AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER • AUGUST 2016 • STAR TREK BEYOND – JASON BOURNE – SWISS ARMY MAN – EQUALS • VOL. 97 NO. 8
AU G U S T 2 0 1 6
An International Publication of the ASC
On Our Cover: First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) of the starship Enterprise wields his Federation-issue phaser while exploring alien terrain in Star Trek Beyond, shot by Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS. (Photo by Kimberley French, SMPSP, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.)
FEATURES 30 42 52 64
Hostile Planet Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS takes a beloved franchise in new directions with Star Trek Beyond
To Be Bourne Barry Ackroyd, BSC grounds high-stakes action with documentary realism for Jason Bourne
Body Language Larkin Seiple embraces a bold style for the Sundance standout Swiss Army Man
Love and Dystopia John Guleserian envisions the emotion-shunning society of Equals
DEPARTMENTS 10 12 18 72 74 78 82 83 84 86 88
Editor’s Note Short Takes: Jessica Production Slate: Hell or High Water • The Infiltrator Post Focus: The BFG Filmmakers’ Forum: Shooting Life with Lytro Cinema New Products & Services International Marketplace Classified Ads Ad Index Clubhouse News ASC Close-Up: Lisa Wiegand
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An International Publication of the ASC
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INSIDE THE 2016 INTERNATIONAL CINEMATOGRAPHY SUMMIT During this four-day event, the American Society of Cinematographers invited peers from more than 20 countries around the world to meet at the ASC Clubhouse in Hollywood, where they would discuss professional and technological issues and help define how cinematographers can maintain the quality and artistic integrity of the images they create. As the ICS was not open to the general public, we have prepared an exclusive 10-part series of reports on the program, with topics including:
• The Future of the Cinematographer • Who Is the Author of an Image? • The Continuing Relevance of Film • Understanding ACES • Cinematography in Virtual Reality
CINEMATOGRAPHERS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE ICS INCLUDED: • Richard Andry, AFC (France) • Mehmet Askin, CAT (Turkey) • Predrag Bambic, SAS (Serbia) • Affonso Beato, ASC, ABC (U.S./Brazil) • Bill Bennett, ASC (U.S.) • Richard Bluck, NZCS (New Zealand) • Oliver Bokelberg, ASC, BVK (U.S./Germany) • Natasha Braier, ADF (Argentina) • David Burr, ACS (Australia) • Federico Cantini, ADF (Argentina) • LouisPhilippe Capelle, SBC (Belgium) • León Chiprout, AMC (Mexico) • Curtis Clark, ASC (U.S.) • Rolf Coulanges, BVK (Germany) • James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC (U.S./Greece) • Richard Crudo, ASC (U.S.)
• Yiannis Daskalothanasis, GSC (Greece) • Angarag Davaasuren, MSC (Mongolia) • Mu Deyuan, CSC (China) • Carlos Diazmuñoz, AMC (Mexico) • Nathalie Durand, AFC (France) • Lauro Escorel, ABC (Brazil) • Harold Escotet, VSC (Venezuela) • Eduardo Fierro, SVC (Venezuela) • Edvard Friis-Møller, DFF (Denmark) • Mohd Filus Ghazali, MySC (Maylasia) • Michael Goi, ASC, ICS (U.S./India) • Frederic Goodich, ASC (U.S.) • Rasto Gore, ASK (Slovakia) • Timo Heinänen, FSC (Finland) • Christian Herrera, CRSC (Costa Rica) • Tahvo Hirvonen,
FSC (Finland) • Cheong Yuk Hoy, MySC (Maylasia) • Casper Høyberg, DFF (Denmark) • Ron Johanson, ACS (Australia) • Nina Kellgren, BSC (Britain) • Oli Laperal, PHSC (Philippines) • Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC (U.S./Poland) • Pascal Lebegue, AFC (France) • Rob Legato, ASC (U.S.) • Anssi Leino, FSC (Finland) • Denis Lenoir, ASC, AFC (U.S./France) • Du Yan Li, CSC (China) • Alex Linden, FSF (Sweden) • Elen Lotman, ESC (Estonia) • Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC (U.S./Mexico) • Roberto Mancia, SVSC (El Salvador) • Stephanie Martin,
ADF (Argentina) • Ricardo Matamoros, SVC (Venezuela) • Suki Medencevic, ASC, SAS (U.S./Serbia) • M. David Mullen, ASC (U.S.) • Guillermo Navarro, ASC, AMC (U.S./Mexico) • James Neihouse, ASC (U.S.) • Anders Holck Petersen, DFF (Denmark) • Claire Pijman, NSC (Netherlands) • Bill Pope, ASC (U.S.) • Steven Poster, ASC (U.S.) • Tony Richmond, ASC, BSC (U.S./Britain) • Paul René Roestad (IMAGO) • Roberto Schaefer, ASC, AIC (U.S./Italy)
• Yang Shu, CSC (China) • Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC (U.S./Italy) • Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC (U.S./Italy) • David Stump, ASC (U.S.) • Lukáˇs Teren, ASK (Slovakia) • David Torres, AMC (Mexico) • Malte Udsen, DFF (Denmark) • Kees van Oostrum, ASC (U.S.) • Martim Vian, AIP (Portugal) • Fernando Vilanova, SVSC (El Salvador) • Nigel Walters, BSC (Britain) • Jan Weinke, DFF (Denmark) • Massimo Zeri, AIC (Italy) • Zhao Xiaoding, CSC (China)
A u g u s t
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF and PUBLISHER Stephen Pizzello ———————————————————————————————————— WEB DIRECTOR and ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER David E. Williams ————————————————————————————————————
EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR Jon D. Witmer ASSOCIATE EDITOR Andrew Fish TECHNICAL EDITOR Christopher Probst CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Benjamin B, Rachael K. Bosley, John Calhoun, Mark Dillon, Michael Goldman, Simon Gray, Jay Holben, Noah Kadner, Debra Kaufman, Iain Marcks, Jean Oppenheimer, Phil Rhodes, Patricia Thomson PODCASTS Jim Hemphill, Iain Stasukevich, Chase Yeremian BLOGS Benjamin B; John Bailey, ASC; David Heuring WEB DEVELOPER Jon Stout ————————————————————————————————————
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SUBSCRIPTIONS, BOOKS & PRODUCTS CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Saul Molina CIRCULATION MANAGER Alex Lopez SHIPPING MANAGER Miguel Madrigal ———————————————————————————————————— ASC GENERAL MANAGER Brett Grauman ASC EVENTS COORDINATOR Patricia Armacost ASC PRESIDENT’S ASSISTANT Delphine Figueras ASC ACCOUNTING MANAGER Mila Basely ———————————————————————————————————— American Cinematographer (ISSN 0002-7928), established 1920 and in its 96th year of publication, is published monthly in Hollywood by ASC Holding Corp., 1782 N. Orange Dr., Hollywood, CA 90028, U.S.A., (800) 448-0145, (323) 969-4333, Fax (323) 876-4973, direct line for subscription inquiries (323) 969-4344. Subscriptions: U.S. $50; Canada/Mexico $70; all other foreign countries $95 a year (remit international Money Order or other exchange payable in U.S. $). Advertising: Rate card upon request from Hollywood office. Copyright 2016 ASC Holding Corp. (All rights reserved.) Periodicals postage paid at Los Angeles, CA and at additional mailing offices. Printed in the USA. POSTMASTER: Send address change to American Cinematographer, P.O. Box 2230, Hollywood, CA 90078.
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 - 2016/2017 Kees van Oostrum President
Bill Bennett Vice President
Lowell Peterson Vice President
Dean Cundey Vice President
Levie Isaacks Treasurer
Frederic Goodich Secretary
Roberto Schaefer Sergeant-at-Arms
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD John Bailey Bill Bennett Curtis Clark Richard Crudo Fred Elmes Michael Goi Victor J. Kemper Stephen Lighthill Daryn Okada Woody Omens Robert Primes Cynthia Pusheck Owen Roizman John Simmons Kees van Oostrum
ALTERNATES Roberto Schaefer Mandy Walker Karl-Walter Lindenlaub Oliver Bokelberg Dean Cundey MUSEUM CURATOR
Steve Gainer 8
Full disclosure: I am a card-carrying, old-school Star Trek fan who grew up on the original Sixties television series. A scalemodel replica of the USS Enterprise (complete with authentic sound effects) maintains high orbit atop my office bookshelf; a furry, vibration-activated Tribble resides on a small table next to my guest chair, where it startles visitors with either a friendly purr or a nerve-jangling shriek; and a limited-edition Evil Spock action figure (as seen in the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror”) stands vigil on my desk, serving as a Machiavellian sounding board and miniature consigliere. I keep him boxed not merely to maintain his collectible value, but to suppress the mutiny he would surely incite if set free. Needless to say, I’ve been an enthused viewer of the recent Star Trek features, which have respected but restyled Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi universe. The latest entry, Star Trek Beyond, was shot by Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS, who helped director Justin Lin further modify the look of the series. “Stephen and I agreed that the idea of someone [theoretically being able to] operate the camera and shoot the action would be important on this movie,” Lin explains to Michael Goldman (“Hostile Planet,” page 30). “If you couldn’t get the shot if you were actually filming in space, then you can’t get much emotion out of it. So we developed a feel and aesthetic from the practical sets, and [stayed] disciplined, creating shots out of [what is real] to begin with, even if they are full or partial CG.” A sense of realism also informs Jason Bourne, which marks the return of Matt Damon as the formerly amnesiac superspy. Barry Ackroyd, BSC and director Paul Greengrass were philosophically aligned in their determination to apply documentary-style techniques to the action thriller. “If you want people to believe what you’re doing when it’s a fiction, you shouldn’t be trying too hard to distract them from that truth,” Ackroyd tells London correspondent Phil Rhodes (“To Be Bourne,” page 42). “We shot a lot, but we still used technique. Occasionally we used dollies and even cranes, but we mostly put the camera in the hand. You get into the story by being physically there; we followed the chase and we followed the story.” On-the-spot ingenuity was also applied to Swiss Army Man, an offbeat indie that teamed cinematographer Larkin Seiple with directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. Seiple was tasked with invigorating the story of a castaway who befriends a corpse. “I had a lot of questions [after reading the script],” Seiple tells associate editor Andrew Fish (“Body Language,” page 52). “How were we going to make it believable? How would we make this relationship work between a man and a corpse? My first inclination was to fight against the absurdity of the film by grounding it in a stark environment. But as the project evolved, we instead focused on supporting the absurdity of the visuals and structuring them around the emotional journey of the film.” Our August issue also offers Matt Mulcahey’s coverage of the sci-fi drama Equals, shot by John Guleserian (“Love and Dystopia,” page 64); two sidebars and a Post Focus column addressing this month’s special theme of digital color correction; and ASC member David Stump’s assessment of the Lytro Cinema system, a pioneering light-field capture system introduced earlier this year at the NAB Show (Filmmakers’ Forum, page 74).
Stephen Pizzello Editor-in-Chief and Publisher 10
Photo by Owen Roizman, ASC.
Car Trouble By Derek Stettler
With the tense, six-minute short Jessica, writer-director Jack Bradley and cinematographer Tobias Marshall sought to tap into the instinctive human response to being chased — the adrenaline rush that fuels a sense of panic and paranoia. In the short, a man (David Pibworth) appears to be driving home after a long day’s work when a white van speeds out of nowhere and begins to follow him. The ensuing game of cat and mouse plays out as sunset gives way to dusk, mirroring the audience’s growing suspicion that the driver who’s being pursued has a dark side. Marshall got his start in the industry as a 2nd AC in 2003 and eventually notched credits on features such as Skyfall, shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (AC Dec. ’12). He has worked on several action units with Alexander Witt over the years, and he recently worked as 2nd-unit director of photography on location in Morocco for NBC’s American Odyssey. “Working with great cinematographers and crew is very inspiring,” he says of his experiences. “I’m just trying to emulate the people I’ve worked with and climb up to their level.” For Jessica, Marshall and Bradley had the chance to experiment with tone and mood, telling the story with visuals and almost no dialogue. With echoes of Steven Spielberg’s first studio feature, Duel, the U.K.-based production was shot entirely with natural light in a gritty, minimalist style. Bradley says the idea for Jessica came to 12
him “when I was driving back from a shoot one day and I accidentally cut off a white van. I was convinced the driver was following me home, turn for turn, and I found myself constantly glancing in my mirrors. The next day, I wrote the script for what would eventually become Jessica.” To keep viewers engaged, Marshall made a point to avoid recycling shots inside the car, where the majority of the movie takes place. In doing so, the cinematographer devised a plan to begin the short with wider lenses on stabilized rigs, creating a feeling of calm and normalcy; as the story unfolds and the driver’s panic increases, the images get progressively tighter and the camera goes handheld. Marshall operated the production’s single Red One Mysterium-X camera, and he selected Arri/Zeiss Ultra Primes because he was “looking for a colder image than an S4 and something sharper than Super Speeds,” he explains. To maximize image quality, he shot at 4K onto 128GB RedMag 1.8" SSDs in Redcode 42. The highest-quality compression available on the Red One, Redcode 42 is equivalent to a 7.5:1 compression ratio on newer Red cameras; the 42 refers to the data rate — 42 MBps. Marshall also opted to utilize Tiffen soft-edge graduated NDs to enhance the darkness of the car’s interior while keeping a brighter golden-hour exterior, visually hinting at the main character’s dark inner world. At the same time, the cinematographer was aiming for a lot of flares. “The sun is going down and his secret is coming out,” Marshall notes. “For me, that was the whole journey
Photos by Sacha Phillips and David Marshall. Photos and frame grabs courtesy of the filmmakers.
