ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Posts Tagged ‘Belfast Studio Rental’

Abigail’s Party – Behind the Scenes

We recently did a shoot for the MAC. I always love shoot theatre projects. They tend to be a little more loose with the brief, leaving you as a photographer to put your own stamp on it. This project was for the Mike Leigh penned play, “Abigail’s Party”.

As quoted from the MAC’s description of the play,
“We cordially invite you to the party of the year. (The year is 1977).

Abigail’s Party is one of the most iconic stage plays of the 20th century, thanks partly to its legendary 1977 ‘Play for Today’ production on BBC1. From a time when the height of urban sophistication was cheese and pineapple on a stick, served nonchalantly on a Lazy Susan comes a tragi-comedy about social climbing, prejudice and fear of not doing ‘the done thing’.

The writer and director Mike Leigh called his play “both a celebration and a lamentation of how we are”, because this isn’t just a play about 1970s Britain, it’s a peek into the frustrations and struggles endured by everyone who has ever floundered and grasped their way through life, attempting to ensure everything about them and around them is ‘the done thing’.”

 

Coooooool, a period piece, that takes place in the 70’s. Andi Mac (no relation to the above MAC), called me up late in 2017 to start the ball rolling; getting a set devised and built, on budget, that would represent 1970’s British suburbia. Andi found some wall paper that suited the bill; one of those older, ugly brown repeating pattern types that your smoking aunt used to have hanging in her living room. I really wanted to give the image some scale, some depth, so Andi ordered several rolls of the garish paper. Now all we had to do was build some walls to hang it on.
We tried to get some movable flats made that we could stick the paper on but we were running out of time. Instead we got four 4×8 sheets of 3/8 plywood for a smooth finish. My assistant Radek and I screwed the wood to the wall to give us a finished are of 8×16 feet; should be enough to pull off a living room set. My other assistant Chad and I arrived early on shoot day to prep the studio, pre light and hang the paper.

The lighting would consist of 4 Profoto heads running off two 1200 Acute packs, bouncing into two 4×8 white foams on c stands bouncing into set at a 45 degree or so angle.

Ringlight centred between two 4×8 white fills.

I played around with the ringlight on camera for a few frames to try to get a nice even blend between the fill and the ring but I abandoned it for a 1m Octalight.

Ya, just wasn’t happy with the look from the ringlight in this situation, maybe then again it might have been that moustache.

We got all our “fabulous” props from Shane over at Stags Head Props, and once into position we were ready to really dive in and get the lighting real. I dumped the ringlight for a 1m Octalight with no diffusion but a grid on the front. It would be coming in from camera right. Along with the Octa I put up a silver Softlight reflector with a grid to focus a bean of light onto the sideboard and 70’s stereo against the back wall; I wanted to pull the grain out of the side board and show off the sculpted handles.

The set is loaded and ready.

I took the fill down to one light per 4×8 foam o give it a little more punch, subtle but there. At this point we brought “Beverly” on set. She is the principle actor who’s daughter, “Abigail” is having her first teenage party next door.
The last addition to the lighting set up was a 650w Bambino fresnel with barndoors(and some cinefoil) on a boom, to create a gash of light on the back wall.

I shot the project on the Pentax 645z for the added dynamic range and medium format depth of field control wit the 45-85mm zoom. The brief included photography for outdoor signage, specifically 96, 48 billboards and Adshel. I used the 1m Octa as my main and moved it around the set depending on where the model was positioned and what format we were working on. So the wide landscape 96/48 images had the Octa off on camera right, roughly 45 off camera and at a 45 degree angle, giving us a loose Rembrandt styled light.

Above is an un retouched DNG of the final lighting set up for the landscape images.
Below is the retouched image, un cropped ready to be dropped in the layout.

There wasn’t a whole lot needed to be re touched, just a lightening of the skin and upper body and a slight toning of the colurs but for the most part it was bang on to what Andi and I were looking for.

The portrait version for the Adshel and printed pieces needed the Octa light shifted around to more on camera and with the fill from the floor gave a nice detailed beauty light. We moved some of the props around in the background just to fill the space a bit.

Soft gorgeous light from the 1m Octa light and grid.

I love the images and once again thoroughly enjoyed colaborating with Andi and PaleBlueDot.

A big round of clap for Radek and Chad for helping do everything we needed to get the shoot done on time.

Be sure and head out some evening to catch Abigail’s Party in person at the MAC from April 15th to May 5th, 2018.

 

 

 

 


Lally the Scut – Behind the Scenes

Lally the Scut was written by Abbie Spallen and is the latest production to be featured at the wonderful MAC in Belfast. She is an award winning playwright and screenwriter, who is currently the writer in residence at the Lyric in Belfast.
I was fortunate to be asked to photograph the cast for their advertising media. The art director from the agency contacted me with his brief. He had attached a mood board of imagery he based the ideas on, my work showing the feeling and tone of the images as well as a few showing the composition. He had also hand drawn the overall character layout for the hero image as well as a couple of the individual actors’ direction.

