Frame grab from Uncommon Enemies.
“Uncommon Enemies” is a film written and directed by Alex Hatz starring Michael Cram, James Gangl, Melanie Scrofano, and AJ Vaage. It is one of the latest film projects I’ve been working on as Director of Photography using the Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta camera.
Uncommon Enemies is a horror film set during World War II. The film opens with an American Sergeant behind enemy lines bringing a wounded soldier into retreat in an old abandoned barn when bigger problems come their way.
The entire film was shot on location in Bradford, Ontario, Canada in a barn built in 1897 which really lent itself to the dark and grity look and feel for this film. The texture of the location is everything a DP could ever ask for when looking to shoot a great looking film. Nearly every direction you looked in there was something pleasing to the eye and camera, all of which was further enhanced with set dressing and our production designer.
Both Alex and I really wanted a cinematic and “film like” look for this project. Band Of Brothers (5579 and ENR process) and Game of Thrones (Alexa) were a few shows we talked about in terms of looks we liked and wanted to emulate. But we also had several limitations to work around – mainly a fairly large 1500 sq. foot area to light, only three 15 amp circuits, and creating a “universal” lighting setup that would let us shoot in practically any direction with minimal lighting change setups in order to accommodate the blocking for the film.
Since the location was not well serviced I opted to use less powerful HMI’s as my main light source along with flos and low powered fresnels to balance out the light. With the sensitivity of the F55 I knew it could be easily pulled off. It did however mean tenting the entire perimeter of the 116 year old barn to eliminate any light leaks since I knew I’d be shooting down in double digit foot candle levels.
The F55 camera was lightly equipped with PAG v-mount batteries for power and the ikan D7W 7” LCD monitor with hirose DC cable to power the monitor from the camera. For glass we used three Tokina zooms, 11-16, 16-50 and 28-70 – all f2.8.
I shot the film in 4k XAVC 10-bit 422, slog2, s-gamut straight to internal SXS pro cards. I had originally planned to shoot at 1250 ISO 24p 1/48th shutter but it became apparent with the low light levels and width of the set that I’d have to go up to 3200 ISO to get the f-stop on my lenses that I wanted.
For setting exposure I used my light meter religiously along with the waveform monitor built into the ikan D7W. Most of the scenes I was lighting for a max contrast ratio of 5:1 but generally talent was lit between 2:1 and 3:1, or sometimes more depending on where on the set they were or how the light was suppose to be motivated. I kept middle grey in the low 30’s and any bright light sources from exceeding 60-65 IRE.
Despite the final look of the graded test frame much of the look was done “in-camera” by shooting a little underexposed and setting the white balance to 3200k while using daylight light sources.
The film is now in post-production and will be entered into select film festivals later this year. A launch-party screening is planned in Toronto once the film is completed.
[more frames coming soon]