10 July 2024

Indie film reaches new heights

Stuart McBratney is a filmmaker and university lecturer based in Newcastle, Australia. For his latest project, an indie feature film titled ‘Strangers in a Car Park’, Stuart turned to the Atomos Ninja monitor-recorder for its ability to record in high-quality ProRes RAW, a feature which revolutionised his production.

By Atomos

Strangers in a Car Park tells the story of a cleaner working backstage at an awards show, who unexpectedly recognises the medallist as her assailant. The plot unfolds as they converge with other strangers in the venue’s car park, where accusations meet denials and secrets unravel. Writing the script in 2022, McBratney’s vision was to create a captivating and engaging narrative. He explained: “It’s a film about compulsion and connection, triumph and tragedy, culminating in a chaotic and revelatory finale. I’m hopeful that the audience enjoys the ride, having a few laughs along the way.” Principal photography was completed in mid-2023, and post-production is now in its final stages.

An experienced director with multiple TV commercials and indie productions to his name, McBratney wrote the story set primarily in a single location in one night. A concrete car park at The University of Newcastle in Australia where Stuart works as a university lecturer, provided both inspiration and practicality. “I prefer to write scenes which can be filmed in locations I can access, without the need for additional set dressing or special effects. The university’s car park is really cinematic, so I used it as a starting point, and built the story around it,” he explained. He also collaborated with some of his students, who were offered roles in the production.

“The Ninja was easy to set up and adjust quickly, which was super-handy for working on a tight deadline.”

Geared up

McBratney’s ultimate goal was to secure international distribution across multiple platforms. Such ambition demanded world class picture quality, which was the driving force behind choosing the Ninja. Combined with his Z CAM E2-S6 cinema camera and Vazen anamorphic lenses, Stuart could shoot in high-quality 5.9K ProRes RAW to get the best quality footage. “The Ninja gave me a better image than I could get from the camera’s 10-bit internal recording. By mastering in 4K, we could crop and reframe the footage without losing quality. The ProRes codec is also perfect for post-production, as there’s plenty of information to manipulate,” he added.

Lighting a vast space presented a challenge for filming, but the Ninja’s bright screen and colour accuracy allowed Stuart to ensure correct exposures throughout the production. It also helped his team to manoeuvre between scenes quickly and smoothly. “The Ninja helped us get healthy-looking waveforms on every take. Also, its size was small enough to be portable, yet large enough to compose an image without guesswork. Its usability and portability made it easy to set up and adjust quickly, which was super-handy for working on a tight deadline.”

Strangers in a Car Park is scheduled for release in early 2025. Stuart is already looking ahead though, as he embarks upon developing a new feature film. “I fully intend to continue using the Ninja as part of my workflow. Like the rest of the crew members, it has proven to be reliable, robust, and versatile.”

Photo credit: Nadia Kamis

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