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…
HAPPY NEW YEAR DOP BLOG READERS
2012 Is The Year To Make Things HAPPEN!
Bollywood make some really cool films and I was fortunate to be the DOP on a very special film ‘Sadda Adda’ the literal translation is Our Den.
The film is centered around 6 boys all living in the same house – their Adda. The boys go through varying life struggles, including meeting girls and trying to find their own path through life…
It was Written and Directed by the very talented Muazzam Beg and Produced by Mumbai/ Dubai based Rajtaru Studios. It has a fantastic cast and I hope will be a big hit with the viewers!
‘Sadda Adda’ premiers in Mumbai on the 13th January 2012. Sadda Adda facebook
Here’s the official Trailer
The Shinning, Rocky, Casino and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are arguably some of the best films ever made! Imagine working with the likes of Kubrick, Spielberg and Scorsese… Well Garret Brown didn’t only work with these industry GREATS operating Steadicam – he also invented it!
I had the pleasure of spending the week with Garret and the other amazing professional Steadicam operators and fellow instructors at the Tiffen Steadicam Workshop in Atlanta, USA.
Camera movement is such an important aspect of the cinematography craft and this workshop seriously enhanced my appreciation for it!
I love to shoot hand held due to the freedom of motion it gives you. Instead of being limited to a tripod or piece of track a well operated Steadicam gives you complete freedom of movement and a beautiful smooth look. The idea of achieving this myself has always intrigued me so I took the plunge and booked to go on the official workshop. As it drew closer I began to question ‘why am I going..?’ Really good DP jobs kept rolling in (of course over the same period) and then I seriously thought ‘what am I doing going to Atlanta…?’ but now I can whole heartedly say it was one of the best decisions of my life! What a week, what a great bunch of people!
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!
I have been escaping the Dubai Sumer heat and spending the past few weeks in the USA, UK and India. It’s been fun continuing the 3x 1 hour documentaries with Darwinist Richard Dawkins on SEX/ MORALITY, DEATH and THE MEANING OF LIFE! What subjects! It’s certainly been an eye opener learning about life with the differing religious points of view from Christians and Catholics to Hindus and Buddhists, oh yeah and of course a good amount of Atheism from Richard thrown in, the chat about life with and without a Supreme Being/ God has been interesting to say the least…
On a safer front, but still a little risky, Richard met up with fellow Atheist Ricky Gervais, yep the comedian famed for The Office and hero from the Golden Globes! I cannot believe how he got away with hosting the awards with that speech – it was a little shocking, but defo wet your pants funny!
Whenever you film with a ‘star’ the Producers and often Directors get nervous, not because they are intimidated by them so much, but because of how the manager has painted their client. I have heard so many times that the ‘star’ is only going to stay 5-10 minuets, you can’t do this or that, they will want to change the lighting or possibly the set up… However way more often than not they turn out to be Kool (with a K) and stay well beyond their time slot and I can count Ricky G in that category too! He was a pleasure to film with, fair enough he had a few dodgy jokes before the cameras rolled, but maybe Richard Dawkins made him a little nervous…
As well as filming for the documentary, I have managed to fit in a few extra days on other productions. Including a graphics/ title shoot for Jamie Oliver’s new 1 hour programme Jamie Cooks Summer, Produced and Directed by my very good friend Chris Faith. I also filmed a festival called the Big Chill with X Factor contestant and I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here winner Stacy Soloman and a days filming on the hit show Made in Chelsea which is a similar format to the Hills or The Only way is Essex.
I have noticed some similarities within the UK television industry since I left the shores in 2008 and some changes too.
The Big Chill was for an ITV This Morning feature about fashion and festivals. I was so surprised when the Director and top lad Sam informed me of the required camera format – Digi Beta! What Digi Beta? Are you serious! I used to love Digi Beta, it used to be the dream format. If you were shooting on Digi you knew you were doing something right.
But even to a nostalgic DP in 2011 it does seem a little dated but not one to complain I hired a 970, sadly not my favourite 790 as that camera seems to be no longer in existence and headed off to watch Kanye West play. Easy Taught me!
The Digi is what an old school Cameraman would call a real camera, it’s made for filming. True it is heavy, but in all the right places, it’s so well balanced that it is a dream to use. I was back to pulling off 180’s and my signature 360 spin (that MTV used to lap up) in no time.
