Day 1 Shoot
This was the first day of shooting for me but the second day for the group as I was not available on the first day. We shot both Kerry and Ryan’s projects. As Adelle was handling the lighting and Ryan was operating the camera, that left me to operate sound. I don’t mind operating sound in this context as not being so directly involved in the process allows me to closely observe what Adelle and Ryan are doing, and I think that I learn best when I can first watch closely and understand why people are making the creative decisions they make, and to then implement what I have absorbed later.
Having the other members of the group go before me also helped as at that stage I would say I was still not entirely confident with operating external lamps such as the 1K, Kino and Dedos, and seeing the others use the equipment made the whole process feel a lot more approachable than it had seemed before starting this studio.
I think that the shoot went smoothly, and that our group has learned to operate well together, having worked on projects together beforehand. We did not feel the need to crunch for time while also managing to get all the shots that we needed.
A large part of this efficiency has to do with everyone understanding and sticking to their designated roles. I, as the sound guy, did not try to interfere with what Adelle and Kerry were trying to do when figuring out the lighting of a scene. It was this understanding paired with the fact that we were all trying to make our own individual product that made it easier for us to play into our roles. I think that if we were all trying to make one overall product from the four of us that the workflow would have been much more messy and cluttered as it is more likely that everyone would be trying to enforce their ideas, maybe to the detriment of the overall product.
This is because having individual products meant that we were all trying to produce one person’s vision. Having a hierarchy and one dominant voice each project meant that there was a lot of clarity with the expression of ideas.
Day 2 Shoot
Today I had to shoot my own project, which was an experiment with deep focus. I decided to explore deep focus as it was something that I had always been drawn to when watching movies, while also being something that seemed challenging and out
of my comfort zone. The main challenge with my
project was that the high f-stop that I would have to shoot would require a lot of light in the scene.
By examining the location that I would be shooti
ng at beforehand and having time to think about the space as well as having the other members of the group go before me proved to be valuable. By having the other members shoot their products before me allowed for me to observe how light behaved an operated in this space. For example, for one of Ryan’s shots they had decided to put a Kino in the outside window shining in to simulate daylight. Seeing the amount of extra volume that the Kino brought in encouraged me to use it for my own shoot, which I did and was very happy with how it worked.
The overall shoot and project was very satisfying and encouraging for me as the lighting plan that I had thought of had virtually been executed exactly as I had planned except for a few minor adjustments. The adjustments themselves were also very satisfying to implement as they proved that I could be flexible and malleable with my process as well as being able to think in the moment and make decisions according to the situation.
Another thing which I think we prepared well for was rain. We knew that it was likely to rain on the day that I was shooting and that we needed to put a Kino outside where it would be exposed to rain. We found a solution to this as I had brought an umbrella to which Kerry and Adelle had set up the umbrella on a c-stand to cover the Kino from the rain as well as cover some of the electric wire with plastic.
My lighting setup for my shot ended up being:
A Kino coming in from the left proving extra volume of cool light
- 1K coming in from the left with a blue gel illuminating the foreground.
- 1K from the right directed towards the ceiling bouncing and spilling light all around the room
- A Dedo on the right providing front light on Kerry’s face
- A Dedo on the right providing a key light for my face
- A Dedo on the left in the mid ground illuminating both Kerry and I once we meet in the middle.
- House lights that were switched on
The two changes that we made to my lighting plan were:
- I originally had a dedo light set up in the room that Kerry emerges from, intending it to be used as a rim light for Kerry. This was moved to the frontal light on Kerry.
- I had originally wanted to have the dedo key light come in from the left of screen. After realising that this would not make sense as the key light was assumed to come from the right I changed it to its position coming in from the right.
Something to note about how I was able to decide and make changes to my lighting setup was that a lot of these ideas came from the other members of the group. They were able to point out and suggest that I try to light the scene in another way. For example, Adelle noted that the original rim light on Kerry was barely registering in camera and suggested that we light it front on as that would be much noticeable and useful in a situation where we need as much light as possible.
As I had never really collaborated for something that was my own project I found this part of the shoot very inspiring as my product no doubt turned out much better as a result of everyone’s input and suggestions.
