AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER • OCTOBER 2015 • SICARIO – EVEREST – BLACK MASS – TIME OUT OF MIND – 99 HOMES • VOL. 96 NO. 10
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On Our Cover: FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) tries to stay focused when her special assignment to an anti-cartel task force lands her in an ethical morass in the feature Sicario, shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. (Photo by Richard Foreman, SMPSP, courtesy of Lionsgate.)
FEATURES 34 48 60 72
Over the Line
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC explores the limits of the law for Sicario
A Pitiless Peak Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC ventures to great heights to capture Everest
Masanobu Takayanagi frames a mobster’s misdeeds in Black Mass
Desperate Times Bobby Bukowski details the making of Time Out of Mind and 99 Homes 72
DEPARTMENTS 10 12 14 20 84 90 91 92 94 96
Editor’s Note President’s Desk Short Takes: Chimeras Production Slate: A Walk in the Woods • Critical New Products & Services International Marketplace Classified Ads Ad Index Clubhouse News ASC Close-Up: Jan Kiesser
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American Society of Cinematographers The ASC is not a labor union or a guild, but an educational, cultural and professional organization. Membership is by invitation to those who are actively engaged as directors of photography and have demonstrated outstanding ability. ASC membership has become one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a professional cinematographer â€” a mark of prestige and excellence.
OFFICERS - 2015/2016 Richard Crudo President
Owen Roizman Vice President
Kees van Oostrum Vice President
Lowell Peterson Vice President
Matthew Leonetti Treasurer
Frederic Goodich Secretary
Isidore Mankofsky Sergeant-at-Arms
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD John Bailey Bill Bennett Richard Crudo George Spiro Dibie Richard Edlund Fred Elmes Michael Goi Victor J. Kemper Daryn Okada Lowell Peterson Robert Primes Owen Roizman Rodney Taylor Kees van Oostrum Haskell Wexler
ALTERNATES Isidore Mankofsky Karl Walter Lindenlaub Kenneth Zunder Francis Kenny John C. Flinn III MUSEUM CURATOR
Steve Gainer 8
This month’s featured productions concern characters confronting irresistible forces, immovable objects, and other impediments that test the human spirit. Sicario, which reteams Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC with director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), follows an idealistic FBI agent who joins a group of covert operatives tasked with taking down a Mexican drug lord, only to discover that her cohorts don’t always hew to the legal rules of engagement. Although the movie offers plenty of action and intrigue, Deakins tells senior European correspondent Benjamin B, “in the end it basically comes down to a conversation in the kitchen, which is played in two close-ups. That, to me, is the essence of a great movie, when you get to that moment when it’s all about the characters and their relationships with each other.” Our coverage (“Over the Line,” page 34) also includes a detailed breakdown of the lighting strategy Deakins employed for the movie’s impactful opening sequence, as well as a sidebar Q&A with Villeneuve. Everest, which dramatizes the sudden freak storm that killed eight climbers in May 1996, posed a series of logistical challenges for Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC. Director Baltasar Kormákur sought an approach that would make the story as “authentic and real as possible.” While the movie could not be shot entirely in-camera on Everest itself, Kormákur’s mandate had the crew working at high altitudes in the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy and on locations in Nepal. “We shot five weeks on location and another five weeks on stage, and none of it was easy,” Totino tells Jay Holben (“A Pitiless Peak,” page 48). “They say Everest is the highest and most popular climb for experienced climbers, but it’s sobering how many people die up there — not as often from accidents as just not taking care of their bodies and not realizing their limitations in the environment.” As a Massachusetts native raised just north of Boston — and a minor scholar on mobsters — I’m well versed in the criminal exploits of James “Whitey” Bulger. My brother, Chris, and I have consumed every available book on the notorious gangland figure, including Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, which paints a vivid portrait of a psychotic, conscience-free killer whose Machiavellian misdeeds almost defy belief. We’ve long anticipated the movie Black Mass, which paired cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi with director Scott Cooper. “Our credo was to approach the film as though we were making it as a contemporary film in 1975,” Cooper tells Mark Dillon (“Unholy Alliance,” page 60). “The Seventies are difficult to get right. Often the camerawork is flashy, the costumes are kitschy, and the hair and makeup are over-the-top. We wanted to strip all that away but still feel we were making a movie in the Seventies, because Masa and I are so influenced by that era.” This issue also covers both of cinematographer Bobby Bukowski’s latest features: Time Out of Mind, his third collaboration with director Oren Moverman, and 99 Homes, his first with Ramin Bahrani. “I was fortunate to shoot both of these films in one year,” Bukowski enthuses to Patricia Thomson (“Desperate Times,” page 72). “These are two very dedicated, hard-working, detail-oriented directors. So for me, it was a joy.”
Stephen Pizzello Editor-in-Chief and Publisher
Photo by Owen Roizman, ASC.
I don’t know of another group in the motion-picture industry more obsessed by its work than cinematographers. Given our all-consuming involvement with what we do, it’s easy to overlook the contributions of the other departments we collaborate with each day. We often forget that a huge part of how our images turn out is dependent upon what is served up before the lens. To that end, production designers and set decorators deserve a grateful nod from our side of the camera. Let’s be honest: Art direction — as that collection of crafts used to be called — is responsible for at least half of any success we might enjoy. In almost every case, production designers are hired long before the cinematographer, and thus lay the groundwork we’re generally forced to adopt as our own. Their choices are not just limited to constructed sets on soundstages, but include locations and exteriors as well; everything we do photographically from that point rises and falls by their (hopefully) good taste. Ever wrestle with creating a look for a poorly realized beige-on-beige cheese box of an apartment? Believe me, it can be one of the great unpleasantries of your career. But when you walk onto a set that’s splendidly conceived and decorated, you also have to admit: The challenge is not to make it look great; it’s to avoid messing it up. Get into a discussion of production design with most filmmakers and you’ll find that period pieces or futuristic environments will eventually dominate the chatter. But that’s overstating the obvious. Instead, the discipline’s true artistry is witnessed in the successful rendering of the more ordinary, recognizable spaces we encounter every day. As with cinematography, the best examples follow a unified line of thought that serves the evolving themes of the script. Guided by the right talent, the art direction can give greater meaning to the story while at the same time creating opportunities for the expression of our own magic. Of all the films that make up our personal catalogues of visual references, I guarantee that the exquisite light gracing each of them is falling on equally inspiring sets, places and objects. This doesn’t necessarily mean the design is “beautiful” according to the pedestrian understanding of the term; it means the design fits the story in the most relevant way, without calling attention to itself. That’s the same effect cinematographers strive for, so it’s no surprise that the two pursuits are so closely interrelated. Over the years there have been any number of long-running collaborations between cinematographer-designer pairings; the most successful show us that each artist raises the other’s game. But a word to the wise among our good friends responsible for what and where we shoot: Not every wall needs a sconce! On a related topic, I’d like to recommend a fabulous new book, A Hidden History of Film Style: Cinematographers, Directors, and the Collaborative Process (2015, University of California Press). Written by Christopher Beach — one of two Film Scholars named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2013 — it does perhaps the best job to date of poking holes in the theory of the director as auteur. Beach’s fascinating deconstruction of the political, historical and practical reasons behind the evolution of the way movies look is achieved primarily through examining the work of four notable director-cinematographer teams: D.W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer; William Wyler and Gregg Toland, ASC; Billy Wilder and John Seitz, ASC; and Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Burks, ASC. In brilliant, detailed descriptions, Beach shatters past assumptions and casts a new respect upon these celebrated cameramen and their contributions to the canon. The book is fully annotated, and its chapter on rule-breaking in more recent years — as well as its analysis of trends introduced by the rise of digital technology — are well worth reading. What’s interesting about so much of the overall visual structure of any motion picture is that a lot of disparate people and elements must come together in just the right balance for a project to be considered a “success.” Despite all manner of effort, no one as yet has figured out how to codify that outcome — and I hope they never will. That vague feeling of uncertainty we experience every time we start a new show is a recognition of our responsibilities and the high stakes that are on the line. It also anticipates the potential to strike gold alongside our colleagues, which just might be the main reason we keep coming back for more.
Richard P. Crudo ASC President
Photo by Dana Phillip Ross.
Monstrous Deeds By Matt Mulcahey
In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing, manyheaded creature that roamed the countryside of Lycia. In the short film Chimeras, the monster metaphorically takes human form as a trio of desperate men converges in the desert to make a transgressive deal. “I wanted to have the faces of the actors be partially in light and partially in the darkness,” says cinematographer Carlo Rinaldi, AIC. “I wanted to make them [resemble] this beast, the Chimera.” Shot in the Mojave Desert over eight days in June 2014, Chimeras tells the based-in-fact tale of a father (Kevin J. O’Connor) who travels to a remote motel to sell his infant son to two men (Chris Coy and Michael Ironside). Director and co-writer Gianluca Minucci never reveals the motivations for the transaction. “I fell in love with the script and its atmosphere,” says Rinaldi, who splits his time working in Los Angeles and Rome. “It’s a noir story crossed with a Western. It made me think of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo or the tension of Paul Thomas Anderson’s storytelling.” Rinaldi found inspiration in the cinematography of Gordon Willis, ASC; Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC; and Joaquin Baca-Asay. “Gordon Willis was my reference in terms of contrast ratio and the use of deep shadows,” says Rinaldi. “I looked to Joaquin Baca-Asay for this idea of lighting interior days to almost look like interior nights. And Roger Deakins for me is a benchmark of elegance and creativity.” Minucci initially envisioned shooting Chimeras in 35mm with anamorphic lenses. However, the budget couldn’t accommodate anamorphic glass, and shooting 35mm would have required performing post in Los Angeles rather than at Rinaldi’s preferred destination, inHouse Post in Rome. With anamorphic lenses off the table, Rinaldi tested a vintage set of spherical Kowas, but was unsat14
isfied with the distortion of the wide-angle lenses and the color differences within the set. Rufus Burnham, president and CEO of L.A.’s The Camera House, then played matchmaker between Rinaldi and a set of Leica Summicron-C T2.0 lenses. “Rufus suggested the Leicas, and I literally fell in love,” Rinaldi says. “They have a unique bokeh for a spherical set, they are lightweight and compact, and they perfectly married with our CinemaScope aspect ratio.” In choosing a digital camera, Rinaldi’s main concern was finding a sensor that could handle the wide dynamic range necessary for Chimeras. “We had interior days with big windows that I didn’t want to blow out, so I needed a camera that could easily handle overexposure,” he says. “On the other hand, I had exterior night scenes in the desert, so I needed a camera that I could push to 1,600 ASA. The Arri Alexa Classic was the perfect choice.” Chimeras opens with a 90-second push-in amid a suburban dining room. The camera creeps toward a baby basket while the child’s parents frantically cross in and out of frame. The parents remain largely in darkness, without the reassurance of fill light, while a hot toplight beams down upon the basket. “That first image is very important because it has to catch the audience right away, especially in a short film,” says Rinaldi. “Gianluca and I wanted to immediately give a sense of mystery and anxiety, and we used the toplight on the baby’s crib to underline that the baby’s character is pure.” To convey that purity, Rinaldi left the Joker-Bug 200 HMI used for the toplight free of gel, while placing ¼ CTO on the 4K HMI backlight positioned outside the glass sliding door. The backlight was pushed through a 4'x4' frame of Lee 251 Quarter White Diffusion. The bulk of Chimeras unfolds at a motel located in the sandy wasteland of the Mojave Desert. Those scenes were filmed at the Four Aces — a movie set comprising a motel, diner and gas station
All images courtesy of Gregory J. Rossi.
A father (Kevin J. O’Connor) travels to a remote hotel in the desert to meet with two potential babybuyers in the short film Chimeras.
Top: The babybuyers (Michael Ironside, left, and Chris Coy) in a diner scene captured at the Four Aces film set in Palmdale, Calif. Bottom: The diner exterior is prepped for shooting.
— in Palmdale, Calif., approximately an hour northeast of Los Angeles. Rinaldi describes the location as “a little jewel. Shooting there helped us make the desert a character. We wanted to have this deepbrown, sandy palette and really make the audience feel how hot and dirty the place is.” The prospective baby-buyers make their first appearance at the Four Aces’ diner set. The scene begins with an overhead shot peering down at a booth table. Key grip Tommy Donald helped achieve the shot by adding risers and a long offset to a Fisher 10 dolly and employing a Cartoni Lambda head. “The Lamdba is usually used for low-angle shots, but if you rig it on top of the Fisher with the risers and then tilt 90 degrees, you have a perfect overhead shot,” says Rinaldi. “You can also spin the 16
camera and boom down, which we did in a shot where Kevin J. O’Connor signs the [guest register] in the motel office.” To keep the diner windows from blowing out, Donald placed Gam adhesive .9 ND gel on the glass. For the key light on Coy and Ironside, an 18K HMI Fresnel with ¼ CTO was aimed into the diner through a 12'x12' frame of Half Soft Frost. A 1.2K HMI with 1⁄8 and ¼ CTO was bounced off a 4'x8' beadboard for a backlight. To give the scene the warm glow that exists throughout Chimeras, Rinaldi set the Alexa’s color temperature to 6,500K. Rinaldi captured Chimeras in 2K ProRes 4:4:4:4 onto SxS cards. He operated the camera and used an onboard TV Logic 5.6" LCD monitor rather than trekking to video village. “We didn’t use any LUTs for monitoring on the set,” he adds. “I would American Cinematographer
switch between Rec 709 and Log C on my onboard monitor just to check the contrast ratio.” Digital-imaging technician Shiblon Wixom then adjusted the color and contrast to generate ProRes 4:2:2 HQ 1080p dailies in Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, which Rinaldi and Minucci viewed on an iPad during the following day’s lunch or after wrap. Rinaldi did get a break from operating when he turned the camera over to Steadicam operator Damian Church, who flew his rig for Chimeras’ bravura fourminute tracking shot. The shot finds Coy and Ironside traversing the length of the Four Aces to reach O’Connor’s room, where they expect to exchange cash for the infant. Despite help from the Four Aces’ neon sign and colorful practicals, the night exterior still necessitated emptying out the electric truck. “Everything I had was on set,” Rinaldi recalls. Laughing, he adds, “I remember the gaffer, Jeremy Kerr, telling me we were out of stingers!” Even with every light working, Rinaldi rated the Alexa at 1,600 ASA to get to a wide-open T2 on the 25mm lens. For the shot’s conclusion — which finds Coy and Ironside in front of O’Connor’s room — Kerr taped a Kino Flo tube above the motelroom door. Just before the 13th take, the tube broke. “I was a little desperate, but Gianluca said, ‘Let’s shoot it anyway,’” Rinaldi recalls. “And of course, as is always the case, that take happened to be the best one, and it’s the take that’s in the short. Sometimes mistakes or randomness make the movie better.” O’Connor flees the Four Aces and
his potential buyers, leading to a car chase set against the black oblivion of the Mojave. Rinaldi captured the chase with a Pursuit Systems Off Road Buggy. The cinematographer operated the camera using a Nettmann Stab-C remote head while stunt driver Josh Lakatos drove the buggy along its sandy track. An 18K rigged on a 45' Condor created a moonlight effect, and a 4K rigged to the same Condor basket — but pointed in the opposite direction — illuminated the background. “I wanted to have the moonlight effect always as a backlight,” Rinaldi explains, “so we had to reset and back up the cars to their first position after every take.” Chimeras was graded at Rome’s inHouse Post by colorist Rocio Valladares Alegria using DaVinci Resolve. Alegria added inHouse’s proprietary grain for a more filmic look. Rinaldi notes that inHouse “has a special algorithm for grain that they programmed themselves, and I really fell in love with it. The good thing about [adding the grain in post] was that I could adjust the grain effect scene by scene or even frame by frame. For example, maybe on a closeup I would want a little less grain, and that’s something you can only do in the digital world.” For its upcoming festival run, Chimeras was finished as a 2K DCP. A ProRes 4:2:2 HQ file was also prepared for the short’s eventual online afterlife. Additionally, Minucci has expanded the short story into a feature-length screenplay, which Rinaldi hopes will be shot in 2016. “Gianluca and [Chimeras producer] Gregory J. Rossi are trying to fund it in L.A. right now,” the cinematographer says. “I think the short makes a great promo for a [feature-length] version, and I really hope ● we get to make it.”
