Movie Camera Breakdown: Artistry Meets Organization in Prep
Prepping a movie is one of the most important tasks you have as a cinematographer. You can design the whole movie, and organize, create, and schedule it in a way that is best for light.
Today is a perfect example. Check out this shot. This is a case of being in the right place, at the right time, resulting in a great performance.
Hire a Crew That Makes You Successful
The next most important thing is hiring a talented crew. In this movie, I hired one of the best teams that I have ever worked with:
Dany Racine is my key 1st A.C. – one word describes this guy WOW!! Ohh and a second one – SHARP!! Along with his tight crew of Soupharak Keoborakoth, Marie-France Simard, Laurent Alexis Guertin, Vincent Gouin, and Jean-Sébastien Caron, he keeps us organized and ready to make magic each day.
A camera operator who has your compositional aesthetics and instincts is very hard to find, except in Montreal. Daniel Sauvé is our A camera/Steadicam operator and he rocks it out every day!!!
I also brought HV Elite Team Mike Svitak up for 2.5 weeks to shoot all the Canon 5D sequences in the film. As always, Mikey added exceptional value with his energy, organization, and eye. I am using my hybrid approach on this film, but going much heavier on film. Probably 85% film, 15% 5D footage.
Mike returned to Montreal to lens second unit for me and we all were quite impressed with the footage.
During the prep process, I try to be as production-friendly as possible. You can put much more up on the screen if you are organized and have a working knowledge of the tools required to bring the director’s vision to life. This gives production two to four weeks of bidding and budgeting so that everyone can figure out how we can pay for all of this.
This breakdown helps production with the budget and lets the camera crew know exactly what gear is needed for every scene, what extra crew they will need, and the film stock that will be shot.
When I presented this to Dany, my key 1st A.C., he was blown away! He had never seen anything like this from a Director of Photography.
My general advice to aspiring cinematographers:
- Go the extra mile
- Make a difference
It is not only about the creative vision and being an artist, you have to be organized and be able to deliver the director’s vision while keeping it all within the budget box.
Canon 5D cameras and Lenses
We decided to go spherical on our film camera package and Panavision Primos for our lenses. I brought all my 5D bodies up for all the action stuff, as well as a ton of dawn and blizzard plate shots.
Mike Svitak headed up the plate unit, driving around with 4 cameras mounted onto a sedan, that pointed NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST.
These cameras shot all 24fps with 24mm Canon L series glass mounted to them. We rolled ten hours of driving footage for our four-page scene in the Luxury car, driving at dawn.
I wanted to do a poor man’s process, which means not actually driving, but creating moving lights and using a 2 x 4 to move the car a little so that it feels like they’re driving down the road. This enables our actors to work on stage and not in the bitter cold.
They also did not have to deal with having the car windows down while recording bad sound that they would have to ADR in the sound booth. We’ll shoot our actors in the car against green screen and key in Mikey’s background plates at dusk for dawn.
Many of you have asked me what apps I use on location. Here are the ones I never leave home without, especially on Deadfall.
MY APPS (iOS)
A sun tracking app that works very well and gives me the ability to find the location of the sun at any time, in any place on the planet.
This is another sun tracking program that literally gives you the arc of the sun while overlaying on your iphone’s camera. Very cool.
This app helps me match my 5D, and 7D with 35mm motion picture lens focal lengths.
(Note: the original app is no longer available, link updated to pCAM FILM + DIGITAL PRO)
This program gives you field of view and depth of field of all formats. Absolutely essential in figuring out hyper-focals as well as field of view for crane shots, long lens shots, etc.
This app gives you a fast field of view with a live video feed that shows you a box that represents your field of view. Beware, this app has buried me with not being accurate with 7D, 5D, and 1D representation.
WEATHER BUG ELITE
This app has given me the most accurate weather out on location that I have ever experienced. Keeps you in the loop with advance forecasts and alerts.
Hey thanks for sharing Shane. It’s cool we get to see the behind the scenes of big projects. I’ve been following your blog for a long time.
Brendan, you are very welcome. Thank you for all of your support.
