Saskatchewan is famous for its skies, flat landscape and harsh climate. However, for people who choose to live there, it is much more than that. For the short film, A Moment of Silence, I wanted to create a short narrative documenting why I love Saskatchewan and why I love heading out to explore its vast landscape. Not only is it extremely diverse, it offers many options for outdoor activities throughout the seasons.
With the recent release of the Kessler CineDrive system, I wanted to release a new short film that utilizes some of the features of the system. In this post, I want to walk you show you how I accomplished some of the shots seen in the short, A Moment of Silence as well as walk you through how I accomplished some of the shots seen in the video. In the BTS video, I walk through how to connect the Kessler CineDrive, how to calibrate the system and how to program a move.
A Moment of Silence
About the Video
This video was shot on location in Saskatchewan, Canada. Special thanks to David Bannerman of MediaVoice.ca (Nova Scotia, Canada) for the voice-over and mixing.
For this project, I wanted to set a few parameters for myself. The first is that I wanted to try shots that I wasn’t able to accomplish with the analog system and the second parameter was that all shots that required motion were done so using this system rather than a camera operator. The exception for this piece was the snowmobile shot.
Working on this project required me to overcome some challenges. The major one being the weather. First off, the temperature I had while shooting this project ranged from -15C to -35C plus the windchill (most days closer to the -35C end of things) so it was difficult to stay motivated when out working in these conditions. The warmth of the fireplace was really tempting. Another challenge was the overcast skies, which during the winter is very commonplace. This forced me to reschedule a lot of the shoots until the conditions were right. I will touch more on some of the obstacles below.
Below I have included the voice-over script:
“It comes in like a silent ghost in the middle of the night. This whiteness overtaking the colours of fall. You’re blinded in an instant. Waiting in the cold for a sliver of light to strike the landscape. This cold. So frigid – striking right at the core. A simple wish to be blinded – not by the white landscape but by the light. Days lasting but for only a minute. Lost in what seems an endless landscape. Broken up by the sounds of life in the distance. Close enough to hear but just out of sight.
We explore this place because of it’s silent beauty. Rolling hills breaking free from the stresses of what we see on a daily basis. Silence. This landscape is what draws us. It draws us – even with this crisp air. Lacing up for a few moments of freedom. Warmed by flickers of light. Late nights spent with friends hoping to catch the next fish story. But finding oneself alone on the landscape. Sometimes for a moment and other times for much longer”.
A Moment of Silence Behind the Scenes
About the BTS
For the BTS portion of this project, I wanted to take a quick look at the Kessler CineDrive System and show how I accomplished some of the shots in the short film. A Moment of Silence is my first short film using the CineDrive system so I wanted to explore how I could use it in my workflow. Being able to control multiple axis beyond the standard three, including focus and zoom, opens up many possibilities.
In the video attached above, I show how to connect, calibrate, and program a move. By no means does this video show everything the system can do, rather, it gives a first look at what the Kessler CineDrive is capable of. Special thanks to Nils Sorensen for helping with the BTS video!
During this project, the major obstacle I had to overcome was the weather. Conditions while shooting this piece ranged from -15C to -35C which posed a challenge with battery life. I also had to contend with overcast skies and snow. However, through all this, the system performed flawlessly in these harsh conditions. Another challenge was time. During the winter months, the sun is only up for about 7 hours (which is both good and bad – good for astro time-lapses but challenging for shots during the day) so I was forced to work creatively to capture the shots that I was hoping to capture. At this point, I feel I have only scratched the surface for what it is capable of and cannot wait to push the system and it’s capabilities.
One of my initial concerns with this system is setup time. However, setup, calibration and programming is extremely straight forward with this system.Within minutes, you can have the system connected and calibrated for your shot.
Time-lapse – Push / Pull (Vertigo Shot)
For these shots, I wanted to create a ‘vertigo’ style shot. To capture them, I used the Kessler CineSlider, CineDrive (Pan/Tilt/Focus/Zoom/Slide) and Low Profile Ball Head to bring the CineDrive Pan/Tilt head back to level. As the camera tracked down the slider I zoomed out on the camera.
Delay Function (Focus / Slide)
Being that I wanted to be both camera operator and subject for this piece, I used the delay function to capture this shot. After programming the move, I set a delay in the kOS software and used my iPhone to sync with the software using the built in timer app. I set the delay to 20 seconds on the kOS software and set a 20 second delay on the iPhone timer. Once the timer went off of the phone, I knew I had to be coming around the corner.
Digital Key framing (Multiple Key Frames)
One great feature of this system is the ability to use digital keyframes. Using either the Windows or iOS software, you are able to program your move. To capture this shot I used five keyframes. The shot starts focused on the trees and as it slides across, the camera rack focuses to the horizon, and then the shot finishes by zooming out and tilting towards the sun. I also blended shots of various speeds in this clip. If you look closely, the snow is falling in real time and the clouds are shot as a time-lapse. With the ability to achieve repeatable moves of various speeds, you are able to layer time-lapse, stop motion and live action shots.
Time-lapse – Push / Focus Pull
With the introduction of more axes, you are now able to control up to 254 axes. For this shot, I used the slide, pan, tilt and focus. As the shot tracks towards the fire, I racked focus so I could keep the fire in focus. Before the introduction of this product, you would have to rack focus by hand and the chances of missing your shot was huge.
With this system you are also able to achieve precise shots. Although this type of shot is possible without the use of this system, you are now able to achieve smooth, controlled, and 100% repeatable moves.
Time-lapse – Compositing
With the ability to achieve repeatable moves, you are able to layer shots for compositing. For both of these shots, I wanted to do day to night / night to day shots. To achieve these shots, I simply shot the same shot twice, once during the day and once during the night. In after effects, I lined these two shots up and then dissolved between them.