An ominous white van engages a seemingly unassuming driver in a panic-inducing game of cat and mouse in the short thriller Jessica.
As daylight fades to dusk, the driver (David Pibworth) notices the van in his rearview mirror.
of the film. I really wanted to have that reflected with flares coming through into the car.” The production was able to lock off one road in the town of Kent, just outside London, where the filmmakers had only a short period of time to shoot the climactic set piece, as the two vehicles race down a single-lane road during magic hour, with the driver trying desperately not to be overtaken by the van. All involved had to be efficient and agile to get the sequence right the first time; knowing this would be the case, Bradley cast actors who are in fact precision drivers, and who ably executed the requisite maneuvers. In order to get all of the desired shots as daylight ostensibly fades to dusk, the production shot during both sunrise and sunset over the course of two days. Working in the British countryside, Jessica was shot without the aid of any storyboards. Instead, the team used Matchbox cars to orchestrate and communicate the vehicles’ maneuvers — a technique Marshall learned while working on Skyfall’s complex opening stunt sequence, which called for a truck to be flipped. Given Jessica’s low budget, the team shot without any camera rigging on the vehicles’ exteriors, and instead utilized a flatbed truck as a tracking vehicle, with a tripod set up in the back. A bit of stabilization was applied in post, and the end results belie the low-tech approaches employed on set. When it came to the grading of the project, Marshall wanted “a cold, slightly desaturated look that started bright and then descended into darkness,” he explains. The cinematographer realized this look with colorist Chris Francis, who worked on the grade at Company 3 in London. “Luckily, Todd Kleparski [head of production at Company 3] came on board as associate producer and got Chris to grade the film,” Marshall notes. “Once we had Company 3 grading, I knew it would be in great hands and it would look fantastic.” Given all of the foliage in the movie’s exteriors, Marshall wanted to pay particular attention to the tonality of the greens. “Green foliage is always something I try to capture in a way that looks real, with a
Top: Director Jack Bradley (left) and cinematographer Tobias Marshall line up a shot inside the car. Bottom: Colorist Chris Francis and Marshall finesse the visuals in a grading suite at Company 3 in London.
darker quality,” the cinematographer says. “It’s easy to overexpose green on digital, and it can look nuclear — it becomes distracting.” When Marshall and Francis met to begin grading Jessica, they spoke for about an hour, examining the look of the short and considering how it would evolve over the course of the story. Francis, Marshall and Bradley then completed the grade in a single afternoon, viewing the footage projected through Barco 2K projectors. Working in DaVinci Resolve with the original Redcode Raw files deBayered into 16
RedLogFilm, Francis began by applying one of Company 3’s in-house LUTs as a neutral starting point before dialing in the look. He notes that he “wanted the story to be more of a focal point than the color. We didn’t want to push things too far; we tried to be very gentle with it and tasteful, pushing the saturation more than the contrast to give it a more cinematic log look.” Francis considered applying a grain filter to give Jessica even more of a film look, but he ultimately decided to eschew both a grain filter and noise reduction, instead letting the minimal noise present in Marshall’s well-exposed American Cinematographer
shots remain, providing the imagery with a touch of grit. While Francis’ focus was on preserving the integrity of the images, he nevertheless employed certain tricks to alter shots for narrative purposes. For example, even before the sun sets, the headlights of the pursuing van appear very bright, with a pronounced flare. To achieve this effect, shots of the van’s headlights at night were passed through Autodesk’s Flame and composited into the shots of the van during the earlier sequences. Francis explains, “Flame [was used to] create grading mattes and add minor lighting effects, which I enhanced depending on how much we’d pushed the look of the particular shot — some of the effect shots were graded to look later in the evening, while some were just coming into dusk. For the darker ones, I blew out the highlights more, and used mist and blur on the edges of my windows to simulate flaring. The mattes from Flame complemented the power windows that I had tracked to finesse the realism of the effect.” The bright headlights make the van more threatening when it suddenly appears behind the main character’s car. Francis recalls, “Without the bright headlights, it didn’t quite work. But once we added the headlights, it made a huge difference.” To make the van even more mysterious and menacing, Francis also employed power windows to darken the view of the vehicle’s interior. Indeed, the viewer never knows who’s following the main character — or why — until the credits roll. Bradley notes that “Jessica was an experiment in tension — trying to create it within the camera, edit, sound design and post. Editor Edward Cooper and I spent long evenings trying to create these waves of tension without ever boring the audience.” Marshall is proud of his work on the short and feels that “it went really well. To be able to replicate some of the work that I had done with the action units I’d worked on in the past, and bring some of that experience to this film, was great.” To view Jessica online, visit: https://vimeo.com/156399394. ●
Production Slate Toby (Chris Pine, far right) enlists his brother, Tanner (Ben Foster), in a desperate plan to hold onto their family’s farm in the feature Hell or High Water. The movie was shot on location in New Mexico, standing in for the screenplay’s sunbaked Texas backdrop.
Desperate Measures By Jon D. Witmer
Mexico, standing in for the story’s Texas settings. Nuttgens spoke with AC in the weeks following the movie’s premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) have a plan to save the family farm and turn it profitable for Toby’s children. That their scheme comes at the expense of the Texas bank that’s set to foreclose on the property only makes it that much sweeter. But when the brothers put their plan into action and embark on a series of armed bank robberies, people inevitably get hurt — some even die — and a Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) becomes determined to stop the boys in their tracks, come hell or high water. Written by Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water marks the sixth feature collaboration between director David Mackenzie and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, BSC. “David felt a massive obligation to the script, to be able to give the background to motivate the actions that start this terrible chain of events,” Nuttgens tells AC via Skype from his home in Spain. “The narrative is that the farmlands dried up, so David was absolutely obsessed with the idea that we should feel the heat, [the characters’] pain, and the sense of abandonment and desperation that drives them to go on this bankrobbing spree.” Principal photography spanned 35 days in the summer of 2015, with locations in and around Clovis and Albuquerque, New 18
American Cinematographer: Did you know from the outset that you’d be shooting in New Mexico? Giles Nuttgens, BSC: It had been determined that we would be shooting in New Mexico because the state has greater tax incentives than Texas. But David had this idea in preproduction to travel to the places in Texas that are written in the script. So David, location manager Jonathan Slator, production designer Tom Duffield, line producer Kate Dean and I spent a week together to understand both the visual and sociological environments we were trying to create for the film. What camera and lenses did you shoot with? Nuttgens: We shot ArriRaw with an Alexa XT Studio, which is basically a film camera with a digital backend; I’m used to judging lighting through the optical viewfinder. We shot anamorphic with [Vantage Film] Hawk V-Lites. They are very gentle in terms of contrast and relatively sharp at wide apertures, with a very gentle [falloff] in terms of depth of field. Most of the exteriors were shot with the Angenieux Optimo 56-152mm [T4] A2S lightweight zoom, which is probably the sharpest ’Scope zoom ever built, and with a focal-length
Hell or High Water photos by Lorey Sebastian, courtesy of CBS Films.
Left: Texas Rangers Marcus (Jeff Bridges, left) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) follow the trail of the brothers’ crime spree. Below: Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, BSC (center) works out his approach to one of the production’s bank locations.
range that covers almost all requirements, particularly when the camera is mounted on a Technocrane or Russian Arm. A small amount of spherical material was shot during the shootout on the 24290mm [T2.8] Optimo zoom, but everything else was anamorphic, and we used only very light diffusion — 1⁄8 or 1⁄4 Tiffen Digital Diffusion — to take the edge off the Alexa images without getting bleeding from the hot windows. Were you shooting at the Alexa’s base 800 ISO? Nuttgens: No, most of the [movie] was shot at 400, with the exception of the day exteriors, which were shot at 800 because it was very important to retain all the detail at the top end of the exposure curve in the desert. One of the downsides of 400 is that you sometimes subjectively feel a slight ‘muddiness’ in the lower shadow detail, and it’s difficult in the DI to pull that down to a perceivable black with current digital projectors. But it’s a very comfortable rating for me to work at because I’m used to 500 on film, so looking with my eye and understanding how much light is there means that I don’t really need to refer to a monitor, just occasionally check my light meter — and I often don’t work with a DIT
on set. I feel that I can light an interior by eye and with T2.8/3.5 on the lens, I’ll have all the information I need. For the digital grade, you worked with colorist Corinne Bogdanowicz at Light Iron in Hollywood. [Ed. note: Bogdanowicz used Quantel Rio to grade the native ArriRaw files at the 2880x2610 anamorphic native raster. The final deliverable for theatrical release was a 2K DCP.] Had www.theasc.com
the two of you worked together previously? Nuttgens: I knew of Corinne’s work because she’d done a very good DI on What Maisie Knew, where she had to work without my presence. Corinne can look at the raw image and know how it was exposed and where it was intended to sit, so it’s a great time with her. What did you focus on in the digital grade? ➣ August 2016
Top: Nuttgens frames a high-angle shot with the production’s Arri Alexa XT Studio camera. Bottom: The cinematographer mans the wheels of an Alpha Stabilized remote head that’s been rigged to a motorcycle’s sidecar in order to capture some fast-paced car work.
Nuttgens: One of our intentions for creating this feeling of heat had been to keep the image slightly overexposed, with the blacks slightly light, so we initially timed it that way. David came in and we went through it together, and he wanted a little more aggression out of the images to match what was going on with the boys. So we increased the saturation and contrast slightly, took mid-tones down, and accepted that our top end was going to blow out a little bit. Sometimes that’s the trick — to let the whites just tip over the edge. Did you shoot with multiple cameras? Nuttgens: David wanted a thoughtful approach to the way the camera 20
developed, and you can only really achieve that if you concentrate on one camera. So it was a mainly single-camera shoot, with the exception of the big shootout — that was basically a two-camera shoot for four days. David and I work in a space where the camera often sees 360 degrees. We’d spend the time to get a long, developing movement with dolly or Steadicam, with the intention of using it as a single shot, but then I would put the camera on my shoulder to get coverage in case he would need it to pace the film in the edit. We only had Chris for 10 days, and we had all of the banks to rob in the first week. David and I knew that in order to give us the time to do those long shots and experiment in the way we wanted, we American Cinematographer
needed to set off at pace. So David banned video village. He then went even further and said no chairs, no iPhones, no clapper boards. Everything’s brought down to a point where anything that’s happening on the set is for a very specific reason, and we can just turn around and nobody’s saying, ‘I’ve got to move video village’ or ‘I’m just marking up the board.’ You start working at a real speed, and you end up with more flexibility and more material at the end of the day. The other great move from David was on our fifth day, in the evening, when he showed edited material, which included four bank robberies and an escape sequence in a car. And so the whole crew, who probably thought we were out of our minds, suddenly saw 25 minutes of cut action sequences and were like, ‘Hold on now, how did that happen?’ And then everybody was with us. How did you approach the movie’s day interiors? Nuttgens: I ended up trying a certain amount of hard lighting. There was a scene early in the schedule with Chris and Ben in a diner; Ben goes off and robs a bank that’s visible outside the diner’s windows. Because of the way the scene was constructed, I had to light them across the depth of the restaurant, from the parking lot. We weren’t carrying many big heads, but we had two Arri M90s. So we put up a 12-by-20 Grid Cloth, and [gaffer] Jeremy Oliver took out every single HMI we had — and even some tungsten — and pushed them through there. But I still couldn’t balance the interior with the exterior, despite NDs on the windows. So I hit Chris with a direct light — an M90 with a bit of Half CTS on it. Obviously it was backed up by a lot of soft light behind it, which softened the effect of the hard light, but Chris’ face took it really well. And suddenly he and Ben were in a very high-contrast situation, sort of highlighted among the rest of the scene. That pleased me enormously. It wasn’t really my original intention, but the important thing is to be able to recognize that it can work with an actor’s face. So — with the exception of the Texas Rangers’ office, which is Kino Flo-lit — almost every other scene I used hard light. The car work in the movie is
Right: Nuttgens operates the camera for a shot looking past Foster as an exploding truck gives cover for Tanner to flee the police. Below: Hell or High Water marks the sixth feature collaboration between Nuttgens and director David Mackenzie.
incredibly dynamic. I was particularly struck by an early shot in which the camera chases the brothers’ stolen Camaro. The Camaro makes a sharp turn, the camera does the same and then moves in for a two-shot through the driver’s-side window. How did you execute that move? Nuttgens: We were on a motorcycle with a sidecar, with [an Alpha Stabilized remote] head. Unfortunately what happened was after we turned to come alongside the Camaro, there was a joint in the road, and every time we hit that bump the camera would hit the edge of its yoke and jam at 45 degrees, and we couldn’t release it during the take. So, in post, we 22
used all of the latitude we had to push into the image to correct the horizon. We probably did about eight takes of that, and then David ended up cutting between takes in the edit. For shots of the boys, we never wanted to side-mount [the camera] directly onto the vehicle unless it was going to be at crazy speed. We used mounts for Jeff because his sequences are much more sedate. [This differentiation underscored] two sets of lives going at different paces. Everything else that was on the cars was Russian Arm. The Russian Arm guys were beyond belief. It’s a really amazing tool. The final shot of the film is also remarkable. It starts from a high angle American Cinematographer
as Bridges walks away from Pine outside of the farm, then pans across the property and cranes down into the dry grass as Bridges drives away, with the sun low in the sky flaring the lens. Nuttgens: That was our one day with Jeff and Chris, and there was a whole preamble to shoot that’s not in the final film, plus seven pages of dialogue. So we’re coming to dusk and David says, ‘Let’s go to the Technocrane. We’ve still got to do the final shot.’ The final shot was done in 20 minutes, from setting it up to getting the two takes. The Technocrane guys were fantastic, and the guy on the arm was our dolly grip, Eli Schneider, who’s a complete natural and just has an innate sensibility for moving a camera. They knew we weren’t going to rehearse. Watching people work instinctively to achieve something [and] catching the perfect light makes filmmaking a really joyful process. And that’s what’s fantastic about working with David. He’s super-intuitive, and I can tell you, until the bell rings, he’s going to get something.
