The 2017 Augsburg Film Keystone class is making a narrative short film. In preparation for this, there was a practice shoot to test both equipment, on-set behavior and general workflow, and making sure everything will work with post-production. All of this is very important on which to get a good handle as early as possible. Any concerns need to be handled and solved as early in the process as possible, so as to minimize the inevitable Murphy’s Law factors as much as we are able.

One concern I have personally had since learning we are making a narrative short film for Keystone this semester is audio. Sound recording tends to be one of the most difficult elements to do well when working with non-professionals. This concern is both toward on-set recording and everything that has to be done in post. We don’t have a ton of time to put everything together once we wrap production, and I personally don’t want to have to go through ADR.

This practice shoot seems to have lifted some other’s concerns on audio, including the person in charge of sound mixing during production, so that’s an important part (I don’t know that it lifted my concerns, but if others think we’ll make it work then that’s moving in the right direction). Having edited the practice shoot, the audio did sound pretty good but only up to a certain point. Even at -2 decibels, the audio sounded mostly fine but once it hit zero it sharply peaked (sounds obvious, but I’ve worked with a few different audio recording devices and I thought this was a bit strange). I think the Tascam dr60-d is capable of recording two tracks of audio at different levels, say one track being 6 or possibly 12 decibels lower than another to protect from peaking. So we need to make sure the person in charge of sound mixing learns as many of the ins and outs of the Tascam as possible before production starts.

For this test, we shot on the Canon c100 (mk i) with the Atomos Ninja Blade. Canon’s cinema series cameras are better in many ways than their DSLR lines of cameras. The build-in ND is a very nice feature. But it has its drawbacks as well. For our production, we’re going to be using a different camera. But I think our test shoot looks good as far as lighting. If I had more time, I would have liked to have changed a number of things including composition of Nikki’s OTS (camera should have been moved farther over Nia and Chuckie’s shoulders to match the other OTS shot better). But this was just a quick test I thought would be beneficial to do somewhat last minute and Olivia and Samiera orchestrated putting it together in class (I’m still not sure what the best use of class time for Keystone is… It seems like people are enjoying/learning from the workshops so that’s good, there’s just so much to do for this short… but everyone is working hard to put the pieces together and make this puzzle well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing and hopefully meaningful and memorable).

The scene itself wasn’t the important part (in my eyes at least, it was important for Olivia to be comfortable working with talent, etc.), but moreso everything surrounding it. With most everyone being comfortable with each other, there was a level of “fun” which is an interesting line to ride on set. Obviously, there should be a level of fun, but there is also so much that needs to get done that there needs to be an underlying level of seriousness (at least for a piece like Medallion, less so for something like a comedy). Having said that the scene itself wasn’t the important part, editing was tricky because all of the shots had very different continuity as far as acting (dialogue and gestural movement). I tweaked some audio and added a light coloration (correction & grade) to make it a bit more interesting (the Ninja Blade shooting Prores 422 HQ at around 50mb/s is nice over the c100’s 24mb/s and more compressed internal codec, as far as room to push the image in post). I think this video came together fine for our purposes. I don’t think we plan to release this; it was just a practice session.