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In the picture: me and my DP (who happens to be my brother) weightlifting with a steadycam and an FS100
A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with my good friend and aspiring filmmaker colleague Ronald Vonk (@ronaldvonk). We try to do this “filmmaking lunches” at least once a month, to make sure we stay in touch with the latest developments in everything… ideas, equipment, apps, upcoming projects, gossip… everything that helps us and drives us to keep working and keep getting better at filmmaking.
One of the coolest things I get from these lunches, is for sure motivation and momentum. Knowing that you’re not alone, and knowing someone that you can work with and bounce ideas (face to face) it’s superb. And in particular when that person shares similar “ life hurdles” to your filmmaking goals.
And then, when discussing how we enjoy doing everything in our film projects, and how sometimes you need to do it all, we came to the “Gym Analogy”
When you go to the gym (or if you practice any sport) you need to build your skill, or work each part of your body one at a time. You can’t pretend to go to a 1 or 2 hour session and be able to work each muscle group. You’re either going to break yourself down, or you’re not going to get a meaningful training for each of your muscle groups.
If your goal is to work all muscle groups correctly, and you have other things to do during your day (like a day job that’s not gym instructor) then you need to get disciplined and patient and work each muscle group enough. That might mean working your legs one day, your abs the second day, and then your chest and arms the third day. Then… if you have a fourth day available, you do some cardiovascular workout, or go out and swim or play football and work all your the muscles you trained in the previous three days, at the same time.
Learning filmmaking (or any other profession or skill) and executing your projects is similar, and in particular when you’re doing it by yourself, with books, on-line resources or on-the-job learning with colleagues, like I do with Ron. And even more so, when you have another job with which you bring the bread to the table which means that you need to manage your time even more ruthlessly.
You can’t pretend (well… you can if you wish to) to write a script, a storyboard, scout the location, light it, summon the actors, explain them what they need to do, rehearse, shoot, edit and distribute and expect a 100% result in all of the areas, when what you have done is only bits and pieces here and there for each of the subjects. In other words, you half read the manual of your camera, you half watched a tutorial in lighting, you wrote half a script last night and haven’t pre-produced anything, and you haven’t taken the time to read and practice how to direct a crew (even if it’s you and your friend).
So, going back to training the muscles for three days, and then using them all in the fourth day, think about reading about lighting for a week, practice your lighting techniques on Saturday, and send your clips to your network on Sunday. Then repeat that for the other skills, and then in the fourth week, go out and shoot.
True, there are some advocates of simply going out and shooting, and getting better by doing more, writing more, shooting more. You can also do that, but in my opinion (and I want to stress: “in MY opinion”) you get more satisfaction when you’re able to execute a project closer to the way you want to execute it, which is probably as professionally as possible.
Please, don’t read this as a recipe. I’m not trying to curtail anyone’s drive. If you want to be shooting all day, and improvising until you learn, then go for it! - Ron and myself agree that is more satisfactory when you’re able to improvise less and execute more flawlessly and surgically (now I’m getting into medicine!)
Anyway, go out there… plan your workout and exercise efficiently and patiently! - Depending on the camera you use, you’re already working your upper body quite a lot carrying around all that weight!
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(watch the short film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RzmU8lau4g)
Sunday morning. We woke up with the typical “we have so many projects on the pipeline and so little time to execute them… right, that’s it! Let’s just bring the gear in the room and do something!”
And that’s what we did. We thought… “let’s just document the typical Sunday morning Snooze…” Difficult but pleasant, that’s how it is. You want to wake up, the garden is waiting, the kids are waiting, breakfast is waiting… but no… let’s just stay a little bit more. And then… when you finally manage, there’s always the hesitation, “touchdown” … your feet have landed on the floor. It’s official: you’re up.
And that’s the plot… everyday life (ok… mostly Sundays. Agreed)
So that’s it… we’re up. Alice (the actress) was still a little bit dozy so we got great images from her. We ran the whole sequence from five different angles. It was a very short sequence so it was a bliss.
Since we were using a single lens (Nikon 50mm f1.4) for all the shots, I used the tripod heights to organize the shots and off we went. Improvising a little bit here and there, we managed to get 18 clips.
We used available light (the light coming from the window) and no reflectors or bouncers. We played a lot with the iris ring to compensate in the different angles, and whereas you see some noticeable differences between shots, it’s also true that we managed a somehow uniform lighting through the different shots.
This is the first test run that we give to the Sony NEX-FS100. What a great piece of kit. We reckon we’re not even close of understanding all the functionalities but the ones that helped us the most were:
> Interchangeable lenses: gave us the ability to use an existing Nikon lens from the actresses photography arsenal (using an Sony E to Nikon adapter from MTF.
>Last Scene button: superb for checking out your last shot and decide on further work on the same shot. Critical for when your shot list is somehow improvised.
> Exposure and white balance preset buttons: makes balancing and recalibrating WB a bliss. In our case we were moving from shooting looking to a window, to shooting from the window looking inside the room. This gave two very different lighting conditons and having the switches, allowed us again to improvise and then… if we were already past the sequences from the window, we could always go back and recall the Exposure and WB setting.
Also we wanted to talk about our Zacuto rig.
Simply a beautiful piece of kit. We put it together like a lego a few days before. It took us some time (and a trial and error) to get the configuration we needed for our setup, but we managed in about an hour. Once it is assembled is an incredibly sturdy piece of kit. And above all, very very forgiving. We did not mistreat it, but we did use it with the camera’s centre of gravity out of alignment, we moved the mattebox back to front, removed the follow focus, then back in again, carried the whole rig by the double barrel’s transverse bar… and the rig was like when we started… tight and solid.
One of the things that helps us the most, is the ability of the Zacuto baseplate to travel upwards, which allowed us to align the focal axis of the camera with the Mattebox. You need to have the allen key handy, but hey… who doesn’t.
Another important feature is how the double barrel handles are assembled to the rest of the kit. The independent clamps allowed us to remove one handle when using the rig on a tripod, in case we needed to turn the head and the handle was clashing with the tripod leg.
(A word of acknowledgement for Zacuto’s customer service who I dealt with a lot when choosing the parts for the rig. They actually devised a totally new rig for the FS100 from our conversations, so that’s an honor for Rocanbol Studios!)
Alejandro (our Editor and man in Caracas, VE) took care of the color using Magic Bullet looks. He applied a customized preset to the whole sequence and then adjusted individually, but not a lot. He wanted to get a natural, dozy look without pushing the yellowy tones. He also prepared the titles using AE… we have to say that we loved the opening titles… I remember the discussion… “I want to design an effect that looks like if the fonts are getting out of bed, subtle” … got the vision into film very well we think!
Also many thanks to Phillip Bloom. Thanks to his “unofficial shootout” between the Panasonic AF100, Canon 5D and Sony NEX-FS100 we managed to decide to get the right camera for our needs. Sign up at: www.philipbloom.net
We had loads of fun doing this short film and we hope you too have fun watching it.
Feel free to ask any questions. We are like you… making films and learning on the way so we’re happy to share what we discover and learn from your experiences too.
Rocanbol Studios is a Media Production company focused in developing ideas for our customers (i.e. friends, acquaintances, soulsearchers, etc.) Do you have an idea for a song or a film but don’t know how to execute it? Give us a shout!