Other things that I had to take into very close consideration when shooting my project was finding the right f-stop to shoot at. Ideally, I wanted to shoot as closed as possible, but once I was there at the location and experimenting with the different f-stops I realised the sheer amount of light I would need if I wanted to shoot at something like f/22. Even with all the lights the shot was still heavily underexposed. I ended up compromising and shooting at f/17, which I think still managed to achieve deep focus relatively well.
Writing a script and blocking
For this project I decided to write my own script for it. I wanted to do this as I really didn’t want to come out of this studio with just a lighting experiment, and wanted to have something more complete and tangible. Even though what I wrote was just a singular scene, I tried to write it so that it could still work on its own as its a complete piece. I also really wanted to write my own scene as I think that lighting is essentially useless unless it is motivated, and having some semblance of narrative to springboard from was a lot more appealing to me than coming out with shots that simply looked nice or interesting.
When writing the scene I wanted to make the most out of the fact that it was going to be filmed using deep focus, and this became my motivation while writing. The main thing that was running through my mind when writing was that I had to move the actors around, and to make sure that the blocking of the scene corresponded with the power dynamic of the characters. If the character was passive and on the back-foot, they would be at the back of the room and minimised; if they held power they were placed in the foreground and took up a lot of the frame; if they were at a stalemate, then they were both in the mid ground.
As I had decided to use deep focus due to being inspired through its use by people such as John Ford, Kenji Mizoguchi, Jean Renoir and Orson Welles I tried to study how they made the most out of deep focus and used it to its full potential. One particular scene that I took great inspiration from was a scene from Citizen Kane in which Kane is speaking with Thatcher and there are these windows in the background that feel as if they are normal sized windows at a reasonable distance away in the background. Then when Kane walks all the way to the back of the room and you realise that these windows are extremely far away and are very large. It is a great use of deep focus photography as well as scale and perspective.
I wanted to do something somewhat similar to this. I attempted to do this by having my character stay in the foreground for the majority of the scene, where he is largely dominant and you perceive his physical size and presence to be equal to that of Kerry’s. It is not until the dynamic changes and Kerry’s character gains equal footing that I have my character move into the middle of the room and you realise that my character’s physical presence is essentially diminished as it becomes apparent that I am shorter than Kerry, achieved through something as simple as moving from foreground to mid ground and changing the scale of the character.
Although I was very happy with the final product there were aspects of it that I think could be improved. Most notably was the fact that I think I made a mistake with the blocking. For the majority of the scene, whenever my character would turn to talk, his face would be away from the camera and you would not be able to see his words as he spoke. After watching the scene enough times it started to become distracting and gave off a feeling that the audio was being dubbed as the connection between seeing him speak and hearing it was not there. Eventually it gets to the point where during some of the emotional peaks of the scene you really should have a clear view of my face and how I am reacting, but due to the poor blocking and coverage it falls short of what it could have been.
I was disappointed in this mistake as I think that I really could have fixed it if I had just thought through enough about the blocking. I could have had my character talk more while facing the camera front on or even have him talk in profile and see if that would have worked and felt natural.
There were also a few noticeable shadows in the background falling on the wall to the right. It isn’t to noticeable until the end when I move the box to the other room that they become more apparent. It’s not a big deal to me as I don’t mind hard shadows but if I wanted to get rid of all the hard shadows and achieve a more naturalistic look then I could have tried to improve this aspect. As to how I would have done that I am not too sure. The only way I can think of right now would be to diffuse the light source causing the shadows although that would mean that there would be a lot smaller volume of light coming in and at that point I would rather achieve deep focus and have a better exposed picture than worry about expelling of all hard shadows.
Final thoughts on the studio
This was my favourite studio of the entire course by far. I felt like whatever expectation I had going into the studio was met and that I was learning every single lesson. Before I had started this studio I had very little confidence with operating lights and had trouble even thinking of light in a critical and practical sense part just thinking that something ‘looks cool’.
I can say that coming out of this studio I feel much more confident with understanding light and making decisions about light that feel informed and motivated. I will without a doubt continue to learn as much as I can about light after this studio and continue to experiment and challenge myself to understand cinematography more.