Cinematography Mailing List - CML

C4 Explosions Captured On HD & Film

13th April 2004

Top O The Howdy,

Tuesday I will be shooting US Marine Combat Engineers blowing 6 "Line Charges" (Explosives wrapped around a long rope pulled by rocket into a minefield to quickly clear an 18 ft wide pathway) …

That little vehicle at the bottom is 16 ft tall

The Line Charge is about 60 ft in circumference and 100 meters long The photo is from the back.

As the Combat Camera Officer I can put the Camera wherever I want. I will be covering the explosions with HD and Film from a multitude of Angles.

I will be shooting this with F-900/3 Using Zeiss DigiPrimes

And thanks to John Toll ASC and John Pytlak (who suggested 5218 with great dynamic range) and Allen Albert with Clairmont Camera providing an Arri III at 120FPS for the overcrank shots in Film.

The Explosions are very violent and very fast, not like gas explosions holding for up to 3 seconds rich and more red. This is 1,750 Lbs. of C4 and is more dirty and orange and blossoms out like cauliflower sideways very quickly at about 1.8 seconds.

The illumination is from within and is not any brighter than daylight 5218 at 500T with an 85 puts me at 320D, then 120FPS sets me back 2.2 Stops I need the deepest Stop I can get to carry the action shutter at 180 gets me a 250th of a second I there is a Marine layer or low clouds the Concussion will be channelled sideways more than UP. Frame for a Big Bang, Lock-off, protect the camera test the long start stop cable go to the Bunker.

HD at 30P and 59.94I covering alternate angles stacking up the action.1/250th of a second and a deeper stop than the Film as I won't need to compensate for the overcrank.

Its kinda fun sometimes to have the concussion from a blast knock the wind right out of you. Have I ever mentioned that I always wanted to be a stuntman after a severe auto accident. I was Hit from behind while on a motor cycle as a teen, Doctor told me I would become an adrenalhaulic. On the Football team I played strong safety on defence and was special teams captain also pole vaulted 3 years, Started to operate sports TV missed the fun of delivering a good Hit, joined the Marines chose jobs that put me in Heavy Combat in 91 again in 03. I enjoy walking away at the end of higher degrees of danger than most and having a great Shot to prove it.

Let me be clear No shot is worth my Life and thankfully I have had great Grips and Stuntmen and Soundguys and Marines that have all saved my life on numerous occasions. I do like to stand a little closer to the Fire (rounds explosives and Flames).

I'm Thankful for those that have my back

God Bless you all.

Meanwhile any suggestions on shooting this Monster.

B. Sean Fairburn
Combat Director/DP
Role Model Productions LLC

Sounds like a fun shoot Sean. Be safe. What lens are you using on the 35 III?

I've been reading about the US's tests in the Marshall islands

Perhaps someone(John Pytlak?) knows which stocks were used in filming hydrogen bomb tests. I remember seeing some restored films about these tests on Discovery a few years back (it's been a while, too long to recall correctly)I think there was a mention of special films used (and I imagine some 70mm Photosonics/ Mitchell’s must have been used too) The Bravo test was unbelievable, I bet the crews and cameras ended up w/ fallout. I've been reading a lot about this stuff.

All the military footage is fascinating (the high speed missile footage, airplane stuff, etc) How about the X-15 tests...I have to look into new DVD releases on these kinds of documentaries

Best regards,

John Babl

Seal :

Hope your shoot worked out great! Good talking to you yesterday.

The May 1997 SMPTE Journal has an article about Peter Kuran's work in restoring some of those original color negatives of the atomic tests for his documentary "Trinity and Beyond". The cover of that SMPTE Journal has a photo of a cinematographer shooting a "small" nuke explosion at an uncomfortably close distance.

Here is the chronology of Kodak motion picture films of that era :

John Pytlak
EI Customer Technical Services
Research Labs, Building 69
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, New York 14650-1922 USA


I don't remember being hit from behind, but then at my age, I'm beginning to remember not much of anything. You know, "I think I had a senior moment, but I can't remember for sure". My mom always told me to quit being a daydreamer, and get a real job. I never listened.

I did it backwards: I was a stunt driver during the 90's, raced the Pikes Peak Hill Climb (just a little 4th of July country drive in the afternoon), and now I'm trying to be a cameraman. Have a 750 HDCAM, should have bought a 900 or a Varicam. Senior moment again.

Have spent some time with Dick Milligan, a combat cinematographer during the Vietnam era: told him about you. His reply: "Yeah, I kinda got used to the blast of air from bullets whizzing by my head." Not much different than the Scottish Pipers in WW I, first out of the trenches, still playing with their legs blown off.

Read your account of Iraq: I wouldn't have the nerve to clean the head with q-tips in my shop, let alone in combat. Great reading. Have you thought about writing a book? Ah, but the Marines would probably consider it a work for hire.

My girlfriend spilled (root?) beer on a VHS cassette once, then put the tape in the machine. I tried cleaning the head with Q-tips. Didn't work. Had to spend several bucks to have it professionally cleaned.

I have a great shot of the west coast Talgo train whistling by; boy that train pushes a lot of air out of the way at 70MPH or so ... especially when the camera and my right elbow are about 6" from the side of the train. Adrenalin, after the fact.

Well, Geoff will probably scold me for this post, but after a single malt or two, I felt compelled to share some of my own experiences.

Thank you Sean, for all you share with us.

Gary Morris McBeath
SaltAire Cinema Productions

The Shoot went very well Thanks to Band Pro Mike Bravin, Jeff Cree and Clairmont Camera Alan Albert, Denny & Terry Clairmont and Todd Bennett for providing the HD with Zeiss and Arri III.

I spoke to Peter Anderson and got a Recipe for 3D based on the subject and distance So wherever possible I was capturing for HD and Film 3D.

So here's the Rundown

1) Film Vision 2 - 5218 shot at 120 Fps 25-250 Angenieux HR T3.5 Denny Suggested 400 ft Mags as they would be less likely to Jam.

2) HD was shot 59.94i for Slow Motion transfer One shot done tight at 30 P Using the Zeiss 40 mm and 20 mm, For HH I used the 5 mm.

3) Cameras were placed with at same height with a 2 ft Intraocular. Convergence set to where the explosion would be Shooting for deepest DOF Put me at a f-5.6 &1/2 for film (Shot at a 5.6) 5218 is 500T then after Adjusting for the 85 and Speed at 120Fps 250th Shutter left me at 64D.

4) HD was shot 1.2 ND and 6400K taking me down from 400T to 12ASA (1 stop for the 6400K) 125 sec shutter gave me an f-4.2 Then stopped down to an f-5.6 (Better to under expose HD than Over).

5) If it all works (Big If) I may be able to get 3D out of the shots.

6) The good shots are where I'm outside of the shock wave by the time the shot is over @330 meters. Long lens Compressed Lens Foreshortening.

My Goal was to shoot the Explosions the Best way possible HD Has sync Sound and I can shoot docu style for everything else. However as I have mentioned before it is weak on high frame rate slow motion shots. I decided to use Film overcranked to Insure success of the Shot.

This shoot was not intended to be a Film 5218 vs HD Test but an actual production use of both mediums for the best that each have to offer. I would expect the new Vision 2 to, pun intended, "Blow Away" the HD 900/3 but what else is new.

Film and HD are not mutually exclusive.

Now I am looking for a good Lab today to do the Processing and Prep for Telecine. There is only about 600ft of 35.

I will let you know how it turns out, you may see some of it at NAB.

B. Sean Fairburn
Director of Photography
Castaic Ca

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