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT Studio Vantage Film Hawk V-Lite; Angenieux Optimo, A2S
Deep Cover By Neil Matsumoto
The Infiltrator — directed by Brad Furman, shot by cinematographer Joshua Reis, and based on the autobiography of the same name — tells the story of federal customs agent Robert Mazur (played by Bryan Cranston), who worked undercover to build a case that led to the indictments of 85 drug lords and the bankers who assisted them, and the collapse of a massive moneylaundering syndicate. At the center of this criminal empire targeted for demolition was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, one of the most storied criminals of our time. A graduate of USC’s fine-arts program, Reis minored in film and had a knack for design and motion graphics, mastering programs like Adobe’s After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator. After graduation, he found work at a small post house, where he introduced himself to Furman, who was trying — along with cinematographer Lukas Ettlin — to resolve an issue with keying a piece of greenscreen footage. “We had been up all night trying to fix the problem,” Furman recalls. “It was like 4 a.m. and we had to meet a 7 a.m. dead24
line — and this kid came out of the shadows, super shy, and said, ‘I can help you.’ He takes the computer, starts punching buttons, and within three minutes he fixed the whole thing and saved us.” Reis was soon brought on to work “as camera loader and then 2nd AC on a handful of Brad’s projects,” the cinematographer says. He eventually moved up to operate on two Furman-directed features, The Take — on which Reis also served as 2nd-unit cinematographer — and The Lincoln Lawyer, both photographed by Ettlin. Reis also went on to shoot short films, more than 100 music videos, and lowbudget features such as the Furmanproduced City of Dead Men. “I threw him to the wolves on a small feature to see how he did,” Furman recalls. “He not only passed the test, he surpassed it.” When Furman was ready to prep The Infiltrator, the director approached Reis to be his cinematographer. In developing the feature’s look, Reis and Furman broke down the script, discussed their locations, and met with the real Robert Mazur to hear his stories and comb through his archives. Reis assembled multiple detailed look books with stills and color palettes from more than 20 movies, American Cinematographer
The Infiltrator photos by Liam Daniel, courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.
U.S. customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston, left) and his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) go undercover in an effort to collapse Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering syndicate in the feature The Infiltrator.
including period gangster films like Scarface (1983), the dark comedy True Romance, contemporary crime films Man on Fire (2004) and Biutiful, and the documentary Cocaine Cowboys. Reis envisioned the movie to be laid out like a triptych, in that it employed three different cinematic styles, based on the three distinct roles that Bob Mazur played in his own life. For the first look, “you have Mazur, who is struggling with his career, wife and money, so those scenes are mostly lit with low-light incandescent practicals in his home,” explains Reis. “It’s very un-stylized, naturally lit and minimalist, with traditional dolly and mild handheld movement.” The second look was employed when Mazur was involved in gritty, streetwise undercover work, often alongside his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo). “We went with lightweight snap zooms for kinetic energy, delivering a more frenetic look,” Reis says of this aesthetic — which he named “Mangione,” after Mazur’s undercover identity that he adopts briefly at the beginning of the movie. “The third look was used for scenes featuring [Mazur’s primary undercover identity], Musella, a man of wealth and excess, and the broker between Escobar and the banks. We shot those scenes glossy and anamorphic, with flares, so the movie takes on a different aesthetic — more colorful and vibrant. There was also classic Hollywood movement with dollies, cranes and Steadicam throughout the film.” Of The Infiltrator’s myriad complex production challenges, the most significant was shooting almost entirely in London for a story set in 1980s New York, Paris and Miami — with a firm resolve not to eschew exteriors. “For the Florida scenes, we just prayed for sunshine,” Furman says with a laugh. “In the scene with the Miami bankers it was freezing out. Cranston was wearing six layers of clothing!” Reis shot The Infiltrator with Red Epic Dragon cameras, framing for a 2.39:1 widescreen release and capturing 6K Redcode Raw files with 5:1 compression to RedMags. Noting that Furman’s preference for location shooting meant the crew often had minimal space in which to work, Reis offers, “The Red Epic Dragon camera is compact and modular, so we could pick it up and shoot run-and-gun with EF glass or build
it out in studio mode with PL glass.” The cinematographer generally rated the Dragon between 500 ISO for daylight and 800 for night, but for low-light shooting he would go as high as 2,000 in some scenes. One of his favorite features on the camera is its interchangeable optical lowpass filter system. For any night scene, Reis would mount the Low Light Optimized OLPF, which would increase the camera’s sensitivity by about a stop. For day exteriors or shooting inside Mazur’s home, Reis would use the Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF, which would give him more latitude in the highlights. In addition to the Dragons, Blackmagic 4K Cinema Cameras were used for crash cams. Approximately 40 percent of the movie was shot with Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 lenses, which are rehoused Zeiss still lenses and are significantly less expensive than typical cine primes. The production used the 15mm, 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm and 135mm CP.2 focal lengths. “I’ve used the CPs on hundreds of videos,” says Reis. “They have a beautiful bokeh, and they pulled back the crispness of the 6K image while maintaining decent contrast. It may have [seemed] risky to use prosumer primes for such a film, but artistically it was the right thing to do. They were really appropriate for a 1980s period film that was being acquired with a digital camera. Sometimes sharper and more expensive glass isn’t always better. We also employed a Lensbaby Composer Pro PL as a means to really push the visuals of some abstract scenes.” For the Mangione scenes, the cinematographer employed five Zeiss Compact Zoom CZ.2 lenses: one 15-30mm, two 2880mm and two 70-200mm zooms (all T2.9). “The great thing about these lenses is that they really match the CP.2s, and they are extremely lightweight, sharp, provide excellent contrast and offer minimal breathing,” Reis enthuses. “They’re also relatively affordable.” To lend a more “vintage and classiccinema” scale to the highly stylized Musella scenes, Reis went with Vantage Film Hawk V-Lite anamorphics. He also tested Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphics, but he preferred the Hawks’ flare quality and felt the Master Anamorphics looked “too perfect and pristine,” he says. Lastly, for run-and-gun setups,
Top: Cinematographer Joshua Reis (left) lines up a shot inside Mazur’s office. Middle: Director Brad Furman (left) guides a scene with actor Yul Vazquez (wearing white). Bottom: Reis and Furman grab an angle from behind Cranston.
The cinematographer and director discuss a setup.
Reis worked with Canon EF L-series USM II 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm zooms (all f2.8); and 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm primes. “It was about making bold artistic decisions and breaking rules,” he says, “which is why I love the Epic Dragon, because it’s easy to change the mount from PL to EF.” To further shape the movie’s look, Reis used Tiffen’s Black Diffusion/FX, Black Pro-Mist, Low Contrast, 80C and ND filters. He explains that he might use a 1⁄4 Black Diffusion/FX for day scenes and then “bump it to full 1 BD/FX for night shooting. BD/FX will have an even glow in the highlights, [or] a Low Con will help lift the blacks, giving you a low-contrast look.” On set, Reis worked with look-up tables inspired by the look book he and Furman had created in prep. “I think there were 16 LUTs, and each LUT would go back to the triptych — everything goes back to the story,” the cinematographer explains. Reis and digital-imaging technician Keir Garnet-Lawson managed camera settings via a wireless network with the Foolcontrol application, and the DIT used a Light Iron workstation for all on-set data management. “We had five iPads synced to a cloud dailies database,” Reis says. According to Reis, The Infiltrator called for a wide range of lighting setups, from scenes requiring only small LEDs to a large-scale wedding that involved days of pre-rigging and the use of 20 18Ks. The cinematographer credits gaffer Alan Martin for helping him realize the production’s big “Hollywood” lighting setups. “Alan lit Gandhi and Alien3,” Reis marvels. “He was really good at the big setups, such as lighting 28
a 20-foot greenscreen with HMIs and a truss. I was probably more knowledgeable about new technology like LED panels with DMX Wi-Fi control. It was a harmony of new- and old-school lighting.” Furman adds, “The culmination of the education that Alan gave Josh and that Josh gave Alan was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in my career. Alan was just so open.” The Infiltrator was graded at LipSync Post in London, where colorist Sam Chynoweth worked with a FilmLight Baselight system, grading 2.5K EXR files in 16-bit linear for a final 2K output. The Redcode Raw source files were recorded full-gate at 6K resolution, while framing for a 5K extraction, giving the filmmakers “the flexibility to reframe and stabilize the image, if necessary,” Reis says. “This became particularly useful when you had a dialogue scene with numerous cast, [as] we were better able to match different cameras by zooming in or out of the image.” According to the cinematographer, roughly half of the movie’s look stayed true to what he had established on set. For a few run-and-gun montage sequences, he and Chynoweth created a color-reversal aesthetic. During preproduction, Reis met with Chynoweth and did a few film-grain passes and tests. Together, they devised a system in which they would place each scene on a scale from one to five, with five being the grainiest and one being clean. In general, they left the anamorphic footage cleaner, like a 250T film stock. For night scenes across the board they often pushed for a 500T look. “[Nighttime] anamorphic was generally only a one or two on the grain scale,” Reis says, American Cinematographer
“while nighttime sequences that featured undercover operations or scenes in Mazur and Emir’s surveillance-rigged apartment would be a four or five. “I found that a lot of the time when you’re stretching the digital ‘negative,’ the filtration comes through more, and that worked out great,” he continues. “It amplifies the blooming, or it magnifies the imperfections that the filter introduces. The quality of the filter’s character and sensor noise pattern is enhanced through a more stylized approach in post, which I thought was really interesting. Brad wanted a filmic and organic image for his movie, so [on this particular project] my instinct was to push the technology [to generate] adverse lighting through the color grade, to enhance the imperfections, to amplify the optical flaws — because the beauty is in the imperfections. To me, the organic flaws are what make digital cinema filmic.” “With his post and digital background and his understanding of the production workflow from point A to point Z,” Furman says, “Josh is the new wave of cinematography. The work he did in prep really acclimated the producers, the foreign buyers and everyone else to a particular look. It was very important for Josh and me to preserve the vision we ultimately wanted for the film, and we knew that you can really get turned upside-down in the final color timing when you don’t establish this vision up front. What inevitably happens when you shoot in a manner meant to be manipulated later is that the higher-ups get comfortable with the ‘shoot look,’ and then when you take it into a color-timing session, push the envelope, and kick it back to the powers that be, they’re like, ‘What the f--- is this?’ But when you have a LUT that looks as close to the final image as possible, it makes everyone more comfortable from the jump.”
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Red Epic Dragon, Blackmagic Cinema Camera Zeiss Compact Prime, Compact Zoom; Vantage Film Hawk V-Lite; Canon L; Lensbaby Composer Pro PL
Planet Stephen F. Windon ASC, ACS joins director Justin Lin to bring digital acquisition, ambitious in-camera effects and frenetic action to Star Trek Beyond. By Michael Goldman •|•
irector Justin Lin and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS faced a significant question upon stepping aboard Star Trek Beyond, the latest cinematic adventure of the starship Enterprise and its intrepid crew. With a mere 31⁄2 months before the start of production when they inherited the project, the new recruits had to decide quickly whether to retain the visual template established by director J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC on Star Trek (AC June ’09) and Star Trek Into Darkness (AC June ’13), or to move into undiscovered country. The feature sees our heroes stranded on an alien planet where they find themselves at the mercy of the villainous Krall (Idris Elba), who hisses at Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) that “this is where the frontier pushes back.” Expressing no interest in making nice with the United Federation of Planets, the reptilian humanoid proceeds to hunt down the Enterprise crew. Since Beyond was the first in this series of rebooted Star
Unit photography by Kimberley French, SMPSP, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Trek features to take place entirely in deep space, the director and cinematographer — with Abrams’ blessing — felt empowered, from a visual standpoint, to do their own thing. “Our interpretation of Star Trek was a bit different for this chapter,” Lin affirms. “[The crew has] been in space for more than two years, so we felt a different feel was appropriate.” Specifically addressing the outerspace imagery, the director continues, “Stephen and I agreed that the idea of someone [theoretically being able to] operate the camera and shoot the action would be important on this movie — if you couldn’t get the shot if you were actually filming in space, then you can’t
Opposite, from left: The crew of the starship Enterprise — including Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), McCoy (Karl Urban), Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) — find themselves perilously outmatched in Star Trek Beyond. This page, top: The villainous Krall (Idris Elba) threatens Kirk. Middle: Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) lends welcome aid to Kirk and co. Bottom: Cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS (right) and director Justin Lin find their frame.
