Scene from What Doesn't Float featuring a man in a kayak beneath a pier

Anthology Film What Doesn’t Float Shot and Edited with Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic Design today announced that the new anthology film “What Doesn’t Float” was shot with Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K digital film cameras and used DaVinci Resolve Studio across post for editing and color grading. Director Luca Balser credits the cameras’ compact design and versatility with the team’s ability to easily shoot in diverse environments across New York City.

“What Doesn’t Float” tells seven stories of New Yorkers at their wits’ ends. The dark comedy stars Pauline Chalamet, Larry Fessenden, Cindy De La Cruz, Roger Howarth and more.

Using two Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks shooting in Blackmagic RAW, Balser noted that the cameras’ versatility allowed them to easily work in all settings. “We shot in many locations throughout New York City, most of them outside environments during the fall and winter with many cold nights. Everywhere from Fort Tilden in Rockaway, to rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen, to boatyards in Staten Island.

“We were able to get the cameras into some very odd spaces given their size. It gave us a ton of mobility and we were able to move quickly and efficiently from one setup to the next,” he said. “For one vignette we took the cameras out on a tiny fishing boat in the middle of the Lower New York Bay, in less than calm waters, and the cameras’ size and mobility really saved us there. Given the wide variety of locations and environments, including using the cameras on a motorcycle and canoe at one point, the Pockets allowed us to have a lot of flexibility.”

“‘What Doesn’t Float’ was inspired by love of the anthology format and of New York City. Since I was a kid, I’ve been visiting many of the locations we used in the film. They tend to be on the outskirts of the city, places close to the water that have a lonely, liminal feeling. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that New York is historically a port city, yet most of us hardly ever interact with the water. These cameras allowed us to film these locations with an ease that I don’t think would have been possible with a bigger, more expensive rig,” Balser explained.

Moving into post, Balser noted, “It was important to me to develop the look and feel of the film as I was editing it. Light and texture are important elements to this film, and editing with flat files or with a basic LUT felt like it would undermine the process. DaVinci Resolve is such an intuitive software, and the ease of swapping between the color and edit pages was monumentally helpful. The look was able to develop alongside the edit.”

Balser used DaVinci Resolve Studio, alongside an UltraStudio Monitor 3G playback device, in post mainly for editing and grading but also dabbled with the Fairlight audio page and Fusion visual effects (VFX) page. “We used the Fairlight page to create temp mixes and begin the sound design and scoring process during the offline edit. Having a dedicated audio page within the program was huge as it allowed us to really focus on the sound as an integral part of the storytelling,” explained Balser. “Additionally, while most of the film was shot practically, the Fusion page came in handy for a few shots where I needed to paint out certain elements.”

“As with any NLE, the hope is that the software allows you to concentrate on the creative work rather than being bogged down in the technical side of things. DaVinci Resolve allowed a very natural editing process, and the ability to jump to VFX, audio, and color really sets it apart,” Balser added. “DaVinci Resolve Studio is such a massive program, and it allowed the whole process to be done without ever migrating software. Everything from syncing to cutting to mixing to grading felt intuitive and reliable.”

Working with tight budget constrictions, Balser noted that the anthology format interested him because it was a tangible way to make a movie with limited means. “We shot one vignette and then took a break to fundraise for the next vignette. Since I was grading as I edited, we could show samples of the unfinished film that looked more polished than a typical rough cut or teaser,” he said.

“Even though we were working on such a tight budget, these cameras don’t show it. Since they are so affordable, we were able to buy two and shoot multi cam for some of the more challenging sequences,” he concluded. “As a scrappy DIY production, it really gave us the access and ability to achieve a high quality result. I’ve had many people ask what film stock the movie was shot on, and they’re always surprised to hear that it was shot digitally, which is a testament to the image quality of the cameras and the powerful grading features within DaVinci Resolve. The cameras’ MFT sensor is close in size to what a 16mm negative would capture, and the combination of vintage lenses with the sensor gave the images a beautiful tactile look, really emulating 16mm film.”

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