Friday, 6:21 pm, principle photography on Awake begins. That’s right I’m dropping industry lingo into this post. Now we did have a couple of re-shoots and additions to what we shot, but 90% was in the can, yes that’s more lingo, during these three days. Now, Awake has definitely been the most thought out and organized production we’ve ever done, both in pre-production and production. We took our time ensuring the lighting, sound, and cinematography was just right. Now I know it sounds like standard operating procedure, and it should be, but we hadn’t really put as much time in pre-production on anything else before, or on lighting and sound recording. I hope it shows with this film. I mean like this one is really good not that the rest are shameful.
So our first day of shooting was definitely one of the toughest and most involved visually. The scene has zero dialogue so the visual acting, camera, and sound really have to tell the story. Daniel did a great job acting in this scene, which is one of the most important in the film. In addition to that it was a very low light scene. This is problematic when shooting with a camera with a small chip. Like the one we used. Hurray? Generally the smaller the chip the less sensitive it is to light. Which means we needed a whole lot more of it to not add any electronic gain the camera tries to add to brighten the image. The gain causes the footage to become grainy and look terrible unless you have like an Alexa or maybe a C300. But I digress, the work around I used was to lock exposure at 0db of gain or at its native ISO and then added light to get the look I wanted for the scene, which is a pain in the ass without a grip.
That’s why we get paid the big bucks on actual paid jobs. Now with a 1/2.7” chip this usually requires much more light then you’d think, especially in comparison to what we see with naked eye. I think we spent about thirty minutes lighting each shot. This would have been much quicker if we had any professional lighting equipment. HINT HINT. We ended up using regular desk lamps with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs to match with daylight color temperature on the entire film.
Now that we’ve talked about some lighting and visual stuff we need to address sound, because it is 50% of what we see. Isn’t that what people say. Anyways, our audio kit is not anything ideal, but neither is anything we are using. But with the right skills and technique you can get good sound with what we have. So we once again had to add extra attention to the way we were recording production sound. I know some of you are asking yourselves “why not just put my VideoMic on my camera and start shooting?” Well because you can’t just “fix it in post.” Now having an ample crew of about one forced us to get a little creative with our microphone placement. At some points in lue of a boom operator I would fix the microphone over the actors using a cheap car pod attached to the window.
This was only passable because there wasn’t much movement in the scene. For other scenes I made sure to have a boom operator that at least understood the importance of microphone placement. Another aspect of the overall sound design that we were addressing for the first time is foley. For those of you that don’t know what that means; foley is separate recordings of sounds in the scene like footsteps etc.
Now this film does not have a lot of dialogue as it is much more action driven. The sound design really had to help set the mood. Now we had to ensure sounds were recorded very well and we did quite a bit of it during actual takes as well by placing the microphone close to what we wanted emphasized. Whether it be the sounds of footsteps, phones ringing, or doors opening, we placed the microphone specifically to emphasize those sounds. This left only minor needs for foley, much less than I expected.
The last day of shooting we did a lot of bouncing around from location to location. Thankfully scenes were short, our other actors Rie and Kevin showed up ready and on point, and we had a fair amount of available light. So after three long days, many mistakes made, and lessons learned, at about 9:00 pm Sunday we wrapped principle photography on Awake.
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