Fast Girls is a British feature film by IRON LADY Producer Damian Jones and is timed to coincide with the massive interest in athletics with the looming 2012 championships. The drama follows the ambitions of a young runner selected, against the odds, to run for the GB team in the relay team. The story involves the intense rivalry of a fellow squad member, with much of the action playing out at speed around the oval arena.
By happy coincidence, the film’s Director, Regan Hall, was a VMI employee in his earlier years and when the production approached MD Barry Bassett to supply the new Red Epic for the shoot, he pulled out all the stops to supply the equipment for their tight budget. It was the pace of the runners that was another of the key factors in selecting the Red Epic for the shoot. “Ironically, the best way to capture speed is by slowing the footage, so the camera must have the ability to increase the frame rate and the Alexa did not have a higher speed than 60fps at that time. After all, Chariots of Fire would be a completely different film without its iconic slow motion shots.” Comments Co-producer Benjamin Rimmer
The second reason for selecting the Red rig was its 4K image capture capability. Benjamin continues: Regan was familiar with the Red One camera from using it on commercials. He discussed the choice between Red vs Alexa (whose menus are much easier for Camera Crews to navigate) at length with DOP John Lynch and they determined to use the new Red Epic with its greater resolution and high speed. This has given Regan maximum flexibility in Post production to re-frame some of the stadium shots that we could not afford to fill with VFX Crowd & also for John Lynch when Grading. We were shooting on a limited budget, so filling arenas with thousands of real spectators was never an option. Cropping the picture tight in post, taking advantage of the huge resolution of the camera, meant that we could still achieve the right frame size for the final print.”
Although the production faced a number of technical issues during the filming, the end result is “superb” according to the Co-producer. “The image quality was fantastic and low light performance was excellent. Our DOP John Lynch photographed everything beautifully and used the minimum of lights wherever possible, to create a highly realistic look. He also carried out exhaustive lens tests to find the best counterpoint to the Red Epic’s increased digital resolution, eventually choosing a set of Zeiss T1.9 Ultraprimes to create lens flare under the stadium lighting and further enhance the cinematic look.”
Mounting the camera on a high speed electric Tracking Vehicle, the director tracked the feed from the camera wirelessly. “This presented us with the first of our problems. In order to send the signal to the Transvideo monitor, the video had to be down-converted from 4K. It took trial and error with a number of Decimator converters going down before we could achieve a stable feed. This was very frustrating indeed and the solution – using a different type of downconverter called the AJA – was most welcome.” Also, the Epic only has one BNC output but in this day and age you need more for all various accessories, wireless Director’s monitor, and Video Village. At the time you couldn’t change the output signal from 24fps to 25fps on the Epic. They have fixed this on the Epic now.
The crew found the handling of the Epic surprisingly good. “It's a small, compact and very well engineered camera and is certainly heavier than it looks. However, it was good to use on location and we hand held and shoulder-mounted it on numerous occasions.”
Part of the learning curve of using the Red Epic came down to the size of files it creates on the solid state media. “The large capacity of the 128GB drives tempted us to go on shooting until we neared its limit. We quickly learnt that this was not ideal as handing two hours worth of data over to our DIT at the end of a day's shoot put him in the position of having to download six hours of files after wrap and work on the content into the night. Only then could the post production proceed, threatening to put us behind schedule. Therefore the decision was taken to record for twenty minutes or so onto a single card before handing it to the DIT for regular download. This workflow is one I would thoroughly recommend to avoid expensive overtime!”http://movies.uk.msn.com/exclusives/video.aspx?videoid=28b8tx65r
The Co-producer concludes: “The end result is an inspirational film that looks beautiful on the big screen. After learning how to operate the camera and to use an appropriate workflow, we found it the ideal system for the feature.”