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Shooting On A Beach


Published : 7th February 2010


I’ve got a question relating to a project I may be shooting later this summer. It’s a low budget film set mainly on a beach over a 24 hour period. Obviously this brings with it certain logistical and continuity difficulties. As the project is part of a slate of films already up and running I suspect we will have to shoot on something like a Sony 900R. I have two issues I would be interested in advice on.
Firstly we will have a certain amount of dusk and night shooting but very limited lighting resources. I am expecting it will be sensible going day for dusk if not day for night as well. One of the challenges is that for these scenes the only practical lighting is camp fires. I am guessing that stopping down to achieve the day for dusk and day for night scenes should help the HD handle the flames better [though I guess the more I can keep the actual fires out of shot the better to avoid burn out?]. Has anyone any experience of this kind of shooting condition – i.e. day for dusk and night with real practical fires in shot on HD? Would I be better off sticking my neck out and campaigning for Super 16 to help with hot highlights?


Secondly, I am concerned about ways of moving the camera and keeping the shots mobile when we’re on sand and possibly sand dunes [again with a limited budget, so no huge crane/ helicopter suggestions please…]. There was an interesting discussion a while back of scissor rigs, which may perhaps help us with smaller scenes?


I saw a demo of the P & S skater dolly a while back and I’m sure they had some shots on a beach where they’d basically built raised metal trays on stepladders so you could track without trying to lay track on boards on sand which I imagine could develop into a nightmare. I am guessing that steadicam would be problematic, as it will not only be exhausting but pretty unsteady ground, though interested to hear from any operators with extensive beach/desert experience.


I look forward to your thoughts,


Jake Polonsky
DoP London
www.jakepolonsky.com



Jake Polanski wrote:


>> I saw a demo of the P & S skater dolly a while back and I’m sure they had some shots on a beach >>where they’d basically built raised metal trays on stepladders so you could track without trying to >>lay track on boards on sand which I imagine could develop into a nightmare.


How far do you have to move the camera?


Steadicam on beach could work with plywood sheets arranged in a path. I also like under slung jib arm , 2 towers spanned by truss, jib arm basically is hanging from the span.


The skater dolly is attractive but I think could be easily overwhelmed by the scale of movement that could come in to play.

Mark Smith
DP NYC



Jake Polonsky wrote:


>>Secondly, I am concerned about ways of moving the camera and keeping the shots mobile when >>we’re on sand and possibly sand dunes [again with a limited budget, so no huge crane/ helicopter >>suggestions please…]. There was an interesting discussion a while back of scissor rigs, which >>may perhaps help us with smaller scenes?


A while back, in the days I was just a humble operator /steadicam op(=earning proper money) I shot a very similar situation in Egypt. I had a Garfield mount on a saddle and I shot most of the film off a horse. It was supposed to be only for one shot but the director loved it and he wanted me to stay for more, lot more.


Advantages: hi-low position very quickly, fast/slow track on sand, quick changes of direction, cheap and easy (if you can do steadicam off a horse). Also you don't notice the prints on the sand (compared to using quad etc).


Disavantages: you need a good horse+stead op, errr..that's it. Shadow can be a problem, but if at dusk...Soundman complained about horse farting a couple of times. I blamed the horse obviously.
Gimme a call if you want to have a proper chat.. now, where did I put my riding boots...


Franz Pagot AIC MBKS
Director of Photography
BAFTA?
http://www.franzpagot.com

http://www.youtube.com/FranzPagot
mob UK +447770520757
mob ITALY +39 340 9344107
London based
skype: acquademon



>Soundman complained about horse farting a couple of times. I blamed the horse obviously.

We had a similar problem on sand dunes in Marrocco... The horses kept shying near camera... someone kept farting... we blamed the soundman.

Mark Weingartner
LA based VFX DP/Supervisor


>>'I am expecting it will be sensible going day for dusk if not day for night as well. One of the >>challenges is that for these scenes the only practical lighting is camp fires.


I'd say if your gonna still stick your neck out still and want to make producers happy with HD then go for the F23. Within the cameras Cine mode you can choose Hypergamma 4 which will easily handle highlights 4 stops over but I've seen 4.5 over;). I'm sure if your stopping down already for your day for night scenes that latitude will thus increase in the highlights. Then you can stay in a "Producer Friendly" HDCAM SR post house to Colour and Finish in. Another internal F23 menu option is using the Wide-Gamut/DCM Mode for Features specifically to create a 2k DCP. Saves money too.


What kind of sand are you on? White, Mixed, Rocky,Shelly, Wet etc?
--
Dane " Beach expert" Brehm
San Francisco,CA
4k + Raw AC



Thanks Dane,


I guess F23 will be worth testing in that case. Does it like getting a transport full of sand? Does any HD camera?


