Can you describe your approach to camera movement?
Due to our limited budget and the number of minutes we had to shoot each day, we couldn't work with wild walls or just remove parts of the spaceship for certain scenes. The small set made camera movements difficult, but motion was an important part of our visual concept. It was important to me that the camera not only floats, but also rotates, in order to replicate weightlessness. A TRINITY stabilizer rig was beyond our budget. We wanted to film most of the weightless shots without stunt rigs and use camera movements to enhance the actors' floating. The ALEXA Mini LF enabled us to do so, mounted on a Ronin 2, or for some scenes with the gimbal mounted on a Steadicam arm. In addition to the gimbal operator, there was a second person who operated the gimbal using a DJI Force Pro.
Do you have a favorite scene in "Almost Home"?
I'm really happy with the sequence when the spaceship docks onto the orbital ring. It turns 180° as it comes in, while at the same time rotating around its own axis. With ARRI Rental's help we were able to rig a Hover Dolly on XD-truss which carried a large tungsten light mounted on a Max Mover. I wanted the big Fresnel lens of a 20 kW that could be moved along the spaceship as closely and low as possible, to cast realistic-looking shadows on the inside. Three lighting technicians pulled the lamp on cables, while another pivoted the lamp with the Max Mover to keep the focal point on the cockpit of the spaceship.
We filmed in a fairly small warehouse, so we had to set up the lifting platforms, and the truss attached to them, diagonally to the spaceship. And with the ceiling not being all that high, the Hover Dolly was perfect because of its small size. I think the combination of moving light and rotating camera works really well. A rotating space station was inserted in VFX, creating a real sense of weightlessness.
How was the collaboration with ARRI Rental?
I found ARRI Rental's support very positive and rewarding. Bastian Prützmann's advice was especially beneficial; he recommended the Hover Dolly. We always had the feeling that there would be a solution to every issue that might arise -- when testing lenses in advance, in the advisory meetings, and in the support provided during the shoot. It showed me how beneficial a close relationship with a rental company can be. Their expertise was invaluable, especially because the project was technically so demanding -- as were innovations like the Hover Dolly.
What was your lighting concept?
The sun plays a big part as a light source in our film. Direct sunlight also helped us to bridge over changing daytimes and the many time gaps in the script. It was important to me that the practicals installed in the ship largely work as personal lighting, something that we backed up with Carpetlights in the close-ups. For that my practical electrician and rigging gaffer Finn Gosch mounted more than 100 meters of LED strips onto the back of opaque Plexiglas, which we controlled via DMX with a tablet. It wasn't easy getting the more-or-less omnipresent sunlight right, especially with the ship moving: that required detailed planning with the gaffer Moritz Virmond and ARRI Rental.