“Dangerous to Know”: Best Selling Author’s Film Debut Shot on Blackmagic Design Cameras and Post Completed Entirely in DaVinci Resolve Studio
David Simpson can now add feature length filmmaker to a resume that already included global best-selling author for his Post-Human series, information tech expert, and TEDx speaker, with the completion of his first feature, Dangerous to Know.
The film has been in the works since 2016 and has a production crew of two: David Simpson and Jennifer Simpson. And as it draws closer to attaining distribution in early 2020, the film has already begun to capture the attention of horror movie audiences and distributors around the world.
The Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep director, Mike Flanagan even backed the film’s current Kickstarter campaign, despite not knowing that David had named a character in the film in his honor, an incredible story of kismet that was picked up by Dread Central and Morbidly Beautiful.
Dangerous to Know was written by David, who is a global best-selling author with his Post Human science fiction novels. The film is based on an upcoming novel, and is a psychological thriller/mystery that follows Bridget Douglas’s (played by actress Bridget Graham) latest violent mental breakdown and her tightly monitored recovery in a scenic, but isolated, cabin—a recovery that goes off the rails. Throughout the film, a series of terrifying, yet unexplained intrusions in the cabin escalates, and everyone around her is a suspect and seems to have the motives to want her dead.
The film was directed and shot by David, who also acted in a major role in the film. He also handled editing, audio mixing and music. Jennifer handled color grading and VFX and was behind the camera whenever David was acting in front of it. Blackmagic Design cameras were a major part of their camera arsenal and they used DaVinci Resolve Studio for the editing, color grading, VFX, and sound design—aside from musical composition, DaVinci Resolve was the sole software in Dangerous to Know’s post-production.
Three Years and 3,000 Shots Later
David first stepped into filmmaking in 2015 when he shot a short film based on his Post-Human series of sci-fi novels. A true first-time filmmaker, he decided to use Blackmagic Design’s original Pocket Cinema Camera to shoot the film and DaVinci Resolve for color grading. The film looked beautiful and gained the attention of film publications and a number of Hollywood studios and distributors.
David said: “Overall, we used what we learned on the Post-Human short film with the Pocket. We learned we could make a movie with a skeleton crew, inexpensive but powerful filmmaking cameras, and insane professional software that evolved along with us, eventually allowing us to integrate the entirety of sound design.”
“With Blackmagic, we were able to learn at our own pace. There is no way you can become a filmmaker with a short term rental as your first cinema camera. We bought the Pocket camera and Resolve and practiced and perfected, and when we had a question there was always a huge global community of Blackmagic customers with tutorials for us to draw from,” David said.
For Dangerous to Know, they employed a Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, using a Sigma 18-35 lens as part of their arsenal, using it for wide angle shots to capture the film’s stunning locations and the practical, daylight interiors. By the end of filming, the film included 3,000 shots.
“This is a movie for grown ups and we did not want to compromise on the quality even though we had a very small budget. The look of the film, which is a mix between The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and some of Tarantino’s films, is a look that we knew we could achieve with the Blackmagic cameras and Resolve. My background as a information technology expert and futurist was key to me understanding that the mix of this incredibly powerful, yet inexpensive hardware and software, would get us what we wanted and there was no technological reason for our film to look weak. It was up to our vision and skills, and there is no compromise,” David said.
Following shooting, Jennifer and David moved into a post process that was completely done in DaVinci Resolve Studio.
“Between us, we did 100% of the post, audio and video! There are more than 3000 shots in the final film and I edited it, stabilized and tilted, did the music, we recorded foley and ADR and did the dialogue editing and mixing. Jenny, who had done her first ever color grading on the Post-Human short film, took it to a new level with Dangerous to Know,” he said.
Starting from scratch, the two relied on Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve online and printed tutorials. They relied even more so on the huge number of YouTube and other online Resolve tutorials from other filmmakers around the world. In particular, the introduction of Fairlight audio editing into DaVinci Resolve was helped by online tutorials, and they followed the coursework in the Introduction to Fairlight Audio Post With DaVinci Resolve 15 (by Mary Plummer) ebook, to reach the level of accredited sound designers before they launched into designing the sound for their entire feature.
Footage was directly brought into DaVinci Resolve Studio for initial edits by David and early grading by Jennifer.
“Because we were shooting a lot of handheld and action scenes, Resolve’s stabilization features were a life saver. Since we both had spent the time getting to learn the capabilities of Resolve, we were able to shoot certain scenes even though we knew it was risky in terms of the images we would get. You can trust in Resolve to give you the confidence to go for the shots you need,” David said.
Used with the Blackmagic camera, which include high dynamic range that gave the two a huge amount of data to work with, DaVinci Resolve Studio was used frequently to repair high contrast shots, making them as beautiful as anything seen in Hollywood productions with budgets in the tens of millions. Jennifer also relied on DaVinci Resolve Studio’s skin tone features to ensure the young actors did not have to worry about blemishes or poor lighting.
Though not a heavy VFX film, Jennifer also used DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Fusion VFX page for object removal. Finally, the duo used the Fairlight audio page for audio mixing and mastering and is finishing the film in Dolby 5.1 Surround sound.
The film is completed and is now on Kickstarter, earning funds for distribution in 2020. The campaign runs from December 3rd, 2019 to January 14th, 2020.