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Procam and Take 2 collaborated to provide equipment for the feature film, Redcon-1, a story of 8 soldiers assigned on a suicide mission to extract a scientist in the UK amidst a viral outbreak. Principal photography was an ambitious 12 week, 72 day shoot with locations spread across various cities in Scotland, as well as Rugby, Stafford, Whitworth and London. The shoot included tanks, helicopters, explosions and over 1,500 extras.
The production had high ambitions but was faced with a low budget, so the main challenge to overcome was creating the look associated with a higher budget film on limited resources. The director, Chee Keong Cheung, had a clear vision for the aesthetic he wanted to maintain throughout the piece. The cameras had to be dynamic and agile and the soldiers had to be photographed in a certain way to bring out their character in a graphic novel style. The aim was to create a textured and layered canvas which moved away from the look usually associated with many British independent films.
A total of three cameras were used for the shoot, two RED Dragons and one RED Epic. The small form factor was an appropriate choice for the small locations and shooting with two cameras close to each other. Using the RED cameras allowed the DP, Lorenzo Levrini, to build a LUT in Redcine-X in pre-production, which was monitored on set and baked into the offline automatically through the Avid AML. Colourist, Max Horton, went back to the RAW files and was able to see the direction the crew had gone for. As Lorenzo explains, “the great thing about RED is that the look travels with the clip as metadata, and during the Avid ingest, automatically becomes baked into the offline, without the need for a DIT.”
“We used vintage Lomo anamorphic lenses, which give a soft, creamy character. The beauty of vintage lenses is that every set is different. I’ve used most sets of Lomos in the UK and these, from Take 2, are one of the sharpest I’ve seen. We carried a spherical 14mm and 21mm Zeiss Ultraprimes, in case there was a wide shot where the distortion of the wide anamorphic was not appropriate, but we never used them for this purpose. We used it whenever we wanted two wides at once, or when second unit needed a wide shot, since we only had one lens set. In addition, we’d use the 14mm when we needed an extremely wide field of view”, explained Lorenzo.
To create the scale seen on screen on certain dates where the number of extras and military vehicles weren’t at the desired quantities, the crew were careful about the angles shot and what was revealed on camera. Wanting an epic cinematic canvas, they could not include many wide shots, so had to use re-cycle set dressings, extras and vehicles as the cameras panned around, using selective camera angles to fill out the frame. In the Whitworth location, the art department burnt a mixture of materials in barrels to create black smoke, making the background feel busier whilst adding texture and darkness to the sky.
Deciding how to cover the scenes was an intricate process. With complex action and eight leading roles, the production struggled to make enough time to shoot all coverage the director had scheduled. Ultimately, the crew used storyboards and paper edits that Chee had prepared as a starting point, referencing work done together in prep and responding to scenes as they evolved on the day. Lorenzo states “I would often operate handheld and work with the actors to get various angles within one take, and I have to credit all the actors for being open to working in this way and technically able to keep up with it, as well as A-cam focus puller Ali Baines, who did incredible work following my unpredictable movements. On the second leg, a second unit directed by our producer and actor Carlos Gallardo was extremely useful in picking up extra elements that the first unit didn’t have time to cover.”
“Procam was essential to us achieving what we did on this shoot. They understood the vision and got behind it, facilitating the right equipment, as well as the prep time we needed. The inclusion of Take 2 under Procam’s bracket allowed us to have access to a range of cinema kit, including the anamorphic lenses and the PeeWee dolly, whilst benefiting from Procam’s wide range of state-of-the-art accessories” - Lorenzo Levrini, DP.
Redcon-1 is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray, click here to purchase.