Rob, Brian, Mark, et al
Hi, I'm a focus puller working in Australia but I've been involved on a
number of low or no budget films (both shorts and features). Writing from a
slightly more technical aspect, and a film perspective at that, just a few
First off filters -
An "812" is *not* a substitute for an 85 by any means. An 85 is a colour
temperature correction filter, an 812 is more artistic/cosmetic. It adds a
slightly warmer feel and enhances skin tones. My only professional
experience with it has been on a television series, shot on 16mm, where we
use it with an 85 on exteriors. A slightly different, more orange look,
could be achieved by using an 85B. However, with video, colour temperature
is affected through the white balance. But don't be afraid to play with
looks by using filters, including these. An 81EF is another option - it is
(kind of) a half 85 colour correction, but with a more pinkish/yellow cast
than orange. It's worth trying if you want a warmer look without pushing it
all the way into orange.
The first and most important rule with filters (as with film stocks,
cameras and any in-camera effects) is to test them out. Once you use them
on your precious footage, you're stuck with them. Test them out in a
variety of lighting and location scenarios - interior, exterior,
high-contrast set-ups, low-con, low light situations and full sun - and on
skin tones... Tests are never a waste of time or money, and to cut out this
stage of the process is always a big mistake. You'll lose more time and
money in re-shoots when you find a particular look is all wrong or there is
a major problem with your lenses or camera than if you schedule and budget
for them in the first place.
The video/film thing - yes, tape is cheaper than film. BUT investigate all
possibilities and do your sums. Some of the video post-production effects
Brian mentions will be very expensive, as will the top quality, non-linear
editing systems. Even if you can arrange a fantastic deal on one of these,
(using them in down time - late at night and at weekends - is a possibility
here) compare the cost to cutting on film and the hire of a Steinbeck. (If
you go that way, you can even set up a room in your house as a cutting
Otherwise, I would disagree with Brian on the underexposing/overexposing
question for video. It depends on the look you want. I think this is more a
matter of contrast - how bright do you want your highlights? Do you want
solid blacks or definition right into the shadows? Look at lots of films
and find the visual style you want and go with it. This is where a good,
creative Director of Photography is a must. Interview people, check their
showreels, spend some time with them before you choose someone. You will be
working very closely so you must trust them, respect them, and feel
comfortable with them. And they must be able to listen to you and
understand what *you* want. And vice versa.
Finally a few notes on your crew - yes, keep it small and manageable but be
aware what you're asking of people. Filmmaking is fun, inspiring and
rewarding. It is also hard physical labour, tiring and draining. Respect
your crew - don't overwork them, feed them properly, appreciate what they
do (without gushing over them - they hate that!), make sure your schedule
is realistic (even the most enthusiastic people need to sleep, and need
time off to rest). If you want lots of camera moves you will definitely
need a grip. If you have lots of large lighting set ups you will need more
than just a gaffer - they will need an assistant. Your DOP will need a
camera assistant. So will you - a good first Assistant Director can make or
break the project - they're the ones who keep people going when it's
midnight and you started at six the previous morning. And they're the ones
who will find the coffee when catering has packed up and gone!
Lecture over - good luck. Have fun.
Emma Cooper.
Emma K. Cooper  ([log in to unmask])
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