An Interesting Few Weeks

So it’s been an interesting few weeks, spending some time in a remote part of the country I thought would be great for getting my course work done in a relaxing setting while spending some time with my family.

Day one the phone mast in the village went down knocking out both phone and internet for four days, so no chance to get any work done in the first few days, (for some people this would be relaxing but the stress of falling behind or to getting something done is not good for me). On top of that later in the week the muffler box on my car detached from the exhaust and my car spent the night in a garage and my phone went for a swim in the sea because while stand-in knee deep in water I just had to take a photo.

Back to Dublin and I then managed to give myself a black eye after a shoot trying to fold a 6 foot collapsible back drop, not easy when you’re 5’3. And after another shoot on Thursday I can relax into the weekend and focus on some editing and colour grading.

So what’s new. I finally sold my Ephonix MC colour grading control surface and have replaced it with the Ripple Tangent. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being that the MC Colour is not compatible with Premier Pro and that is my main editing software. Avid and Adobe just do not get on.

Ripple Tangent

Reason number 2 is that the tangent is portable and runs off USB so it’ll be easy to have on set or when I need to get work done and travel and reason number three is it works great with Davinci which I use for colour grading and I have to say I am incredibly happy with it. Here is a few looks I created last week while using it.

Fiona graham, colourist, duo tone look, colour grade presentation
Duo Tone Look – Fiona Graham
Fiona Graham, Colourist, muted colour isolation look, colour grade presentation
Mued Colour Isolation Look – Fiona Graham
Colour grade based on film spectre,
Fiona Graham Colourist, Colour Grade Presentation
Warm Tones (Based on the film Spectre) – Fiona Graham

I’ll be offering 3D LUT design and Look design and presentation on my website soon but more on that later.

3D LUT and Look Design

Ok so today I am launching an updated website, Ive got a new logo which I’m much happier with but more importantly I’ve added a section to include a new service. Grading, 3D LUT and Look design

So what does this mean. I’ve decided I’m going to open up some of the work I do on my own Cinematography to the public, if they want to avail of it. These days colour management is so important and with budget and time constraints it can easily get swept aside but colour effects how your clients and viewers perceive and feel about your work. This applies to all audio visual projects from features to adverts, music videos, docs, anything.

All cameras have a ‘look’ or ‘LUT’ (look up table) that they apply to the footage they shoot. It’s one of the reasons people will argue for one camera over another. However the majority of cameras these days give you the ability to shoot in RAW which is a flat image with no ‘look’ on it, the reason people shoot in Raw is because it gives you more options in post including more ability to control the look of the image. You don’t want your end product to look like everyone else’s.

A Show LUT is a single LUT designed to control the look of a film, TV show or whatever project you are doing. It is used on set to monitor the colour and look of your production and insure your look is consistent. It is then used in post as the basis for your grade.

For Camera people there are plenty of LUT packs that you can buy out there but they’re generally a ‘one size fits all’, they tend to not give you really good film stock emulation or truly get the look you want. I can design custom LUTS based on the camera you are shooting on and catered specifically to the look you want.

The way this process works is that you will come to me looking for a look, LUT or colour space designed for your project. I will talk to you about the look you are going for we will discuss the tone and feel of the project, reference images and intended delivery.

I will then present it to you in the following format:

If you are at the point that you are just building your pitch or presentation these are a great addition to you look book.

Once we work out any tweaks or changes to the look I will then reissue this presentation along with the reference images and two .cube files, a 65 and a 33. (The 33 is for uploading to your camera and monitors for on set monitoring and the 65 is only for post as 65 is too big a file for on set monitoring but they are the same LUT)

It is important to have a LUT that is 100% correct because it needs to give you the look that you want without effecting the exposure of the camera.

This is a process I use for every project I shoot and it really does make a difference.

If you have any questions or queries email me at fionagraham@singlecellfilms.com

Trial and Error with Antique Cameras

Film Developing Kit, chemicals, florid, cameras, developer, Home negative developing kit, black and white film

During the lock down I got very used to having a regular wage for the first time since 2008. I tried to keep myself occupied with a number of projects but after cleaning out the shed, painting every room in the house, planting a vegetable garden and learning how to make bread I was seven days into lockdown.

I am not a person that can sit still so I began to think of ways to improve my work while still being paranoid about going outside. On my shelf I have had two antique stills cameras for years. A 1921 Kodak Girl Guide Camera (similar to the pocket brownie but made specifically for the girl guides). It had belonged to my mother and was a gift from her uncle Frank but had not been used since the 60s.

