Ok, so here goes my first blog about this cinematography stuff I have been doing for the last 13 or so years... It's not going to be all technical based as I work more on feeling than numbers. 

I was contacted by Riley S. Wilson from Imaginary Forces to shoot his first film roughly based on his 2011 novella "my ID". We spoke about how he wanted to convey his story through voice over and acted scenes. Not being a fan of voice over films but realizing this is an opportunity to shoot a lot more freely I jumped at the project. First thing I thought was not to shoot this with your typical coverage and even went to the extreme and crossed the lines on purpose during dialog. I decided in the edit to flip it back though. Maybe I got cold feet on that one but I did make sure when I shot it there were no signs or things that would let you know the image was flipped... just in case.  ;)

This was how it was captured

How it appears in the film

The reverse of that shot

In that same scene in the second part of the dialog I decided to squeeze the heads of the characters to convey the sense of being overwhelmed. I think it works to some extent. This scene was a flashback so I had Mo shine a flashlight into the lens for the flares to convey his other thoughts of flying seeping into all his memories. The little dots in these images are from the sensor. I noticed when you have a direct light hitting it these dots show up. This also happened on the horror film "The Lake on Clinton Road" I shot.

During the voice overs we decided to rock slow motion since the dialog was more poetic and broken up than straight talking. We were afraid of images hanging too long in the shot but when everything came together I think it worked out well with the pacing in the end. The music from Justin R. Durban really helped with that also. 

For color I decided to mix it up some and make each scene its own depending on which reality we were in. It's almost music video like in the changes but to me it works for this particular project. In the start of the film we see where the voice is coming from in a drab close up on some lips accompanied by the sound of wind blowing. This then fades to the accompanying images of the voice over. I started with a really low contrast that brightens and gains more contrast as the character moves through the scene. We had to shoot these during the day even though it was supposed to be at night due to the location's time limit we had. It wouldn't be indy film making if we didn't have restrictions :P

I didn't want to do the typical day for night look so I went with this...

Low contrast day for night shot

Image gaining more contrast and getting brighter as the scene goes on

At the end of this scene the character (Triven) climbs up into what I called another reality so when he gets to the top of the waterfall the color changes to orange. The transition shot shows both "realities". I colored this shot in post so I can get both the blue lower and orange upper half of the shot together. 

The split of the realities

When Triven turns into the "Sun" we start to get a hint of the flares corresponding to the voice over. These were added in post to have more control of the look unlike the diner scene which were done with a flashlight. I animated the flare to move similar to the camera move with some exaggeration for effect. 

Flare added in post for control

Thought this shot in the same sequence held it's own in beauty and didn't need the flare

Back to flares

The next scene jumps us to Triven's real life or real time "Reality" so I made it real gritty to contrast with the other realities. I opted for a drab greenish tone for this scene to convey the dismal situation Triven felt he was in. I thought about going to the teal which would be opposite on the color wheel to orange but green felt more like a "you-are-about-to-get-your-ass-beat" color.  :)  We lit this with some daylight LEDs from outside the window on the fire escape and just let it rock from there. I didn't worry about what it looked like as we moved into the space away from the windows. The drabber it looked the better I felt. 

For the transition to this I used a yellow leaf falling off the waterfall. I made everything black and white except the leaf to convey that the feeling of the story is about to take a turn for the worse. The leaf symbolizes all the beauty of the sun that's about to disappear. Was that too artsy? Maybe...

I'm about to beat yo ass!


The next scene spoke about love in another flashback that was both slo mo and real time so I decided to keep this a classic warm color even though it was a failed experience for Triven. We lit from the side with daylight LEDs run off a car charger and natural bounce. I shot this scene more on the traditional side of angles. 

Kiss me you fool!

Who is that he's with?

The next scene is a pivotal scene where Triven finds what he has been searching for. I decided to vignette this scene into a series of lights and shadows to convey memories that are not as clear anymore as they used to be and to contrast against the end result of these experiences. There are 2 scenes back to back but they are many experiences apart so I wanted the 2nd scene to be more abstract showing that the catalyst to the result didn't matter to Triven anymore and they have become a blur. I shot extreme close ups to convey the feeling of the senses while engaged in sex not the act of having it.

Both scenes shot with one over head skirted 500 watt china ball to drop the room into darkness and give the hard light and shadows I wanted on the subjects. The opening shot I call the typical "I'm trying to be creative with this" indy shot. LOL :)

Indy style shot right here yo!

Muscles flexing

For the transition shot I animated a flare to convey Triven beginning to fly. This cuts to what he feels when this is happening. 

Falling into flying

Falling into flying

Triven flying. Shot on green screen and composited in After Effects. Clouds were a compilation of still images on multiple layers and transparencies. I used deformers to animate the clouds swirling as the camera passed them moving in on Triven. I based this shot on the shot of Maleficent in the clouds. 

Original shot. Used natural lighting knowing he was going to be in clouds enjoying sun. Triven was sitting on our tripod for this and we hand held for the shot. The biggest pain was that the wind was blowing that screen all over the place so I had to rotoscope around moving shadows and such. 

The second scene of this sequence is supposed to be many experiences later thus being more abstract as I said above. 

In the second transition shot I tried to match with the flying shot to make sure people got the idea he's falling into this flying. 

Falling into flying

Triven flying

This is the original shot. We used the sun to light this knowing he was going to be in the coulds enjoying the sun light. 

There were scenes that were not flashbacks/memories that I left pretty normal color wise to contrast against the others but continued the non-traditional angles. Having the different levels on the roof helped me set up interesting compositions. I tried to utilize everything there I could. Some of these situations where hard to rack focus on because I was standing in awkward angles to get the shot which made my old ass legs shake. 

All these shots used bounced natural lighting. To control the sky and white shirt I used NDs and circular polarizer. The bounce was right up on Triven's face to even out the contrast.

This was at the edge of the roof so I had to lean out to shoot back in. BACK KILLER!!!

Lucky I'm not scared of heights. He stands up in this scene and I stand up with him. 

See..... long way down. On a side note... Harlem's traffic noise was a pain in the ass. 

The sound guy hated me for this one. He had to climb behind those things to the right plus they were loud as hell!

I had the pleasure to also do all the editing, coloring, and VFX on this short film which I like because then you can keep quality control. Some times when DPing a short or a low budget music video it goes off to an editor that leaves much to be desired and you do a face palm when you see the final piece. I am proud to have worked on this little gem and hope it does well on it's festival run. 

Here is the trailer to the film.