Note: The screen shots in this post are JPEG compressed images and are not 100% accurate to watching the movie in motion but should give a general idea of the look
Hello! Sam Reid here, co-director and director of photography on “The Ride”, the Batman and Miami Vice mash-up fan film we released earlier this month. When Stephen Pace contacted us about putting together this idea he had been dreaming about for a long time we were hooked! He had a vision and it clicked with our sensibilities. Us also being huge Michael Mann fans definitely helped too!
In this post I’m going to provide a little insider information on the visuals of the short film and the process we employed to get the look of the “The Ride” to your YouTube screen.
“The Ride” was photographed using the Canon C100 mark 1 using Canon zoom lenses. Since we were shooting most of this movie at night and with natural street light I shot with the lenses wide open at an f-stop of 2.8 which gave us a shallow depth of field (out of focus background) to work with.
I used my go to Ninja Star external recorder which allows us to shoot in the ProRes 422 format, this is something we always employ at Guerrilla. The benefit to shooting in this format is that it’s edit-ready needing no conversion and on top of that it is a far superior format when it comes to image quality; images look sharper and the noise is tighter making colour grading much easier.
For certain shots like Joker and Harlequin’s car’s tire and hood and the plate shots for the greenscreen we obviously shot this with GoPros. We used two hero 4s shooting in flat picture mode to get the best dynamic range and employed a variety of GoPro arms and suction cups. This was our first time using these cameras on a car driving 50km/h in the city so we weren’t certain they would hold, especially since it was lightly raining that night. Luckily for us they did, those things are beasts!
When it comes to lighting we used a variety of lighting sources including natural day light, Edmonton street lights and a few of our own lighting instruments for interiors. The finale inside the warehouse employed some 150, 300 and 650 watt tungsten sources (3200k) gelled to daylight (5600k) which fit in with our established cold colour tone. Stephen also brought along a fogger that really helped set the atmosphere and made for some fun back lighting effects.
This was the first short film I colour graded using DaVinci Resolve 12. Before this I had done two corporate videos using it and was amazed at the quality and control I had with the images. Since I’m shooting in a flat setting with the C100 and GoPros I can have more control over the contrast and colour in Resolve, I can get the blacks just inky enough and the highlights rolled off to a more pleasing filmic look.
I decided for the city shots to play up the sodium vapour look of the street lights so to do that I had to put a little more yellow and orange into some of the shots, particularly the first scene with Joker and Harlequin getting into their car.
For the look of the phone call scene I wanted to achieve a moody feel that jived with the dialogue between Bruce and Selina. At first I was thinking a warmer feel to suggest the sun was setting but the more I played with the colour of his scene against hers I found the colder steel blue look seemed more fitting. There’s also something about the shot of Batman against the sky in silhouette that just works better in a bluer tone. Catwoman’s shots were shot inside of Mercer Tavern and we were getting this very nice lighting kick on her left shoulder that was coming from the sun bouncing off the yellow tarps at the construction site across the street for the new arena in Edmonton. This was pure luck, it gave a really nice contrast against the cold day light key lighting her.
The inspiration for the grading on the final scene was my favourite movie Blade Runner. I figured if I’m working with a smoky look why not rip off the best? I still worked with a colder feel for that scene too.
The final pass was to degrain and regrain the whole movie shot for shot. I’m not a big fan of super clear images but I like having control in how much grain there is in the shots. One of the benefits of the ProRes format’s compression is the fine grain structure with the c100. Using a noise reduction program I have it’s very easy to remove the noise without destroying the detail of the image. Then using another program that mimics the grain structure of different 35mm stocks I add back in some grain to give it an even texture throughout.
Hopefully this gave you a little insight into the visuals of “The Ride”. This project was a lot of fun to work on and we had some wicked talent in front of the camera. So in the words of the great Phil Collins “I’ve been waiting (to post this blog) for all my life!”
Fun Trivia: In the scene above some guy walked into the shot on the left side of frame and slowly backed away, it was funny but we didn't want to leave that in the final cut so we did a digital zoom out for the final shot to cut him out and it ended up giving the shot a little more life too.