Now for the change, Sony F3. On both Jamie Oliver’s shoot and Made in Chelsea it was the camera of choice, well actually it seems to be the camera of choice for most of the UK.
So what’s my verdict:
First and foremost it gives beautiful images, that cannot be denied and it has a PL mount which means it can take 35mm film lenses, something I always dreamed about as a nipper. They are the pros, and sadly there are pay offs. Like a lot of cameras in the current market it is a little bit of a pig to work with. With cards directly inserted in the camera it only records 30mbps, so to get higher res 5ombps you need to use a Nano Flash or ‘Nano Gash‘ as they seem to be referred to. It’s a bit of a pain as you have to record on the Nano Flash separately, plus the viewfinder isn’t great for focus and to get the Nano Flash on the camera + additional battery you have to add more bars, which means actually getting your eye to the viewfinder is quite tricky. So on both programmes I used an additional Cineroid viewfinder which is another iteam of kit to add onto the camera, which makes it more bulky and cumbersome and just not balanced and to be honest isn’t that good either.
I love how technology is changing and I believe we are right in the middle of it, with all these new amazing digital cameras and advancements in post being released.
I just read this on Stalk Book ‘He who wants the world to remain as it is, doesn’t want to remain at all’.
You can not keep the world from changing, and regardless of what camera format you are filming on filming on Location remains the same so here’s 7 Top Tips to help you:
1) Before leaving for location check your kit as it will be used, don’t skip any stage of this as the one thing you don’t check will more often than not work. Take spares
2) Make a detailed list of the amount of kit you have including number of boxes and bags
3) If you think you might need it take it. Even if you doubt you will use it, still take it and I guarntee more often than not you will be thankful you took it
4) Take an multi plug adaptor and 4way power extension. This way you will always be able to charge your batteries, phone, laptop without having to sacrifice other appliences in your hotel room i.e. the TV
5) Always take the business card of the hotel your staying at with the address on it and put safely in your wallet
6) If abroad learn some very basic words, ‘hello, thank you, yes please, excuse me’
7) Be aware of your location and potential hazards
It is a really exciting time at the moment, so enjoy whatever it is you are filming and if you want over 50 more Top Location Filming Tips then you know where to get them plus find out the key to becoming a highly successful and in-demand Cameraman/ DOP www.howtobecomeacameraman.com
NYC, Philly, Joplin, Kansas City, San Fran, Vegas and now LA. It’s been a busy 10 days to say the least as I have started filming 3x 1 hour documentaries with the Evoloutionist and famous Atheist Richard Dawkins.
I like to do one big landmark doco every year so when long term collabroator Producer/ Director Molly Milton asked me to DOP the series, how could I refuse? Especially, when the subjects are… wait for it… SEX, DEATH and THE MEANING OF LIFE, with the theme of a life without God, I was like ‘What is this..? This will be nuts, it’s essentially the core of our existence, I need to do this project’.
We found ourselves in some strange situations, from an Orgasm cult in San Fran, to witnessing the devastation of Joplin, Missouri. At times, it was sad, others fun and often just plain strange… but that’s what life can be and listening to Dawkins and the contributors views has been an eye opener… That’s not to say I agree with him on every point, but I can see how and why science plays a very important role in humanity and sometimes it’s easy to find meaning in everything or be ‘deluded’… I like the science argument, but being an old romantic I still like the idea of fate and believe in belief; whatever that belief may be is completely up to the individual and that should be respected. Dawkins gets a lot of bad press (especially recently), but he’s actually surprisingly cool… I’m not here to defend him, just film him. So I will tell you about the experience.
With the amount of locations and minimal crew the shoot has been a little hetic and quite a tough few days! Our days have included pack kit, drive, film, drive, film, film, film, lunch, film, drive, film, pack kit, fly, dinner, sleep!
The production company Clear Story (owned by Molly and Russell Barnes) where keen to shoot on XD Cam. So we choose the Sony PDW 800 that shoots MPEG HD422, 50 Mbps 1920×1080 25P (as for UK PAL region). It was my first time using this specific camera and I have to say it’s decent. Over the past couple of years I have mainly been filming on RED, 35mm or HDSLR and it’s rare that I use a traditional camcorder so to speak. The shape and weight reminds me of my days filming for Nat Geo and Discovery.
