The screenplay – The Nag
This is a short-film shot in one long-take which includes wide-shots, mid-shots and close-ups, framing, camera-movement and angles.
I first looked at the technical challenge and quickly decided that hand-held was my only real option. I have a basic steady-cam frame and I looked at mounting my Tascam Digital recorder to the frame and connecting my camera to the Tascam via the threaded connector provided this was straight forward; but I would rather use a smaller mic that my RODE shotgun mic. I have a Nikon shotgun mic that fits to the top of my camera; but I couldn’t get it to work connected directly to my Tascam and as I was not happy with the sound reproduction through my camera I had to fit my shotgun mic to the handle of my steady-cam using one of the many useful spare threaded holes dotted all over the steady-cam. I was able to locate my mic so it was in a convenient position and clear of my wide-angle frame. I had chosen to use a wide-angle 24mm prime lens for this project as it offered both good range of aperture for light and better depth-of-field for focus. It was also light-weight. I now had a self-contained film and sound recording system.
As this was a single-shot-film, I could not use my film lights as they could not cover the whole area I needed to film plus I would not be able to frame them out of the picture; so I had to rely on ambient light only. This meant I had to resort to using a much higher ISO than I would normally use. However, I had decided that I would make this a black-and-white picture in keeping with the subject matter; so the ISO would be not a critical factor. Using black-and-white would also resolve any white-balance issues as I move from room to room with the different lighting sources and exposure can be adjusted in post-production as well. The camera setting for this film was M25, f/6.3 ISO1250, white-balance manually set with a grey-card for the ambient light in the kitchen and adjusted in post-production. Another technical issues that I had with this production were challenges such as the focus, I could not re-adjust my focusing as I filmed; so I had to manually set the focus and select an f-stop that offered a reasonable depth-of-field for the exposure. Also my shadow presented a bit of a problem as I moved from room to room at the light-source and direction changed with light from behind me throwing the shadow of my camera into the frame. The audio was another challenge, I wanted a reasonable recording but one that wasn’t too sensitive that would pick up unwanted sounds from myself as I operated the camera; so I set the mic to 20% wide and Gain to low. This meant the recording was not very sensitive and I had to adjust the volume for Sarah’s recorded voice to the highest setting in Final-Cut-Pro.
I rehearsed this scene several times and made six takes. My wife is a good sport and although she is a keen amateur actor for local AMDRAM groups she doesn’t have the experience or training of a professional; so consistency was a little difficult. Also the concentrating on filming hitting-the-marks and avoiding obstacles was much more tricky than I first imagined. I think I prefer the multi-shot method.
In the editing process, I felt something lacking in the humour that was intended for this picture; so I added a section from Chas and Dave, Ain’t No Pleasing You song and varied the volume.