The last 3 months have been a very interesting & exciting time.
I got asked by a good friend Director Nat Sharman to come onboard and shoot a Docu Drama on ‘Unexplained’ Mysteries. Nat and I have a long history of shooting Docu Dramas together so I jumped at the chance to collaborate with him.
For me Docu Dramas are a great genre of programme as you get the best of both worlds. Firstly, to shoot off the cuff, relatively unplanned footage in new locations all whilst meeting world experts and sometimes eccentric characters . Then with the drama getting to step properly into being a DP, collaborating with other departments and having the resources to really push the craft of Cinematography.
Hello DOP Blog readers. Just wanted to inform you all about the B&H Canon Deal that’s going on!
There doing a Double Super Saver with Rebates! What? Yes! Finally a SALE!
I love using the Canon 45mm & 90mm Tilt Shift lenses and now am finally going to buy them instead of hiring!
They are such quality lenses and with the Scarlet and C300 having an option of Canon mount you know you will get some serious use out of them.
Hello, I was asked by Optics Digital Pictures in Dubai to help Produce a Pupa Make Up Commercial. The budget was relatively tight, but since they had committed to take care of all post production and the client the models, cars, props and food all I had to do was find a location, crew and equipment…
After seeing the boards the location was easy, I just needed a backdrop of twinkly lights that would represent a city scape, ideally that could be anywhere not necessarily Dubai.
Crew, no problem I got my boys at Action Filmz involved and bumped Joal Schaffer up from 2nd AC to Focus puller. I had 100% confidence in his ability from a past shoot, plus I really like having him on set as he has great positive energy.
I am feeling sad that Kodak labs are shutting down everywhere… but when film lover Roger Deakins ASC, BSC is shooting digitally you know times have changed…
Film it seems is literally leaving the building, just as Canon is turning right up to the party with their C300.
It’s one digital party with the Alexa, RED, Epic, Scarlet and now the Canon C300 is out! I’ve just taken delivery! I thought the Canon 5D MKII was a Game Changer and it was! Anyone who visits DOP Blog will know how many HDSLR shoots I’ve done…
The 48hour film project was one crazy project! Yep you have to make a film from scratch in 48hours.
Previous DOP Blog posts:
48 hours is all it takes
47 hours 57,58,59 That’s It! 48 Hour Film Project! (Including Tips for making short film)
The organisers give you some criteria at the very start then you have to deliver a short film exactly no more than 48hours later.
Our criteria was:
Line of dialogue: ‘You can’t leave without making a decision’
Character trait: Human Encyclopedia
It turns out it was worth it though, firstly for the amazing people that got to collaborate together from Director Nizar Sfair who is always brimming with new and interesting ideas to Michael Fillon an exceptional creative brain and writer to the super talented actors and crew.
A BIG THANKS has to be said to Composer Ray Haddad, Sound Recordist David Thirion, Casting Director/PM Miranda Davidson, Make Up Artist Marcia Santos and the Awesome post team especially Editor An Nguyen from Optix Digital Pictures Dubai.
The fact that it won 5 awards was a HUGE bonus for everyone involved and goes to reflect the talent on board!
BEST DIRECTOR (Nizar Sfair)
BEST ACTOR (Assem Kroma)
BEST USE OF LINE (Michael Fillon)
BEST EDITING (An Nguyen)
AUDIENCE AWARD (Group Screening)
So let me Present the DOP BLOG PREMIER of ‘PARADISE FALLS’ made by the team known as ‘The Turtles’ for the Dubai leg of the 48hour film project. With the only cost being sweat, lack of sleep, pure dedication, good will, passion, personal time, food and drinks – oh yer and 24hours previous a lot of
‘hi not sure if you’ll be interested, but got this project over the weekend yer it’s for free…’
Shot on the Canon 5DMKII
To view more of my work go Vimeo
If you want to Become a DOP and learn all my tips and tricks that will put you ahead in the filming world look no further than How To Become a Cameraman
It took us 47hours 38 seconds to write, cast, location scout, shoot, edit, grade and hand deliver our film ‘Paradise Falls’.
The 48hour film project opened it doors to Dubai for the first time this year and our team ‘The Turtles’ took part.
Filmmakers were given one line of dialouge ‘you can’t leave without making a decision‘, a prop a clock, a character trait which was a human encolopedia, a genera Mockumentary and to use a local landmark we choose Dubai Metro.
