Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting In A Movie Theatre

I have an action sequence coming up that is to be shot in a movie theatre. It's a modern facility with up to date equipment. We need to generate content for projection and that on-screen content will be a part of the sequence.

The production wants to bring in a video projection system. This would facilitate easy cueing for playback and simpler timeline for editing the playback sequence. I'm concerned the image may be too dim to be useful. I've shot in theatres before and the projected images have been barely bright enough.

Has anyone tried doing this before? What sort of video projector can be temporarily installed in a theatre - that will fill the screen like a film projector?

David Perrault

David Perrault wrote :

> I have an action sequence coming up that is to be shot in a movie theatre.

David, Is your project for video finish?

I had to shoot a spot last Fall that was kids in a theatre, watching a movie. Camera had to shoot the screen, their faces, over-shoulders of screen, etc.

After having done quite a bit of video projection on an earlier project, I decided to go green screen.

I had to do camera movement on the "over-the-shoulder shots" and the composting guy suggested putting reference "Xs" on the screen which he took out during post.

We composited the project in a Fire box and it worked out quite well. The entire composite process only took a few hours. Totally eliminates "cueing problems", light levels, and such.

For the projector light trick, someone here on the list suggested a bicycle wheel in front of a leko with strips of gel and black wrap. That also worked great with just a little bit of smoke.

I think the spot is hidden in my website somewhere, if you want to see it, email me off the list for the URL.

Jim Dollarhide
Director of Photography

>Is your project for video finish?

Yes, it is. And I think greenscreen is a good idea. In this case, however, the amount of camera movement and required interaction between screen characters and audience characters makes it tricky. Or, rather, expensive.

If we did go greenscreen, I was going to suggest we print a few hundred feet of greenscreen and project that. It's in one of those new, stadium seat, big screen places.

They also do satellite WWF stuff at this venue. I've never been to one of these so I don't know how bright the screen can be. We are going to have the video system (that they rent for the WWF satellite things) available for a demo when we survey. I'll be able to meter the screen then.

David Perrault

>It's much easier to shoot the lock off and then have the compositor do any moves in >post. Less tracking = less time = less money.

I disagree. Tracking is a no brainer today - fast, accurate, and included in every composting package available, from After Effects (not the best, however) on up to Inferno and everything in between. Provided there's some detail in the image at the proper distance from the camera for tracking (a C-stand knuckle, with or without a tape mark where the actor's head should be is just fine - it'll be covered by the actor in the composite), tracking a shot takes about 30 seconds and retains the "natural" quality of the operated move, rather than the "mechanical" feel of a move created in a computer.

It is a good idea to try and "flatten" out the shot with a longer lens to eliminate some of the perspective distortion, but in general, just shoot the plate wider than you intend in the final frame (it must be blown up in composting to be moved and yet still fill the frame) and operate the green screen shot as you would if you had practical projection.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles

>b) we want a shot where we are over the shoulder of a couple making out while they >are watching the screen

Try a lastolite 6 x6 ft portable blue/green screen dropped into the mid ground, a few rows in front of the couple.

Lock off camera. Shoot the canoodling couple against the bluescreen, include the backs of the seats in shot to ad realism. You will have to shoot fairly tight. Make sure that you have enough depth of field.

Remove blue screen and couple, keeping camera locked off and shoot the movie screen as the background plate. Create new back ground plate with your own clips pinned onto the screen. Once combined throw the background plate out of focus in post. Key couple over new background plate.

Also, shoot a wide where there is no overlap of foreground action over the movie screen. Also shoot an additional plate with something projected on the screen. The bounce off the screen may not be much but a compositor may be able to use it to help create the illusion.

Suggest a small pan or tilt in the wide shot. Maybe its within your budget to track the screen? check with post house.

Did a (HD) shot last week, an over the shoulder of real person with fantasy person reflected in mirror. On location, only had 4 feet between subject and blue screen but it worked.

Michael Brennan
Director of Photography

>Suggest a small pan or tilt in the wide shot. Maybe its within your budget to track the >screen?

It's much easier to shoot the lock off and then have the compositor do any moves in post. Less tracking = less time = less money.

It is far quicker and easier to do the move in post than to track it in - especially if you are using a wide angle lens which might introduce lens distortion which may have to be re-created to get a perfect lock on the image. Besides, it gives you the flexibility to try out several different moves very quickly.

If you're worried about resolution, frame it a little bit wide, scan it at 2.5k or 3k and do a 2k crop into the image with the post move on it.

If you are limited to a 2k scan, you can blow up the image by 10% and not take too much of a hit in quality and can compensate by re-sharpening the image. Rule of thumb is to absolutely avoid blowing it up by more than 25%, unless you are going to defocus it and add grain.

An alternative to the excellent greenscreen approach suggested might also be to use the theatre's projector with no film in it to light up the screen, and then fill the foreground to taste.

If there is very little rim light on the foreground, the compositor may be able to
pull a decent luminance key off the screen.

You can probably test this technique with a still camera if you have time and a co-operative movie theatre.

Perhaps another alternative is to Photograph some greenscreen material with 35mm reversal film (or a print from a neg) and make a loop which you can then project onto the screen, and balance your foreground light to match. (Dirt on the projected footage might be a problem, but nearly all footage going through composting is digitally dust-busted so it might be an insignificant issue.)

If you are testing, you should definitely try to run your test footage or frames through the same composting pipeline which you intend to run your production footage. This will help you quickly identify any trouble spots and insure that you are giving your post people everything they need to quickly nail the shot.

Best of luck!

Rachel Dunn

" start out wanting to make the greatest movie ever made….and you end up just wanting to live through it." -Truffaut

Thanks to all who replied about shooting in a cinema.

We tried a few different options :

1.2k hmi parnie and a 2kw follow spot on a flicker generator also tried the 35mm projector but finally opted for the video projector which we ran a beta sp tape of a music video that we were going to drop in to the finished spot on the screen and used this bounced into an 8x4 silver foam core board just off camera - with a bit of additional fill to light the faces when the exposure was down.

This worked really well and mixed with an oil cracker gave us some beautiful images!

As for the blue screen shot - we tried the projector route onto the screen - but it didn't give us enough foot candles - so we had 2 x 2kws just off the screen to either side with Geoff's suggestion of midnight blue - this worked well – I had a Dedo just off lighting the couple in the audience - giving a back light - sort of illumination from the screen and lighting out any blue reflection - then directed the video projector on the back of their heads to give the feel that there will be something projecting to match the screen when the shot is dropped in.

So thanks again for all the help offered - hope I can return the favour next time.

Matthew Woolf
London DOP

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