Sunday, October 3, 2010
Sometimes on production there are people that are truly never heard from but their work is integral to production itself. I guess that could be said for many folks but sometimes, I feel, there are some people that can be special. Considering once upon a time I was a production assistant that picked trash up and held down sidewalks at 4am with no one in sight, I think I am a good judge for such people. On this production it would have to be my 3D prep tech, Dong.
Dong from what I can tell is usually a camera assistant in Seoul, who seems very competent in the ins and outs of the camera. Yet on this film he was hired for the 3D dept. because he speaks English and has been in camera for a bit. I have to admit though, I was not involved in the hiring of this movie at all, I came into this project partially into pre-production. With the hiring of Dong into our stereo dept.,, which is German based, that posed a problem that no one truly for saw; that of Germans who speak fairly good English but with thick German accents trying to be understood by Koreans who barely speak English.
Dong speaks enough English but through the accents things become lost in translation. This is where I saw Dong shine as a great team player. Mind you things became intense with the demand on our 3D crew and seeing that Dong was at the bottom of the pecking order, he had the all the crap that rolled down hill. What can you ask of a person that can barely speak the language and then has to understand it coming from non native speakers!
Secondly Dong was put into a situation with brand new technology. Just because you have worked in the camera dept. for 15 to 20 years does not mean in any way shape or form that you know how to A)Set up a 3D rig, be it side by side or Top and bottom, nor B)operate a 3D rig to make it functional for the stereo dept. to do their job, this is all fairly new technology for anyone that is a crew person in film no matter how many years of experience. Dong had a few double if not triple whammies on a daily basis for our 64 day shoot. It was quit a show to see him sweat everyday due to the fact of what was constant pressure on such a shoot.
Even though tensions between the departments, camera and stereo aka 3D, could run high, Dong never gave anything less than a smile and laugh and I let him know his hard work did not go un-noticed nor unappreciated by his Director Of Photography.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Here is week 8 of the shoot and we are into the final stretch of the film. One thing that I’ve come to understand a lot better is the role of the Stereographer. The stereographer is the person who is controlling the 3D as we shoot. The terms to understand about 3D are screen distance and depth, these things reflect the 3D look during and after shooting. Our senior stereographer Florian Maier, of Stereotec a German based company (http://stereotec.com/), has been going at it and studying 3D for about 10 to 12 years now. He has two other junior stereographer s that have taken over for him in a few capacities, namely Sarah, and also Marcus.
Now mind you they are all new additions to the Camera dept. because of their role witihin the dept. Because of the pecking order of a film set things run a certain way, with the Director being in charge a long with the 1st AD then myself as the Cinematographer coming into play, we as the main point people onset try keeps things moving with a devised plan. So how does this change if at all with 3D in the daily running of the show and planning. Its almost like a necessary evil at times, due to the fact that 3D is an immediate VFX that is seen onset, by many people watching the monitor with the shutter glasses( a pain in the rear versus the passive glasses). So the stereographer has a certain level of say due to a few variables that could make things unwatchable or painful if not approached in the right manner. Its a funny line they walk because they are as necessary as my Gaffer (head of lighting) or my key grip (head rigger and crane operator) but the only thing is if they, the Gaffer or Key Grip, make a mistake or cut a corner you, as the audience, will not necessarily be hurting. So the question is do they have more creative input than most keys in a dept., I dare say that they do not because as a dept. they still work for the DP within the camera dept. The Stereogrpahic hardware for 3D is attached to the camera bodies and the dolly/crane mounts in order to usually work. As a the DP I have to be the one to set the tone for this new position, which I have found to be a tricky ordeal at times due to two factors. 1) This new technology is so new that not everything is even known in order to say what are definitive answers at times to certain visual approaches and challenges that may arise, unlike in 2D the format and work environment has not changed that much in almost eighty or 100 years of filmmaking. 