Mood board for Lally the Scut

Mood board for Lally the Scut

Lally the Scut character composition drawing

Lally the Scut character composition drawing

Actor's direction drawings

Actor’s direction drawings

The next step is for me to sit down and think about the most cost effective and efficient way to shoot a dozen cast members in scenario, to make the files the easiest to work on. The image would obviously have to be “comped” or pieced together as the set would be impossibly large to accommodate everyone around an imaginary hole in the ground. I imagined the sun to be shining almost dead center, behind the type. This would make the individual images easier to stitch together as all the lighting would be similar for each actor. The actors would also have to be animated, leaning into the hole and possibly using their props. I would need to have something solid, for the players to be able to place their weigh against and lean down into. A couple of very sturdy ladders, clamped together with a plank of wood between the two of them that I had painted black.
For lighting I bounced two Profoto Magnum reflectors into the white ceiling above the performers heads, with enough light to bleed slightly over the edges of them but not too much that we lose the edges of them for the clipping paths later. Over their heads, hanging on a superboom would be a Profoto Silver Softlight with a full CTO filter on it, to resemble the over head sun shining down on them. From the camera side, just for a little fill on their faces, I used a Profoto Softlight White, without filtration to give it a slight bluish hue in the shadows. Two black negative fill boards then lined the set and black blackout cloth on the floor to keep any bounce down.

BTS lighting set up

BTS lighting set up

Here is a short time lapse iPhone video of the set up and quick test.
https://vimeo.com/123541923

So now that the lighting and set are all up, we’re ready to shoot some actors.

Untreated selected images

Untreated selected images

These are some of the selected images before they were gone through by the art director and his picks chosen. After that I applied my treatments and retouched the images to the point that I liked them. I sent those off for final approval.

Fork the Cat - A difficult recent history of cross community workshops

Fork the Cat – A difficult recent history of cross community workshops

Ellen - She calls a blade a blade

Ellen – She calls a blade a blade

Lally - No one is saying she's whiter than white

Lally – No one is saying she’s whiter than white

Owen - Bringing people the stories that matter

Owen – Bringing people the stories that matter

Bun McTasney - Everyone's eating his cakes

Bun McTasney – Everyone’s eating his cakes

Paths and final assembly complete the image looks like this.

Lally the Scut final

Lally the Scut final

Not too shabby
And with copy and graphics, it looks like this.

Lally the Scut with copy & graphics

Lally the Scut with copy & graphics


A short little test with Fuji film and Canon digital

I haven’t been in the studio for a while so I thought I would do a little half day test with Sophia Taylor, Ashley Morhej and Lee Stinton. Lee couldn’t make it to the studio so Sophia went to his place to have her hair done and Ashley touched up on set as needed. Sophia had an idea of what she wanted from the day and so did I.
Sophia had an image that she liked the style of, that she wanted to try for herself. It was a simple lighting with a little back light and a small amount of flare in one of the corners. Not too difficult but her image had hours if not days of retouching on it and for our purposes we weren’t going to be putting in that amount of time for such a simple shot.

What I felt were the more exciting images were the beauty images we did on white as well as a couple of impromptu grabs while meandering around the studio. I should state here that I was flipping back and forth between digital and film. The digital was pretty straight forward; a Canon 5D Mk2 with a 70-200. The film on the other hand was Fuji 400H colour neg and Fuji RMS (which was to be cross processed). I had my faithful Mamiya RZ with a 90mm F3.5; I like to handhold the Mamiya as much as possible, cradling it like the monster it is in my hands. Youcef was there to help me, passing cameras and lenses back and forth as I swapped as the need arose. I like the images that we got out of the couple of hours in the studio. Below you can compare for yourself which you like better. They are retouched in Photoshop but they are not direct copies of each others style and feeling. Each medium I feel has its own style and I try to let that show through in the final result.
All the lighting was with Profoto ProAcutes

Sophia 1

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Canon 5D Mk2. Small amount of retouching in Photoshop.

Sophia 2

Simple Lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Canon 5D Mk2, retouched in Photoshop.

Sophia 3

Simple Lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Mamiya RZ on Fuji 400H, retouched in Photoshop

Sophia 4

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight on a Mamiya RZ with Fuji RMS cross processed and retouched in Photoshop

Sophia 5

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight on a Mamiya RZ with Fuji RMS cross processed and retouched in Photoshop


BTS – Behind the Scenes Fall 2011

I’ve been busy. Life is good.
Been working with some great people over the past several months. Shooting at every corner of the country.
Here are some images from some of the projects. Feel free to comment.


A quick painting of the studio floor.

Three pails of two part industrial floor paint and around 4 hours of my time. It’s hard keeping a white floor looking clean. My last attempt with floor paint worked reasonable for about 8 months before the sheen wore off and it became very difficult to get any luster back into it.