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


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Old January 27th, 2003, 08:42 AM   #16
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As always, Charles...you're the man. Thanks for the detailed explanations.

Now, of course, I'm frothing at the mouth with "gotta buy toys" syndrome. Why wasn't I born a Vanderbilt?
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Old April 21st, 2003, 04:46 AM   #17
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Thanks for this Charles, I learned a lot from this post.

I have a quick question for you. The final product appears widescreen. Was this done entirely in post? Or did you shoot the film with black bands over the lcd screen as a guide, knowing you were going to crop the image...or did you use the fake widescreen mode?

I'm confused on how that aspect ratio is acheived, I really love the look.
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Old April 21st, 2003, 07:36 AM   #18
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Yes, the widescreen was added as a matte in post. We masked off the color viewfinder (sure wish I had my B&W back then) with scotch tape to create the 1:85 framelines.

The director and I looked at tests beforehand and didn't like the look or inconvenience of working in the 16:9 (1:78) mode, which would have required additional cropping to get down to 1:85 anyway.
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Old April 21st, 2003, 10:18 AM   #19
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Thanks Charles for your extremely generous gift of time, knowledge
and genuine experience to this forum.
I agree with Imran that you have provided what could have been a very
expensive workshop, one worth every penny.

This is the kind of stuff that makes dvinfo.net the best of the best imo.

PS Thanks to Mr. Hurd for hosting it.
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Old April 21st, 2003, 10:32 AM   #20
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Did anyone notice the contant CNN footage from the Kuwait temp studio during the war? There was a large window behind the anchor with a skyline view of the city. They had obviously draped something over the window to cut down the light to balance with the indoor lights.

Problem was, it must've been some sort of net material, so all the footage has a textured background that looks like a painting canvas. To be honest, I didn't care for it much. Considering their budget and the preparation time they had, seems to me they should have just put a sheet of polarized glass shading on the window (like what's put on car windows). That would've prevented the textured look and improved the look overall, I think.
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Old April 21st, 2003, 12:54 PM   #21
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : Yes, the widescreen was added as a matte in post. We masked off the color viewfinder (sure wish I had my B&W back then) with scotch tape to create the 1:85 framelines.

The director and I looked at tests beforehand and didn't like the look or inconvenience of working in the 16:9 (1:78) mode, which would have required additional cropping to get down to 1:85 anyway. -->>>

------------------------------------


ok that clears things up. Did you use a specific measurment for the scotch tape bands on the viewfinder, or did you just guesstimate?

thanks again. Your film gives people like me hope that we can achieve a great look with miniDV! You should have been the DP for Soderbergh's Full Frontal.
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Old April 21st, 2003, 11:33 PM   #22
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Brad:

We created a Photoshop matte in the 1:85 ratio, then exported to FCP, ran it out to tape and played the tape in the XL1. Then we matched up the edge of the Scotch tape (which had been highlighted with a black Sharpie) with the edges of the matte.

John:

Usually we would squeegee ND or 85ND gel directly onto the windows, and it is close to optically clear...for a situation where the light changes quite a bit and you have to be able to switch the level of ND back and forth (such as that studio, which would probably have been active at night also?) the best choice would have been hard gels, which are the same thing as regular gel but mounted into lexan panels, which are quick to place and remove. Sounds like CNN took a cheaper/lower end route, which somehow doesn't surprise me all that much.
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Old April 22nd, 2003, 07:33 PM   #23
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Thanks again Charles. I have a few more questions I'd like to ask if I may.

1. You shot this in frame mode right? If so, were you pleased with the results instead of regular interlaced? What are the advantages to this method, and are there any disadvantages that you came across?

2. What are the advantages of cropping the 4:3 image in post instead of shooting in 16:9 with an anamorphic adapter? How exactly does First Born look on a widescreen TV, and on a regular TV? On a regular TV, does it have the black horizontal bars on the top and bottom, and on a widescreen, does it just fill the entire screen?

3. What specific lenses did you use for the shoot?

4. I hate to ask, but if you know, could you point me in the right direction on making a 1:85 widescreen matte in photoshop? I just don't know the exact pixel ratio that I would need.

