04 Sep Second Unit/Pickups Done!
Comrades, time for another blog post! And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must AGAIN apologise for how long it’s been since the last post. We’re still working ferociously hard to bring FACTORY293 to life, and unfortunately the first casualty amidst a heavy workload is…. blog posts. But, here we are now, with a new update!
So what have we been up to? In parallel to the constant digital-VFX work going on in the background, we spent a great deal of August executing a heap of ‘Second Unit’ filming. For the non-filmmaker folk reading this, Second Unit consists of a much smaller crew tasked with filming shots or sequences separate from the main, or ‘First Unit’ (thanks Wiki). So in our case, when breaking down our schedule for principal photography (what seems like eons ago), we knew exactly what we HAD to film there and then or we’d never get another chance i.e. anything with our principal cast, sets built and locations fully dressed and lit, or anything requiring a larger crew to execute – obviously this is 90% of the film. Then we could separate the remaining 10% or so of shots that we knew we could ‘cheat’ later with a much smaller crew, stand-ins for our principal cast, only bits of our sets and less lighting equipment. It was a bit of a juggling act, but it’s what we had to do to make this project feasible within the relative constraints of our budget. I’m happy to report that I’m preeetty sure we’ve pulled it off!
We’ve also executed a heap of special-FX related shots over the course of our August Second Unit stint, which includes lots of greenscreen stuff. In some instances, it’s too dangerous to film certain special-FX elements with the cast members, so we had to film the effects separately against and greenscreen (or bluescreen in some instances) and then composite them into the scene. But… I can’t say too much more on that subject or I may reveal story spoilers…!
Photos by Henry Whitehead
As you can see from the images, some of these Second Unit shoots get pretty bare bones and very DIY very quickly. As time and money begins to run out, you get inventive and find yourself fashioning rigs out of rope, gaffer tape, tarpaulins, clamps, elastics bands and blu-tack… oh and PVC pipe… a butt load of PVC pipe. It looks damned ridiculous, but by George, it gets the job done!
There was one particular shoot that required one of the more stupid looking setups we’ve had the pleasure of building (below). We saved a large window and some of the surrounding wall structure from one of our main sets and had it transported to a new location (I mentioned this window in the previous post, which has probably received more attention than any cast member… absolute drama-queen). It’s heavily featured throughout the film and often under close scrutiny. During principal photography we simply had a bluescreen hanging behind it. So the purpose of this super ad-hoc setup was to film all the blizzard elements that need to be seen beyond the window ‘outside’. ‘Snow Lord’ and special-FX guru, Jeremy Shaw, has helmed all of F293’s snow/blizzard and practical atmospheric effects, in conjunction with Andrew Gordon’s digital-VFX wizardry. So both Andy and Jeremy were running the show on this frosty day of Second Unit, which included filming piled up snow resting on the window’s crossbeams, artificial frost on the glass panes and of course, practical blizzard effects hurtling past the window. We had to execute these blizzard effects with the actual window because we wanted to capture the blizzard interacting with it for added realism (the intent anyway)… On top of this, each of these elements had to be filmed separately and from a range of different angles to match up with each angle that we shot the window at during principal photography. Now, each blizzard element is being composited behind the window, layer-by-layer, shot-by-shot… The things we do to tell a story, right?
Why all the tarpaulins? In order for these blizzard elements to seamlessly match the window footage from principal photography, we had to approximately replicate the lighting from the set and create barriers to stop the blizzard effects from blowing in front of the window (because the window was no longer within a fully fledged wall). When we rocked up on the day, we found that the shed we’d planned to film in wasn’t quite suitable. So we built our own outside… out of tarpaulins, rope, clamps and PVC pipe.. and then it rained, but we prevailed.
We’ve also done some Second Unit filming at Whiteman Park and been back to the Midland Railway Workshops to film some particularly messy snow pickups that we were unable to film during principal photography due to a faulty snow product from Polymer Innovations, which unfortunately ended up unnecessarily costing us time and money. There will be a more extensive post on this in the future, but In the meantime, avoid Polymer Innovations for practical snow-FX and stick with Snow Business, who have terrific products that actually work… beautifully!
So it would seem that we’ve finally finished all our Second Unit filming, which means we now… officially… have the entire film shot and ‘in the can’!!! Yew! To celebrate, here’s a short video!
Not wasting anytime, we’re already getting stuck into post sound having smashed through an ADR (auto dialogue recording) session with one of our principal cast members and another one coming up this weekend. So folks, this behemoth is continuing to take shape. As always, appreciate your support and patience immensely.