The Director’s Cut
Choosing your camera, part 1
Because of our microbudget, we chose to purchase two affordable digital cameras instead of hiring a DP and getting a professional camera package. As I had a background in IT and photography, I did my homework on the most recent technologies available for shooting on a consumer grade camera. In 2018, Panasonic had just released their latest consumer camera system – a “4/3 mirrorless” with a 16 megapixel sensor. The reviews were glowing.
The Panasonic Lumix G7 was an entry level camera with a zoom lens, which had an impressive set of features for a camera under a $1000. Panasonic's color model produced lifelike colors and the image quality was superb. Plus, the camera sported a “cinematic mode 24 frames” which I used for all the shoots.
We knew the Blood Pledge production was going to be intense, and we had to complete over a hundred scenes at 5 locations in 11 days. So… I recruited my neighbor, Ted Leplat, who is a veteran stage and film actor with over 50 years of experience, to practice filming with me so I could gain an in-depth knowledge of this camera. Ted was more than happy to work on the project. He got hours of footage for his reel, and I learned every aspect of the Lumix system. We shot in every kind of light - day and night, indoor and outdoor, studio, candles, incandescent, lampposts, headlights and fluorescents. All these were in the script and practicing this way, allowed for trial and error to determine the ideal settings.
The editor was in denial
I can’t recommend enough knowing your camera. With just two days of shooting, the limitations of a consumer-based camera became obvious. They’re not designed for complex moving images common in feature films. Yet, the film's editor Gib Jaffe and our colorist Jaynee Thorne, both who have decades of experience in post-production, didn’t believe we shot Blood Pledge on a $700 camera despite its limitations!
Can’t control the weather
My secret? Ted and I practiced together for 6 months before and when I arrived on set in North Carolina, we completed the 11 days of shooting without a hitch. We were prepared for anything. However, since I chose to use a manual aperture setting for creative control, about 5% of the film unfortunately had been overexposed, mostly due to changing outdoor lighting conditions. North Carolina's weather differs greatly from sunny SoCal’s. Fortunately, Jaynee used her magic wand, notably DaVinci Resolve, and produced outstanding results.
Here’s the breakdown for the Lumix G7 camera:
- Excellent color model
- 1080—4K quality
- Cinematic mode
- No real time monitor support
- Autofocus not suitable for a feature
- Found manual aperture settings gave better results with more creative control but required longer setup times.
You can see the results here: Blood Pledge