When writer/director Aidan Largey asked me to come on board as Cinematographer for his RTE Storyland submission, it was difficult to think of anything else to say other than "Hells Yeah."
Aidan has a notorious reputation in Northern Ireland for his strong optimistic attitude and his ability for getting sh#t done. This man has been telling great stories visually for years and receives little or no help financially from local funding bodies. But does it stop him? Nope.
All this aside, he his making yet another glorious return to cinema in the form of a four part web series starring Shaun Blaney as a troubled cop in a universe filled with crime, corruption, violence, guns, drugs and everything you'd expect from a Largey Epic..
Due to the grittiness of the story at hand, myself and Aidan agreed upon a look similar to that of David Fincher's "Se7en" photographed by Darius Khondji. Something introducing murky green shadows, teal mid-tones and tobacco tinted yellow highlights. With a strong desaturation and a 4:1 contrast ratio where the story is at it's peak dramatic scenes.
I also, wanted an almost soft filmic quality. Utilizing dominant highlights present in the frame, I was able to achieve this slight "milkiness" without using any filtration. For FX filters were not available to me.
We shot on a Canon C300 25p full HD for a 2.35:1 finish. I made use of Canon beautiful cLog for attaining the most dynamic range possible from an internal 422 50mb/s codec. Shooting on the C300 was the best choice for us as it was cheap, lightweight, compact and had an extra kick of exposure with it's amazing performance in the higher ISO's. This was incredibly useful for me, having the confidence to boost the gain to 1250 ASA knowing the image was still useful in our Night Exteriors. Especially since my simple lighting package consisted of just a Blonde and two 650 fresnals. Lighting on a budget!
We used an L series 24-70 f2.8 with gear ring attachments, giving my first time focus puller, Ciaran McIlhatton a chance to get his hands away from the lens on onto a follow focus unit. Whom by the way, I was very impressed with. Clearly someone with a strong natural talent and a keen eye for it. This was not the lens I wanted for the piece, but alas.... the budget.
The majority of the teaser was shot on sticks, but for the more intense dramatic shots, like the shadow boxing, I went handheld, keeping the frame loose so I could dance with the actor. I would bump up the shutter angle from 180 degrees to 45 degrees for an extra strobe, choppy effect. I used this to enhance the drama. I used the internal ND's of the c300 to maintain an average stop of f2.8. Giving my first time puller a hard time. But he managed tremendously.
Lighting setups I kept fairly simple, Usually staging the action near a window to provide a backlight and using a converted Blonde or 650 with ctb bounced off a polyboard for an eyelight and fill. In some cases I added negative fill using flags, but all in all that is about it. We struck gold with the early morning sun in our Boxing gym interior. It happened to be a very clear day, so the light was gorgeously crisp. For our Night Exterior, I did have an issue mounting the poly high key to use as a bounce for the blonde, but luckily, a trick I've picked up is to use the inside of 5-1 reflector as a diffusion frame. Simply croc clip it to a c-stand and your set. Saved my ass a few times!
Largey edited the 30 minute teaser himself, transcoding rushes to prores compatible with final cut pro. I then graded the picture lock myself in adobe speedgrade. Basically I balanced each shots exposure, colour and contrast. Then introduced the colour palette I mentioned before. And example of which is here:
So there you have it folks. Make sure to check back regularly for the release of the trailer and the notfication of where to vote for us for the RTE grant! I promise you, it will be a very entertaining web series that will have you on the edge of your seat!
Thanks for reading,