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House of Cards - Season 3

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Kudos to Lorenzo Millan and his team for the quality of dialogues on House of Cards. Very similar with two previous seasons. Quite impressive for this.

 

V

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I got the chance to talk to one of the directors on House of Cards. They shot, or at least did for season 2, on RED Dragon. Very high resolution camera. Not sure I caught all of what he said properly, but sounded like the booms were in the shot the whole time, on say a wide shot, and they would take them out in post. With the Dragon they rolled a few seconds of plate of the room without anything in it, then the actors and booms would come in and do the scene with boom right on top of actors and in the shot. Thenh use the plate to take them out. Talk about dedication to getting the best sound! Maybe someone here could confirm I have that right, but it is definitely in the realm of possibility.

 

CRAIG

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#: 6   Posted (edited)

According to Steve Canatamessa, David Fincher employed exactly the same technique during the production of Gone Girl. He described the process in an account we published in the current issue of the 695 Quarterly.

 

Here's a link to the Quarterly

http://695quarterly.com/

 

And, a direct link to the Gone Girl article:

http://695quarterly.com/winter-2015/7-1-gone-girl/

 

(Links should be fully functional now.)

 

David

 

Edited to correct earlier issues with the links

Edited by David Waelder

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It turns out painting out the boom for the moments the wide are used is probably less expensive than spending the time to run the cameras separately, bringing in actors for ADR, or maybe even remixing a scene to lavs. Moving shots or not. It is more costly with objects moving in front or behind (BG crosses or tress, etc.), but even then not that bad.

And then there's the added bonus of live performances being captured with good microphones.

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#: 9   Posted (edited)

The first unit sound crew, mixer Lorenzo Millan, boom Randy Pease and utility Chris Jones, are all great guys. They are also accomplished craftsmen. Lorenzo boomed the last couple of seasons of the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street, the resulting tv movie/miniseries offshoots and the entire run of HBO's The Wire. All of those shows benefited from his skill and exceptional personality. Randy and Chris also both have long and distinguished careers in sound.

 

The show now originates in 6K, delivered in 4K. Evidently it became apparent early on that fixing buried mic problems in post and looping didn't always yield the best result and took longer (and thus cost more) than cloning poles and mics out of shots, a relatively easy and cheap thing to do right up front in the post process and once the required clean frame grab becomes a part of the process takes no time on set. It also allows the actors space to work, not having somebody digging around fixing problems between takes or trying to remember not to bash into a buried mic while doing their thing. On the few days I mixed on the show's second unit for season 2 this was the greatest part of the job, not having to get into the performers' way at all when circumstances allowed it.

 

Doing driving shots is another area where they're working differently. All done on a stage, with transpo standing by to remove the windshield and doors as needed. Green screen, with lighting provided by long LED panels that are playing back material shot from a camera car at the appropriate time of day and the right locations. So it's fast and simple with realistic and re-creatable lighting. The panels have fans that are loud, but post has removing the noise down. We shot a driving scene for one of the episodes I was on that would have taken the better part of a day on an insert trailer in about an hour and a half, safely inside.

 

Show runner Beau Willimon and UPM Boris Malden are also supportive of all the departments and that's contagious, leading to a pretty good working environment.

 

Group member John Gooch did a lot of the second unit work this season. I had conflicts because of long-standing bookings for other work and recovery from having some wear and tear fixed by a surgeon and sadly was unable to participate in season three.

 

Red wants Fincher as a user and the show owns all the gear routinely used by the first unit.

Best regards,

Jim

 

PS  I should point out that Lorenzo and I are close friends and have worked together for the last 21 years.

Edited by Jim Gilchrist

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Respect.

The game moves on.

It is now the rest of the communities responsibility to share this modern workflow with Directors and Producers we work with for these techniques to become accepted as the norm.

We discussed the "Boom paint out" workflow at length for Les Miserables but actually decided against it for two reasons-

1. Music vocals need an extremely close up perspective that doesn't change.

2.The DP was going to use a lot of hard lights and regardless of whether the boom is being painted out,at this time shadows on the set and actors can't be.

For these reasons we decided to go down the lavalier paint out workflow instead.

