Blackmagic Design today announced that Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K digital film camera was used as the main camera for the new horror short film “Rachel.” The shark attack film, which was shot in black and white on a micro budget during Covid restrictions, was chosen from more than 900 entries for the Festi-Short du Printemps Anglophone film festival and is currently being developed into a full length feature film.
Created by Filmmakers Glenn Cutler and David Kotkin, “Rachel” tells the story of a man working towards sobriety and taking revenge on the shark that ruined his life. The film was created using mostly practical effects, with Cutler doing double duty as the film’s main character, and with a large part of the film taking place on a small inflatable raft floating on a lake.
Kotkin, a former high school arts teacher, inventor and now filmmaker, worked with creative partner Cutler as a two man crew, which included both of them learning DaVinci Resolve editing, color grading, visual effects (VFX) and audio post production software.
“One of the beliefs we both have as filmmakers is to take any weaknesses we have and turn them into strengths. For us, we had no skilled professionals helping when making the movie. Although this seems like a disadvantage to wear so many hats, it ended up being an advantage for us because it forced us to learn and always be thinking about ways to do things better and faster. The Pocket camera is so powerful and affordable that we could practice and then go for every type of shot,” said Cutler.
The two had originally paid for a crew to shoot with an expensive rented camera but did not feel that the initial footage from the camera matched their vision for the story. Within a week, Cutler and Kotkin had gone through a large part of their entire budget.
“We thought we were done,” Kotkin said. “But then I remembered I had seen clips online of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and felt we should give it a try. We decided to focus on shooting it as a short film and couldn’t believe that the Pocket 4K was just as good as the more expensive camera. And in some cases, was far better because of its mobility.”
The small design of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K allowed the filmmakers to be incredibly mobile, quickly setting up and breaking down.
“A typical filming day started with us rising at 4 a.m., packing all the film equipment in our vehicle and setting up our first shots before sunrise. We had good lighting in the morning for about an hour and another hour in the evening before sunset, so in between those two magic hours we spent most of our time editing, preparing props and working on visual effects. Resolve and the Pocket 4K let us be efficient as well as creative,” Cutler continued.
Shooting in black and white to get a richer look and make the water scenes more ominous allowed the filmmakers to create a film that included strong drama and characters that viewers cared about, instead of a simple shark attack film. The camera’s lightweight design also let them shoot some of the film’s most dramatic scenes of Cutler hunting the shark while balanced on a small inflatable raft.
“First of all, our advice for anyone filming on the water is start doing cardio and invest in a good set of flippers. The raft scenes were very difficult to shoot considering one of the two crew was the actor on the raft. Things like tide, wind and rain can make things look beautiful but can be unpredictable. Sometimes David had to adjust the raft while the camera was still filming, so having a small camera that was light was worth its weight in gold,” said Cutler.
Kotkin and Cutler used DaVinci Resolve’s editing, color correction and VFX features for post production. Being able to shoot in Blackmagic RAW and take advantage of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s high dynamic range, they could create high quality scenes much more affordably than they ever thought possible.
“Resolve let us take scenes from nice to amazing. We knew that the camera could get us the data we needed to then work in Resolve. The Fusion VFX page in Resolve was especially helpful when we couldn’t do something with practical effects. And you can jump from Fusion to the color tab with one click and never lose a creative thought,” Kotkin continued.
“Honestly a lot of it was shooting at the right time of day so we got nice lights and darks. Then in Resolve, we were able to accentuate the contrast and really make it rich. We were able to get ultra precise color grading every time that is not available with other editing software,” Kotkin said.
“A shot Resolve let us nail was when we had the actress playing Rachel moving down a hallway on a tricycle. You could just have her go into darkness, but the scene needed to be so much more emotional than that. She had to slowly get lost in the shadows. We used Resolve to mask an area in the hallway and as she rides into it, we gradually darkened the area, so it looks like she disappears into the abyss,” Kotkin said.
The two filmmakers are currently in the middle of shooting “Bull,” the full length version of “Rachel,” using Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks and DaVinci Resolve.
“One of the things we are discussing is using a real bull shark for the final battle. We have shot the majority of the feature using a single Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K but are considering using multiple Blackmagic cameras for the final scenes. If it works out, it will be the most realistic and scary shark that cinema has ever seen. Being able to do big ideas like that is what using Blackmagic products is all about,” finished Cutler.
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