Posts tagged cinematographer
When it looks so good, you're willing to put up with some crazy (a.k.a. The BMPCC: an in-depth review)

Remember Miss Hotness, from back in the day  
Superficially perfect in every which way
Head-turning hot-stuff, in black strapless and heels
looked at you with love, and much lust as she kneeled
unmatched in all nasty, and sexual ways
and you cared not one bit that you’ve ruined the chaise
In less than a month she moved into your space
her tight little body, that beautiful face

Model Faith Picozzi

Model Faith Picozzi

 

SUDDENLY,  out of the clear blue sky, she goes off her meds, off the rails and spirals into an unprovoked,  ballistic insanity that you have never seen or heard of. Without warning, she ___________ your favorite ___________ all to hell, inducing the closest thing to a heart attack that you have ever felt.  And you remember that it was on that day she popped your cherry and showed you parts of crazy town that you never knew existed.

All your friends remember her too , because you shocked every single one of them by staying with her for another year and two months, even after she ___________ with all of your family watching, and now your own__________ can not bear to look at you or return your emails, even though it's been years.  Back then, all of your female friends called you "Mr. stupid", but your male buddies never said a word.

Boys know very well, how easily their strict codes of tolerance are bent  beyond the laws of nature when extreme hotness is factored into the equation.  The basic math you were familiar with now exists as a complex conundrum in the quantum world, where many theories exist but none have yet been proven,  and even the smartest people in the room can only be certain of one thing: One never knows just how much crazy one is willing to put up with, when that crazy thing is oh, so damn hot!

This universal anecdote is the obvious and perfect metaphor for anyone that has experience with the Black Magic Cinema Camera lineup. While they truly do produce amazing images, they are reviled for a litany of irritations that cause many budget conscious shooters to think twice about using them. Just 'cuz it's cheap, don't mean it's easy.  

 HBO's "True Detective" (Season 1 only), and J.J. Abram's "Star Wars" are just two out of many examples I need to remind everyone that film still alive, and is considered the best recording medium in the motion picture industry.  And the cameras that do the best job at digitally emulating film stock are the Arri Alexa, and recently, the Sony F65. And yeah, that smells like a strong opinion to me too. But hey man, that's where my standards are set. Everything else is a compromise. 

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever.

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever.

 

"Great fucking speech, Keith. Now that that's over, would you please join us in the real world?"  Of course I can. Because my prime directive is to be supportive and collaborative. Often times the best way to provide that support is to save the epic speech about my high standards for the millions of my imaginary blog readers, and shoot on something "real people" can afford.  I'll never stop wanting the Alexa or F65,  but as long as the principals and the script are up to par, I'll happily sign on to a low-budget project where the extreme freedom allows for the creation of those precious, reel-making shots.
 

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Thankfully, there are many, many solutions to overcoming adversity, and when shooting with a budget that is less than ideal, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema is high on my list, and completely justified when during a recent commercial shoot,  the experienced director, transfixed by the image on my monitor, sang praises about the shots we were getting, and compared the footage to that of the Alexa.  And although there are many things about the camera I wish were different,  filming in 10-bit RAW and then seeing how absolutely beautiful it looks in DaVinci Resolve, its bundled color-grading software, is enough to make me smile and forget what the hell we were fighting about in the first place.    

Furthermore,  I don't need a couples therapist to point out to me all of the glaring hallmarks of an dysfunctional relationship, because I knew about all that baggage going in.  And that's my whole point:   I'll commit to dealing with all the idiosyncrasies,  stress and risk associated with shooting with a budget camera that drives me crazy,  but only if that camera is capable of interpreting the wavelengths of light that I give it, into a picture of incredible beauty.   Hotness trumps headache.  Boys will be boys.

-KFD

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4

 
Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve.

Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve.

 

American Sharia - how I learned to love Sony prime lenses.
2nd one on the shelf!

2nd one on the shelf!

Producer Couni Young gets her way. Every time. 

Producer Couni Young gets her way. Every time. 

Tax incentive or no, Detroit Michigan is a great place to shoot your indie feature- but it does help to have a Rock n' Roller of an EP, local to the area and connected up the wazoo to come in and keep your production from capsizing. Those police cars (up there in the poster) are real, and came as a favor from the great folks of the Dearborn police department, who were kind enough to let a film crew drive them bonkers (the first and last time they will make that mistake), as we shot in every room in the building, including the jail cells.  More than that, they served as protection when we went filming in neighborhoods no sane person would be caught dead in after the sun went down.  In the film, there's a shadowy alleyway scene lit by a single 4K that would not have been possible had it not for the DPD keeping the peace.  

But- this is a story about glass. Specifically Sony glass, which I used to think were complete crap. And much like the congregation at the Westboro Baptist Church, my misguided prejudices were borne out of ignorance, lack of education,  way too much Pabst Blue Ribbon, and just enough stupid for me to believe that the yellow frothy liquid I was drinking was not the piss being reported by my tastebuds,  but the product of fine, fermented American hops and barley. 

1st AC's Andrea Boglioli (left) and Petra Bakos

1st AC's Andrea Boglioli (left) and Petra Bakos

As It was explained to me, these were first generation Cine Alta, with barrels made not of metal, but of composite materials. And since any lens made with anything but metal usually rates fairly high on the inferiority scale, I had plenty of doubts.   But then I got to know them out in the field- and, well,  they kinda won me over. First, they are super light in both weight and touch. You can actually feather the f-stop and focus rings with one finger, which took some time for me to get used to, not only because I was used to harder pulls off the barrel (and I'll wait while you pull your mind out of the gutter), but mostly because I was paranoid about them breathing.  After a week of solid shooting I realized that the f-stop and focus had no intention of going anywhere unless they were asked, even when strapped to the hood of a moving Detroit police car.  

A Sony F3 with a CineAlta 85mm, on a film set that just ran out of coffee, and the crew that just found out.                  Photo Petra Bakos

A Sony F3 with a CineAlta 85mm, on a film set that just ran out of coffee, and the crew that just found out.                  Photo Petra Bakos

My buddy Joe White, the owner of the kit and the 2nd unit DP, juggled the 35, 50 and 85  between us and we sent the Japanese glass through a gauntlet of long days, multiple setups,  hot and cold weather, and a myriad of unspeakable horrors that only an independent film can bring. These little guys not only put up with everything, but they yielded a cinematic feel that's good to look at, and flared beautifully.

Battle - shot on the RED EPIC in 5K Anamorphic!

Every operator, AC or DP who has worked with a RED knows about it's many idiosyncrasies. Even sound guys hate them for the racket they make. They're prone to crashes, they're impossible to hold steady (unless you kit them out), and don't even get me started on the god-awful workflow.  And on this shoot, we had TWO of them. 

Me (with the crazy hair) and 1st AC Joshua Butt (in the cap), on set in the California desert. Photo Will Potter 

Me (with the crazy hair) and 1st AC Joshua Butt (in the cap), on set in the California desert.
Photo Will Potter 

But what other camera can give you a gorgeous, 2:40:1 using 35mm vintage Nikon glass?  Once I started to look at the footage, all was forgiven. 

A delicious and dark RED 5K Anamorphic frame.

A delicious and dark RED 5K Anamorphic frame.

With a little time in a DaVinci suite, I could make an entire reel out of what we shot on this project. Of course it helps to have rockstars in your G&E department- who tackled a myriad of never before seen power problems, killer mosquitoes, stayed relatively calm even as that thing in the forest made noises like an angry monster bringing hell along with it, and who had the discipline to remember the union rules- two shots of whiskey for every hour past the 12th.