Film Talk

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"203" (1st documentary) - feedback please? (3 replies and 7 comments)

4 months ago
simoncarlkoeber 4 months ago

Hello dear forum members, dear Mr. Deakins,

I am Simon Carl Köber from Germany, I'm 22 years old. After 2 years of occupation and practice with cinematography in my freetime, in November my first documentary premiered.
The title is "203" and it is a german documentary about the stage theater in Konstanz, a small city in southern Germany, during lockdown. It is about a theater which got hit quite hard by the pandemic as the whole creative sector was. As it was a solo project, besides being the DOP, I also directed the movie. It took me 2 months to shoot.»

I would be very happy about some feedback of the cinematography in the movie. I know it's a lot to watch, even as it is only in German and I can't provide english subtitles, but you can also skip through and just give me some feedback about some chosen frames, if you want. 
I also developed my own film emulation of Kodak2383 for this project and tried to apply a similar use of viewing LUTs and DI process as Roger. Would be happy to get some feedback about the color as well.

I am so thankful for the opportunity of this forum as I learned a quite crucial part of my craft by studying the work of you, Mr. Deakins, and how you achieved it.

Thank you all, with greetings from Germany,

4 months ago
Mike 4 months ago

Roger is filming on location so he may not get time to reply.

I can give you my 2 Cents worth if that helps in anyway.

I assume you only need feedback as the DP on this documentary. The photography and lighting was excellent in nearly every scene, the framing was rather good, the choice of lens was again good although I would have used a wider lens on some scenes and got in closer especially with the girl painting a metal frame, it’s a matter of taste really, I thought the audience needed to see more. I assume you were using a Zoom lens with a 5.5 mm minimum, so you could have gone wider. Lighting was very good and again assumed you were using a variable LED rig. Position of the lamp was excellent when filming head and shoulder interviews, I thought this was superb.

The overall subject of the documentary was interesting, I started life in the theatre before progressing to TV Drama so I found the subject very interesting even though I do not speak German, which demonstrates that you do not have to speak the language to understand it. I knew the subject anyway.

May I say that the sound quality was superb, it was Broadcast Standard without doubt. Bravo to the soundman or soundgirl! The continuity music was excellent with the correct levels.

Can I say that, although the documentary was superb, it was rather too long, you could have shortened some of the scenes and still maintain interest.

Just my opinion, that’s all.

Could you advise what camera and lens you used also how did you record the sound?

4 months ago

Hey Mike,
I am so happy about your feedback, that is really what I needed for my work. I assumed that Roger is busy right now, but I thought greeting him on his own website is just polite. 😉

I totally see what you mean by too long, now 9 months after the editing process I have that feeling too.

Your feedback about the cinematography makes me so happy. It's interesting what you say about choosing a wider lens for some of the scenes, I will consider it next time! I tried it for some of the shots (maybe because I was also influenced a bit by Chivo of whom I saw Revenant right at that time) to get closer to the subject by choosing a wider lens - I guess that is what you meant?
And that brings me to your questions about the equipment.

I am using a Blackmagic Pocket 4K with a Panasonic GX Vario 12-35mm 2.8 zoom lens, so you were right. But as the Pocket 4K has a MFT sensor those focal lengths probably translate differently to a S35 equivalent, so probably to a more like 18-50 or something.
I must admit that filming with a zoom lens really was just a practical choice - I own all of the equipment I shoot with and buying a rather good zoom lens just was cheaper than buying 3-4 prime lenses in the first place. Because I bought most of that equipment by working in a part time job during my study. So I must also admit that in a run-and-gun shooting situation like with the girl painting the metal frame it probably led to not always choosing my focal length very carefully. That's a pitty as I would rather prefer to shoot with prime lenses. But when I had more time, like for the interviews, I could choose it more precisely.
Also, the Panasonic is a rather clean lens, but on a wider focal length it has quite some distortion to it, so maybe that is also a reason why I didn't opt for the wider focal length at some shots.
And I am so happy about your feedback of that sound quality too, as I recorded and edited it all myself, as well as writing and producing the music. For recording I used a Sennheiser MKE 600 on the camera or on a boom for the interviews, always recording directly into camera.
As editing and grading software I used Resolve. That is also where I designed that film emulation.
Lighting wise I was just running on a 1K Tungsten Fresnel with CTB gel and a 5in1 reflector of which I used the diffusion. No LED at the moment as I couldn't afford some of that Aputure stuff. For most of the scenes I just used natural daylight or practicals anyway.

