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Proofing Your Shoot

Published : 27th July 2004


I have been using a Polaroid 110A for a few years to proof my shots. Now I am thinking of going digital.....

What do you use?? Polaroid or Digi?? Which Digi camera do you use or like the best and why??

Any thoughts would help.

Adam Forslund
USA



Adam Wrote :

>What do you use?? Polaroid or Digi?? Which Digi camera do you use or >like the best and why??"

I use a Canon EOS 300d digital SLR, it's Canon's consumer version of the EOS 10d, It costs $999 and comes with a cheaply made, but sharp and otherwise optically sound 18-55 f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. Due to the sensor size of 22.7 x 15.1 the focal lengths and FOV translate nicely to when you are shooting Academy and with a little nudge equal Super 35.

The camera has become invaluable on set as a communication tool between myself and the director, on commercial scouts we sometimes pre-shoot every shot, it makes it very easy to sell camera positions, they can see it. Working with a directors finder is cumbersome in that you both may be looking through it at very different frames and you have to get the director away from crafty to go look at the shot!

As far as reproducing the gamma and subtle colors of film, no digital camera or Polaroid that I've ever uses will show you all the potential of film neg, but with most digital cameras, if you can get them to look the way you want on set, you will have no trouble duplicating the look in TK and you probably can get a traditional foto chemical finish to look really close. Highlights blow out without much provocation just like they do on HD!

The camera is fun to use, responsive, rechargeable battery lasts a long time. only bad thing is that it has an ugly silver plastic body. It now goes with me on every shoot.

Disclaimer...I don't work for Canon or anything like that.

Matt Uhry D.P.
Los Angeles
www.fuzby.com



Matt--

Thanks. I will take a look at the Canon for sure. I am also going to look at a Fuji.

Thanks again

Adam Forslund
USA



>I have been using a Polaroid 110A for a few years to proof my shots. >Now I am thinking of going digital...

I started using a 110A on a feature I shot in New York last summer and have carried it on every job since. The feature was shot primarily in Harlem with an predominately African-American cast with a full range of skin tones. I found the Polaroid 667 film (B&W 3000asa) was immensely helpful in putting my mind at ease in many of the higher contrast situations where very dark skin tones shared the frame with lighter ones, or bright backgrounds.

That film is certainly not a dead contrast-ratio match for any of the Kodak stocks, though I found with the 5279 and 5246 that I was using I was getting fairly consistent dailies that printed in the mid to high 30s (the few times we actually printed) when I was using the Polaroids as a guide.

At the end of the day, they were as much a safety net for me personally as they were and useful tool to bring over to video village to help producers understand the way the film's brightness & contrast would look when printed (great for night stuff that seemed "too bright" to non-film folks when on set).

As for digital stills, I've found them very useful for articulating the direction I want the film to go during a telecine session, but less for exposure assessment. I'm sure there's would be a scientific way to calibrate a digital stills camera to give one a good idea of what you negative will print like, but I have yet to make that ideological leap.

Rob Barocci
DP - NYC



I carry a large Polaroid 600SE camera with an assortment of backs [1 has 667, the other 2 carry color stock: tungsten & daylight].

I've had it for over a dozen years...love it.

I find it useful also during scouts...especially night scouts. Some directors & producers are under the belief that if they can see something illuminated by street lights or whatever...there might be no need for any additional lighting.

Yeah....So, I snap a 'Polaroid at what a 500 ASA, T1.3 lens might 'see'....after the 60 seconds, I can peel it off and shot a completely dark/black Polaroid with only a few bright dots [sometimes looking like a constellation!].

This always drives the point home.

But, using a 'Polaroid is just another tool...and yes, I do find it settling my nerves on some shots when I know I can trust it's depiction of my lighting.

Plus, it's always great to have a lighting reference to later use in case of an added shot or insert.

PS: Don't trust the color Polaroids all the time! Seems as the film ages, the colors drift.

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com



As a historical note, I think the first DP to use Polaroids as a contrast previewing tool, in motion pictures, was John Alcott. And this was on '2001,' the film on which Alcott moved up from AC to DP (!). I wouldn't be surprised if this technique was seized on by Kubrick.