Windon’s crew outfitted the Enterprise sets almost entirely with LED lighting, enabling quick and highly controllable changes from the normal look (top) to red alert (bottom).
get much emotion out of it. So we developed a feel and aesthetic from the practical sets, and [stayed] disciplined, creating shots out of [what is real] to begin with, even if they are full or partial CG.” 32
Lin adds that Windon “knows me so well, [and] speaks the same language as me. I needed someone I already had shorthand with on this kind of timeline, and Stephen is brilliant at American Cinematographer
coming up with solutions.” Longtime collaborators on the Fast and Furious franchise, Lin and Windon opted to shoot their sci-fi adventure on Arri Alexa XT cameras in open-gate mode, recording ArriRaw data to Codex XR Capture Drives — along with a limited amount of drone-based imagery on Red Epic Dragons, recording 6K Redcode Raw to RedMags — which solidified Beyond as the first digitally captured feature in Star Trek movie history. “I felt we had to shoot digital,” Windon relates. “I liked the idea of having the immediacy of seeing what we were going to get while still on set. It was also a result of the short prep time; there was not a lot of time to do tests, and [I had] just shot Furious 7 with the Alexa. I had great familiarity with the Alexa sensor, and given all of the visual effects and what I had read of the story, I felt it would be the right choice. Justin readily embraced it, even though it was his first time shooting a feature with 100-percent digital acquisition.” In terms of camera style, the
primary overlap between the previous two Star Trek films and Beyond was the use of anamorphic lenses. The filmmakers opted for two sets of Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic (T1.9) lenses, ranging from 35mm-135mm, and shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. “I really liked the Master Anamorphics,” Windon says. “We have a lot of specular lighting in this movie; I wanted lights to ‘smash’ the lens, especially on the bridge of the Enterprise before the emergency redalert look kicked in. Shooting at a Tstop of around T2.8, I really liked the shallow focus, and the bokeh and oval shapes when the backgrounds were defocused behind our characters’ closeups.” The production also tested the 19-36mm Arri Anamorphic Ultra Wide Zoom (T4.2) prototype. A set of Zeiss Compact Primes was employed for drone work. First AC Gregory Irwin praises the Master Anamorphics for their “perfect optical qualities,” adding that “we were slinging the cameras around left and right — and not very tenderly
Gimbaled, rotating sets — referred to as “shaker decks” by key grip Kim Olsen — were built onstage at Vancouver Film Studios and used to great effect for scenes of the Enterprise under attack.
— but the lenses held up perfectly, without one issue. It meant we would not be going with the well-known Panavision anamorphic look, so those lens flares [that were featured in the www.theasc.com
previous movies] weren’t going to happen.” Irwin further notes that Windon chose Arri/Zeiss Master Prime spherical lenses in the 12mm21mm range, as well as the Arri/Zeiss August 2016
Color as Through-Line
t press time, Star Trek Beyond was hurtling toward a deadline of its own, and colorist Tom Reiser of Deluxe’s EFilm had just launched full-bore into the project’s digital intermediate. Since many of the visual effects were still in the works, Reiser was starting out by color-grading dramatic sequences. He wasn’t particularly worried about the inevitable scramble he would experience alongside director Justin Lin and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS, because Reiser had already participated in establishing the foundation for the movie’s color palette up front. Working closely with EFilm’s color-science department over the years, Reiser has developed many basic show LUTs, as he did here on Beyond. Dailies colorist John Hart of Deluxe’s EC3 dailies department had in fact used the look throughout production, and that same LUT was being employed as the foundation of the DI process. “The LUT was developed based on Stephen Windon’s style,” says Reiser, speaking from years of experience working alongside Windon on Fast and Furious movies. “Knowing he is a film guy, we wanted to keep that ‘film’ DNA — even though this movie was shot with the [Arri Alexa XT]. I describe the LUT as almost like film, but pushed a little, with more colors to choose from and stronger contrast. Having that LUT already developed helps a lot going into the DI.” Windon adds, “My main goal for color timing in general is to smooth out certain production shots that came from different environments and different countries, making it all gel — and then paying a lot of attention to detail, [especially on this movie] with all the action, visual effects and interactive light. We might be making a window or hallway darker, adjusting color temperature a little bit here or there — [with] material
coming together that was shot on different days, where lights might have been dimmed slightly differently. We have to spend a lot of time on those little things.” Reiser is performing the color grade with FilmLight’s Baselight version 4.4. Because Windon had already begun shooting Fast 8 in Atlanta when the DI commenced, the cinematographer and colorist have opted to use Deluxe’s remote collaboration system. Windon is working from Deluxe’s Atlanta facility on the weekends, viewing material streamed to him in real time and conferencing with Reiser and Lin to give notes and comments. Baselight is employed on this production by EFilm conform editor Amy Pawlowski as well. According to Reiser, another goal of the final grade is to maintain a connectivity to the two earlier Star Trek movies directed by J.J. Abrams and shot by Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC — and colored at Deluxe’s Company 3 by ASC associate Stefan Sonnenfeld — even though Beyond ’s overall visual style is different. “The challenge is to [create] a naturalistic feeling of grain,” he offers. “If you imagine Star Trek fans watching all three movies in a row, you don’t want them to feel radically different. So I expect we’ll be adding grain to lend the whole movie a more organic feel. I don’t add grain to a lot of movies I [grade] that are set in modern day, but I think
•|• that organic feeling is really important to Justin — and I now have grain tools that are really nice and precise for doing it a number of different ways. We can sometimes composite grain and do generated grain; there are a few plug-ins out there that are really great.” Another subtle element of the process will involve ensuring the color accuracy of the famous Starfleet uniforms. “We liked [the color schemes] of the first two movies,” Reiser says, “and I noticed from watching them that a lot of it came out of the production design and costumes. The fans really know those tones — they know exactly what color the shirts should be. So I expect on a final pass, I’ll be doing plenty of windows to make sure we have just the right blue and just the right red. That can actually be a big challenge in timing a movie like this — to get that stuff consistent throughout — because they shot from so many different angles, with different light, and with so much action going on.” Reiser knew that he would face a major grading challenge with a sequence featuring a swarm of ships attacking the Enterprise, and the corresponding red-alert emergency-light effect that was achieved on-set by way of complex LED techniques. He notes that difficulties arise because such sequences involve “so much atmosphere, and atmosphere doesn’t behave. Sometimes you get a lot of atmosphere and sometimes you get none. When they go to red alert, the lights drop and the ship is damaged. I’m sure I’ll be doing some keys to match practicals on cuts for that sequence, and creating plenty of windows to help out the atmosphere, [adding] contrast here and there.” —Michael Goldman
Kirk and Chekov find themselves separated from their crewmates after abandoning ship and landing on the enemy planet.
Ultra Prime 8R, for ultra-wide shots. “Steve felt it was fine to shoot spherically at times if we had to go wider,” Irwin says. Working in collaboration with digital-imaging technician Chris Cavanaugh, Irwin also benefited from the Arri Lens Data System (LDS), which permitted him to see real-time focal distance and depth-of-field data on screen, along with other metadata such as lens size, T-stop and distance, for greater exposure control. “That helped Greg,” Cavanaugh says, “but it also helped visual-effects wranglers to see information for their notes. Plus, that information is stored in the ArriRaw files, giving everyone access to it in the post pipeline.” A custom four-channel fiberoptic system designed by a team from Otto Nemenz connected cameras to Sony PVMA250 25" OLED monitors. Cavanaugh monitored Log C imagery at his station, and used a combination of Pomfort’s LiveGrade and Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 11 to apply a show LUT developed in partnership with EFilm colorist Tom Reiser, who would later perform the final grade. (See
sidebar, page 34.) “I also used [Blackmagic Design’s] UltraStudio hardware to capture screen shots on my cart throughout the day, for lighting and camera reference,” Cavanaugh says. “Since we had LDS on screen, those stills served as reference for T-stop, shutter and white balance, and they came in handy when shooting a scene over several weeks, on second unit and on reshoots. We would then generate a www.theasc.com
custom look for each scene using CDLs, ensuring Steve’s intention was passed to dailies and the post pipeline. For our dailies workflow, [Deluxe’s EC3 location unit] set up a [pop-up] facility at Vancouver Film Studios [where the production’s stages were located]. The editorial team was also working in the same space. Since that was our primary shooting location, our loader would simply walk camera media over for downloading, backup and archiving.” ➣ August 2016
Jaylah works alongside Kirk and his crew to come up with a plan for defeating Krall.
Star Trek Beyond was shot primarily in and around Vancouver. Remote dailies systems — with John Hart serving as dailies colorist — were set up in Vancouver and Dubai, the latter location having been used to shoot exterior and stage sequences for scenes set aboard the immense space station Yorktown. Dailies were timed with Colorfront On-Set Dailies. Opting for a constantly moving camera, the filmmakers shot most of the movie via handheld, Steadicam and cranes, making use of specially rigged remote heads. “We used cranes for big 36
sweeping moves through and around sets, but there is a ton of Steadicam in this movie,” Windon says. “Justin and I agreed that the operator should not just be someone running a camera; he needs to be a real storyteller.” The cinematographer makes special note of the filmmakers’ collaboration with Steadicam/A-camera operator Geoffrey Haley, whose expertise they enlisted while blocking scenes and framing. From the beginning, the production’s moving-camera style meant that Irwin’s focus pulling would be performed with the help of small 7.7" American Cinematographer
SmallHD OLED monitors. Thus, when the 1st AC broke his leg on the second day of production, he never lost a step. “Everything was on one little stand and I was able to sit right in front of it,” Irwin says. In a pivotal sequence, the Enterprise comes under surprise attack by Krall’s forces, who then board the vessel, forcing the crew to abandon ship. Among the most technically complex endeavors on the project, the scene inspired Lin to introduce another new element to this Star Trek series: gimbaled and rotating sets. Such dynamic environments granted the director his wish to realistically portray the unfolding disaster and its physical impact on the characters. These “shaker decks,” as key grip Kim Olsen calls them, were housed on stages at Vancouver Film Studios. The decks were built by the production’s special-effects team, led by Cameron Waldbauer, and sometimes rotated a full 360 degrees. “To facilitate the ability to mount cameras and secure dollies to the deck area on the bridge set, we had construction place steel-backed receivers into the floor in a pattern that fit the overall aesthetic of the set,” Olsen explains. “When mounting cameras to the set wasn’t on the agenda, we would poke a 50-foot Technocrane through the view-screen area.” In other cases, the operators themselves were strapped down to the spinning sets. “A lot of these sets were [employed] for frenetic fights, chases or evacuations,” Haley notes. “The challenge we had was to build camera rigs that were energetic and dynamic, but also [functional on] a set that was going to literally be challenged gravitationally. For some of it, we did a fair amount of old-school handheld by just strapping ourselves in, putting the cameras on our shoulders, and essentially going with the flow as action was happening around us. But that was not physically going to work for certain shots, and for those we had to go more high tech.” The high-tech rig that Haley refers to was a tracking system built into
the ceiling of a long, curving hallway set, where crucial scenes take place during the attack. “It was built into the rotating set with ‘super sliders,’” Irwin says, “so we could zip-line it along corridors while the set was rotating 180 degrees, like a big rotisserie.” The rig made use of a compact, gyroscopic Alpha Stabilized remote head supplied by Aris G Films in Vancouver. Irwin had previously used the head with Imax cameras when working on Interstellar, and he recommended it to Windon, who quickly decided to make it “the default remote head for the entire movie,” the 1st AC notes. “The Alpha Head is robust, small, and can take that ‘abuse’ for action photography. And it’s easier for this kind of work because it is a smaller package than some of the other heads we might typically use — [and has] outstanding stabilization.” Haley was also a big fan of the Alpha head “because I could happily operate from outside the gimbaled set with a remote set of wheels, and yet make the camera move extremely fast,”
The production crew shoots a large day-exterior scene in which Krall’s forces round up the Enterprise crew, including Uhura (Zoë Saldana, bottom left) and Sulu.
he says. “We were using the third axis of the Alpha head, sometimes just to stay level with gravity and allow actors to seem like they were climbing walls, essentially giving us the ability to create different effects. When one has to do whip pans and other precise, quick www.theasc.com
movements [with a remote head], there can be a slight, built-in delay in the transmission. I’ve learned from experience [on the Fast and Furious movies] to anticipate the action so I will not be late to the party.” Also central to the illusion was a August 2016
Right: Scotty assesses the situation alongside Keenser (Deep Roy), his long-suffering fellow engineer. Below: Jaylah eyes Scotty’s progress on a console.
