No matter what your project is, scheduling a “test shoot” before the start of your principal shoot can be one of the most valuable pre-production tools available to you. Plan on anywhere from a half day to two days, depending on the complexity of your tests. Ideally you’ll have the director of photography present, and a selection of gear especially lights and grip equipment (the camera goes without saying, right?) and if needed, a stand-in or subject so that you can see how it all looks with a human in the shot. It’s hard to be both director and stand-in so it’s worth getting a friend to sit in for you.
For me, the first test shoot was very simple because I’d never used the video features of my DSLR camera. I knew it was notoriously good in low light so I tried shooting in my house at night without additional lights.
Last night’s video shot turned out great considering it was in very very low light and I was just using the kit lens. The dark areas were noisy but still in the range of acceptable. It almost feels like a miracle, seeing full-res HD footage coming out of this little camera and this tiny SD card. Also, bear in mind that this is the first time I’ve picked up a camera and shot something myself in ages. I forgot how much fun it is.
Here are some more stills, the video (mp4 so obviously not full res) is at the bottom of this post. Everything was shot with existing light from my laptop and the light fixture has a 40 watt bulb. It’s noisy but I was still pleasantly surprised.
The hardest thing for me to do is make myself sit at home and make phone calls. Today I need to call an acting coach who has casting recommendations for me, my insurance company (I already have a standard liability policy for my office but need to figure out if the shoot will be covered and equipment rentals). I also need to email a director of photography and look into buying more storage media for the T2i and also a media drive for all this HD footage I’m about to start generating.
We need some materials for a pitch reel to put up on our website about the film. Not a trailer or actual footage but something for people to look at that drives home the concept of the film and the style and the comedy. I’m planning to use casting to do double duty and shoot some of the improvs that we’ll have the actors do. That means I need to figure out sound recording for the T2i, which is clearly its weak spot.