Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cam Tech Specs For My Movies

For all the filmmaking geeks out there, here's what we used to make my films:

The Keyman -- Shot on 35mm film using the boat anchor Arri BL4 camera. Heavy, but effective. Remember, as opposed to the electronic world where three years ago is obsolete, the film camera's basic design hasn't changed in like 80 years. We rented our camera, grip and lighting from MPS Studios in Dallas.

As far as special equipment, we used a fisher 10 dolly (the most common in the film industry). I used a crane for the cometary scenes tat open and close the movie. To that point, in my corporate/commercial career, I had used a lot of remote cranes-- it was interesting to use the big cranes that can accommodate the operator and assistant camera on the head of the crane.

A Promise Kept/The Gunman -- For this movie, again we rented from MPS, but we were shooting in Austin. And again, shooting 35mm. Our main camera was the Arri 535 and boy was it nice. Here's a picture of me holding it out of a very small helicopter, shooting the aerial that makes the last shot of the movie. The crew put *two* safety lines on the camera, and *one* on me. Nice camera. On stunts, we sometimes had a B Camera, and it was the BL4. And for the big courthouse, exploding gut scene of Steve Krieger, we had a C Camera, and it was "the pencil sharpener", the Arri 3C.

Here is the 535 pointed towards the lovely Mimi Rogers, who was absolutely wonderful to work with. We had a nice G/L package from MPS in the form of a three-ton package with lots of HMI's. For special equipment, we had the dolly, and for three days, we used a steadicam.

Striking Range -- Back to Dallas, and again 35mm and renting from MPS, we went back to the BL4, but we ran it on a Steadicam almost the whole time. And Big George Neidsen got quite a workout. For some off speed shots, we rented the Arri 435, a MOS camera (seen here with Lou Diamond Phillips). We had both overcranked and undercranked effect shots. We circled a building at 2 frames a second (seen in the movie's opening) while coming out of that at times to slo-motion. I love that effect (which now is easy in Final Cut Pro to emulate.)

Before shooting began, I ran numbers on 35mm versus HD. It was going to cost more for film, but at that point (2005), HD still had a perceived lower value, especially among the foreign buyers. So I chose to stay with 35mm.

The Imposter -- I had shot two cameras for "Inspector Mom" on Lifetime and had really grown accustomed to shooting an A and B camera. Now, HD had come a long way. It was time to try it. I considered the Varicam, but with our budget, I don't think I could have swung the Pro35 adapter for using prime lenses-- which is critical in my opinion. So I talked with Ron Gonzalez, my Director of Photography and put it quite simple: One varicam, no bells or whistles or prime lenses, or two HVX200's with redrock adapters and primes? We both wanted the depth of field of the prime lenses. So that's what we did. And I ran an A and B camera almost the entire time and don't know that I'd do it any different in the future. Ron now has a Red, so I'll have to find a cheap second Red for the next movie.

My favorite camera out of what I used? Well, certainly, the one with the most bells and whistles is the Arri 535. The viewfinder had the Arri glow feature which was novel at the time. It was lighter than the BL4 which counts for something on a 12 hour day. But, even after preaching film over HD for many years, I loved shooting HD. The pictures were better than I thought and the work flow was MUCH easier. And I could shoot and shoot and shoot... With film, there's this pressure as soon as the motor cranks up on the camera. Every foot that flows through the gate is $$$. That pressure was gone for HD.

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