Blackmagic RAW Brings Big Budget Look to Small Budget Film

Thriller “Beckman,” starring David A. R. White, Billy Baldwin, Jeff Fahey, Burt Young and Brighton Sharbino, was shot on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K using Blackmagic RAW, and graded in DaVinci Resolve Studio.

“Beckman” (David A. R. White), a tormented contract killer, casts off his violent ways and becomes the reverend of a small, Los Angeles church. For three years he struggles to forget his past, until a cult leader (Billy Baldwin) and a band of human traffickers kidnap his adopted daughter Tabitha (Brighton Sharbino). Consumed by rage, blinded by vengeance, Beckman roars out of retirement, determined to cut a bloody path across the city. Only his newfound faith can stop him – if he remembers it in time to change his fate and save his soul.

Writer/Director Gabriel Sabloff began the journey of “Beckman” in the fall of 2018, when White asked him to create a serialised revenge thriller. “I came up with ‘Beckman’ as an episodic, seven part series,” said Sabloff. “It was a simple revenge story that took elements of all our favourite revenge flicks and tossed them into a blender.” It was always the team’s intention to join the episodes together into a feature film down the road, but as they started production, and things were going really well, they decided to forego the episodic format and instead focus on “Beckman” exclusively as a theatrical feature film.

In choosing how to shoot the project, Sabloff had to consider the budget, which limited their ability to use big crews, yet he still needed theatrical quality imagery. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K seemed to be the perfect answer. “You need to move FAST in low budget indie films, especially if you’re shooting an ‘epic’ action picture on the cheap and have to capture north of 20 set ups a day. A big, bulky camera that requires a crew to run wasn’t going to work, and also attracts unwanted attention out in the wild when you want to grab a quick establish shot or b-roll.”

While size and ease of use were key details, the price was equally important. “We wanted to own our gear on ‘Beckman’ because we were experimenting with a different production style,” said Sabloff. “Because of the episodic nature of the script, we could spread out the production to shoot on weekends over the course of five months. So, buying the gear was the right solution for us, and the Pocket 4K fit snugly into that plan. A very high quality cinema camera, with a small profile and a great price. It was perfect!”

Sabloff also acted as cinematographer and opted to shoot Blackmagic RAW to help make up for shooting in challenging locations where perfect lighting wasn’t always possible. “With the tools that the Blackmagic RAW format has to offer, I could easily correct any inconsistencies in my lighting or colour temperature mixing. You don’t often have access to the best locations on indie films, so the Blackmagic RAW format is super at giving you more production value then you actually have. On this project, that was key as we spent a lot of time in fairly mundane locations that I had to make look sexy through lighting and creative grading.”

In post production, Sabloff worked exclusively in DaVinci Resolve Studio. He colour graded the trailer himself and then worked with colourist Eric Yalkut Chase at Filmpool for the feature film. Sabloff wanted a gritty, contrasty, film stock look for the film. “We found that we could always get the best, most natural results with just the Blackmagic RAW settings, then move over to curves & adjustments for tweaking.”

“Resolve was the real MVP in the ‘Beckman’ work flow. With these tools we were able to make our low budget action movie appear like it was punching at a much higher weight class. I’m an experienced cinematographer,” said Sabloff, “but by no means a master, and I was shooting without a grip, lighting, or camera crew, so I shot a ‘safe’ image in Blackmagic RAW and then developed the look and style of the image in post.”

In the end, Sabloff feels their choice of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K was the right one, not only for its price and quality, but also its reliability. “The camera did its job perfectly and wasn’t the source of any drama or interruptions on set. Most interesting onset stories spring from events where things break down or go hilariously wrong. Stories where people have to heroically drive 100 miles to get a replacement camera. Or stories where you have to pack the camera in an improvised ice cocoon to cool it down, stuff like that. The Pocket 4K was beautifully uneventful on our film. That’s the way I love my cameras to behave.”

“Beckman” will be released by Universal Home Video on digital and DVD September 22nd.

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