Storybook - Day 6

We wrapped. I still have a raging migraine, which has successfully conquered every form of over-the-counter pain relief in existence, and has planted a tiny flag on my cerebellum and is intermittently releasing nausea-inducing screams of victory. So I took one of the leftover vicodin I had from my wisdom teeth removal. It's the first time I haven't been in pain for over 48 hours.

I love vicodin.

Yesterday was pretty stressful. We only had 7 hours to set up, shoot, and pack up... and over 20 shots to get done, including the climax of the film. We went over by about 45 minutes, but considering that we had a late start, that I was still going cross-eyed from my headache, and that we had an almost impossible amount of shots, we did pretty damn good. We lagged a bit at the beginning, but picked up speed at the end.

My eye is getting fairly accurate at guessing f-stops and lenses, which is good news. I tend to make wild guesses and pray that I'm right. I always used to be off several stops, now I am usually off about half a stop.

Newer actors will kind of balk when you start measuring their light. I mean, if someone came up to you holding this weird little device, stuck it in your face, and started yelling numbers at the gaffer, you'd balk too. I usually tell them their light reading by saying, "You're an f.8 on my COOL-O-METER" or "Ooooh, a 2.8... try and act brighter." They laugh and then you can stick things in their face all day long!

As I was telling Director J, I saw this film as a test run for me and the two directors (him and Director Chuck). I had not worked with either of them before, and was suddenly pulled into a co-directed project. It was kinda tough having to figure out two new directors and our respective working relationships. And yeah, it was pretty rocky at some points. There were the usual arguments and some heated moments on set. But, I continue to learn and predict how I react under different kinds of stress and I am getting better and better at coordinating my impulses in order to keep myself open to communication and working smoothly.

Unfortunately for this shoot, I was slightly crippled by Super Migraine Fest 2008 and the UNADULTERATED EVIL THAT IS A PORTA-JIB, so it was extra hard to manage the urge that tells you that somehow yelling will make things get done faster.

Also, an interesting discussion about lenses occurred briefly on set.

Since the Panavision lens package included a 9.5mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, and 50mm lenses and a zoom lens, we were on the zoom lens more than I would have liked for the extreme close ups that needed an 85mm lens or closer. The DP from the shoot that I camera-supervised, John, came and visited our set and nearly disowned me from the Cool Directors of Photography Club.

"I see what lens you're putting on there," he said to me, shaking his head. And I was overcome with shame and decided picking on Director J would make me feel better, because he was making me use the zoom, and then he gave the blame to Director Chuck, who had ordered the Panavision package. This did not impress John.

The zoom lens, as Director Chuck put it when we explained our disdain, is the "n00b lens". It's great when you aren't really sure about which lens to use, or if you want sweet kung fu zooms. But it is not as precise as the other lenses, breathes a bit, and, if it's a very long zoom, vignettes around the corners when zoomed out. Also, since it has to go through more glass, less lights gets in.

This is why most DP's go for prime lenses. They are a fixed length, and are faster (let in more light), more dependable, reliable, and sturdier than a zoom lens. Just make sure you know the effects different lengths of lenses will have on your image, so you get exactly what you want.

My personal go-to prime lenses, when I just need to cover all bases, are a 16, 25, 50, and an 85 "for pretties".

But, when choosing your lenses, remember to think outside the lines. Just because you need a close-up, it doesn't mean you gotta put on a longer lens. Try a wider lens and get close and personal with your subject. The results can be distorting and sometimes comedic. And just because you need a wide, distant shot, don't automatically reach for your 9mm. A shot on a long lens from a far distance gives a much different, and a very interesting, effect. It all depends on what you, the cinematographer, are going for. Barry Sonnenfeld (a cinematographer and director I happen to totally love) primarily used wide lenses on Raising Arizona, an offbeat comedy, and went to longer lenses for the dramatic Miller's Crossing.

Anyways. Time for bed. I'm wiped out. But I'm happy— I'm back on set again.

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