2) The position of the Stereographer is so new, and very relevant by the way to work with this revamped format, that their is barely a true pool of Stereographer talent pool to pull from anywhere in the world. Florian Maier is a true scientist that has been working with this format for longer than most in the world right now presently. So how to find a person that truly knows their role and the craft of Interaxial movement and 3D positioning is far and few. They need to be very much a scientist as well as a great focus puller to some extent in order to successfully pull great 3D images over and over again on a long shooting schedule. If you look at the video that I am posting with this blog the stereographer is actually calculating the distance between the nodal points of the lens, middle points of the lens, that will change with the subject distance to camera , and the stereographer will make adjustments due to his/her findings. These adjustments will affect the size of the characters and the depth at which they are playing within and outside of the screen towards the audience.This is done on every shot of the film everyday, along with other configurations before and after rolling the camera. Pending on the experience and the hardware of of everything involved these processes can vary in time onset. But as with most things onset a pattern occurs for timing the day and speed of the crew and this is something that has to be thought of after proper testing, so then it can all be calculated by the 1st AD and relayed to the Director so he and I can make plans for the day! It no matter what takes a bit of extra time in the flow of things onset, make no mistake about that, its not as simple as switching a lens and one quick measurement to see an actor from A to B. At the end of the day its a fun challenge for film making that I think, because of the digital realm, is here to stay. I love celluloid film but 35mm and 3D aren’t the best of friends for great results in this expression of movie making. A BIG thanks to Stereotec (http://stereotec.com/), Florien , Sarah, Dong, and Marcus for doing a great job in taking on this challenge here in Seoul with me and my Korean Camera crew. Peace TMU
-Me holding the mini 3D rig with Iconix cameras
vs. the BIG RIG, which is now an even standard rig in my eyes after almost 40days
Thursday, August 5, 2010
So here it is the third week of shooting, I believe, not quit sure because I am writing during what is actually the fifth week of shooting and a lot has happened. One thing that was exciting is that our press coverage started up on the movie. Our lead star Jay Park aka Jay Baum, a Seattle Washington Korean American, is a big time pop star here in Korea. Korean pop music is referred to as something called K-pop, un be knowns t to me J Baum is something of a pop culture phnom, being a singer/b-boy dancer. So with J’s popularity there has been some great media that I have been able to take part in. Hence the picture below from one entertainment publications here in Seoul.
One thing that I will be interesting to see is our visual effects and how they are handled when it comes to wire work, and background replacement because it is in 3D, I wonder just how much it will differ from regular 2D films. Since it is 3D everything to some degree is a visual effect, and I say that because of the many rules for framing and lighting that repeatedly play during shooting and the fact that 3D is simply two camera setup that is simultaneously shooting. I would say the biggest difference between my opportunity on IronMan2 as a operator and this job would be the immediacy of seeing at least one layer of visual effects from live camera work. Even after the initial 3D shooting there is a layer of depth grading or 3D layering that happens in post that we are able to move around and expand on need be. This dynamic aspect of filmmaking is cool, but as I have repeatedly heard a good 2D image is a great 3D image. One of my closest collaborators besides Yung Lee(Jason) and Christian Strickland is my award winning Gaffer Junha Shin(Jun).
Jun is a 27 year veteran in the film industry here in Korea, his been a Gaffer/Lighting Director for about 20 years. I must say I was quit ignorant to Jun when we first meet I only knew that he was well regarded here in South Korea, but not to the extent that I’ve come to know, I bring him up in this blog because of the individual that he is. We , the American guys on the crew, regard him as Yoda. Jun is a very wise intuitive man especially when it comes to lighting and delegating work. He never gets loud, doesn’t use a light meter, and his body language lets you know when he is done with lighting to let me know to come and check it out. The role of the Gaffer is he sets out to accomplish the goal of the cinematographers light language in the film. We usually talk a lot in pre-production, look at examples of different types of work be they photos or films, and connect it all with the mood of the film. I have had a few interpreters onset so then Jun and I can communicate, but to think that even with them there are many a times the he and I understand through the language of light and cinema just what needs to happen.
