This week I did a test shoot for scene 8 of Touch On/Touch Off (using my housemate as a stand in for Wil, who plays the main character, George, in the film). Although we will be using a tree in Princes Park for this scene, I decided to just test shoot the sequence on the nature strip outside my house. I like the wide establishing shot at the beginning of this scene because the tree branches help to frame the character in the shot. However, I think it might be better to punch the framing in a bit tighter so that the character doesn’t seem so distant.
The main problem I had with this scene was shooting the phone. It was difficult to capture the ‘3 missed calls from work’ that are meant to flash up on the screen when the phone is lying flat on the ground facing straight up at the sun. The glare makes it so that you can only see the reflection on the screen. Nevertheless, I did actually like the reflection of the tree canopy because it foreshadows the last shot of the scene. I think if I framed this shot a bit closer in I could capture the notifications on the phone better and hopefully get a few seconds of the tree reflection when the phone screen goes dark as well. I think the phone we’re using as a prop for the real shoot is also newer than the one I was using, so hopefully the screen light will have a bit more ‘oomf’. It is also a shame that the grass in this shot looks so dark (I think it was caused by either one of our shadows); thus the colouring does not match up with the other shots in this scene. However, I think you could get the grass looking the same in each shot by colour grading and masking out the phone.
I experimented with a shot I hadn’t storyboarded for this scene as well: the high angle shot of George falling onto his back. Although this shot didn’t edit into the scene as smoothly as I would have hoped (there were some issues with continuity), I still think it is worth including because the last frame of the shot is quite beautiful:
It also works well with the proceeding POV shot of the tree canopy at the end of the scene.
This week I edited together the first scene of Touch On/Touch Off. It definitely helped to have done a test shoot for this scene beforehand, because I knew exactly what shots we needed to get and I knew how I was going to edit it together. This gave me the chance to fix a couple of things that were wrong in my test shoot. For example, I created a more dynamic lighting style, using artificial lights coming through the right-hand side window and a soft light coming from above. I also punched the wide shot in slightly closer:
Unfortunately, I had the exact same problem with pulling focus as I did in the test shoot. Even with a focus puller, it was incredibly hard to get the actor as well as the phone in focus within the same shot, because the 50mm lens I was using has such a shallow depth of field and it is also difficult to tell whether or not the subject/object is in focus on my tiny display screen. I think what happened is that I had marked lines for my focus puller on my camera’s focal rim for the first take (which was in focus, but was framed incorrectly and is thus unusable) and then at one point the focus puller slightly kicked the tripod and the actor also moved slightly, but we didn’t change the focus marks. Hence, the actor appears slightly out of focus while he is on the phone. For this reason, I think we will have to cut back to a wide shot once the phone is picked up.
I spent more time editing the sound for this scene in comparison to the test, because it was 1. more important and 2. a much easier process editing the ‘properly’ recorded audio, rather than the audio I had captured with my DSLR camera. I think this is one of the reasons why this scene flows so much better than my test shoot.
In class this week we also did some colour grading. I’ve hardly touched scene one yet, aside from saturating it to highlight the colours to make it seem ‘happy’ and ‘morning-like’. However, I think I will work on this scene a bit more so that all the shots match each other in colour tone. I will also use the masking tool, as I have done below, to spotlight some of the points within the frame e.g. the watch.
Saturday 14th was the first shoot day for Touch On/Touch Off. Overall, it went really well, it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I thought it was going to be and thus it ended up being really fun to work on.
The day before the shoot, the production design team, as well as the directors and myself helped to set up the makeshift hipster cafe we would be shooting. (Max, one of the directors also did a run through with some of the actors). It was literally mind-blowing how we managed to transform a very old garage into a bohemianesque melbourne cafe/set with a bit of paint and some hand-me-down set walls. This was the first time I had really worked with production designers and it made me realise how much goes into creating the ‘look’ of a set; and it also made me appreciate how much better a good production design team can make a film.
That day I picked up a Kino Flow light, an LED 1×1 panel, a couple of light stands, a dolly, an extra tripod and plenty of shot bags. This was great (mostly for my confidence), because we got to practice setting everything up for the next day. It gave me some reassurance in knowing that I wasn’t completely hopeless at lighting a scene. We also put the dolly together in preparation for a couple of shots. However, after some test shooting, we realised that the dolly wasn’t completely smooth. The cracks where the pipes connected were only small, but when the wheels of the dolly ran over them they created a noticeable shaky effect. The fact that we had the tracks on slanted concrete didn’t help either. We tried to fill in the gaps with blue tack and tape, and we created some resistance on the ground using material and newspaper under the tracks. These things helped a bit, but they still couldn’t completely get rid of the shake. Therefore, we decided to only use part of the dolly where there wasn’t any cracks in the track and we also replaced some of the shots where we were going to dolly with panning shots instead.
This is a photo of Rhys setting up: he was kind of director, kind of grip, kind of gaffa and kind of production designer.
