Shooting Costume Drama at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old February 24th, 2010, 10:58 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Berkshire, UK
Posts: 27
Shooting Costume Drama

New to the forums, so hopefully, I've put this in the right place.

I'm shooting a costume drama scene for an actress friend's showreel in the next month and am looking for some advice on how best to shoot it. It's just one scene from an original script (not another adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" or anything!)- two characters, interior, simple dialogue scene- but because it's to showcase the actress as a lead player (and also myself as director), I'd like it to look as good as possible and in keeping with the costume drama "style." Without it costing the earth!

It seems to me there are two approaches to costume drama- the traditional BBC method is to showcase the sets and the costumes, so camerawork is usually quite static and uses wider framings. Deep focus also seems popular. The Hollywood or feature film method places it's focus on the players so you have more close-ups and shallower depth of field (although that probably has more to do with it being shot on 35mm).

Since the aim is to promote the actress for TV costume dramas, the former looks like the better approach, but what do you guys think? Anyone here shot period stuff before? Any tips on staging, lighting, photography would be helpful. It'll probably be shot on prosumer gear (Z1, EX1 something like that) but I'd hire a Letus or a HD DSLR if I thought it would be more in keeping with the style.

Any help appreciated!

Daniel J Brant
enborneriver.co.uk
Daniel J. Brant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 24th, 2010, 11:30 AM   #2
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,121
The traditional BBC way isn't to use static cameras - watch closely and you'll find there is movement. Not every shot, but the BBC way has always been to move the cameras, so tracks and crabs, often very slow ones are pretty common. Changes in height are also pretty much standard practice. The one thing that sets apart 'real' cameramen from the rest of us is their ability to hold a frame, while going sideways and up at the same time. Without proper kit, this is difficult, but some half-way house moves are possible with some planning and modest kit. A small jib is handy to use as mobile platform - it doesn't have to do big swoops and things, it can just jib left or right or do just crane ups. When trying to do this kind of thing with mine I work from the front and you can do the usual framing, but also add in the extra 2 dimensions. If you watch the old tried costume dramas, then depth of field is usually quite deep - but of course this means you have to light the set and talent.

Lighting needs to be done properly. Are you using sets or real locations? You really need the full compliment of kits and techniques. So you really need the usual key, fill and backlight - but also even washlight for the set, plus specials if the set includes things like beside lamps or lights on occasional tables, that kind of thing. You can't make it look good without all this stuff. You'll also need somebody who knows about makeup, and your actress friend will no doubt know about this - IF - she's a TV actress. If she hasn't done much TV, then her theatrical style makeup may well be too crude for HD. High Definition, especially in closeup is quite able to spot traditional pancake makeup.

If you can sort the costume, hair and makeup - plus the set - then you are on the way. If you have a limited budget, then careful planning is going to be needed - and if you have to cut corners, it's going to be tricky.

If you give us some more info on the plan so far, maybe we can suggest some work-arounds that may help.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 24th, 2010, 11:59 AM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: San Mateo, CA
Posts: 3,840
What period? What's the context of the setting?
Richard Alvarez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 24th, 2010, 12:38 PM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Berkshire, UK
Posts: 27
Richard- 1800s England. Jane Austen territory- all curly hair and corsets!

Paul- Thanks for the info and suggestions. Since this a single scene rather than a whole piece, there will be quite a few cut and rounded corners. I just want to try and evoke the feel of the bigger budget TV costume drama without necessarily matching it if it's out of reach due to resources.

Costumes will be hired- there's a stage costume hire company nearby that practically specialises in the whole Jane Austen time period and we should be able to get something appropriate from there. Make-up is also fairly set- I'll be using my normal screen make-up artist and her work has always been great. This will probably be a location, though- I don't have the resources to create a set for a single scene like this- and my PA is looking into the local stately homes we could use. Since it's not an adaptation, we can pretty much rewrite the script based on the location we can get.

Lighting was one of my concerns. The scene is (currently) a day scene in a study with our two leads in conversation. This would mean creating daylight through the window as well as enhancing practicals inside (stately homes are usually quite dark, so in the 1800s it would probably make sense for there to be oil lamps or a fire or something during daytime) as well as the usual modelling lights and fill. A jib might be out of the budget, but I can probably borrow a pipe dolly for the day to get some movement in there. If deep focus is characteristic of genre then I can just use the stock lens, stop down and increase the lighting- but would a more filmic SDoF look better for the actress?

Daniel J Brant
enborneriver.co.uk
Daniel J. Brant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 24th, 2010, 04:08 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: San Mateo, CA
Posts: 3,840
Check out Ridley Scotts first feature film "The Duellists" - possibly the most beautifully photographed film I've ever seen for 'ambient light'. Its a low budget film, used a lot of window lighting (HMI's of course - but still the motivation is the window in the room) Very soft, artistic lighting - just in your period. Notice how the interiors are lit and motivated entirely from the large windows -the shadow fill is exquisite.
Richard Alvarez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 24th, 2010, 04:27 PM   #6
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,121
Why not do the scene outdoors at the stately home - needs perhaps a bit more thought on sound, but some reflectors and a sunny day can make mown lawns and nice costumes against an old building look really good - and remove the big budget for lighting. As I know to my cost - stately homes rarely have any natural plain surfaces you can bounce light off and dark wooden panels are rather reflective and need very careful adjustment of camera angles.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 28th, 2010, 02:04 PM   #7
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Berkshire, UK
Posts: 27
Thanks for the advice, guys. We're trying to find an appropriate location at the moment and whether it's inside or outside will depend on what we can get (budget and ease of access are top of the list and production design a close second!). If we go with outside, I'll probably look to shooting it in a more film-like manner (SDoF, cinematic blocking and framing etc) since it would feel more expensive and "bigger" that way. If it's an interior... well, that'll depend on the set dressing and the location itself. Thanks for mentioning dark panels being awkwardly reflective, Paul, I hadn't thought of that!

Daniel J Brant
enborneriver.co.uk
Daniel J. Brant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 5th, 2010, 10:16 AM   #8
Major Player
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 616
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
Check out Ridley Scotts first feature film "The Duellists" - possibly the most beautifully photographed film I've ever seen for 'ambient light'. Its a low budget film, used a lot of window lighting (HMI's of course - but still the motivation is the window in the room) Very soft, artistic lighting - just in your period. Notice how the interiors are lit and motivated entirely from the large windows -the shadow fill is exquisite.
I haven't seen the Duelist yet, but what about the candle light in Barry Lyndon? They invented a camera for that.
Can't help but wonder what Micheal Mann would do with (or "to") this type of period piece...
Aric Mannion is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 5th, 2010, 03:05 PM   #9
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,121
Daniel - shallow DoF for the 'pretty' establishing shots, or where you need to focus attention on certain features - but it spoils the costume drama look in general - where everything in shot needs to be crisp and sharp.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:12 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network