Those filmmakers use sunlight but not the way you think

To shoot for 14 days in the Himalayas India-based filmmaker George Thengummoottil built his own portable solar charger. The director of Singalila, self wired a solar panel to a battery charger with car cigarette lighter plug. The cigarette lighter in a car operates on 12V and for that reason it was ideal for charging camera batteries. George shares his design with No Film School here and you can read more about his film here

Another solar hero is Jack Bibbo who used only solar power to edit his documentary film “Full Circle: A Life Story of Eustace Conway.” The filmmaker wanted to stay within the environmental message of the film and question himself the same way the film questions its audience. Jack spent nine months editing the film on his Apple G4 in a remote location, with only two solar panels for electricity. You can read more about his challenges here or buy the finished film here

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How to save money (and energy) in Post production

Post production can be a lengthy and complicated process but there are simple measures you can take to prevent future post-production headaches. Here are a few of the most important tips we have found:

  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Shooting digital gives filmmakers enormous creative freedom. SD cards democratised filmmaking as they are cheap and accessible to everyone. But the downside of this technology is the urge to shoot everything, to call action without much preparation. After all we can afford to shoot tons of footage, right? No. The more footage, especially the poorly planned, unnecessary takes you have, the longer it will take for your editor to make sense of it all.

In the ‘old days’ every foot of film was precious and so the preparation was key. The cast would rehearse, crew would plan each camera movement and each take would be carefully prepared so not a second of film was wasted. Now we tend to shoot a lot of takes before we even give actors a chance to get to know each other. Some indie directors tend to think that rehearsing the script takes away some ‘organic energy’ from the actors performances. But remember that acting is a job. Giving actors more chances to perform their lines and create rapport with each other can only be a good thing. Polishing performances before you call action can also save you a lot of grief in post production. Shoot only what you need after plenty of rehersals.

  •  Find a trusted script supervisor

Your script supervisor will take care of all the little continuity issues you might have on set. When asked, they can mark the takes you liked the most and make a note of your comments on particular scenes. That will make it much easier for you to find the best performances and best shots in post. She/he will also make sure you have covered everything the script requires.

Micro budget filmmakers have to cut costs, yes. But cutting this position might cost you more in post then you’ve expected. Without script supervisor you are risking re-shoots and lengthy conversations with your editor, who might find the shots don’t match, there’s no coverage you of what comes next or no footage of what you thought you have shot already.

  •  Talk to your editor before you call action

Preparation is key. I bet you’ve already heard the therm ‘shoot for the editor’ but if you are not an editor yourself it’s best to ask for some input first. Talk to your editor before you start sooting. Create your shot list with them. Experienced editor can tell you right away weather your planned shots will work for your scene.  They might propose another angle, different type of coverage, or realise you’ll need more footage for a transition from scene to scene. Good editor sees the film in a different way, they’ve got their own perspective. Find someone who cares about your project and wants to actively and creatively assist you in fulfilling your vision. That person isn’t necessarily the most experienced or expensive editor you can find. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t ‘get you’. It’s your film and it deserves to be edited by someone who believes in it. If your editor helps you with preparation they’re already half way through the lengthy process of assessing and sorting out the footage in post.

  •  Don’t leave a tail

Avoid running the camera for too long before the action starts. Don’t leave too much of a tail after you cut either. The editor will watch all your footage so just imagine having to watch several seconds of nothing before every single take! Depending on the number of clips you have that can amount to a substantial loos of valuable time in post.

