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Old June 24th, 2006, 06:57 PM   #1
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Shooting first indie film soon: Any advice?

I am fairly new to videography. I will be shooting my first independent film for a multimedia project next week. Here is my setup as of now:

Camera: Sony Z1
Sound: AT-897
Tripod: Smith-Victor Propod III
Lighting: Bescor On-Camera Light
Additional: Warm Cards

The majority of the movie will take place during night being shot both indoors and outdoors. I have done some practice shots to see how my scenes will appear. Here are a few things I need advice on:

1. I would like to obtain that cool, blue-like effect you see in the movies during scenes that take place indoors at night. I have played around with my settings and I have found that adjusting the WB Shift to a negative helps but I am wondering if anyone has some advice to help with this.

2. My $50 on-camera lighting works okay but it can easily blind the actors and it is sort of weak anyway. Can anyone provide basic advice on lighting scenes? Any cheap packages to recommend? My budget is very low and I can't afford an expensive lighting setup.

3. What experiences have people here had with the Z1's cineframe modes? Did your footage appear choppy in post? What other contributions did you make to achieve getting the film look? Does anyone prefer shooting in normal hd and then waiting until post to give your movies the film look?

As I said above, I am fairly new to videography so I am open to all kinds of advice. Thanks.
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Old June 24th, 2006, 10:19 PM   #2
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Brandon,


First of all let me tell you that the questions you are asking are a bit too wide and important for a first project. Your comment on being "failrly new to videography" seems indeed true, from the questions you raised, which would probably be answered after two or three years at a film school, and several years more of shooting, both video and film.

You say you will shooting a film, but will the result be actually transferred to film or stay in video?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Savoie
I am fairly new to videography. I will be shooting my first independent film for a multimedia project next week. Here is my setup as of now:

Camera: Sony Z1
Sound: AT-897
Tripod: Smith-Victor Propod III
Lighting: Bescor On-Camera Light
Additional: Warm Cards

The majority of the movie will take place during night being shot both indoors and outdoors. I have done some practice shots to see how my scenes will appear. Here are a few things I need advice on:

1. I would like to obtain that cool, blue-like effect you see in the movies during scenes that take place indoors at night. I have played around with my settings and I have found that adjusting the WB Shift to a negative helps but I am wondering if anyone has some advice to help with this.

2. My $50 on-camera lighting works okay but it can easily blind the actors and it is sort of weak anyway. Can anyone provide basic advice on lighting scenes? Any cheap packages to recommend? My budget is very low and I can't afford an expensive lighting setup.

3. What experiences have people here had with the Z1's cineframe modes? Did your footage appear choppy in post? What other contributions did you make to achieve getting the film look? Does anyone prefer shooting in normal hd and then waiting until post to give your movies the film look?
Equipment:

Camera is fine. Tripod is not so good, if you pretend fluid movements.

The mike is fine, but will you have a sound person to pick your audio? If it's dialogue you will be recording, forget about the on-camera position. You need to be close to your subject with your mic.

The Bescor light won't be of much use in a night situation, indoors or outdoors. You will only be able to light your subject with it if it's very close, but the rest will be totally dark. If that's what you are looking for then it's fine. Actors should get used to light on their eyes. If necessary put the light on the side.

The blue-like effect (moon light) is something I would leave as something to be added in post, after or during editing. Shoot all as it should be, using white cards.

You can use the warm cards, but you should be looking for consistency, and they might not give you that. To get a "blue effect" you should use the warm cards on one light and then light with another light, warmer. If it will all be blue then you don't need a warm card during shooting.

Lighting is the more complex thing you will find for a shooting. There's not much you may get here as useful advice, I'm afraid. I don't intend to discourage you: just be aware that lighting is the more difficult technical part you will have to solve, even more if shooting at night. As a rule: if you can't make your camera print a good image with the lighting you can already find outdoors or indoors on the places you are going to shoot at, no cheap lighting package will solve that.

Try thinking of your shooting places in a different way. Look for places where the available light is high enough to print on your camera screen, with small dark areas. Shooting inside a car is good if you can send the Bescor against a reflective area, so it can spread a little. Shooting inside eating places can be alright, if it looks natural on the camera screen. Same thing for malls, which are usually well lit but may not let you shoot inside.

