Photography is wrapped, picture is locked, and we are well on our way to completion!
The cast & crew of Mach III day 2, shortly after wrap.
It's been one of the longest months of my life, but in the past 30 days Mach III has transformed from a previs'd fever dream of blue screen and toy models into a fully fleshed motion picture.
To give you the short and narrow here's everything that's gone into getting our fighter jet film off the runway and into the edit bay.
Our biggest hurtle by far was production design. Building an SR 71 cockpit from scratch was no easy task. 2 weeks before our shoot date and only the suit was ready for prime time. Thankfully being at SCAD surrounded by industrial and production designers has its perks.
The cockpit, 2 weeks prior to our shoot date.
I spent a lot of my time building an ejection seat and joystick in my kitchen.
We called in every favor we could. A phenomenal collective of friends answered the call and stepped up to create the cockpit. After a week of sleepless nights fueled by panic, desperation, and gallons of coffee we had ourselves an SR71 cockpit. While it looked more like a goofy tree fort from the outside, the interior was a completely different story.
Cody and Andy 48 Hours prior to our shoot, sanding the cockpit.
Bondo takes over Andy's living room.
24 hours later, Brook and Andy put the finishing touches on the cockpit. Albert looks on with content.
Once the cockpit was lit, and our pilots were settled in wearing full costume the visuals slid into place. We did tons of practical lighting cues that made for some of the coolest frames I've ever photographed. While setup and costume had their foreseeable hiccups (we had to cut up the necking and the costume to fit talent) aside from a few minor setbacks, once the cameras were rolling it was one of the smoothest shoots I've been on.
Shoot day! The cockpit assembled and ready to roll.
Everything on wheels. To maximize efficiency we made sure all of our lights, camera, and even the tripod head were on wheels.
I made the call to shoot everything on the gearnex head. It was tricky at first, but once I stopped thinking about which direction to crank the wheels, everything became silky smooth.
All of our previs and testing paid off in a big way. The guess work was taken out of the shoot, allowing Andy to focus on performance while I concentrated on cinematography and vfx supervision.
Screening the previs edit for cast and crew before we begin shooting.
The sound team rigging up the lav on Lorenzo who plays Major Brian Shul.
Lorenzo in the cutaway SR71 cockpit.
After two 11 hour days, Mach III was wrapped! Next it was on to the chopping block for picture lock.
Mach III is now a senior VFX and Sound Design film here at SCAD. What that means is that we've got hard deadlines for completion on May 27th for our respective classes. That meant no rest for us.
Prevising the animation.
Post shoot we spared no time and jumped straight into the edit. Once again, having all shots previs'd made locking the edit a breeze. We had all shots in place within a day or two. Because we had previs'd everything, most of the edit was just replacing temp shots. Then we spent the rest of the week tuning up the edit, shaving frames, extending shots, finding the rhythm of the film.
Shotgun has been an invalueable tool in organzing the VFX pipeline.
Once the film was locked, it was off to sound and VFX. Thankfully, in the past few weeks both the sound department and vfx team has snowballed to include far and away the most talented artists currently enrolled in the VFX and Sound department here at SCAD. I Can't express how stoked I am at the teams that have come together. As we move forward into the coming weeks I'll be covering all things post as shots start to heat up. For the time being, I'm deep in the throes of compositing as we key and Rotoscope the 32 plates for the film. So far we've got 8 in the can.
Aside from principle photography, we shot a ton of second unit plates as well. (Although it's not technically second unit, same people just a smaller crew.) We took two trips up to the Warner Robins Museum of Aviation where the fine folks at the museum allowed us to film inserts in their F15 Eagle cockpit. We'll be digitally replacing the readouts in the F15 with those of the SR71 for authenticity.
Grabbing inserts at the Warner Robins Museum of Aviation
In the F15 cockpit. The space was very tight and challenging to light. We bounced a leko off a bounce card taped to the wall for our key.
As a bonus we got to take a ride in the flight sim!
In addition to the Warner Robins photography, I spent quite a bit of time by myself filming cloud plates for the VFX team. These raw plates of the clouds will be pulled into Nuke, keyed, and animated in 3d space to appear as if they're volumetric. Shooting cloud plates is easily the most therapeutic aspect of Mach III.
Shooting cloud plates
A sneak peak at some of the plates I captured.
My run and gun kit. Manfrotto 504, Rokinon 14, 24, 85mm, Light meter, Tape, Towel, Battery, BMCC.
We've made huge moves this past month and the film is finally starting to take shape. This is going to be something really special. I'm massively greatful to everyone who's supported this project and helped bring us to this point. It's been a wild ride this past year. But things are just about to ramp up. Post is now full tilt!
For now I'll leave you with this still from our dailies.
Drew Lamkins playing Walt Watson punches to Mach III.