However,after take 1 on Anne Hathaways "I dreamed a dream" which was captured on 3 cameras (wide,mid,tight) we quickly changed our workflow and Tom Hooper made a very quick decision to allow us (with the VFX supervisor on sets agreement) to put the boom in the wide and mid frames.

This was because we shot the rehearsal and Anne's emotive performance included clutching her chest and we didn't want to give her any restrictions by asking her to change the performance and avoid touching the lavalier.

Instead Tom quickly sanctioned the boom coming in and we continued.

The "plate" occurred on each take during the musical intro when the booms would hang wide so the camera could capture some empty frame without the boom above Anne's head and then they would come into shot just before the first word of the vocal.

Having a Director support our efforts in this way was amazing.

I think this discussion needs to become commonplace now because it's a fact that paint outs are now in the same ballpark price wise as ADR (or cheaper) and the all important original performances are protected.

One of the factors I love about the House of Cards is the absolutely outstanding quality of the performances and I am sure they benefit from being original.

*Edited last paragraph due to typo.I am blown away with the original performances and quality of the acting in House of Cards and I applaud the sound team for capturing the original performances so superbly,

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This is turely a game changer if this is in fact the way of the future.

 

 

I think this discussion needs to become commonplace now because it's a fact that paint outs are now in the same ballpark price wise as ADR (or cheaper) and the all important original performances are protected.

 


 

I have been told by the post supervisor of the series I work on that boom reflections get painted out all the time. But if shooting plates for the purpose of putting booms in the shot is as common place as taking the time to lay carpets than that is a game changer. I will be forwarding this thread as well as the 695 quartlerly article regarding Simons work on "Les Mis" to Dp's and directors I often work with. If for no other reason than to open the door for discussion.

 

 This of course is not something that you can spring on a director or DP on set. You have to have a tech savey production team that understands the benefits of shooting this way. The ADR budget on the shows that are currently doing this is probably bigger than the entire budget of the shows that most of work on. But having said that if you could infact eliminate the need of endless ISO tracks of RF mics for the purpose of shooting wide and tight and increase the overall quality of the production now your speaking the language of a producer. You are saving huge amounts of time in the post mix.

 

 

 

The DP was going to use a lot of hard lights and regardless of whether the boom is being painted out,at this time shadows on the set and actors can't be

 

 

 

So when and how often is this being done? Maybe Lorenzo if your reading this you could chime in. I would be interested in knowing on series work if this is part of the daily work flow or is this primarily being done in the feature world? And as Rob pointed out

 

 

It is more costly with objects moving in front or behind (BG crosses or tress, etc.), but even then not that bad.

 

Bill

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Just curious for the guys that have had the opportunity to work this way, is this for just the lock down wides

or do they allow it for wides with camera movement as well? Would think it would be 2 different processes of vfx,

one being much more work than the other.

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I get goosebumps just thinking about this - I heard about it a while back, and have hoped ever since that this will become the new paradigm for scripted long-form work. What a priveledge it would be to work on such a production!

Crossing fingers and toes...

~tt

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I get goosebumps just thinking about this ...

~tt

You're not the only one...first great news about industry trends that I can see...

Damn fine thread, damn fine trend, damn inspiring !!!

best,

steven

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Just curious for the guys that have had the opportunity to work this way, is this for just the lock down wides

or do they allow it for wides with camera movement as well? Would think it would be 2 different processes of vfx,

one being much more work than the other.

There's not  ton of camera movement on location. Lots of what there is in the show is done in post. They shoot 6K and deliver 4K, which is a ton of room for movement.

 

The notion that there's a lot of "painting out" going on is true only in the sense that you could consider cloning painting. There isn't a lot of day to day handwork going on, it's replacing a chunk of the frame with the plate (six frames is what they need to work comfortably). I was told it's fast, simple and easy and to take advantage of the process whenever possible. 

Best regards,

Jim

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so would Croma Key colored poles and wind protection be useful to the VFX department

 

I vote for orange, just for the obnoxiousness

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So is this being done for other things too? Let say the DP wants to have a bounce or fill light to use on a actor while shooting a  wide and tight. I am currently shooting my first feature on the Red Dragon until now all my other shows have been on the Alexa. Is this being done with the Arri as well?