Now one thing that caught me off guard was the non use of a light meter, by him as the Gaffer. I know in the states its a major NO NO , for an electric or 1st AC to have a light meter and or even a Gaffers glass, tools that are exclusively for the DP and or Gaffer onset to look at (Gaffers Glass) and measure light (light meter). But here the electrics and AC’s all have meters and will pull them out to measure things from time to time. It completely caught me off guard and I didn’t know how to react. It was a cultural moment to understand that this is how they as a crew operate within their electrical/grip dept. , which by the way is the same dept. here in the sense of rigging and power. The grip team is strictly about cranes and dollies that push me around for camera movement. Jun keeps a certain tone that has a amazing flow onset, even if I decide that something needs to be changed last minute for the story.
One thing that I love about the relationship between he and I is when our ideas kinda have static, and if it is about major story point I usually win. If its about pure aesthetic and will not have the best lighting continuity I will give in. Its a back and forth that is amazingly easy dance, of collaboration. Jun’s ability to foresee things and to always make himself seen on set has garnished him the name Yoda, Jedi master who takes on a few of us to teach things to once in a while. Jun never truly raises his voice, nor gets too excited about things, he stays truly even. A great lesson to relearn a few times a year when working in this business.
This experience makes me reflect on the many people that I have had a pleasure to meet on this terrific journey of life. Its just like Lord of the Rings as I walk through the wilderness and uncertain paths, I meet people at perfect times that give so much to prepare me for each step of living this dream. Jun is a great friend and a awesome Gaffer that has gone above and beyond being on set. He has been gracious enough to take my wife and I out to eat, join us for dinner at my favorite Tofu restaurant, and has even shared a gift of a tremendous laser pointer for me to have.
Thank you to the higher power, the Universe, Great energy, God, Christ like conscious, or whom ever you believe, but thanks is in order to the Universe for Jun has been nothing but a great and talented human being.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
So here it is I’m actually in my second week but I’m writing about my first week. I must tell you considering our schedule these blogs can be an interesting challenge at 1 or 2am and then I consider an edit but not to much avail. I am trying a new approach and hopefully it helps in the editing and grammar experience of this blog site.
Day 1, very interesting considering here in Korea there is not a big situation to permitting an area, except the neighbors consent for the most part. So we arrived in this great historical neighborhood to shoot a quick cutaway scene of our gangster leaving his supposed home. We arrive early and excited trucks pulling up and getting gear together, we set up the crane and start the blocking process and then.........she comes. A disgruntled old ...*&^#&*@ who was upset that she couldn’t get down her street, she claims she felt disrespected do to how someone talked about her car!
She proceeded to make our day a living hell by trying in all her power to prevent us from shooting in her neighborhood. Mind you the people of the street were split about us being there. Some really didn’t care while others sided with her and just wanted to be upset. Needless to say day1 was a rehearsal for what should have been an easy scene to execute.
The next three days we were else where, and it was a major set up for the actual climax of the movie. It was something that at first glance was not ideal but turned out to be a good situation just because of pure adrenaline and excitement for the movie; due to the fact it was our climax dance scene. At first my hesitation and uncertainty only gave way due to the earlier lesson of this whole journey, so I surrendered to the opportunity to jump into a big 3D scene/apex of the visual language of the film. My crew arrived at the location at 3:30 am to put in a six hour rig before I arrived at 10am with the directors. I ordered a few things for this concert scene of the movie, so I had a 40’ jib arm that I would be riding with the camera, mind you the rig is too big and weighs too much for remote capabilities. While my B cam would be on the ground with my former AFI (American Film Institute) classmate Yung Rho Kim operating it. Yung already had experience with shooting 3D , plus I knew his work so I thought it would be a good fit. Now not having exactly operated a 3D camera rig except for at the 3D seminar at Sony, it was quite an experience when I got 40’ plus in the air but with the additional 6’ platform it was closer to 50’ up in this auditorium. Mind I am not the biggest fan of heights but when I have to work, I kind of brush it to the waist side and suck it up. One thing that I didn’t realize is the physics of being that high with a 3D rig, with 3D there are two cameras that are moving simultaneously to adjust the depth of 3D on screen. Now with that variable of the cameras moving one way, my inertia being swung another way, and the sheer weight of the two cameras together being close to 100 lb. exactly it became a serious work out at 40 plus feet. Mind on this day we were shooting live action dance so I was in the chair elevated for 5 hours with a couple of breaks. The word exhausting scratches the surface of what I felt on that first night back at the condo and to think I had two more days there but not at 40’.