Top: The setup for a high-angle shot looking down on the infant. Middle: Cinematographer Carlo Rinaldi operates a Nettmann Stab-C remote head from the back seat of a Pursuit Systems Off Road Buggy for a car chase in the Mojave Desert. Bottom: Rinaldi lines up a shot.
The Greatest Landscape By Neil Matsumoto
Having grown a tad too comfortable in his later years, well-known travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) decides to hike the Appalachian Trail — 2,200 miles of stunning, rugged countryside stretching from Georgia to Maine. Joining him on the grueling trek is his estranged friend and former traveling companion, the down-on-his-luck Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). Although Bryson and Katz are both in their 70s, this is no Grumpy Old Men. Instead, A Walk in the Woods follows the two as they experience both the harshness and beauty of the great outdoors. According to director Ken Kwapis, A Walk in the Woods — which is based on Bryson’s best-selling 1998 book — had been in some form of development for more than a decade, with Redford originally seeing it as a vehicle for himself and Paul Newman. When Kwapis came on board, he brought along cinematographer John Bailey, ASC, with whom he had previously collaborated on five features, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, He’s Just Not That Into You (AC Feb. ’09) and Big Miracle (AC Feb. ’12). For Bailey, A Walk in the Woods also marked a reunion with Redford, as the cinematographer had shot Redford’s 1980 directorial debut, Ordinary People (AC June ’81). Bailey had only three weeks of preproduction, during which he and Kwapis referenced an unlikely source for visual inspiration: YouTube. According to the cinematographer, they were hoping to find a middle ground between professional-looking cinematography and the amateur videos shot by hikers with small digital-video cameras. “There are a few sequences where we wanted to experience the beauty of the trail, but most of the time it’s just two guys putting one foot in front of the other, slogging over a rocky and difficult path,” explains Bailey. “The diffi20
culty was how to photograph a life-changing experience in nature without making it an overwhelming or metaphysical experience.” By the time Bailey joined the production, the film’s producers had decided they wanted to shoot digitally, but for a number of reasons he was able to convince them that the project would benefit from being shot on 35mm film as well. “The current default position of most producers is, ‘We have to shoot on digital; we can’t afford film,’ which is the Big Lie,” the cinematographer explains. “If you turn the camera on and you never turn it off, obviously film is more expensive. But if you’re responsible and you shoot with discipline, it’s a wash.” Bailey also saw a need to maintain a small footprint while shooting on regional park trails, almost always within an hour’s drive from the production’s base of operations in Atlanta, Ga., as well as on the actual Appalachian Trail. With film, he explains, “I wouldn’t have to have video village strung behind me. We could just have a couple of handheld 5- or 7-inch monitors for the director and me, wireless on Steadicam, and carry a couple mags of film — that’s it.” The bright sunlight and high contrast that would be encountered on the trail were also significant factors that went into his decision. “The bright sunlight area, which will be 2½ to 3 stops overexposed on film when exposing for shadow detail, is then built into the density of the negative,” explains Bailey. “On digital, if it’s much above 100 IRE, there’s no information left, much like clear film leader, so when I get to the DI, it doesn’t matter what I do with power windows to bring the bright areas into balance — it’s already burned out.” The production’s camera and lens package, rented from Panavision Atlanta, included Panaflex Millennium XL cameras, Primo prime lenses and two Primo zooms: a 17.5-75mm (T2.3) and a 24-275mm (T2.8). For day exteriors on the trail, the
A Walk in the Woods photos by Frank Masi, SMPSP, courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.
Travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford, left) hikes the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail with his previously estranged friend and traveling companion Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) in the feature A Walk in the Woods.
Top: Director Ken Kwapis (left, with headphones) supervises a take with Nolte and Redford. Bottom: Cinematographer John Bailey, ASC (left) and crew set up some onlocation lighting.
cameras were loaded with either Kodak Vision3 50D 5203 or 250D 5207, and Bailey framed the 3-perf Super 35mm frame for the widescreen aspect ratio. “I still prefer to film in anamorphic 2.40:1, but I can’t seem to get Panavision anamorphic lenses anymore because they’re all out on these big Marvel comicbook movies,” the cinematographer notes. For night scenes and day interiors, Bailey used an Arri Alexa Classic, capturing ArriRaw files to a Convergent Design Gemini 4:4:4 recorder. Although he prefers the look of film in terms of both latitude and resolution, he believes the Alexa is the closest approximation, both in aesthetics and the way camera assis22
tants work with it. Bailey used the same lenses for both the film and digital capture. A-camera/Steadicam operator Benjamin Spek performed the demanding Steadicam work along the trail, creating smooth movement over the steep and rough terrain, generally with a 27mm, 35mm or 50mm lens on the camera. “The most challenging [aspects of] this film were simple scenes of two men walking uphill, having to engage dramatically, and doing that over and over again,” explains Kwapis. “These are both actors in their 70s, and the physicality of the scene could be overpowering at times. Also, both actors insisted that their backpacks have the proper weight of American Cinematographer
materials. They were not easy on themselves.” Although most of A Walk in the Woods stays grounded with the characters as they travel over unforgiving terrain, the film contains a few stunning aerials as well. For these moments, the production employed HeliCam Aerial Media Services, owned by brothers Wayne and Richard Mann, who met up with the second unit midway through its shoot. With their custom-designed hexacopter, the team captured 4K aerials with a compact Panasonic Lumix G DMC-GH4 camera. According to Bailey, the aerials really opened up the film. “The shots were fairly quick and weren’t terribly indulgent,” he says. “These little breaks between scenes are the only times where you step outside of the ground-level perspective and achieve a brief moment of transcendence.” On the trail, Bailey and crew were constantly battling abrupt weather changes and inconsistent light. “The weather is very volatile in the summer up in the mountains,” he says. “We would start off with a nice day and by late morning we’d be in a thunderstorm with hail. But for us, it was always about how we could incorporate this situation or deal with the changing light — which, of course, happens to every cinematographer.” For most of the daylight shooting,
Bailey, Kwapis and crew prep a scene with Nolte and Redford on a greenscreen set.
Bailey worked between a T8 and T11, which he describes as the “happy area” in terms of exposure, lens resolution and depth of field for exterior work. “If I got brighter daylight, I would just change the neutral-density filter so that I could maintain a more consistent stop,” he explains. “I don’t like to go from an 11 to a 4 when the light changes. “If you can keep your aperture the same, it really helps you maintain a consistent look,” Bailey continues. “If you’re not changing your ND filters and you’re at an 11 stop in the sun, and then you lose light and suddenly you’re at a 4, there’s a noticeable difference in your depth of field. It might be subtle, but the audience will still notice it.” In keeping with his small-footprint approach, Bailey worked with a minimal lighting package. Frequently overcast skies provided soft light, and even hard sun was usually broken up by the trees. When additional lighting was necessary for the day exteriors, Bailey mostly relied on small 1.2K HMIs and Kino Flo Celebs, which he praises for their compact size and strong output. The few night scenes set on the trail were actually filmed in a Norcross, Ga., factory that was converted to a stage. For a campfire scene, production 24
designer Gae Buckley blacked out the interior and brought in trees; to create separation and a sense of “moonlight” ambience, Bailey and gaffer Michael Moyer backlit the scene with several 4K HMIs. In another sequence, Bryson and Katz fall off the trail and become stranded on a lower outcrop of rock; the day exteriors were shot in an Atlanta rock quarry, and Buckley re-created the setting onstage for the night scene, in which Bailey employed back-cross 4K HMIs. The most ambitious night exterior shot on location finds Bryson at a motel. A dolly shot follows Bryson and the motel’s proprietor (played by Mary Steenburgen) in a walk-and-talk along the row of rooms. Bailey and Moyer backlit the location with tungsten Par lights mounted on a Condor and a few well-placed Babies along the motel’s rooftop. When shooting with the Alexa, Bailey and digital-imaging technician Stuart Huggins used a single LUT — slightly modified from Rec 709 — and if Bailey needed to make a change to the color temperature, he did so within the Alexa’s menu system. He says he also likes to use soft graduated filters to control hot sky or ground, since highlights in digital burn out much easier. “If I were doing a TV series where I didn’t have a chance to American Cinematographer
do color correction at the end and it went to air a month after we shot it, I probably would be more inclined to do on-set color correction,” the cinematographer adds. “But for features, this is not in my blood, because I want to be on the set with the director, the actors and my crew.” Throughout the shoot, Huggins downloaded the previous day’s work onto Bailey’s iPad for dailies review. The production’s negative was processed at FotoKem in Burbank and scanned at 2K resolution for the final grade at Sixteen19 in Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios, where Bailey worked with colorist Andrew Francis. According to Bailey, the grade was straightforward and mainly consisted of controlling contrast and skies. There were times when all the greens in frame would block up, so Francis would highlight and brighten certain areas to provide separation and bring out detail. “A lot of it was really trying to maintain a consistent look through the course of a three-page scene that [was shot over] most of the day with the light constantly changing,” says Bailey. Kwapis loves Bailey’s process and says the cinematographer has the ability to channel all of film history when lining up a shot. “I think what he does in terms of his lighting is incredibly expressive, but also grounded,” the director enthuses. “He is the last of the great realists, and he always makes sure that what’s in front of the camera doesn’t feel manufactured or synthetic. It’s about real light falling on real objects. I think John would subscribe to the philosophy that the greatest landscape a person can photograph is that of a human face in the midst of a dramatic situation.”
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 3-perf Super 35mm and Digital Capture Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL, Arri Alexa Classic, Panasonic Lumix G DMC-GH4 Panavision Primo Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, 250D 5207 Digital Intermediate
Complex Procedures By Phil Rhodes
“Critical was always conceived of as a show that would not hold back on anything at all,” says cinematographer Tim Palmer, BSC. He speaks of a series that is widely described as a medical drama, although the production exhibits an almost documentarian interest in its depiction of medical procedures. Furthermore, the production schedule for the 13-episode first season was far from conventional. When the cameras began to roll in February 2014, Palmer says, “nobody quite knew how long it was going to take. The producers knew they had to finish filming 13 episodes by the middle of October, and that we’d fill in the time accordingly.” Palmer’s background includes work on a wide variety of popular British series, including episodes of Doctor Who, Silent Witness, Life on Mars, Hustle and Wire in the Blood. Prior to his motionpicture work, he recalls, “I started out as a stills photographer in the late Eighties.” His move toward cinematography took him through the National Film and Television School at Beaconsfield Studios and a series of jobs as a camera trainee, including Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream 26
That One Calls Human Life, which was photographed by Nic Knowland, BSC. “I owe so much to Nic,” says Palmer. “He gave me my first break as a clapper loader. He was shooting a bigbudget TV drama in Africa called The Dying of the Light and had to use a lot of local crew. It was not working out, and one evening I received a call asking if I could get on a plane to Ghana, and that was that.” Palmer’s involvement with Critical began early. “Graciously, the producers brought me on board at a very early date — I was involved from mid-November . Long before the sets went up, we were having discussions with the production and set designers about the extensive use of built-in LED lighting and how it would be incorporated into the set. It was a groundbreaking show in terms of its reliance on LEDs to light such a large portion of the set.” U.K. vendor LED Flex supplied RGB color-mixing light strips, which worked in conjunction with color-mixing Fresnels. “The set was color-coded,” explains Palmer, who worked with gaffer Chris Bird. “The resuscitation department was blue, the O.R. was green and the CT room was red.” While Palmer used Arri’s VersaTile LED panels — in their cooler American Cinematographer
5,000K incarnation — much of the practical lighting built into the set was more prosaic. “All the ceiling panels were dimmable LEDs,” the cinematographer notes. “They were not LED panels designed for film, specifically; they were just commercial industrial units from a supplier that kits out office buildings, but that particular supplier happened to have the best CRI in the industry. “Up in the grid there were about 50 Arri L7-C [Fresnels],” Palmer continues. “For complex tracking shots when the camera had to revolve around the characters, the L7s could be programmed so that a block or run of lamps could fade off and their opposites could come up on multiple cues, so that the actors remained backlit at all times. It was very liberating to have such quick control over lamp color and exposure. This, in turn, enabled us to be even more creative with lighting.” Weather and the time of day were written into the script, allowing each of the one-hour episodes variability in the depiction of exterior light. “We shot episode two first,” Palmer recalls. “It looks good, but from my point of view it’s the flattest. The learning curve was steep, and I realized that letting the practical lighting drive the look, though making the sets very easy to shoot, resulted in not
Critical photos by John Rogers, courtesy of Hat Trick Productions. Additional images courtesy of Tim Palmer, BSC.
Dr. Glen Boyle (Lennie James) suits up to save a patient in the medical drama Critical.
Storyboards for a surgical scene whose shooting technique was based upon the “attack on the Death Star” sequence in Star Wars.
enough overall contrast. What started to work better was to introduce stronger sources through the windows and correspondingly reduce the ambient levels inside. If memory serves me correctly, we began the shoot with the interior LED levels set at 80 to 100 percent, but by episode three they were down to 25 to 35 percent.” The first episode — and the second to be shot — was scripted to occur at sunrise, and represents the results of Palmer’s realization. “The idea was low sunlight, and if you look at the 28
quality of that type of light, you will see peachy, warm highlights and very indigo fill.” Implementing this look required “conventional sources,” he adds. “We used 2.5K [HMI] through the windows, warmed up with a Full CTS gel.” Palmer also used in-camera settings in pursuit of his photographic goals: “Because all the LED practicals were 5,600K daylightbalanced, it became a simple matter of setting the color temperature on the camera to 4,300K. This kept the light coming through the windows warm, but really cooled down the fill light.” American Cinematographer
The production’s sets were constructed at Longcross Studios in Surrey, just a few miles southwest of London. “The production designer, Malcolm [Thornton], was fantastic,” Palmer enthuses. “Over the Christmas holidays the art department poured this hardened resin floor across the whole set. It was half an acre at least — it was enormous. When we came back for the last month of prep in January, this immaculate floor was in place and it remained pristine for the 10 months [of production]. The beauty of it was that it was designed to function as a studio floor. We only laid one track over the course of the shoot and that was because the camera had to move in a dead-straight line. You could dolly anywhere on dolly wheels, even at 290mm — the [long] end of the Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm [T2.8] zoom.” Other lenses included what Palmer calls a “standard set” of Cooke S4s. Creative filtration included the occasional use of a Vantage Blue-Vision filter, which adds an anamorphic-style horizontal streaking flare. “We did look into shooting anamorphic, but the costs were too high,” Palmer accepts. “I only used [the filter] when there was a definite point source in frame.” In addition, Palmer made extensive use of an Optex Excellence periscopeborescope system from Take 2 Films in London. “When I went to interview for the job, I had a gut feeling that a device of this type would prove invaluable. I had been doing some research on the making of the ‘attack on the Death Star’ sequence in Star Wars and knew that the filmmakers had shot the scene with a camera and periscope lens suspended from an overhead track. The producers agreed that this would make a good starting point as an approach to filming the surgical scenes.” Such decisions, however, are not made lightly, given the budgetary implications of such a specialized piece of equipment. “It’s a really expensive lens,” Palmer concedes. “We shot tests in all its configurations and showed these tests to the Sky [network] execs. The presentation must have gone down well, because we were allowed to have the lens as part of
Top: The “attack on the Death Star” visual. Bottom: Cinematographer Tim Palmer, BSC mans the camera, while director Jon East (wearing glasses) looks on.