Get some portable 55w fluorescent to light your interiors, but do not send it direct but reflected from a white card or white area.

If you are just looking for a film effect, I think it might be better to add it in post.

Sorry if I can't give you better news. But I think you can do a lot if you look for locations, times of the day, etc. that will look as you want them too.


Carlos
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Old June 24th, 2006, 10:42 PM   #3
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The questions you are asking would be covered in 2 years of film school, or on your first shoot if you attack it critically.

Here are the things we learned from our first feature (which we still have to post...but principal photography is done!).

my camera side checklist is here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=61655

my lighting by example thread:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=66451

my wiki entry (with some technical inaccuracies - and lots of glossed over topics):
http://www.seedwiki.com/wiki/indie_f...cinematography
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Old June 24th, 2006, 11:00 PM   #4
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I'm using GE softwhite flourescent screw in bulbs in ac delco clamp lights (the clamps don't fall apart on these). I have these clamped to microphone boom stands that I had laying around. You can replace them with lighting stands for more reach and less clunky useage.

For throwing light farther, $20 work lights from home depot or sears will fill the bill. Make sure you stick to one type of light per shot for avoiding color problems. White balance often! Focus often!

I have foamcore (from art store) bounce cards in white and black...one side of each of the bounce cards is spray painted either silver or gold (shiny). lots of distance between subjects and backgrounds when scouting locations (for DoF control).

Couple of PVC frames (largish) with large sheets of white muslin or other white translucent fabric stretched over it...can be held in place with spring clamps or tied in place like a hide curing in the sun. These will diffuse the light coming through it well (you can see these in use in the BTS from Casanova - but theirs cost alot more). Black fabric will flag light and gold/silver will reflect...these can be large if you like.

Shoot lots of tests until you get your own look dialled in. Make sure you take note of the changes you make and the changes that get made in the frame when you make them.

Boom mic running straight into camera (don't have to worry about synching in post on your first shoot. I have an ATR55 that works just fine for now ($50-new). Painters 16' pole with brass pipe adaptor to fit to 3/8" flare (standard audio thread) which leads to mic holder I took apart for the thread and attached to a wire cylinder (made from 2 gutter screens sewn together with wire) with rounded ends (cut triangles and wire shut). Mic is hung in there with chopstix and rubber bands. Cover with costume fur and you have a $350 boom mic + wind screen that works incredibly well in windy environs for <$100 including the $50 mic. just get some long 1/8" cables to run down it...or a wireless pair (transmitter/reciever) that can strap to the boom pole.

Boom mic should be pointed across the talents mouth to their chest and into the ground to prevent off axis noise from making it in...the chest rumble that gives the bass we hear in movie voices comes through the best this way as well.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 12:08 AM   #5
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Thanks for the advice guys. Unfortunately, I am studying multimedia and not attending film school so I have to learn everything about shooting out of the classroom. This movie will have lots of CGI (aliens, ufos, gun flashes) because that is the kind of stuff I have been taught in school. I am experienced in post production and with programs such as Premiere, After Effects, and 3D Studio Max. The movie will remain on video. I have no intentions of transferring it to film.

The movie is short and won't have much dialogue because it revolves around a single actor. I didn't plan on using booms because I find that mounting the mic on my camera seems to work fine in most situations where there is little to no dialogue. I'll be using headphones to monitor the sound as we rehearse each scene before actual shooting. I have a long cable for my mic and can easily place it in different positions around the scenes. For the few scenes where there is brief dialogue, I planned on having someone hold the mic closely to the actor as he is speaking. For the other scenes, I planned on keeping my mic on the camera. If there are any minor problems I would miss during shooting, I plan on using Audition to correct them.