These three days encompassed some of the most impressive breakdancing I had ever seen in my life. The director Jason Yung Lee, kept raving about these guys and I was just kind of passive in responding to his hype. Then it happened these guys called Chaos crew are considered some of the best in the world, and I think even 2 time world champs and have placed in the finals for about 5 years in the World Championships in Europe. I gotta tell they backed up every word Jason spoke of them. My favorites shot is when I was elevated above the stage at 20’ and they catapulted another dancer 12’ towards the lens in the air. We saw the dailies and it was amazing to see him launch out of the screen only to return within the screen once he landed. AWESOME and it went like this for three days and the projected dailies reflected it and the visuals were well received by our producers,investors, and directors. I was very happy with the work and how we started this film.
Thanks Lis for your help it was much easier!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
So we were into our last week of prep and test and it was a bit of a thrash. Getting gear here is one thing, getting the right amount of gear here is another. Since it is 3D you have to basically double for what would be a normal shoot, but the other variable is what type of 3D system are you using because that dictates what size of gear you can use. In our case that was compounded by the fact that our rig is manufactured and operated by its German owners Florian Maier at www.stereotec.com, based in Munich Germany, and he has to have a certain type of gear to make his rig work. So that was an additional special order that had to be flown in from Germany to Seoul.... If Florian wasn't the type of technician that I knew he was, I would have made a fuss. I must say he is a 3D master. Its funny though because the Koreans only know a certain amount of English, and from Florian he speaks English with a German accent so the crew can get confused, not to mention his junior Stereographer Sara the crew can have a time understanding things. Yet both of them are literally scientist that make movies and that truly understand story. Something that is a key ingredient in 3D filmmaking.
So I have to tell this story, I was a bit run down one day in the midst of testing these lenses. On day 3 of testing, I was so dog tired and falling asleep outside while we were doing this test. Sure enough I had to take myself to bed and come back to the test four hours later, mind you it was our 3rd day of testing with this manufacturers lenses. Upon arriving back after my nap, I looked at the monitor and blurted out it makes sense why these lenses only match in the middle of the frame, they are designed to just barely go soft on the edges, thats just how they are made.The lenses in 3D have to exactly match all the way to the outside perimeter of the frame, because remember two cameras are rolling at the same time, with the same exact image. This company makes awesome lenses, but part of their mistique is that they go just little soft , just slitely on the edges to put your focus on the middle of the glass/nodal point so you look right there. Needless to say with a bit more rest I could've saved a lot of time and energy by just getting the Arri Master Primes from the begining. A big ticket item but none the less a set of lenses that match all the way to the edges tick for tat.
Lesson of the story is that fatigue can certainly cost you important time, I had the answer days before because I know something about lenses. Yet I was blocked. When we put our new big tix item Arri Master Primes up there it fell right into place. Except for our 18mm with a slite vertical misalignment but was then replaced and it worked out. Another factor upon that is the manufacturer of the camera body and their mounts. The mounts are just as important and can make a .025 micron misalignment happen in which case the 3D will not work perfectly, or give you audience the dredded 3D headache from disalignment. We are shooting on the Red cameras and we may or may not be facing that problem I pray for not, considering how many days we are shooting. Pro Cam here in Seoul has been a great situation in supplying us with the neccesary camera gear and testing space for the first 3D feature film shot here in Seoul Korea. One thing I did test with our Red cameras is noise and saturation at 640/320/200 Iso and found that at 640 some color correction systems will hold up that info with out huge noise. I truly don't want to rate my cameras at 640ISO but I may have to because there is a 1.3 stop loss with our mirror prism to make the 3D happen. All these things are great to know but there is something to be said for the constant application of them all when in the field with an over sized camera. A big thanks to ProCam here in Seoul that has been nothing but awesome in puttin our camera package together.