We received this info at 7pm on Thursday (which is eqvelevent to Friday in Dubai) and had to physically hand-in the finished film at exactly 7pm on Saturday (which is like Sunday in Dubai – get it?).
Quite a MISSION!
For me it all started after receiving an email from a friend on Tuesday and straight away I knew that I had to take part so on Wednesday I put my Producers hat on and made a few phone calls. Fortunetely a Director friend Nizar Sfair was interested to get involved as well as Acting coach Miranda Davidson. The team then steadily grew with experienced and enthused professionals including Sound Recordist David Thirion and Make Up Artist Marcia Santos, it was so cool these professionals were willing to volunteer and help out, I can not thank everybody enough!
On the Thursday at 7pm Nizar collected the info and we set about brainstorming an idea for the genera we were just given – Mockumentary. The idea grew and took shape in a few hours then copy writer Michael Fillon and Nizar went off to bring these ideas together and write an original script.
On Friday morning with 37 hours remaining and even before the script was finished myself and second camera operator Michael McKelvie (who is actually a professional photographer) were up at the crack of dawn to get some establishing shots of the location in the beautiful fresh morning light. I love early morning light so much, I guess it’s lucky I am a morning person…
Our story was about Karim Mushtak played by Assem Kroma. Karim is a writer who had a best selling book ‘The Bridge of Time‘.
Ten years on nobody has seen him, we found him as the last remaining resident in a dilapidated housing compound, refusing to leave until completing his second novel ‘The Time Travelers Diary‘.
The film took on the style of a Louis Theroux documentary with Michael McKelvie being the voice behind the lens (everyone was multi skilling).
As the film’s budget was coming out of my and Nizar pockets we needed to keep it cheap – I really do sound like a Producer now… As both Michael a I own Canon 5D MKII we decided that was the best choice of format, even though I was offered a RED EPIC I knew post time would be incredibly tight and final delivery requirements were to be SD (yer SD?) so I wanted to keep the work flow as simple as possible.
I shot the film 80% hand held with three lenses Canon 24-70mm, 70-200mm both F2.8 and a 17mm Tilt Shift lens which I borrowed from Katarina Premfors a Photographer friend of mine. I absolutely love Tilt Shift!
When people try to impersonate a documentary especially in Hollywood movies they tend to use very shaky hand held shots with lots of zooms, this is something I really dislike. Having grown up shooting docos I know from years of sweating behind the camera that you try your very very best in the unprecitable locations and senerios you find yourself in, so when brefing Michael who is completely new to video about the shooting style I simply told him to try and keep the camera as steady as possible and avoid doing lots of zooms unless to fit the action in the frame.
We didn’t use any shoulder supports or follow focus systems instead we went old school and just focused off the barrel. I did try and use an EVF viewfinder from Cineroid, but to be honest I stopped using it after a couple of hours as I found it too hard to judge focus from. The main benefit with the Cineroid is that you can feed a HDMI monitor from it, but having worked with Nizar so many times he trusted me to shoot and instead he concentrated on directing the talent. I went back to my tried and trusted Z-Finder. The Z-Finder is what makes a 5D MKII usable for such a simple device it really does make a HUGE difference. Add a fader filter to your kit and shooting is not only quick, but F Stop selection is very controllable. (If you want to get hold of any of this simple yet super effective kit, please click on B&H or Amazon ads here on DOP BLOG).
‘Paradise Falls’ isn’t without it’s faults, but for a film made in 48hours I and ‘The Turtles’ are incredibly proud of it!
Ray Haddad did such an amazing job of scoring the film in less than 8 hours… Insane! Editor An Nguyen and edit assistant Neda Ahmed from Optix Post Production did an incredible job editing the film they actually went 24hours with no sleep… Optix even let us grade the film in their DaVinci suit. Optix you and your team ABSOLUTELY ROCK! Great job colourist Diane Kuo.