the camera package for the whole job. It proved to be the right decision because we used the Excellence two or three times every single day. The lens took us to places we would never dream of going: highly unusual close-ups of actors, under arms, through fingers, into fridges — all sorts of things that really gave the show its signature style.” That style, says Palmer, also has its roots in Stanley Kubrick’s films. “The director, Jon East [who helmed the first three and last four episodes of the season], and I wanted [Critical] to have a Kubrick look,” the cinematographer acknowledges. “We are both big fans of Kubrick. Jon told me his father took him to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when it first opened, and that childhood experi30
ence cemented his desire to become a filmmaker. I went through A Clockwork Orange and 2001 literally frame by frame in order to analyze the compositions.” Kubrick’s rather geometric approach to framing is something Palmer “really tried to adhere to — I made an effort to keep the camera absolutely level, especially with such a rectilinear set, which from any view contained multiple vanishing points and myriad horizontals and verticals. Particularly on a wider lens, I’d get quite obsessive about ensuring that the camera was absolutely level, to the point where I would check to make sure the tilt was ‘on the bubble’ before locking off the tilt, and then only jibbing to alter the frame height and not tilting the camera.” American Cinematographer
Additionally, the filmmakers made a point of avoiding mid-range focal lengths. “In a lot of preproduction conversations with [East], he didn’t want anything in the middle; he either wanted it to be really wide or really long. We were between the 14mm and the 21mm on wide and mid shots, then the 27mm and 32mm for close-ups. After that it would be the 100mm and 180mm. There was very little use of anything between a 40mm and a 75mm.” On the periscope, Palmer generally mounted the 14mm, with occasional use of the extremely wide (and non-rectilinear) 10mm lens. Writer-producer Jed Mercurio is an ex-cardiologist known, as Palmer puts it, for “bold medical dramas.” With Critical, Palmer adds, Mercurio was “determined to show everything exactly as it was, in as minute detail and with as much veracity as possible. Within each episode there were three, perhaps four major events, whether it was a resuscitation or an invasive surgery or a CT scan. Once we knew what procedure we were going to be filming, there would be a medical advisor — sometimes two or three from St. George’s [Hospital] in Tooting — who’d come on set and start talking through with the actors what would be happening at that point.” The talk-through of the proposed procedure, Palmer remembers, could easily take two or three hours, followed by another two hours of rehearsals. “One character goes to fill a syringe here, another character is putting on a mask here — all action that would need to be procedurally correct. As the drama was being filmed in real time, every single piece of action would have to be covered on camera. When you get to an operation, it would become even more detailed. We could easily spend half a day rehearsing. It’s unheard of in TV. But when we started filming, it was non-stop for five or six hours, save for reloading cameras and changing lenses.” The result was a greatly variable production schedule. “Some episodes were finished in 12 days, some in 17 or 18 days. It depended on the complexity of the surgical procedures. It was a whole new paradigm in a ➣ sense, certainly for me.”
Palmer used the Optex Excellence periscopeborescope system on Critical to capture hard-toreach perspectives.
Masterpiece period drama Indian Summers. At the time of writing, Indian Summers was on location in Penang, Malaysia, an environment that could hardly mark a greater contrast to the sterile corridors of Critical. The hospital set, remembers Palmer, had the capacity to surprise even real medical professionals: “There was a crewmember one morning who was feeling distinctly unwell, at the point of fainting. Thankfully she was fine in the end, but production called [the paramedics]. They arrived, walked onto set, and there was this patient on oxygen, sitting in a medical chair in a high-tech operating theater. They thought it was an April Fools’ joke!” A particularly complex sequence could take two or three days to shoot, with two or three Arri Alexa Plus cameras in use. “I’m very comfortable with the camera,” says Palmer. “I knew it would deliver exactly what we had in mind. I was keen to convey the idea of a very white, very futuristic, sparkly and clean environment. This approach will often benefit from searing highlights to make the whites feel ‘alive,’ and I have complete confidence in the Alexa to deal with massively overexposed highlights in a naturalistic and sympathetic way.” Palmer’s approach to monitoring is similarly straightforward: “I grew up with 32
film and watched one-light rushes the following day. I would never ask the labs to do graded rushes; I just wanted to see things as they came out of the camera, as that was the only way to tell if the lighting and exposure were correct.” For a similar workflow in the digital realm, he says he used a “simple Rec 709 LUT and that was it. If the pictures look good on Rec 709, you know that you are in the right place.” Dailies were processed at London’s Molinare. Colorist Gareth Spensley performed the final grade, also at Molinare, with FilmLight’s Baselight. Palmer currently enjoys a full schedule, with work underway on the American Cinematographer
TECHNICAL SPECS 1.78:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa Plus Cooke S4, Optex Excellence, Angenieux Optimo, Fujinon
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC and director Denis Villeneuve put a premium on vivid colors and the freedom to improvise on the action-thriller Sicario. By Benjamin B •|•
oger Deakins, ASC, BSC had a very good week at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. He was honored with the cinematography award at the Angenieux ExcelLens event, where numerous colleagues, including his longtime collaborators the Coen brothers, lauded his abilities. He also walked the famous red carpet for the world premiere of Sicario, a film that earned the acclaimed filmmaker kudos from critics and enthusiastic applause at the post-screening press conference. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Sicario is an action film steeped in political and ethical issues. The story follows Kate (Emily Blunt), an idealistic FBI agent who is asked to join a clandestine team of operatives tasked with taking down a Mexican drug lord. Kate joins her new boss, Matt ( Josh Brolin), and a shadowy agent named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) on a dangerous mission in Juárez that ends in a bloody firefight. Kate gradually discovers that her teammates are willing to break the rules to achieve their goals, and she must decide whether to blow the whistle. Sicario marks the second time Deakins and Villeneuve have worked together; they first collaborated on the 2013 drama Prisoners (AC Oct. ’13) and are slated to reteam on the upcoming Blade Runner sequel. Recording ArriRaw files, the production employed the Alexa XT — with its Open Gate increased-resolution option — as its primary camera and the Alexa M for car interiors. Deakins paired the cameras with an Arri/Zeiss Master Prime lens package. Following is AC’s Q&A based on interviews with Deakins and Villeneuve, with special thanks to gaffer Chris Napolitano, who provided additional details about Sicario’s lighting equipment and setups.
Unit photography by Richard Foreman, SMPSP and Luis Ricardo Montemayor Cisneros, courtesy of Lionsgate.
American Cinematographer: Denis Villeneuve seems to be a very collaborative director. Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC: Definitely, but he also knows what he wants. For instance, he’s got a very strong perspective on the script. Denis knows where he wants to take something, but he’s very collaborative in terms of getting there with the imagery and the shots and such. Denis is great; I love working with him. How did you prepare to shoot the film with Denis? Deakins: We did storyboards together on both of the films we’ve shot. We took a few weeks to do this, in between everything else we had to do. We’d scout locations, come back, then sit in an office and start storyboarding. It was a way of really nailing down the photographic style. We didn’t storyboard everything — just key sequences like the journey to Juárez and the gun battle on the border. Those scenes had to be tightly storyboarded because they were complicated; there were many extras and we had so little time to shoot. I broke the scenes down into different shooting days and then went through each day with the AD, Don Sparks, identifying shots for the morning, midday and afternoon. We had to do that to cope with the angle of the sunlight. We also had a list of
Opposite and this page, top: FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her partner, Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya), uncover a grisly scene when they take down a drug cartel’s safe house. Middle: Kate and Reggie report their findings. Bottom: Director Denis Villeneuve (left) and cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC plan their next move.
Over the Line shots that we could do if the sun went away, like car interiors or close-ups. It was our battle plan. What focal lengths did you use? Deakins: I like working with prime lenses because it forces you to be quite precise about the focal length and where you put the camera. I normally tend toward a 32, 35 or 40mm. I find there’s a huge difference between a 32 and a 35. Our wide lens would be a 27, or sometimes a 21. All camera equipment was supplied by Otto Nemenz. Sicario starts with a very bright day exterior, and there are many more throughout the film. Deakins: It’s interesting, because the first thing people say about digital cameras is that they can’t handle day exteriors. That’s a rather old attitude, but there are still people [who adhere to it]. I was myself concerned about that until Skyfall [AC Dec. ’12], where we did some scenes with very bright sunlight that worked out really well. That experience settled the issue for me. Do you use a meter with the Alexa? Deakins: Not on every shot, but most of the time. I use my Gossen, which I’ve had for 30-odd years. I use a meter a little less often when shooting digitally than on film. I work with a digital-imaging technician — Josh Gollish — so there’s a certain confidence factor there. I use the meter to check where I am relative to what my eye is seeing. I usually just take one reading, or stand in one place and take a reading of the shadows or highlights. Even when shooting film I’ve never been obsessive about meter readings on a shot; I don’t walk around and work out contrast ratios and all that. I am not technical in that way. During the journey to Juárez, there are many car interiors. Did you use any lighting for those shots? Deakins: We had rigged some LEDs inside the car, but we didn’t end up using them. When the car is stopped at the border, I did do a little bounce on a 4-by-8 poly. But a lot of the stuff in the car was just natural light. Sometimes I put diffusion on the car’s front wind-
Top: Kate is enlisted to join a special task force that is targeting the cartel’s leaders. Middle: Kate and Reggie help interrupt the cartel’s cash flow. Bottom: Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro, crouched in front of camera), a mysterious member of the task force, hunts for information near the border.
shield; because it’s angled, the sun would hit it and bounce light toward the back seat where Emily or Benicio was sitting. I would either use 6 inches of diffusion along the top of the windshield, or sometimes it would cover the whole window, with a hole so the driver could see where he was going. What diffusion did you use? Deakins: Light diffusion — Brushed Silk or an Opal or even a Hampshire. Also, depending on the camera angle, I would [sometimes] ND the glass beside the actors. There’s an important moment in the film where Kate angrily confronts Matt outside an army base. The entire scene is played in a very wide shot. A lot of filmmakers would have been tempted to go in on them for close-ups. Deakins: That’s why I love Denis so much. We did that shot and then I said, ‘Should we go in and do overs?’ and Denis said, ‘No, I think we should move on.’ I said, ‘What? Really?’ And he replied, ‘Yeah, it’s great.’ I thought that was really good, to have the courage and the presence of mind to know that you’ve got the scene, because it plays out in that particular shot. We didn’t waste what could have been another three hours shooting. When you’re on a tight schedule and budget, it’s fantastic to have a director who really knows what he wants. Is it correct that you often place the camera on a jib arm on a dolly? Deakins: Yes. My longtime dolly grip — Bruce Hamme, with whom I have been working since Barton Fink — and I use an Aerocrane jib arm that I operate with a remote head. It’s really helpful in finding a frame, or just adapting a frame, even if there’s no camera movement in the shot. I started doing it because of the way actors work these days — and this is not a criticism. Their process is organic, and I think that’s what gives acting today a much more real feel than it’s ever had, so you have to be flexible for the actors. You can’t say, ‘Okay, this is the shot and you come up exactly here.’ They might rehearse and
A mission to exfiltrate a prisoner from Mexico into the U.S. leads to a tense faceoff in congested traffic at the border.
Lighting Sicario’s Opening Sequence
Top and middle: Kate brings Jennings (Victor Garber) into the cartel’s safe house. Bottom: This lighting diagram illustrates Deakins’ rough plan for the interior.
merican Cinematographer: During the first sequence, Emily Blunt’s character leads a SWAT team in a truck that crashes into a house. Where did you shoot the interiors? Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC: The scene is a mixture of shooting on location and shooting on set. We had a location that we really liked, but it was much more practical to just shoot the exteriors there, and to shoot the interiors on a sound stage in Albuquerque. We matched what was on location as best we could on the set, but we didn’t have a big enough space to match it completely, and it would have cost too much in terms of space lights and rigging, so we used false perspective to shorten things. There was an exterior garden, which was basically desert, and a falseperspective wall in front of a print backing, which was a photograph of the location. So we could actually shoot out of the livingroom windows, and there are a couple of shots where you see a character outside. The lighting diagram indicates the lighting units that were used, and 65 space lights don’t seem very many for this day-exterior set. Deakins: No, it’s not very much light, actually. I wish I’d had more, because I would have liked to shoot at a higher stop. But we were restricted by budget and we couldn’t set up a huge amount of light just because I wanted to shoot at T5.6 instead of T2.8. The six T12 Fresnels provide spots of hard sunlight inside the house, aimed through the garden windows and three skylights. Why did you use 12Ks instead of, say, 20Ks? Deakins: If you had 20Ks at that distance, they wouldn’t be quite as sharp and they’d be a bit harder to control. The T12 actually gives you almost as much light as a 20K, and it’s a smaller bulb and smaller Fresnel lens — so it’s very hard, very sharp and very white as well. I had to calculate the spread of the T12s: One lamp hit where the truck crashes the wall, one spread across the big living-room windows, and the third lamp hit another room that you see momentarily as the SWAT team
searches through the house. I imagine it was important for you to keep the sources outside of the house interior. Deakins: We had a lot of shots to do, so I wasn’t going to put lights inside the rooms. Also, if I had brought a source inside the room it would have spilled everywhere. I was really using the windows as cutters, so that the light was coming through naturally and it was shaped by the window, so you might get soft light on an actor, but the back wall would be down a bit. What about the 22 2K Blondes? Deakins: This is a rough plan. It’s just a way of communicating what I’m thinking and where I need equipment to my gaffer, Chris Napolitano, and his crew. The T12s and space lights were pre-rigged, but they weren’t the units that actually punched light on the actors through the windows; the T12s weren’t reaching that far into the space. I use Blondes a lot; they’re simple, open-face lights that give a wide, smooth spread. They’re a very efficient light, and they’re very controllable if you want to bounce or go through diffusion. The Blondes [depicted] here could be on a rail or on the floor. An actor inside might be lit by three or four Blondes rigged on a pipe above a set window and bounced on polystyrene or, conversely, on stands and punching through Light Grid diffusion. Do you often bounce several sources at once on a poly? Deakins: If, for example, you bounce five Blondes onto a long white reflector, you can make it hot at one end and trail it off at the other. You can control where your main heat source is coming from. How did you decide whether to bounce or diffuse the Blondes on the actors? Deakins: Intuition, I guess. If I wanted to punch light through a little further or if I wanted it a little bit harder, then I went through diffusion. — Benjamin B
Over the Line say, ‘I think I should do this a little bit differently.’ I want to be able to come up and get that change, or go left or right or slightly wider. I also want to be able to do that quickly. Otherwise, I’m holding the whole shoot up, saying, ‘I’ve got to move the tripod’ or something. You just don’t want that — you want to be able to work as intuitively as possible. How long is the jib arm? Deakins: The Aerocrane jib arm goes up to 13 feet, and can go down to 5. I usually use the Power-Pod Classic remote head — I’ve used it for 20-odd years — and, because it is an old piece of equipment, it doesn’t cost a lot. I can have it every day on the shoot and it’s not going to break the budget. Do you use wheels? Deakins: Yes, I can’t work with a joystick; I don’t get that. I’m on the wheels a lot — very old fashioned. I really liked the yellow fluorescent lighting in the hallway outside the waterboarding room, when Alejandro meets an old friend and gets a tip from him. Deakins: I didn’t really light that; the fluorescents were basically [already] in the location. They were really old, dirty fixtures, and they were very yellow, and I thought, ‘That’s really good.’ I moved one or two fixtures around because I needed some light in a slightly different place, and we also put in a few dummy fluorescent fixtures. We added a light diffusion to the fixtures, as well as a ¼ CTO gel to some. I talked to Patrice Vermette, the production designer, and said, ‘Let’s keep the walls really yellow.’ So it became this grungy yellow world, which I quite liked, because it’s not what you usually see in a torture room. Instead of it being a pool of light, it’s a bright, warm, almost womb-like space. I like to do as much of the color on the set as I can. Is that often your approach? To start with the reality and then enhance it? Deakins: When we did Prisoners, I spent a couple of nights driving around the countryside looking at
Top: The task force begins a clandestine operation to cross the border into Mexico. Middle and bottom: Deakins and crew film the march.