new lighting scheme for the familiar ship’s interior. Referring to the sets Abrams’ team had previously used, Windon says the Beyond crew “basically rebuilt them so we could utilize LED lighting. With all the movement and shaking of the sets on the gimbals and motion base, we removed all the fluorescent lighting and fixtures behind the consoles that had originally been on the bridge set. It was a conscious effort to have more movement and blinking light 38
on the bridge deck when the systempower failures and emergency lights kick in. My rigging gaffer, Jarrod Tiffin, was very clever in designing all that new lighting, which we could wirelessly control.” Older versions of the consoles “were built to be on or off,” Tiffin says. “They came with [LED bulbs] for backlight, but it was per console on [a single] line, with no separation for movement, and the LED elements that American Cinematographer
did move were just on and had no control. For this movie, we mapped out each console and isolated all the different gauges and elements, so that each one could now dim on its own. When the crew got hit, you could now have some great effects happen, instead of the whole console just flickering.” Gaffer David Tickell adds that shooting digitally with the Alexa provided additional incentive to make liberal use of LED lighting technology. “The challenge with a digital camera is finding a balance to the levels of light,” he says. “That is where LED can play an important role. With the products available, you can run from 100 percent down to almost 0 without it affecting the quality of light. In fact, other than a few traditional movie lights on the bridge, the Enterprise was almost entirely lit with built-in LEDs.” The production used a wide range of LED sources — including panels, tubes, lanterns and tape — from multiple manufacturers. Tiffin created a sophisticated networking method, consisting of both wireless and fiber-based transmission systems for LED lighting on all sets,
giving the filmmakers full creative control over light movement and other subtleties. “We designed nodes throughout the set to max out certain areas due to the high volume of DMX slots needed for LED,” Tiffin says. “It was all brought back to Gigabyte switches, where we could drop Cat5e lines down so the board could be moved and plugged into the full network. We also ran a Wi-Fi signal from the console so that we could see what our program was doing, due to the many factors that could change, which would have been impossible to accomplish from the desk. We used Wireless Solution’s W-DMX G4 series BlackBox F-2 G4 MK2 transmitters and Micro F-1 Lite G4 transmitters for wireless transmission. For receivers, we used the Micro R-512 Lite G4. The Enterprise bridge alone had 11 wireless universes, and 66 with the hard-wired elements.” The curved hallway of the ship’s saucer section was built on 80'-long rotators capable of tilting 180 degrees left or right. For the enemy’s attack on the ship, red-alert lighting was generated in this hallway with an interactive LED scheme that complements the iconic, haunting audio alarm that Star Trek fans have come to know. Tiffin explains that the red-alert lighting was accomplished with RGB PixelPro strip technology and complex programming techniques, which “allowed light to move directionally down the hallways, helping to create a sense of depth while also adding to the confusion of the redalert situation.” Windon adds, “We literally go to black, and then a red wave of light moves through the hallway, giving the sensation of movement, rather than simply having red lights flashing. They are like a warp — or waves — of red light, about 6 feet long, that travel all the way around the hallway, disappear, and are then followed by another one a second or two later.” The attack on the Enterprise also required a great deal of CG work, created by Double Negative under the supervision of Peter Chiang. For this
sequence, as well as many others, extensive previsualization was performed by a split team of artists from vendor Proof Inc. and production company Bad Robot, with oversight by previs supervisor Alex Vegh. Previs work was imperative to ensuring that Windon’s camera style was seamlessly reproduced when CG elements and sequences were introduced. Lin emphasizes that he applied
the same basic approach to designing Beyond ’s set pieces that he has for years on Fast and Furious movies. “But instead of talking to a second-unit director,” he notes, “I’m talking to the visual-effects supervisor, and using all the same terms and language. The camera lens, the camera moves — it is all designed. And to make that work, Alex Vegh got involved very early in the process, when we first began writing the script, to help
A crane-mounted camera tracks a wire-rigged Boutella for a scene in which her character plummets toward the ground.
us design it correctly.” “Previs was an ongoing collaboration,” Vegh says, “with different iterations based on adjustments they might make while shooting that could help us be more precise — or new ideas we might come up with that could help them during shooting.” A CG element essential to the
attack sequence was Krall’s squadron of “swarm ships,” each carrying a small group of invaders, which the villain dispatches to swarm, latch onto and breach the Enterprise. “We had a really great team that helped develop certain [visual effects], including the swarmship effect,” Vegh enthuses. “We studied starling murmurations [as the birds fly]
in a group across the sky, and schools of fish. [We examined] their behavior, how they move, how it looks graceful — and yet when you are in the middle of it, it is just madness. The swarm-ship assault was based on that idea.” Practical effects also played a significant role in creating elements for the assault. At one point, for example, a swarm ship crashes through the hull of the Enterprise, bursts into a hallway, and exits through the opposite wall, sucking crewmembers out into space. Windon explains that the sequence was executed by pulling an actual swarm-ship — “which was the size of a shipping container!” — through a set wall. The ship had a steel reinforced “beak” and was constructed on a mechanical rail, driven by a large ratchet system. The filmmakers shot the stunt with an Alexa that rotated 180 degrees around the swarm ship, with the camera on a motion-control rig to enable them to do multiple passes.
“It went through much like a torpedo would,” Windon says. “We did a lot of that kind of in-camera stuff. We would put multiple cameras on a stunt like that and then clone it digitally so that it could be reused or turned in another direction and put way down in the background of the hallway. Peter Chiang and his team could then use all those elements to build the big-scale shots that Justin was after.” Beyond also features its share of action on solid ground, including a tricked-out, Fast and Furious-style motorcycle chase on the alien planet. The highly choreographed sequence was shot on a large set representing Krall’s lair, built on top of an abandoned quarry outside Vancouver. The production used various camera-rig combinations — from a 50' Technocrane on a Taurus base, to a 73' Chapman/Leonard Hydrascope on an Ultra Maverick base, to wire-cam rigs, to cameras mounted on dirt bikes and electric and gas-
powered ATVs. One particular ATV carried a Libra Head to get close-ups of Chris Pine as he tore up the track on the quarry set. “We also had a 40-by-60 overhead on a 200-ton crane for sun control,” Olsen says, “as well as eight 20by-40s on 12-ton Pettibones for traveling greenscreens.” Drones captured aerial POVs for the motorcycle sequence as well. According to Olsen, such sequences were so numerous throughout the production that innovation became a daily occurrence. For example, to save time working with greenscreen, the crew made extensive use of Aircover Inflatables Airwalls, which won an Academy Scientific and Technical Achievement Award earlier this year. “Camera-traveler [powered camera sliders] were also cool rigs that we used,” he adds. “Mechanical effects designed and installed them into the rotisserie hallway set, and my rigger, Dave McIntosh, devised them for other sets as well.
Specifically, they were used on a 200ton crane for the saucer-section slide sequence. With that rig, we could position the 140-foot slider anywhere we needed to — over the set, beside it or on it, and leading, following or in profile — as the scene required and within just minutes. This allowed Justin and Steve to get many angles quickly, and reset extremely fast.” ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT, Red Epic Dragon Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic, Master Prime, Ultra Prime; Arri Anamorphic Ultra Wide Zoom; Zeiss Compact Prime
Bourne Barry Ackroyd, BSC brings a documentary sensibility to the action-thriller Jason Bourne. By Phil Rhodes •|•
f you want people to believe what you’re doing when it’s a fiction, you shouldn’t be trying too hard to distract them from that truth,” begins Barry Ackroyd, BSC. The cinematographer is speaking with AC about Jason Bourne, his latest collaboration with director Paul Greengrass. The feature sees the return of Matt Damon as the titular hero, putting him alongside co-stars Alicia Vikander and series-stalwart Julia Stiles to explore the dark secrets of Bourne’s difficult past. 42
Ackroyd’s approach will be well known to anyone familiar with his previous work alongside Greengrass: United 93 (AC June ’06), Green Zone (AC April ’10) and Captain Phillips (AC Nov. ’13). “Paul and I are so much on the same wavelength, there’s hardly any conversation necessary,” the cinematographer offers. “The reason we get on so well is that we have a very straightforward kind of creed, which is to keep it simple. We both come out of a documentary-style background. Documentary is our inspiration. “I was shooting documentaries and some music videos in the Seventies and early Eighties, and I’d assisted on many documentaries,” Ackroyd says of his own background. In his documentary work, he found himself confronting difficult subjects. One project covered the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, during which members of the British Army killed unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland; another examined the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people were killed in a human crush at the eponymous football stadium in Sheffield, England. “My break into [narrative] filmmaking was Ken Loach
Unit photography by Jasin Boland, SMPSP; Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP; and Dawn Jones, courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Opposite and this page, top: The CIA’s most lethal former operative (Matt Damon) is drawn out of the shadows to uncover hidden truths about his past — and crosses paths with agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) — in the latest chapter of the Bourne franchise, Jason Bourne. Bottom: Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, BSC (left) and director Paul Greengrass (center) discuss a scene.
— social realism, natural ways of capturing things, simplicity of style,” Ackroyd adds. “I tended towards British documentary camera style, which means long lens, very observational, with a kind of intimacy we’re good at getting, [and Loach] knew my background with social conscience.” Preparatory work on Jason Bourne began in early June 2015. Despite the scale of the film, Ackroyd and Greengrass worked hard to maintain their documentary style, trying to “rein everything in, to stop thinking it’s a huge film,” the cinematographer recalls. “Paul asked me to write a piece to send to Universal, which would be our mission statement about how the film would look.” The resulting document referenced films such as The Parallax View and The French Connection. However, Ackroyd feels that these features had in turn been influenced by the work of documentarians Richard Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker. Ackroyd’s favorite films include Pennebaker’s Dont Look Back, the 1967 Bob Dylan tour documentary; and Robert Drew’s 1960 political documentary Primary, with cinematography by Leacock and Albert
Maysles. “These were the first films to set the camera completely free in terms of movement, and that in itself is a political statement,” Ackroyd enthuses. “Once they put the camera on their shoulder, they walked into this world of truth.” For Bourne, the cinematographer notes, “We shot a lot, but we still used technique. Occasionally we used dollies and even cranes, but we mostly put the camera in the hand. You get into the story by being physically there; we followed the chase and we followed the story.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bourne was shot with “three and sometimes four www.theasc.com
cameras,” says Ackroyd, who operated one of them. He avoids formally designating A, B and C cameras, with the idea that every frame of footage from every camera is potentially a contribution of equal value. “I have a mind-set that we’re shooting 100 percent. Every moment, every frame is crucial to this film. People say, ‘Why are you doing this running around? They’re only going to use six frames.’ The answer is, if you know which six frames they are, well, you can shoot six frames!” Principal photography began on Tenerife in August 2015, with the Spanish island doubling for Athens, August 2016
To Be Bourne
Top: Bourne reunites with Nicky (Julia Stiles). Middle and bottom: Ackroyd and crew shoot scenes for an action sequence set in Greece.
Greece. Moving to the U.K., the production proceeded to shoot locations in London and interiors at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, then moved on to Berlin and Washington, D.C., all before the end of the year. Sequences set on the Las Vegas Strip went before the camera in January 2016, with some final photography in the U.K. in February. Throughout this schedule, the production maintained “predominantly British crew wherever we went,” notes Ackroyd. Core collaborators included Greengrass regulars such as editor and co-writer Christopher Rouse, and coproducer and 1st AD Chris Carreras. Ackroyd’s team of operators included Christopher TJ McGuire, who also operated Steadicam; longtime collaborator Oliver Driscoll; and Josh Medak, an American who was brought on for the Las Vegas shoot. The operators frequently switched out camera positions in order to bring a fresh approach to each angle. “Often you rotate around,” Ackroyd explains. “[Greengrass] might say, ‘Barry, take that position and do it your way.’” One memorable piece of direction, however, came toward the end of the shoot at the end of a long day; the cinematographer remembers the director saying, “I can see just what you’re thinking when I look at the shot. You’re not thinking the right thing.” The filmmakers inevitably embraced the happy accidents of handheld camerawork, but without making any attempt to cause them deliberately. “The first thing I tell people is, ‘Don’t get hung up on right and wrong. Just try,’” says Ackroyd. “It’s often the time you’re trying hardest when you get the magic. If you f--- it up on purpose it will look like that, but if you really try hard and it’s on the edge, that’s when it’s exciting. That’s the stuff that Chris [Rouse] will pick.” Regarding formats, Ackroyd says the original intention was to shoot entirely on film, but with the final script it became clear that there would be significant night exteriors with complex stunts and physical effects. Bourne was therefore shot approximately half-and-
half on film and digitally. For the film portions, the production shot both 4-perf 35mm and Super 16mm, using Aaton Penelope and XTR Prod cameras, respectively, and framing for the 2.39:1 aspect ratio; Ackroyd shot with Kodak Vision3 500T 5219/7219 for interiors and 250D 5207/7207 for day exteriors. The 16mm stock “was used for flashbacks and some elements of the Athens riot sequence,” Driscoll notes. Arri Alexa XT digital cameras were employed “for the night stuff,” the cinematographer explains. “It comes from the second unit wanting to shoot digitally so they could have instant replay on the technical stuff, and multiple cameras.” The Alexas recorded ArriRaw files to internal Codex XR Capture Drives. Film negative was processed at I Dailies and scanned at Pinewood Digital, the latter of which provided dailies in Pix format. Clive Noakes served as dailies colorist. Second-unit cinematographer Igor Meglic, ZFS — whose history with Ackroyd began on the 2012 crime thriller Contraband — added other cameras beyond the Alexa. “The reason I usually have to go to different cameras is because we either need a lot of them or they’re in harm’s way,” says Meglic. “Once you start to bring in six or eight additional cameras, it’s a cost thing.” Red Epic Dragon units were used mainly for plate photography in vehicles, with Canon’s Cinema EOS C500 used for other vehicle and handheld work. For applications requiring an ultralightweight camera, such as helmet mounting, Meglic opted for Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera fitted with Kowa 8.5mm glass. “It’s a pretty amazing little camera,” he notes. “Weightwise, it was little more than an iPhone!” The 2nd unit often recorded internally — particularly in the case of the XT and Dragon — while external Codex recorders were sometimes used for the Dragon, C500 and Pocket Cinema Camera. “When needed, we did it both ways,” says Meglic. “We did vibration tests, [and] I was a little nervous, but it turned out we never had a problem.” For large sequences such as the Las
Top: Agent Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Lee discover that Bourne is back. Middle: Ackroyd, Greengrass and crew line up the camera for a scene with Vikander aboard a plane. Bottom: Bourne confronts Dewey.