Thanks again for the description you gave. I've learned a lot about lighting for DV in this thread.
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Old April 22nd, 2003, 07:48 PM   #24
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Brad,

For questions number 2 (first one) and 4, you'll find a lot of information already available here. Try searching and you'll have tons o' reading material. ;)

Also, for number 4, one of the wranglers here at DVInfo.net, Rob Lohman, has made an online calculator that tells you exactly how to make a letterbox matte in PhotoShop...AND then goes ahead and offers the matte as a free download to boot. You can find it by clicking here.
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Old April 22nd, 2003, 10:19 PM   #25
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Thanks John. Yea I've been looking through some of the threads and I couldn't find a definitive answer on the whole widescreen issue, as there appears to be different opinions from a lot of people on this. Thanks for that link! Good stuff there.
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Old April 24th, 2003, 02:59 AM   #26
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Brad:

1) The only disadvantage I found (and still find) with Frame Mode is the loss of resolution, which as I think I mentioned here just meant that I didn't need to use any diffusion. I'm used to shooting 24fps film, so I'm comfortable with the strobing issues that can result from certain panning rates and thus avoiding them. I've actually seen much less problems with this at the 30 fps speed as characterized by Frame Mode.

As John points out, 2) and 4) are covered elsewhere.

3) We used the Canon 14x manual lens, and for one or two shots a wide-angle converter of a brand I can't remember (might have been the Century). It was a rented package. I bought an Xl1 after the shoot.
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Old April 30th, 2003, 06:16 AM   #27
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Hey Charles, thanks for answering.

I just saw your film Hollywood in Valentine. Great work!
What camera did you use for that? I'm curious to hear some info and details about the shoot.
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Old April 30th, 2003, 02:12 PM   #28
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Hi Brad:

Thanks!

That was a DVX-100, my first time with that camera. I liked it quite a bit for that shoot, even discovering that its lightweight construction (normally something of a durability issue) came in handy for the overhead shots, made it much easier to rig.

We used a fog machine to create a little atmosphere and depth in the backgrounds. The lighting package was pretty humble, a couple of Kino's and some small tungsten. We did a few Steadicam shots, notably the one long one in the kitchen.

It was a long, long day, as most are with Instant Films! We got the script at 8 am, started shooting sometime after noon and went till about 5 in the morning. I felt awful for the actor who played the writer (great, wasn't he?) because his big monologues were shot last, around 4 a.m., when he was virtually braindead...!

This being my fifth film with Instant Films, I was very focused on stretching myself a bit and making the most theatrical presentation I could given the time frame. Thus I attempted to give each of the characters a different visual style: the writer is usually seen "boxed in" to a static, usually skewed frame which represents his introverted personality; the actress is always in shot with a moving camera to augment her extroverted personality and the two producers are somwhere in the middle, shot with conventional coverage.
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Old April 30th, 2003, 03:26 PM   #29
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You shot that whole thing the day you were handed the script!? Thats awesome. I like the choices you made regarding composition as well as camera movement. I love that shot in the kitchen where the camera tracks the actress on the phone. What type of steadi or glidecam did you use?

Also interesting is the very first shot, where you see the ashtray in focus, and the main character is at his desk in the background. You managed to pull off a nice shallow DoF look. Was that done in post or were you able to acheive that during the shot, and how?

Did you shoot this in 24p mode?

Also, was this again shot in 4:3 aspect and then cropped in post? Seems like that look really works.

The lighting in that kitchen scene with the woman on the phone was lit very well, aside from the web compression artifacts, it looks like it could be high end DV, or film.
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Old May 1st, 2003, 02:28 AM   #30
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<<You shot that whole thing the day you were handed the script!? >>

Yup, and the script was written the night before...the process is described on the website where you saw the film, www.instantfilms.tv, also there is a documentary on the site that also details how it works.


<<What type of steadi or glidecam did you use? >>
This particular Instant Films was kind of funny in that we had something like 5 Steadicam operators onboard; myself, the DP, the sound guy (who actually operated the shots in the video), the PA and one of the actors (the older producer)! Chris, the operator, uses a PRO rig (same as mine), and we weigh down the camera with a lead weight to get it to approach the weight of a 16mm setup. Lighting-wise, that kitchen scene was virtually natural light, just the overhead fluorescents since we were seeing 360 degrees. A couple of lights in the adjoining rooms were all.

<<Also interesting is the very first shot, where you see the ashtray in focus, and the main character is at his desk in the background. You managed to pull off a nice shallow DoF look.>>

I used the macro setting and placed the ashtray very close to the lens. Macro is one of the very few ways to get a noticeably small DOF in DV.

<<Did you shoot this in 24p mode? was this again shot in 4:3 aspect and then cropped in post? >>

Yes and yes.

The heavy compression is a real bummer. I hope one of these days we will be able to afford the server etc. to deliver better looking video. The short really pops when seen in full resolution.
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