Here is a video that Max the director made about the creation of the set:
The actual shoot day was quite long and I constantly felt like there was heaps for me to do, particularly because we were fighting with the light. Even when the sound guy and the actors weren’t involved, being a DOP, I was always trying to get cutaways of the cafe or cleaning my lenses and charging batteries etc. (The cast and crew were all extremely well fed though, which was great because it kept us going strong throughout the day). We were lucky with the weather because it was consistent – however sunny it was, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We would have preferred it to be slightly overcast to get more even, diffused light because the shadows were harsh and it was difficult to expose for the sunny areas as well as the shadows. The weather looks good for our next two shooting days, but hopefully it’s sunny (without clouds) as well, so that the film looks consistent. (Whatever happens though, the film is set in Melbourne, so I’m sure viewers will understand). I mainly used the Kino Flow light to spotlight the subjects’ faces when they were in shadow, because it gives a nice, soft coverage. We ended up lighting Scene 1 (the kitchen scene I have test shot), using only artificial light, because we were shooting this scene at the end of the day on Saturday and so we had lost almost all natural light. We replaced the kitchen’s fluorescent light with an LED panel overhead (because it had been flickering, creating banding in the frame) and then we had a Kino Flow shining through the window as a replacement for sunlight. I think it ended up looking pretty natural, which we were happy with.
Although I got a little stressed when certain shots weren’t working how I wanted them to, the day was mainly stress-free, because everyone’s questions were being directed at Max, and not me, which allowed me to concentrate solely on framing and lighting. This was an experience I had never had before. I thought I would feel the pressure of having 20+ people watching me shoot a scene, but I was so focused on what I had to do, that I never really noticed everyone’s gaze. It was also great to work with Max, because he was amazingly calm throughout the day and took all of my ideas on board. The first AD, although rushing us through some shots when we were running behind time, did her job magnificently. She made sure that all the exterior scenes were completed before we completely lost sunlight, she ensured that everything was set up safely (gaffa taping all the power cords to the ground), she called all the shots and she let us do our thing when we wanted to do some creative alternate takes. It was incredibly enjoyable and has made me reconsider my original desire to become an editor. When I first entered the degree, all I had wanted to do was post-production, but now I am seriously contemplating focusing on cinematography.
Amazingly, most the footage is usable i.e. in focus. The first shot we took on the day has a lot of lens flare which is a shame (and could have easily been fixed by using a hood on my lens), however, it’s not completely unusable. I also wish we had had more time to shoot the main ‘chaotic’ cafe scene in a couple of different ways. We ended up only really getting two alternate shots of the action: one long dolly/pan shot of the action and one closeup of the primary actor in the film. However, I would have really like to get more different shots of the scene e.g. a closeup of the waitress’ feet tripping over, so that I could create a rapidly edited sequence that builds in intensity and thus reflects the chaos of the scene.
PS. This is where I am up to on my schedule now (surprisingly only a couple of days behind):
This week I am getting prepared for our first shoot for Touch On/Touch Off, which is on this weekend. I decided to do a test shoot using my friend Megan who’s an actor, who generously lent me her kitchen for the shoot. Unfortunately it was raining all day and so I didn’t get to do scenes 4, 8 or 10 with her, because they were all set outside. However, luckily the weekend is looking great weather-wise, so at least we shouldn’t have to worry about adverse conditions on the real shoot day.
The shoot went OK. I was actually surprised some of the shots I had planned for this scene worked out in the edit. I particularly thought that shot 2 would be too close to cut into from a wide establishing shot, however I think the audio and the cut on action eases the intensity. Unfortunately I had to rush through the shoot, because Megan had to leave, so I couldn’t spend much time on the shot I knew would take the longest: shot 3. I really like the pull focus from the phone to Megan as the camera tilts up to follow her hand; however it was really hard to do this shot without a focus puller/grip. I essentially didn’t have enough hands to pull focus, as well as tilting the camera and calling the phone. Thus, all of my takes turned out shaky and Megan never quite ended up in focus, because I wasn’t tall enough to look over the camera to see where I had marked her focus point on the focus rim of my camera. Nevertheless, I think I’ll be able to get this shot perfect with a bit of help. For the real shoot, I will also do some alternate versions of shot 3: I will cut to a closeup of the phone and then have another shot that we can cut to which is just a static mid-closeup of Megan putting the phone to her ear. I will also frame the establishing shot a bit closer to the actor, because I think this shot feels too open and shows too much of bench.
I wasn’t overly happy with the lighting, because it just looked very flat. I did put a small lamp behind Megan as a back light, but it didn’t do much against the sun, which was streaming in from the 2 floor to ceiling windows, directly facing the kitchen. I tested different positions for Megan to sit in around her lounge room/kitchen to see if I could get any better lighting effects. I particularly liked the light at her dining room table (pictured below), because I was using the windows as a back light. But unfortunately, the scene looked very bland, because I couldn’t pull the dining room table out from the wall and so Megan was sitting right up against a white background (which also made it difficult for shooting). In addition, I wasn’t able to expose for both Megan and the outside, so the exterior appeared blown out. On the real shoot we will at least have some more lighting equipment, plus, the kitchen we are shooting in only has a small window at one side, which should work to our advantage in creating offside lighting.
