Monday, 22 April 2013

Lancaster Bomber

Last weekend presented a very entertaining shoot - all aboard a Lancaster Bomber. And it was not just the location that proved to be tricky ...

Lancaster - Photo's courtesy Chris Hainstock
This short project came about through my connections with Lincoln University, and it sounded like such an interesting shoot that was going to be providing a number of 'interesting' challenges, that I climbed aboard quite quickly. I must add though...we never left the ground!

Red Epic

The first factor was that because of the cramped nature of the majority of the shoot, the team had decided to work with the Red Epic. However great the images may look, the fan noise of this camera is a real problem. The minimum fan setting when 'turning over' is 25%, but in a small space - such as the inside of an aircraft - this is still very noticeable. However, it is not this that is the main problem; the problem is that when 'not turning over' the sound of the camera fan is akin to a kettle boiling, and it makes it completely impossible to listen out for noise on set - such as lights singing / ballast hums / squeaks - the DOP even made the comment one of 'I'm sorry, say that again, I can't hear you over the noise of the camera'. So the first take, can feel a bit like the rehearsal. Also the DOP and director, told me of the day's filming prior to my arrival, where they had been filming a long and intense interview with a war veteran who flew in the Lancaster's. During one of the long takes, the Red kicked the internal fan on and ruined the take.

I kept sound separate from the camera, but did sync timecode via an ambient lockit box - although we never did manage to achieve genlock - even after numerous phone calls and emails to the camera hire company, RFS and everyone else we could think of. So, we never resolved whether it was down to a software setting in the (somewhat) impenetrable menu system or a simple cable fault.

Sync Sound

In the bomber, every actor is going to be wearing a flight mask, so there is actually no lip sync as such - but that did not mean I was not going to get the best location sound that I could. And also it was key that every actor was mic'd up, as the director and actors (and various other members of the team) had to be able to communicate with each other so as to get the best performance possible on camera.

Rigging Radio Mics' and comms.
Each actor had a wireless cos 11 hidden with the peak of the flying cap, and also a wireless comms ear piece in one of their ears - this meant that there could be full communication to and from each actor. This was key, as the space was so cramped onboard the lancaster, it was vital that the minimum number of crew were aboard / blocking the single (and somewhat trecherous) access route. 

In each filming location - cockpit (Skipper and Flight Engineer), bomb aimer, Mid-upper gunner, wireless op, Navigator and rear gunner - I also placed a schoeps ccm41 to get some air into each of the radio mics. The huge advantages with this mic in this situation was its small size, and its wide angle of acceptance.

As it was only possible to shoot one member of the cast on camera at a time - due to space constraints, so the out of vision members of the flight crew were located on the place, near a playback speaker and boom mic (MKH50), and each scene was played out in full whenever possible. Also, by recording the MKH50 (as well as routing to the on-camera actor's ear pieces), I recorded a completely clean version of the dialogue tracks without the masks in place for audio post production to play with.

Working in the Dark - Filming over night to get the blackout effect.
Non-Sync Sound

Original Lancaster Radio System
As we were setting up the cameras on Just Jane, one of the curators of the museum offered the director and I the chance to hear what the headsets would have really sounded like, as they had refurbished two full head sets with the original communications systems. It was such an amazing a distinctive sound - and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss - so whenever the camera team were setting up, one of the sound team would take an actor, and run though their entire dialogue, but recording the sound through the original head sets - here's a very brief example of my first test recording.

Huge thanks to Lindsay Smith from Lincoln university, who did a stirling job of helping me out on this job. And follow information about the lancaster bomber film on twitter @lancastermovie

April 22


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