June 25th 2011 marked the day when I officially became a DOP (directer of photography) where I was involved with some Elite Showreel scenes for Producer Debbie Thoy from Wizard Corporation Productions. I’ve been active in the world of moving pictures for just over a year now, producing my own short films, working on a small budget feature film as well as music videos but recently I had the opportunity to step-up and take the reigns as an actual DOP under the direction of professional director Mark DeFriest. What a fun experience that was, and hopefully the first of many.
Read on for all the behind the scenes photos and details…
As you know I am a photographer first, so I have embraced the HDSLR cameras (5DMKII, 1DMKIV, 7D) with open arms and I choose to shoot with these cameras not just because they are readily available to me, but because I am truly impressed by the results and cinematic quality they can produce. These cameras have allowed me to chase the passion of movie making that I have always had as a kid. My other obsession of course is lighting. As a flash photographer I am incredibly picky about my lighting, and this is the perfect mindset to have as a DOP. It proved useful on set of the Showreels and I think everyone was very happy.
Below you can see one of the lighting setups we had on day one. It’s certainly a lot different to photography. In film, a lot of lights don’t have any sort of adjustability or dimmer switches. Boo! The output of the light has to be controlled using sheets of ND and attaching them using pegs or clamps. Primitive much? Most lights also tend to get very hot on a film set too, so special diffusion material is needed and gobos, or “cutters” as they are called in film, need to be able to handle the heat too. There are plenty of fancy new products coming out that have the ability to control the colour temperature, power output and direction of the light, but to be honest I felt like I went back in time going from photography to film. haha.
In this setup above I have a Redhead 800W Tungsten light on a stand, with barndoors attached to narrow the light through a scrim or diffusion panel. Whatever you want to call it. That is basically helping to blend the transition between highlight and shadows in the room giving a much softer look. The big rectangular black “cutter” attached to the C-Stand is placed in a position to stop the light from the Redhead bleeding light into our scene and causing unwanted highlights. Just out of frame to the left and up high is a 4-bank Kino Flow light which is aimed into the roof for a bit of bounce that is giving us a very nice soft fill in the room.
You will notice there are sandbags on everything. I have always preached how much I love sandbags, and on a film set they are regarded very highly. Sure there isn’t any wind, but it’s a safety thing. Film sets have lots of people running around and people will bump things. So some seriously heavy sandbags are always needed on EVERY stand. I’m sure you don’t want your future Heath Ledger getting whacked in the head and burnt by a falling light bumped by a crew member.
Below is the pretty much the same setup from a different angle. Up in the top left corner of the roof there is another Redhead light mounted onto a Manfrotto super clamp which was attached to a custom little support we made out of a couple G-clamps and a bunch of gaffa tape. Well done to Elliott for making this work. This Redhead was designed to be a gentle backlight/hair light to our talent in the kitchen so a bare Redhead light at 800W would be too strong so we had to cover it up using a couple sheets of ND. (Nuetral Density). It worked a treat. In this shot you can also just see the 4-bank Kino flow at the top of the image which is bouncing light off the roof.
If you look closely you will also notice that the corner where the stove is, is actually illuminated too. Since all the lights we were using were tungsten, we used a small light bulb fixture and placed it in the corner there, and that just gave the scene that extra little bit of pop.
Below is a shot of Mark Defriest and I setting up a shot just before a take. Pictured is my Canon 5DMKII with a 70-200mm L 2.8 lens attached. I have mounted a Manfrotto 323 RC2 quick release adapter to the top of the Genus baseplate that I use, and this allows me to attach/remove my camera from the baseplate quickly and easily. I have a quick release plate mounted to my camera for use with shorter lenses, and I have a quick release plate on my longer lens also so when I attach this lens I can mount it from the lens since its so big. If I mounted it to the baseplate from the camera, the lens would have no support and would be too front-heavy.
This rig is then sitting on my Manfrotto 504HD head, attached to a set of Manfrotto sticks, I forget the model. One thing I really like about this 504HD head apart from the fact it is a proper bowl mounted fluid head, is that it has two 3/8″ threads integrated into the sides which allow me to add on things like my Magic Arm pictured above. I would die without my magic arm, it’s one of the best things I ever bought. The most common use I have for it is to mount my SmallHD DP6 Monitor as shown above. I have purchased the battery plate for my monitor to allow me to use the Canon LP-E6 battery which is what the 5D and 7D uses. Excellent way to prevent any more cables and I already own a bunch of those batteries.
I was using a Genus follow focus unit on this shoot courtesy of Camera Electronic. In this photo above it isn’t actually being used. I didn’t use it for any of the shots with my long lens, as I didn’t have time to adjust it and I didn’t have a spare lens gear to have ready on this lens either. It’s amazing how little time you have on a proper film set. When I was using my 24-70mm L 2.8 lens though I made full use of the Genus Mattebox and Follow focus provided by Camera Electronic. Thanks guys! The follow focus has a bit of play in it and certainly isn’t very high-end. It does make focus pulls a bit easier though you just need to get used to it. I wouldn’t advise it for any serious professionals though.
Before I go I have to say a massive thanks to Elliott Vassila who was my first assistant for the whole weekend and helped out with a whole bunch of running around as well as actually rolling a second camera on day two. It was a really intensive weekend of hard work but we pulled through with the goods. Also thanks to Sergio Zanello for assisting as well, Debbie Thoy for the opportunity, Mark DeFriest for a truly amazing experience on set, Peter McIntosh our sound genius, Sarah Filippi for her awesome make-up work and to all the talented actors who were involved. Hope I get to work with you all again someday.
Here’s a few more Behind The Scenes photos for you…