A DoP I have regularly assisted for on tv documentary approached me about shooting a small biography piece for an author friend of his. He asked whether I’d be up for shooting it on his newly acquired Arri Amira! I said ‘Yes Please!’
Simon is a Christian author – having recently written ‘Riding the Tide’ and is currently writing a daily blog, ‘In the footsteps of a King’. The biography film would be designed to sit on his website as an alternative to his text biography and give you a little insight into his life…
Jamie (the director on the project) had the idea of doing a PTC with Simon along with cutaways of Simon making coffee and going out to his summer house where he does most of his writing… Jamie really wanted to take advantage of the high speed capabilities of the Amira for the cutaways, that commercial quality of production to a small web film, where we can savour every last bit!
As both Jamie and myself love drama I wanted to take a ‘drama’ approach to light – non of your usual 3 point stuff!
That said I decided to light Simon’s PTC with a large soft source, making use of a double sheet and a 650W & 500W Arri Fresnels with Full CTB as a key to act as a large window source. In addition, we had a window in the background of shot along with another 650W & 500W Arri Fresnels with Full CTB acting as a bit of a backlight to Simon and the kitchen sink! You can see a floor plan below…
As I mentioned we shot on Jamie’s Arri Amira with Canon CN7 lens. We shot on a 32mm lens for the medium shot and 40mm for the close up. I love using a wider lens for a close ups, I always think it makes it feel more intimate and there is so much more character to the face and you can see so much more of the background too.
We shot the PTC at 50fps so as to take advantage of being able to slow down the motion at the end of sentences to see slow motion eye blinking etc. before going into the slow motion cutaway sequences… As we wanted the final film to be at 25fps, to avoid the staccato motion when converting from 50fps to 25fps we shot with a 356 degree shutter to emulate a 1/50 of a second or 180 degree shutter at 25fps.
For the cutaways we shot mainly at 100fps, any higher fps results in a noticeable flicker from Tungsten lights under 1kW which sadly is all we had in large quantities! The coffee brewing shots were shot at 200fps and lit with a single ICE LIGHT. I have found that light to be so versatile, and it doesn’t flicker at 200fps!
As it had got dark by the time we shot Simon making the coffee I have to use a bit of artistic licence over the lighting! As we were shooting in the same kitchen as Simon had done his PTC I had kept the setup fairly similar but just moved a couple of lights around, as you can see below. Now the 650W & 500W Arri Fresnels in the kitchen acted as a soft fill bounced off the white sheet and the 650W and 500W outside the window now acted as a 3/4 back hard light to the coffee making process. As mentioned, when we shot over 100fps we had to switch all tungsten fixtures off as they flicker, this includes any household lamps too (beware the un suspecting hallway lamp!)
We shot on the Amira in CLog at 2K in ProRes422.. Arri Alexa LUT applied in FCP X. We also shot B camera on the PTC with the A7s in Slog2 mode, shooting 1080 50fps XAVC-S with a 1/50 shutter. We shot 1 stop over so to take advantage of the visible noise reduction when bringing it down a stop in post. We applied a LUT in FCP X.
Thanks to my wonderful sound recordist Tom for the photos!