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5 Tips for filming in natural light

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse , 2010. Cinematographer: Javier Aguirresarobe

The use of artificial lighting is, in may ways, the quintessential part of cinematography. It’s through lighting that the mood and look of the film is created but it’s also where the majority of carbon footprint often comes from.  If you have to shoot without lighting setup there is no reason to panic. You might be surprised by the quality that can be achieved. There are many examples of films beautifully shot without the use of set lighting. Some where filmed this way out of necessity others due to artistic choice.  Most recent example is The Revenant. Incredible cinematic experience worthy of an oscar. Alejandro González Iñárritu consciously decided to film with natural light only. He designed the production in a way that best utilised the beauty of locations and time of day. Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the most talented cinematographers of his generation, used light diffusers, blockers and reflectors to capture the scenes of The Revenant and it’s not the first time Lubezki’s cinematography earned him an oscar without any help from artificial lighting. In 2007 he received the award for Children of Men.
Alfonso Cuarón wanted his world to be as realistic as possible hence no electrical lighting used on location. One could argue that it was through the lack of lighting that the mood of the film, dark and ominous, has been achieved. The dystopian future look, with desaturated tones, worked beautifully when combined with handheld camera movement. So it is definitely possible to achieve great results with natural light. It takes a lot of work and careful planning but it is possible.  Many avant-garde movements, like cinema verite or dogma 95, embraced the idea of natural shooting to purposely distance themselves from the artifice of Hollywood. European cinema might be a great example where limitations of the budgets where the reason for using smaller setups. Finally there is sustainable filming and low carbon practices. Through a conscientious decision to limit the lighting on set, using LED lights or choosing well lit locations, you can severely reduce your CO2 emissions.

Here are our 5 tips for shooting with natural light:

1 Invest in fast lenses, neutral density filters and polarising filters.

Shooting in natural light gets rather difficult when there’s either too much or too little of it. Make sure your equipment can handle low light and high light conditions. Use polarising filters to remove any glaire and unwanted reflections and ND filters when the light is too bright. When shooting in low light it’s best to keep your ISO within the manufacturers specified native ISO. It helps with noise levels. Some cameras work best with specific ISO and it’s best to test your camera for noise levels before you shoot. For more advice on low light shooting look here.

2 Light blockers, flags and reflectors.

Using sunlight for filming can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint but it’s not easy to take control over your scene lighting without flags, reflectors and diffusers. These can be portable and light or chunky and heavy, so if your main priority is C02 reduction think of how it will affect your transport arrangements. If you plan to DIY your blockers or use mirrors as reflectors make sure they are sturdy and keep a member of staff in charge of safety.

3 Use a sun tracker

Never miss the magic hour and take control over your production with a variety of sun tracking apps. It’s easier to always have the sun as back light when you know exactly where it’ll be positioned at a certain time of day.

4 Make continuity your priority

The sun is fickle and can change in minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on your levels to avoid jarring light changes from shot to shot. Make sure you’re looking for continuity of lighting between your close up and mid, for example. Think how it’ll look in edit and try giving your audience a chance to understand the conditions. Use wide shots clearly showing the moving shadows or establishing shots with moving clouds etc…It will make your editors job much easier.

5 Reduce contrast

Get rid of any contrast boosting settings on your camera. Shoot as flat as possible to preserve the information in the shadows and brights.  Use all available meters, histogram and zebra stripes to judge the brightness of your scene. Make sure you shoot with nice, flat levels.

 

 

 

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A simple concept

The idea behind this company is not new. Green filmmaking is by no means an original concept.  First carbon-neutral film studio in Australia has been certified almost 10 years ago. In Germany there is even a whole TV soap filmed sustainably and neutralised by carbon offsetting.  The UK is no different. There is a lot of guidance and support for companies and individuals who wish to help protect the climate. Short films have been decarbonised with the help of Carbon Neutral Company, the Albert Consortium provides certification and guidance for TV and film in the UK and let’s not forget about Greenscreen– great initiative for shooters in London.

But even with all the available resources neutralising carbon footprint on a large scale is complicated, lengthy and often quite expensive. For small and medium producers it simply doesn’t have economical sense and we can only imagine that for large studios it might be nearly impossible.

So an idea was formed. Start with the basics. Simplify.

The Purityworks Ltd uses a minimalist approach. We believe that the process of decarbonising can be quick and simple. By “doing more with less” we plan to shoot and edit films and videos with carbon footprint so low it’ll be easy to calculate and cheap to offset. Working with Manchester based organisations we will continue to build on this simple idea of minimalist filming practice.

If you are interested in getting involved drop us a line. Don’t be shy.

Contact@thepurityworks.com

 

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