On Wednesday, the 27th of June we had our first shoot in the TV studio stage at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences. Our production plan for that day laid out all the shots and sequences that will be seen on TV sets and screens in the final film.
So on one hand it was about Evelyn (Caroline Mercedes Hochfelner), the infected who talks about how beautiful her life outside the city walls now is, was well as a special broadcast of the City News show (anchorman played by Johann Hirzinger) featuring an interview with a renowned scientist (Gianni Stiletto) about the illness. At this point a hearty thank you to our actress and actors!
The day began half past eight in the morning with lending the equipment. Although we were shooting “only” TV segments, it was important for us to record with the ARRI ALEXA for achieving a stringent visual look for the whole production. Very early on director, D.o.P. and VFX agreed upon that decision.
For anybody interested in the specs: We shoot Back to the Roots with an ARRI ALEXA digital camera in LogC in 24 fps ProRes 4444 on S×S cards. Our director receives a Rec709 signal for on-set viewing.
The time before noon was spent with setup, lighting (thanks to Fabian Uitz) and tests until in the afternoon out first actress Caroline arrived by train from Graz and was sent to Stefanie Bachmair for make-up. Producer Elisabeth Güntner supported her on that, despite being set manager, clapper loader and script supervisor – phew!
The scene with Caroline was shot in front of a blue-screen since she should appear as being outdoors. Still we shot on stage because we prefer the perfect control over lighting and environment and the short preparation time between scenes. Cornelia Bader, our Head of VFX, also decided to shoot Caroline against blue rather than green, because her blond hair would have made things hairy (pun intended) in VFX. The color separation between yellow/blue is much better in comparison. Also tracking marks had been positioned to recreate the subtle camera movement by D.o.P. Felix Pflieger and Christian Kermer in post.
For the scene with Johann Hirzinger, our news anchorman, the scene change was done rather quickly since not many props were needed and the new lighting was setup just as swift. As a very special item we gave Johann Manuel Eder’s custom-made prop: A black carbon slate with aluminum handle, glass sheet and our city’s coat of arms as a futuristic equivalent of cue cards.
On-set audio was recorded by Ariane Pellini twice for safety reasons: One track was recorded via the TV-standard lapel microphone, the other source was a Senheiser cardioid microphone on a boom, since the radio-transmitters turned out to suck the life out of our batteries fast and we wanted to be on the safe side.
In contrary to Caroline, our anchorman was shot against green. Again it was all about a possibly good color and level separation of foreground and background.
For the interview between Johann and Gianni, director Markus Auzinger improvised a teleprompter: In Adobe Premiere he imported the script into the title generator and created a long running text whose scrolling speed could be manipulated relatively easy. The notebook was placed on a table just below the camera lens and worked almost flawlessly. Still, somebody had to be ready to quickly hit Pause or keep the screen from dimming.
Since interviewer and interviewee couldn’t sit next to each other for scheduling reasons, we relocated our set from the sound stage to a conference room to shoot the expert’s replies to the anchorman’s questions.
Thanks to a 2000 Watt HMI and the narrow premises, the room got baking hot. The worse for Gianni who was wearing for his role a white turtleneck shirt, lab-coat and rubber gloves. At least with these shots we didn’t have to be watchful because of VFX and so only a few people were necessary to remain present in the “incubator”. I was among them and was responsible for sound since Ariane had to leave earlier. That’s how it is on a small set. Luckily the sound I leveled seemed usable after a first trial.
Almost surprisingly we wrapped half an hour earlier than expected since we had everything we wanted in the box. Only our data wrangler Philipp Götz was busy for some time to back-up the S×S-cards and audio recordings onto two separate hard drives.
At the end of the day we had aggregated about 145 GB of data. For principal photography we already noted, that we need to organize more and bigger disk-drives.