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-   -   My First XL2 Short... (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xl-gl-series-dv-camcorders/34606-my-first-xl2-short.html)

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 10:57 AM

My First XL2 Short...
Ok it's my first short of any kind. _I bought a light kit and decided to try lighting in sort of a Film Noir style. _Sometimes I succeeded sometimes I failed. _Please let me know what you think.

For background I was the only crew on this as well as acting in it so most of the camera shots are static. I did do a rack focus from a carafe to a glass but I don't know if you can see it. Also I did a slight zoom in one scene where only my girlfriend was in it. I shot this B&W in 24p with a shutter speed of 48. It was all lit with a Lowel DV Creator 55 light kit. I wrote the orchestral music. The jazz song is one that was written by Oliver Nelson and it is called Stolen Moments, I'm playing sax (poorly). This really wasn't meant to be seen - to be honest it wasn't meant to be a short - just an exercise in lighting - but one scene led to another and I decided to use it as an exercise in editing as well.

This is the first "movie" type thing I've ever made so I expect to have made many mistakes and would like whatever criticism you can muster. I've already received some feedback that my pacing is a little off in some places so I'm going to work on that.

You can download the file from here:

Kevin Gilvear November 7th, 2004 01:54 PM

I think that's a really good first effort. You're totally aware of your limitations by keeping things static and it works quite well I think. I didn't like that quick cut between camera positions when you see the girl on the bed (which I presume is just a test anyway) but overall I think there's some good compositions there.

I'll look forward to seeing more of your work, keep it up.

I'll be looking at doing some of my own short films over the next couple of months on the XL2 and its great to see some good footage from it.

Did you light specifically for black and white?

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 02:03 PM

Thank you for the kind words. Yeah, that cut is a mistake. Actually, the cut isn't a mistake but it exists only to cover a continuity mistake (open/closed bathroom door). I should probably rethink that.

Yes I set the camera for B&W and lit the film by looking through the camera to see if I liked it.


Kevin Gilvear November 7th, 2004 02:10 PM

By the way I quite liked the music and thought it was more jarring when it stopped. Maybe if it had played a little more quietly in the background it would have worked better but the beggining and end sounded good to me.

David Lach November 7th, 2004 02:36 PM

Good job Matthew, I can say my first short pales in comparison.

I think the comment on pacing is dead on, and the most important one. I suggest you go back to the editing room and try to create a bit more rhythm between the cuts. The eye doesn't need to see that full glass, that key turning in the lock, that empty space or that door closing for that long to understand and "feel" what's going on. This is the most common mistake when starting out, and I'm guilty of that too, to hold every shot just a bit too long. It breaks the continuity and flow.

Also, be aware that if, like in the room with the girl on the bed, you cut back and forth from close to medium shot, it will create a jump cut if you don't shoot off axis slightly, meaning you should reposition the camera about 30 to the side for the wider shot to eliminate that "jump forward/backward" impression it creates (it can be a good thing sometimes, especially when you're trying to scare the viewer, but I don't think it was justified here).

Finally , work on the quality of the light. For example, in the shot where you see blinds creating shadows, the shadows in the back are too harsh if the idea was to simulate moonlight (where the moon is essentially a huge reflector that creates smooth even light). That light would need to be softer than that. Now we really get the feeling there's an open face behind a cookie lighting the scene.

That being said, those are details. I must say I'm really impressed by your attention to create texture, shape and variation in the lighting, film-noir like. Don't be afraid to create even more contrast (less fill) on the actor's faces, particularly in the scene with the blinds, or whenever you want to add to that mistery look.

I really like the shot with the girl lying on the bed in the foreground when you first enter the room. This is great composition and excellent lighting where we really get a sense of depth as well as multiple visual informations for the eye. It is really pleasant to look at. On the other hand, maybe it's just the girl ;-)

Overall, I think this looks better than many film students' shorts I studied with so keep it up, you're ahead of the pack if this is indeed your first short.

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 03:10 PM


David thank you so much, I just learned what a "jump cut" is - cool! Yes, this is my first short. I actually came to doing this through music, which at this stage of my life is just a hobby. My company bought an XL2 to do some training videos with and I decided to buy a cheap light kit to make them look better. Well, they were all sitting in my living room and I thought I should learn how to use the stuff. I chose B&W because I figured it would be less to worry about - although I think I may have been mistaken in that. All that said, I've been watching movies for over thirty years so I guess I had a lot of time to look at stuff!

