Samurai Rauni Reposaarelainen was filmed over a three year period. Our first day of shooting was on march 2013 and our final shoot was in April 2016. September 2016 we had our premiere of the movie at Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy at a sold out Savoy theater to an audience of 700 people.
Keeping it in order
Filming a movie in the digital age not only produces terabytes of videofiles but loads of digital paperwork as well. There’s a lot of files that go back and forth in a project like this over the 3-4 years of production.
We used Dropbox, Google drive and Wetransfer to transfer data to each other depending on the situation. I have a Vimeo plus account where I uploaded the latest edits of the scenes for Pasi Salmi who recorded the music and to Jaakko Niemelä and Samuli Ala-Lahti who did the sound design. 100GB of space in Google drive costs about 3 euros a month so that’s cheap as chips and it works pretty good as well. The only real issue we ran into was with Vimeo. If you would download the Vimeo compressed version of a video clip instead of the original clip it seemed that Vimeo would sometimes delete the first frame from the video clip. This would of course give us issues with sync. We never solved this issue but worked around it by making sure everyone always downloaded the original clip.
Audio sync was something that we were uncertain about at times. We had to basically always check it manually. I used Pluraleyes 3 to sync the dialogue to the camera audio. Sometimes I did it by hand. Knowing what I know now we really want to use a timecode synced to the audio recorder from the camera in the future. Just to be certain that things are in sync. Especially when people have beards it’s really hard to see if the dialogue is in sync and you end up spending a lot of time just trying to figure it out.
Our equipment in SS-Palace studio where Pasi recorder the music also needs an update for our next movie. Syncing there was also pretty hard due to the very small television we had and the computer not being able to playback the material properly.
In addition we had a facebook group where we discussed and shared information with the 20 core people in the work group. We used email to inform most actors. With Mika we had to use the phone since he doesn’t use the internet or social media.
Our budget for the movie was 50.000€. Most of the money came from a grant from Satakunnan Keskusrahasto and Taike. We invested a small amount of our own money with Rättö and we also got a few small donations from private individuals.
Out of the 57 shooting days about 15-20 were reshoots of material we had already filmed once. We had to do these reshoots because we learned so much during the first year that the older material looked out of place compared to the new stuff. Everything from writing, lighting, acting, blocking the actors and camera movement got so much better as we gained experience. I’m extremely glad we had the perseverance to redo those scenes.
Our main camera was the Sony FS700 with the Odyssey 7Q+ monitor/recorder. There’s a detailed list of most of the camera and lighting gear in my introduction post.
We also filmed three aerial shots that used a Canon 5D MIII on a MoVI M5 gimbal and Freefly Cinestar-8 drone. These were shot by Tuukka Ylönen and Jarkko Virtanen. Aerial shoots are something that really require loads of proper planning and experience. Although I knew this it was quite a surprise to me how difficult it actually is. You can’t fly if there’s even a little bit of rain, snow or if there’s too much wind. The drone was quite big but it seemed that it was still hard to control in the weather we had. We only ended up using one shot in the final film. Not because all the shots didn’t look good but because they didn’t really fit the story.
We also tried to use a Blackmagic pocket cinema camera for one underwater shot. It didn’t work out and the end result didn’t really add anything to the scene so it’s not in the final edit. I had no idea how to light an underwater shoot and still don’t. It was fun to try it though but if we are going to do it again on another project we need to do some serious planning and testing to make it look unlike all the other underwater shots out there.
Editing with Premiere Pro
When we began filming Rauni I still had a PC laptop and had been editing with Sony Vegas Pro for over ten years. Starting this project I decided to buy a 27″ iMac. The main reason for moving to a mac environment was the fact that the professional world revolves around Prores codec and that works best in the Mac realm.
We also needed a large storage drive so we bought a Lacie 20TB Thunderbolt raid drive. I gave both Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CC a try and decided to start editing with Premiere Pro. Main reason was I didn’t have the time to learn the drastically different interface that the FCP X uses and FCP X had had a lot of negative feedback at that time. Nowadays it looks really interesting and I’m planning on testing it on a real project at some point.
Premiere Pro crashed now and then but mainly it worked well. I even updated it a few times during the edit which is normally a big no no. But hey, it took three years and essential updates were introduced to Premiere during that time which we needed. The Lumetri color correction engine and DCP rendering were the most important. We didn’t loose any footage or edits so I guess that’s what counts in the end.
I also decided to grade the film with Premiere Pro. I had never done a proper grade before where the material would end up screened in a movie theater. All my previous work has been for web or television. Grading a feature film at home with an iMac is almost like mastering a record with your iPhone earbuds. I was quite hesitant and many said it couldn’t or at least shouldn’t be done. But since we didn’t have any money I had to do it at home. I needed to learn how the footage would behave in a theater in relation to my iMac and adjust to that. We did a few test screenings in a proper cinema and I would adjust my grade to reflect what I had seen in the cinema. I would write notes while watching: “this clip is too dark, blacks look washed out in this clip, this is too bright…” etc. Then I’d go home and compare the shots that looked good in the cinema to the ones I didn’t like and adjusted accordingly. It took a few visits to the cinema but I ended up being happy with the results we got.
I used one LUT (Arri – Alexa – SL), curves and basic color tools. The grade was very simple and I didn’t do any heavy looks. I’ve always enjoyed a more natural look for movies. There was one scene we had to do as day-for-night because we changed the order of a few scenes. That worked surprisingly well I must say. Again the quality of the material never let us down and I could adjust everything as much as I needed without seeing any ill effects on the images or deterioration of quality.
