lowel core 44 plus-x super 8 the good soldier tri-x

The Good Soldier – Pre-Production – Notes 1

The Good Soldier is a 15-16 minute short film that I’ve been working on with the goal of shooting and submitting to the Sundance Film Festival of 2010. The initial story idea and script development began in December 2008. Since that time I have a complete script, some of the locations, some of the cast, a basic budget, some of the production equipment, and an ever-evolving vision in my mind.

The Good Soldier is the story of a young man ordered to hold an observation post in a remote location. After nearly a year with zero activity he becomes dismayed at the purpose of his mission, for little has been revealed to him. As a result, he’s driven by an ever-present urge to uncover the true reason for his mission. Not everything is as it seems. What does the future hold for this good soldier?

Things have been coming together a bit more lately. I made a big investment in purchasing a light kit. I decided to go with a Lowel Core 44 because it has everything I need for this shoot and I’m sure I’ll be able to use it for future projects. Of course I debated between renting and buying but it came down to an issue of time – how much time I thought I would need a light kit – and convenience. It’s so much easier to have a light kit right when you need it.

I’ve been reading a lot about film stocks, trying to pick the perfect film for the locations, lighting, and scenes in the story. I’m almost positive that I will shoot on B&W Tri-X for interiors and PLUS-X for exteriors. Reasons for this are that the story would benefit from having it in black an white. Plus, I feel that b/w film holds a high place in motion picture photography in terms of style and professionalism. And it will be fun to shoot.

I’m still pretty confused about camera settings and light metering – I wish I was more knowledgeable in this area. I’m trying to make better sense of it so that when it comes time I know, based on the amount of light in the room, what settings I should have the camera on. If anyone has any advice in this department that would be great. I’m sure much of it is just getting out there and burning through some carts of film but I’d like to know a little better what I’m doing before I pull the trigger. More research to be done!

I’ve made a few contacts along the way and some of those relationships are in the early stages right now so I can’t really say what will become of them until later. Hopefully, I will have some help in the casting, scheduling, lighting, and sound departments. And I still need a main character. I will be putting together a bio for the main character shortly and hold a casting call.

After the initial test-shoot (which I wrote about in a previous entry) I learned quite a bit about what will work and what will not. I was also reminded of the unforgiving nature of shooting film. It can be difficult to get it just right. And with film it’s not like you can go back and delete it – once it’s on there, it’s on there. And you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s been processed.

The plan is to shoot the rehearsals on HDV, get the performances down pat, and then shoot it on S8.

Got to go for now….more later…

Film good soldier test footage reeves park singing sound sync summit super 8

Super 8 Film/Sound Sync Test – Summit Sings

I got some developed film back today. There were two rolls that I had developed and transferred – both were shot with my Nizo 801 Macro. The first roll was some test footage for a film that I wrote and will (hopefully) be shooting soon. The second roll is of my son, Summit, singing into a microphone. There are a couple of reasons for both of these films. First, these are the first rolls I have run through this Nizo camera and I needed to see how the camera handled and how the pictures would look. Second reason was to experiment with syncing sound to the picture.

I have to say, compared to my other camera – the Zeiss Ikon, I am a disappointed with the Nizo. The ligh, colors and clarity are just not as good. True, it may have a lot to do with the user but my first experience with the Ikon yielded some much better footage. I will continue to work with the Nizo in hopes that I will learn more about it and get some better footage.

The test footage I shot for my upcoming film was WAY WAY too dark. Very under-exposed. Yes, the room was dim but there were several windows open and some additional interior lighting for a couple of shots. In retrospect I should have considered that I was shooting 64T and probably should have been much closer to the subject and had much more light.

Even more unfortunate is that the footage is SO dark that I am unable to do a sound sync edit test because I can barely see the slate or the person holding it! Suck. Oh well – that’s why it’s a test, right?

Luckily, I also recorded the test footage with my HDV camera so I may put some of that online just so you can see the conditions. Maybe someone can tell me what I should do to fix the situation – maybe I need to change my film type entirely! This also answers my questions about if I need additional lighting or not – I absolutely do.

The other film I shot, as I mentioned above, is of my son. This took place outside and all the camera setting were on auto. The picture is still a little dark, grainy, and the color is weak – though I’m sure I could fix it a bit in Final Cut if I wanted to. Good thing is that I was able to practice some sound syncing with this footage. I now realize how tricky this is and how important it is to have a slate to cue the sound/picture edit.

I also realized everything I have read about trying to sync digital sound to Super 8 film. It does not stay synced for long, that’s for sure. However, with a little tinkering I was able to keep the sound closely synced for a little while by increasing the picture speed by 10%. This doesn’t change the look of the film hardly at all but it allows it to stay a little closer in sync. it is by no means perfect, there is some obvious lag/separation towards the end. But it’s not too bad for a first try.

Again, there are some things I can do to make it better so I will continue to work on it.

For the time being – enjoy Summit’s beautiful voice.

aaron brothers dad Film oil Oklahoma State Fair ryan super 8 well site

My Dad, Super 8 Film and a Well Site

This film is in remembrance of my dad who died April 11, 2002 – tomorrow is the 6 year anniversary of his death.

I would like to share this Super 8 film. This one is from a batch of films that I had telecined several months ago. I really like this one because it’s an experience I remember – our visit to an oil well site that my dad was involved with. Honestly, I don’t know what involvement my family had with oil – maybe this was a friend’s site, maybe family. That’s a question for my mom I guess.

The film shows my brother Ryan (the first little boy you see) and I playing around on dirt piles and dangerously close to the drilling rig. I don’t see my dad in the film so I have to assume that he is the cameraman.

I have him to thank for my love of moving pictures, story telling, humor, and adventure. My dad spurred and encouraged all of those values in my brothers and I and we are each better people for it. I love him and still miss him.

sherwin super 8 test footage TGS

Test Footage – Light, Sound, Location

This is a photo (taken with my cell phone) of one the locations for my upcoming film.

Yesterday was such an exciting day. Shot some test footage for my upcoming Super 8 film! The purpose for the test footage was threefold: 1) To get an idea of various light levels in the room and on the camera, 2) To test the sound quality in the room with a shotgun mic and perform sound sync test, 3) To get used to the camera and how it handles.

The entire test was documented on an HDV camera in order to review it later and identify settings, light levels, and how the room was set up with each change between takes. Speaking of takes, my friend Sherwin played the part of the “talent,” clapped the slate at the beginning of each take, helped me keep things straight, etc. He even took the opportunity to tell a few interesting anecdotes about himself in the process – you can look forward to me sharing some of those takes later (if it’s cool with him).

So the roll of test footage is off to the lab for processing and transfer. I’ll post some footage up after it’s back.

As far as the film goes – the script is finished and I’m pretty content with it. A few people have read it and so far I’ve received positive feedback. I made a few changes based on the feedback so I feel like it’s good to go.

The screenplay has just been registered with the WGA. I will get into what the film is about in another post.

Feel good to be moving closer to my goal on this.