by Lucas Tomoana - Qld ACS
It wasn't long after graduating Griffith film school that I was offered an opportunity to shoot a project. The director, Michael Sloane, and I studied together at Griffith and we both expressed interest in eventually collaborating on a project, we just didn't know what. The opportunity soon arose to shoot a music video together for Brisbane band Last Dinosaurs, for their single 'Time and Place'. The concept, a group of stragglers search for power, in a dystopian future where earth and technology have become one. As soon as Michael gave me the call, I jumped at the chance as I was itching to shoot.
With a small budget from the record label, a crew of five and I headed out with the band in mid January to Northern NSW. Our location, a property lying somewhere near the town of Woodenbong (which we still, to this day, are not exactly sure where it is). The floods had just passed a couple weeks before, and after so much delay we set out crossing our fingers, hoping that we were still able to actually drive to the location. Luckily, after several detours, we made it.
Due to budget and time restraints, we chose HDSLR for our format. They're small, lightweight, give you HD, that depth of field everyone raves about and they're cheap. I'm sure many in the ACS are sick to death from hearing about them so I will try not to go into too much detail. We shot on both Canon 5D MkII and 7D, no rigs, just the camera body, two L series Zoom Lenses and an 85 L series prime. The 5D was used primarily for the artists performing at 30fps, played back at a 25fps time base to smooth things over. The 7D travelled with us for its 50fps capabilities for majority of our cutaways, all played back at 25.
Our main location on the property was a creek that had been devastated by the floods from weeks past. We tried to travel as light as possible as the creek was quite large and we didn't have the time or crew or even two 4WDs! Things were slow transporting crew and gear, but we made do.
All our equipment was very portable and our lighting was very minimal. One essential piece of equipment we brought along was the Kessler Cineslider, kindly hired from the services of Rich Wang, Mick Smith and Digby Hogan. It really made the difference and helped with our tight schedule. Its light, 5ft of track, and can be set on two stands in about 5 minutes. Without it we would've needed much larger track, a dolly and crew to level it on the uneven terrain, which is something we just couldn't afford. It was a great piece of equipment and I highly recommend it. Thanks Rich!
One thing mentioned constantly in preproduction was that Michael didn't want the clip to look have that typical HDSLR 'look'. So we adopted a method many have been using. Simply we shot for the grade and underexposed a fair amount. I know it doesn't sound like an exact science but we just made sure to avoid any blown out highlights simply by eye. Sometimes we underexposed by 3 stops and the results were great, the footage allowed us to pull it all back up in the grade.
I also tried to avoid a very shallow depth of field and often closed the aperture to 5.6, 8 and sometimes 11. It took away a lot of the sharpness and helped the audience to see the magnificent location. After my end of year screenings at university, a number of graduation films were shot on HDSLR and I found myself staring at a blurred screen a lot of the time and it gave me a headache. So Mike and I made a mental note to ourselves to avoid that as much as possible and use it when appropriate.
It was a long weekend, a long trip back home and one lucky cow almost copped a 4WD travelling at 70kms an hour. The clip was quickly churned out of post in less than a week, and the results turned out quite nicely for us. To me, it was just a small project but I had no idea it would eventually grab 450 000 views on youtube, get featured on cinema5d.com and break the record for most video hits in one day for the record label. A big surprise to the crew and myself.
Of course I'm fresh out of university and I still I have much much more to learn in the years ahead. Thanks very much again to the ACS for giving us the opportunity to share our work with the industry as well as many talented people who we look up to, it is very much appreciated!