This portfolio will show my approach and journey through all stages of production in my role as Director of Photography for our film ‘Blindfold’. I will be taking you through the process, exploring its challenges and how I overcame them. Our whole group agreed to strive for professionalism and follow industry standard methods. We used crew members experiences on large scale productions and applied that knowledge and attitude to our short film, not for the sake of looking professional but because we agree the reason these filmmaking methods have been around for so long is that they work.
CW3 Critical Production Portfolio
Once the core idea and early version of the script had been decided, I went through short films, selected as inspirations, to analyse and study the cinematography, looking at pacing, style, lighting, colour, aspect ratio and story themes.
I created, what I named, an inspiration reel; this was a video full of clips from all sorts of films and high-end TV dramas that I either felt would be similar to our film’s visual style or would achieve responses I wanted to explore in my own shooting style.
We were searching for two main locations, the main character’s workplace, an architecture firm, and their home. For each location scout I took photos and filmed short clips, looking particularly at existing and potential lighting options. Using a useful app called Sun Seeker I could also consider the position of the sun. Talking closely with the director and production designer I thought through colours, framing and depth.
I booked out Studio 1 along with ‘Red Epic-W S35’, ‘Arri ALEXA mini’ and four lenses I wanted to compare (see figure). The goal was to select the best equipment to achieve the appropriate visual style for this story. With these tests I could see how the lenses responded to colour and light, and their characteristics. I went with the ‘Arri Alexa’ with it’s warm, smooth look and the beautiful ‘Carl Zeiss Arriflex’ lenses for a vintage, imperfect feel.
I knew the importance of wireless transmitted video for the director and focus puller, so I researched this and we rented a ‘Teradek Bolt 1000’ for the shoot.
Once we had the house location locked, we travelled there for the weekend to work through blocking for the scenes, with the producer and sound as stand-ins. This was helpful to explore ways it would be shot, the characters movements and camera positions.
We created a teaser trailer for our fundraising campaign. For this I created a shot list and the storyboard that went along with it. I didn’t draw the storyboard but instead using previsualisation software, Cine Tracer, I recreated the room virtually. This meant I could place characters and lighting inside the scene, moving the virtual camera to plan out the shots. This worked so well for the teaser that I decided to create a fully animated version for the final film. This proved to be an invaluable tool to get everybody onboard and help me explore creative possibilities and plan setups.
I created the previs in conjunction with the shot list, considering the shot size, lens, filters. I worked incredibly closely with the director, as realising his vision was imperative, we worked through blocking and I altered my drafts.
On multiple occasions I sat down with my gaffer and talked to him about my plan for the lighting. This was very helpful to get his opinions on how we could achieve it. I drew the lighting plan and also created it in shot designer.
Building the perfect rig. I booked out the camera and lens along with lot of camera rig equipment to try and create the best versatile lightweight shoulder rig.
I tried different combinations and decided on this.
I would be shooting in 2.4k as I wanted to be able to deliver the film in 2k. Having footage with a somewhat larger pixel count would enable slight reframing in post-production.
Log footage retains the most dynamic range (information in the brightest and darkest part of the image) from the camera sensor. I created a look up table (LUT) which has information with a set array of numbers that provide a shortcut for a specific output, to transform the flat log footage to look similar to graded footage, with the right contrast and colours. I built the LUT based on a film stock that I thought would be fitting for our film, Fujicolour ETERNA 35mm. I then converted the LUT and loaded it onto the Arri Mini. I set one of the custom function buttons to toggle the display of the LUT on and off in my EVF (electric view finder), this would help me on set to see how it would look while exposing. I also outputted the log over the external wireless monitor so the director would see a more accurate image of the end result, not a flat log look.
It was important that once we were on set the camera assistants and I were all on the same page. We had a meeting to establish how we’d go for a take. The order went as follows.
1st AD: “roll camera?”
DoP or 1st AC: start the camera recording and say “camera rolling”
DoP: frame up and call “camera set” meaning this is my framing
1st AC: pull to his first focus mark and say "focus set"
2nd AC: position and call the clapper information,
Director: could then call "action" when he was ready
Before loading up all the kit in the van we tested it to make sure it was in working order. We were then ready for production to begin.
To improve my work in the future I need to keep making films, furthering my understanding of lighting and trying a risker visual style. It would be freeing to be able to have a dedicated camera operator, someone who understood quickly what I required as this would enable me to fully focus on the output, not being distracted and drained with operating.
An aspect I focused on and researched was framing and composition. Through my exploration I concluded that it’s important to have a balance between shots that communicate complex non-verbal information, through visual moments and shots that give space for the performance and action to transpire.
I feel I achieved my aims of having appropriate cinematography in the short film. I would have loved to have created more visual moments but as it’s a character focused piece I gave space for the performance. With less time pressure, it might have been easier to make these risker calls.
Be Right Back. 2013. [film] Directed by O. Harris. Zeppotron: Endemol Shine UK.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. 2018. [film] Directed by D. Slade. Netflix: House of Tomorrow, Netflix.
Coherence. (2014). [film] Directed by J. Byrkit. Bellanova Films, Ugly Duckling Films.
Edgar-Hunt, R., Marland, J. and Rawle, S. (2015). The Language of Film. Bloomsbury Publishing.
High-Rise. 2015. [DVD] Directed by B. Wheatley. StudioCanal.
Katz, S. (1991). Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen. Wiese Productions, Michael.
Katz, S. (2002). Storyboards & The Art Of Continuity,. SCENARIO Magazine, (Volume 6, #1).
Mercado, G. (2010). The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition.
The Entire History of You. (2011). [film] Directed by B. Welsh. Zeppotron.
Workman, M., 2018. Cine Tracer. Cinematography Database.