The majority of the movie is conveniently being shot in my house. The lighting already available in my house such as lamps and ceiling lights will be suitable for most of my shots. As a matter of fact, there is only one scene in particular that I want to have a good blue-like effect and it is in my bedroom. I played around with my bedroom lighting some more and found that my flourescent desk lamp gives the blue-like effect I want. However, the lamp is dim so I would probably need to buy additional flourescent lights. One other idea I had in mind was to use 3 BLUE 60w bulbs on my ceiling fan, but I don't know if this would provide the effect I want. I shouldn't have trouble with my lighting in the other scenes.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 04:08 AM   #6
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For the "blue" effect just use a cheap Lee's filter gelatine in front of any light you can afford. If experimenting, try to combine with a second light from a different angle with an orange Lee gelatine for an interesting contrast -you might like the result. There are tens of different hues to choose from.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 06:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Savoie
Thanks for the advice guys. Unfortunately, I am studying multimedia and not attending film school so I have to learn everything about shooting out of the classroom. This movie will have lots of CGI (aliens, ufos, gun flashes) because that is the kind of stuff I have been taught in school. I am experienced in post production and with programs such as Premiere, After Effects, and 3D Studio Max. The movie will remain on video. I have no intentions of transferring it to film.
OK. It's very important to know what you want.

Quote:
The movie is short and won't have much dialogue because it revolves around a single actor. I didn't plan on using booms because I find that mounting the mic on my camera seems to work fine in most situations where there is little to no dialogue. I'll be using headphones to monitor the sound as we rehearse each scene before actual shooting. I have a long cable for my mic and can easily place it in different positions around the scenes. For the few scenes where there is brief dialogue, I planned on having someone hold the mic closely to the actor as he is speaking. For the other scenes, I planned on keeping my mic on the camera. If there are any minor problems I would miss during shooting, I plan on using Audition to correct them..
No program can correct a bad picked dialogue. It's very good you are already thinking on someone micing your actor. You will have to. On-camera mic positions are only good to capture ambience sound. And even then keep your audio levels in manual.

Quote:
The majority of the movie is conveniently being shot in my house. The lighting already available in my house such as lamps and ceiling lights will be suitable for most of my shots. As a matter of fact, there is only one scene in particular that I want to have a good blue-like effect and it is in my bedroom. I played around with my bedroom lighting some more and found that my flourescent desk lamp gives the blue-like effect I want. However, the lamp is dim so I would probably need to buy additional flourescent lights. One other idea I had in mind was to use 3 BLUE 60w bulbs on my ceiling fan, but I don't know if this would provide the effect I want. I shouldn't have trouble with my lighting in the other scenes.
Try to get the higher fluorescent bulbs you can put in your ceiling fan. Their output should be higher than the 60w bulbs and it will already be rather soft. As there's no heat you can add light blue gels to get what you want. If possible include some warm light in the scene to increase the visible effect by contrast. If the blue tint is for the whole scene you can do it in post very easily. Remember that any gel will take light away from your sources.

Allow me to insist on you getting a non-flickering fluorescent, I think they are called "garage lights" or so, that you can put anywhere and increase your lighting with a nice look.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 10:35 AM   #8
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With the blue light, are you looking to replicate moonlight streaming through the window? if so, I would recommend gettng a blue flood lamp ($10 - home depot). Moonlight is generally recognized as a low angle source (window) with harsh edges to the shadows (hard light, not soft). Get the $10 AC Delco clamp light I recommended earlier and put the flood light in and clamp it to a chair or something (it'll get hot, turn it off when not shooting). I used this to replicate a TV with hands waving slowly in front to show some flickering. If you white balance to a regular light, the blue will pop even more...perhaps too strongly, if you balance to the blue, the interior lights will turn orange. If you use your warm cards to white balance against the interior lights, you should get a nice medium inbetweeny balance where the blue looks blue and the interior looks orange.

Test it out on camera, shoot lots of test...have a tape set aside dedicated to them, document what you are testing and write a diagram or description on a card and hold it in front of the camera for reference later. Play with the lighting, mess it up, make mistakes, learn what works and what doesn't. What happens if you move that light 6" back...forward...3' away fron the subject. Play, lighting is the single coolest way to get your point on screen, it's the one thing that you generally can't control in real life to the degree you can in camera. You certainly can't do it later in post without destroying your footage. Plan what you want your shots to look like (mood, emotion, time of day, practical light positions) and recreate that with light. All cameras do is capture light, that's their job. You need to provide them light to capture. Generally rooms are wired to throw ambient light, not directed light. This will give you a flat image with no depth or pop to it. It will also force you to top light all of your models that you'll be keying over to match the set lighting, alot of the 3d that you'll spend so much time labouring over will be lost to lighting conditions that are non conducive to showing off the work you have done.

