Friday the 2nd of January
I woke at 5 am on the first day. We had decided to go with a slightly later call time of 7am. It was literally freezing in LA. In all the years I spent there I never saw ice. First day of shooting, windows iced up.
Myself, Bernhard and the cinematographer Clay were able to go to the location a couple of days before and try to plot out some shots, so I felt we had a pretty good handle on the first day.
The first shot of the day was in the control room. It was actually a shot that wasn’t necessary for the film to work, but with the way the schedule had worked out we ended up having a lighter first day, so some control room shots were moved there. A lighter first day gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other and figure out what was going to be happening the next 3 days. The camera, lighting and G&E guys set up the first shot and the art department set up the second location which was turret room. It seemed as though things were looking good.
Prior to filming and a year or more before, Bernhard and I spent a lot of time talking about the Freeman character. This is interesting because there was much back and forth on how much dialog Freeman should have. From none, to that of a normal character. I certainly felt that Freeman would talk, traumatized, feeling responsible, shell shocked, etc. but Bernhard also felt strongly about the challenge of character with little or no dialog.
Bernhard took the role very seriously. If he was standing for a shot or picture he would assume a pose of Gordon Freeman. By that I mean a Freeman pose like that you see in the official valve art work. He would cock his head or pose his arms exactly like Freeman. On the day of the shoot he was so serious about staying in character and keeping the production moving that he drank almost no water. Getting in and out of the suit was not the easiest. About 3/4 of the way through the first day he was starting to pass out from dehydration. What we hadn’t factored in was the about of fluid he was losing in the suit. It wasn’t showing. It was just wicking down to his boots. There will be a special bit in the features on where all that water ended up. Pretty nasty. Anyway we decided stopping for a break was better that stopping for paramedics so he had some red bull and we pressed on, it was all adding to the character anyway.
By noon we were running behind. A long way behind. Things were moving way slower than I had hoped. The lighter day was a slow day which was not ideal. It was no ones fault, it was an action movie on the budget of a… well i don’t know. Not an action movie. After noon its a bit of a blur. We shot a lot of coverage of the turret room and then we were at lunch. After that we changed a couple of things up to try to make up time. That helped, but by the end of the day we had missed a large action scene in the end of the film and a bunch of flashback stuff. We ended strong with a nice walk and talk but that was not enough. Day 2 and 3 were now gonna be more of a challenge than ever.
Throughout the day everyone hustled the entire time. It was something to behold. The was no moaning or complaining. Just hard work.
The first episode, Enter the Freeman, I had added a few digital effects. All 2D except for one bullet coming out of a gun in slow motion 3D. There wont be single frame in Episode 2 that doesn’t contain some kind of digital effect. Many of them in 3D. Enter the Freeman was shot with one Nikon DSLR at 1080p (around 20Mbps) over two nights, with work lamps from home depot and a cast and crew of 8. It worked because the story and location were simple.
The second episode was shot on 2 Sony F55 motion picture cameras at 4K (RAW around 1000Mbps) over 3 days at numerous locations within a Los Angeles power sub station. We rented gear from several rental houses and vehicles to transport it and had 25 to 30 cast and crew on set.
The production has many times the scale of the first. It shows in the footage. Each person that donated owns a piece of this production.
Just out of interest the Edison substation transforms a quarter of a million volts coming out of a hydro electric power station in the nearby mountains, down to about a quarter of Los Angeles. It’s fully functioning. During one of the safety walkthroughs on the second level the site reps safety instructions were “don’t put your hands up over your head. Reduce the risk of an arc to earth via human being”. Nice.
Also as I write this I have finished syncing the audio and video of the movie and editing will begin.
Day 2 coming soon.