Rubinstein shoots ‘Bernard and Doris’ with VariCam

Director of photography Mauricio Rubinstein shot HBO Films’ “Bernard and Doris,” which aired throughout March on HBO, with Panasonic’s AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera.

“Bernard and Doris”was an original production of New York City-based Trigger Street Independent, which has a business mandate to produce filmmaker- and story-driven low-budget feature films. Most are shot on digital video or HD. The production company invested in its own VariCam, P+S Technik Pro35 image converter and a set of super-speed Zeiss prime lenses, all turned over to DP Rubinstein for the shoot.

The movie was shot on Long Island for six weeks at the end of 2005 with a budget described by the director as “less money than Doris Duke left her dogs.” Old Westbury Gardens, once the estate of the Phipps family, was used as the main set. Factoring in travel time from Manhattan, wardrobe and makeup, Rubinstein was left with six hours of principal photography a day.

With Old Westbury Gardens a historic site, the crew couldn’t touch or alter the walls, windows or ceilings in any fashion. That required the crew to use existing daylight and extend exterior light into the shooting location, Rubinstein said.

One scene shot in a breakfast room with four glass walls was particularly demanding. “Sun was shining into the room,” recalled Rubinstein. “I couldn’t increase fills so I had to bring the sunlight down and control it as much as I could. I ended with true highlights from the sunrays but I still had details.” Rubinstein worked without a light meter and instead relied on a Panasonic’s BT-LH900A 8.4in HD/SD production monitor. “I took the highlights to the edge of clipping,” he said. “The image with detail in the glowing sunlight and in the blacks held really well on tape and ultimately on the film-out.”

Trigger Street Independent edited the movie on an Avid system. HBO took post a step further, changing some editing and the score. Final color correction and film-out were done at LaserPacific in Hollywood, CA.

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