Over the Line people’s Christmas lights to see what kind we wanted to put into the film. It’s things like that; you take what’s really there and play with it. How did you approach the lengthy night scene when Alejandro forces a policeman to drive on a deserted road? Deakins: That was quite daunting. When you read it in the script, you think, ‘How am I going to do this?’ But it worked out. I was quite pleased with it, actually. How did you light the two men in the car at night? Deakins: That was a mixture of stage and location; it was too restrictive to shoot all of it on location. We simply did not have the time or money. When the camera is looking back from the front of the car, that was shot on a stage with moving lights in the background, and a little bit of movement of the source lights on their faces. When the camera is looking forward at the driver, one close-up was done on stage, whilst the majority of the angles were done on location so that we could see the road ahead. What kind of lighting did you use on stage? Deakins: I envisioned that there might be the reflection of the headlights on the road ahead so I created a very low bounce. It was just simply three 650 Tweenies bounced off polystyrene boards. The lights were dimmed very low and we had just a little bit of movement on the dimmer so the levels weren’t completely locked solid. And then we had three different dollies on tracks that were moving behind the car with these little lights on them, just to have something in the background. A good old-fashioned process shot? Deakins: Yes, it’s surprising how little light you need, especially since the car was supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn’t anything to look at. It was a no-brainer that we should shoot that on stage, because we could control it so much better. Obviously, shooting at night is expen-
Top: The task force wends through a tunnel beneath the U.S.-Mexico border. Middle and bottom: Once across the border, Alejandro continues on a mission of his own.
merican Cinematographer: Sicario is your second film with Roger Deakins, after Prisoners. Denis Villeneuve: Sicario is a film that I had to make with Roger; I don’t know if I would have made the film without him. I had finished doing Prisoners and I wanted to pursue our relationship; I wanted to go further, visually. Much of the violence in Sicario is hidden or occurs offcamera. Villeneuve: I wanted to have the same approach to violence that I have had in my previous films, which is to seize the victim’s point of view. I wanted to show the brutality of violence, without glorifying it or creating too much of a spectacle. Although the story is about fighting the Mexican drug lords, there are also allusions to waterboarding, and the film seems to ask the question of whether the end justifies the means. Villeneuve: Sicario is not about drug cartels; it’s about how America deals with its enemies. There is also the theme of a world where the traditional rules have been lost. But I have to stress that the film doesn’t offer any answers; it only raises questions. Tell us about preparing the film with Roger. Villeneuve: I used to like to improvise on set. Storyboarding is something I developed by working with Roger. It was a very pleasant process, and became part of our dialogue. It’s a way of refining the style of the film. We also studied photographs and locations, and spoke a lot about the story. Do you always follow the storyboard? Villeneuve: The storyboard is really a tool that brings freedom on the set. Sometimes we followed it rigorously and other times we tore it up, perhaps inspired by an actor’s ideas. Roger and I are both very flexible on set.
What did you and Roger discuss in terms of the look of the film? Villeneuve: There is a power to the naturalism of Roger’s lighting that touches me deeply, and from the start there was this desire for naturalistic lighting. There was also the idea of being inspired by the brutality of the sun, and by the colors of the desert in that part of New Mexico. Mexican cities are also full of strong colors, and Roger and I knew we had to embrace them. I know that Roger was very inspired by the photographer Alex Webb, who has done extraordinary work with color. So there was this idea of either going into earthy desert colors or a radical explosion of colors. I had never allowed myself to do that before, but I trusted Roger to go to these extremes. The border-tunnel sequence is wonderful, with its mix of normal, infrared and thermal images. Villeneuve: In that scene, we’re following a young agent who knows her own world but doesn’t know much about the other side of the border. We wanted the audience to feel destabilized, to feel like they were going underwater, diving with the characters, [and so] we had the idea of mixing different image textures. The night-vision images were obtained by putting a special adapter —
an image enhancer — on the Alexa, which allowed us to shoot in almost total darkness. Roger put a huge bounce very high up with one tiny lamp bouncing on it, to create a very little moonlight, so that we could see the ground a little bit. We were all in the dark, and only the Steadicam operator could really see anything. We spent three nights shooting in this darkness. I loved that experience, that total absence of light. We also shot with this thermal camera from FLIR, a box that looks like something out of a Fritz Lang sciencefiction movie. The idea was that the thermal camera would be the point of view of Benicio’s character — a more sophisticated camera that would allow him to go further in his quest. We also wanted to create a rhythm in the sequence, to create a visual tension between the different cameras. Any final words about your collaboration with Roger? Villeneuve: I have to be honest: Roger is much more accomplished than I am. Artistically, he’s a master, and I try to stimulate him as best I can. It’s completely selfish on my part, because I learn with every shot — about rhythm, about camera movement, about the dynamics of the frame. I’m always learning with him. — Benjamin B
Over the Line
Crewmembers follow the action as Blunt and Josh Brolin climb into the task force’s private aircraft.
sive and we were shooting in the summer, so the nights were pretty short. How did you light the car on the road? Deakins: For the location work, there is a trick I have used a time or two,
which is to put fluorescents on the hood of the car. I usually place two standard 4foot fluorescents there and overlap them end-to-end. Then I tape the sides of the tubes so that there is just a very thin slit of light coming out from the front. This
creates a kind of soft wrap of light as if the actor is being lit by the spill from the car’s headlights. I keep the source really low, so that, even when you saw both the driver in the mirror and the road ahead, there’s actually a fluorescent on the hood, right below the camera. I also boosted the headlights with 650-watt Redheads on the car’s front fender. Shooting is a team effort; I spoke with your gaffer, Chris Napolitano, who kindly shared lighting details with me. Who are some of the other key collaborators we should mention? Deakins: Mitch Lillian, my key grip; Bruce Hamme, my dolly grip; and Andy Harris, my focus puller. I have worked with them all for 20 years and more. And Josh Gollish, my DIT, whom I have worked with on every film I have done that has been digital capture, including Skyfall, Prisoners and Unbroken [AC Jan. ’15]. You said that you like to define
the look and color in-camera as opposed to in the DI? Deakins: Yes, I like to get as close as I can on set — unless you’re doing something extreme like O Brother, Where Art Thou? [AC Oct. ’00]. There really is no way better than to do it in-camera. Did you really do the DI for Sicario in less than two weeks? Deakins: Yes, it was actually one of the quickest projects I’ve ever timed — about seven days. But you think to yourself, ‘Something’s wrong. I must go through it again; there must be something I want to do.’ But a lot of the time I don’t like to fuss — on set or in the DI — because you can overthink things. You can play with the image and toy with it, and it becomes too overworked. With modern CGI techniques and the DI, you have so much power in the computer, and I think it’s overused. I like things to be simple and immediate. And sometimes if the end result is a little raw because of that, that’s all right. It’s not
being sloppy; it’s a balance. I work with a really great — and fast — timer, Mitch Paulson, at EFilm, where the film was completed. [The film was graded in 2K using DPX files in Autodesk Lustre for a final 4K deliverable.] Any closing thoughts? Deakins: Sicario’s got action in it and interesting visual sequences, but in the end it basically comes down to a conversation in the kitchen, which is played in two close-ups. That, to me, is the essence of a great movie, when you get to that moment when it’s all about the characters and their relationships with each other. That’s what I love about cinematography, really — looking into an actor’s face. It’s quite something, isn’t it? ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT, M; FLIR Arri/Zeiss Master Prime
For additional coverage of Sicario, visit www.theasc.com/asc_blog/thefilmbook beginning in October.
A Pitiless S
Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC and director Baltasar Kormákur go to extremes for Everest, re-creating a tragic mountain trek. By Jay Holben •|• 48
tanding majestically on the border of Nepal and China is Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. At 29,029', it peaks at just about the normal cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner. Those who endeavor to make the climb spend weeks to months acclimating their bodies to deal with the lethally thin air they will ultimately contend with at 5½ miles above sea level. In May of 1996, an unusually large team of climbers gathered at base camp and began an ill-fated ascent. Among them were Imax documentarians Ed Viesturs and David Breashears, journalist Jon Krakauer, and veteran Everest guides Rob Hall and Andy Harris. A freak storm hit as the team arrived at the summit, resulting in the death of eight people, including Hall and Harris. The climb was later recounted in the books Into Thin Air by Krakauer and The Climb by Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev, and is now depicted in the feature Everest, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. “I wanted to do everything possible to be as authentic and real as I could be,” Kormákur says. “I read all the books and I met with as many people as I could who were survivors or family of the survivors. We took several trips to Everest to get a better idea of what it is like.” The Icelandic director grew up in a cold climate and is used to mountainous treks, but he had never encountered a
Unit photography by Jasin Boland, SMPSP, courtesy of Universal Pictures.
natural challenge quite like Everest. Kormákur knew he needed someone who was wholly up to the task to help him bring this epic and harrowing story to the screen. “I needed somebody who had a worldly quality in both their persona and their work,” the director says. “Obviously, I wanted a great cinematographer, but I also needed someone who had dealt with movies of a certain size and logistical challenge, as well as someone who was physically and emotionally equipped to go up and work in these extreme elements — like shooting in minus 30 degrees Celsius [minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit] on actual mountain cliffs at very high altitude. If your body isn’t physically prepared for those kinds of conditions, it doesn’t matter what your passion is; you’re not going to make it.” After meeting with several candidates, Kormákur sat down with Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC, and the two quickly hit it off. Totino embodied all that the director was looking for in talent, physical ability and drive. “Sal and I went up to Everest twice during prep — once as high as 24,000 feet in a helicopter to get us as close as possible,” recalls Kormákur. “It’s very dangerous to do that. People spend months acclimatizing their bodies for that kind of altitude. I asked the pilot if we could go higher and he said, ‘No.’ He showed me
Opposite: In May 1996, Rob Hall led an expedition to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain when a fierce snowstorm hit. The tragic events are dramatized in the feature Everest. This page, top: At base camp, Hall (Jason Clarke) makes a call to his wife. Bottom: Cinematographer Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC readies the cameras for a base-camp scene.
that he was trying to gain altitude, but the helicopter wasn’t going any higher because the air was so thin that it couldn’t create the downward pressure to go up anymore! We went up with oxygen masks and almost got closed in by a big cloud. If we had gotten stuck up there, it would have been a lethal situation. The weather changes so quickly at that altitude that weather reports don’t really work; it just happens so fast. It’s a very, very dangerous place!” www.theasc.com
“Baltasar really wanted to make this film feel real,” Totino confirms. “A lot of it was done real-world. We shot in Nepal — Kathmandu, Khumbu Valley, over one of the bridges, and up to the [Everest Memorial] at 15,000 feet, [which honors] the climbers that have died on the mountain.” The real-life 1996 team took the traditional climb up Everest, from the Nepal side of the mountain. Base camp for this route is set up on the southeast October 2015
A Pitiless Peak
The climbers, including Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin, bottom, center), begin their journey up the mountain.
side at 17,700' — 3.35 miles up. At that altitude, it takes the body several weeks to acclimate to the environment; the body has to produce twice as many red blood cells to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. The first leg of the climb goes over the Khumbu Glacier, dubbed the Icefall. The glacier moves as much as 4' per day, which results in a constantly changing topography. The only way to traverse the terrain is with the aid of aluminum ladders, which are used as 50
temporary bridges to cross over the ever-shifting abyssal crevasses. Above the Icefall is Camp I at 19,900', after which is Advanced Base Camp — or Camp II — at 21,300', followed by an ascent up the Lhotse face via fixed ropes to Camp III at 24,500'. Camp IV sits at an even 26,000'. Climbers often need to ascend to one camp and then descend to the previous camp multiple times to acclimate. From Camp IV, climbers enter the “death zone,” where they cannot physically endure more than two American Cinematographer
or three days in the oxygen-deprived air. Before reaching the summit, they must face sheer rock walls, heavy avalanche zones, and a multitude of life-threatening and near-impossible obstacles. No insurance company would allow the production to film in this kind of environment, but Kormákur was insistent on shooting in actual locations. “One of the things that was quite important to me was to feel the immenseness of the mountain — to feel the volume of it throughout the film,” attests the director. “It’s not just a case of showing big shots of Everest, but getting closer to it and really feeling every aspect of it, and how small you are and how overwhelmingly powerful nature is. That was our plan. It couldn’t be done entirely in-camera, but we needed to find a way to shoot as much as possible in the real world and deal with the limitations that we were given. You can’t just go into space to shoot a space movie, and it’s the same with a film like this. We had to make concessions to reality.” Totino agrees, noting, “Baltasar wanted to put the audience in the moment, and I like to do that with all my films — to put the camera and the audi-
Top: Hall takes notice of Tibetan prayer flags. Bottom: Totino (left) and director Baltasar Kormákur discuss a scene.
ence into the [environment] and make the audience feel like they’re the ones who are climbing the mountain. For this film, that meant a lot of location work, long lenses and handheld operation.” After scouting sites across the globe, the production settled on the Val Senales ski resort in the Dolomites mountain range near the Austrian border in northern Italy. The location was chosen primarily for its natural light, which came closest to matching that of Everest. “At the altitude of Everest, the light is very [distinct],” submits Kormákur. “For a while I thought we might be able to shoot in Iceland, but the light doesn’t match. In the Dolomites we could get the crisp, blue sky that was closest to what you see at Everest.” “We were prepping for the film at the end of September and the beginning of October, but then we lost a portion of our financing and we shut down and went back home,” recalls Totino. “When new financing was secured, we started back up and were shooting within a month with very little prep. We just dove in head first.” The Dolomites stood in for
segments of the ascent and descent at Camps I, II and III, but even the lower altitudes of the Italian mountains — topping off at 10,968' — were fraught with danger and potential for disaster. “One night we had to evacuate the mountain because a bad storm was coming,” recalls Totino. “That storm completely buried our camp set and we had to dig it out the next day.” Working on mountain peaks and cliffsides required the crew and cast to be harnessed at all times. “It was not easy moving up and down that mountain,” the cinematographer continues. www.theasc.com
“It was very challenging. Just the day in and day out of getting up, and getting dressed in layer after layer and climbing boots, and going out into below-zero temperature — it takes its toll on you. Everything moves slower in those conditions.” In addition to the bitter cold, the conditions were incredibly fatiguing. The snow ran as deep as mid-thigh and the Italian crew worked in their traditional style of 10 hours straight with no lunch break. “That can be great for really bearing down and getting work done, but it’s incredibly tiring to not take a real October 2015
A Pitiless Peak Top: The Val Senales ski resort in the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy was used for its natural light, which closely matched that of Everest. Middle: The crew readies a base-camp scene. Bottom, left to right: Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Weathers journey up the mountain.
break when all you do is walk 20 feet and you’re out of breath,” notes Totino. “The Italian crew was fantastic, but some days I just wanted to break for lunch so that I could change my socks!” The production also made copious use of a natural preserve outside of the ski area at the resort on the unmaintained side of the mountain. In addition, a second unit shot at Everest for a short period of time, but after several Sherpa guides who were assisting the production were killed in an avalanche between photography, the unit was shut down and sent home. Seeking a camera package for these extreme conditions, Totino turned to the Arri Alexa XT, a camera he has grown to sincerely appreciate. “The Alexa handles contrast beautifully,” he says. “I don’t like the crisp feel of video and the Alexa doesn’t have that at all. To me, it’s the closest thing to film of all the digital cameras. Although I have tested a number of cameras in the past, I knew right away that this project would be shot on the Alexa. “I mostly shot at 800 ISO to leave the dynamic range right in the middle,” Totino continues. “Especially working in snow, I wanted as much latitude as I 52
could get — nice and even on both sides of the curve.” The Alexa recorded ArriRaw to internal Codex Capture Drives, and the filmmakers framed for a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Totino adds that the camera was “a workhorse — truly amazing. All that time in sub-zero temperatures and we never had any issues with the camera at all.” Totino notes that he shot night scenes predominantly wide open on a combination of Cooke S4 primes and Angenieux Optimo 17-80mm (T2.2) and 24-290mm (T2.8) zooms, but for daylight sequences he shot between T4 and T5.6. “I wanted to have the depth during the day to keep the mountain and the location not too out-of-focus and always present.” Lighting on the mountain was anything but easy. Equipment was procured through Panalight in Rome, and several snowcats were required to move lights and generators, which were mounted on sleds. For the most part, Totino opted for larger HMI fixtures like 18K Arrimax and Arri M90 and M40 fixtures. He explains, “There were many times we couldn’t light the location at all and others when the fixtures were 400 feet away because that was the closest we could get a light. It was very tricky.” Inside the ballroom at the ski resort, production designer Gary Freeman built a re-creation of a Kathmandu café where the climbers meet on their way to Everest. “Gary used some of the structure of the ballroom and integrated the set into that,” says Totino. “It wasn’t easy, considering we were on the Austrian border in the middle of nowhere and the nearest big town was 40 minutes away. It was also the middle of a blizzard and I had to match the light of a very warm, sunny day.” As with his exteriors, Totino turned to Arrimax M90s and M40s, but this time pushing through Full CTS to get a warm daylight feel. “The production design and set decoration were really amazing,” Totino praises. “They got the details of the actual Kathmandu
A Pitiless Peak
Top: Hall leads the expedition. Middle and bottom: The crew uses multiple cameras to capture the ascent.
