Tales From The Darkside revisited.

Some screen grabs from Tales from the Darkside. Came up during a seminar in which I was using one of the segments as an example of real-time in-shot scene transitions using compound moves, theatrical scrim and lighting techniques. Much more interesting than CGI.darkside2



Lighting the Vietnam War on a Budget

I have had many questions regarding lighting for some of the dramatized battle re-enactment scenes in “The Crater”.
The lighting plan was simple, there were essentially no lights.


Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 3.02.13 AMThe concept called for very minimal lighting as Director, David Bradbury, wanted absolute realism and the nights of the battle, as described by the Vets who were there, “were pitch black, no moon, nothing, just black”. Helping keep to this plan was the fact this was being done on a vey tight budget so there was no financial room for condors with 12K’s, balloons, Musco, generators, etc. to light the huge battle field for the all night time battle scenes.Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 3.43.02 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 3.42.47 PM

The lighting plan involved playing the battle in “layers”, lighting, at very low intensity, the background and then allowing flares, explosions and muzzle flash to light the middle ground and foreground with no additional supplemental foreground lighting.balmoral_attack3Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 3.55.43 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-15 at 3.53.50 PM

Each sequence was staged by laying down smoke from explosive pots in the deep background. This was lit by the explosions themselves and by a single 5K backlighting the smoke at extremely low level. Next the explosions moved progressively towards camera laying more smoke and the middle ground and foreground was the charging troops and lots of muzzle flash. Essentially everything played in silhouette unless “soldiers” were captured on camera during an explosion or muzzle flash. The added benefit of this was no-one (particularly the camera operators) had any idea where anyone was except when there was light…..again, exactly as experienced by those who were there, and this, adding to the realism.

Ultimately the effect was to create as much disorientation and chaos as possible so nothing was evenly lit and only fleeting glimpses of the action were visible. Exactly as it was described by the Vets.

Everything was shot on the SONY F55 at 1600ISO, wide open at T2.9 on Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 lenses. As the re-enactment footage was to be intercut with potentially every other format imaginable (PAL-SD, NTSC-SD, 16mm, 35mm, color, black and white, and HD interview footage from several different camera’s) I decided to stay with HD resolution so we shot 1920×1080 in S-Log2. This allowed easier integration of the footage by keeping the resolution at a reasonable level. In post film scratches and “dirt” were added which made for an even closer match to all the actual newsreel and documentary footage from Vietnam.

The day ext of the Aussie soldiers after the bombing was shot about 30 minutes after sunset with only ambient light. The scene in the command center using only 100W Tungsten bulbs dimmed to about 50% to get the warmth.anzacshq_after

One lighting unit I was able to use was the searchlight mounted on the Centurion tank. These were used in an on/off fashion during the battle when the North Vietnamese soldiers were attacking. The actual light (part of the Centurion Tank) was a 1 million candlepower Xenon that was mounted just above the gun and provided some serious illumination on the battlefield. Of course during battle this light never remained on and was only used in occasional very brief bursts to locate the attacking soldiers. Screen shot 2014-06-14 at 12.01.18 AM silhouette_soldiers Screen shot 2014-06-14 at 12.03.00 AM

“The Crater” will be screened in Australia in April as part of the Gallipoli Centenary Celebrations and should be available for viewing on Vimeo shortly after.


FILL-LITE – The best soft lights available

I used the Fill-Lite’s for the first time on the feature “Irrefutable Proof”, which just wrapped Principal Photography in Syracuse NY, essentially lighting the entire movie with them. This Indie film was shot on a very tight budget with huge locations and required an innovative approach to the lighting to keep costs down and maintain a very strong visual style. Fill-Lite make an exceptional unit and this was my first chance to put them through their paces.

Having demo’d the units earlier in the year at a seminar I gave for Band Pro, I knew their potential but did not appreciate the usefulness and versatility of these small units until I had them on set.

