Last week I had the opportunity to borrow the Philip Bloom Pocket dolly for a night. I had never really used one before so I wanted to familiarize myself with it before I had to use it on an upcoming shoot.
My idea for this piece started with the first short. Really, I was just trying to think of all the different dollying shots I could get in one short film. So I developed the original concept, and then John Spriggs helped take it to its full potential.
So first off, the Philip Bloom Pocket dolly is just a great piece of equipment. It comes in two different sizes, the standard 3′ or the 2′ travel size. I was using the 3′ version and its a thing of beauty. I was mounting it directly to a Manfrotto 504 head on 546B 2 stage aluminum sticks. This really isn’t the best way to go, and I wouldn’t recommend it for highend shooting. I used two screws on the quick release plate, but because of the rubber padding, you never really get a completely locked down attachment. Also, at 3ft, theres quite a bit of bow and shake at the ends, you really need support at both ends to avoid wiggle. Many of the shots were just on the floor, or on the counter using the great outrigger feet and those were rock solid. I highly recommend this product, it adds so much production value to any shoot you use it on. Check it out at at Philip Bloom’s site here: http://philipbloom.net/2011/05/24/the-best-slider-every-made-and-its-got-the-best-name-too/ or at Kesslercrane.com here: http://www.kesslercrane.com/bloom-pocket-dolly-s/96.htm
My camera was my personal Rebel T2i. I was using the Magic Lantern hack and the Technicolor Cinetyle picture profile. Together, those two make a pretty sweet package. This was my first time actually shooting something with them other than tests and I was very happy with the results. Using magic lantern I was able to just use my on board camera mic. The results aren’t fantastic, but its amazing how much turning off ACG can do. I wanted to deliver in 2.35:1 for a more cinematic feel, so the 2.35:1 crop marks were super helpful and made framing very accurate. I also made use of the custom ISO steps. You get seem to get less noise when shooting in increment of 160 on canon DSLRs, but the T2i only comes in increments of 100, 200, 400, 800, etc. Most of this I ended up shooting at 640 which isn’t idea and you can see quite a bit of noise, but I think it was cleaner that had I gone to 800. I was also able to use the custom Kelvin to dial in the cool blue look. I barely touched the color in post as I nailed it in camera! Shooting with Technicolor was pretty awesome. It let me shoot the scenes as dark as I needed them, and grading in post was a breeze.
About half the shoots I used the incredible Tokina 11-16mm. This lens is just sick on the PB docket dolly. When you have something in the foreground, like the floor or counter, it really exaggerates the movement and it feels like you have a really long dolly move. The rest of the shots I used a combination of old Nikon primes, 24mm 2.8, 35mm 2.o, and 50mm 1.4. I have a RedRock follow focus v2, but I wanted to shoot quick and light and I didn’t really need to pull focus much of the time anyways.
For lighting, I used a combination of existing lights, and these super cheap clamp lights I bought at Walmart. They’re about $10 each and I bought some daylight balanced florescent bulbs to go in them. When I needed the light to be a little more directional with less spill I used aluminum foil as a impromptu snoot. They worked really well over all, the hardest part was trying to get a kicker, or hair light without flooding the rest of the scene. There’s a couple of shots where the room is just too bright, and having a Fresnel or some kind of spot light to control the light would have been really helpful. It was also a challenge to light and shoot at the same time, but with a crew of 1, what do you do, eh?
For editing I used FCP to log and transfer everything over into ProRes 422. Then I used the very cool and very free Colorista Free from Red Giant software. http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/products/ Thanks to @5tu for getting us that! I had high hopes that I would do the grade in the newly release Davinci Resolve light, but having never used that program before, I quickly decided on sticking with what I know and getting this short film pushed out online rather than learning a new program. Grading the Cinestyle footage with Colorista Free was a blast. It was quick surprising to me how much detail was in the image and how well Colorista worked with the codec. I tried doing a similar grade with the built in 3 Way Color Corrector, and couldn’t get anything close. Colorista gives you great control over the image and gives great results. However, since I had been shooting at 640, and with Cinestyle, I was getting a lot more noise in my video, especially the solid colors where there was a gradient from light to dark, than I wanted. So I did a quick search and discovered this site with free pluggins for FCP: http://www.mattias.nu/plugins/ I used the Smart Noise Reduction filter and after some fiddling around with it, gota pretty good result. Unfortunately, exporting back out into 8bit H.264 just killed the codec and there just ton’s of compression noise in the shadows again. But my master ProRes file looks pretty good! If you have any advice, let me know!
Now, this was a pretty last minute, run and gun shoot that took about 2 hours, and I don’t want to just hear that you “loved it.” I believe that you learn best from your mistakes, so please, tear this apart. What would you have done differently to make it better? Where would you have put the lights, moved the camera, edited, etc. I want to hear your thoughts.
I hope you enjoy this short film as much as I did making it!
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