Friday, there was sleep. It was good. Some recovery from the fatigue of the previous week, but not really enough.
Saturday started in the late morning for moi, as we were scheduled for a saturday night shoot and I needed to prepare some lighting stuff ahead of time:
1.) The china balls needed to have some of the minusgreen gel removed to bring them more in line with tungsten lighting. I originally bought half-minusgreen gels and doubled them up for this very reason, so all I needed to do was open 'em up, trim the gels, re-tape them and close 'em back up again.
2.) I needed to create a big diffuser (butterfly) for the lighting of part of the outdoor scene.
The second one was more involved. The general idea was that the area would be flooded with moonlight, but the highest place I had available to put a light was on the porch, and that was where the scene started.
If we had a serious budget, I would have had a big crane or a balloon to bring the light source way up in the sky, but as it was the next available choice was a big diffused source of light.
An overhead diffuser is called a "butterfly" for no good reason that I know. The material that I had was 60 inches wide, which meant that I could sew two pieces together to make a ten-foot wide piece, and I certainly had enough for a ten-foot length, and Menard's had ten-foot long 1/2" EMT conduit and 90 degree pull corners. Kind of clued in that a 10 x 10 foot butterfly was the way to go.
This involved me sewing with my cheapie Singer machine that I got from Target. The mouse motor version.
I'm not much of a seamster, but I can sew a straight seam that doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing. And it actually went well until I had to try and sew tape onto the edges for reinforcement. I bought some drywall fiberglass weave tape specifically for this, partly because the open weave wouldn't get in the way of the needle. And I used the spray silicone to lubricate the needle and thread. I still had so many jams that I finally gave up after two sides.
So it started to get dark.
Imagine if you will a ten-by-ten foot square of fabric. Now imagine trying to clamp this to a frame. You can see where it needs at least two people.
Now imagine this on a relatively windy day. A hundred square feet of fabric stretched on a frame something like 12 feet in the air.
It was a sail.
The C-stands were weighed down with cement blocks, and still managed to tip over. We ended up anchoring the sail to a couple of more blocks to try and tame the bucking-bronco nature of its existence.
Then there was the light. This is the 1000-watt halide with the deep blue gel, which managed to attract every bug within a three county area. It was... unpleasant. But very, very blue. And I ended up using it as a reflector rather than a diffuser because of the difficulty in setting it up-- it pretty much had to be sheltered by the house or it would have gone flying, cement blocks and all.
Happily we only needed it up for one shot which involved a steadycam shot backwards down a stairway, and Tony managed to pull off the shot without getting the stands or the big overhead in frame. We broke it down quickly, and I moved Big Blue over to light the combat area.
The other bit of niftiness was that I brought my old boom pole, and mounted one of the china balls to it so we had a mobile light-on-a-stick to use as a "chase" light for filming the fight scene. It worked remarkably well, other than being a completely unmotivated light, meaning that it had no logical reason for being there. A motivated light is something that comes from somewhere, like a window or a lamp that you know is off-screen. An unmotivated light is a light that is just there with no explanation other than it's needed to be able to see what is happening on screen.
At some point in the shooting, it was really bugging me that my "moonlight" was rather obviously not moonlight, and the chaselight was really obviously unmotivated, and I snapped. And I yelled at Tony in a completely uncharacteristic manner, calling one of his ideas stupid.
I called Trees over to take on the chaselight duty and I went inside to get some water and to cool down. A few minutes later I came back out and apologized to Tony. It was completely uncalled for, and really way out of character for me. So I got back in the swing of chasing the fight around with the light-on-a-stick, and resigned that the lighting was not what I wanted it to be, instead hoping that the perfomance of the fight and the music and all will be attention-keeping enough that nobody asks where the light is coming from. And really, the footage is good. I think I just hit my wall with not being able to light something to look the way I wanted it to.
I went home exhausted and chagrined.
Sunday was our first "location" shoot. It was an active bar-and-bowling place that was fairly dead, but we did have to shoot around customers and staff. The staff was really excellent, and frankly most of the customers were too.
Setups were fairly simple. I decided to bring only four lights: the china balls and both of Tony's mini-gargleblasters. The gargleblasters are open-face lights with barn doors, but they're small and light and I knew from the advance scouting that the ceiling in this place had a bunch of overhead spots that I could use as camouflage. I also had my little dimmer pack that I could use to bring the intensity down at the sarifice of color balance, but I knew that this scene needed to be warm anyway. And really, a slight shift in color balance helps to define different planes of lighting on the face, adding a bit of depth. It's a subtle thing, but it helps.
Arrived at the location and started setting up with minimal fuss, only to discover that one of the gargleblasters had a burned out bulb, so I was down to three lights and reflectors. Happily there was already some lighting there built in to the bar, so I just enhanced what was already there. No time for panic.
I also went in with some forethought about the setups and tried to make them as versatile as possible so there would be minimal rooting about when we needed to change angles. There were only two major resets, the rest were moving a light here or there and fine-tuning.
The sound was scary. There was noise. Noise from the coolers, noise from the staff, noise from the bowling alley, noise from patrons who were less than quiet (heard from across a very large bar: "Hey, what are those guys doin'?" "Oh, I think they're makin' a moovee.") which can really ruin a take. Happily we didn't have many gawkers, and nobody playing peek-a-boo with the camera.
We shot for about 3 hours, and again managed to capture almost an hour of raw footage (which is a really amazing ratio), broke the equipment down and packed it in the 'Sploder in damn-near record time, and proceeded to have lunch.
Then we headed back to Casa de Bruno to watch what we had shot.
The first thing that we noticed was that the dialogue was actually fairly clear and the background noise was a lot quieter than what we expected. The second thing is that the images looked really good-- first comparison was that it looked like a british TV show (ala Dr. Who or Ultraviolet).
We now have approximately half of the raw footage in the can, and it looks good. It's a bit more stylized than I would like, but it has a definite feel to it, and as long as it rings true within the storytelling I'll be happy.
It is the best stuff that we've shot.
Now for a few worries.
I really like the china balls. They give a really nice even soft light that is particularly flattering on faces, and they make great eyelights. I fear that I might get to rely on them and that they will affect the "signature" of the lighting in the movie. This means that I have to watch how I use them.
There is also an upcoming segment that I want to do very stylized and noir-ish; think Frank Miller/Sin City or very near. I want it to be primarily blue, both for the mood and because it ties back to the fight scene that we just shot. I want this segment to be visually distinctive, which probably means I throw out a lot of my lighting tools and go for something new. Or something old, as the case may be.
General fretting. It feels good to be doing this, but I've been stymied by the big setup outdoors. I'm much better at the smaller stuff. Am I up to what's left?
Tomorrow night we shoot a scene that will require a lot of acting chops from two actors, one who I've worked with before and another who I have not met yet. It has to both be very intimate and very violent, and I'm actually concerned more about the intimate part.
I know it will be fine.
All is good.