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Shooting "Savior" on URSA Mini 4.6K

Chapman University Film Students Create Stunning World War II Drama
Dillon McEvoy (DP), Mike Overton (Director) and Matt Ramey (Producer) are film students at Chapman University and just completed their Junior level Advanced Production short film." And you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in quality between their film, "Savior," and a big-budget Hollywood film. 

"Savior" is the tale of a World War II paratrooper alone in the woods of France who is rescued by a French resistance Maquis fighter. Escaping from German soldiers, the two form a bond in the short time they are together. 

To create a high quality war film is a huge undertaking. You have to get the uniforms right. Weapons and scenery have to be accurate, and you have to combine that with action scenes, VFX, physical effects, such as blood, and making sure you get the right actors that can believably inhabit the role of soldiers. And for a student film, all on a miniscule budget that would not even pay for catering on a typical Hollywood set. 

With all that was needed, having to spend most of their budget on a camera seemed like the quickest way to limit creativity. Which is why Dillon chose to use the URSA Mini 4.6K EF digital film camera. "This camera is amazing. The quality images it let us get, and at a low price, let us spend our production money on creativity and not the camera," he said. 

The Savior Shoot
The parameters from the film were to have an eight-page script for a movie that would be no longer than 10 minutes, due to budget reasons. Which ended up not being a problem for Dillon, Mike and Matt, since their choice of camera freed up enough budget to allow for a 15-minute film. 

"Savior," which was shot in three days with one day of pick up shots later, was shot entirely on the URSA Mini 4.6K, which Dillon had purchased himself. The film was shot in Rec 709 in 3:1 RAW using a variety of Rokinon lenses. 

In 15 minutes, the film goes from the main character hanging from a tree during the day to a nighttime scene in a barn, ending in bright sunshine in an open field. All of the lighting was natural lighting, including nighttime shots lit by only lanterns. 

"We shot 100 percent in natural lighting for all day exteriors. Even the fog in the background was natural. The ability of the URSA Mini to get me details that I could pull out in post was incredible," said Dillon.

"The camera gives a real Super35 film feel to every shot. And Rec 709 let me capture exactly the right color tones, which I was worried about with the paratrooper's drab green and yellow uniforms," he continued. 

"We had a different problem with the French resistance fighter where I had to worry about his bright white shirt shooting very hot. As soon as I started shooting, I just knew that the shirt was going to give us trouble in post," Dillon said. "But shooting in 3:1 RAW with the URSA Mini helped us out tremendously."

From the daytime forest shots, the film moves to night in a French farmer's barn. For these, Dillon shot ISO 800 and relied on the camera's high dynamic range to make sure the footage had the intricate details that could be pulled out in post. This is an incredibly emotional time in the film, followed by vicious violence, and the filmmakers had to focus on the emotions of the actors and the action and not on worrying whether the shadows would hide the drama. 

 "We got all the shots we needed. These shots were a half stop to a full stop underexposed. And in post we were still able to bring the shadows up and the images were clean," Dillon said. "It was surprising what we were able to capture with such few lights for the night scene. It would have been great to have had the money for a full set of lights and the crew to manage it. But that was not our reality, and the fact that the URSA Mini gave us so much leeway in post, we could focus on creativity."

The film has been submitted (no word yet on the grade!) and will be placed for consideration in a number of film festivals. 

"The URSA Mini let us not worry about the technology, but instead on being creative. With this camera, you get so much production value. Only having to spend so much money on camera team's budget allowed us to spend the left over funds on actors and sets," concluded Dillon.  

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Design, URSA Mini 4.6K EF digital film camera, Cinematography, filmmaking, film students


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