Magazine article American Cinematographer

Short Takes: ASC Honors 2 Student Films

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Short Takes: ASC Honors 2 Student Films

Article excerpt

I he recipients of this year's ASC Heritage Award, which the Society bestows annually to a promising student cinematographer, were LyIe Vincent of New York University's Tlsch School of the Arts and Brian G. Melton of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Named for a different ASC member every year, the 2006 Heritage Award honored the late John A. Alonzo.

Vincent's project, The Grey Woman, was created for NYU's ProMotion Pictures Film Competition, which gives students an opportunity to create a short film for a sponsoring brand. Participants were challenged to create a film promoting Verizon's broadband Internet service, and three finalists were then given $40,000 and three months to deliver a film that was no more than seven minutes long. Written and directed by Sayeeda Clarke, The Grey Woman is a magical realist tale of a lonely woman who reconnects with her lost love after her broadband connection is restored.

Vincent initially enrolled in NYU's directing program. "I had a fine art and still-photography background, and I wanted to be a director," he recalls. "The first year we shot a lot of exercises on black-and-white film, and my directing teacher, Boris Frumin, took notice of my work. He said, 'You're a cinematographer!'" Inspired by Frumin, Vincent went on to study with ASC members Sandy Sissel and Declan Quinn. "They helped me a great deal, and they both spent a lot of time with me outside of class," he says.

To convey the main character's transformation in The Grey Woman, Clarke wanted Camilla (Alexandra Laudo) and her apartment to be shown in blackand-white at the beginning of the film, and in color at the end. This meant a sizable chunk of the budget would have to be set aside for post, and that prodded Clark and Vincent to shoot on high-definition (HD) video. "This movie was always intended for the small screen, not a film print, and we knew [shooting on HD] would enable us to save a little money in production," says the cinematographer. "This was very important because we shot no greenscreen, and every single frame that had a color effect was rotoscoped by hand. Another good thing about shooting HD is the footage never had to be down-converted, up-converted or transferred. We shot in HD, edited in HD and rotoscoped in HD."

Vincent used a Panasonic VariCam in its native 16x9 aspect ratio, and he fitted the camera with a P+S Technik Pro35 Adapter so he could use PLmounted 35mm film lenses. Using Zeiss Superspeed primes, he usually shot wide open or at a T1.4/T2 split. "I was trying to shoot everything as low as possible to achieve an organic, shallow depth of field," he says. "We wanted to move the look of the HD more toward film."

He avoided filtration except for a 1/8 Tiffen Black Pro-Mist for some of the more stylized lighting. "With the lens adapter you're already co-opting the image, and using filters adds another layer of confusion," he remarks. Concerned that stylized lighting would detract from the highly stylized black-andwhite effects, the filmmakers opted for a naturalistic lighting style. "Even though it's a fantasy, it had to be grounded," says Vincent.

For the opening shots of Camilla walking home, the production shot in an East Village neighborhood filled with old brownstones. Vincent worked with production designer Veronica Ferré to find a street where the buildings were painted a variety of vibrant colors, and he kept the lighting simple. "We had a small Joker Bug in a China ball that we used to follow her, but after a few takes we just shot it straight. It just looked better lit with natural light."

In a garden behind an apartment building, Camilla finds her fortune in a wishing tree and transforms into color. Vincent lit the garden with two 2.5K HMI Pars shooting through 12'x12' gridcloth. Two 1.2K HMI Pars with medium hot lenses were used to highlight specific areas, such as the small fountain or certain flowers. To highlight Camilla, Vincent had a 2. …

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