As soon as the 48hour restrictions are lifted I will post the film here on DOP BLOG, in the meantime here’s our trailer
So what are my tips to making a film in 48 hours:
1) Read the rules, there are quite a few and you don’t want to get disqualified for something simple or avoidable
2) Scout your locations and get permissions ahead of time – It’s one thing you can do before the 48hours as well as preselect some actors and make sure your kit is all set
3) Keep the crew small and simple, have clear leaders just like in regular production work
4) Only take on people who 100% want to be involved
5) Remember everyone is a volunteer so look after them, buy lots of water, juice, fruit, and a decent lunch
6) Try not to take the pi*s with time, even though you only have 48hours try and schedule your film as best as possible
7) Once your script is written read it through with a stopwatch and estimate timings of your finished product – 48hour films should be 4-7mins excluding end credits which can be 1min
8) Work out scenes that you can live without
9) Don’t be afraid to try new stuff on location
10) Get the coverage you need, but avoid over shooting
11) Make sure you have some form of narrative, leave the audience feeling something
12) Deliver batches of rushes whilst shooting so your post can transcode them and start the offline
13) Keep an eye on the clock you only have 48hours, put a strict deadline for exporting your film
14) Make 2 copies on two separate USB’s or DVD’s it’s in the rules
15) Leave enough time to safely get to your location and deliver the film – I watched about 10 teams arrive late missing the deadline, what a waste…
16) Avoid on set politics as much as possible. For some reason short films/ working for free does breed then more than normal
17) ENJOY IT! Remember why you got into this industry!
The premier for our film was last night, in total there was probably around 14 films screened yesterday with two additional screenings. Some were very good and to be honest some made me feel a little sick… A short film should have some form of narrative, be interesting, intriguing and slightly entertaining doesn’t hurt either…
Some films were clearly made with great passion, but shot on FULL AUTO – which is especially a crime when the content/ idea is not great either… If you want to record purposeful images then you need to use everything on Manual – that’s PAGE 1. Learn How to Become a Cameraman there’s even a Christmas Special on + 100% money back guarantee if your not satisfied with the info I share. Take a look and download the Free Tips
PS BIG SPECIAL THANKS TO IMAD ABOU-CHALHA GM from Optix who made Post production and finishing the film a reality. Imad is now off to follow his dream and go to Culinary School in NYC – Imad you are a legend and I wish you all the best of luck in your new career! Keep a sofa free for me as no doubt I will come and visit especially if you cook!
Well ‘The Turtles’ are registered as an official team in the 48hour film project. Yep you have 48 hours to make a short film that’s the premise.
The organisers give you a line of dialogue, a prop, a character and a genera then you have 48hours to write, shoot, edit, score and deliver your film – I’ve always liked a challenge!
It’s the first time in the history of the competition that Dubai is in the mix and Director Nizar Sfair and I are reuniting to make something special – I hope – maybe even intriguing, interesting and at least a visual feast! We’re all sharing and expanding our usual roles in this ZERO budget project.
With the help of all the highly talented volunteers already signed up to the ‘The Turtles’ including acting coach Miranda Davidson from Miranda Davidson Studios it should have some depth of character, at the very least the actors WILL have a backstory! I almost shed a tear just sitting in one of her classes the other evening… Acting really is a dark art…
Who knows what we’ll come up with, but it should be fun and as soon as I get the nod i’ll post it up here.
Thanks in advance to everyone who’s helping out including Alchemy Films who are providing some equipment, Bareface with additional cast and Optix for the use of their post production facility. Now I better blow the dust off that 5D that helped me out so well with the Life in a Day project.
If you want to learn how to shoot professionally here’s your ANSWER!
Outer Mongolia is a place I often heard my Dad talk about when I was a kid. I don’t think he had been there, it just one of names of places that sounds cool ‘Outer Mongolia’, it’s a little like ‘The Wild Man of Borneo’ both seem distant, wild and out of reach. Although, I just found out the latter is a film made in 1941 and also something to do with two dwarf brothers… Not what I imagined…
When Director Robert Wilkins contacted me about shooting a documentary following a Buddhist Lama in search of lost teachings in yep Outer Mongolia – how could I refuse..?
I received the email when I was still in Delhi completing the Bollywood feature film. Rob outlined the doco and explained that the Lama is the 11th reincarnation of another important Lama. He was appointed when he was just six years old by the Dali Lama. Both the Lama which we called Rimpashay (meaning precious learned one) and Rob believed the lost teachings could be in Mongolia and Rob was hoping that the search would make up the final 20mins of the 1 hour programme he and Simon Wheeler were producing for the BBC.