A while back, David Samuelson suggested here that it was the other way around. Kubrick used the technique first.

Kent Hughes
DoP
SoCal



The most frustrating thing about the Polaroid 600SE is the parallax view-finder.

Many times I have shot a picture...waited 60 seconds [or longer if cold] and then peeled it to find a completely black photo!!

I had forgotten to remove the lens cap!!!

Sure makes you look dumb.....

Something to be said to a reflex finder!

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
DP/USA



I have a 110 and a 110B which I use with 667 film. I find that I use them more often in my little blue screen/greenscreen dance than I do for setting exposure for normal shoots or foregrounds, but when I was gaffing, I would often use the pola's to get a sign-off from the DP when working on the next set.

One of my favourite things about pola's is that I can write on them with a sharpie which helps me keep track of what relative exposures were - I write my spot meter readings right on the pix. This makes matching months later much easier. This is especially true when shooting VFX elements to match 1st unit elements shot by the grownups elsewhere...especially when they give you a three frame clip to which you are supposed to match and without knowing what the lights were for the clip or whether it actually resembles what the DP will time the film to later.

Digi lets me do this, but not quite as fast...I have to add the notes with my little crap photo editing program that came with my Digi camera. This means doing the notes when I could be sleeping or drinking.

Mark Weingartner
LA based



Kent Hughes writes :

>A while back, David Samuelson suggested here that it was the other >way around. Kubrick used the technique first.

I think there is a great deal of evidence for that. Kubrick was a still photographer working in NYC in his younger days.

Polaroiding still shoots was -- and still is -- routine. A popular choice was 4x5 Polacolor which came out in the early 60s and fit in a holder for view cameras.

Table top commercial shooters took to it like ducks to water.

I believe Kubrick's later conversions were done by Buddy Graves at Professional Camera in NYC, who made the Polaroid ProBack for the Nikon F as well as Hasselblad conversions.

A friend of mine converts Polaroid 110s etc to 4x5 Graflock. It's a very cool conversion.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



>PS : Don't trust the color Polaroids all the time! Seems as the film ages, >the colors drift.

I would say that the time to trust them is 'never,' or maybe Jeff meant 'Don't trust them--all the time!' Funky color, even when new; whacked contrast, and the color films seem much more prone to flaws like failure-to-peel, etc. (I know that there are many beautiful examples of color Polaroid work, particularly in large-format.) It is pretty frustrating to be almost-ready-to-shoot, snap a Polaroid, count off your 60 seconds or whatever while the dolly's wheeling back into position, then have most of your image peel away with the backing paper.

I get good, consistent results with #667.

I have used a variety of Polaroids, converted 110A, 195, 180, 600SE, etc, and all have their strengths. The 600SE is the biggest and most expensive, however for a while all my commercial work seemed to involve wide lenses and the 90mm for the 600SE was terrific for that.

However as I'm doing less of that work lately I'm about to put my 600SE kit up on eBay, as well as cml-sales, in case anyone's interested.

As a historical note, I think the first DP to use Polaroids as a contrast previewing tool, in motion pictures, was John Alcott. And this was on '2001,' the film on which Alcott moved up from AC to DP (!). I wouldn't be surprised if this technique was seized on by Kubrick.

Alan Thatcher
DP (didn't take Pola camera on HD shoot last week)
Chicago
IA600



The reason Digi is on my mind is that the F4.7 lens on my 110 is just so slow.......

It would be nice to try to get as close as I can to the exposure the camera is at.

Adam Forslund


PS--Writing on the pics is a great asset.



Sac

> I had forgotten to remove the lens cap!!!

I don't so that, I forget to remove the darkslide from the mag

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



Adam Forslund

>It would be nice to try to get as close as I can to the exposure the >camera is at.

I've had good success proofing with my Olympus 5050zoom with its 1.8 lens.

Not as wide and as long as I'd like but the speed helps a great deal!

Nick Paton
Film & Digital Cinematography
www.npdop.com



I have been using a Canon S50 Digital camera and have been very happy with the results. Using it for both B&W and Color shoots, I find it very close to my results in telecine.

Raoul Germain
DP
Los Angeles