Last weekend, the weather cooperated and we got in our second (and final) day of shooting for the Our Spirit series, “The Romeo Files”. I had hoped to get this post out sooner, but Thanksgiving and family stuff got in the way. The second shoot day was long and somewhat rushed as we were unable to shoot any exteriors on the first day due to rain. Seeing that over 60% of the script called for exteriors, and that mid-November daylight is pretty short, we had a lot to get done, but despite getting behind schedule on the first few scenes of the day, we caught up and finished just as the sun was setting.
Our biggest challenge technically was the audio. The farm we were shooting on was right next to a fairly busy road, and we had A LOT of street noise. I pretty much knew this from scouting the location, but when it came to shooting time, it seemed worse. I think in the end it will be fine, but it was definitely a pain, as we would try to do pickup lines in between road noise. This doesn’t make for a great situation for the actors to really get INTO their scene or the director to necessarily know if he got a good take performance wise. In this case, the location was so great visually, and since the production needed a donated location we were probably limited to this farm anyways, but it just reiterates the point to ALWAYS THINK OF AUDIO. First and foremost, really. Again, Dave Manahan did an excellent job, though, and I think we have plenty to work with and even if there is background street noise, the dialogue is clear.
I got an opportunity on this shoot to work with some new gear. The 7D was still great to work with. In my previous post I went through the pros and cons based on the first shoot and I think most of those still hold true. One major difference between this camera and a “proper” video camera becomes apparent when working in daylight. Every video camera I work with has built-in ND (Neutral Density) filters to help control the light entering the lens, but photo cameras do not. This is not really an issue usually for photographers, since they can adjust the shutter speed in order to keep the aperture where they want it. When shooting video though, you typically want the shutter speed in a certain place all the time (typically 1/48 of a second when shooting 24fps) as the change in shutter speed effects they way motion is rendered. So when shooting in bright light or day exteriors you typically want to incorporate ND filters so that you do not have to stop down the lens aperture a ton. I have a few square 4×4 NDs that I can use with my mattebox, but what I just bought and used on this shoot was the very cool Fader ND. This screw-on round filter adjusts the amount of ND (from 2 to 8 stops) as you spin it. I don’t know exactly how it works, although I assume it has some type of opposing polarizing filters, but it worked and it was great. I could set up my shot and if I wanted to be at say F4, and there was too much light I could just turn the Fader ND until I achieved proper exposure. Too little light and I could turn the filter the other way or take it off. This saved a ton of time over swapping out square filters and was much more tunable. I think this type of filter is a MUST BUY ITEM for video DSLR shooters who plan to shoot outdoors.
I also got to use my rented 70-200 f2.8 Canon lens. This lens costs about $1300 and I may buy something in this zoom range but renting for $30 for the weekend (from Calumet Boston) might be the way to go if I don’t often call for this length. It’s an impressive looking lens to say the least and adds a bunch of weight to the camera. I only used it a few times so really did not get to put it through it’s paces but I did use it for what ended up being one of the harder shots to do. It’s a shot that seems simple, but getting focus proved to be a challenge. I wanted to do a shot of two of the actors walking together down a path. I knew I wanted this to be a long lens, shallow focus shot and the shot needed to last about 25-30 seconds to cover some voice-over. I had the aperture at f4 and was almost at 200mm. My fabulous assistant camera Will Cavanagh set about 6 or 7 focus points on the follow focus to correspond to the actors’ position on the path. It took us about 7 or 8 takes and I think 3 times we had to redo our focus marks to get the shot right as it was a challenge to time the focus pull perfectly. It’s the kind of shot you see on TV or movies all the time and looks rather easy, but I assure you, it is not.
So I thought I would put together a little video of some shots for people interested in seeing how this little camera works for filmmaking. I am not using the recorded audio here, but just some of the video with music.
I am heading into a busy week working for 4 days on Cape Cod shooting stock footage with photographer Jack Hollingsworth on the 7D and Canon 5DMk2. A different type of project for me and I am looking forward to it, and will definitely blog about the experience.
Here is the video. Enjoy!