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The making of Rock Bottom

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At BIAFF 2010 Robert Lorrimer won 5-Stars with Rock Bottom and a prize from KPM Music. The film was one of Britain's entries in UNICA 2010. Watch it in Bijou BIAFF Bioscope. He won 4-Stars with Transition.

Bob is a great enthusiast for the higher quality which technology allows us to enjoy, so we asked him to write about changes in technology in the last year or so.

ROCK BOTTOM from bob lorrimer on Vimeo.

Still from 'Rock Bottom'.The annual IAC Competition (2010) has come round once more, and this year I have two short films within it. Sadly, the winner's podium remains as elusive to me as trying to follow-focus a Venezuelan Fruit Bat.

My entry Rock Bottom was made with the new Canon 7d DSLR. In one year there has been the most astonishing leap forward in affordable HD and ancillary equipment. The new hybrid DSLRs have produced an outburst of creativity in both the amateur and professional worlds. The astonishing capability of these cameras has now become apparent.

Steadicams, Glidetracks, Magic Bullet Looks Software, HD Mini Cams and Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras are changing the face of video photography and they are bringing big screen values to our living rooms and computer screens at an acceptable cost.

The DSLR Revolution

The DSLR 'revolution' is not a revolution at all, it is a compromise. These cameras are startlingly good in visual terms but they are far from ideal as video recording instruments.

Picture of a Canon DSLR body.The DSLR's have very large FULL FRAME sensors which, when coupled to interchangeable 35mm lenses offer a resolution that you would expect to see at the Showcase Cinema. The 'body' of these cameras start at around £600 but if you happen to have a bottom drawer full of old Canon EF lenses you are up and running at no further cost. A Studio can now quite literally be packed into the boot of a saloon car. The Semi Pro World has taken to them with the enthusiasm of fridge magnets to metal.

Thereafter, the good news stops - moviemaking with a DSLR is not a walk in the park with a mini-dv handy cam. The Canon 7d and 5d Mk11 both shoot video to CF cards at 25 FPS but in terms of operation they require a degree of 'control' in order to obtain the breathtaking images we are now seeing.

Unless you have the hands of a brain surgeon handholding these cameras is out of the question. Image stabilisation (IS) on the lenses, shoulder stock mounts, glidetracks and dolly are vital to bring them to heel. The cameras rotate around a central axis when handheld which is bad enough but an effect called 'jello' (a distortion of verticals because of the rolling shutter) is a truly horrible aberration. However, the effect can be overcome with IS and some forethought.

Shot from 'Rock Bottom' demonstrating bokeh.The rewards for extra care in the shot making are substantial; the 'Bokeh' (DOF diffusion of both fore and backgrounds) which is obtainable with Prime 35mm lenses is gorgeous to behold. These cameras do not follow focus at the time of writing, so there are more headaches to overcome in that department of expertise. Several focus pull solutions have appeared on the market to keep your trembling, old, gnarly hands off the lens barrel. My own bicycle clip device at £1.50 does the trick well on big bore lenses.

Digital SLRs record poor sound in camera, so separate audio-recorders such as the ZOOM H4n have been selling like hot cross buns. The potential for bolting on kit to a Canon 5d can make it look like the Terminator's Gatling gun.....but visually it is worth the effort...it is why we make films.

The Sony EX3 Video Cam would be a better choice perhaps for a wedding or corporate video...but for a pop-vid or movie or pictorial essay, the hybrid DSLR is King Kong (at the price).

Shooting Rock Bottom

Still from 'Rock Bottom'.Still from 'Rock Bottom'.I filmed Rock Bottom with a Canon 7d (DSLR) in Guernsey last year while visiting the Channel Islands for the Guernsey Lily Film Festival. (The Drill was a contender for the trophy). My flight landed at 9.00 am and too early for the hotel check-in. I had in mind a short scenario which could be filmed in a cove or on a beach. I Googled - 'Photographs of Guernsey beaches' and almost at once turned up an archive of photographs of 'Petit Bot Bay Beach' which was a mile from the Hotel. Astonishing ... I knew EXACTLY what the cove looked like before I arrived!

I had with me the Canon stock lens which is an IS 18-135mm zoom, an old sock filled with lentils for the ground shots and my shortly to be ruined lightweight tripod. (Salt and sand......send shivers down the spine!) The images from the 7d proved not only to be superb but they readily accept colour grading software and post production applications.

My modus operandi is to set up the cam, compose the shot, lock off the focus and ISO value, set the exposure... and then walk to my designated mark. I had no camera man for Rock Bottom and the LCD screen of the Canon does NOT articulate....whoooa! So when you watch Rock Bottom you will realise that there is some ingenuity at work in the framing of the shots and close ups.

Instant replay (and instant delete) is a bonus of these card cameras.....check it...if the shot is good move on.

Video on the Web

Here are some stunning examples of the 7d and 5d cams at work and a link to my TOP 100 films on VIMEO which are quite frankly fantastic.

VIMEO now plays a substantial part in my online activities. I have built up a network of contacts whose work I admire. I seldom watch anything but superbly crafted films from enthusiasts and professionals who are generous with both advice and content. VIMEO is free, and unfailingly polite; as a showcase for your work it is ideal. A number of my short films have been watched 20,000 times with a resulting correspondence deluge!

But there is nothing quite like a Big Screen, a Big Sound, and face to face interaction with old friends and enthusiasts ...

- Bob Lorrimer

Watch Rock Bottom in Bijou BIAFF 2010.

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Page updated on 04 October 2011
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