To funk up the imagery I decided to use prime lenses. Tradittionally, I would have gone for a PS Technic Pro 35mm Adaptor and set of primes either Cooke or Zeiss. This time however I bypassed the adaptor and went for a set of Zeiss Digi Primes. The depth of field isn’t as shallow, but the lenses are beautiful and make such a great difference to the image. To take the edge off the sharpness I used an 1/8 Black Promist on many shots especially when Richard was in frame. It helps blow the highlights a little and give a slightly softer & more forgiving image, which helps as many of the contributors have been a little older… One was 108 – yep 108 and he still works in financial industry in NYC… Good genes!
It has to be said that using primes on a doco is not the most practical option, but I decided to do it after shooting Virtual Revolution with Molly last year (Digital Emmy, Bafta). On that series we used primes and it increased the production value so much. VR was a little more set up and formatted, so there was time to change lens. On this project quite a lot of the encounters like with Father Justin in Joplin were on the fly, so hand held was the obvious choice. I probably shot 90% hand held so far, physically moving to change the frame size from 2 shot to single. I think you get better images this way instead of just sitting on the zoom, but your director has to be aware that you can not just quickly pick up a close up of something three meters away when you are on a 12mm.
There’s always pro and cons and with primes – you just don’t get the quantity of shots in the same time period as you would with a zoom, but I am a big fan of quality over quantity – as long as you have enough coverage, that’s the main thing.
We left Richard in Vegas battling with some people about life, science and how he views the world and I took the beautiful drive to LA and now chilling with an old mate, an extremely talented old mate Timmy Qualtrough. We have known each other since I used to rip down snowy mountains with a VX2000 and ultrawide fish-eye for MTV back in 1999. Just seeing him and checking out his work is so inspiring. Tim has Directed videos for Muse, Oasis (which I shot a little on) and recently Pendulum. Here’s a music video Tim directed and I shot way back circa 2004. Try and guess what it was shot on! The first person to guess correct will win all 4x my How To Become a Cameraman books, including Filming on Location, How To Beat The Competition and Lighting for Film & TV. They are all full of Top Tips and invaluable info.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTCDOnGhmNM 576 338]
Here’s some of his recent work. Pendulum – Propane Nightmares. Shot by Denzil Armour-Brown
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2KC1P9s6-Q 576 338]
LIFE IN A DAY – What a Project! What a Film!
If your been flowing my blog you will know I have written about the joint film project between YOU TUBE and SCOTT FREE PRODUCTIONS (Ridley Scotts Company) since it was first launched.
It’s a completely user generated film made by You (and me) – the internet obsessed You Tube community!
I was luckily enough to get my entry selected to be part of the film and ever luckier to be one of the 25 invited out to the premier at the festivals of all festivals SUNDANCE! It was such an honor to be invited and meet all the other contributors and film makers a truly inspiring bunch of people! The LIAD production team were also so cool! Director and Oscar winner Kevin McDonald and Editor (aka legend) Joe Walker were so fantastic, genuine and interesting fellas!
Previous DOP Blogs:
Go and see Life in a Day http://goo.gl/c8bbs and 25% of ticket sales goes to your chosen charity.
The film has been getting a lot of press recently and had it’s UK premier last week – it even got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! Now that’s RARE not rotten! I am so glad I entered the competition! There was over 80,000 hours of material submitted, but you know what if you don’t enter you Never win and here’s another inspiring opportunity for aspiring DOP’s to enter!
Make a short film and if selected get to meet up with Producer/ Director Brett Ratner. One of Hollywood’s most successful Directors, Producers and Photographers. Brett is looking for a short film that posses creativity, originality and can captivate an audience.
The winner will get to go on set with Brett as a Production Assistant and get behind the scenes for 2 days to learn invaluable advice from a leading professional.
It’s one of those things that if you don’t enter you will never win! You never know where these type of opportunities might lead..? Who you will meet and where it could take you! So therefore go and make something, use your film making skills, it can be about anything!
My top tip would be to pin down a subject and simply just get on with it, you can over think things and that’s when you can easily give up. Just pick a story or subject and remember what he’s looking for a film that posses creativity, originality and can captivate an audience!
BOOM! Bust out the camera and get involved!
To help with your filming skills so you stand more of a chance of winning I going to give away TWO copies of my books to TWO lucky DOP Blog readers. The titles include:
All you have to do is answer: Why do YOU want to become a DOP?
Leave your answers in the Comment section below