Mongolia, was a Buddhist country, then the Communist Soviet government literally stamped Buddhism out. By the 1930’s most of the monasteries were destroyed and the vast majority of the Monks brutally murdered! It only became legal to practise again around 1994. Now Buddhism is thriving once again and is the main religion in Mongolia. Insane history, I know and I haven’t even mentioned the ‘forefather’ of Mongolia Genghis Khan…
When shooting a fly on the wall doco or Observational Documentary/ Ob Doc (as more commonly known) the crew is generally small. This time it was super small. Rob would be Directing and also Recording Sound a skill he learned a couple of years ago on a doco to Antarctica. Simon Wheeler Producing (Simon amongst many things wrote and produced a drama series called Kingdom shot in my home county of Norfolk featuring Steven Fry) and myself as Cameraman. I never feel comfortable describing myself as DOP for this type of project, as I was not lighting or constructing big shots, I was more just following the action and ensuring there would be enough coverage. It was actually a welcomed change as for the past 2 years I have been mainly shooting Promos, Commercials and recently a feature so for action not to be setup and unfold in-front of camera was fun!
As I knew we would be doing lots of hiking up mountains to film in monasteries and ruins so the kit had to be small and light. My initial choice of camera was the new Sony F3 but sadly due to budget constraints and the hire price of Prime Lenses it wasn’t an option.
The production had already been using an EX1 (a camera I had never used before) so I decided to combine that with my 5D MKII. I used the EX1 as the main camera for all the fly on the wall coverage and then picked up the 5D for all beauty shots and additional coverage where sound wasn’t needed. Ideally, I would have shot everything on the 5D, but I didn’t want to give Rob the extra headache of syncing the sound. I know there are new software programmes that can make this easy, but sadly there wasn’t time for the production to fully test them, sometimes it’s most sensible to go with what you know works.
About five years ago I shot an episode of Jimmy’s Farm also for BBC directed by long term collaborator Producer/ Director Nat Sharman. We decided right from the get go that we would never ask Jimmy (farmings answer to Jamie Oliver) to do anything twice abiding by the true hardcore rules of documentary and we stuck to that! It was a great way to work. So much documentary is staged and acted out, with Jimmy’s Farm we wanted to avoid that, if we got it, great we got it, if we missed it, we missed it! I decided it would be the best idea to take the same Dogma approach with the filming in Mongolia. The Lama had his own mission and I felt it was my duty to document that. I can proudly say I didn’t ask him to do anything twice.
I had to completely change my mind set from the Bollywood film. I didn’t light anything in Mongolia, but just relied on natural light which sometimes worked beautifully and sometimes required a different way of thinking and working. Mongolia has amazing natural light and without a doubt the clearest skies in the countryside I have ever seen. There was stars upon stars – it was so amazing it honestly didn’t look real!
When I film documentaries I like to move around as seamlessly as possible (until I bump into something) so the contributors are not intimidated by, me the camera or rest of the crew. From experience I know it’s best when the crew literally become part of the environment and as much as humanly possible and don’t get in the way. When you are holding a camera in front of your face and waving a ‘guessing stick’ aka Boom around it’s hard to be invisible, but by just getting on with filming and following the action you can achieve as close to it as possible.
I shot the project 85% hand held and only used the tripod to pick up GV’s (General Views or as someone once called it Geographical Vistas). It allowed us to get what we needed quickly. Rimpashay, didn’t like to hang around especially if he thought what he was doing wasn’t advancing the search.
Now to address the Director doing sound. It’s not a common thing except if your Nick Broomfield (Legend). But for this project, where the budget was beyond tight, the locations often very similar it allowed Rob to be in the correct eye line for the questions and practically for all of us to travel in the same vehicle, as we drove deep into Mongolia. Luckily, Rob had enough experience to be able to do it (and not get in the way, or dip the boom into shot – too much), but I know for a fact on his next project where he has more sensible budget the Soundman is already booked!
Working with Rob, Simon, Rimpashay and the Monks was a fantastic experience, there was always constant banter. Although, the content was fairly serious on these type of programmes you need to have a good time. I truly haven’t laughed so much in such a long time!
My 11 Tips to shooting Dogma Style Documentary:
1) Have your kit 100% prepped and ready ahead of the call time. Once your contributor knows that they can go about their business you have to be ready to capture what they are doing. They will not wait.
2) Having all you need on you. Spare batteries, stock, white paper for White Balance is essential/ or the knowledge how to scroll through degrees Kelvin to select the best colour temperature.
3) Being able to quickly, change your cameras settings. Allowing for the lighting conditions you are moving from and two.
4) The ability to follow focus and exposure on the fly is essential (and something you can only learn with experience/ practice – So practice!
5) Having a steady hand. With small cameras like EX1 or Canon 5D MKII (without shoulder rig) you have to adapt your body position so you can fluidly operate and remain rock steady during long off the cuff questions from the Director.