location right down to the very salt and pepper shakers on the tables. Lighting that kind of environment with that kind of detail makes it feel real. It transports you in a way that doesn’t often happen on a set.” The original plan was to also shoot the Everest base camp at Val Senales, but due to inclement winter weather, the production moved the location to Cinecittà Studios in Rome. “Cinecittà is an old and derelict studio that is falling apart,” Totino notes. “You can see the sets from Gangs of New York just falling down. It’s kind of like a cinematic Roman Empire — so much history, so much amazing architecture, and it’s just crumbling. It was really fantastic to be there, though, because the movies that have been shot there had a huge influence on me as a kid.” The studio, originally founded by Benito Mussolini in 1937, housed sets from classic productions that included Ben-Hur, Fellini’s Casanova and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. “It’s really something to go there,” Totino fondly notes. “It’s a big, beautiful ruin that you know will be gone in the not-too-far future, but I’m really happy that I got to experience working there.” For base camp, Totino once again 54
A Pitiless Peak turned to his trusty Arrimax 18s, M90s and M40s to light through the tents for daylight interiors, and for the most part opted for practical fixtures fitted with standard household 40-watt bulbs for the night-interior work. Although the production would move to England’s famous Pinewood Studios, Cinecittà was a better match for the exterior set of base camp, as the natural light had more of a resemblance to the light at Everest. “Exteriors in London are too unpredictable and mostly overcast and raining, which just wouldn’t work for us,” Totino explains. At Pinewood, working on the famous 007 Stage — one of the largest soundstages in the world — the production built Camp IV, the Khumbu Ice Falls, the Hillary Step (a vertical 39' climb just before the summit, named for the first climber to reach it, Edmund Hillary), and the summit of the mountain. Among the many challenges on stage was the re-creating of Everest snow. “It’s not like regular snow that most people know,” explains the cinematographer. “It’s a very dry snow and extremely fine. If you pick it up, it falls through your hands like sand. The special-effects department turned to a highly dehydrated salt as the closest facsimile, and that caused more problems than shooting at 10,000 feet in sub-zero temperatures on the actual sides of mountains!” Although the fine salt re-created the look and feel of the Everest snow, blowing it around stage was a serious irritant to the actors and crew — and to the equipment as well. “In all the time shooting in the mountains and in sub-zero temperatures, we had no problems with the equipment whatsoever,” Totino notes. “We had one small accident where an actor slipped, slid and fell into the camera and broke the filter, and that was it. Then we moved onstage, and the salt being blown around by big wind machines killed six Alexa cameras. It killed a Hybrid dolly, it nearly killed the Technocrane and it required the assis-
Top: The production makes use of a Panther Foxy crane to capture segments of the laborious climb. Middle: Kormákur discusses a scene with Phula Sherpa. Bottom: The crew readies the camera to capture the mountain landscape.
A Pitiless Peak
Kormákur discusses a scene with Clarke.
tance of a North Sea oil cleanup crew to disassemble all of the lighting fixtures and clean the salt out of them before returning them to the rental house. It looked amazing, but it was a real nightmare to work in. We had cameras
covered in plastic, and then plastic over the plastic, but the salt was so fine it got inside anyway.” Lighting the stage to re-create Everest was no easy feat, either. For ambient skylight the cinematographer
turned to 500 Cinelight FloLight fluorescent fixtures in the stage perms, pushed through Half Grid Cloth. For direct sunlight, Totino and British gaffer Paul McGeachan employed Altitude Specialty Lighting’s 100K SoftSun fixtures on Condors that could be moved around the set. “I tried to be very diligent about the lighting on the stage,” says Totino. “Since we were re-creating an historical event and covering different parts of the day, I went through the script and noted at what time of day each sequence occurred, and then looked at historical records in SunPath for those dates, and used that as my plot for where the direct sunlight would be placed. If a scene took place at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, then my SoftSun would [be placed] at the heading and degree of the sun for that time of day. “The real light on Everest is very strong,” he continues. “The biggest challenge was to make the stage lighting
feel real — to make it feel like we were actually on the mountain. The audience should be asking, ‘How the hell did they get up there?’” The Hillary Step is a famous feature of the Everest ascent, and it was there that Rob Hall died in 1996. To recreate his last moments, the production surrounded the set in thick, clear, insulating plastic and brought in refrigeration units to cool the enclosure down to 20° Fahrenheit. This allowed them to use actual ice and snow on the set. Totino lit through the transparent enclosure with the FloLight banks and SoftSun fixtures. Digital-imaging technician Jody Neckles assisted Totino on the mountain, setting looks and LUTs. Dailies were delivered via the Pix system, but production would download dailies to an iPad for Totino, who would use Apple TV to play them on a large television in his hotel room. “It’s nothing like looking at film-projected dailies,
but it’s the way of the modern production,” the cinematographer says. “I like having the files downloaded on the iPad, because we could have production download specific sequences and I could carry that with me during the day,” Totino continues. “If we had to go back to a scene or match a scene, I had the footage right there with me to match to it. In the past, I would have had the lab print a small strip from a sequence, and I’d be looking at those frames on set and matching to that look. Now it’s a lot easier.” Colorist Greg Fisher performed the final grade at Company 3 in London, using DaVinci Resolve 11 for a 2048x858 final deliverable. “This was an incredibly challenging film,” Totino says of the intensive, 55-day shoot. “We shot five weeks on location and another five weeks on stage, and none of it was easy. They say Everest is the highest and most popular climb for experienced climbers, but it’s
sobering how many people die up there — not as often from accidents as just not taking care of their bodies and not realizing their limitations in the environment. They get exhausted and dehydrated and there’s no quick way to help. During prep we saw video from some climbers from the year before. They were climbing and everyone had to step over a dead body lying on the mountain. It’s very sobering, but it was a phenomenal experience to make this film and tell this story.” ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT Cooke S4, Angenieux Optimo
Alliance In Black Mass, cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi and director Scott Cooper dramatize Boston mobster “Whitey” Bulger’s shady dealings with the FBI. By Mark Dillon •|• 60
ames “Whitey” Bulger has earned his reputation as one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history. At the time of his 2011 arrest in Santa Monica, Calif., Bulger had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for a dozen years for 19 murders connected to his Boston crime organization, which specialized in extortion, bookmaking, arms trafficking and money laundering. But from the 1970s to the mid-’90s, he couldn’t be touched. In the feature Black Mass, Johnny Depp portrays Bulger, who’s recruited as an FBI informant by corrupt agent John Connolly ( Joel Edgerton). The bureau ends up serving Bulger
Unit photography by Claire Folger, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
more, though, as the Irish mobster supplies information that cripples the rival Italian mob. This dark alliance allows Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang to consolidate its power in Beantown. A far more positive alliance has formed between director of photography Masanobu Takayanagi and director Scott Cooper, who first paired on the 2013 thriller Out of the Furnace. The two were introduced by Jamie Marshall, coproducer and 1st AD on the mixedmartial-arts drama Warrior (2011), Takayanagi’s first major feature as director of photography. Cooper, meanwhile, had scored a success with his directorial debut Crazy Heart after appearing as an actor in various films, including Gods and Generals. “Scott and I clicked,” recalls Takayanagi, speaking from his Los Angeles home. “We have similar aesthetic tastes [in terms of ] visuals, emotion and story. He’s an actor and director, so story and performance are most important — he doesn’t want anything to hinder those processes, so I
Opposite and this page, top: Boston’s notorious Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) forms an alliance with corrupt FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton, in suit) to cripple the rival Italian mob and secure dominance for Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang in the feature Black Mass. Bottom: Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (left) and director Scott Cooper frame a scene.
try to come up with something simple. On some of the Black Mass sets I had to go big, but when I can, I try to do it small.” Cooper, in a separate interview, www.theasc.com
says, “Masa buys into my ethos that it isn’t about us and how clever we can be with the camera — it’s about telling the story in an elegantly spare manner and from an emotional point of view. The October 2015
Top and middle: Bulger meets up with (from left) John Martorano (W. Earl Brown), Mickey Maloney (Mark Mahoney) and Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane). Bottom: Takayanagi lines up a shot while Cooper looks on.
way he composes and lights and moves the camera is all about the world we’re creating.” Takayanagi was born in Tomioka, Japan in 1974. He was a college student without a career plan when, at a local bookstore, he stumbled across Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato. The book sparked an interest that quickly caught fire, and Takayanagi soon moved to the U.S. to study film and English at California State University, Long Beach. Later, while attending the AFI Conservatory, he shot the short film Shui Hen, directed by his friend Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky, which won him the ASC John F. Seitz Heritage Award. Takayanagi’s big break came when he was hired as 2nd-unit cinematographer on the Japanese portion of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel, followed by similar gigs on Kevin Macdonald’s State of Play and The Eagle, and Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray 62
Love. He credits director Gavin O’Connor for giving him a chance as main-unit cinematographer on Warrior, after which, in short order, he shot Joe Carnahan’s The Grey and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper and Takayanagi spent a month and a half in preproduction on Black Mass, starting in March 2014. Together, they went over the script by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The filmmakers did not assemble a shot list, focusing instead on the emotion of various story points. They did, however, storyboard the more complicated action sequences. They also looked at the work of Americana photographers Walker Evans and Robert Frank, as well as that of Joel Sternfeld, who took scores of innovative color photos starting in the 1970s. Movies from the ’70s also provided inspiration, including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, and Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976), all shot by the late Gordon Willis, ASC. In particular, the latter film’s newsroom set inspired the approach to the FBI offices in Black Mass. “Our credo was to approach the film as though we were making it as a contemporary film in 1975,” Cooper notes. “The Seventies are difficult to get right. Often the camerawork is flashy,
the costumes are kitschy, and the hair and makeup are over-the-top. We wanted to strip all that away but still feel we were making a movie in the Seventies, because Masa and I are so influenced by that era.” Another influence was Coppola’s surveillance thriller The Conversation, shot by Bill Butler, ASC (with additional footage by Haskell Wexler, ASC). “I don’t want my work to feel like a ‘movie,’” Cooper continues. “The idea was to make this feel like surveillance. I looked at a lot of surveillance footage of Whitey Bulger provided by the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police that informed how we were going to shoot the picture.” Takayanagi adds, “Scott always wants the truth. He doesn’t want anything that feels out of place or too modern. That was really the marching order — and that dictated lighting, too.” The cinematographer also credits production designer Stefania Cella and costume designer Kasia WalickaMaimone for greatly enhancing the film’s look. “The costume department did so much research on the texture and colors [of the period], and production design did so much on the paint colors, furniture and wallpaper,” he recalls. “Makeup as well — all these departments came together and I just had to capture that. It’s not like I was saying, ‘I don’t want the red, I don’t want the blue.’ I’d say, ‘That’s great. Let’s shoot it!’” Principal photography got underway in May 2014 — in Boston neighborhoods such as Dorchester and in the nearby cities of Cambridge, Lynn and Quincy — and lasted into August. Appropriate to the period, Black Mass was captured on motion-picture stock — as were all of Takayanagi’s previous features. (The cinematographer has since gone on to shoot Tom McCarthy’s forthcoming newspaper drama Spotlight with an Arri Alexa.) Cooper enthuses, “Film provides a warmth and rich blacks. I like shooting shadows with the texture of film grain. When those small chemical particles haven’t received
Top: Agent Connolly meets with his childhood friend Senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). Bottom: Takayanagi and crew shoot a night-exterior scene.
enough light, [they] present an evocative image that harks back to an era of filmmaking that motivated me to become a director.” For Black Mass, Takayanagi elected to shoot everything on Kodak Vision3 500T 5219. “Keeping it simple has become my principle,” he explains. “I didn’t have to force my aesthetics too much on the story. I could have said, ‘The Seventies can be on this stock and the Nineties can be on that stock,’ but I felt the story and performances would www.theasc.com
sell [the passage of time] enough.” He pushed the stock one stop for all night and interior-day scenes, and he shot interiors in the T2.8 to T4 range and exteriors at T5.6 to T8. Working out of Panavision Woodland Hills, the production carried two Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras and an Arriflex 235. Takayanagi and Cooper decided early in preproduction that the movie would be shot mostly with the camera on a dolly or crane. “We agreed camera movement should be October 2015
Bulger spends time with his mother (Mary Klug) and brother Billy.
restricted, and that this shouldn’t be a handheld movie,” the cinematographer explains. “Camera placement should be quiet. When we follow a character, that’s done on Steadicam so it doesn’t have a bouncy feeling. What happens is so violent, we didn’t need [excessive camera movement] on top of it. Sometimes just holding the frame is good.” Takayanagi operated the A camera throughout the production. “I like operating because it’s so close to the performance,” he explains. “It’s the best place to see it.” With a laugh, he adds, “I 64
can cheat, too: ‘Oh, I see my light, I can just tilt down.’” Two cameras almost always rolled simultaneously, and Bcamera/Steadicam operator Henry Tirl was frequently tasked with getting close-ups while the A camera stayed wider. The movie introduces Bulger at his Triple O’s Lounge hangout, which production designer Cella re-created at Cambridge’s Polish American Club. The interior was lit mostly with added practicals, including 80 75-watt tungsten bulbs in a big strip soft box built American Cinematographer
into the set above the bar, neon signs in the background, and a lamp fitted with cool-white fluorescent tubes that hung over a pool table. Small tungsten units were also positioned for close-ups. Boston has switched its streetlights to LEDs, so for a period-accurate night-exterior look outside the lounge, the art department asked the city to replace the lamps with 400-watt sodium-vapor bulbs. These were the main sources outside Triple O’s, with accents provided by additional metalhalide bulbs and mercury-vapor and cool-white industrial sources. “Sodium-vapor light is gritty,” says Mo Flam, the production’s Massachusetts-based gaffer. “It can render people in a harsh way, with green or olive skin. But we used that to our advantage, because it makes characters look hard and urban. If you want to be realistic, use the real sources rather than re-create them with movie lights.” Flam’s custom-made ballasts also enabled the crew to run sodium-vapor lights inside China balls in order to supplement the streetlights for closeups. As they had on Out of the Furnace, Cooper and Takayanagi again elected to shoot in the anamorphic format, giving them a wide tableau they found particularly effective for two-shots. The cinematographer opted primarily for Panavision G Series anamorphic
Takayanagi and crew prep the camera and lighting for a scene inside a church.
primes, in part because, as he says with a chuckle, “they’re more available than the C Series. “The G Series has newer optics,” he adds, “and each lens has [its own] character. One G Series 40mm will be slightly different from another G Series 40mm. I also find that the G Series captures straighter lines. It’s anamorphic, but it doesn’t push its anamorphic quality — it’s subtler.” The filmmakers also found that anamorphic’s out-of-focus backgrounds enhanced the period feel and allowed the audience to home in on performance. As an example, Takayanagi points to a scene in which Bulger dines at Connolly’s house, joined by partnerin-crime Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and Connolly’s equally corrupt FBI colleague John Morris (David Harbour). Bulger tests Morris by goading him into revealing his family’s secret steak recipe; when Morris gives it up easily, Bulger warns him that loose lips get people killed. As Morris turns ashen, Bulger breaks into laughter, although his point has been made. Takayanagi shot most of the scene on a G Series 75mm, but for the tightest close-ups he switched to a 135mm E Series anamorphic prime. Throughout the film, he most often
worked with the G Series 50mm or 75mm, and sometimes the 40mm and the 100mm for close-ups. Given the desired naturalistic aesthetic, he did not use diffusion filters — only NDs. The influence of The Godfather is also evident in this scene, with the quartet top-lit, creating menacing shadows around their eyes. The light is motivated by a large white chandelier, into which Flam inserted a PH212 150watt bulb. For certain shots, a customized overhead soft box fitted with four China balls, each containing one ECA 250-watt tungsten bulb, augmented this light. The crew diffused the chandelier for close-ups and picked up detail in the characters’ eyes with a diffused 1K tungsten lamp placed beside the camera. “It’s basically realistic lighting,” says Flam. “What you see is what you get. It was definitely about realism and not beauty.” Bulger’s brazenness is on display throughout the film, as he carries out some of his brutal deeds in broad daylight. In one scene, Connolly tracks down Bulger at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade — which is being led by Whitey’s brother, Senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) — to warn him that drug dealer Brian Halloran (Peter Sarsgaard) is going to rat him out 65
to the FBI for a murder. Amid the public celebration, Whitey formulates a murderous course of action. Such outdoor scenes generally took advantage of natural light, which the filmmakers would enhance with bounces and negative fill. “The only time we used a light in a day scene like that was if we started shooting in sunshine and then a cloud came over,” Flam explains. “In a close-up, we could fake some sun to match earlier shots.” In such a case, they would use an Arrimax 18K, which Flam calls “the greatest HMI there is. That’s the only light that can really fight sunshine.” For bigger scenes such as the parade, the production would add a third camera, often paired with a Panavision ATZ 70-200mm (T3.5) or Angenieux HR 50-500mm (T5.6) zoom. Those lenses, Takayanagi explains, “freed us to tighten down or go wider and just grab the moment. We ran the parade several times and grabbed it at different shot sizes.” One of the biggest exterior setups was the reveal of the murdered body of gangster Buddy Leonard (Owen Burke) in a car parked on a rainy side street. The camera, on a Supertechno 50 crane, starts in close on the corpse before pulling back to a wider shot of police cars on the street. A whirligig with a Par can and a spinning mirror at a 45-degree angle bolstered the flashing red and blue
Top: Bulger looks on while his brother leads the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Middle: Connolly gives Bulger a warning. Bottom: Bulger takes action.