In week 9 I met up with the sound recorder, the first AD and one of the writer/directors to talk about Touch On/Touch Off (mainly about the sound). We decided to go to Princes Park (pictured below), because we are shooting a couple of our scenes there and we wanted to check out the location, the atmos noise and the lighting. We will be shooting this scene in the morning, so it was a bit of a shame we visited it in the afternoon, as the lighting conditions will be different on the day. Nevertheless, we can just reverse everything we practiced to suit the morning light. We scouted out a nice grassy area next to a tree where we are planning to shoot one of the scenes. We will most likely be shooting with the sun as a back light and thus we will also need to use a battery powered LED panel to ‘fill’ the actor’s face.
For another scene, we are planning to shoot by the man-made pond in Princes Park. While visiting the location we noticed a couple of things which could interfere with our shoot. Firstly, there were quite a lot of people sitting around the pond and secondly, it was a very noisy area. The pond is situated close to a tram line and a busy road, plus the fountain in the pond is extremely loud. Therefore, we are considering either doing ADR, wild lines (which for some reason the sound guy is against), or finding another location for the scene. All in all, it was good to explore the location prior to shooting there so we were aware of potential problems that could arise.
This week I also finished all of the storyboards I needed for our first shoot date on 14 May:
In class I was also lucky enough to do a lighting test for scene 11 of the film, with help from my peers. I was directing, as well as shooting on my DSLR camera. Amy was first AD, Annick was on camera 2 (using one the Ex3s?), Helena was on audio, Tim was noting down the different lighting setups and exposures, and the rest of the class was helping gaff. It was a rather uncomfortable experience for me, because I generally don’t like directing (particularly when a large crew is involved and I’m on camera; I don’t react well to the pressure). With the added stress of lighting, which I feel totally unfamiliar with, it was a rather daunting process. The thought of having to direct lighting as a DOP for the short film is still freaking me out a bit. However, after watching the footage back, I feel much more at ease. It turned out better than I expected, and the practice definitely helped me get a feel for the different lighting setups that are possible for the cafe scenes in the film. We played around with using a 2000 Ari red head (diffused), LED panels and Dedos. My favourite take (on both cameras) is take 8, using a diffused ‘2000’ positioned right of camera. I like it because Bliss’ offside is illuminated, there are no harsh shadows and the outside is exposed correctly, as well as both of the actors. The only problem is that when Alex stands up in this shot, he shadows Bliss, which makes it very obvious that there is an artificial light coming from camera right. However, I think you could cut and change camera angles before Alex stands up and still make the scene appear ‘naturally lit’. Thus, I will be aiming to replicate this camera setup for the real shoot next weekend.
Last weekend I did a test shoot for (parts of) scenes 5, 7 and 9 of Touch On/Touch Off. I chose to do these ones first because I will be DoPing them on the first shoot day for the film: May 14th. For this reason all of the scenes that are set at the cafe or indoors (i.e. ‘on set’) will be test shot before any of the location scenes (aside from scenes 2 and 3 which I have already done). Because the actors were not available to me, and because the set has not been built yet, I decided to just do the test shoots at my family home with my father playing Peta, my mother playing Claudia and my sister playing the ‘customer’.
I am not entirely happy with how this scene worked out. I think this was mainly because my dad wasn’t cooperating ‘on set’ and is admittedly a pretty bad actor. This made it incredibly hard to edit the scene, because none of the dialogue or the gestures were the same in any shots. However, I think with proper actors and a dolly it will work out a lot better. I didn’t have access to a dolly at home unfortunately so I just hand held the camera instead (and that was definitely not effective); my real plan is to slowly track Claudia as she walks into the cafe and then whip pan around to Peta and continue to track forward towards the character to create a sense of intensity. I will need help pulling focus and will also need a grip for this shot to make it work; however, if it doesn’t I will just cut it into two separate shots. I will also need to think of a more interesting way to shoot the last shot of Claudia putting her apron on and beginning to make coffee.
I’ve done three different versions of this scene, because there are so many different ways I could have shot a simple conversation like this. After editing version 1, I realised that the first cut was a little jarring, because both of the first two shots focused on the customer. I found that the editing became much more seamless and the scene made more sense when I cut from the two shot (which really focuses on the customer) to an over the shoulder shot of Claudia the waitress – I felt like it needed more of a ‘back-and-forthness’ between the two characters. As an alternative, I shot the whole scene in one take, pulling focus between each character as they spoke. It was difficult to time the pulling focus with the dialogue (as you can see, most of the focus pulling seems late), but I think with more practise I could have perfected the effect. I’m not sure what cut I like best, so I may amalgamate the two approaches for the final shoot/edit.
I didn’t test shoot a lot of this scene because I couldn’t logistically do most of it with my mum as the actor (she wasn’t willing to fall down) and we didn’t really have any of the props we needed to work with. But nevertheless, I do like this last little sequence I put together. Even though it will kind of be ‘breaking the line’ when cut together with the other shots, I don’t think it is confusing for viewers because of the cut on action – I think it still looks continuous in terms of time and space. Having the character turn around also allows the audience to see the chaos going on in the background of the cafe while Peta is on the phone to the main character George.