The last thing during our prep week was a ceremony to bless our shoot. Something that is very sacred within the Korean tradition. I didn't realize the extent of it until I arrived and participated in it. It was an amazing experience in my career to focus on positive intentions as a collective whole to have a great shoot. How do I explain this .... the high priestest put out the intentions in a formal prayer that was written in chinese from their ancestors, and had us bring a small offering for the spirit of the universe/God to help guide us on this film. Peep the pictures hopefully they can explain more than what I just did.
Me, Cess 1st AD, Christian Dir
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I realized after the last post that I had miss placed a few photos of the areas that we located. One thing about this film is that ever since that first phone call,with my director Christian, its been an adventure that seems to be getting bigger. What I mean is the scope of the film seems to be growing in size, I honestly am not sure what the budget is on this movie but my wife and I do know that the lights will be on for a long while.
Enough of that but we have some interesting locations considering its a dance action film. The Stunt coordinator asked me if there was anything different in 3D when dealing with stunts, good question. I told him as far as the best vantage point for him nothing much changes. 3D is definetly more of a POV perspective when it comes to film making. A point given in my 3D seminar at Sony as well as our seminar here, that was held by our stereographer/3D technician Florian CEO of Stereotechnica, a German based company. Its pretty fun at times that he and his assistant Sara, both of whom are from Munich Germany, speaking in Germanenglish then the rest of the crew speaking in Koreanenglish, and then us African Americans with our own vernacular of English can make an interesting car ride.
So within our United Nations Korean action dance flick, I am trying to approach each lead character with a certain hora that will follow them around, via both lighting and camera. The camera aspect definetly is going to be tricky with the 3Dimensional aspect. I say that because what I'm use to possibly using as a Close Up can be "experienced" by the audience as too big or cookie cutter flat. Camera positions/eye lines need to be inline with the viewer. In regular movies/2D the rules are a bit different. So within our scout, its a matter of thinking about how much room does the rig have and can we put the audience in the best view point to understand whats going with the use of that 3rd Dimensional aspect.
Within my use of color I'm trying to play it quite simple in the use of saturation with characters to convey something emotional, a nice little tid bit many of us cameramen use from the likes of Vittorio Storaro A.I.C, and Ernest Dickerson ASC to name a couple. I'm getting at the fact that I try to make up some rules about color while I see a space that we might shoot in, and then ask the director about the character and analyze if these major variables will go together to push our story further. So here are a few more picts from the scouting of locations and also from our seminar with our Stereographer/3D tech expert Florian. I must say I have experienced a full corriculm about motion picture 3D in less than a months time. Florian has been playing with 3D for about 8 to 10 years. He is a true Stereographer and understands both creative and technical story telling and is always on his calculator to save myself and the audience from having our eyes go sideways....literally!
Gotta tell you I LOVE every minute of it even when
I got sick from Soju. :-$
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
So as this experience goes on so is the daily work and preparation for this film. I must explain that I came into this film half way through the prep for another cameraman that I did not know. So a little bit scattered and uncertain I had to put many pieces together, nothing that a few life experiences haven't already prepared me for , so here it is. The basics like a shedule, that was ever changing, an equipment list that wasn't truly built, and so on. All the while compounded with a new 3D work flow for my camera dept, and cultural dynamic that I was trying to figure out. A whole lot of excuses/challenges that get me no where with complaints.
So I start with actually seeing the locations, to a script that is not locked, and I ask where do I find the visual language/visual arc for this story. My director and I looked at the work of Michael Barrett who shot a movie called "Takers." A certain level of colorful sophisticated crime drama, is what we are going after , and even though we haven't seen the movie the trailer seems to have a bit of what we are looking for. So between that and a book called "The Impossible Image." We have a beggining for what the story seems to be shaping up to be.
So as we roll around and see plenty of Seoul I have to be honest and tell you that I have experienced only a fraction of it, which is a bit disappointing. None the less from a work standpoint I get to appreaciate the design aspect of this great city. I didn't realize until we scouted late at night that this city DOES NOT SLEEP! So the photos in this blog are a few of the great examples of exactly where I'll be shooting and where I will be shaping
the visual language of this story.