If you have a brand new BMPCC 6K, why not try it out this way? One of our favorite directors did it!
This post was written by Julian Terry.
When it comes to film practice, one might ask, “What do you do when you’re not shooting?” I’m currently in development with two features shooting next year. During this time, I read film books and watch classic movies to get inspired, but there is something else. Something is missing after looking at the scripts all day.
I miss directing actors. I miss holding the camera and feeling the moment when a shot is perfect.
In the end, it is a form of expression. When you don’t express yourself, are you really living? I can’t think of anything more exciting than holding a camera when the shot is minutes away and the actor finds something about them that silences the air. I love that feeling when the emotion has changed the room and I don’t want to say “cut”.
This feeling is what I live for. Filmmaking is an interesting art form, it’s so new that we continue to experience radical changes in our tools. (I like to call film crews “tools.”)
Experimentation with new equipment.
I want to constantly improve myself and explore myself as an artist. The best way to do this is to experiment with different tools. I recently spoke at NAB for Blackmagic about how short films can lead to studio films. It was great and I had a great time catching up with the filmmakers at the event. As I toured the various booths and got excited about the lens prototypes, I came across the B7C accent lights at Aputure and fell in love with them. I love working with practices on set and the idea of moving a lamp at the last minute or changing its color in any way I wanted excited me. I put it on my list to try.
The next thing that hit me was something called Invizigrain from the company InviziPro. It floored me completely. It was such a new thing. Not a typical film grain overlay. It breaks down the image and builds it into a very convincing film grain! I love the look of the movie and am dying to find a way to bring it back.
I met with the founder, Brendan Bellomo, and he showed me how easy it was to monitor on set! He had it running from a Blackmagic Pocket 6K to DaVinci live on a computer. I was amazed. I knew I wanted to use it in an upcoming feature, but it was something I wanted to try.
Instead of doing a regular boring camera test, I thought it would be a little more fun. I wanted to work with actors and make it into something bigger.
So when October came around I met with the monster creator himself, Mario Torres, and he showed me this fantastic mask. I got goosebumps looking at this thing and thought it would be fun to shoot with! He introduced me to his friend, Kevin Keppy, who recently played the final creature in SMILE. He knew that we had to make something happen with all these elements.
Only one thing was missing.
Experimenting with vertical formats
Now, I love shooting short films, but I hate how people see them. I remember working on Buzzfeed and learning that most of the YouTube audience watches the entire video vertically and some don’t even listen with the volume turned up. What is this? Do we have to go back to silent movies? I also got depressed when I looked at TikTok and saw that all my shorts had been ripped off and put on different channels.
It wasn’t the theft that got me, it was the aspect ratio that horrified me. I shoot everything at 2:35 range. When someone throws that vertically, 80% of the screen is black. I was mortified. I saw one of my old shorts, Whisper, that had 2 million likes, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the millions who watched this poor version of what we poured our hearts out.
So I decided to turn my new horror short film into a vertical TikTok, and what better camera to try it out than the Blackmagic Pocket 6K!
Blackmagic graciously gave me their Pocket 6K this summer, and I was dying to do a proper shoot with it. I love these cameras. The Pocket 4K is cheaper than my iPhone 14.
When our last short, do not look, went to SXSW, everyone thought we shot on Alexa. We are reaching a point where the cameras become indistinguishable. Now, we can do something with almost no budget and make something that looks truly cinematic.
When I went to mount the camera on its side, I noticed an incredible amount of wobble. I decided to Frankenstein my camera a bit with a small platform cage and two cheese plates mounted together. This gave it a much sturdier frame. My producer of all my horror shorts (also my best friend) Alexander Anderson had his trusty Sigma 18-35mm. I like to shoot wider, so I opted to rent a 14mm Sigma from Sharegrid. It was the perfect amount of width with just the right amount of distortion. It really gives every shot a fun look!
Since I wanted to make the short life of the little Aputure lights in our lamps, it also meant shooting in near darkness! Fortunately, the Blackmagic Pocket 6K allows us a clean ISO of 1250. It allows us to get really dark shadows and makes for a fun shooting environment. Not to mention that the small form factor also allows us to get into the main character’s point of view and see his hands at times. I can’t really get that shot with a bigger camera easily.
I don’t think I’ve seen a vertical horror short done this way before and I really love it! Getting out of doing a safe test and making a fun, no-budget short film with some friends takes you right back to high school filmmaking. There is a sense of excitement and wonder on set. I love playing loud music on set and feeling like we’re getting away with doing something before our parents get home.
I am so excited to share our final results with you!