I have red, white, blue and green party floods in my lighting collection just in case I need them. I also have 5 halogen worklights (500w), 6 flouresent clamp lights (120w equiv), 5 bounce/flag cards, white bedsheets, black bedsheets, pvc for framing the bedsheets, stingers (orange extension cords with multiple outlet ends), light socket adaptors (for providing power outlets where there is only a light socket), 3 stands and a line tester. You can start building your lighting collection a piece at a time, you don't have to buy it all at once. You will want to be able to control the light you are putting on your actors (especially since you'll be screening stuff in).

Lighting is the primary component in the "Film Look" that everyone tries to acheive in post.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 12:47 PM   #9
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Guys, have you ever had any experience with day for night shooting? How about tricking my white balance for a blue tint and then applying something like a Magic Bullet filter in post? I am considering trying this for most of my shots because it would easier than setting up lighting. Most of my scenes are indoors and I could probably get the look I desire with day for night shooting. However, there are SOME scenes which must be shot at night:

1. Backyard night scene. Actor looks up at the sky and sees ufos.

2. Living room night scene. Bright ufo lights flash through the windows.

I couldn't shoot the living room scene at day because I have to flash spotlights through my windows. If I were to shoot day for night, I am afraid this one scene could disrupt the consistency of the rest of my indoor shots.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 04:26 PM   #10
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Sorry to disagree with Cole on how moonlight's quality is like. Moonlight is not low angle and is not soft. This is debatable, of course, as the whole frame may be more important on how the light quality is.

But if you look at how $$$ Hollywood is handling moonlight nowadays, with high intensity HMI units diffused and hanging tens of meters high in the air, they seem to think moonlight is a high positioned, highly diffused light source. Which I also think it is.

Day for night can be tricky and mostly works when you are not on a city. A forest or landscape can look night if using the right setups.

To do it on a city you should be very careful not to shoot the sky. If you need to you should get heavy graduated filters and on static shots, from a tripod. If you are fast in staging the scenes, you can shoot in the "magic hour", late in the afternoon when the sun is out. That is better to do in the summer, when days are longer and so are afternoons. You should shoot your scenes several times and then use the one that gave you the better look. Have cars with headlights passing by or in the picture to accentuate the "night look".

For your indoors put some gels or celophan paper to lower the light coming through the windows and light with just one light source with little fill-in to accentuate your contrasts. But be careful to light the shadows so they don't get completely lost. Final adjustments can be made in post, handling contrast.

The bright lights coming through the window may not be easy to solve, except if you can get some strobo to do it.

For the exterior scenes you may also choose a non-realisitic treatment, shooting at noon with the sun shining on your actor, over exposed or at least with heavy shadows. Use the incandescent light settings in your Z1 to see how that looks, with its heavy blue tint.

Do some tests right away to see how you can work with your camera and post effects. Then you can shoot already knowing what you will get.
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Old June 26th, 2006, 09:42 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlos E. Martinez
But if you look at how $$$ Hollywood is handling moonlight nowadays, with high intensity HMI units diffused and hanging tens of meters high in the air, they seem to think moonlight is a high positioned, highly diffused light source. Which I also think it is.
Hollywood is diffusing the hell out of everything lately ;)

The sun and moon are single point lights which are quite far away. Physics determines that they will be a hard light source. Since he is talking specifically about shooting interiors and faking moonlight coming through a window, to get the "moon light" to hit the actors at all in a master shot, he'll have to throw it in at a low angle. I don't have any specific examples for you to look at, but I had a conversation with a lighting consultant about a year ago about faking moonlight and sun light on a budget. Low angle, blue and hard light are the look that his clients use most frequently.

I still recommend he experiment with different light qualities and record test to look at on a TV to determine what will give the best results for his purposes.
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Old June 26th, 2006, 10:40 AM   #12
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There's doing it "right" and then ... there's just getting it done.

It seems like in your situation (new to video and lighting and such, it's your first project) you're best hope is to aim to get it done as best as possible and don't get bogged down in how it *should* be done. (which would often include a storyboard, review with a DP, planning and budgeting all the grip equipment etc. all prior to shooting)

Instead, JUST DO IT, make mistakes, it won't look perfect .... but you will wrap the project and have learned a lot.

