How we shot... 'Fade' by Szopa
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Produced by 'Static Flow Productions' -https://www.staticflowproductions.com/
LINK TO VIDEO - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egUcHS6Ke5M
The reason I wanted to discuss the making of this project is because it was a great example of how a concept was developed from the musician's initial idea to the final product, as well as being a fantastic opportunity to get creative and try new techniques.
Firstly, the client came to us with a really simple idea of this guy being in love with a girl in a TV and wanting to join her in that world. Lewis, the director, fleshed out the concept and created an animatic for me to watch along with a shot list already in tow.
The film opens with a knock at the door where our character finds only a tape on the floor with a girls name on it. He inserts it into a video player and sees a girl's face appear.
Lewis kept the idea of the music video being backed by a performance with the talent singing and playing piano. But he would always be close to the girl in the TV as if he was performing to her. She would then sing back when we hear the female voice on the record.
Coming in as the DP and having an animatic and shot list in place already meant that a lot of the pre-production had been done and we only needed to discuss how we would make this look, plan for that, and then reccy the location.
We liked the idea of keeping it dark and moody with elements of blue for it to feel cold and isolating. We really wanted to create another world. Blade Runner was a reference that came to mind on a few occasions.
I had discussed a set of lenses that I own that peaked Lewis's interest, on a previous job, and we talked further about how these might be suitable.
I own a set of Iron Glass 'anamorfakes' which are various old soviet lenses that have been adapted and modified to have traits of the famous Anamorphic lenses which have been used in Hollywood for years. Unfortunately the real things are really expensive to rent and have limitations which are not ideal for a low budget shoot such as this.
28mm & the Fx6
One of the key features I like about these lenses is that they go really soft when you have them wide open. With the 28mm Zenitar-M which is my favourite of the bunch, the edges close in until only the centre of the frame is in focus.
To make matters more extreme we used Tiffin 1/2 diffusion filtration over the lens to make them even more soft and take away any digital sharpness the camera has. This also created a halation effect in the highlights that crowned over the character's face.
To go one step further we even filled the room with haze to give us a truly mucky image and carry the light. So it felt like we had 3 layers of diffusion, if you count the lens distortion.
To keep the film as dark as possible I wanted to only back light the character in the main arc of the film and keep his face in shadow as much as possible. There was already a massive window at the back of the room which gave us plenty to work with and acted as our motivated source.
I then enhanced this with a Aputure 300x set to daylight high up next to the window to light lower into the room and give everything a nice edge. I covered the C-stand with a black cloth to hide it mostly, but left a little exposed at the top to break up the darkness of the wall and add shape.
Look to the image right of the window and you will see the stand.
See how the light (below) brings the objects back into the room and gives the character a nice edge. The window alone would not have done this.
For the medium shot of the singing with the window either side of his face (3 above) we then used a mirror to reflect light back onto his face in a rotating motion. This film was all about extremes, so a small mirror felt more ideal than traditional bounce. It was also more directional and we could play with it more.
As you can see above, one of the other features of these lenses is that they are fitted with a fishing wire that can capture the light and creates a sci-fi like flare that you might commonly see in the Star Trek or something similar. It's not perfect and they behave differently depending on the light source, how wide open you are and the focal length.
For the finale of the film our character electrocutes himself in order to be with his love in the tape.
Thankfully the Aputure 300x has some effect features on it and we opted for strobe which we could modify the timing of.
With the Sony Fx6 I could avoided rolling shutter and also lower the frame rate. We took the camera handheld and followed our character down onto the floor where he ultimately leaves his body. The flashes of the light helped create some ideal cut points in the edit and the low shutter added to the chaos of the scene.
Sadly we really ran out of time at the end of the day as there was only me and the director doing everything. I think this shows in the opening of the film where we really had to rush to get the different set-up needed of our character opening the door.
Those shots are not in keeping with the aesthetic of the rest of the film but at the end of the day we still made a nice looking film that I'm really happy with.
Reflecting on where we could have improved and what lacks is always part of film-making, and I think as long as you are aware of your mistakes you can only improve moving forward.
Thanks for reading this 'How we shot...' segment. I'd like to do more of these down the line so keep you eye's peeled on my feeds. I'm under no pretensions that I'm some master cinematographer or anything but simply a student of the craft.
I feel like I'm still very early on this creative journey and only hope to shed some light on my approach and workflow to hopefully inspire others. Let me know if you found this useful or if there's anything you'd add or like to hear more about in the future.
Jordan Carroll is a freelance filmmaker & videographer working on drama, documentary and promotional content in Sheffield and around the UK.
Working as a director, cinematographer and editor he has a wide knowledge of the video production process.
He also works as a director of photography and gaffer in narrative film.