This camera takes 127 film which is an unusual size and no longer in general production. There are a few places that still make this film but it is pricey. You could also get 120 film and cut it to fit the camera but thats a whole other pain. The camera is in good condition, what I find really interesting is that the exposure is controlled by a metal disc with four different sized holes in it that you can rotate in front of a meniscus lens.The shutter is completely manual and it’s designed to be shot from the hip.

1921 Kodak girl guide camera, version of the Kodak pocket brownie camera, 127 film
1921 Kodak Girl Guide Camera

I shot a roll of 127 black and white film on this camera and developed it only for them to come out completely black (over exposed) and on closer inspection of the camera I found a number of very small holes in the bellows meaning light was getting into the camera and ruining the negative. It is a shame cause I took some really nice scenic shots near Kerry with this and was really excited to see how them came out. So I have ordered a tube of black silicone to fix this and will try again once repaired.

The Second Camera I have been shooting with is a 1932 Coffee Can Camera (I cannot find the correct model name for it but it’s what they were commonly referred to) It was given to me by my uncle a number of years ago, I don’t know where he found it but he brought it down to the house saying it was broken but he knew I was into cameras so would I like it as a display piece. So I stuck it on the shelf and aside from it being a nice display piece I haven’t given it much thought till now.

1930's coffee can camera with leis dual lenses, 120 film
1930’s Coffee Can Camera with Zeiss Lens

So on inspection it seemed to be working perfectly fine. It needed a plastic reel to collect the film but aside from that all the parts were there. I ordered one online along with some colour and black and white 120 film for it. It has a number of controls on the front, There is a big lever that you slide up and down and it moves the whole front element back and forward to set the focus, you set the shutter speed by turning the front of it, then pull the top lever across to lock that in and prime the shutter. You can set the stop with the lever on the bottom the once the shutter is primed release it with the lever on the side

The first reel I shot and developed was over exposed and had a lot of motion blur so in trouble shooting the problem I found that the dial on the front of it actually controls the shutter speed and I had set it far too low so the blur and exposure issues made sense. The second roll I shot was exposed fine but was out of focus which was odd cause the focus on the eye piece seemed to be fine. so I did a number of tests and found that the focus dial on the front was giving the correct reading but the eye piece was giving a different reading so the two lenses were out of sync. The solution is to frame with the eye piece and ignore it for focus, just go with the numbers of the dial. I currently have my 3rd roll loaded into the camera and am hoping the next one will come out well.

During this time I also got an old stills camera (Canon AE-1 a 1980’s film camera). It takes 35mm film.

Canon AE-1 film camera, 198's film camera
Canon AE-1 (1980’s)

I love this camera. The texture of the shots is amazing. I have had to get used to relying solely on a exposure metre and not the eye piece which can be tricky at times when you’re so used to new technology and seeing the finished shot in front of you but there is something exciting about not being able to see it and having to wait to see if a picture came out. Its more tangible and means more then just taking 50 shots on your phone that you’re probably never going to look at again. It also forces you to think about what you’re doing and be specific about your framing.

Nowadays we are in such a rush for everything and shoot schedules are getting tighter and tighter it has been really nice to take my time and be able to think about my process and how to approach different issues. I know its not practical to shoot stills on film all the time but I’m definitely going to see where I can fit this in to my work in the future.

Upgrading My Grading

grading wheels, colour wheels, davinci
Colour Grading Wheels

Ok so my last blog post got deleted so ill try to rewrite it as was, with a few minor corrections,

So With Covid slowing everything down I’ve decided to to take a course while I still have the time. This time I’ve decided to go with the ‘Summer Looks Academy’ with https://www.colour.training/ taught by Dado Valentic.

I first met Dado in London at a REDucation course in CVP. I was looking for a course to help improve my cinematography and thought learning everything there is to know about the camera I was shooting on was a good place to start. Dado was the guest speaker on the second and third day who was coming in to talk to us about Colour Science.

During this talk he said something that caught my attention. “If you were to look at the sun without the ozone layer it would actually appear as a shade of green not yellow, The ozone layer acts like a filter and the reason that the sun changes colour as it sets is that the density of the “filter” between you and the sun increases as it sets”. This was connected to the reason that there are twice as many green photocites in a cameras sensor then blue or red because the purpose of the sensor is to capture as much light as possible. When I heard this I thought ‘this is what I should be learning’ and a few months later I returned to London to do my first course with Colour Training in Colour Managment.

After we were presented with our certificates a few of us went to the pub where I nearly lost my certificate when it caught fire in the smoking area but that’s a different story.

This time I’m hoping to delve deeper into the design of Looks and LUTs and create some cool LUTS. I’m excited about doing the course, I really want to develop a look for a film or series from scratch and see it come to life on screen rather then do it all in post but I’m also nervous cause there are some really heavy hitters in the group that work on really big projects. 

Anyway lets see how it goes.