Our latest short film “Die Frau des Geisterjägers” (working title) A great old Liechtensteiner mythical story adapted into present time, with quirky characters and love affair!
There are many posts on various other websites on the performance and usability of the Blackmagic Design’s Production Camera, but I haven’t seen any yet that are “battle-tested” as that is what it boils down to, how well it performs on a production basis. Well I’m writing my experience with the BMPC4k experience and some of the limitations, as a cinematographer, I learned a lot over the past few months, especially on lighting with the BMPC4k camera, I always come back to my original philosophy “shoot it like film.”
I was called onto the short film “Die Frau des Geisterjägers,” ‘The wife of the Ghost Hunter’ (working title), a shot film directed by Sabina Kufner and executive producer Andy Konrad form Showtime Establishment, Liechtenstein. It was a great opportunity to one, support the local film industry (or the soon-to-be industry) in Liechtenstein and to support our local talent and to plant a seed for future films to be shot in Liechtenstein. Hopefully the drive for short stories or even feature films will be awaken.
As the Cinematographer on the film, having grown up in the valley of Malbun and Steg, I know that our biggest challenges will be the weather and limited resources, for myself, I’m used to working with limited resources and support in the film industry in Dubai, as producing a short film there takes a lot of effort and a lot of favours. A great advantage was that I had the BMPC4k camera with me and shot various commercials and short films on it, so I knew that we had to work around the limitations of the camera, which I’ll explain further on in this post.
The story was developed over the months of june/july and after receiving the 25 page short film we knew it will take a great deal of effort from our international crew. Of which came from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The story itself was a great experience to explore new lighting styles, camera movements and new techniques, horror/psyco films are great as you can explore surrealism and expressionism in your cinematography style. We planned to shoot at least 2-3minutes of the film per day for the 12 days we had for production.
As most of us were a couple of hundred kilometres away, we Skyped quite often but its never enough to plan each day as we didn’t know how fast our crew could work together, it needed some experimenting and engagement before we found our rhythm but when we did, we worked flawlessly together. We did preproduction in production, a first for all of us, and defiantly not something you want to do on every shoot but we didn’t really have a choice we made the best of it. A few hours after we finished shooting helped us plan the next few days, keeping weather and number shots in mind we planned each day out to every camera angle. It worked, nonetheless we had a great and dedicated crew that knew we were against time. Hard work paid off.
Director: Sabina Kufner (Germany)
Executive Producer: Andy Konrad (Liechtenstein)
Cinematographer: Marcel Beck (Liechtenstein)
1st Assistant Camera: Stephan Bütler (Germany)
Gaffer: Florian Fischer (Germany)
Audio Engineer: Stefan Kaufhold (Germany)
Editor: Philipp Kaindl (Austria)
Clapper: Stephan Walser & Thomas Hillinger (Liechtenstein & Austria)
Wardrobe/Art Department: Michaela Kufner, Juliana Stöbel (Germany & Germany)
Script Supervisor: Thomas Bischof (Austria)
Greta: Kirstin Fischer (Germany)
Louis: Roland Schroll (Germany)
Stina: Katja Langenbahn (Liechtenstein)
Euvrasia: Ulrike Claudia Wagner (Germany)
Fröhnhase: Leander Marxer (Liechtenstein)
Witwe: Heike Montiperle (Liechtenstein)
Camera: Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4k
Lenses: Zeiss CP.2 Super Speeds 35mm, 50mm, 85mm F1.5, Zeiss CP2 135mm T2.1, Rokion 24mm T1.5, Canon EFS 18-200mm F3.5-5.6
Lighting: Dedo Kit (5 Lights), two Arri 2,500W HMI, Rifa 1000W soft box, LED light 150W
Grip: Panther Head and Sticks, Arri LMB-5 matt box and Arri UMC2 wireless follow focus
The first few days were rough, as it would be. We never worked together before, but after the second production day we found our chi and the rest of the shoot was more efficiently carried out. The BMPC4k camera was our main workhorse, knowing the pros and cons of the camera it helped myself expose for the camera to feed it enough light to get the shots we wanted. We had a few steadi-cam shots as well, a handful of low-light daunting scenes and beautiful exterior scenes.
