Fremont, CA - Blackmagic Design today announced that the new thriller “BAB” was shot exclusively using the URSA Mini Pro digital cinema camera. The film, which premiered at the recent 2020 focused Nightmare Film Festival and won Best Overall Feature and Best Cinematography at the festival, completed color correction and VFX work using DaVinci Resolve Studio as well.
Set against the backdrop of a dying 1950s town, the gritty thriller by co-directors Joe DeBoer and Kyle McConaghy, takes aim at the misguided American belief that the 50s were in fact the ‘good old days,‘ as often portrayed by modern politicians. The film touches on the cultural touchstones previous generations experienced in the 1950s, including the brief bunker culture of the early Cold War. BAB explores how a nuclear threat would be heightened in an isolated town under a moralistic leader.
DeBoer and McConaghy were looking to achieve a period specific look familiar to anyone who had watched films and footage from the 1950s. But instead of showing the idyllic suburban settings of many 1950s films, they focused on impoverished communities, filming near polluted lakes, run down film ranches and forgotten buildings around Los Angeles.
To capture their very specific vision on a tight budget and in a very small amount of time, they decided to use URSA Mini Pro for both its dynamic range and flexibility in post.
“The populist nostalgia for the era always felt a little misplaced. It was clearly only great in select ways and for a select few. And we thought it would be interesting to capture that idea in a film that felt like it was a 16mm Hitchcock indie from 1954,” said McConaghy.
The film worked hard to use locations that evoked the film’s heightened sense of dystopia. “In the span of about a week, we’d move from being surrounded by rotting fish and bird carcasses at the Salton Sea, to rodent infested film ranches in the Valley, to an old military weapons-testing facility that was closed down because of its high levels of toxicity. But it certainly helped transport us into a different world,” said DeBoer.
The production selected the URSA Mini Pro not only for its actual image, but for its affordable cost.
“The sub $5,000 price tag allowed the team to capture the broad scope of the film affordably. It’s crazy what a good deal the URSA Mini Pro is. It allowed us to put our limited money into what was in front of the camera,” said McConaghy. “We bought the camera in 2017 and it took us through pickups earlier this year. We could film when we needed to and it survived 115 degree shooting days in the desert and getting smashed into dead fish bones at the Salton Sea. It’s robust and the footage looks great. We genuinely couldn’t have made this film without this camera.”
Footage was graded using DaVinci Resolve Studio to dial in the final gritty, 50s film look throughout, with the software’s powerful lens blur and film grain features used constantly throughout the film. DaVinci Resolve’s Fusion VFX features were used to remove any modern elements left in the shot.
“For us, no other software gave us the options we needed in the color grade to get the specific look we were going for,” said McConaghy. “We were going for something in between Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Marnie, and the flexibility of the URSA Mini Pro files in Resolve allowed us to get somewhere in that range,” said McConaghy. “Resolve combined with the flexibility of the Blackmagic raw footage really gave us so many options. The highlight retention is unbelievable.”