Don't yet know enough about locations to answer your question about what type of sand...


Jake Polonsky
DoP London
www.jakepolonsky.com



Hello Jake,


>>"...ways of moving the camera and keeping the shots mobile when we’re on sand and possibly >>sand dunes..."


It is very funny that you are asking this. In a couple of weeks time I am working for a promotional shooting for my TrussDollySystem! I have asked a director to write a short script which will have to take place on a beach with dunes. We will be both shooting his script as well as a making of. It will have small tracking’s (less than 1 meter) and a couple of 16 meter tracking shots with a motorized TrussDolly. As soon as it has been edited I will send you a link. Meanwhile you can take a look at the link underneath for some pictures of both my TwinDolly and TrussDollySystem.


http://www.solidgripsystems.eu/gallery/


>>"..I also like under slung jib arm , 2 towers spanned by truss, jib arm basically is hanging from the >>span.."


A great suggestion! I did this years ago and it worked very well. of course the jibarm was mounted on a trussdolly which gave the operator the flexibility to move around all axes. Since we were shooting close-focus it was a hell-of-a-day for the focus puller!


(disclaimer: I am manufacturing the TDS and the TwinDolly)


Best Regards,


Onno Perdijk
KeyGrip, Manufacturer
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
www.solidgripsystems.eu



>> I guess F23 will be worth testing in that case. Does it like getting a transport full of sand? Does >>any HD camera?
>>Don't yet know enough about locations to answer your question about what type of sand...


I'm guessing that it will like getting a transport full of sound approximately as much as a 435 likes sand in the movement... not much.
If you are in coarse sand at a nice humid beach, you should not have to worry too much...
if you are in incredibly fine blowing sand, (like El Ain in Abu Dhabi) you have to worry much more... especially since any camera with fans is likely to ingest very light sand. You might consider some sort of filter over the fan intakes... bearing in mind that you do not want to restrict airflow any more than necessary.

Lots of ways of mitigating blowing sand and dust during tape re-loads...like a little slip-over space-blanket tent (as long as you keep the inside of it scrupulously clean).

Mark Weingartner
not a fan of sand - in cameras, on roadways, or in swimsuits
LA based VFX DP


Chain link fence buried in the sand makes for a solid foundation to walk on or move a doorway or western dolly to relieve the stress on a steadicam operator.

Steve Peterson, IA6001stAC


Just to return for a minute to the issue of dynamic range and digital cinematography....is it the general consensus that the F23 offers the best handling of top end highlights of any digital system? The best extended dynamic range?

Jake Polanski
DoP London
www.jakepolonsky.com


>>Just to return for a minute to the issue of dynamic range and digital cinematography....is it the >>general consensus that the F23 offers the best handling of top end highlights of any digital >>system? The best extended dynamic range?

As far as 3 chip cameras go, I don't think there's anything better in that respect.

I generally don't work with single chip cameras, so someone else will have to chime in on those.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


Jake Polonsky wrote:

>> Just to return for a minute to the issue of dynamic range and digital cinematography....

The Red One camera has knocked spots off anything I've seen so far. This is a purely qualitative judgment mind you - I've not done a side by side comparison with any other digital camera.

Compared to footage from 3 chip cameras there was actually some room to manoeuvre in a grade an' all.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London


>> is it the general consensus that the F23 offers the best handling of top end highlights of any >>digital system? The best extended dynamic range?

Jake,

I did a shoot on the beach with the F23 and I was amazed by the highlight detail it pulled including the backlit white foam on the crashing waves that are usually way off the scale. This was in the flat log mode. I suspect only a Genesis would give it a run for the money.

If you do use the F23 in log mode do not read your vectorscope in the traditional way. Whites can easily sit around 70% with the top end left for highlights and the blacks never seem to hit zero. This is good. There is very serious dynamic range compression going on.

I should add the F23 is a pig of a camera and its hardwork lugging the heavy camera, heavy duty sticks, monster battery and Digi prime kit on soft sand. Think 35mm camera work process rather than Betacam.

Tom Gleeson DOP
Sydney
www.cinematography.net


Interested to hear you say that about Red, Tom.

The thing I've read often here on CML and elsewhere was that it was pretty rubbish at dealing with the highlight end of [over]exposure?

Jake Polanski
DoP London
www.jakepolonsky.com


The dynamic range of the top CineAlta cameras can be improved with the Digital Praxis Gamma Curves, but then I would say that .

The biggest improvement is with the f900 range, but there are visible improvements with f23 and HDC 1500 too.

Plenty of users here on this list that can tell you their experiences...

Steve Shaw - Via PDA
Digital Praxis & Axis Films
steve@digitalpraxis.net
+44 (0)7765 400 908
www.digitalpraxis.net
www.axisfilms.co.uk
Skype: shaw.clan
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