Monday, April 11, 2011

Production Portfolio: The Retreat

Rationale: We produced a film called the Retreat, which was about a boy who loses his dad. The boy goes to a trail with a girl to help him clear his mind. The girl is a catalyst for the boy to overcome his sorrow, for she recreates the moments that the father and the son had on the same trail. Initially we wanted to do a movie based on sound that included the new techniques that we learned in class; such as, sound bridges, degetic and non-degetic sounds. We made this film for all audiences, to commemorate anyone who has lost a love one. We thought this was a good idea because it did not involve a story line with a lot of actors, or unrealistic sets.

Commentary: My position or responsibility throughout the production of the short film was Cinematographer. I was in charge of all the equipment and most of the film making process. Most of the cinematography was done by myself, but the director did some of the cinematography when I was unable to shoot. The most important factor of my job was getting to know/ handle the new camera, which was the cannon 7D. The cannon 7D is an amazing piece of equipment, but it is complicated and needs to be used several times to gain experience.

Initially I had written the script for the movie, but it was too vague. I based my script off of a set that I had desired to use, and we stuck with the main idea of a script based around a trail where a boy can retreat from his daily life. We had to rewrite the script at least 3 more times. After the first script I wrote the second script, but the second script too was also unsuccessful. It was not until the 3rd treatment that we were able to get an approved treatment. This treatment was succesful because all three of us in the group put our heads together and all collaborated on a google doc. After this was complete myself and the director wrote the script. After the script was finished I produced the 2 column script that included all my shot sequences. I did not rely on the 2 column as much as I desired to because, when we shot at elephant bar the set changed from what I initially thought would be a trail near Crystal Springs.

The most challenging part of handling the 7D was attachable audio box that allowed us to use a three pronged mic cable and better the sound of the movie. A main problem that I had was that when I used it the first time to shoot I forgot to plug the cable from the box into the camera, thus the day of shooting was a lost, because we were unable to get audio. This can be seen in the picture to the right, and examined closely one can see that the wire is hanging out of the mic box and not plugged into the 7D. I accepted all the blame for this mistake, because I was the one responsible for the equipment and most importantly the camera. From that day on I have always checked the box to make sure it has enough batteries, made sure the shot gun and cable are working, and have made sure that the cable from the box is plugged into the camera. And now I always replay the scenes that I shoot with the director to make sure that the audio worked in the scene.

Audio throughout production seemed to be a constant problem. A problem that we had in the produciton was that we used three different cameras in our production, because priority for the 7D was given to seniors. When we shot the cemetary scene we had to use the HFM, which is an HD camera, but it is not made for proffessional productions like the 7D. Another fault of mine was that I had forgotten to check the shot gun mic before I checked it out. The shot gun mic was out of batteries and it was unable to record our only setence of audio. The audio had to be dubbed, but it was not too obvious. From now on I always check all the gear to make sure everything works and has batteries.

When I shot the cemetary scene we wanted it to be raining and it was raining. A problem with the rain is that it falls onto the lens and I constantly have to wipe the lens and try to protect the camera from the weather in the pocket of my jacket. Although the drops of water were a problem, they were also a benefit for the drops created contrasting colors seen in the picture to the left. The drop disorients the shot in the left top corner of the picture.

Using the dolly track in the rain is also a very difficult task that I had to overcome. The dolly track is already a tough contraption to set up, because it needs two tripods and the baseplates have to be screwed into the bottom of the track. Because it was raining the dolly track was getting wet; thus, the rain acted as friction to the top plate that slides along the track. In order to not have the dolly track stop and hold the umbrella over the camera, I had to maintain a speed that was higher than I desired. It worked out perfectly though, because moments after the track came to an end the car door slams. Leveling the dolly track on the uneven grass was also a difficult task.

The editing in the movie I believed went fairly well. We were able to use color correction in our film for the first time to give it a cinematic look. My favorite filter is with Ben and the Father. As in the words of the director "its not necessarily black and white, but it has come color contrast to it". This filter gives the a retrospective outlook on the event, without being cliche with using a simple black and white filter. Editing also involved cross fades for the volume, because the volume was high pitched before anyone spoke.

I felt that the sound design went extremely well, mainly because of our director. Our director became the audio technician and found loops and music on youtube that we were allowed to use. He also included background noises that seemed unnoticable at first, but play a key role in maintain ambience noise throughout each scene.

The directing of the production went well.except for some problems. Our director played the largest role in our whole production, from helping with cinematography to helping with editing and audio. Some problems with directing was getting the full emotion out of our characters. I feel that without strong actors the quality of the movie as a whole is brought down.

For myself I have many areas to improve on with my skills as a cinematographer. Maintaining shots that are more unshaky is one of my main goals. In the next project I want to incorporate more moving shots and different camera angles. I need to always check gear all the time to make sure that a day of shooting doesnt go bad because of my failure to check gear. Maintaining focus is an aspect that I also desire to improve on. Instead of being lazy and focusing without zooming in live view, I should zoom in in live view and make sure that the focus is correct.

Overall I feel that the production of the movie is my best work so far. The movie surpassed my expectaions in areas of camera work, editing, and sound design. The two major areas we have to work on next time is getting the correct emotion from the actors, and a wider variety of cinematography.