I can see visually that this is going to be a great movie too!! I agree with Brendan, so cool to get the behind the scenes info, especially regarding the camera shots!! Wondered how all these great shots are done!!
Debra, I am glad you are all enjoying this.
Can you show us the camera dept breakdown you provided to your 1st AC to get the prepro process rolling?
Jason, Unfortunately no. That is a proprietary program that I developed for myself.
Shane, love that you are a legit professional with other gear and other mediums you prefer for situations in which they may outshine the Canon’s. That speaks of your true professionalism. There’s a lot of DSLR fan-boys out there that try to make them out to be something they’re not. You coming to Seattle any time soon?
~D, thank you so much for your kind words. DSLR’s are awesome, I believe huge in this medium, but the story has to dictate what you shoot and this film spoke to me in film, not digital film.
Reading your blog is truly an inspiration. The mix of real professional film techniques and the new(er) medium of DSLR fimmaking is awesome. I love seeing 5Ds custom rigged on cars in ways that are similar to what my crew and I do. Makes me believe we’re doing something right! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us. And good luck with the film!!
I appreciate you adding apps in your blogs as I’m always on the lookout for what filmakers use!
Darren, not a problem.
This is a great article Shane. I was planning on doing some similar plate/green screen work for my film. How have you found the Canon 5D/7D to handle green screen? I read somewhere that it was a bit more complicated than using regular HD cameras.
Zacuto has a 2010 Shootout that Shane was a part of, and there was green screen testing of the DSLRs.
Webisode 3 (14:30 mark)
Allen W., not at all. Thank you so much for those kind words. They love green screen, they hate blue screen. I found that they pulled perfect keys in post.
Shane, I am a film student from new zealand and my aim is to be a camera operator.
I really like reading your blog and I feel I can learn a lot about film making in general from it.
Seeing all those projects you’re doing really makes me want to come over and be a part of them (not to sound stupid here)
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Konstantin tanner, we have an incredible internship program that puts you in the fire, immediately. Please feel free to contact email@example.com. Thank you so much for your support.
Another great story with a lot of inspiring ideas. Also thanks for the great Educational Series. Very useful!!
Informative and appreciated post as always. I’m curious as to your use of the Artemis App, I have noticed the same problem- but wonder if we should be measuring from the film plane (sensor) or the nodal point of the lens? And if you think that the calibrations are still out? I’ve mentioned this to the developers.
With the 5D should we measure from the sensor in regards to choosing a lens from a directors finder (or iphone app with it’s many variables)?
Tim A., thank you so much, I just think it doesn’t work period. I find that the film aspect ration works but all the still stuff is wrong, big time.
Shane, thanks again for taking the extra time and effort from your busy schedule to write these posts. I have a specific question that I want to ask that doesn’t necessary fit the scope of this blog but still has to do with cinematography as a career (not a job a request, I’ll email Anne as you stated a couple of comments up)- is it possible to directly contact you to pick your brain?
Tim Kang, you are very welcome and yes feel free to email me.
Great information Shane, I know its hard to find time to do this during long production days, when sleep time is hard to find. You thoughts on the process is always educational.
craigc, thank you so much for understanding, yes it is very tiring but I love all of you and respect your comments.
If I could just echo these sentiments and all the other comments of appreciation. I think it’s great that a well established busy professional like yourself takes time out to give back to the community.
Coming from a stills background, I’m new to all this movie making and I’m stoked to find your educational materials. I can’t wait to put some of your teachings into practice!
Terence Kearns, and you saying these wonderful words is why I continue to do it. Thank you.
Just to say Hi and let you know how much i appreciate you writing about your Montreal crew. We were all very fortunate to have the A-Team combo for the gauntlet called KIN. Over and over again , i keep bragging about our wonderful gang and you took the words out of my mouth. Everybody was outstandingly resilient in confronting nature, technical challenges and Murphy’s Law. Standing ovation to the Crew & Cast of KIN. PS. Love your blog, really interesting for quasi-nerd like me :)
Jacky L, thank you so much for your support. This is the best crew I have ever worked with. Period. Montreal is where it is at.
Another highly informative and inspiring post Shane. Thank you.