Low Light Scenes
The camera has 12 stops of dynamic range, a stop more than the Canon 5D, not a lot of room for a huge contrast but that was good enough for us. The Apple ProRes HQ codec is a brilliant codec, it gives us a lot of room for color grading. The flat profile of BMD Film (Log) is a great place to start with. One of the particular scenes we were concerned about was the basement scene, working with Florissant tubes, we relied mostly on practical lights and our trust Zeiss CP.2 Super Speeds. the near Super35mm sensor for the BMPC4k camera gave us the exposures we needed for the high contrast scenes.
A few scenes outdoors in bright daylight;
Working with mixed light sources
A few scenes we had mixed light sources, tungsten based Dedo Lights and our outdoor ambient light we enforced with the Arri 2.5k HMI’s.
To tell stories there are various ways your camera movement can enforce the mood and effect of the particular scene, having a chase scene between our main character and protagonist, we used a steadicam shot which worked great as the camera has enough weight to maintain steady than flying a 5D or pocket cam, more weight gives you a stable flight but thats up for debate.
Whip-pan, one of my favourite techniques, whipping the camera on action to another part of the scene, it gave our chase the tempo we needed. Global shutter came into test here.
There was one shot we utilised the great feature of the BMPC4k camera which its’ global shutter. It’s the only camera for that price point that has 4k RAW and global shutter with a near super35mm sensor. All those coming from DSLR’s or like-wise camera systems using rolling shutters know that pans are a do or break deal, timing is key to keep the skewed vertical pillars, well… vertical.
[Pictures to come soon]
(UHD) 4k Advantage / 240GB SSD’s
Having the choice to choose what your images will be captured on is a blessing, being able get the option to choose our compression rate helps you dramatically, each project differs from each other, therefore our shooting styles must adapt. We knew we couldn’t afford to shoot on 4k raw uncompressed CinemaDNG because we would have had a data stream of 12GB/minute, not really ideal for a 12 day shoot. We opted from the next best choice, and a widely used format, Apple ProRes 422 HQ. I won’t go into too much detail about codecs but it basically means we get the highest possible resolution and quality with a comfortable data rate. We shot 2.2TB of footage of the 12 days, almost 2x 240GB SSD’s per day which held 36minutes of 4k Apple ProRes 422 HQ.
Our industry is moving into the UltraHD world, or as widely known as “4k.” What does that mean? it means more pixels, higher resolutions, sharper images and of course, the need of more hard drive space. We decided to shoot the entire film at UHD (3480×1290) as the master format and create a HD DCP release. The great thing about post-down-converting is that quality is kept throughout the post production workflow, meaning we won’t be degrading the images, unlike other systems that require proxy files (CinemaDNG, R3DCode, ARRIRAW) we will be able to plug and edit and get our edits done faster. The files are easily edited on any latest MacBook Pro 2013 system, meaning you won’t be needing a high-end machine to work with the files.
The unfortunate write speeds of current SSD’s have a difficulty handily the 4k RAW write speeds, we tried several times with the high end SSD’s we own and we do get a few dropped frames, but we are sure SSD’s are getting faster and higher in capacity week for week.
We used 15 cards on the shoot, backed up to our G-Technology RAID 8TB raid system, originally RAID0 with a blasting speed of over 760mb/s write speed, but we opted to be on the safe side and stick to a RAID1 system, still giving us a fast speed of 450mb/s write speed, at least knowing the data is safe no matter what.
Look and Feel (American Horror Stories)
Sabina (Director) wanted a specific style, a retro 80’s look and feel. In most cases that relates to most commercials shot today which are either kept in their log state or lifted blacks and reduced highlights to give a nice filmic feel to the images. Here are a few reference images we used for our look and feel, final color graded images will come once we got a trailer together, will talk more in-depth of particular shots.