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A Look into "Peek-A-Boo": Blackmagic Design's Pocket Cinema Camera Captures the Dark Fairytale

DP Kieron Estrada discusses filming the horror short film that recently premiered at Shriekfest Film Festival
Not every game has a happy ending. In "Peek-A-Boo," a frazzled father finds out what happens when he refuses to play a game with his fun loving daughter who has her heart set on it. Mark Lawson of "One Life to Live" plays the father, an actor, who is managing the household while his wife is traveling while also juggling preparing for an upcoming audition. His daughter, Sally, is a handful and keeps begging him to play peek-a-boo with her. "You have to play the game!" she insists. Later that night, the father discovers his decision not to holds supernatural consequences. 

The horror short film was written and directed by Lawson, who also stars in it. Produced by John F. Estrada, the dark fairytale costars Josie Miller and Sandra Chavarria. With only a weekend to shoot the entire film, the first time director and his cast and crew were under a tight time crunch to make it happen.

Super Natural Shots
With only a few films under his belt, DP Kieron Estrada took the reins behind the camera, selecting Blackmagic Design's Pocket Cinema Camera as his digital film camera of choice for "Peek-A-Boo."

"What I liked about the Pocket Cinema Camera was the fast learning curve," explained Estrada. "I'm more of a weekend-warrior when it comes to being a DP, so I needed to be able to master the settings quickly and easily. The Pocket Cinema Camera was virtually a plug n' play. I didn't have to worry about a whole manual of complicated buttons and controls. Its intuitiveness made for shorter turnarounds between takes with the lens swapping and cards. This was especially important since we filmed the whole thing over two days - we didn't have time to waste."

Haunted House Requirements
Familiar with the challenges of shooting locations, Estrada knew it was important that the camera work well within the setting that was chosen for "Peek-A-Boo." Keeping true to the spirit and story of the film, it was shot in a small, dark house. With tight corners and a small hallway, Lawson wanted to maximize the house's narrow feel for contrast and tension. While the haunting atmosphere fit the film's horror feel, Estrada had to make sure the darkness didn't take over the shots.

"The Pocket Cinema Camera worked well in low light and was able to get into the house's tight corners so we could get the angles we needed," Estrada continued. "In particular, one shot in the bedroom was especially tricky since we had to capture Sally under a table with her father before her on the floor. We were trying to get across the sense of despair but the cramped quarters made it tricky to capture everything in the frame. Luckily the camera was small enough that we were able to maneuver it within the tight space and get the shot.

"It also really came in handy when we were shooting a sequence that follows the father through the house. We were able to easily pivot around the tight corners and were extremely comfortable maneuvering the camera. Overall, working with the Pocket Cinema Camera felt very fluid and we were much more in control than if we were trying to cram a larger camera in there."

Scary Storytelling
Even though "Peek-A-Boo" was Lawson's first time in the director chair, he had a strong vision for how he wanted the film to be shot. The camera angles and frames were a big part of the film's storytelling, and the DP and director worked closely together to make sure Lawson's vision was being properly captured.

"Overall, I felt the Pocket Cinema Camera was a less intimidating camera for a first time director. When discussing angles, I could just hand Lawson the camera and he could easily maneuver and play around with it, which opened up his creativity and gave us the flexibility we needed to get the shots he wanted," Estrada explained.

The Pocket Cinema Camera also helped the "Peek-A-Boo" team in post. Shot in RAW, the footage was easy for colorist Tawan Bazemore to grade with DaVinci Resolve Studio, Blackmagic Design's professional editing and color correction software. DaVinci Resolve helped further lighten up the dark scenes and set the tone for the horror film which premiered at Shriekfest Film Festival earlier this month.

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