Bliss takes place in two visually distinct worlds: the “ugly” world of the homeless, and a state of “bliss” where everything looks beautiful, rich, and almost too good to be true. We had to come up with a visual language that clearly separates the two worlds, yet gives the film a unified look. We shot tests, and I showed writer-director Mike Cahill different lenses, and experimented with filtration.
Initially we tested all kinds of different formats and even considered 16mm film and different aspect ratios, before settling on the RED Monstro camera with Atlas Orion anamorphics for the “ugly” world and spherical Angénieux EZ full-frame zoom lenses for the “bliss” world. I came up with a filter that breaks up white light into its spectrum and creates colorful flares over the image. Mike loved it, and it became our signature tool for the bliss world. For the lighting, we embraced available light whenever possible, timed our shooting to the right time of day, and lit more controlled scenes with ARRI SkyPanels and Astera Titan Tubes.
1. Panasonic Lumix DC-S5
This is my current full-frame camera that I use for location scouts and lens tests with different mount adapters. I use it with anything from anamorphic PL mount lenses to my small M-mount pancake lenses.
2. Sekonic Cine Light Meter
Always in my pocket for location scouts and to monitor exposure, especially on day exteriors, where light levels can change fast.
3. Rosco MIXBOOK Digital Swatchbook
Brilliant little tool to find the right colors and test them with costume samples or paint samples from the art department. Also great for location scouts.
4. MS Optics 17MM Pancake
I love the unique look of the images captured with these little pancake lenses. I use them on my stills camera for scouts, as they are tiny and lightweight on the road. They’re also great for compact camera rigs on a RED KOMODO, for example.
5. Paper Tape
My secret weapon — it’s saved me so many times on set to have my own roll of paper tape handy for some last-minute light tweaks.
6. Blind Spot Gear Tile Light
Great little eye light that is easy to hide in the set or mount to cameras. Crazy punchy and soft for its size.
7. Samsung Galaxy Note Note20 Ultra
I use it as my go-to viewfinder with the Cadrage app.
8. MadV Mini 360 Camera
A lifesaver on location scouts. It plugs right into my phone and captures a 360-degree image of the space. It’s really handy to virtually revisit the locations during prep, to check for ceiling height or the number of windows in the room.
9. Bliss Spectrum Filter / Custom Filter
A special filter I created for the movie which diffracts white light into the spectrum.
10. DoPchoice SNAPGRID
I love the compact foldable grid that controls the spill light of LED tube lights, like Astera or Voyager tubes.
Bliss is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.