 

There's not  ton of camera movement on location. Lots of what there is in the show is done in post.

 

Jim what exactly do you mean by this? They don't do dolly shots on location?

 

Bill

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So is this being done for other things too? Let say the DP wants to have a bounce or fill light to use on a actor while shooting a wide and tight. I am currently shooting my first feature on the Red Dragon until now all my other shows have been on the Alexa. Is this being done with the Arri as well?

Jim what exactly do you mean by this? They don't do dolly shots on location?

Bill

Alexa is 2K max so no meat to play with in post.

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An Open Gate ARRIRAW frame is 3414x2198 pixels, so more like 3.5K

 

I was just on a shoot with the Alexa, we were shooting 2K, wide/tight interviews in an awful room. Shot a wide plate and then lowered mic in to be good for sound and tight frame. Post will use the wide plates to fix boom, no issue at all. 

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So today I spoke to our DP and VFX people. Peter you are more in the ball park. Our DP says the Arri raw is 3.8K. The VFX guy says it is absolutley dead simple to paint out booms in a moving shot. You can paint out dolly track, booms, flags what ever you want. The only cost is in the time it takes to do the rendering.

 


It is now the rest of the communities responsibility to share this modern workflow with Directors and Producers we work with for these techniques to become accepted as the norm.
 

 

Bill

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Lorenzo has had me down to mix some days on Season 3 and as my kind friend Jim already pointed out, the painting out of poles, microphones and even the Boom ops is common place on this show and everyone is on board when you need to do this, a mere mention to the AD & DP that you are going to crash the frame for a set up and all is good. The process takes no time at all on set with the established habit of grabbing a few seconds of a frame during the take.  One thing that they are also doing that I like is that there are no TC slates on the show, the scene starts when the AD asks all to roll and the director says action, it happens very quick at times so it takes a bit of time to get use to the rhythm of the set at first. They almost always roll 2 cameras on their sets and TC is linked via sync boxes. The Red's Clip numbers on the cameras are the scene and take numbers so it is very important that the mixer always double check that their files numbers and names match the cameras. The AC's are very good at this practice and a quick look at your monitors tells you what is up next as the information is displayed at the bottom of the frame. It is also the first network show that have worked on that did not also require paper copies of the sound reports at the end of each day, I just put a CVS copy in the the folder at each data break and all is good. 

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Doing driving shots is another area where they're working differently. All done on a stage, with transpo standing by to remove the windshield and doors as needed. Green screen, with lighting provided by long LED panels that are playing back material shot from a camera car at the appropriate time of day and the right locations. So it's fast and simple with realistic and re-creatable lighting. The panels have fans that are loud, but post has removing the noise down. We shot a driving scene for one of the episodes I was on that would have taken the better part of a day on an insert trailer in about an hour and a half, safely inside.

 

The green screen driving shots in House of Cards are the best damn looking shots I've ever seen -- that trick with the LED panels is stunning in how good it looks. They also manage to get the reflections of the outside world to appear in the glass, which is a killer trick. Amazing work.

 

If the shot is fairly simple, we can remove boom poles and tips of boom mics during color correction by cloning backgrounds. What I can't do very well is moving shots, because the perspective changes. For that, you need a real VFX guy using Mocha or one of those magical VFX programs. As has been said earlier, these shots are inexpensive (maybe 2-3 hours work) and don't take that long, shot by shot, but they have to be aware of the limitations of what can and can't be done. When I do it in color, it takes about 1 minute (assuming a 20-30 second shot), basically kind of like Photoshop. It's a trivial fix, and I often remind the producer, "hey, this is not a sound problem -- this is a camera problem where the operator didn't notice this happening during the shoot." They're generally relieved that it costs them no money to fix and doesn't require blowing up the frame.

 

I just finished binge-watching all the House of Cards episodes a couple of weeks ago, and this is a rare occasion when all the hype totally lived up to the show. It's a beautifully-looking, beautiful-sounding, extremely well-acted show. Amazing performances from the entire cast. And a pleasure to hear dialogue this good and this real. 

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