Over the weekend, I shot a short film with a good friend from film school, Michael Sokey. The last time we shot a short was 15 years ago in school. It was great working together again and it was also really interesting to note the differences in the shooting style of the previous shoot to this one. We shot the last film on Super 16mm black and white film with a crew of maybe a dozen; this time, we shot on a DSLR with just him and me for crew. It’s amazing how technology has changed—allowing us to capture infinitely better photography 15 years later. Maybe 15 more years of experience had some part in it that, as well ;)
I was intending to shoot this project on my 5D but it got damaged earlier in the week so I had to send it to get repaired. There was zero budget so renting another 5D was out of the question. Michael did have a T2i, though, so we shot it on that instead. I was a bit saddened by that because I love the images I get from my 5D and the idea of shooting it on a Rebel was a bit disheartening. BUT, after slapping my 24-70mm L-series lens on it, we didn’t fare so badly. In fact, I am really happy with what we got.
The premise of the short called for a look similar to that of SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER. I had planned on doing my best to get that look without anything but the camera and a small 3-light kit—knowing, though, that I would never get close to what I wanted without a fog machine. I happened to say at the beginning of the day something to the effect of, “Too bad we don’t have a fog machine to really get the look we want.” Then Michael quickly replied with the fact that Katie, the actor who’s apartment we were shooting it, might have one left over from Halloween! She did, and we used it. I was so stoked!
Here are a few screen grabs from the footage after a quick and dirty first-pass color grade along with some notes…
Camera Notes: 50mm, f2.8, 400 ISO, 3200K
Lighting Notes: 1K outside window, 300W bounced off wall in corner (frame right). The day was dark and overcast so the daylight coming in was very minimal which allowed me to balance for tungsten light.
Camera Notes: 35mm, f2.8, 200 ISO, 3200K
Lighting Notes: 1K outside window directly hitting male actor, barndoored down, the curtain on the window acted as a perfect diffusion and net to knock down female actor’s exposure, 300W unit outside doorway of kitchen spotted all the way down at male actor’s back in order to get enough punch to light up the fog and add an edge light.
Camera Notes: 50mm, f2.8, 400 ISO, 3200K
Lighting Notes: 1K outside window spotted down to create light shaft and hitting only the lower part of the background. 300W off of frame left to create sunlight on the actors, spotted down and focused on a white paper set on the table to bounce light onto their faces, spill on actors barndoored to cut off across chest. Just to the right of the camera, there is a 650W unit with a XS Chimera bank fitted with a 40° soft eggcrate for fill, mostly for the boy.
Notes: Same exact lighting setup as above. Camera repositioned and shot with lens at 70mm.
Camera Notes: 24mm, f2.8, 400 ISO, 3200K
Lighting Notes: 1K outside window spotted down about halfway to create light shaft. White reflector disc off camera left for fill.
Camera Notes: 70mm, f2.8, 400 ISO, 3200K
Lighting Notes: 1K outside window, flooded to create light pattern on back wall from vertical blinds. 300W unit spotted down on toy table (white) to bounce light into actor’s face. There is also a 650W unit far off camera left to create a light shaft for the wider 2-shot; in this shot it is creating that light edge light on the actor’s face.
Camera Notes: 70mm, f4, 100 ISO, 5600K, ND9
Lighting Notes: Shot in the shade of a tree, white reflector disc placed just out of frame below actor’s face, favoring his left side for fill.
Final note, we shot with the full HD 16×9 aspect ratio with regrets that we “couldn’t” shoot for 2.35:1 because we didn’t have a wide enough lens to get the shots we wanted in such a cramped space and with the cropped sensor of the T2i compared to the 5D. But after doing the first-pass color grade, I thought I’d try putting the 2.35:1 crop on it anyway to see if we could pull it off. With some reframing, most of the shots worked perfectly! So, I think we should go with it. The director doesn’t know about this yet. I’m thinking he’ll be sold (I hope!).