Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spook Hunt - Scene 3 notes

Now this was a fun shoot - the first time we got to sneak around in the dark and really get into some of the core elements of the movie.

On the set were the usual suspects: myself; Charles Yoakum and Rob Sandusky as, well... Charles and Rob; Director of Photography Rob Weiner,  and his son Ben to help out; also with us was Eduardo Silva, a great cameraman himself and jack of all trades who recently finished shooting a fantastic looking indie comedy, Not Quite College.

As always, our main camera was the Canon 7D, this time with a zoom lens to facilitate quick setups.  We used a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 which we rented from - a great resource that fedexed the lens right to my doorstep!  We were wide open on the lens the whole time, at ISO 800.

Our lighting rig consisted of the following:

1 flashlight.

Yup, that's it.  I really wanted the look of a pitch black house with just one light source constantly creating new looks - sometimes silhouettes, sometimes bounced light of the walls or ceilings, sometimes pitch black.


I wanted to blacks to go absolute black because I'm trying to build a sense within the viewer that anything could come out of the shadows at any time.

For audio we had Charles and Rob on wireless lavs which were sent to the Zoom H4n.  We also used another Zoom as a prop (their recording device for catching disembodied sounds or EVPs), and had that rolling as well.  I always like to have two sound recording devices going as you never know when one will fail during the best take.  The wireless lavs are great but occasionally pick up random RF hits, so I can always go to the handheld Zoom as a backup for that reason.

The other camera in this sequence (and for the rest of the movie) is a Sony HDR-CX12 with the infrared NightShot turned on.

The camera is setup with a wide-angle lens, and an additional IR light.  It shoots Hi-Def video at 1080i and then records AVCHD (a flavor of H.264) to Sony MemoryStick cards.  Unfortunately I found out late in the game that my old G5 can't read the files directly (it needs an Intel-based Mac for that), so eventually I found this little utility - VoltaicHD - which will convert the files to ProResHQ Quicktime movies for me to be able to use within Final Cut.

This camera is a prop also - it is the POV cam that the actors will use for the rest of the movie as they move around in the dark trying to solve the mystery of the sound Charles recorded.  I will use this shot whenever I need to show something that the Canon 7D can't pick up, and also when I want to build the tension by seeing their faces and putting the audience right there with them in the moment.

One thing when working with an IR camera is that... oh yeah, it can see in the dark!  Now this may seem obvious, but it is still easy to forget this basic point.  Everyone and everything should be cleared off the set - standing back in the shadows is not good enough.

Oops - Ben is in the shot.  I should have realized this during the shoot but didn't see it until playback.

Overall the shoot went very well, we worked very quickly, and everyone got to go home early - (a bonus when everyone has already worked a full day on their jobs and has families to go back to).  Thanks again to everyone on the shoot - we're about 1/3 of the way through the script and I'll be posting a rough cut of scenes 2 and 3 soon, so be sure to check back next week.


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