Keeping It Real
ith their dim ambience and absence of natural light, many color-correction facilities feel subterranean. The rooms at Goldcrest in London’s Soho district actually are underground, however, and it’s here that AC finds colorist Rob Pizzey working with cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, BSC on the final grade for Jason Bourne. Pizzey’s credits alongside Ackroyd and director Paul Greengrass include both Green Zone (AC April ’10) and Captain Phillips (AC Nov. ’13). Pizzey sits at the familiar hardware console of the DaVinci Resolve color-correction system. The image currently under discussion is projected onto a screen approximately 20' wide by a Barco DP4K-P projector in 4K resolution, and depicts Matt Damon, as Bourne, moving down what looks like a public street, although the response to that idea is that most of the people in frame are extras. Pizzey calls up a vertical ellipse and expands it to encompass Damon, confirming the choice with the cinematographer. “Is that all right, Barry?” asks Pizzey. “I just darkened the outside so he stands out a bit more.” The apparent simplicity of the situation belies a lot of work behind the scenes. “I had two weeks prep before Barry came in,” the colorist relates. “But being such a big film, some of that went out the window.” Much of Jason Bourne was acquired on film, using two different film stocks, each in two different gauges. Additionally, specific scenes were shot digitally, with several types of digital cameras. For this reason it was decided to use the film color space as the common DI color space. The film material was scanned at 4K resolution on Goldcrest’s two Arriscan film scanners, which were calibrated and set up to 46
capture the extended density range of the Kodak Vision3 stock. The digitally originated material is kept in raw format throughout the DI process to give Pizzey and Ackroyd the maximum flexibility during the grade. With the right color science and grainmanagement tools, the Goldcrest team notes, the film- and digital-originated shots match very closely. During preproduction, Pizzey recalls, “Barry came in and we did some extensive tests on the grade, with each of the different formats, and with de-grain and re-grain.” Given Ackroyd’s tendency to stay away from complex on-set monitoring strategies, Pizzey offers, “we set an overall look, trying to keep things simple. Barry and the team just get on and shoot it, and they know how much we can change if we need to later on.” As the edit has been moving at full speed, the colorist continues, “we’ll grade a scene, and when we go over it the next day, certain shots will have been trimmed.” At press time, final visualeffects delivery is due on June 17. “That’s going to be a manic 24 hours,” Pizzey admits. “All the background plates should be tweaked already, but until the final shots are there, you can’t make your final grade. “There’s one scene toward the end,” the colorist adds. “It was shot quite warm, and I think when Paul first saw American Cinematographer
it, he said, ‘No, I want it grittier. Let’s have it cooler.’ Obviously, if it’s warm and then they want it blue, we take all the warmth out of it and there’s not a lot of light — it gets very dark. To cut a long story short, it stayed dark like that for about three weeks while we were doing screenings. It was too dark. So we decided, ‘Let’s go back to how it was shot, how Barry intended it.’ Paul saw it today and loved it.” One of the most challenging sequences in terms of matching, Pizzey notes, is a chase scene set at night. “There’s smoke and fire, and there were a number of shots where the continuity of smoke wasn’t as even as it could have been due to the multiple cameras,” he explains. Rectifying this situation, Pizzey recalls, required him to “find a way of using the grading kit to balance up the shots, to help them feel as if the smoke’s there — a few tricky little windows and messing around with contrast. It works pretty well. We might have a bit of help from visual effects toward the end, but we ran it this morning and it looked pretty good.” AC ’s visit came “halfway through the main work of grading,” Pizzey says. “We had Paul in the suite yesterday. There are a couple of scenes remaining to change, but the color base is looking good.” The colorist’s approach seems well matched to that of both Greengrass and Ackroyd. “I listen to the directors of photography, what they’ve exposed, and how they’ve shot and lit it,” Pizzey says. “I’ll always do my first pass the way they intended it to look. Then, if anyone wants it differently, we use all the tools. I try to be a traditional, old-fashioned color timer, to keep it real.” — Phil Rhodes
To Be Bourne
Bourne fights his way through Athens and escapes on a motorbike.
Vegas car chase, up to 28 camera bodies were available for use — although that many never rolled simultaneously — predominantly fitted with the same kind of lenses used by the main unit. Meglic notes, “A couple of times [during the London portion of the shoot] we did ask if we could borrow a lens or two, and they were always very nice about that!” Given the chosen style, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ackroyd describes himself as “a zoom person.” He singles out the “beautiful” Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm (T2.8) zoom, noting, “It’s like my eye, my brain. When something takes your interest from across the street, you don’t see it in the same way as when you’re close to something. You can exclude things and concentrate.” The extensive lens package also included Angenieux’s Optimo 15-40mm (T2.6) zoom; Fujinon’s 19-90mm (T2.9) Cabrio zoom; True Lens Services’ 80200mm (T2.8) Morpheus, a rehoused Nikon stills zoom; and Panavision’s Primo 135-420mm (T2.8) zoom. The 35mm-format prime-lens package comprised Arri/Zeiss Ultra Primes ranging from 20mm up to 180mm (all T1.9) as well as Zeiss Super Speeds from www.theasc.com
To Be Bourne
A camera vehicle fitted with an Edge Arm is employed to capture a car-chase sequence through Las Vegas.
18mm up to 85mm (all T1.3). The production’s Super 16mm cameras were paired with Canon 8-64mm (T2.4) and 11-165mm (T2.5) zooms. Any concerns about matching the various cameras and lenses were subordinate to ease of handling, Ackroyd says. “I’ve never been one to get too hung up on the technical side of what the lens may or may not do. Of course, if you were making a movie that was highly glossy and intentionally stylized, you’d have to pay more attention to that.” Ackroyd refers to the widescreen 48
aspect ratio as “the best-looking format for this type of film. It fills the screen; when they open up the curtains in the theater, you know you’re going on a journey. It’s about immersion.” When AC visited the grading suite at Goldcrest, Ackroyd was working alongside colorist Rob Pizzey (see sidebar, page 46). Referring to a shot of Damon’s character ascending an escalator from an underground railway station, Ackroyd details his on-set working method. “I would be shooting this,” he says. “My left hand is [positioned as though to play] a American Cinematographer
trumpet: I’ve got my thumb on the iris, index finger on the zoom and ready to grab onto the focus if necessary. The focus puller’s in charge, but I might want to touch it.” Ackroyd prefers the focus puller to remain beside the camera with a mechanical follow focus. “If you do a remote focus, you’ve got less relationship with the distance,” the cinematographer opines. “If you’re all together, you’re not trying to triangulate the position; the focus puller needn’t be looking at the focus ring or marks. If you’re using lots of cameras and one is using a remote focus 5 feet from the camera, you start taking up space for the story.” Similarly, Ackroyd avoids bulking the camera out with more than the minimum accessories. “I don’t use the big handles, the bullhorns. I have three points of contact, as I would in documentary: shoulder, handle, and eye to the eyepiece.” Gaffer Harry Wiggins, another veteran of Green Zone and Captain Phillips, describes the crew’s overall approaches for day and night work on Bourne. “We would light our day interiors, but on our day exteriors, we would run it pretty much as a commando unit.”
The second unit captures Bourne driving a Dodge Charger in Vegas.
Conversely, he continues, “a night exterior over a big part of a city requires a lot of lighting.” Flexibility was key. “We had to have a plan that wouldn’t tie us down,” he attests. “We had to put everything on rooftops, but we couldn’t ‘own’ the rooftops, or the spaces for cabling and generators, all the time, and we weren’t quite sure what streets would work for us until we [arrived on location] and started shooting. We had to have a system that meant we could move quite quickly from one roof to another.” Lighting equipment for night exteriors in Tenerife was almost exclusively tungsten, supplied by Panalux London. The company was able to supply traditional filmmaking equipment in the form of 5K Fresnels and, via its broadcast and entertainment division, large numbers of Par cans — up to 200. “We had another 80 short-nosed Par cans,” Wiggins recalls. “We’d put a pair on each lamppost; generally we’d run those at about 66 percent. “We gelled [the Pars] with a straw tint or a half CTO,” the gaffer continues. “I love using Par cans because they are lightweight, robust, [and] they have a dirty beam with a lumpy shape to it, [which] feels more authentic. If you use a Fresnel, sure you have a lovely falloff on the beam, but it’s false.” When more firepower was
needed, the production used the LRX Scorpion, a 23.4K cluster of 36 650-watt DWE bulbs with remotely controllable robotic pan and tilt; these were mounted on cherry pickers to provide backlight as required. Additionally, Wiggins notes, an LED Flyer — a boom-mounted bi-color LED soft light manufactured by BBS Lighting — was used on the ground, close to camera, with “a couple of California Sunbounce swatters to take out ugly shadows from street lamps we couldn’t turn off.” The main unit used up to six generators on the Tenerife portion of the shoot, with two at 200K, two at 110K, and “another couple of Spanish ones that were probably 60s,” the gaffer recalls. Including lighting-desk operators and standby scaffolders, Wiggins’ crew totaled 12. “It was lean,” he says. “My guys ran a lot of stairs at night.” A riot sequence set in Athens presented its own special requirements. “Panalux built some LED cubes,” says Wiggins. “They over-cranked the LEDs so they were super-bright. We ran them on V-lock batteries, put them down in the crowd and fired them from a remote trigger via the desk.” This and other applications used wireless DMX control. Also, the production “had to generate fire effects for burning cars, explosions, Molotovs,” Wiggins adds. For those 49
To Be Bourne
The crew readies a scene in which Bourne searches for digital information.
effects, he notes, “we had a set of Howie battens with MR16 bulbs in a frame.” Light from a helicopter was either performed for real, using a Nightsun searchlight, or simulated with MoleRichardson 4K daylight beam projectors on rooftops. The CIA “hub” seen in the film was built onstage at Leavesden, where Warner Bros.’ lighting services supplied
the equipment. Wiggins describes the set as “a shell-shaped room with a tiered roof, a bit like an old cinema. On each of the three tiers of the ceiling, there was a Perspex ‘up-stand’ about 9 inches high; behind those we had a crescent of about 50 fluorescents. The set was installed in October and would stand until January; we wouldn’t be able to get up onto that roof [once shooting began], so
it made more sense to pay for the bits and build our own ‘Hipster Flos,’ rather than rent fixtures to build into the set for four months.” Commercial dimmable ballasts were used with both tungsten-balanced and blue tubes in the space. “The references we had of similar CIA installations tended to have a blue feeling,” Wiggins notes. “When we were on Captain Phillips, the combat-information center of the battleship was lit with blue tubes — something to do with maintaining night vision or keeping you awake.” The majority of Las Vegas interiors were shot at Aria resort; the hotel’s conference center was used for scenes at a trade show, with rigging work facilitated by the availability of CAD drawings that indicated the location of flying points. “You can plot out where you want stuff, then a crew will come in and put trussing in,” Wiggins relates. The final configuration involved a rig of “about 16
20-foot truss bars with Par cans to liven up this [large] space,” he adds. For another scene involving a hotel room on the 58th floor at Aria, the crew used two Digital Sputnik DS 6s — 840watt color-mixing LEDs — on a nearby rooftop to suggest lighting from the strip below. The DS 6s could be run conveniently from a nearby 60-amp supply, avoiding the inconvenience of running high-power cables from a generator located 52 floors below. Wiggins adds that for a scene set in a Las Vegas storm drain — but actually shot in an underground parking lot in the U.K. — “we used 32 Arri S60-C Skypanels and a couple of Kinos to light the storm drains in a warm, sodium-ish light. The Skypanels are fantastic; they’ll give you what a color-gelled 5K with a Chimera will, or more.” AC spoke with Ackroyd during his last few days of direct involvement with Jason Bourne, before he would move on to reteam with director Kathryn Bigelow —
with whom he had collaborated on The Hurt Locker (AC July ’09) — for her asyet-untitled project about the 1967 Detroit riot. The cinematographer and his Bourne collaborators remember a well-run production that demanded hard work but resulted in minimal stress, with a team long-experienced in working together. “There’s a group that makes this core, and we understand each other,” Ackroyd opines. “Communications are kept to a minimum. We all understand what we’re trying to do — what we’re trying to capture in each moment of the film.” Recalling the discouragement he faced early in his career when trying to bring documentary elements into narrative projects, the cinematographer adds, “I worked early on with directors who were actually kind of afraid to make the film better. I remember an editor saying, ‘Your camerawork and my editing will look s--- unless, when you do a track, you come to the end and hold it.
[Otherwise] I won’t be able to cut it.’ I said, ‘Have you not seen the films of JeanLuc Godard?’ What the cinematographer needs are directors who dare you to break the rules. Luckily, I have rarely had much trouble with that.” ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 4-perf 35mm, Super 16mm, Digital Capture Aaton Penelope, XTR Prod; Arri Alexa XT; Red Epic Dragon; Canon Cinema EOS C500 Angenieux Optimo, Fujinon Cabrio, TLS Morpheus, Panavision Primo, Arri/Zeiss Ultra Prime, Zeiss Super Speed, Canon, Kowa Kodak Vision3 250D 5207/7207, 500T 5219/7219 Digital Intermediate
Cinematographer Larkin Seiple infuses outlandish scenarios with raw beauty and vibrant color for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Swiss Army Man. By Andrew Fish •|• 52
Unit photography by Joyce Kim, courtesy of A24. Additional photos courtesy of Larkin Seiple.
tranded on a deserted island and about to do himself in, Hank (Paul Dano) spots a body (Daniel Radcliffe) that’s washed up on shore. Upon investigation, Hank discovers that the corpse’s unremitting gas can propel it through the water and, when properly harnessed, allow Hank to leave the island astride the cadaver. Back on dry land, the ostensibly deceased man — whom Hank dubs Manny — begins to show signs of life, and progressively reveals that the parts and functions of his decaying carcass in fact comprise a treasure trove of survival tools. Beneath its sophomoric surface, the crude, chimeric comedy Swiss Army Man — which won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at last February’s Sundance Film Festival — is a visually striking film about love, friendship, secrets and loneliness. “What is home?” asks Manny. “What is life?” With an abject lack of memories, Manny absorbs all that his socially awkward companion has to teach as the two journey through verdant vistas, musing upon humanity’s fixation on isolation and shame. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as “Daniels,” Swiss Army Man was shot by Larkin Seiple. Graduates of Emerson College, the three have been working together since 2011 on such projects as the decidedly strange short film Interesting Ball and the surreal, frenzied music video for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What.” “The initial thesis [of Swiss Army Man] was, ‘What if we made a movie that had the stupidest premise ever, and made it the most beautiful thing we possibly could?’” Scheinert says. “We wanted this to be a celebration of beauty and life, and meanwhile the content would be constantly subversive, weird and unpredictable. We gave Larkin that openended assignment, and that led to our concerted effort to location-scout more intensely than we ever had before, and get the nicest lenses we’d ever shot on.” “I had a lot of questions,” Seiple recalls of his first look at the Swiss Army Man script. “How were we going to make
Opposite and this page, top: On a deserted island and desperately lonely, Hank (Paul Dano) befriends a corpse he dubs Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), who turns out to be just the right multipurpose tool to free them both from their physical and emotional predicaments in Swiss Army Man. Left: Cinematographer Larkin Seiple (right), Dano (left) and Radcliffe ready a scene in which Manny prepares to launch a makeshift grappling hook from his mouth.
