The First Musketeer


Neil Oseman TV-Bay Magazine
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by Neil Oseman
Issue 91 - July 2014

Based on The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, The First Musketeer is a brand new take on this famous adventure. Written and directed by Harriet Sams, director of photography Neil Oseman takes us behind the lens of this new gritty six part mini drama shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

Set in the South of France, The First Musketeer is an origin story which explores the early lives of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, many years before they meet DArtagnan, reveals Neil. One of the reasons Harriet chose to film here, aside from the stunning locations, is the richness of colour you get from the natural light. A lot of films in the UK favour very cold colours, that come from our grey skies and generally poor weather, and often produce a washed-out, urban effect. This was something Harriet wanted to avoid.

When I initially got a hold of the script, I skipped over the scene headings, something I have always done when reading any script for the first time. What struck me first was just how much was going on in the shadows, figuratively that is. I felt large parts of the script really lent themselves to being shot at night, explains Neil. It was only after rereading the script that I realised many of those scenes were actually set during the day. I spoke with Harriet and after some discussion we agreed that the story could be made even better by moving certain scenes from day to night.

Our decision to film on the 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera was taken about a week before the production team travelled, according to Neil. Having taken the decision to do more filming at night, we felt that the cameras 13 stops of dynamic range would really come in to its own during post.

For example, in one shot two of the cast are stood close together in an embrace. Milady de Winters face is lit entirely by bounce from Athos white shirt, which the Blackmagic Cinema Camera was sensitive enough to pick up. Had we filmed on a camera with less dynamic range, we would need to have put in a reflector or a little Kino Flo to achieve the same result. When I sat in on the grade with Encore Post colorist Will Coker, there was just so much extra detail in there to play around with.
In another scene, there is an archway that Milady de Winter has to walk under and she was going into complete darkness. We wanted to see a little bit of something, so I put in a Kino Flo on the floor, added a lot of diffuser on it and we were just able to bring her slightly out of the shadows without it really looking like shed been lit at all. It was just enough that she didnt look like a complete silhouette. And that was a subtlety that we couldnt have achieved had we been using a DSLR.

After arriving on location, we had a day to familiarise ourselves and get the camera rigged up. Harriet had wanted to shoot RAW, however after some initial testing, our DIT did the math and we quickly realised this would be too cost prohibitive, so we opted to shoot in ProRes. Working on micro-budget productions like this you have to decide which battles you are going to fight. And in this instance our priority had to be investing in a good lighting setup, especially with the series relying so heavily on candlelight.

That meant getting creative, explains Neil. We had to fake all of our candlelight by using these mock candles made up of real wax and a flickering LED. At times these werent sufficient so wed also have to set up Dedos or hide 100 Watt bubbles behind props such as candle arbors. We then had our colourist massage those shots in instances where the light was too bright to ensure it looked as natural as possible.

When prepping for night scenes, there was an element of trial and error when it came to rigging up our lighting. Setting up during the day meant we had to imagine what it would look like once the sun went down. Had we shot with a DSLR, you might have found that everything was in the right place, but one was too hot while another was too dark. This would have been difficult to correct for in post. However, filming on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera meant that I knew we could turn them all on and that everything would be in the right range to get an exposure that was workable.

www.firstmusketeer.com


Tags: iss091 | musketeer | blackmagic design | Neil Oseman
Contributing Author Neil Oseman

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