A Real Update (And some notes on the EX3)

Here's what's currently going on in the world of this struggling female cinematographer:

Just wrapped principal photography on The Brig— a short comedy about a young gay man trying to figure out where he fits in to the gay "dating scene".

We shot on the Sony EX-3 with a letus adapter and a couple different lenses (25mm, 50mm, and 85mm). This proved a little challenging since the lenses and the letus cut down a lot of light, and most of our locations were dark bars, bathrooms and sketchy dance floors. I signed onto this project because I love trying out new lighting, and the rainbow-colored lights of The Brig totally provided that. A belly-of-the-beast red bathroom, a pink and blue dance floor, a yellow and blue bar, the city outside at night. I couldn't have survived the lighting at all without my gaffer. He's awesome and did some gorgeous work. (He also just won Best Cinematography at the CFS student show for a short film that he shot. Boy's doing good.)

I am not quite sure if I like the EX-3 or not. I think I do. We had some problems with the LCD and the settings our first night of shooting that we were unable to quite figure out. (Our gain was on low, so that wasn't the problem. However, Sony's do tend to pick up a lot of infrared). A lot of our blacks ended up very light and grainy once inside Final Cut, and while all the nuances of the lighting are still there, you can't see them without color correction. But at least it's there.

We were luckier our next couple shoots and I was extra diligent with our settings (that somehow got completely deleted more than once by another crew that was borrowing our camera... urgh.)

Here are my suggestions for simple Picture Profile settings for the EX-3. These aren't really configured for any type of lighting, it's just some general tweaks that seemed to help me while doing a quick, panicked search on the net. Our main problem was that we did not get our camera until a day before the shoot, so I wasn't able to really figure out what was best for our particular lighting situation. Always do a test shoot if you can and figure out what is best for you.

ALWAYS calibrate your color bars on your LCD so you know what you're seeing is what's being recorded. Bring up the bars (there is a button on the left side of the camera) and adjust your LCD levels so the contrast and the colors look correct. Also, if you're not in super-dark settings and want to keep your gain on low, go into menu and change your "low gain" from 0db to -3db.

Picture Profile
Matrix- On

White- 3200°K (for tungsten, 5600°K for daylight, or whatever is appropriate for your lighting.)

Detail- On. Level: -10. Frequency: -40. White Limiter: +50. Black Limiter: +50. Knee APT: ±0

Knee: Auto

Gamma: 0

Black -4

Black Gamma: -2

Those settings seemed to give us nice blacks in the bar without completely crushing them.

I would also recommend keeping the letus on, and just keep extra batteries on hand. Forgetting to turn it back on could set you back a few shots.

The trip down to Peru to shoot a short has been postponed to late July. Crossing my fingers that it will still happen.

This summer I hope to shoot some music videos. I wanna do a lot of projects... keeping everything challenging, fun, varied, and short. I'm not teaching over the summer, so I gotta keep myself busy, thinking of new exercises and experiences to bring into class.

I still am no closer to getting a car, the next big step in getting closer to moving back out to LA. Right now it's very tempting to use the money I've saved up on buying my own HD camera so I can find steadier work... but the idea of being carless another couple years is... well, abhorrent might be a good word.

Also, I loved Star Trek and I loved the ridiculous lens flares. I did. I loved them. Dan Mindel did a great job. The camera movements always start and end on some sort of inspired framing. Very fun, interactive camera, with lovely extreme close ups. I really want to know what kind of head and rigging they used.

That being said, I am seeing it a third time tonight, so the post ends here.

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