50 Shades of False Color

It's been awhile since I've done a blog post, and being completely honest, looking back at my other posts this may very well be my first real one. I've been very blessed to be busy the past few months with various projects, the latest of which is a feature film entitled Remember the Goal.

We are still in production on this feature so I won't be able to dive into any and all details and spoilers, but I want to walk through some of my experiences on this with you as a Camera Assist/DIT Swing.

If someone is being budget aware when planning a project one of the first merges that happens is DIT/Data Wrangling falling onto the Camera Department. Along with nixing VTR and a Video Village. Taking on both of these responsibilities is certainly doable even if it isn't ideal, and it blows me away how often it happens.

Right off the bat, do not discount what a true DIT (Digital Image Technician) does. Sometimes it's automatically assumed they are a "copy and paster." Not true, they are doing exposure checks constantly while shooting to make sure there is no loss of data in your whites and blacks, as well as looking through your previous footage to make sure there doesn't need to be any reshoots for whatever reason. Frame Rates, Project Timebases, RedCode, resolution to shoot at and why (which we had to decide) and ensuring that everything you've shot looks tip top once it leaves the camera, falls on the DIT's plate. In a nutshell they are invaluable. I believe that every position is invaluable on set, production is a team that comes together to make things run smoothly. 

Another invaluable position is a DP that understands false color and can check it himself if he/she needs to, if DIT falls onto the AC and they aren't looking at every single shot, it's good to have a second set of eyes.  Our Director of Photography Mark Mitchell does extremely well with this, taking it a step further, he checks false color on REC 709 and then will switch to RAW and check it again. For those who don't know, REC 709 is a basic contrast thrown onto a RAW image, RAW is a very flat image to ensure you have a greater range in post production when you want to establish a look.

When looking at the RAW image and you do a false color check, it is best to see 50 Shades of False Grey. 

False color obviously isn't the only way to check your exposure, Histograms are very popular as well. I personally prefer the Histogram and Waveforms, however depending on the monitor it may not be the clearest form of checking. If you have a 720p monitor that throws the waveform real small in the corner, it isn't as easy to see your whole image for "peaks and valleys" (pure whites and blacks).

As much as it seems, this post isn't all about Exposure and the importance of a DIT, Remember the Goal has been a blast to work on and I look forward to continuing the production. We have a great crew with great attitudes which brings me to my next point. 

This is a mostly exterior feature, shot in the middle of the summer, in the south. It is the hottest time of the year and the sun beats down hard. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. It is so easy to let these things get to you when you aren't in the most ideal settings and locations, but having a great attitude on set will allow everyone else to have one too. It takes one Debbie Downer to put a downer on the whole crew, don't be that person! 

Also if you're on a low budget feature, FILL IN THE BLANK. The worst thing you can do is have a "that's not my department" mentality. If the Key Grip is needing to move a 12x12 Silk and his other grips are tied up, give them a hand. Just ask first to make sure you help in a safe way. If it looks like someone is dying of thirst and PA Nation is busy, get that person a water.

Lastly, be safe. Like I said this is mostly exterior in the hottest time of the year, the most important thing on every single set regardless of what anyone says is SAFETY. No matter your conditions, stay hydrated and be as prepared as you can for unsafe conditions. If you see something that doesn't seem safe, speak up.

No shot is worth the safety of an individual, no production is worth a life. We all have a passion for what we do, it's why we put up with the long hours and physical labor with a smile on our face. But at the end of the day, be smart and be safe, don't let a shot/scene/movie/show take priority over the safety of the crew and talent.

All this safety talk does come back around to Remember the Goal and the awesome crew we have on it. Everyone is very safety conscious and that is highly respectable and worth the mention. I've been on set where I've seen people pass out due to heat, and it's just not worth it, we are lucky to have the crew we do and I'm glad to be a part of it.