Rear projection process for To Our Bright White Hearts
When director Ayz Waraich and I were well into pre production, we settled on doing the half dozen driving scenes with rear projection poor mans process. No one on the crew including myself had ever done this, so it was a leap of faith on his part, letting me convince him we could make it look great.
Martin Wisniewski our acting Production Manager rented us a 20’ rear projection screen, sourced a 2K DLP, and set us up in a half empty shipping ware house in Mississauga that we could drive our various picture cars directly into. If your on a budget, you can make this work without a massive 2K projector. You can also go with a smaller screen if your willing to live in the medium/tight profile world (which we weren’t).
I shot the back ground plates on the RED ONE-MX out the passenger seat of a VW Jetta on the Gardiner in Toronto. We ended up using clips shot at 4k, 24 fps, 180 degree shutter and I think the motion in the final shots looks completely real and natural so all my stressing and hours of shooting plates at various speeds and frame rates was for nothing!
I was advised to shoot the plates in focus and de-focus the projector until it looked right in camera, but I was worried about this looking MORE un-natural since we were shooting Anamorphic so I shot half the plates at various focal distances to help make it seem like the passing buildings were further away then they were.
We had to turn the PJ down to 1 bulb, it was way too bright. It still wasn’t right, it was looking like BAD rear projection, like 24. Being tight on time we couldn’t re-grade/re-render clips so in Quicktime Pro we turned the brightness all the way down and the contrast way up. We tweaked those levels depending on the lighting gags we were doing for that scene or shot.
We also found that by ‘misting’ exterior car windows it helped sell the gag.
We mixed up the lighting, fading 3 different front key lights all with different ranges gel color up and down, had passing over head ‘streetlights’, back 3/4 edge lights fading up and down, we basically tried a ton of different stuff. Something different for every character and scene.
For a first attempt I’m pretty happy with the results. Rear projection always looks better than green screen process to me, and is astronomically cheaper than a process trailer and allows you to retain absolute control of your lighting. It was a great learning experience and I can’t wait for a chance at a 2nd attempt.
To Our Bright White Hearts nears completion, gunning hard to make the Cannes deadline in a few weeks!