Further up the learning curve

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Most of the crew on No Evil are first-timers and all of us are amateurs (in the original and best meaning of the word). So, shooting a movie in six days, which was already going to be tough, is made harder by lack of experience.

Film-making is a highly technical business. With the cast, you can just drag them along to the set, sober them up and let them work their magic. Not so with the technical trades.

I’ve got about 40-odd years experience as a stills photographer, and it’s partly how I make my living. But the only video I’ve ever shot has been the moving equivalent of happy snaps – you know, kittens and stuff. (And I have some very minor experience with 16mm film.) I can compose a picture a treat, but pans, focus pulls etc are a novel experience.

The younger members of the crew have had the benefit of doing film at school – and also of being highly intelligent. Tom (sound recordist), Vita (script supervisor & clapper) and Morgan (assistant cameraman) pretty much picked up what they needed to know on day one.

Still, it’s also a matter of learning to work together in the often crowded environment of a shoot. So we held a brief tech rehearsal.

Let's go to work

Let’s go to work

On a blisteringly hot July day, we gathered at the home of producer Clare (which is also doubling as a location for many shots), and managed to find one tiny spot of shade in which we could work.

We set up for a shot that involves the character Luke (played by another Morgan) simply walking past the camera. But I want it to be fairly dramatic, reflecting his shut-down, insular mood. So it involves letting the character walk into & out of focus, combined with panning & sliding the camera.

Setting up for the shot (L-R: Morgan, Steve, Morgan, Tom)

Setting up for the shot (L-R: Morgan, Steve, Morgan, Tom)

We shot it three times and got one reasonably good result. On the day, I can see us needing to do this shot many times. In the final film it’ll take up about three seconds of screen time.

Next was a slightly trickier shot – a ground-level close-up of a stick that gets snatched up by Luke as he passes. To maintain the energy in the sequence, I also want to use the slider for this.

Setting up for the ground-level slider shot

Setting up for the ground-level slider shot

This turned out to be difficult. If we tried to match the actor’s pace as he walks by, we ran out of slider very quickly (it provides 58cm of motion). We also had the camera (plus rails & follow-focus) mounted on a fluid head, which was in turn mounted on the slider. The head was useful for moving the camera, and the large amount of mass helped make the slide smooth. But it also meant that the slider tipped forward if you let go. This one’s going to take much more practice.

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Reviewing the results – L-R: Tom, Morgan, Clare, Morgan, Steve (in Afrika Korps-style hat)

Of course, the great thing about video is that you can review the results immediately. I think we all felt reasonably pleased with what we’d got, but also know that we need more practice. We’re going to get that practice on the shoot…

(Photos by Vita)

 

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