6) Making mental notes of Cut Aways as your filming, then picking them up asap. It’s so easy to forget to pick up a close up of something that was talked about. I avoid moving on until I have grabbed all those relevant CA’s, even if that means missing something else. It’s much better to have one complete sequence than several bitty ones…
7) Knowing exactly what shots will cut with what and making very quick decisive decisions. How to frame the next shot, from which angle to shoot. With this style there is no time for discussion with the Director.
8) Preempting action. Having a good idea where the contributor will turn, move, walk.
9) Being nimble, fit and quick on your feet. So you can physically get ahead of the contributor to pick up shots of them i.e. entering or exiting buildings/ frame. If you are unfit and shooting hand held the camera will move if you have heavy breathing.
10) Ensuring the sound is correctly calibrated to the camera and you have a good solid working relationship with your Sound Recordist. You are a team. The Sound Recordist can be your eyes and save you from potential dangers.
11) Knowing when to cut. You don’t have to film everything, over shooting is never a good thing. You just need to know what is valuable to the production.
I guarantee you will learn so much that it will put you leaps ahead in your filming career – IF NOT YOUR MONEY BACK – SIMPLE!
It was the official Life in a Day premier last night 27/01/11 at the Sundance film festival.
The film which is a unique documentary as it’s entirely made up of clips from the general publics all which were uploaded to You Tube.
The Life in a Day team received over 80,000 clips, which equalled to about 4,500 hours worth of material.
The submissions came from all around the world and featured a diverse amount of subjects from Abel a shoeshine boy in Peru to a young American teenager having his first shave.
If your a reader of DOP blog then you will know that I filmed Ayamatti. He is originally from kerala India and now lives in Dubai. Where he works as a gardner and sacreficies being thousands of miles away from his loved ones so he can earn enough money to support them all.
Re-read the posts!
I was lucky enough to have some of my material used in the final film and was flown out to Sundance to meet some of the other contributors and attend the premier. It was an amazing experience that I am incredibly thankful for! See my interview
The screening took place at the Eccles theatre Park City Utah last night 27/01/11 and simultaneously streamed live on YOU TUBE.
For me I found the film to be a master piece! It showed so many different aspects of LIFE that all took part on exactly the same date! I had to keep reminding myself that all this was happening within the same 24hours.
Some stuff in the film was funny, some incredible, some sad but all in their own way beautiful, honest and interesting. I was honestly blown away by the emotion of each and every submission and the narrative that Director Kevin MacDonald and Editor Joe Walker managed to create.
If you took part and filmed on 24th of July 2010 then congratulations for getting up and out and doing something and if your material made it into the film then you too should be incredibly proud!
If you missed the You Tube live stream, don’t worry you will still be able to see it as National Geographic have picked it up and it’s due to air in cinemas 24th July 2011.
I was really impressed with how good the Canon 5D MKII footage looked on the big screen!
I hope the film makes it way to Dubai so I can take Ayamatti and his mates!
After 28 hours of travel I finally made it to Park City Utah! Wooohhhooo!!!
The Sun is aptly shinning and I’m here knee deep in snow at the Sundance Film Festival!
Excitement! Is the only way I can describe it. The place is full of natural beauty at it’s best! The mountains peaks full with snow and film makers everywhere… and I mean everywhere! I just had a conversation with Vilmos Zsigmond about shooting features on 35mm. Vilmos shot The Long Goodbye and Close Encounters of the Third Kind LEGEND!
Last night we had the welcome dinner for Life in a Day and met up with some of the fellow Life in a Day filmmakers, including Catherine Liginsky whose husband Bob and son Bobby documented her coming out of hospital after her breast cancer treatment. Such inspirational, truthful, people full of life and vitality I can not wait to see their material in the film.
As well as all the inspirational contributors I met up with Director Kevin MacDonald and Joe the editor, two incredibly friendly fellow Brits whose passion for the film is infectious! I think Joe almost welled up, just recounting part of the story…
Needless to say the word EXCITED about the premier which will also stream LIVE on You Tube is an understatement!
Fo the rest of the day I have got to do some press and pr – something I am not used to. Being the other side of the lens is an ‘interesting’ experience… Yesterday, I had to talk about the subject of my film submission Ayamatti and my contribution to the film which I think will be live on You Tube any second…
All the team from You Tube are so on top of their game it’s truly remarkable! Off to explore more and take some Medium Format photos! GOOOO OLD SCHOOL!