Top: Bulger in the car with Flemmi. Middle: Bulger handles a problem with Deborah Hussey (Juno Temple), Flemmi’s stepdaughter. Bottom: Takayanagi takes a break during filming.
police lights, and a Condor with a 20K gelled with Full Plus Green and ½ CTO simulated the streetlights and backlit the downpour provided by a rain machine. (The rain effect was further amplified with visual effects.) “We needed the good punch of mounted 68
lights there,” Takayanagi notes. LED streetlights — four, in this case — were again replaced with sodium-vapor units. A Miami nightclub scene brings the story into the ’80s. Connolly and Bulger are partying in the club, as is John Callahan (Bill Camp), president of American Cinematographer
the World Jai-Alai betting operation. Believing Callahan will implicate him in the murder of Callahan’s predecessor, Bulger orders hitman Johnny Martorano (W. Earl Brown) to kill him. As the scene unfolds, strobe lights penetrate Bulger’s sunglasses, making him look particularly menacing. The scene cuts from the strobe flashes to the gunshots of the hit and then the flashes of photographers at the crime scene. The crew used Martin Atomic strobes, aimed in various directions, to replicate club lighting of the era, and enhanced the effect with Lightning Strikes 8K Paparazzi Flash units. Inframe Par cans — run through a dimmer system and filtered through red, yellow and green gels — also flash and offer contrast with the film’s otherwise largely industrial look. Takayanagi expresses special thanks to A-camera 1st AC Jim Apted, key grip Frank Montesanto, and the entirety of the camera and grip crews for their contributions to Black Mass. “Without their hard work and talent, this film would have been impossible,” he says. The now-defunct Film Lab New York handled processing, and the negative was digitized nightly on an Arriscan at Deluxe New York. Dailies colorist Kevin Krout worked with Colorfront On-Set Dailies and every morning sent frame grabs to Takayanagi for feedback. Finished dailies were delivered online, and Takayanagi evaluated them on a
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Cooper, Takayanagi and crew test an angle.
calibrated monitor back at his apartment. Colorist Tom Poole, working out of Company 3’s New York facility, performed the final digital grade, work-
ing with 10-bit DPX files in Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 11. The anamorphic negative was scanned at 2048x1556 for the DI, and the squeezed filmout was done at
2048x1556 using an Arrilaser. Back in preproduction, Takayanagi had referred Poole and Krout to First Pictures, a collection of Joel Sternfeld’s 1970s color photography. “With these images in mind — and the looks that Tom and Masa set up prior to day one — the dailies went very smoothly,” Krout says. “Several times Masa said, ‘Have fun with this one,’ which was refreshing, because I wasn’t handcuffed to just matching a still or a CDL. I could play around with the image and give it something special.” After shooting, Takayanagi and Cooper went to New York for one week in the DI suite with Poole, who had received dailies stills from Krout and provided input throughout principal photography. After returning to L.A., the director and cinematographer remotely monitored Poole’s progress as visual effects were added. Poole had also worked with Cooper and Takayanagi on Out of the
Furnace, and the colorist says they all share a similar aesthetic, which made for an easy grade. “The major goal of the DI was to create a strong sense of mood and ambience while complementing the period art direction,” Poole explains. “We attempted to be accurate to the hue and density of color from the different periods, and we wanted it to look photochemical and not too processed, which was easy thanks to Masa’s photography.” To effect his transformation into the pasty, balding, blue-eyed Bulger, Depp wears heavy makeup throughout the film. While Takayanagi says he didn’t light in any special way to accommodate the makeup, visual effects did provide occasional touch-ups. For Poole’s part, “It was just a matter of finding a balance to make the makeup and eyes look organic and natural within the lighting.” Flam, who has been in the business for four decades, has high praise for
Takayanagi, with whom he teamed again on Spotlight. “He’s the new wave,” the gaffer enthuses. “I consider him the current, contemporary lighter and cinematographer. He’s the one for the future. “Masa has a saying regarding lights: ‘It’s too good to be true,’” Flam adds. “If that’s the case, he doesn’t want to do it. If you want to put something in there to make it look pretty and perfect, Masa would shy away from that because it would be unrealistic. He’s about telling the story.” ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Anamorphic 35mm Panaflex Millennium XL2, Arriflex 235 Panavision G Series, E Series, ATZ; Angenieux HR Kodak Vision3 500T 5219 Digital Intermediate
Bobby Bukoswki shoots Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind and Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes — two distinct takes on poverty in the USA. By Patricia Thomson •|• 72
obby Bukowski has two new features in release, both by writer-directors unafraid to tackle front-page issues. Time Out of Mind is Bukowski’s third film with Oren Moverman, following 2009’s The Messenger, about two servicemen on death-notice duty, and 2011’s Rampart (AC Feb. ’12), which concerns an incident of police brutality caught on camera and was one of the first features shot on an Arri Alexa. Their latest in this trilogy of American woes examines the homeless, thrusting a bedraggled Richard Gere onto the streets of New York and observing him with a 300–900mm zoom. Bukowski employed an Alexa XT Plus 4:3 on this 27-day shoot, capturing in ArriRaw to onboard XR Capture Drives.
Time Out of Mind unit photography by Alison Rosa, courtesy of IFC Films. 99 Homes unit photography by Hooman Bahrani, courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.
Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski (this page, bottom) captures portraits of poverty in the USA in Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind (opposite) and Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes (this page, top).
99 Homes is Bukowski’s first outing with Ramin Bahrani, known for Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo and At Any Price. Playing at the quicker pace of a thriller, 99 Homes examines themes of poverty and income inequality similar to those of Time Out of Mind, but in a story targeting the housing bust. After an unemployed construction worker (Andrew Garfield) is evicted along with his mother (Laura Dern) and son, he takes a job with the very real-estate agent (Michael Shannon) who evicted him. But it’s a Faustian bargain, as he gets sucked into the foreclosure scams and heartlessness that enable a few to profit from the misery of many. Filmed over 30 days on practical locations in New Orleans — standing in for Florida — 99 Homes was captured on an Alexa Plus in ProRes 4:4:4 to onboard SxS Pro Cards. American Cinematographer: What motivated you to use a Hawk VPlus 300–900mm [T4] anamorphic zoom for Time Out of Mind? Bobby Bukowski: Actually, it was our lens for 75 percent of the film; the others were a 45–90mm [T2.8] and an 80–180mm [T2.8]. We needed a
wider lens for some interiors — in the homeless shelter, for instance. But the conceit of this movie was that [the main character, George,] is a man who’s invisible. It wasn’t Oren’s intention to tell the story through George’s perspective, because he’s kind of anonymous, but through everyone looking at him — the viewers’ perspective. We wanted to throw Richard Gere, a recognizable actor, in the river of New York City — just throw him in the www.theasc.com
tumult, the chaos, then stand back and watch him behave. Early on, Richard was thinking, ‘This is impossible, people are going to recognize me.’ We said, ‘Let’s shoot a test.’ We sat in a Starbucks and put him in the middle of Astor Place at rush hour in costume — his hat, his bedraggled coat. He stood there with a cup and begged for change for 45 minutes. Nobody recognized him. We were very happy that the idea would work. ➣ October 2015
Top: George (Richard Gere) endures homelessness on the streets of New York in Time Out of Mind. Middle: Gere was often captured through a pane of glass for an additional layer of movement. Bottom: Bukowski and crew kept the camera out of sight by hiding it behind windows at different vantage points.
From the beginning, the idea was to not present him in full sight, but to always shoot him through and past obstruction. That was something we wanted to instate right away; we wanted the audience to work at finding him, because it’s what those people feel like on the street. With that long of a lens, location scouting was interesting. We’d find a location, but then it was always, ‘Okay, what vantage points can we shoot from? Can we get into that café or that apartment and shoot from that window?’ We wanted to have no visible footprint: no booms, no people checking makeup, no camera in sight — it was always hidden behind windows. There was a sign that said, ‘If you are entering this area, you will be filmed.’ But if you looked around 360 degrees, you’d have no idea how. [Another] conceit of the film was that most of the frames are static. We do pan, but it’s not until the very last shot that the camera moves on a dolly. Tell us about your use of windows and reflections. Bukowski: A heavy zoom lens is quite prohibitive to move. At 900mm, any slight move, even wind, is greatly magnified. I let Oren know this couldn’t be like Rampart or The Messenger, where the camera is on my shoulder and we’re moving around a lot. The lens created the need for static frames. As we talked,
Top: Dixon (Ben Vereen) befriends George at a shelter. Middle: George tries to reconnect with his daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone). Bottom: Bukowski and Moverman plan the camera angle for a scene.
Oren’s question was, ‘How do we make static frames kinetic?’ In New York City, if a man stands still in the street, there will be lots of movement around him because the city is constantly active. So we decided to generally put him in the mid-ground of the shot, so we’d have foreground and background movement. Then the question was, ‘How do we increase that?’ That’s when the idea of reflections came about. We realized that by putting up pieces of glass, we would have another layer of movement, because we could turn that glass at a reflective angle to the camera and reflect whatever we wanted. Sometimes it was flares, sometimes it was traffic or people moving around. It’s kind of an incamera superimposition greatly inspired by Saul Leiter, the New York School photographer who did his work in the 1940s and 1950s, primarily shooting through glass. In scouting, we were looking for locations that could provide movement — like corner locations, as in the scene where Richard and Ben Vereen are sitting in a café, talking. With a corner angle, we could shoot through glass, see the characters in the mid-ground, and see movement out the window in the background. We were always looking for www.theasc.com
Top: Real-estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon, left) evicts Dennis Nash and his family from their house in 99 Homes. Bottom: Bukowski and Bahrani discuss a scene.
those opportunities. I said to the production designer, Kelly McGehee, that we’d sometimes be in situations where the vantage point wouldn’t be ideal to shoot through an existing piece of glass, so why not carry several pieces of glass on the truck? And let’s have press-on graphics that we can apply. So, often the glass was a piece we had constructed and put in front of the camera. There’s a shot early on where Richard is lying on a park bench. It’s his 76
first night out on the street, in front of a small convenience store, and in the foreground you see this big out-of-focus blob of red going across the frame. That was a latex press-on graphic adhered to a piece of glass. Depending on the lighting situation, I would backlight the glass to have it pop out a bit. You’ve said that ‘locations are the raw material of everything.’ When scouting Time Out of Mind, which items were at the top of your checklist? American Cinematographer
Bukowski: Vantage points. Motion in exteriors. In interiors, locations that felt real. Richard, Oren, Kelly and I visited many shelters throughout New York, just to get a feel of the life and [gloom] that exist in these places. We noticed that everything was numbered — endless, indecipherable lines of numbers that had to do with the floor, the section, the room number. If you were a confused person looking for your bed, it would be very difficult. We shot in two shelters. The first was actually the Bellevue Men’s Shelter, which nobody ever thought we’d get! But Oren is endlessly optimistic, and Richard was a very useful source because people like him and he’s famous. He was able to talk to the board at Bellevue. We had a very limited amount of time, and they didn’t really want us to bring in lights. That’s the kind of location scout where you look at the available light, and what winds up happening is you turn lights off. To light that location, I had some white reflectors, some black material to block light, and the ability to turn on, turn off and unscrew fluorescents, which that location was basically lit by. Since we were allowed lights in the exterior, I put a sodium-vapor light on a high stand coming through the window to light Richard’s bed. The window was very, very dirty, and I couldn’t clean it, so the window was quite bright and looked almost like daylight. In post, Oren and I decided to composite a CGI background onto that, which would look more like [the city at night]. The main-shelter scenes were shot at a school in Williamsburg; that’s where George meets Ben Vereen’s character. Kelly McGehee basically built that shelter downstairs in the basement. We liked it because it was subterranean. Describe the lighting in that men’s dorm. Bukowski: It’s a raw room. As in all these cases, it was lit by overhead fluorescents, but I wanted a very specific fluorescent where we could put grids under the lights. If you have an open
fluorescent, the light just scatters all over the walls, which were already quite bright. Once you put a grid under it, like an egg crate, it focuses the light downward and the fluorescent becomes a more directional light. We spent a lot of time online looking at types of fluorescents; I worked with Kelly and the set decorator to find the right one. [We decided upon] GE Warm White 3,000K T12 20-watt bulbs. I’m really enjoying lighting with practical lights with the Alexa. Often a big part of that is selecting the proper fixture. In Rampart and The Messenger, you lit 360 degrees because of the way Oren Moverman worked at the time — handheld, with no rehearsals or blocking. You weren’t privy to actordirector conversations, so as camera operator you just responded to the action as it happened. How did Time Out of Mind compare? Bukowski: At the beginning of each film, Oren says, ‘We learned this and that from the last film. Now, let’s forget it.’ There were still no rehearsals, but it was much easier because they’re static frames. Camera placement was certainly more deliberate. We visited and revisited the locations and did our shot planning on set, so those frames became quite specific. I would still light a room so that when we had a turnaround, we could easily move to that setup. I never like to
Top: Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker, loses his job and home. Middle: Bukowski checks the camera on set. Bottom: Nash goes to work for Carver to help get his family’s home back.