Top: Hank attempts to get a cell-phone signal. Bottom, from left: Dano, co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and Radcliffe prep a scene in which Hank and Manny have tumbled down a hill. Dayexterior forest scenes throughout the production were lit almost entirely with natural light.
it believable? How would we make this relationship work between a man and a corpse? My first inclination was to fight against the absurdity of the film by grounding it in a stark environment, using hard sunlight and desaturating most of the colors so it wouldn’t lean toward fantasy. But as the project evolved, we instead focused on supporting the absurdity of the visuals and structuring them around the emotional journey of the film. We started bleak and 54
minimalist, with flat and locked-off camera angles and very blunt framing — and then, as the story unfolds and Manny comes to life, we introduced more dramatic dolly pushes, whip-pans and handheld. The scenes soon become lit with rich amber fires, moonlight and flares. “Ultimately, the approach to avoid the feeling of a slapstick comedy was to let it be raw and underexpose it,” Seiple continues, “and to shoot anamorphic to American Cinematographer
break it up and give it a texture. We love the work [cinematographer] Tim Orr did on All the Real Girls [AC April ’03]; there’s a beautiful naturalism with anamorphic lenses. For the more fantastical sequences, we referenced the vibrant colors and dynamic camera movement of Dean Cundey [ASC] on earlier Spielberg films like Hook or Jurassic Park.” Swiss Army Man was shot primarily with an Arri Alexa XT, which was set to 4:3 sensor mode and recorded ArriRaw to Codex XR Capture Drives for a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The XT was most often fitted with Cooke Anamorphic/i prime lenses; Seiple preferred a 50mm focal length, and 75mm for close-ups. “On anamorphic, 50mm is great because it’s intimate but wide at the same time. Especially shooting in the forest, you want to be able to see the environment and really take in where you are. Even on the close-up work, we wanted the backgrounds to be visible, as opposed to a longer-lens, dramatic ‘doc’ vibe. We tried to stay around T2.8. It helped with edge sharpness on the Cooke anamorphics, but still kept some of the beautiful aberrations. That didn’t make it easy on first AC Matthew Sanderson, as 2.8 on anamorphic is quite shallow.” Cameras were provided by Eastside Camera Services. The production limited lens filtration to Mitomo True NDs, which are Seiple’s “preferred choice,” he says. “When you stack most ND [filters], they tend to shift magenta or green, but True NDs shift the color cooler or warmer if you stack them, which is much easier to correct.” Shooting on a tight schedule predominantly on practical forest locations, the filmmakers had little time for lighting. “The plan was to try to control it to a degree,” Seiple says. “The entire scout was overcast, which was completely workable, but by the time we started shooting, we had beautiful, vibrant sun every day. Trying to control that would have slowed us down too much, so we just picked our angles and went for it. We had several [Arri] M90s, but by the end of week one we decided to dispense with them for the most part and try to time it out so every-
thing was backlit — and if the sun went away, it wasn’t the end of the world. We tried to add negative fill when we could, or an eye light for crucial moments, but the pace was so breakneck that we tended to embrace the locations we chose. The movie was shot almost entirely with natural light.” “I did not appreciate enough, until we started shooting, just how important scheduling weather would be,” Scheinert notes with a laugh, “but Larkin did. He worked with our first AD [ Jesse Fleece] intensely, scheduling and rescheduling each day — because he knew that his main light source was out of his control — and that paid off a lot.” With inherently variable light from scene to scene and even shot to shot, Company 3 colorist Sofie Friis Borup’s assistance in post was another essential element in maintaining lighting continuity. Borup offers, “When the sun hits a face and in the next shot the face is in shadow, we had to bring the shadow up a bit and the sun spot down, and make it as consistent as possible.” “Sofie is an amazing colorist,” Seiple enthuses. “We spent ages coloring this movie because of all the visual effects that had to be dropped into it. We colored three times [at Company 3’s New York facility], and then she flew out to L.A. twice. It was this hopscotch of a coloring session that [proceeded periodically] over the course of a month.” Day exteriors were captured at 1,600 ISO to provide latitude in the highlights. In that way, Seiple explains, “you have 8 stops above exposure and 5 stops below, which helped us out a lot. For the night work, we went back to 800 [ISO], as I tend to expose night scenes quite dark but wanted the latitude to print up, which we did end up doing. I could [expose normally] but know that I still had information there for the worst-case scenario.” For the bulk of the predominantly single-camera shoot, Seiple served as operator on dolly, slider, jib and handheld work, with Dana Morris traveling in to operate Steadicam when required. The production’s preferred dolly was the J.L. Fisher Model 11, as it was small enough to
Top: Hank and Manny share one of many candid moments, in this case aboard their makeshift commuter bus, which the production’s art department built primarily with objects found in the forest. Middle: Scheinert offers direction to Dano for a scene aboard Hank and Manny’s sprucedup discarded golf cart. Bottom: Kwan, Seiple, Scheinert and 1st AC Matt Sanderson (peeking from behind) have some fun on set.
Body Language Right: Hank dresses up as “Sarah” to help super-charge Manny’s powers, a scheme that ultimately results in a quiet exchange of private thoughts. Middle: The crew readies the oddly poignant nightexterior scene. Bottom: Manny tears it up at the duo’s dance party.
fit into narrow ravines and riverbeds. What might be the movie’s signature image — Hank riding Manny across the ocean — was shot with the XT on open water in a fishing bay just south of Los Angeles. For the close-ups, “the actors were on a wide knee-board,” Seiple describes. “Our key grip, Nick Kristen, rigged truss off of the front of a flat, bottomed-out picture boat, and then dragged the line and connected them to it, [pulling] them parallel to the camera,” which was mounted to a stabilized Filmotechnic Flight Head 5 on a J.L. Fisher Model 23 Sectional Jib. “We shot most of [the close-ups] 3⁄4 frontal and 3⁄4 back,” he says. “We could swing the jib in front and from behind to get those angles. Bill Boatman was the operator on the wheels for the crane shot as I worked the zoom.” Indeed, as time constraints and logistics would not allow for lens changes during this so-called “Jet Ski” sequence, the filmmakers opted to use an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm (T2.8) 12x zoom — an unusual choice for a production shot nearly entirely on primes. The lens worked particularly well during the sequence’s wide shots, which were again captured from a boat with a jib-mounted camera, but this time track56
ing a stunt double; the double was dragged by a motorboat that was later removed in post, along with its wake. “We were about 50 yards away,” Seiple says, “doing crashzooms in and out, trying to get the shot. There’s a really fun zoom shot [that made it to the final cut] that was actually us doing a zoom-in to reframe — but we did it slow enough that the Daniels said, ‘That was amazing!’ There’s a zoom-out that they kept in the movie as well. The directors had never talked about using zooms in the movie, but they ended up being wonderful.” The slow-motion footage for the Jet Ski sequence was generally shot at 48 and 60 fps, though frame rates as high as 96 fps were employed. A day-exterior LUT was designed for the production to boost contrast and bring out “richer colors in the shadows,” Seiple says, while not clipping the highlights. “Because of the green ambience from the deep-woods foliage, our dayexterior LUT also helped suppress highlevel green saturation, which can cause the image to feel overly digital.” A slightly lower-contrast LUT was employed for night shoots for better visibility. “We had a wonderful [on-set] DIT named Matt Conrad, whom I’ve worked with for a long time and have brought onto every project I can,” the cinematographer enthuses. “We baked the look into the dailies so that everyone had a reference, and when we went to work with Sofie, she re-graded it to her look. The biggest thing that we changed was the green. We wanted the forest to have more of an emerald vibe, so we had to do a specific key just for that. Now the forest feels really lush and idyllic.” Borup adds, “We made sure things didn’t go too neon, and that all the greens and yellows in the trees didn’t get too saturated. That made a big difference in making it more filmic. [In that regard, adjusting] grain also helped.” The production used a Company 3-created grain image, which was derived from actual 35mm 500T stock. “I think it’s really important for the cinematographer to be involved [in the grade],” she continues. “It’s Larkin’s vision
Left: Kwan helps secure vines to Radcliffe’s wrists so Manny’s limp body can be puppeteered by Hank, who teaches his blankslate buddy what it’s like to go out to dinner. Below: The crew readies the “restaurant” scene.
of how the movie is supposed to be. If he couldn’t capture certain things on set, we would try to solve those problems together and possibly save what he couldn’t get on [camera]. It’s a collaboration.” Borup performed the grade in 2288x1716 resolution with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve — first with version 11, then migrating to 12 toward the end of the sessions when the facility upgraded — for a 2K DCP final deliverable. The directors and Seiple agree that the Swiss Army Man shoot saw few easy days. “Most of our locations were remote, so every 12-hour day ended up being 10 hours due to travel,” the cinematographer notes. “We had wire work, www.theasc.com
water work, a child, pyro, stunts every day, night exteriors, live animals, a bear. [Seemingly simple] scenes in the woods were complicated, with body gags and water shooting out of people’s mouths. Every day was a unique challenge.” Manny’s ability to dispense drinking water from his mouth was a liveactor gag devised by special-effects artist Jason Hamer, who was also responsible for the construction of several different Manny bodies for widely varying purposes throughout the production. The water-fountain effect is first demonstrated in a cave, in which the only interior light was a “LitePanels 1x1 Bi-Color as an eye light,” Seiple says. (The scene was shot in Hollywood’s August 2016
Right: Hank and Manny take a selfie together while on an imaginary vacation. Bottom: Seiple captures the moment with an Arri Alexa XT.
Bronson Canyon, at the same rock tunnel from which the Batmobile emerged on the 1960s Batman show.) The cinematographer explains that he obscured the discordantly arid Southern California exterior that appeared through the cave’s entrance by utilizing a “blown-out look” for day interiors, and supplemented bounced sunlight with an Arri M90 and two 800-watt Jo-Lekos. Realizing that Manny’s powers are enhanced when he experiences hope for a romantic relationship of his own, Hank sets out to help him visualize what 58
it might be like to court the woman of his dreams. To set the scene, Hank gathers up tree branches, vegetation and assorted garbage from the surrounding woods to build a mock-up of a commuter bus — a contrivance crafted by Daniels’ longtime production designer, Jason Kisvarday, and his team, primarily from items found on location in a private forest outside of San Francisco. “We tried to keep consistent light for the bus sequence,” Seiple says, “so we shot the majority of it in the morning, American Cinematographer
with sun coming in from the left, and supplementing that with an M90. Our gaffer, Matt Ardine, built his own 2-by4-foot light units — we called them ‘Matty Pads’ — which are small light boxes with LiteGear Hybrid VHO LED LiteRibbon inside that can do tungsten or daylight, with a layer of 1⁄4 Grid Cloth and an Image 80 egg crate. They used a Kino backing [plate], and we could fly them around and instantly dim them up or down without color change.” For the “magical moments” on the bus, as Seiple describes, “we switched to these really funky old JDC [Cooke] Xtal Express 35mm, 85mm and 100mm lenses.” Kwan relates, “The bokeh was all [distorted] on the edges; it felt a lot more alive and organic. I think that was something we wanted to really push forward with this film — to make a lot of the imagery and sound design evoke very primal and human physical feelings, almost evoking sense memory.” “I prefer to use older glass as opposed to a filter,” Seiple adds, “because there’s much more of an innate, otherworldly feel to it. There was a real glow.” The dreamlike imagery on the bus began with a slow, dramatic, sliderenabled pull-out on Dano, who is
Top: Hank and Manny each share an important piece of news by firelight. Bottom: Firelight on the production was enhanced by a custom-made “fire pie” — fitted with 24 MR16 100-watt bulbs and covered with chicken wire, diffusion, and red and yellow gels. “Attached to the bottom of it was a Doug Fleenor 24channel dimmer pack,” Seiple explains. “Each bulb could be on its own dimmer to add more animation to the fire.”
revealed in his makeshift “Sarah” outfit and wig. With daylight fading, an M90 was used to backlight the actor in brilliant sunlight and trigger horizontal flares, yielding a stylized beauty shot that leads into a lovingly crafted homage to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, complete with the classic dinosaur film’s iconic melody. “I didn’t think we were going to get the song,” Seiple marvels. “I was like, ‘No way will they give us the rights to use this amazing song for a movie about farts.’” The bus was ultimately required to explode, creating an ideal opportunity for Kisvarday, who specializes in practical gags. “We scored all the supports of the bus and tied ropes and strings to them, and we had an air-mortar filled with sawdust and baby powder,” Kisvarday relates of the “lo-fi” effect. “At the count of three, several people hiding off-camera tugged on their strings and pulled [about half of ] the set over, as we set off the air mortars and Larkin flashed a few lights to make it look like there was some sort of pyrotechnic explosion.” Kisvarday also designed an effect that provided the backdrop to Hank and Manny’s nighttime, airborne escape from a bear. The footage was a nightwww.theasc.com
Body Language exterior “pickup shot in my backyard,” the production designer says. “A couple friends and I built this miniature 6-foot tree and attached a cable to the top of it, and led that to a pulley attached to a branch high up in the real tree [above it].” The camera — secured on a tripod and facing up — captured the fake tree as it was lowered. Small lengths of pipe were in place to break miniature branches as the tree descended. “They later composited in the two guys flying through the tree,” Kisvarday adds. The tree was lit with ETC LED Source Fours to serve as moonlight. The sequence was shot with a Red Epic Dragon 6K fitted with Zeiss Super Speed Mark 3s. “I love miniatures,” Kisvarday continues with a laugh, “and I always try to work them into projects — usually unsuccessfully. It’s become a joke that that’s my first solution to a lot of things.” Hank and Manny’s subsequent descent through the trees necessitated the use of a chest mount in order to fit a Red Epic Dragon — shooting 6:1 Redcode Raw to 256GB Red SSDs — onto Radcliffe’s body, with a Cooke S4 25mm lens facing the actor. With the camera in place, Radcliffe stood in a darkened room surrounded by a circular rig of LED “pixel tubes,” which simulated “moon-
Hank rides Manny’s corpse like a Jet Ski. The scene was captured on open water with an Arri Alexa XT mounted to a stabilized Filmotechnic Flight Head 5 on a J.L. Fisher Model 23 Sectional Jib. While Swiss Army Man was shot primarily with prime lenses, this sequence employed an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm (T2.8) 12x zoom.
