Daniel Purse


Daniel Purse is a Director of Photography, enjoying collaborations on narrative, commercial and promotional film projects.

'Decoration' Behind the Scenes

I’ve been asked about doing behind the scenes for my films and with the lack of an extra pair of hands on set I’ve written this little blog post for you who are interested in the making of the film. Let me know on Twitter and Facebook if you’d be interested in this sort of thing for all of my future projects.

‘Decoration’ is a 4 minute Christmas horror short film directed, short and edited by me, Daniel Purse and starring Sam Cliff.

Pre Production

With the Christmas theme decided on, I began developing the storyline by first defining the beginning, middle and ending scenes. The film begins with unboxing the angel, by the middle of the film it is starting to creep him out and by the end it’s killed him. Once I had this in mind I could flesh out each scene and add in a few bits, like the recurring pine needles which appear innocently at the beginning, but leads the character to his death at the end.  Having what is a basic storyline planned, to make it easier and quicker to shoot, I put together rough storyboards/lists for each scene for me to glance at whilst filming.


Sam and I planned to have just the one day of shooting, but by the end of the first 4 hour shooting day we still had the first scene left so we carried on to Sunday (22nd).

As always I shot with my Canon 60D and three lenses: Canon 50mm 1.4 (for most of the shots of Sam), Tokina 11-16mm (wide angles) and Canon 18-200mm (angel close-ups). Because the film was going to be in widescreen I used tape to mask off guide markers on the camera’s LCD.

I opted to film the opening scene predominantly on a tripod, saving handheld for the morning scene when Sam’s character is weary after an early start. However I did hand the camera to Sam for the angel’s point of view shot which I thought turned out well. Sam carried the camera over to the tree and I was standing behind the tree ready to take hold of it as the angel was hung up. The use of handheld in the outside scene was due to time restraints; I originally planned to shoot on a tripod. The most difficult shot to capture was the ending shot; I wanted to achieve a jib-like sweep across the floor followed by the crane up to reveal the bloody angel. But I had to shoot handheld because our massive budget unfortunately couldn’t stretch to buying a jib. So I managed it by hiding a cut as the frame is filled with the Christmas tree. I shot the first half (sweeping over Sam on the floor and moving up into the branches) then cut, repositioned and begun the next shot moving up out of the branches to reveal the angel. When cut together it’s not too obvious that there are two separate shots.

Lighting this scene was the hardest in the film due to where Sam was; sitting down. If it was all done in close-ups it would be ok to put a light on a light stand in front of him but because I wanted the wide shot it had to be hidden. Luckily there was already a light fixture above him which we took advantage of by strapping my little LED light to and directing it down to Sam. Throughout most of the filming, the blinds on the main window allowed me to adjust the overall level of light.

Besides my LED, the tree lights and two low power bulbs in the room I had one extra light, just a standard tungsten balanced light which backlit most of the shots. When we needed the tripod for the camera, Billy (Sam’s brother) helped out by holding lights for us. Thanks Billy :) Sam performed brilliantly as always, conveying  all the emotions perfectly.

Post Production

At Christmas time there is always an excuse to shoot some awesome out of focus lights and I had the chance to include this mainly in scene 2.

We do not encourage the use of headphones to tie up lights ;)

To get the film out on YouTube in time for Christmas Eve I had to edit quickly in Premiere Pro CS6. I finished the first rough cut with the runtime at around 5.10, which I cut down to the final 4.30 including credits, which were made within Premiere and backed with music by Luke Neumann who, along with Kevin MacLeod provided the music for the whole film. Both have fantastic collections and are lifesavers for no/low budget filmmakers.

All the colour correction/grading was done in Premiere. Having shot with the Cinestyle picture style on my camera, the original footage was dull and lacked contrast but gave me lots of colouring opportunities. 

For scene 1 I kept colours saturated and contrast high to push the Christmas feel.

Scene 2 is less saturated and cool, like the wintery morning it is set in.

Scene 3 (outside) was shot with a bad white balance, but I corrected it to have a warm, evening look.

The last scene is similar to scene two only darker, I liked how the blue lights lit Sam’s face in the ‘face off’ shot

Foley was also a big part of the process every sound effect in the film (opening Christmas card, footsteps etc.) had to be recorded again for a rich soundscape. I used my Rode Videomic Pro to do this. I applied a general sharpening adjustment to get rid of the muddy look and widescreen bars before exporting the film in H.264 for YouTube and Vimeo. Then it was finished!

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas! 

Watch the film again here: Decoration (Short Film)

Third Take Returns to the UK

After almost a year in Australia and five short films, my time in Aus was up so Third Take Productions has returned to the original team in England with new short films on their way soon!

 Lewis, Dan and Sam

Lewis, Dan and Sam

I would like to give a huge thank you to Lindsay Ashdown, Mushi Bond, Zac Richards, Daniel Long and Clancy Leary for making Third Take Productions a success during 2013, I look forward to working with these guys again in the future.

© 2018 Daniel Purse