The Making of “Magic Bullet” by Errol Schwartz

Magic Bullet is a short-film adaptation of The Cure – a feature film script I wrote mid-2010. In the process of seeking funds for the feature film, I decided to make a short and hopefully use it to pique investor’s interest in the feature. To make this short calling card more compelling I thought, “Why not shoot it on a smartphone?”

We shot Magic Bullet on the iPhone 5 and used a specific casing designed by Phocus to mount DSLR lenses to the phone. Because of the iPhone’s small sensor, shooting at night or in poorly lit places results in very noisy footage. To minimize noise we lit our sets as much as possible without over-lighting. Due to the poor dynamic range of the iPhone, over-lighting will blow out the whites. In addition, in order to ensure that the iPhone’s sensor would capture workable footage we shot with fast prime lenses. We used two f/1.4 Carl Zeiss lenses – a 35mm and 50mm. The faster the lens, the more light gets to the sensor.

The Filmic Pro application allows you to specify various important capturing formats like aspect ratios, frame rates, audio and video encoding, and resolution, to name a few. A key feature is that you can set and lock focus, exposure, and white balance independently. However, when we would play back a take, the app tended to drop our settings, making it quite a bit time-consuming to replicate the previous setup. We recorded audio externally with the Zoom H4N. Our grips were homemade and built by our co-producer, Humphrey Bande.

I edited the film in Premier Pro and After Effects. I used Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks for the colour grading and used Adobe Audition for post-sound editing. My 15” mid-2010 Macbook Pro froze and crashed a lot during post-production. It delayed me because I didn’t know what was wrong – Was it the Adobe software? The After Effects plugins? The lack of hard drive space? A virus? After many online searches for solutions, including some frustrating back-and-forth with Adobe, an Apple technician took a peek under the hood and found that my poor old Mac only had 4GB of RAM. I upgraded my RAM to 8GB – the largest amount for the mid-2010 Macbook pro. What I also learned is to always edit from an external hard drive – this allows you to move between computers and the workload doesn’t overwhelm your computer’s internal disk.

I am proud to present Magic Bullet: http://youtu.be/lr6MOtAXheY. Magic Bullet is the sum of what I’ve learned over a very short period of time – four months – through online tutorials. You can follow the film on twitter (@MagicBulletFilm) and Facebook (Magic Bullet Short Film), as well as IMDb (http://imdb.to/1aRp3ay).

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