Last Breath: camera department

We have just finished our first production week on Last Breath. It’s been a lot of hard work, but also seriously fun. A typical day for me consists of me waking up around 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, riding with Matt and our gaffer Randy out to some obscure location, building up the camera package, spending the day carting the camera around, changing lenses, wrangling cables and pulling focus, then breaking down the camera, packing it back up and spending what little evening remains dumping cards, backing up footage and charging batteries.

Here is our production camera:

production camera for "Last Breath"

That’s a Canon EOS 7D, modified by Präzisions-Entwicklung Denz in Germany to accept PL-mount cinema lenses*. We’re shooting the whole thing on prime (non-zoom) lenses for their characteristic sharpness and clarity that zooms can’t compete with; our lens kit consists of six Zeiss primes in the following focal lengths:

  • 100mm
  • 85mm
  • 50mm
  • 32mm
  • 24mm
  • 16mm

Here are a few of our other toys:

  • Gitzo tripod with Sachtler DV 12 fluid head
  • A big metal hostess tray (car door mount)
  • Chrosziel matte box (not very good, but often necessary)
  • Chrosziel studio follow-focus (also not very good, but vitally important)
  • Marshall on-camera monitor
  • Panasonic 7″ director’s monitor

To drive the signal to our monitors, we use an AJA mini converter box to split the HDMI signal out of the camera into two separate HD-SDI signals carried over more reliable BNC cable. This system, sad to say, is a real headache that makes me wish wireless monitoring was more affordable.

Here’s another photo, this time of our camera looking decidedly dumpy with an improvised rain cover and hard matte to cut lens flare:

filmmaking is all bailing wire and chewing gum

I’d describe this shoot as a marathon sprint. 15 days to shoot a feature film is not many, particularly with such a meticulous, technically-demanding director running the show. So far so good, though, and tomorrow we leap headfirst into another production week, all hoping for the best.

Stay tuned in a few days’ time for an explanation of the good, clean, dangerous fun going on in this picture:

process trailer

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*This modification is unique in that the lens mount costs several times more than the camera it is attached to.

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