I had very valuable lessons from Anssi Rautio and Sasu Riikonen who actually do grading more or less for a living and are way more experienced hen I am. On a suggestion from Anssi I installed a 6500K balanced led bulb in my workroom ceiling and behind the computer on a table lamp. That’s something I can actually recommend for everyone, it’s cheap and gives your room color temperature a more neutral tone. No matter if you draw, paint or do computer graphics I feel it’s a big help.
One very excruciating problem did appear with Lumetri color engine that has not been fixed. Premiere Pro handles values below 0 and above 255 (superwhites) inside Lumetri differently depending on the tool used. If you are using the basic correction tool it doesn’t touch values above 255 and leaves them behind so to speak. This totally destroys the footage if you have footage that records values below 0 and above 255. Most cameras do this nowadays. You can see it in the screenshots below. It took me a long time to figure this out. Here is a more detailed blog post about the problem.
Once I understood what’s going on I just decided I would not use the basic correction tool and used the curves tool instead for blacks and highlights. I will most likely do my next big projects color grading in Resolve; I’ve tried it a bit and it seems superior in many areas in comparison to Premiere Pro. Of course once you actually get down to serious work all programs have their quirks.
About 99% of the films effects are in-camera meaning they were done during the shoot. I’m not that good with After Effects but managed to conceal a few wires and microphones with the simple wire removal tool and masking. I also added one camera flash light and one gun muscle flash to another scene. That’s about the extent of CGI in this movie.
DCP aka Digital Cinema Package
It’s not long since Premiere Pro added an option to render a DCP straight from the timeline. We had a private screening twice in two different cinemas and we were able to render the DCP ourselves a few days earlier. We saved a lot of time and money because of this. We also saw how much the projection quality actually differs between the cinemas. First time the projection was extremely grey and the second time it looked like the image was scaled somehow and exhibited a problem in the sharp areas of the image. Both times the cinema was of the opinion there was nothing wrong with their facilities.
The final master DCP was done for us by Kinokki from a Prores 422 HQ master, surround sound wav files and subtitles we provided. One thing you can’t do with Premiere Pro is add subtitles to a DCP so it was clear we could not do this ourselves. Even if it was possible I’m very happy we used Kinokki.
The final DCP copy looks great and I have now seen it screened in about ten different cinemas around Finland. I must say the picture quality has been very much as it should in all but one cinema that had a slightly washed out look. So in my opinion the DCP is a great way to making sure your movie looks correct. The audio has been a totally different beast though. It varies so much depending on the theater and their audio equipment. Surround sound is really difficult and in a few places the center channel is way louder then it should, forcing the projectionist to turn the overall volume down so much that the left, right and surround channels are way too low in comparison.
I have to say that having the Odyssey 7Q+ recorder for the Sony FS700 camera was what made our film look like a real movie. Being able to record in slog2 not only added to the dynamic range but also gave the colors a very filmic look. The ability to color correct the Prores 422 HQ material was nearly as flexible as working with raw footage. As long as you exposed correctly and had your white balance set correct it was all good. I didn’t run into any serious issues with grading with any of the footage from the Odyssey. A few shots that were recorded with the internal AVCHD codec in 2013 that survived the final cut were a different issue altogether. These clips had all sorts of problems from banding to compression and all around the colors we’re not that great (about 1-2% of the movie was shot in Rec 709 color space with AVCHD codec).
It’s easy to freak out when you see noise in your footage on your computer monitor when you are pixel peeping it at a less then a meters distance. I freaked out a few times too but experience has now taught me not to worry. During the three year shoot we did over 700 shots with multiple takes each amounting to over 2000 video clips. Of these I’ve seen serious noise in about ten. A few shots were at 6400 asa and a few at 3200 asa. Watching these on the computer screen I was upset about the amount of noise and was certain I needed to clean them up somehow. I tried denoising them with the Red Giant Denoiser plugin but wasn’t happy. The quality suffered. What surprised me was that when we were doing test screenings in the cinemas projecting the image from a DCP you do not notice the noise anymore! It looks absolutely great! If you go in front row and look real close, yes you see the noise but somehow on the big screen it is not something that bothers me at all.
Now where you we will have a problem with noise and will have to use some denoising is when making a DVD or Blu-ray. Enough noise will make the compression go wild and a few of these shots did look really bad when compressed to dvd/blu-ray.
The movie premiere was at Savoy Teatteri that seats about 700 people and has a very high standard equipment. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the image quality. It really is good stuff you get from the Sony FS700 equipped with the Odyssey 7Q+ recorder and in my opinion it’s very close in quality to any of the Red or Alexa footage I’ve seen.
Releasing the film
We’ve been very lucky with the movie. We got a great distributor Black Lion Pictures who managed to get our film a proper cinema release in over 15 theaters in Finland. Our premiere was in Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy at Savoy theater to a sold out audience of 700 people. So far over 4500 people have seen our movie. We also sold the film to Yle Teema and it will be broadcast late 2017 in television in Finland. We are also planning a DVD and Blu-Ray release if finances allow.
Thank you to all of the 256 people that were involved in making this film! On behalf of the whole team I’d also like to give our deepest gratitude to Satakunnan rahasto, Taike Lounais-Suomi/Satakunnan taidetoimikunta, Svenska Kulturfonden i Björneborg, Porin kaupunki and private donors for their grants.