Our latest short film production “Katyusha” directed by Karina Kiseleva and Cinematography by Marcel Beck, read more
Katyusha is and was a very exciting project, primarily because the story was so strong, along the lines of Million Dollar Baby. It was also our first production the Blackmagic Design Production Cinema Camera (their 4k Camera, BMPC for short), a great way to test the strength and limitations of the camera. I’m writing this post to highlight my experiences on a 5 day production day for the short film ‘Katyusha.’ It may be quite useful for those having the idea in mind to shoot their own documentary or short film in the near future.
Treat it like film
I’ve always spread the ideas that on smaller productions, especially in the digital age, we tend to shoot random takes and use up a lot of unnecessary space, therefore I’ve adapted the “treat it like film” technique to basically shoot your productions as-if your shooting on super 35mm film. So that means each roll and take needs to be recorded, organised and so forth. Since the Blackmagic Design Production Camera cannot format the SSD’s in-camera I treat them as film mags, once its shot its not going anywhere. This makes it easer for the post production work flow, you only have the takes you need rather then random clips of people walking with the camera to the second location. Be smart, organised and your efforts will down the line.
Shooting a fighting scene? Sure, wing-it!
Its hard as it is trying to get lines memorised and actor’s performance up to check, but a fight scene is a whole new level, a proper choreograph and rehearsal are paramount, but sometimes you just need to wing-it (To do something without preparation). It is important to keep safety of your actors in mind. As we set up for various other scenes, the actors took every minute they could get the routine of the fight scene blocked out before we shot it, it was a mission to make it as real as possible without hurting each other, but thankfully we had our trainer step in and show us “short cuts” to get things looking good on camera. One of the hardest parts to film is the “fall” of actors, or “knock outs” as they usually tend to look fake. We managed to get the right angle to make it all fit together.
Independent productions are usually plagued with the realisation of “Wing it”, but theres nothing wrong with trusting your gut feeling. Michael bay uses his version of “Shoot-For-The-Edit” to shoot scenes how you imagine they will flow together in post. You can’t use it all the time but it is defiantly ok to do so, trust your self and your crew, get the shots you know will work, everything else is the cream on top.
Sound Sound Sound!
Sound is 50% of the film, and should be one area that should not be over looked. It’s paramount to get high quality audio on the day of the shoot, and worst case having to touch up in a studio. Marcel Lteif was our audio engineer and on-location sound recordist. He doesn’t really enjoy on location sound as it is a tedious process but he unleashes the creativity in sound design. We recorded using a Røde NTG-3 hooked onto a Zoom H4N, which was good enough for Katyusha. The limitation of the BMPC was that it doesn’t record high quality audio, and hooking up a unit to the camera was a hassle with cables and such. Therefore we opted to use a off-sync system, we record video and audio separately and sync in post. This was a huge set back as we didn’t have any automated software that syncs up clips and audio files. So manually sync it was. Its important that theres a good communication link between the cinematographer/operator and the audio engineer, as working in harmony will provide a smoother day rather than struggling to figure out where the boom must be, what dialogue is being performed. Again, I will repeat, don’t cut corners on sound!
More to come soon!