say to a director, ‘Give me an hour for the turnaround.’ It goes against my feeling of respect for the little time the director and actors have. So I endeavor to light a room for 360 degrees as much as I can. Then when we make a turnaround, it’s small adjustments — turning lights off or on and possibly bringing in some fill. What was it like working with Ramin Bahrani on 99 Homes? Bukowski: When I met him I actually said, ‘I really love all of your films. The only question I ever had sitting in an audience watching them was, “Why the hell aren’t you hiring me to shoot them?”’ So he said, ‘Well, that’s why we’re here. Would you shoot my next film?’ It was a very short interview! He likes talking with the actors — a lot. There are rehearsals with the script in prep, which I was part of, but not so much on the set. He knows actors bring their own elements when you’re on the set, so he didn’t want to be so rigid. We didn’t have shot lists or storyboards; he was mostly reacting to what was happening in blocking rehearsal, and then he and I would discuss how to do it. We employed that same method of lighting the entire room, so the actors could go anywhere and the entire house becomes their playing field. I think that’s part of the reason he hired me. Describe your lighting package. Bukowski: If we were doing a daytime scene that required shooting 360 degrees — for instance, the eviction of Andrew Garfield’s family, a scene that moved through every room of the house — the only place to put lights was outside. But you can’t put them directly outside the windows, because then you’re looking at a light stand. So often we had HMIs — typically Arri M80s and M40s — on Condors with the arm high up, so you wouldn’t see a stand. We didn’t have a huge budget, so we had one or two Condors. There were cases when we’d just put a light stand directly outside a window and have the art department cover it up with greens. So it was all exterior lights — and sometimes a fill light, which was usually
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Top and Bottom: Working for Carver, Nash is now the person who evicts people from their homes. Middle: Bukowski lines up a shot of Garfield on set.
a [LightGear VHO Pro LED LiteRibbon] acting as a ring light around the matte box of the camera, which I could bring up and down with a dimmer on my belt. The idea of ‘home’ is central to this film, and the two protagonists define this quite differently. What were your strategies for showing this? Bukowski: Again, we’re talking about the raw material of locations. I can’t say enough about how important locations are to me as a cinematographer. If the raw material’s not speaking, no matter how much you light it or populate it with cast and set, it’s not going to say what it needs to say. Shannon’s [character’s] house is on the water, so it has access to movement and freedom; lots of light is coming into that house. Proportionally to the size of a human, it’s quite massive, but also quite cold. So a cleaner, more neutral, monochromatic color scheme became central to the design. Andrew’s house was cozier, with warmer colors, surrounded by green, and Laura Dern’s character had plants in the house. Having life, and soft lines in the furniture, it all softens the environment, making it a place that feels safe and warm — as opposed to [Shannon’s house], where we feel a bit of alienation. Tell me about camera movement. How much was handheld? Bukowski: A good third of the film; we did employ Steadicam as well. Not an awful lot on the dolly. We shot with lightweight Angenieux Optimo zoom lenses: 15-40mm [T2.6], 2876mm [T2.6] — which was the workhorse because it’s mid-range — and 45-120mm [T2.8]. They’re fairly fast and they’re light. I just love that tradition with the zoom, inspired by old 16mm documentary handheld methods. Often when you’re handholding, you land in a spot and don’t want to move anymore because you like the composition and something’s going on with the actor, but you do want to get closer. Having a zoom lens enables you to creep in and adjust the frame. You and Ramin discussed 1960s
cinema veritĂŠ. In relation to what? Bukowski: Movement. We were looking at the Mayslesâ€™ Salesman, because it has to do with a person going door to door. Tell us about the long Steadicam shot that opens the film. Bukowski: Ramin wanted a long shot because heâ€™s training the audience [from the beginning] to be ready for this ride; heâ€™s not going to be cutting to close-ups and illustrating things. As an audience, you have to prepare yourself to look closely. He wanted to start with a horrific image â€” a blood-splattered wall â€” then reveal elements, pose questions and answer them. Youâ€™re looking at a bloodsplattered wall, asking, â€˜What is that?â€™ You understand itâ€™s a man whoâ€™s shot himself. Then you get wider, and itâ€™s in the bathroom of a house. Now we move into the bedroom and see a policeman and introduce Michaelâ€™s character. We bring him through the house to show that this is a middle-class family. Then outside, weâ€™re showing the world this movie takes place in. Logistically, it was quite difficult and ambitious. It was a sunny day, and the light outside was 10 stops brighter than inside. I had to endeavor again to light through the windows, because we were [shooting] 360 degrees in that house. But I couldnâ€™t put lights in front of the house, because eventually weâ€™d be coming through that door. The lighting design had to be such that lights could come in from windows that we werenâ€™t seeing â€” in the side and back. Was there any on-set color grading for either film? Bukowski: No, it was very basic Rec 709 output. Itâ€™s a very contrasty, saturated look â€” a pretty standard look that can be applied. I didnâ€™t have a digital-imaging technician on either film, so creating LUTs would have been quite ambitious, because we didnâ€™t have anybody to assist with that, and I had my hands full. With Time Out of Mind, I was working with colorist Joe Gawler at Harbor Picture Company. The work
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Bukowski and crew ready the camera for a scene with Garfield at a gas station.
was done on DaVinci Resolve in P3 color space and finished at 2K resolution. [Gawler had] done The Messenger, so he was quite familiar with our aesthetic. What I always do with the
director, costume designer and production designer is shoot a test on location, then take that footage and go into a DI suite and start to form the look — to say, ‘This is the level of saturation the colors
will take; the blacks will be this deep, the highlights this high.’ We’re basically setting our looks there, and everybody has it very much in their head. Oren is not generally looking at a monitor when we’re shooting. He’s on the set very close to the camera, sometimes referring to a small handheld monitor. We did a lot in post [for Time Out of Mind]. New York is a loud place — not only aurally, but visually. We were trying to exacerbate any elements that would create chaos. Color-wise, we especially tended to bring out the reds. If there was a frame with receding cars or red lights, that was something we’d target and bring up, just to add to the riotous quality of color. Also, because [the camera is] static, we did something on Time Out of Mind that I’d never done before, and the colorist hadn’t either: We were minutely changing contrast and color throughout a single shot. If you were to play the first and last frame of a lot of the shots, you
might notice that the contrast has increased, that the blacks get deeper and the reds might be redder. That was a discovery in the DI suite. We were in this scene where Richard plays the piano and we zoom in, but I still felt the atmospheric elements were a bit static. So I said, ‘Why don’t we experiment with bringing the intensity of the sun down, then back up by the end of the shot?’ As you’re switching from a bright, sunny light to a cloudy light, the color temperature goes from warm to cool. We made changes like that in a few other places. How about post on 99 Homes? Bukowski: We did post at FotoKem in Los Angeles [working with colorist John Daro]. That was a more direct approach. Ramin did not want to go too far outside the norm. Our biggest adjustment would be to sometimes increase the contrast. At its heart, Ramin sees this as a thriller, so he was trying to add contrast wherever we could. The
grading was done on Quantel Pablo in Apple ProRes 4:4:4:4 at 2K resolution. Any final thoughts? Bukowski: I was fortunate to shoot both of these films in one year. These are two very dedicated, hardworking, detail-oriented directors. So for me, it was a joy. ●
TECHNICAL SPECS Time Out of Mind 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT Plus 4:3 Hawk V-Plus 99 Homes 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa Plus Angenieux Optimo
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Mole-Richardson Relocates to the Valley By Andrew Fish It was the mid-1960s when recent USC graduate and future ASC associate Michael Parker strode into the Mole-Richardson Co. facility for his first day of work. With a degree in industrial management, he made it his top priority to counsel his dad, company President Warren Parker, on the state of the modern corporate world and its shift toward multinational conglomerates. “My father said, ‘That’s nice,’” Michael recalls. “‘But what I want you to do,’ he told me, ‘is to go down the hall, open the third door on the left and walk in the office. At the desk there’s going to be a phone, and when it rings I want you to answer it.’ I said, ‘What do I say?’ He said, ‘Talk to the person. If you answer his question or give him a solution to the problem he’s working on, you will have a reason to be in business. That person is why this business is still here today.’” Mole-Richardson’s beginnings can be traced back to 1897, when Michael’s grandfather, future ASC associate Peter Mole, arrived at Ellis Island from Sicily at the age of 6 with his father, two brothers and a sister. He left school after the 6th grade but later returned to earn an electrical-engineering degree from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Employed at General Electric when Thomas Edison still walked the halls, Mole worked on World War I military searchlights. As the story goes, dissatisfied with the oldguard mindset of GE at the time and likely pining for warmer weather, he won $1,000 at the local parish lottery in 1923, split the winnings with the church, and he and his wife, Cecilia, drove to Los Angeles with their 3-year-old daughter, Anna — Michael’s mother. Mole found work as an electrician at MGM Studios, which led to his employment at a Hollywood rental house, where he met Elmer C. Richardson. When their boss decided not to transition the 84
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company’s war-surplus carbon-arc lights as Kodak introduced its new tungsten-balanced film stock, Mole and Richardson spun off to form a new operation with a mandate to provide the studios with lighting solutions based on the very latest technologies. Michael joined Mole-Richardson shortly after his grandfather’s passing. His brother Larry, a future honorary ASC member, had started working at the company a couple of years prior, right out of high school. The two began with the basics — “learning how to load a truck, pull parts, make materials and handle receiving,” Larry explains — and grew into respected leaders at what became arguably the oldest family-run entertainment-industry company in Hollywood. Indeed, the Mole-Richardson logo has been an abiding symbol on production stages since 1927. “Engineers like my grandfather interpreted the technology of the time,” Michael says, “and for the past 88 years, that’s what we have continued to do.” Now, after nearly nine decades on North Sycamore Avenue, Mole-Richardson is open for business at a new state-of-the-art facility in the San Fernando Valley city of Pacoima. “The new building represents the family’s commitment to sustaining this business for the future,” says Michael, who chatted with AC alongside Larry in the old boardroom shortly before the move. “This place is going to get torn down and disappear; it’s going to be a memory here in Hollywood. And everybody that was involved in it will always say, ‘I loved that old factory.’ It had the grit; you could wipe your finger across the dust and say, ‘This dust has been here for a heck of a long time, and I was able to touch it.’ But in the end, you’re going to give an opportunity to that person who walks in and wants to work for
Mole-Richardson’s new soundstage will serve as a classroom for Larry’s lighting classes, as well as a workshop for ASC-related projects.
you, who looks at the new shop and says, ‘Wow. This is up to date.’” Throughout the siblings’ tenure — much of which they shared with their father, who ran the company for more than 40 years beginning in 1960 — Mole-Richardson has been instrumental
Mole-Richardson photos by Kelly Brinker.
Michael Parker (left) and Larry Mole Parker on the factory floor at the new Mole-Richardson facility in Pacoima, Calif.
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in such upheavals as the quartz-iodide transition and the introduction of HMI. “Fluorescents [became widespread] in the Nineties, and power distribution changed in the industry during the Eighties and Nineties,” Michael recounts. The company’s most recent technological milestone has been its move into the world of LED lighting. Given that Mole-Richardson introduced the industry’s first Fresnel lens for use in motion pictures in 1935 — based on the French technology designed for lighthouses — it’s fitting that in 2013 its first LED release was the MoleLED Fresnel. The siblings readily acknowledge that they took their time bringing the product to market. “There are a lot of people who get into our industry as quickly as they can with the newest gadgets and get people to buy them and use them — and then reverse-engineer them to correctness,” Michael notes. “We said, ‘If we’re going to get into this, let’s do it right.’ We started to manipulate [the LED] blue chip so that the color quality was pure tungsten and pure daylight. We included ASC members in that endeavor, with testing and discussion and a lot of engineering.” The company’s latest achievement in this arena — showcased at this year’s NAB and Cine
Gear — is the LED Senior Fresnel, a 5Kequivalent unit that draws only 900 watts and can be plugged into a standard household outlet. With space lights, Skypans and all manner of Mole-Richardson specialties undergoing LED upgrades, Michael and Larry see their new facility, with its 50,000 square feet of factory space, as a boon to production. In addition, Michael quips that 60 years after his classroom training in managing an assembly line, he may finally get to do it. The Pacoima location is also the new home of the company’s Studio Depot and warehouse, along with an equally large space for Mole-Richardson Rental. A smaller store, reception area, museum, hospitality area, and a full floor of offices round out what Michael describes as “two football fields” of space. Larry — who is also a photographer, producer and occasional actor — is particularly excited about the facility’s soundstage, the new location for his renowned lighting classes, in which groups of 30 or so students learn the basics from the man who worked with the likes of ASC members James Wong Howe and Stanley Cortez. “I teach them all about the different lights, what they do, www.theasc.com
how to operate them, how to hook up the cables to a generator, and how to be safe,” Larry says. And perhaps most importantly, he advises them on “etiquette on the set and how to get a job.” Along with these classes, which both educate and help create a network of skilled professionals, the stage will also serve as a workshop for ASCrelated projects. “You feel energetic,” Larry says of the company’s move to the new facility. “It’s a different vibe and a different atmosphere. We’ll be streamlining the factory to make things come off the line better and faster, and to build them the way we want. [In the old factory] we’ve got Band-Aids, but now it’s all being [modernized]. Also, it’s cleaner — with parking and fresh air and mountains.” Mole Richardson’s relocation comes shortly after their opening of an Atlanta office in January of last year. With Mole’s move from what Michael refers to as a “spaghetti mess” of exposed wires to the “pristine conduits” of the new space, he notes his enthusiasm for a future crop of workers who will someday take on leadership roles at the company. He and Larry would like to be at the helm through Mole-Richardson’s 100th anniversary, but beyond that year it’s unlikely that October 2015
family members will be the hands-on managers — which is why this move is for the next generation. “When someone asks what we do,” Michael relates, “I say, ‘We make things. We create, imagine, draw and build things that have never been built before.’” And they’re always on the lookout for the likeminded. “You’ve got to love what we do and have a thrill about design,” Larry says. As to what it takes to be a leader in the field, Michael offers, “You don’t have to be an expert, but you‘ve got to be curious about technology.” The spacious new facility is now up and running, and Michael expresses appreciation for its potential. “Anybody that’s in the creation business wants to sense the beginning,” he says. “This is creation, and whether it’s building a building or making a film, that’s what we do.” The new Mole-Richardson Co. facility is located at 12154 Montague St., Pacoima, CA 91331. For additional information, visit www.mole.com. Digital Sputnik Launches DS LED System LED lighting company Digital Sputnik continues to build on the foundation of its modular DS LED System, and has recently introduced an iOS app for remote operation via Wi-Fi and accessories such as an adjustable yoke. The company was co-founded by brothers Kaur and Kaspar Kallas, who serve as CEO and CTO, respectively. Kaur notes that it took more than three years to develop the DS LED System, “because this is not just a replacement fixture for another light — this is a whole new platform.” The LED lamp head at the heart of the DS LED System creates a punchy soft light in either full-color RGBW or a daylightonly option. The DS LED can be used as an individual unit or in combination with any number of additional units. Each individual unit weighs only 2.8 pounds and produces an equivalent output to a 400-watt HMI or 1K tungsten. Developed with extensive feedback from cinematographers, gaffers and other lighting technicians, the DS LED lamp heads have been factory-calibrated for uniform output and color precision. Each unit has an 86
embedded memory chip and temperature chip for identification and calibration data. “Because the manufacturing of LEDs is an organic process, no two batches are exactly the same,” says Kallas, adding that Digital Sputnik sources its LEDs from manufacturer Cree. “We measure the spectral response of each module, and we write it into the memory chip. So if you have lights from different batches, the power source makes certain the output is uniform.” The LED board inside the fixture is also upgradeable, allowing for easy and affordable updates as LEDs continue to improve. High-resolution multi-dimensional look-up tables allow for constant, calibrated color temperature and color spectrum throughout the entire dimming range. This high degree of color precision makes it possible for the DS LEDs to match almost any other light source; 16-bit high-precision dimming allows for more than 2 billion possible color combinations. Additionally, the DS LED System is driven by constant analogue current control, made possible by microprocessor-driven and software-based architecture that in turn enables 100percent flicker-free operation at any frame rate and any color. The software-based architecture also allows for over-the-air software updates to implement new features and effects. Each RGBW lamp head offers whitebalance control from 1,500K up to 10,000K with the ability to change tint (+/- green adjustment), and each offers full RGB control, with pure primary-color rendering. Up to three lamp heads can be run off of one power supply for an energy draw of 420 watts when using all three lights at full power. A hybrid, microprocessor-controlled cooling solution uses passive and active cooling for maximum efficiency. DS LEDs can be controlled individually or in groups, and either locally or American Cinematographer
remotely via DMX, wireless DMX or Wi-Fi (with Digital Sputnik’s iOS controller application). The easy-to-use DS LED System boasts intuitive, feature-rich local controls, autoconfiguring fixtures and power supplies, and hot-plugging capability. Real-time twoway communication with the lamp head provides live monitoring of the fixture’s health, temperature and usage. The individual DS LEDs can be rigged in any variety of ways, including as single and dual modules on a tripod, in a six-light configuration with the DS 6 Frame, and in up to a nine-light configuration with the company’s adjustable yoke. Kallas likens the modular DS LED lamp heads to “a foundation that doesn’t limit the size or the shape of the house you want to build on it. And we’re coming out with different accessories, [including one] that turns a threelight modular system into a space light.” A range of soft boxes, grids and user-changeable lenses and diffusers are also available. Cinematographer Markus Förderer, who has been using the DS LED System for the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence, notes, “The high-output Digital Sputnik LED lights have become an integral part of our lighting package. The ability to precisely mix any color within seconds without having to change gels is not only a huge time saver, it became my on-set color-grading tool. Its versatility makes it easy to adjust the lighting on the fly to the specific needs of the scene — be it harsh sunlight, tungsten or interactive lighting effects — eliminating the need for specialty equipment.” Digital Sputnik manufactures its products out of its head-
quarters in Tallinn, Estonia, where the Kallas brothers’ father, Tõnu Kallas, serves as head of design. In addition to the Estonia location, the company maintains satellite sales offices in Stockholm, Sweden; Warsaw, Poland; and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles showroom is managed by Per Fasmer, a partner in the company. “We still see 45-year-old MoleRichardson lights on sets because they just work,” Kaur notes. “We want to do the same thing: We want to give you a tool that is durable. There is no casting, no plastic; it’s all made out of aluminum, and it can last the full life of the LEDs. “At the end of the day, it’s a creative industry, and people define themselves with the tools that they use,” Kallas continues. “We want to create inspirational tools.” Each DS LED unit is backed by a 36month worldwide warranty. For additional information, visit www.digitalsputnik.com. Philips Vari-Lite Illuminates BeamWash Philips Vari-Lite has introduced the VL4000 BeamWash unit. Sharing many of the design principles of the VL4000 Spot, the new fixture incorporates a Philips 1,200watt lamp and combines Wash, Beam and Shaft functionality, all without the need to change lenses. When used in Wash mode, the fixture provides an even wash of light with variable hot-spot/edge control. The unit boasts a 10- to 60-degree zoom range and the ability to rotate and alter the beam shape from round to elliptical. The hot spot and edge of the wash output can be adjusted from any DMX lighting console. By adjusting a DMX value, the VL4000 BeamWash shifts from a wash to a beam with a 4- to 40-degree beam angle. A multitude of images are available from two seven-position gobo wheels and a vari-
able animation wheel. A high-speed mechanical iris and an independent fivefacet rotating-step prism further add to the graphical abilities. A lenticular feature allows the output to be further modified to create a rectangular hard edge or extruded gobo imagery. The DMX-selectable Shaft mode allows the VL4000 BeamWash to also function as a powerful, collimated ray of light. With 43,000 lumens, the narrow output from the 10" lens creates a bright parallel shaft. The 4-degree beam angle can be further reduced to near 0 degrees with the mechanical iris. In addition, all of the standard features — such as gobos, animation wheel, prism and color mixing — are fully functional when utilizing Shaft mode. Whether used as a Wash, Beam or Shaft fixture, the VL4000 BeamWash includes the Infinity Color Mix system, which provides smooth color changes and instantaneous snaps. Two five-position fixed color wheels and variable color correction further add to the unit’s color abilities, and the fixture also contains smooth dimming flags that, when combined with independent shutter blades, deliver excellent dimming and strobing abilities. For additional information, visit www.vari-lite.com.
