Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The One Man Band....and Dynamic Ranges of the 5D Mk III

Compared to last year, this year has been very relaxing. No 48 hour projects, no dealing with crazies and most importantly, no production mishaps. Perhaps it's because I decided to cut down on the number of projects I'm undertaking, or perhaps it's because I decided to direct/shoot/edit the projects coming my way. I've tried to work with the other directors out there, but even with a majority of my work getting good results from audiences, I personally was: a) exhausted b) pissed off and c) most importantly, not happy with the results.

So, starting this year, I made a promise to myself. Rather than running after the millions of takas available in the market, I was going to go solo. The true indie. Steven Soderbergh had just released some kind of statement like that. He was talking about how the big production companies were just taking over all of the creative control, leaving the "art" behind. I had pandered to the heads long enough. It was time to take some control back. Luckily, I had one client who was ok with that. He was not willing to spend millions, had a decent enough script and didn't care much apart from 2 things. Make a good commercial and have him star in it. I think I did one of those things all right.

The script was simple. A newly wed couple are on a drive down some highway when their car (running on low quality CNG Fuel) decides to conk out. A passing CNG Auto Rickshaw driver (played by Hasan Masud, one of the most famous comedians around Dhaka) pulls up next to them and tells them about the bad quality in the fuel. Blah, blah, blah. I admit the script was lacking a lot of "masala" which was required by the locals to like the ad. So, I decided to change some stuff, by including a romantic montage and quickly adding some knee jerk reactions to compensate for the dull script. The main idea was not to let the audience know what kind of ad they were seeing until the end.

I wanted to keep the shooting simple. A majority of the shots were going to be on the car mount. Since it was a daylight shoot and the car wasn't big enough to accommodate a generator to keep a fill light inside, I knew I was truly going to be pushing the Dynamic Range of Olivia, my 5D Mk III. I had rated the Mk III at 10 stops, but for this to work I required something close to 13. So, I decided to modify the "CineStyle" setting and give me more range towards the shadows. I know what you're thinking. This guy is an idiot. But here me out. If I could balance out the blown out highlights on the background with the actors faces and stop down, the shadows would only be my problem. I could then just add some light (in post) on the shadows and blur out any of the digital noise coming in. Here's what I mean

As you can see, even without any lights inside the car, I could balance out all of my shadows, mids and highlights. I even used a pro mist filter for the dude (who happens to be my client) so the blown out bokeh seemed to be under control. It was a hot and sunny day, which didn't really help the matter either. But in the end, the 5D's sensor came out a champ as always. In DaVinci Resolve, I could easily put up power windows and soften up the highlights even more and get a more acceptable image past QC.

The rest of the shoot took about 3 hours to complete. This was the first time I had directed a celebrity in Hasan Masud. He was a good sport. He literally gave 3 takes per shot and knocked it out every time. Somehow we ended up talking more about Macy's, NYC and B&H Photovideo more than the shoot itself. A big thank you goes out to H.K. Rudry Ripon who really helped me direct and put together the crew for this one.

Here's the entire ad: