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Wow! The day finally arrived. Yesterday evening I finished shooting the last scene for my short film. I thought the day would never come.
If you remember Part 2: The Nuked Drive-In of my amateurish endeavors into the film world, my protagonist is walking through the fallout of an old drive-in movie theatre where she finds some goggles with in-built artificial intelligence and augmented reality, which allows her to scan the surroundings for clues to what has happened to the world.
As she walks through the burning world, she finally arrives at the screen of the drive-in theatre, and my plan was to have the AI in the goggles play a neo-noir movie.
But instead of watching an actor on the screen, the AI shows my protagonist as the… well uhm… protagonist of the neo-noir movie on the screen.
Shooting the Neo-Noir Scene Part 1
I had to divide the shooting of the neo-noir scene into two separate days of filming.
The first day was with my girlfriend in our apartment. We didn’t have much time – just a few hours – before we had to get our son from the nursery.
We quickly put all of our kids’ toys into our living room, so that we could use his room as our huge sound stage (approximately 130 ft2 or 12 m2).
There wasn’t room (due to a wardrobe and other stuff we couldn’t move) to put up a stand with a green screen, so we tried using gaffers tape and photo clamps to tape the muslin backdrop to the wall.
We also had to put up some black plastic bags on the window because the sun was shining brightly since I shot this in the summer.
It was a horrible set up and everything kept falling down. And the light on the green screen was no even at all. So I knew keying the footage was gonna be a bitch.
Also, because of the dogma set of rules, I had created for this film to keep it simple, I was only allowed to use the Sigma 18-35mm, which proved really difficult in the confined space.
Even when I placed the camera as close to the back wall as I could, it was nearly impossible to get enough of the room and table in the frame.
This meant that I couldn’t film e.g. the legs of my girlfriend. In other words, anything wider than a mid-shot wasn’t possible.
So with a 130 ft2 sauna to work in, we managed to put up a green screen, lights for the green screen, a table with film noir props, have a little wiggle room for my girlfriend, a single key light, and a tripod for the camera and myself.
Creating a running scene
One of the things I wanted to create was a scene were my girlfriend protagonist steals a cylinder with some fluid in a laboratory and then runs away with it.
And I wanted to have the background look like the style of old movies where it is obvious that the car is in a film studio and a driving plate is projected on to a screen behind the car.
Now obviously, since there wasn’t room to film the whole body of my protagonist, I had to make do with the upper body. So I had my girlfriend running in-place in front of the green screen.
Then, in After Effects, I keyed out the green screen as best as I could and placed a still photo in the background. I then keyframed some shaky camera movement to the whole scene to give it some extra dynamics.
In color grading, I turned everything black and white, played around with the white and black levels to get the street lights to glow a bit and add some contrast.
Finally, I rotoscoped out the hat so that it could keep the red color inspired by the look of films like The Crow (1994), The Spirit (2008), and Sin City (2005).
The final result looks totally fake, which is exactly what I wanted:
Shooting the Neo-Noir Scene Part 2
So this week I finally shot the other part for the neo-noir scene.
I didn’t want to work in that tiny space again, so I moved the location to my childhood home where there was a bit more space.
Also, I have waited until now, because now the sun goes down at 19:30, which means we had plenty of time to shoot everything in a dark room.
I needed someone to play the hardboiled detective. Even though I played the role of the Reaper, I had to face the hard facts – my boyish looks would never make for a credible hardboiled film noir character:
Since I knew, that I would never make a believable neo-noir detective, I asked my uncle – which is one of the nicest men in the world – if he would volunteer to play the hardboiled detective. I think he has an awesome face with wonderful features for the role.
And, luckily he agreed to do the part, and he plays the part of the detective, who is after our protagonist.
I decided to use a single 650-watt fresnel light as a key light. This gives him some really hard shadows and a contrasty look typical of film noir – and especially for the antagonists.
For the scene I shot with Maria, I used a soft flexible Aladdin Bi-Flex LED-light instead, since the women of film noir were often lit with a more soft light.
For the green screen, I used two Aladdin Bi-Flex lights as well.
Now, since I’ve literally just unloaded this footage from the SD-cards, I haven’t really had time to play with it yet.
But I did do a quick grade on a single clip using Filmconvert in After Effects. You can see the results here:
Read Part 6 about creating a scientific laboratory in my living room here.
About the author:
Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.