A lot of you have been mentioning you’ve watched Battleground on Netflix recently. That’s awesome, I’m glad people are seeing it and thanks for the support!
I’d like to say one thing about that film: It looks like shit, I know it does and I’m not here to make excuses because I know that it is actually a great looking film. But I’ll tell you why it looks like shit, because every cinematographer and director should learn from this.
We shot Battleground a few summers ago on the Red One, with what I could call a shoestring budget for a feature, particularly an action film. The color correction was done in LA, without any supervision from the director, producers or I, and as a result that colorist took creative liberties that we would never have agreed to. We did EVERYTHING in camera and got exactly what we wanted on the day, a philosophy we all strongly believe in. Instead of that vision coming up on the screen when you watch what I would otherwise say is an awesome low budget action/thriller, you get a strangely warm, colorful student-film-esque looking picture that is far from what we all envisioned while making it.
It is incredibly bitter sweet to have my first feature film as a cinematographer in wide distribution around the world on blu-ray and dvd as well as on North American Netflix, yet it breaks my heart that we allowed the film to be destroyed in such a way.
SO, what I would say to all you film makers and cinematographers setting out on your journey as artists is to NEVER let anyone take liberties with your film until the Blu-Rays and DVD’s are being produced and you’ve approved the final picture. In this new digital age of Raw meta data you have to chase it until the end. Be vigilant, be demanding and most of all don’t let ANYONE fuck with your vision.
Rear projection process for To Our Bright White Hearts
When director Ayz Waraich and I were well into pre production, we settled on doing the half dozen driving scenes with rear projection poor mans process. No one on the crew including myself had ever done this, so it was a leap of faith on his part, letting me convince him we could make it look great.
Martin Wisniewski our acting Production Manager rented us a 20’ rear projection screen, sourced a 2K DLP, and set us up in a half empty shipping ware house in Mississauga that we could drive our various picture cars directly into. If your on a budget, you can make this work without a massive 2K projector. You can also go with a smaller screen if your willing to live in the medium/tight profile world (which we weren’t).
I shot the back ground plates on the RED ONE-MX out the passenger seat of a VW Jetta on the Gardiner in Toronto. We ended up using clips shot at 4k, 24 fps, 180 degree shutter and I think the motion in the final shots looks completely real and natural so all my stressing and hours of shooting plates at various speeds and frame rates was for nothing!
I was advised to shoot the plates in focus and de-focus the projector until it looked right in camera, but I was worried about this looking MORE un-natural since we were shooting Anamorphic so I shot half the plates at various focal distances to help make it seem like the passing buildings were further away then they were.
We had to turn the PJ down to 1 bulb, it was way too bright. It still wasn’t right, it was looking like BAD rear projection, like 24. Being tight on time we couldn’t re-grade/re-render clips so in Quicktime Pro we turned the brightness all the way down and the contrast way up. We tweaked those levels depending on the lighting gags we were doing for that scene or shot.
We also found that by ‘misting’ exterior car windows it helped sell the gag.
We mixed up the lighting, fading 3 different front key lights all with different ranges gel color up and down, had passing over head ‘streetlights’, back 3/4 edge lights fading up and down, we basically tried a ton of different stuff. Something different for every character and scene.
For a first attempt I’m pretty happy with the results. Rear projection always looks better than green screen process to me, and is astronomically cheaper than a process trailer and allows you to retain absolute control of your lighting. It was a great learning experience and I can’t wait for a chance at a 2nd attempt.
To Our Bright White Hearts nears completion, gunning hard to make the Cannes deadline in a few weeks!
Lomo Round Front Anamorphic Primes & PL Mount Canon 7D
I found a few minutes to spare yesterday and popped Judd Tilyard’s Lomo Anamorphic lenses on a modified PL mount Canon 7D that I’m holding on to at the moment to shoot pick ups for a music video this weekend.
Framing is a bit strange as the image is horizontally squeezed. The lenses are inherently warm which can be compensated for in the 7D color adjustment menu, and they are nice and soft taking off that sharp digital ‘edge’ common with DSLR’s.
Despite the smaller sensor on the 7D the footage holds up really well alongside RED Ana stuff. Now I know I can get great looking Anamorphic glass in tight places on the 7D.
Frame grabs from 1920x1080-24fps
5600K, levels adjusted