Continued from our last post on the project, Brightwood. Brightwood deserves two posts because there is simply so much to talk about. Every shot of Brightwood was a treat to work on, and presented many challenges to which demanded creative solutions. Challenges like these are things our crew looks forward to, so this film was a treat.
First let’s talk about creating something beautiful. One scene in the movie was Lauren having a tea party in a rather small cabin in the woods. The cabin had two windows on either side, and one in the back. The Red Epic is used to shoot this scene. It is great with the natural light in this situation and doesn’t need a whole lot of additional lighting, which is not the case for some cameras. We added two Kino on the left windows to also establish the direction of the sun as well as fill lighting. When shooting outdoors, it is important to keep track of the sun. As the sun moves from east to west, it affects the lighting needs on set depending if a scene is completed in under an hour, or several.
During preproduction, our DP, Connor Hair requested rays of lighting beaming through the ceiling of the cabin for this scene. Fortunately, once we were on locations, the sun was naturally beaming into a window giving us exactly what we needed. Sometimes you can overplan, but the best strategy is simply working with the environment. In very little time we cleared a large area of brush aside and brought a 1.8 HMI on a hi-hi stand. When the sun moved out of position, we replaced it with the HMI, replicating the said sunbeam below. Meanwhile, to get this beam to really pop, a hazer was used to create a natural look, imitating dust in the air.
Moving on, the next shot was not on the ground! Our production insurance would not allow us to place the camera outside the plane, but shooting out a window was less than ideal. Since this was a rather small prop plane we elected to remove the right seat and the door. Mind you this plane’s slowest speed is 80 mph. Of course, what we did was perfectly legal.
Building the mount inside the plane is a little more difficult than it sounds. First of all, there weren’t much structure to clamp to, and suction cups were out of the question for two reasons. First, while the Red Epic camera isn’t heavy, the device underneath was an Oconnor tripod head on a cheeseplate, and that was about 40 pounds. Together the set up weighed a significant amount. Second, a plane like this does not have any stable surfaces, the hull is light, made for leisure flying not cargos. I wouldn’t trust them holding under that kind of pull and changing gravity. So we’re clamping. When the plane takes off, the motor rotates a prop, the vibration would be strong so you want to anchor down as tight as possible.
Luckily, we were able to find a few secured rods to clamp to, as well as the bottom of the seats. But in this kind of environment I like to go the extra mile for stability— I added an additional brace for every leg. You may notice the camera was tilted, and that’s on purpose. We were looking to level the shot to the visual in mid flight, which brings up the next point- wind shear. To reduce the wind on the camera and makes it easier for the operator, we attached a flag between the camera and the front of the plane.
Lastly, attach a ratchet strap or two and make sure your camera operator is very well strapped himself! You can never be too safe when it comes to an operation like this. You get the result below, an air shot of our star Laren riding her bike on some nice looking trails we saw in our last blog post.
Working on this film was a joy and brought up many technical challenges that were exciting to solve. We’ve worked on many films, and while some filmmakers were burdened with budgets and have to make sacrifices in shots, I can’t help but feel it’s a mistake. Shots like the one define a true motion picture, but also the dedication of the filmmakers in telling their stories.
More on the movie Brightwood can be found here