You see, it is all a one man show, basically. 😀

And interesting, what did you do in theatre? And how did your progression to TV Drama go? Cause I'm thinking about studying cinematography and I'm not very sure about that.

Thank you again for your great and fair feedback!

The Byre
4 months ago
The Byre 4 months ago

I agree with everything Mike said, but the interview with the girl at the beginning had too much echo to be properly understandable - I do speak German since childhood, so I was trying to understand her.  She mumbled a great deal, so I was unable to understand what she did and it sounded as if her name was Beate Stollmayer but in the credits, she is listed as Hannah Stollmayer.  It sort of sounded as if she said she was a director (Ressiseurin).

I thought the organ chords underlying the dialogue was too loud around the girl and this will be accentuated when played on laptops or smartphones as these things have small speakers that sound tinny!

The rest of the sound was spot-on and full marks to the Sennheiser MKE 600 for coming over as clearly as it did.

Yes, the effects of C19 on the entertainment industry have been pretty devastating and not just for the theatre.    

There were some jump-cuts that could have been avoided by having a B-roll and a simple DSLR or bridge camera that does 4K could be good enough for a docu.

It is rather long and could have been tightened up, as Mike suggested.


I did enjoy it and watched it fully and the cinematography was really good.  Really good lighting! 

(BTW, one can have oodles of fun in German by turning on the CC and seeing what silly mistakes Google speech recognition makes of certain phrases - for example, it turned Stelzenläufer into verstellten Läufer (stilt-walkers into maladjusted runners).

4 months ago

Thank you, the Byre for your honest opinion! That really helps. So for not answering for some days, it was a stressful weak at the theater.

You're absolutely right about the interview with Hannah Stollmayer, the problem was the echo in the room (it was the staircase of the theater), and I didn't monitor it in that amount by the time I was setting everything up. That was a little surprise in post.

As I am not a B-roll guy that much, I decided to go for the jumpcuts, though I think you could be right that it would have been a better decision to avoid them.
Thx anyway! How does it happen that you speak German?

The Byre
4 months ago

Mother met father in Goslar after the war, he spoke German fluently so when I came along in the UK, they continued to speak German, so I spoke German until I came in contact with other children. My German sort of drifted in and out, but came back within a year or so when I moved to Germany after 3 yrs in the Airborne and bumming around the world for a year. In Germany, I worked in audio and did a good bit of freelance work for TV and film (RTL, Pro7, Studio Hamburg and other bits and bobs) and then started to write about TV for UK and US trade magazines and that lead to building up a news agency covering all kinds of stuff. Sold that to a UK company and moved to Scotland in 2000 at the request of my German wife, where we ran a recording studio that did a fair bit of film and TV score work. Much of that dried up thanks to the C19 thing, so we are now turning our operation into a film production unit, so that's why I'm here! My kids are all in Berlin.

4 months ago
Mike 4 months ago

Years ago I did stage management, then trained as a TV cameraman, then eventually editor. I have done many more things since, I am older than you think! I wear many hats!

btw Sennheiser MKE 600 is one of the best cardioid mics, very quiet electronics.

The Byre
4 months ago

Ha! Ha! You too eh!

I did an ADB (Associated Drama Board) back in the 60s parallel to studying electrical engineering. I got the ADB but failed to complete the EE - joined the Paras instead!

I'm an MKE416-P48 man myself - it is just what people ask for, though I think that is because they have heard of it! I like to combine it with a TLM103 or a U87 or an M149 for VO work. That gives one the choice of going from sharp to mellow in the mix later on.

4 months ago

I must admit, out of all the microphones I ve got, the Aston Spirit has got to be one of the best. Build quality and sound quality are really superb, especially when switched to omni pattern. Stereo pattern is very useful but omni is breath taking.
Stunning performance imo. Ideal for ambience. Extremely quiet and out performs Neumann. Can use for V/O work when switched to cardiod.

4 months ago

The 416 is of course a great mic, but it was too expensive for me, so I went for it's litte brother. 😉
Impressive careers of you both!

4 months ago

Sennheiser MKE 600 is a brilliant mic for the money. Super silent and duel power too, phantom and internal battery. 416/815/816 are expensive but do last a life time and are made for heavy use. Cheaper mics can perform extremely well even though they have limited use but if used within their design parameters they are certainly cost efficient. Saving money does make sense.

I have a large collection of mics and also make my own which perform the same as Schoeps/DPA and are considerably cheaper. 
Quality sound can easily be achieved without spending a fortune. Knowing how to get the best out of mics is more important, it’s the same principle as with lighting, you don’t need expensive lamps to light a scene but you need some wisdom to get it right.

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