Got home a little later than I'd have liked, thanks to some driving idiots, and proceeded to pack up Nookie with the filmmaking gear. Though it's not a full shoot, it does take probably 75% of my equipment and Tetris-ing it into Nookie's back end. Somewhere I have a picture...
Anyway, I made it to the house about ten minutes late. We unpacked the gear into the garage, which the owners graciously vacated so that we could have a staging area, which was SO nice.
Then it was time to set up the lighting. The kitchen has an open ceiling and a lofted area above it, which was really easy to light. The first was a general fill... romeoa wanted a warm look, so I bounced a 1k open face through a couple of layers of full CTO to make it really orange, then set up a couple of fresnels with barn doors shut to slits to create a couple of slashes of light where the main activity of the actors was going to be. On the main floor, I put a couple of diffusers on the main dining room light to soften it up and floated another 1k fresnel bounced off of a card for some side fill. That light became my single floater for most of the night, which worked out well because we were pretty much constantly grooving all night long.
There was an effects shot that went bad. The idea is that the protagonist tries to smash a chair through a window but it just bounces off. Since we don't want to break the actual window, the plan was to bring in a sheet of polycarbonate (like plexiglass, but more flexible... it's the stuff that DVDs and bulletproof windows are made of) and she'd be able to hit the sheet with the chair and it would bounce back.
Didn't quite work that way. A piece of the sheet splintered off just removing the plastic protective wrap, so we had less than a full sheet to begin with. Then during one of the rehearsals, dramatekcv put a chair leg through the polycarbonate sheet. It was unreal how brittle this stuff was. The final try made it on camera, completely shattered the plastic, and was perfectly captured looking exactly like she broke the window. Which was exactly what we didn't want.
So we had to improvise, and will likely be playing some camera tricks. Not ideal, but you roll with the flow.
I think the camera was on the tripod for one shot tonight, the rest of the time it was on the Spiderbrace. Going handheld certainly made for faster shooting and some rather agile camera moves, but the whole moving cameraman thing isn't something I'm used to, and there were circumstances where I couldn't see to compose the shot because I was trying to keep up with a running actress. Basically I had her in focus in a really short range and had to try to keep that same distance through a move where she was running. I had to watch her and not the viewfinder, and just hope that my instinct is good.
But I most definitely got in a workout. Not a bad thing, and I am definitely much more agile than I once was.
Repositioned for some fun up-the-stairs chasery, and got to play with some shadows. Creepy stuff. And getting into difficult positions to try and brace the camera, yeah, I'm gonna pay for that tomorrow.
I think we're somewhere around halfway through principal photography. If all goes according to plan, we will have two more big days left, then any pick-ups that we may need.
My one bitch is focus. A lot of these shots are dark, and when there isn't enough light, the focus assist doesn't work and I have to try and focus on a small screen. I need to find a solution. The ideal thing would be a little lightweight LCD 1080i monitor that I could mount to the brace, but I don't see that as being a reality yet, at least within my price range.
However, I am justifiably brilliant, and have come up with a solution: what I need is a light on the camera that's bright enough to use temporarily to focus, and I have the perfect thing. It's a 3-watt LED flashlight in this nifty black machined aluminum casing. A little bit of frimframmery and I can make a hotshoe mount for it so I can plunk it on the camera. I can even make a small diffuser for it so it can double as an eyelight or an obie in a pinch. That way I can just turn it on, focus, turn it off, and shoot. It even fits in the camera case as a shooting accessory.
I should probably do this by the next time we shoot.
Now, I do have an HD monitor that I got for the purposes of a shooting monitor, but it's a 22-inch computer monitor, not something handheld. However, I plan to rig up a location stand for it and it will be used as the location field monitor. It's a lot easier to focus when you can actually see the image in HD, and it works well for the stationary camera shots, or where the camera is in a very small motion range.
That too is something that will come in handy when we get to the final "Kubrick" shoot. That's a lot of locked-down camera shots.
Now I need to transfer and decode the files, log the shots, and update the footage database. Gotta say though, shooting direct to hard drive is fracking brilliant. The time to transfer the files is significantly shorter than having to capture footage from tape (OMG), and being able to review shots immediately on set with just the push of a couple buttons is bloody excellent. It also came in handy a couple of times when we wanted to review a shot to verify whether something was in frame. It takes the concept of dailies and turns it into secondlies.
There is nothing like this in the world.