight (3/4 or less) to hide the carpet. I plan on adding clicking heels on hard floor in post.

The look:
The frame's atmosphere is cool leaning to green in the mids and shadows. The actress is lit with a warm, tight and hard light, tight to the camera's axis, ala Hurell beauty school.

The camera is fairly stationary, as it might be perceived on an actual screen-test. My thought is to fill the frame's background with seamless and hit it with a tight source that is gelled in such a way that the light falls off to a green shadow, maybe a straight gradation. This should contrast with the warm light on the talent.

So I ask, does this sound like a feasible plan? If so, should I use white or grey or distressed (in some way?)seamless, and any suggested gel combinations to achieve this look would be greatly appreciated.

Are there any thoughts on creating this look in post and marriages of production and post technique that may achieve similar results? (within lo/no reason)

My apologies, this is allot to ask. I am just hoping to gain a sense of whether I am on the right track.

Thanks!
James
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Old December 14th, 2003, 03:49 PM   #2
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James, I think you have two activities mixed together here.

Auditions are usually held in really crappy surroundings. External noise, flourescent overhead lights, plain tables, folding chairs, bad camera control. The prospective talent may or may not know their lines and anyone playing opposite them is off-camera and reading the opposing lines.

Screen tests are usually held on some type of set that is reasonable in quality and is correctly lit. The camera work is usually straight on Hollywood style and locked down.
Anyone opposing the talent under test is on-screen and costumed as is the talent. They have memorized their lines.

I have a copy of some of the auditions for the FBI agent in one of the Jackie Chan movies. Terrible conditions all the way around.

You can see Tipi Hedren's screen test if you purchase the DVD of Hitchcock's, "The Birds." Beautiful set, costumes and acting (for her).

That said, it might work since the general public doesn't know how the two activities relate.

BTW, people actually walk slightly differently on carpet and a hard surface. Even their bodies respond differently. Probably too subtle to show on a web video.
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Old December 14th, 2003, 04:06 PM   #3
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One easy way to make the entire environment greenish and keep your key light neutral is to gel the key with minusgreen, probably 1/2 to a full strength depending on how deep you want the green effect. Then white balance to the key light, making sure that none of the overhead light is falling on the white card. This will give you greenish shadows and ambience.
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Old December 14th, 2003, 04:20 PM   #4
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Charles - Thank you, I had not considered this option, but it sure sounds reasonable and efficient. I like it, I will try some tests with this.

Mike - Thank you for the distinctions! I am obviously taking great liberties here, (and showing my ignorance!). At this point, the sound of the words is more important than their literal meaning.

Best regards,
James
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Old December 14th, 2003, 06:46 PM   #5
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Understand. But your only means of communicating on this forum is with words. So their use is important to you and to the people responding to your questions.

No biggie but word substitution is frequently the greatest stumbling block in understanding this stuff.

Unfortunately word usage in film is sometimes really lost back in the dim past. Take Grip and Gaffer for instance. But subing one word for the other conveys a whole different meaning or generates a lot of head-scratching.

For a really grubby environment, try to simulate a broken neon hotel sign right outside the window. You know, the ones that go on and off randomly, washing the room with a slightly garrish red hue. Caps the green beautifully.

Just establish it with your master shot.
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Old December 14th, 2003, 08:18 PM   #6
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good point!

Mike - good point on the lingo usage, I appreciate that.

The neon reddish sign is a great idea with the green. The shoot is in January so gratefully I have time to test and work on putting together an efficient location package for this trip. (the shoot is in another state)

Thanks for the excellent suggestions,
James
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