“The Lady Pleaser”
The quality of the light is astounding, dubbed by my crew “the lady pleaser”, great wrap and essentially the quality of a soft light thru 216 (without the 216). The fall off is relatively short which meant less cutting and shaping in tight locations and being a square emitter they could easily be panned or tilted to control spill and intensity in different parts of the set.

I used them as singles, doubles and quads, to light masters and close-ups, green screen car scenes, men and women. For women, when punched thru diffusion, the light almost becomes a liquid. I also used them skirted as coup lights for large areas where they provided the perfect amount of base shooting on the Alexa at 800ISO, as fill on overcast day exteriors and in ultra low temps (-9 degrees and color temp and output did not change). In every situation these incredible units excelled. I will not be shooting again without them.

Their small compact size and amazing light quality make them ideal for shooting in very tight locations as, at a little less than 1″ thick, they take up such a small amount of space. They are also supplied with brackets allowing them to be directly attached to set walls giving them an even smaller footprint. Compared to Kino Flo’s or Chimera’s, well there simply is no comparison, these little units outperform in every area.

No Heat-No Generator-Less Cost
Of course one of the big advantages of LED lighting in general is that they do not produce heat. Therefor almost all the electrical energy passing into the LED produces light so they are much more efficient. This allowed using the lower wattage lights off normal household circuits, so I was able to structure the lighting for the film around a lighting package that did not force us to carry a generator, other than a 6500W as a backup source or for remote locations. Any night exteriors were shot dusk for night.
Actors also loved the “no heat” aspect of the Fill-Lite’s .

Check them out at www.fill-lite.com









Battle of Balmoral – Vietnam Anzacs

Just completed Principal Photography on battle recreations for David Bradbury’s Vietnam Anzacs where we recreated the Battle of Balmoral, one of the toughest battles fought by Aussie soldiers during the Vietnam War. Filming took place in Cobbity NSW on a property that has been the scene of multiple movie shoots including Wolverine. Editing is now under way and the film will be screened during the Gallipoli Centenary celebrations in April 2015.

Attack (Frame Grab from Dailies)

The morning after. (Frame Grab from Dailies)

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 3.53.50 PM
Attack (Frame Grab from Dailies)


Learning to See – Excerpt from the ASC Mag Article

….”Participants in the early filmmaking Workshops included celebrated director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC; associate ASCmember and Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown; and Australian cinematographer Rob Draper, ACS who advanced from student to teaching assistant to one of the program’s most popular instructors…….
The Three Stooges"

Read full excerpt in ARTICLES

Lighting Workshop at BandPro

I conducted a lighting workshop introducing the new Fill-Lite LED panels ( http://fill-lite.com/ ) and DRACAST  LED’s (www.dracast.com) last week along with Jeff Cree. About 35-40 Cinematographers, Producers, DP’s, Gaffers, AC’s turned up for the three hour Thursday afternoon session. My main thrust was on using new lighting tools as an extension of your palette rather than as “the latest thing”. Analyzing each of the systems for their true creative potential relative to your visual style, then seeing if they are a good fit. A different way of looking at technology. Using art to determine the efficacy of the lighting equipment rather than the technology employed.


Red Scarlet ….. I think I like it ……

From what I have read this is a killer little camera- RED Scarlet. I am even, and this is coming from a die hard Arri man, considering making one or two of them my very own. Hoping to get my hands on one some time soon so I can test it out. This definitely looks like it could give the new Canon a run for it’s money….literally.

Is It Technically Perfect – Who Cares?

I have had a few emails today regarding my earlier Facebook post. I was questioned as to why the images did not look like they were shot on Alexa or Canon 5D (two of the camera’s I used for the shoot). My response is….what should images from the Alexa and Canon 5D look like? Is there a rule for using those camera’s or do they have a very special signature that says…this image was shot on a “this or that” camera. It seems most these days regard a good image as something with shallow depth of field and sharp as a tack. Continue reading