Founded by Casey Warren and Danielle Krieger, MindCastle is a film studio and production company dedicated to telling stories through evocative imagery. Both Warren and Krieger are devoted to the creative process and are motivated by a passion to generate work that is artistic, meaningful and authentic. Their work has been featured nationally, including spots for Canon, along with Emmy-nominated productions for Major League Baseball, ESPN, HBO and Showtime Sports. Recently the team shot a television pilot on ALEXA with ARRI Ultra Primes from Koerner Camera in Seattle. The equipment package was rounded out with ARRI accessories and lights. Warren served as Director of Photography and Krieger as production and media manager. Here, we asked Warren a little about the experience and his thoughts on visual storytelling.
ARRI NEWS (AN): Tell us a little about your background.
CW: Initially what sparked my interest in photography was that there was an art in framing, composition, and lighting. As I got more into it, I became interested in what message an image could contain and the meaning behind it. Theres that moment when you click the shutter, an instant is captured; a thought, emotion, or idea preserved to be transmitted for others to experience. I was hooked.
I got addicted to the visual impact that moving images have and how a sequence can tell a story. From that point, when I was very young, I knew filmmaking was an integral part of my future. And thats where MindCastle stems from, MindCastle is a metaphor for creative strength with the goal to create work that is built from roots in strong visual storytelling.
AN: What was your workflow on this shoot?
CW: Our workflow was set up to be as clean and simple as we could make it. One of the main reasons was that the piece was being sent straight into the edit after we got done shooting. We brought to set two 17" MacBook Pros and a 27" iMac. We loaded the ALEXA footage with the MacBook Pro since it has an SxS card slot built into it and we could also simultaneously load, backup and preview footage on the go as we shot. We recorded and monitored in Rec709 and recorded in ProRes 4444.
The footage came out beautifully and we didn't run into workflow snafus. I like to use this camera system on projects because of the simplicity, speed of the workflow and the stunning imagery that the sensor can produce. The workflow is plug and play, no transcoding, encoding, and so on.
AN: How would you describe ALEXA's image quality?
CW: While there are other digital cameras out there, the image from ALEXA is unlike any of them. The imagery has the potential straight from the memory card to produce the same feel as film. What I like about it is that even without color grading, effects, or any tweaking at all, you have an incredibly cinematic image that can rival the dynamic range, latitude and color fidelity of film. And thats just straight from the camera, once you get it into an editing or grading system, you can fine tune it even more to get the most out of the sensors 14+ dynamic range.
Shooting with ALEXA meant we had lots of headroom for latitude, so we lit like we were shooting on film. In a way its useful to think of ALEXA like film, with this specific camera there are advantages in color rendition and latitude when compared to other camera systems out there. We also shot on the new firmware upgrade that allows for 120fps recording.
Another thing about the ALEXA is the EVF, which is honestly one of the best that I've used. It has full 1280 x 720p resolution and is sharp as a tack. It also has a ton of settings and features that make it stand out among the rest.
AN: What was in your ARRI lighting kit?
CW: ARRI lighting is definitely a standard for us in our lighting package. There is a lot of freedom in using the HMI and tungsten Fresnels, they are both bright enough to diffuse, yet you can adjust them enough if you are looking for a hard rim or sharp edge light on your subject.
My personal ARRI lighting kit consists of a three-light standard ARRI tungsten package: one ARRI 1000w Fresnel and two ARRI 650w Fresnels. We also rented a few 575w ARRI HMIs as I always like working with daylight-balanced lighting if I have the opportunity to do so and I also enjoy mixing the two sources together as well.
AN: What was one of your lighting setups like?
CW: One of my favorite setups that we used was an intro sequence at the pool table that involved a mix of both tungsten and daylight sources. With the camera balanced at 3200 K we lit up the background with the ARRI 650w Fresnel gelled for daylight and for the foreground soft light we used an ARRI 1000w Fresnel with a Chimera and some additional diffusion on the pool table from a Kino Flo Diva 200. We also utilized a Lowel Blender light set to about 4500 K right in the middle of the two light sources.
What I really liked about this setup was that there was so much to play with in the imagery. In addition to the lights, we added atmosphere to the scene with a Rosco fog machine. This really helped fill the background with the blue daylight from the 650w, while still allowing the tungsten light to pour into our foreground and illuminate the skin tones of the talent.
We wouldn't have really been able to light this scene in the exact same way with another camera. ALEXA handles the blending of the tungsten and daylight sources very uniquely, where you can actually mix the two sources together as you would with film. Rather than fighting with difference in color balance we could play with it instead, using the colors as gradients. The ALEXA made it easy for us to paint the light into our scene, in very much the same way you would mix colors together on a canvas.
I am really happy with how this lighting set up came out and at 120 frames per second, you can really soak in the texture of the scene.
We get a glimpse during the filming of ARGO, directed by Ben Affleck and shot by Rodrigo Prieto ASC, AMC on ARRICAMs, ARRIFLEX 435, ARRIFLEX 235 and ALEXA.