Capturing Beautiful Human Stories on the RED DRAGON: Glitch's Story Comes to Life
Even the most macho of modern digital cinema cameras, the EPIC DRAGON, can be used to tell the most touching and delicate of human stories.
I was recently contacted by John Ford, head of film at Contra, a British video production company. He had shot a lovely little film for XLP, a UK non-profit that focuses on providing brighter futures for youth in need. The film centers on Glitch, a young girl who found herself homeless at the age of 15. With the help of XLP and a newfound passion for spoken word poetry, Glitch is now well on her way to a brighter future. This is her story:
Though Contra was hired to shoot this piece about Glitch specifically, the team had no idea what approach they would take or even how the story would unfold, and their budget was such that they would only have one day of shooting in which to capture it. However, the director of this piece David Hayes told us that once he read some of Glitch’s poems, everything started to fall into place.
As soon as Glitch gave me some of her poems to read I became set on featuring her work in the film. Having her deliver those cutting words directly to the viewer offers a very powerful framing device for the narrative.
Hayes also talked about how the RED DRAGON helped his team achieve their goals for this piece, both from an aesthetic perspective and a practical one.
Working on a tight charity budget meant that we had to capture everything in one shoot day with Glitch. The flexibility of the RED was ideal in this situation. Stripping the camera back to a small handheld size allowed us to get very close to Glitch as she led us around her old estate and through the busy streets of Peckham. Plus, we knew that the RED would handle the performance closeups perfectly with its stunning skin tones. The depth of the image, particularly with Glitch's eyes, works brilliantly to draw the viewer in.
John Ford, the DP for this project, also shared some of the technical choices that he made in order to not only deliver the piece on time and within budget, but to make the visuals shine brightly and work to tell Glitch's story to the fullest possible extent:
We shot using the Canon C-NE primes, 24, 50 and 85 using the Schneider Hollywood Blackmagic pro 1/8th on the poetry, but we kept the rest of the footage un-filtered for a gritty, real look. We shot everything 6k WS up to 100fps. Audio was recorded direct into the camera using Sound Devices Mix D going into the Action Products EPIC/SCARLET XLR Audio Adaptor.
Negative fill helped to control the lighting where we didn't want to use extra lights. [We mostly used] two Felloni Bi-Color Light Panels. The interview was carefully placed to make the most out of natural light - no other lighting was used, just the two broad windows, giving a lovely soft natural fill.
In terms of editing and grading, the post-production team at Contra used Premiere Pro CC 2014 and DaVinci Resolve, and they used only the native 6K media from the DRAGON in their timelines. Here's Will Hammond, Head of Post at Contra, to explain why they kept it native with high-res RAW files.
"When it came to post it was no hassle editing the 6k RAW footage natively. Using Premiere Pro to cut and DaVinci Resolve to grade we were able to stay in 6k timelines all the way up until exporting the final film. When working on a project with tight deadlines and a low budget there's no time for technology to slow you down, so being able to start work as soon as the rushes are on your machine makes a massive difference. Using RAW footage was especially powerful when grading, giving us so much flexibility with the look of each scene. This ensured that every frame reflected the mood and feel of the narrative and allowed us to show Glitch's story in the best and most powerful way possible."