That said .....

1) for audio, search the Wedding board for info on using iRiver mp3 player/recorders with a Giant Squid mic. These are relatively low cost, low visibility, and easy to use for capturing a "safety" audio track. You may be able to rent a rig from someone for $15-$25.

2) The on-camera light will not be of much use for a "movie" shoot.
Get a bunch of clamp-on lights from a hardware store and some high wattage bulbs for them. Hallogens are difficult to control and run very hot. You may be better off getting day-light compact flourescent bulbs.
Extra tripods, step ladders or heavy mic stands can be used to mount these where needed.
You can get foam core boards from an arts & crafts store to cut out "cookies" that can shape the lights to project window shapes and such.

Get this stuff and experiment as much as you possibly can before your shoot.

It's good practice to have a shot list created that lists every shot you want to get (if the same action is needed at different angles or framing ... be sure to list each as a seperate shot) so you have a check list when shooting. Have a person on set dedicated (not doing ANYTHING else) to keeping track of what's been done and what still needs to be done.

Good luck !!!
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Old June 26th, 2006, 03:33 PM   #13
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Thanks Nick, I definitely don't expect a masterpiece but I would like to make my shots as good as I can with the limited amount of time I have. It turns out there were goodies under my nose that I didn't even know about! I was looking through my garage and found a microphone stand that my dad had purchased not long ago. I unscrewed the mic holder and swapped it with the one that came with my AT897 and now I have an instant boom set up and ready to go. After testing some more shots and playing with the night filters in Magic Bullet (I highly recommend this plugin), I realized that I will definitely require more lighting. I will try to stick with 3-point lighting that my book brags about so much and will take a trip to Home Depot later today to hopefully complete my lighting setup. I will be trying day for night shooting for most of my indoor scenes, anyone have advice on how to blend window light with the rest of my scene? Even after playing with the footage in post (night filters, brightness, etc.) the light coming through my windows still appears WHITE... not good for a scene that takes place at night. Should I use gels on the windows? If so, where can they be purchased? I am short on time. Shooting is scheduled for this Friday and I still have to go to work and attend other classes. If I have to order gels online, I will probably have to rush ship it...
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Old June 26th, 2006, 06:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Savoie
I was looking through my garage and found a microphone stand that my dad had purchased not long ago. I unscrewed the mic holder and swapped it with the one that came with my AT897 and now I have an instant boom set up and ready to go. After testing some more shots and playing with the night filters in Magic Bullet (I highly recommend this plugin), I realized that I will definitely require more lighting. I will try to stick with 3-point lighting that my book brags about so much and will take a trip to Home Depot later today to hopefully complete my lighting setup. I will be trying day for night shooting for most of my indoor scenes, anyone have advice on how to blend window light with the rest of my scene? Even after playing with the footage in post (night filters, brightness, etc.) the light coming through my windows still appears WHITE... not good for a scene that takes place at night. Should I use gels on the windows? If so, where can they be purchased? I am short on time. Shooting is scheduled for this Friday and I still have to go to work and attend other classes. If I have to order gels online, I will probably have to rush ship it...

You having found a mic stand is great news. It will be a great help for static shots.

In order to make your windows look blue you will have to put gels on the outside. Actual pro gels are very expensive. Cheap and second best is blue celophane paper. They come in large sizes, but not as large as a window, so you may have to join two or more sheets to get to your size.

Blue celophane is easy to find, as it's used for wrapping presents. Look for different shades of blue: light, medium and dark. It's cheap, so get them all and try them on the window with your camera.

The window should also be balanced, in brightness, with the indoors room. To balance your camera, first cover the window, switch on your indoor light, do the white balance, then uncover the window. The room light will be white with a shade of blue coming from the window. Check that the WB is in manual mode, of course, or the camera will try the balance the color mixed light.
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Old June 26th, 2006, 07:18 PM   #15
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Except from adding gels on the windows, clear, diffused, or a combination to colorise and soften the light, or decrease it's intensity, you could also glue aluminum foil to large pieces of expanded polystyrene (EPS) to make some cheap lightweight reflectors and take more advantage of the sunlight.
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