UPDATE: “The Mechanic” just got through round 1 of Project Greenlight and is now in the running! Wish me luck….
A few days ago I wrote an article on why I chose to shoot my latest short film on the C100, while I own and have access to many other cameras (including RED EPIC and Blackmagic Cinema Camera). If you haven’t read the article, in a nutshell it came down to efficiency. This project had a budget of exactly $0, and it needed to be turned around very quickly which led me to choose a camera and format that would keep things moving both on set and in post.
The film was written in an afternoon, shot in about 5 hours and edited in a day. Unlike most of my projects that will implement at least a skeleton crew, this production basically had no crew at all. The only people on set were myself, my girlfriend (who helped produce with me) and the two actors. No makeup artist, no sound recordist, and no permits! In all my years of filming I have never actually shot any of my own films with this type of limited scope, but in the end it was really the only way that this project would be possible. I’ll also point out that if I had attempted to do this without the experience that I already have working with proper crews, I would never have been able to pull it off. I knew where I could cut corners and where I couldn’t, and made sure to work within those parameters.
Below I’ll briefly outline my production and post processes, but first here’s the film:
In total we had just under 5 hours to shoot this, and we actually probably only shot for about 3 and a half hours given that there was some time spent early in the day prepping gear and setting up audio. I shot the entire film on my Canon C100 with a 24 – 105mm F4 L-Series zoom lens, with the exception of one single shot that was taken with the Tokina 11 – 16mm F2.8. While I would have normally preferred to shoot on primes, it just wouldn’t have been possible given the nature of the shoot and the fact that we needed to be very light on our feet. I also would have preferred to have used an external recorder (like the Ninja) but in the end decided to record internally to ensure that the camera build could remain small and inconspicuous and there would be one less variable to worry about on set. I was really impressed with the C100s performance, even using the internal codec which only records at 24mbps. It certainly helped that I shot everything in the flat cinema mode.
The audio setup was very simple as well. Two wireless lavs were run directly into my Zoom H6 and I also rolled reference audio on the C100 using the internal mic. I decided not even to slate while we shot as it would have drawn too much attention, so I just rolled audio and video without a slate and manually sync’d everything up in post. The audio in general was fairly tricky because the environment was supposed to be desolate, but in reality we had cars and people passing by every couple of minutes. That said though I was still able to mix and match audio from various takes to help sell the feel of the environment.
Just like the rest of the process, I needed post to happen very quickly. I edited this in FCP X because I knew it would allow me to work very fast, and also provide all of the finishing tools that I need right within the software. I actually never left FCP X for the entire post-process, except for the very final color pass which I ran through FilmConvert. I was able to get my offline edit together in a couple of hours, and then moved directly to sound. FCP X actually has some really powerful sound plugins/effects, even if they are a bit clunky to used. I did my main color work within FCP X, simply using the color board, but then did output a picture master to be colored with FilmConvert as I already mentioned.
All in all this was a great way to see what is possible with no money and very little time. Including the writing time, shooting, location scouting, and editing, this took no longer than a few days in total, spread over the course of a week and a half or so. Would I shoot every project this way? Definitely not, but there are times when it can work really well. And it’s great practice for larger projects that may require a scene or two to be shot this way for whatever reason!