Production Journal - ''Room Service' Pre-Production



The below is a copy of a production journal I started on a different forum, but in the past I was asked to cross post it here, so here it is:

I figured I would do another production journal, this time for a project I am shooting in January.

It’s a comedy staring Howie Mandel and directed by Kevin Castro.

The project has some challenges as far as keeping the visuals interesting, yet appropriate for the light hearted nature of the genre.

Most of the project (like 99.5%) takes places in a medium sized hotel room at night.

The director and I spent a lot of time trying to devise a plan that would keep things interesting, while creating a good environment for the actors to perform. We decided that an approach that is fairly “counter intuitive” for the genre would help. The idea is to incorporate a lot of subtle, classy camera moves that you would really never see for a location of this nature (due to the difficulty with getting a dolly in such tight spaces, etc). On top of that we will be shooting in a 2.35 aspect ratio. This is very good for the material because we have a lot of characters coming in and out of the room, so it will help make our masters more effective.

One great asset is that the director has a very strong editing background, so it helps really condense our coverage because he knows exactly what he wants and needs; which in turn helps everyone out (especially the actors).

We will be shooting 3-perf Super 35 framing for 2.35:1. Because the project will live in D5, 3-perf really helps our budget out.

Our camera package is very small, consisting of a Panaflex GII and a few Primo primes. I have to thank Phil Radin sincerely for working with us on getting a camera package when we needed it, because I am told camera availability is very difficult lately. Not only that, but he really worked with our budget to get us what we needed; thanks Phil and Panavision.

A big concern of mine was grain, because a light colored location like a hotel room tends to have a lot of mid tones where grain is very apparent. Because of this I am going to shoot 5217 (200T).

We are shooting in a practical hotel room which makes things very tight once we start bringing gear into the room. I was concerned that we would be stuck in an ugly white room, but they found a pretty nice hotel. It has a very matte wallpaper (that is somewhat textured with fibers) that is slightly warm and not too light. Also the room has very high ceilings (like 12 feet high); this gives me plenty of room to rig from above, and skirt light off the walls.

My gaffer (Chris Hughes) is building a light that will rig to the ceiling and provide a good base exposure in the room. It consists of 12 4 foot Kino Flo tubes (4 rows of 3) attached to black show card. This will attach flush to the ceiling and then have an adjustable skirt to control the spill onto the walls.

My lighting package will consist of mostly Kino Flos with some small tungsten units, using just the available power (although we can steal plenty from either the room we are shooting in or the other two adjacent rooms). For the curious, you can view a rough version of our list here:

I am looking forward to this one, it should be fun. The director is excellent, really on top of everything.

I will post more info as I get it, although there probably won’t be much to post. I will also take some pictures and put them up as well.

Kevin Zanit


Just a small update:

We start shooting next week. I will have one day of pre-rigging in our hotel room which will be very helpful.

The plan is mainly to get our "room ambience" lighting up. This ambience will be provided by a large unit my gaffer built (as was mentioned above).

It is essentially a 4x8 foot piece of black show card with 8 4 foot kino flo tubes, 4 rows of 2 (so one row is 8 feet long) with a skirt that can come as low as 6 feet.

The idea is because it is a practical set; there is virtually no where to hide lights in wider shots, yet there is action that takes place in the middle of the room. This controlled light from above has a very low profile, and will allow us to just screw into the existing ceiling. We obviously won’t be able to have the skirt hanging down 6 feet, but we will have it as low as possible to control the light hitting the walls. A big factor is, once the "density" (brightness) of the walls is established, there is not a lot of room to change it.

I got an email wanting to know more about my camera package (don’t know why he didn’t just post it here?); mostly just about the lenses.

As I said, the camera package will be very small. The camera body is a Panaflex GII, and the lenses are Primo series of the following focal lengths:

4:1 Zoom (17.5-75)
and 1.4x extender

This arrangement suits the location nicely and is affordable. The zoom is mainly for the 17.5 and the ability to go between focal lengths which is definitely important because we won’t have many options as far as placing the camera in the small room.

I will post pictures and updates as they happen.

Kevin Zanit