3,000K to 5,600K and renders a very clean light quality. CRI values are 96 for the SL15600 and 94 for the SL1-3200. Without diffusion, the SL1-Switch offers 3,000 lux at 1 meter. Accessories include a soft box and egg-crate-style louvers from DOP Choice; barn doors; a variety of mounts, including a handle mount and a 360-degree mount; and a variety of powering solutions, including standard AC DMX and a DC converter that adapts any battery source from 12 to 35 volts. Additionally, the Dome is a round thermal-formed diffuser that slides onto the fixture. Director of photography Antoine Roch, AFC has used the SL1 on two features, including Attila Marcel (pictured). “The SL1 has a great beam, a high light output and a very precise color temperature,” he says. “Definitely a modern tool well adapted to the cinematography of current filmmaking.”
Maccam Distributes DMG’s SL1 Van Nuys, Calif.-based lighting specialists Maccam are now distributing the SL1 Smart Light LED fixture range — manufactured by Lyon, France-based DMG Lumiere — in North America. DMG Lumiere is run by brothers Mathieu, Nils and Jean de Montgrand along with European gaffer Nicholas Georg. Mathieu, a cinematographer, and Georg conceived of the SL1, and together made a wish list of features and capabilities. Nils, who has worked in lighting technology for more than a dozen years, helped them perfect the design. The SL1’s rectangular format echoes that of the commonly used four-bank fluorescent fixture, but the SL1 is only about 2 centimeters thick and approximately 1⁄3 the weight of a standard fluorescent while producing roughly 15 percent more light. The DMX-controllable power box ranges from
Thierry Arbogast, AFC has also used the SL1. “I really like the beam of the SL1, with the softness it has,” he says. “I used it on car rigs in broad daylight. It also turned out to be very useful for its weight and low power consumption.” DMG Lumiere has plans in the works for variations on the SL1, including the SLMini, which will be half the size of the SL1, and a larger version. Nils notes, “Our goal has always been to design and build a lamp that is optimized for the exacting standards of cinema production. Our biggest thrill is to see the creative application of the lamp by filmmakers, so the availability of the SL1 in North America is very exciting for us.” For additional information, visit www.dmglumiere.com and www.maccam.tv.
Extrasensory Devices Provides Luxi For All Extrasensory Devices has introduced Luxi For All, a light-diffusion dome that fits over the frontfacing camera of an iOS or Android device. When used in conjunction with the Luxi or other light-meter apps, Luxi For All enables the smartphone or tablet to serve as a professional-quality light meter. Developed and produced with funds from a successful Kickstarter campaign, Luxi For All comes with a microfiber carry bag and lanyard, and retails for $29.95. For additional information, visit www.esdevices.com. Ikan Spotlights HF40 Ikan has introduced the HF40 Helia Bi-Color LED light, which offers color temperatures ranging from 2,700K to 5,600K. The 4" Fresnel lens can focus from 60-degree flood to 15-degree spot. The HF40 features an easy-to-read LCD screen for easy adjustment of menu settings, and the bi-color light can be simply adjusted with the turn of a knob, allowing users to precisely dial in the desired Kelvin temperature. The fixture also incorporates a flicker feature, allowing for special-effect lighting or for dialing in the flicker frequency to accommodate off-speed shooting. The HF40 can be powered with a pro battery and comes with a V-mount battery plate and DC cable, barn doors, and an AC power cable. For additional information, visit ● www.ikancorp.com.
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4X5 85 Glass Filters, Diffusion, Polas etc. A Good Box Rental 818-763-8547 16,000+ USED PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT ITEMS www.ProVideoFilm.com www.UsedEquipmentNewsletter.com 888 869 9998 HOLLYWOOD STUDIO ANTIQUES www.CinemaAntiques.com BUY-SELL-TRADE World’s SUPERMARKET of USED MOTION PICTURE EQUIPMENT! Buy, Sell, Trade. CAMERAS, LENSES, SUPPORT, AKS & MORE! Visual Products, Inc. www.visualproducts.com Call 440.647.4999
Advertiser’s Index Aadyn Technology 53 Adorama 21, 39 Aerial Mob, LLC 53 AJA Video Systems, Inc. 31 Alan Gordon Enterprises 91 Allied Scientific Pro 50a Arri 19 Aura Productions 79 B&H Photo-Video_Pro Audio 33 Backstage Equipment, Inc. 81 Barger-lite 87 Blackmagic Design, Inc. 13 Camerimage 93 Canon USA 15 Cavision Enterprises 90 Chapman/Leonard Studio Equip. 29 Chimera 45 Chrosziel 8 Cinelease 17 Cinematography Electronics 79 Cinekinetic 90 Cineo Lighting 57 Convergent Design 69 Cooke Optics 23 CW Sonderoptic Gmbh 67
Digital Sputnik Lighting Systems 43 DMG Technologies 79 DPS 7 Drone World Expo 95 Eastman Kodak C4 EVS/Express Video Supply 81 Fluotec 77 Glidecam Industries C3
Red Digital Cinema C2-1 Rosco Laboratories, Inc. 58 Schneider Optics 2 Selected Tables 92 Super16, Inc. 91 Swit 59, 70 Teradek, LLC 5 Thales Angenieux 25 TNS&F Productions 91
Hasselblad Bron, Inc. 47 Hollywood Post Alliance 87
Ushio America, Inc. 81
J.L. Fisher 46 Jod Soraci 79
Welch Integrated 89 Willy’s Widgets 90 www.theasc.com 92
K5600 55 Kino Flo 82 Lee Filters 83 Lights! Action! Co. 90 Maccam 65 Mole-Richardson/Studio Depot 90 Movie Tech AG 90, 91 NBC/Universal Media Works 27 Nila, Inc. 8 P+S Technik Feinmechanik Gmbh 90 Panasonic System Communications Co. 9, 11 Panther Gmbh 71 Paralinx 41 Pille Filmgeraeteverleih Gmbh 90 Powermills 91 Pro8mm 90
Visionary Forces 91
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Clubhouse News Left: Bradford Young, ASC. Right: Michael Goi, ASC, ISC at ScareLA.
Tomlinson Named Associate New associate member Matthew Tomlinson currently serves as the director of imaging science for EFilm. Tomlinson has worked at EFilm for seven years, and previously held the positions of color corrector and digital-imaging supervisor for Tippett Studio in Berkeley. He studied film production and studio arts at Loyola Marymount University, where he interned with independent filmmakers, Summers/Quaid Productions, Roger Corman and BossFilms. Goi Joins ScareLA panel Michael Goi, ASC, ISC recently participated in an American Horror Story panel at the third annual ScareLA in Pasadena, Calif., a convention dedicated to the celebration of Halloween. Goi and other AHS creatives discussed the collaboration between the makeup, visual-effects and camera crews, who come together to create a visually unique world for each respective season of the series. Goi’s advice to the audience and aspiring filmmakers was, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Zielinski Named 2015 AFA Cinematography Mentor Jerzy Zielinski, ASC, PSC was announced as the 2015 Asian Film Academy cinematography mentor. Along with AFA Dean Wang Xiaoshuai, Directing Mentor Anthony Chen and Deputy Dean Oh Seokgeun — director of the Busan Film CommisAmerican Cinematographer
sion — Zielinski will share his broad expertise with the new AFA fellows selected from 13 countries. Goodich, Logan, Zsigmond Teach at CSU Summer Arts Program Frederic Goodich, ASC; Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC; and Bruce Logan, ASC were invited by documentary cinematographer and San Francisco State University professor Weimin Zhang to participate in the instruction of California State University Monterey Bay’s Summer Arts program “Cinematography: Experience With the Masters.” Twenty-six students from the CSU system participated in the course, in which they learned from and worked with the renowned cinematographers. Bailey Judges Kodak Scholarships John Bailey, ASC recently led a panel of judges chosen to select the recipients of the 2015 Kodak Student Scholarship Awards and the Kodak Student Cinematography Scholarship Awards. This was Bailey’s fourth consecutive year as a judge. The first-place Student Cinematography Scholarship Award was presented to Nicolas Aguilar from California’s Chapman University for his cinematography on Run, and an Award of Merit was presented to Ziryab Ben Brahem from San Diego State University for Wake. ●
Photo of Clubhouse by Isidore Mankofsky, ASC; lighting by Donald M. Morgan, ASC. Photo of Michael Goi by Kelly Brinker.
Society Welcomes Young New active member Bradford Young, ASC was born in Louisville, Ky., and studied filmmaking at Howard University under renowned Ethiopian émigré Haile Gerima (Sankofa). He first made his mark in independent cinema when he won an Excellence in Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 for Pariah (AC April ’11), directed by Dee Rees. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Middle of Nowhere (AC Nov. ’12) — his first film with director Ava DuVernay — won a Grand Jury Prize. The following year, Young pulled off an unprecedented achievement at Sundance — winning an Excellence in Cinematography Award for two films: David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (AC Sept. ’13) and Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George (AC April ’13). Young’s feature credits also include DuVernay’s Selma and J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year (both in AC Feb. ’15), Dosunmu’s Restless City, and Tina Mabry’s Mississippi Damned. His latest picture is Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice. Young also creates video installations, and his most recent work in that field was Bynum Cutler, which explored the mythos behind AfricanAmerican homesteaders. His collaborations with artist Leslie Hewitt have been exhibited at the Kitchen, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Menil Collection, Des Moines Art Center, the MCA Chicago and Lofoten International Arts Festival in Norway.
Jan Kiesser, ASC
When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you? I remember the Buck Rogers serials I experienced at Saturday matinees when I was very young. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was my first major theatrical experience of being whisked away into another world and reality, transcending time and place. It was always the visuals in these stories that captivated me. Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire? Jack Cardiff [BSC], for his painterly visual storytelling with very slow film speeds. James Wong Howe [ASC], for his inventiveness. Freddie Young [BSC], for the epic scale of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. More contemporary cinematographers are [ASC members] Vilmos Zsigmond, Gordon Willis, Caleb Deschanel and Emmanuel Lubezki.
What has been your most satisfying moment on a project? The entire experience of making Such a Long Journey in Mumbai, India, and how it all came about. It was an amazing challenge with an exceptional story to tell. Have you made any memorable blunders? Not having an agent to look out for my well-being on my first feature film as a director of photography.
What sparked your interest in photography? I received a 35mm Japanese range-finder camera from a second cousin who was returning from a tour with the U.S. Navy. My curiosity about how to effectively use this camera, and my desire to understand photography in general, led me to read Ansel Adams and others, and to build a darkroom in one of our bathrooms. I think I was about 12 or 13 years old. Where did you train and/or study? In order to study cinema, I was about to change majors at UCLA from engineering to theater arts when I found an opportunity that took me directly into Hollywood’s motion-picture industry. Personal study, making Super 8mm movies and networking is what took me forward.
How did you get your first break in the business? My first job was for Wally Bulloch as an animation cameraman. This took me out of going to film school at UCLA, but enabled me to become a union member and develop my passion for filmmaking in the real world rather than the academic.
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received? In my early days of operating for Vilmos Zsigmond, we were discussing lighting, and he advised me to observe light in the real world all the time. I often reflect on that as I continue to observe and learn every day. What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you? Digital Cinematography: Fundamentals, Tools, Techniques, and Workflows by David Stump, ASC has helped me hone my skills and develop a deeper understanding of the technology surrounding digital cinema cameras. Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try? I love historical fiction, but have had great fun on musicals.
Who were your early teachers or mentors? I have learned from every cinematographer I’ve worked with, but I believe I learned the most from Vilmos Zsigmond. He is an instinctive teacher. He would always ask me why I would do something, not just what I would do. He would also give me opportunities to offer input into lighting, staging and composition on movies we were shooting.
If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead? I would most like to try installation art on some level.
What are some of your key artistic influences? I traveled throughout Europe for a year when I was young, and spent much time immersing myself in all the art I found there. That experience has had a profound effect on me, informing my aesthetic. Vermeer and Rembrandt have always been go-to references in my lighting.
How has ASC membership impacted your life and career? It has broadened my perspective and understanding of cinematography, expanded my education, and enabled the development of ● meaningful relationships with other cinematographers.
Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership? Vilmos Zsigmond, Donald M. Morgan and Allen Daviau.
Photo by Michael D. Hawley.