I'll try shooting some other footage and see what I can do with it. The shot with the blinds was indeed done as you suggest - I shot a light through some blinds I had hanging from a microphone boom stand. I suppose I should extend the music some more too, but to be honest I was going to stop working on this as it was just a quick tutorial for myself.


David Lach November 7th, 2004 03:33 PM

Shooting B&W is indeed an art. You can use color to fool the eye and create easy emotional effects, but B&W brings it all back to the one essential tool for a DOP, light and shadow.

There's truly no better way to master shooting and lighting than experimenting by yourself. You can read all the books you want, in the end, it'll be when you see it with your own eyes that you'll truly grasp the theories behind the results.

Mathieu Ghekiere November 7th, 2004 03:40 PM

Hey Matthew, I saw your short and I thought your lightning was great in the bedroom with your girlfriend and in the living room at the end. Could you share me some details in the lighting proces, because I don't know a lot about lightning and for my upcoming project I also want to create a black and white noir style, so any hints or/and tips are useful to me.
Thanks, and congratulations with the short!

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 03:57 PM

Thanks Mathieu!

I wish I could be more help to you but really I lit all of this by eye. If I were to do it over again, I would shoot for much more contrast. But that said, here's what I did:

I basically just set up the camera for the shot I wanted, like the bedroom, and then I lit each part until I liked the effect in the viewfinder. So for the bedroom scene I first lit the girl, then I through a splash of light onto the wall by the dresser. I played with the barndoors a lot until I got a look I liked and then I checked the zebra pattern and set the iris. I spent an awful lot of time doing this, but I was alone at night and it was fun. There is probably a better way to do this, but I don't know what it is yet. I would probably advise practicing first at home alone. While I have no idea how I would light certain scenes that are in my head, I feel confident I could light the scenes from my short again pretty quickly in a variety of settings.

For the some scenes I added lights that you really cant see but you see the effect. Like when I walked into the apartment I have a small spot (in this case a Lowel Pro) hitting the candlestick. It doesn't really "light it up" but it just makes it sparkle. I also did this with the carafe and ashtray.

If I were to do this again, I would fist invest in some stands and flags, even if they were homemade. This would have allowed me to not only place light on the walls but to better place shadows as well. Also, we bought the Lowel kit primarily because we would be using it for interviews and like its small size. Also I think it is pretty versatile, however if I were going to shoot something like this for real, I think I would want more fresnel type lights to throw harder light and create more shadows.

Kevin Gilvear November 7th, 2004 03:59 PM

So you filmed it all in one night?

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 04:03 PM

Oh God no....

Let's see I filmed all of the parts without Wendy in about three nights and then one night with her. I spent a night editing it and about one weekend (all day Sat and Sun) writing the music and one night working on the audio.


David Lach November 7th, 2004 04:07 PM

<<<-- Originally posted by Matthew Cherry :

if I were going to shoot something like this for real, I think I would want more fresnel type lights to throw harder light and create more shadows. -->>>

I think lots of DOPs would advise against harsh lights for interior lighting. The lights in an appartment or office often come from naturally diffused sources, like a stand lamp with the light bouncing off the wall, or a plain table lamp. The sun will create crisp contours on shadows, but only if the light enters the room directly (like in the morning, if your windows face East) and on sunny days, without clouds.

You can create more contrast and still use soft lighting. The idea is to create a sense of modeling around the objects. So you can put a softbox on one side of an actor's face and leave the other side completely unlit if this is what you're looking for.

Fresnels IMO are best used to create accent or simulate a harsh source of light like direct sunlight.

Kevin Gilvear November 7th, 2004 04:07 PM

AH well three nights is still damn good. Nice one

Kevin Gilvear November 7th, 2004 04:10 PM

I'd liek some advice on contrast. I'd want solid blacks as much as possible so how do you go about making the contrast work. If its too high the blacks become worse right, less solid?

Matthew Cherry November 7th, 2004 04:12 PM

Point taken David, but in my mind I was seeing a real Noir type of thing like from the 30's where hard lighting was (I think) used more. Very artificial yes, but still that's what I was seeing and had a hard time achieving. I used a soft box (Riffa 55) quite a bit but still had trouble controlling shadows. Again, maybe I should have used some flags?

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