My friend and excellent director Dimiter Dimitroff asked me to talk cinematography and breakdown some of the scenes from ‘The Seance’ for the pilot instalment of Behind The Clapper.
From time to time a group of filmmaker friends I met at university like to meet up and make little scenes to practice our craft and hang out. This was one such scene. Liam Swann wrote this short and had always wanted to make this scene specifically so we decided to meet up and shoot it. We just used kit we owned or had free access to and made the thing, because… why not?
We brought a good friend of mine, Alan Livesey, in to direct it. We have been friends for a long time but had never had the pleasure of actually working together. After several discussions about the script we decided we wanted attempt it as a ‘oner’ i.e. one constant shot, something I have done only once before. Sure, I have done shots that have lasted a long time but a oner short film requires you to tell the entire story, do all the jobs, within that one shot.
So in terms of the camera we decided to shoot Black Magic Pocket 4K. Alan had a Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal that worked perfectly with the BMP and, especially with zero budget, this quickly became the best option. The key consideration when designing our move was safety as for a large portion of the move it was obvious I would have to walk backwards along a wet train track… in the dark. We decided that Alan would be my spotter for the backwards walking elements and we had a monitor that we could use for playbacks to ensure he was happy.
We wanted to do the tilt down to start, as an introduction to the world, it also allowed us to start Vin singing before the move giving us an enigma of where the song is coming from and starting some intrigue. We quickly panned around to ensure that we were in front of the actors so that they would walk towards camera during the bulk of the performance. Due to the lack of width along the track we couldn’t rotate to follow them at any point a la 1917 so we needed to find another way to switch up the blocking. We decided that Vin clearly lead the first half of the dialogue and Barry the latter, for this reason we had Barry following Vin and then half way through found a transition for Barry to lead. This also added some interest to the lighting, as they would dip in and out of moonlight and lamplight.
For the lighting, it was relatively simple. I experimented with a few options and was thinking I would put a bare lightbulb in the lamp to get that harsh light, however I was having issues safely getting a battery in there. Ultimately I used 2 Aputure MC lights through double CTO, back to back. This actually worked better as it allowed me to have one intensity coming out of the camera facing side of the lamp and another intensity hitting the face. Next, I sprayed the camera facing side of the lamp with dulling spray, this diffuses the light and hid the true nature of the light source. We also got a cheap Amazon knock off of a Wex Icelight which was full WRGB, I mounted this to a boom pole and had Liam walk in front of the cast with the moonlight colour I liked dialled in.
Ultimately I was really happy with how it turned out and hope the scene eventually blossoms into the full short.
Another kitchen lighting breakdown, here we go.
The way I lit this shot was a little different than the food shot as it needed to accommodate a large space and several full size humans rather than a tiny burger. Luckily we started with this shot so I could ‘set the look’ with the more difficult wide.
First thing is always to look for anything I can’t control. Firstly, the studio was flanked by large windows, meaning I either black them out or be at the mercy of the weather. Secondly, due to the specifics of this shoot and studio, we couldn’t hire kit (COVID stuff) so I was limited to what I owned and the in-house kit at @theventuragency so I knew I needed help from the big HMI in the sky.
We wanted a high key commercial look so I knew I couldn’t rely on the sun alone. First job was to get the aputure 300d with light dome mini on a C stand in a menace atm style, this was my ‘sun buffer’, if the sun disappeared behind the clouds, this light picked up the slack and gave me a strong edge to work with.
Next I set up 2 2x6 poly boards next to each other to get a 4x12 reflective surface, I then bounced my remaining fresnel fixtures into this to wrap the ‘sun’ around and give that lovely soft wrappy look to Luke. This worked later as I swing it around to key the 2 women sat at the breakfast bar.
I felt that the right hand side of frame needed some love and wanted to give Luke a little rim light so I used the Kino Flo 4 bank, one of my favourite uses for these is to turn them all the way up, then all the way down until you can’t see it’s effect anymore and then JUST up from there. This gives a tiny tiny kiss of light which makes a world of difference for me, but doesn’t feel like a source.
Finally I thought our hero burger needed a bit of juice, especially as we were cutting in to the hero shot of it later. I used an aputure MC, hidden behind the salad bowl, just to highlight it a little, making it stand out and keeping the whole spot more consistent.
So, there we go. Any questions, fire away on Instagram, otherwise let me know how you like this format and breakdown.
Director: Kaine Levy
Prod: The Ventur Agency
Shot -> Breakdown -> BTS