Scheinert and Seiple plan the next move.
light circling around him as though he were falling head over heels,” Seiple explains. “The tubes are RGB, have 16 pixels per meter and take DMX directly. There were six people hitting [Radcliffe] with branches, and [there was] someone behind him with a tree so that when he landed, the tree would end up against his back. We shot him against a 20-by-20 solid, as we were trying to pull it off practically.” Particularly useful for the bearattack scene were three Condors, each fitted with a theatrical moving-light rig — comprised of two Vari-Lite VL4000 Spots, two GLP Impression X4s and a wireless DMX receiver — that Ardine controlled via a GrandMa2 lighting console, and remotely via iPad or iPhone. “We never had to extend a lift up or down,” Seiple notes, “or even put a [crewmember] in it. They were all unmanned Condors, which made it a lot quicker.” Ardine notes, “The Condors were placed as a straight backlight and two kickers at 45-degree angles. The Vari-Lite 4000 Spots have a large zoom range and a long throw to light specific parts from far away. The X4s were used to wash parts of the background.” Also used for the bear scene, Seiple relates, were “two Matty Pads mounted on [a single] stand with a wireless DMX receiver so that we had a large mobile soft source.”
Sheinert credits Ardine with another night-exterior lighting array, which was used throughout the production. The co-director describes the rigging as a “lo-fi lighting grid with complex lighting setups all [linked] to a board, so that we could switch lighting cues and tweak things really quickly, after very brief dialogue with Larkin — which allowed us to shoot a pretty ambitious amount. It was a lighting grid like you would have in the studio, except he was doing it out in the woods, using speed rail or whatever we had around, or attaching [fixtures] to trees in non-invasive ways. If we had a gap in time, like a costume change, Matt could put on a little disco show to keep us all entertained.” Seiple adds that Ardine’s rig comprised “ETC Source Four Series 2 [LED] Lustr units, which were [hung] in trees or used to hit bounces that were rigged in trees. These lights have a seven-color light engine, which allows us to use it as moonlight fill for one shot or fire-flickers for another without the need to change gel. By putting a wireless DMX receiver on each light, they could float around the set and be quickly utilized anywhere.” Further, Seiple supervised the construction of a rig dubbed a “fire pie” to supplement firelight. “It was like a covered wagon,” he says, “but we built a 61
Right and bottom, left: For a nightexterior scene in which Hank and Manny are attacked by a bear, the production employed three Condors, each fitted with a theatrical movinglight rig and a wireless DMX receiver. The fire pie and two custom-made LED light pads provided illumination as well. Bottom, right: A crew member works on a Condor rig.
circle — like a pie — and we put  MR16 [100-watt] bulbs in there, and covered it with chicken wire with diffusion and red and yellow gels. It has a kind of violent flicker effect to it, but because there are so many sources, it’s also soft.” Seiple notes that an Arri Alexa Mini was used for pickup shots, including a flashback sequence of Hank on the bus, and that a Sony PMW EX3 was used for a news-footage sequence and the movie’s final shots of Manny in the ocean. When the duo suffer a perilous fall into a river, Manny reveals his ability to serve as an air tank, which obliged the filmmakers to shoot an underwater sequence in an outdoor pool about an hour north of Los Angeles. A flyswatter 62
was mounted on a Condor over the water, and M90s on stands were aimed toward the submerged actors. “We had to make it feel like a riverbed,” says Seiple, “but we couldn’t get the pool dirty because it would have required a massive cleaning fee. Instead, we layered it with black tarp [and added bits of plant material].” Underwater operator Ian Takahashi employed an Alexa XT and 25mm Cooke S4 lens encased in a HydroFlex housing for the sequence. In a comically stirring segue back to dry land, Manny launches himself and Hank above the water’s surface in a series of slow-motion shots, which were captured at the same swimming pool American Cinematographer
with a Phantom Flex4K — fitted with a Cooke S4 25mm lens — recording Phantom .cine raw files to CineMags at 2,000 fps and 2040x1152 resolution. Two stunt doubles on a wire rig were pulled upward at speed against a greenscreen and beneath lighting designed to match a plate that was shot with a Red Epic Dragon in Eureka, Calif., during initial location scouting. Contending with bright daylight at the pool, the production employed a 20'x20' Full Grid Cloth on a flyswatter over the water, and aimed two M90s diffused through an 8'x8' 1⁄4 Grid Cloth from just off camera, “to give it a little bit of glare,” Seiple notes. Following this initial burst from
the water, the production then captured the two actors themselves “cascading in slow motion over camera,” relates Seiple, who captured the shot under natural light. Seiple adds, “It’s really beautiful with the water dripping off them and falling past camera, and there’s a sun flare peeking right through them. Shooting Phantom is always a blast.” Reflecting on an arduous production that nevertheless, and by all accounts, had a distinct “summer camp” vibe, Kisvarday notes that the production’s “ambitions were always bigger than what we were actually able to do — which is a great way to [work], because you never settle and never stop trying to make things better, right up until we shoot. A whole team of people was excited about finally making this movie that we’d been talking about for years, and everyone’s enthusiasm, energy and adrenaline carried us through the project.” Kwan further opines that Swiss Army Man is about “how shame keeps us alone, isolates us and creates lonely people, and this film deals with that on the most base level. If it boils down to one thing, it’s about shame keeping us from love, and how every act of making this film is a way of us fighting back, and not being shamed — by creating these characters who have so much to be ashamed of, but allowing them to be celebrated.” To read an extended Q&A with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, visit www.theasc.com beginning in August. ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 2.39:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT, Mini; Red Epic Dragon; Phantom Flex4K; Sony PMW EX3 Cooke Anamorphic/i, S4; Angenieux Optimo; JDC Cooke Xtal Express; Innovision Probe II
Cinematographer John Guleserian crafts a subtle cinematic landscape for director Drake Doremus’ sci-fi romance Equals. By Matt Mulcahey •|•
he first sparks of attraction between two people can be stoked by the slightest of nonverbal cues — sometimes just a glance. But in the future posited by the sci-fi feature Equals, human emotions have been all but eradicated for society’s greater good. Thus, the task of expressing the burgeoning yearnings of graphic designer Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and his colleague Nia (Kristen Stewart) fell to cinematographer John Guleserian, with subtle shifts in focus, color and camera movement replacing furtive looks and secret smiles.
Equals marks the fifth feature collaboration between Guleserian and director Drake Doremus, who were once classmates at AFI. Each of their projects has featured romance as a thematic core, though their newest production ventures into unfamiliar terrain for Doremus, who is not particularly a fan of sci-fi but was drawn to the genre’s potential for metaphor. “To be totally honest, the genre at times comes across to me as being very cold, and that’s why I wanted to make a film that was ultimately very warm,” the director says. “To me the allegory is that technology pushes us further away from each other. This is a film about two people who find love and have to fight to remember how and why they feel that way. I think that relates to today’s age of dating and how many choices there constantly are.” Exploring a new genre didn’t mean abandoning Doremus and Guleserian’s penchant for low contrast and slight desaturation. As Equals colorist Aaron Peak notes, that aesthetic plays perfectly for a movie that expresses its characters’ emotions through subtle visual fluctuations. “Once you’re in that low-contrast world and there’s no black and no white, you become hyper-aware of those changes,” says Peak. Changes for Silas begin early in the movie when he develops a mysterious ailment known as “switched-on
Unit photography by Jessica Forde and Jae Hyuk Lee, courtesy of A24.
syndrome,” or “SOS,” which causes dormant emotions to bubble to the surface. The disease is initially treated pharmaceutically, but those who don’t stabilize are checked into the Den, a treatment facility where they are ultimately terminated. Citizens of the utopian society, which is known as “the Collective,” are expected to self-report the malady. Those who don’t are likely to be informed on by coworkers, neighbors and friends; thus, even when Silas and Nia become “switched-on,” they must hide their nascent feelings for fear of being exposed. Instead, those desires are expressed through subtle aesthetic shifts — for example, handheld invades the previously static camerawork, and the cool palette makes way for warmer tones. “It’s a fine line,” Guleserian notes. “You don’t want to make it an obvious thing like shifting from color to blackand-white. You don’t want the audience to see it; you want them to feel it.” At the film’s outset, the Collective’s tranquil yet sterile environments are presented in static, wide frames. But as the connection between Silas and Nia deepens, the depth of field becomes shallower, often stretching only a matter of inches in close-ups. To achieve that transition, Guleserian switched from the Arri/Zeiss Ultra Primes used in the early scenes to a set of uncoated Zeiss Super Speeds. Even when shooting the Super Speeds at a wide-open T1.3, however, the depth of field sometimes wasn’t shallow enough for the cinematographer. In those instances, he employed a set of +1, +2 and +3 Tiffen 138mm diopters. “We wanted this film to feel almost like a dream — an ethereal experience that you can feel and almost wear as the viewer,” Doremus says. “Everything is in deep focus to begin with, and then as Silas’ world becomes all about Nia, everything else just kind of fades away.” Guleserian opted to shoot Equals as a one-camera show with the Arri Alexa XT Plus, recording 3.4K ArriRaw files in Open Gate mode to
Opposite: In the feature Equals, Nia (Kristen Stewart) and Silas (Nicholas Hoult) fall in love despite their society’s strictures against emotions. This page, top: Silas worries that he and Nia will be discovered. Middle: Cinematographer John Guleserian frames a shot. Bottom: Hoult works through a scene with director Drake Doremus.
Love and Dystopia Top: Nia spends her days as a writer, a few desks over from where Silas works as a graphic designer. Middle and bottom: As he begins to feel the symptoms of “switched-on syndrome,” Silas notices that Nia also isn’t entirely in step with their coworkers.
Codex XR Capture Drives. The decision to shoot raw rather than ProRes met with the approval of Peak, as it allowed the colorist additional flexibility in post when incorporating the film’s 700 visual-effects shots. “The look of this futuristic society is so clean that the lack of the slight noise you get from shooting ProRes made sense, and also it gave us a little bit more resolution for reframing and visual-effects work,” Peak says. “It was also nice to be able to go back a few times to the raw and adjust the white balance and the ISO for certain shots. Sometimes that yields a better result than just grading those changes into a pre-baked clip.” For on-set monitoring, Guleserian largely stuck with a simple 1D LUT created by Peak to approximate the desired low-contrast, slightly desaturated look. Occasionally a situation-specific LUT was called for, as in the case of a sequence set in a tunnel that leads to the Den. “I wanted the light in that tunnel to be this certain cyan color, but the existing lighting, which we couldn’t change, was actually orange,” says Guleserian. “So I had [DIT Ivan Kovac] create a LUT that would make everything look cyan so we could monitor it that way on set.” 66
Such lengths were rarely necessary as — with the exception of Kino Flo Celebs, sunlight and existing location practicals — Guleserian shot the film largely with LED units that allowed him to dial in color and output. Principal photography was split evenly between four weeks in Japan and four weeks in Singapore. For the Japanese portion of the shoot, the locations were largely practical, a decision dictated by both financial prudence and co-production designer Tino Schaedler’s affection for the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The Ando-designed spaces — including the Awaji Yumebutai complex near Osaka and the Sayamaike Historical Museum, the combination of which provided the setting for the Den — feature a mixture of antiseptic, monochromatic concrete embedded within lush natural surroundings that embody the Collective’s repressive serenity. “It wasn’t a very high-budget movie, so we needed to find practical locations that would work — which isn’t easy for a futuristic love story,” Guleserian says. Singapore provided both practical locations and soundstages, and forced Guleserian to venture off the beaten path when he encountered a lack of access to traditional filmmaking tools. “The lighting tools [we were familiar with] in the States weren’t necessarily available in Singapore,” he notes; the production ended up using such fixtures as custom-made interconnecting RGB LED pixel-bar wall washers, and 24volt, bi-color, high-grade LED tape that was “converted to be DMX-able.” Using the unfamiliar lighting tools necessitated a few days of testing, during which Guleserian and gaffer Andy Cole brought various units from local vendors into a soundstage. They tested each light to ensure it wouldn’t flicker on camera, could achieve the required color spectrum, and would play nicely with the DMX board. “A lot of these things didn’t even have brand names that I was familiar with,” recalls Guleserian. Silas’ apartment location was
Silas and Nia find one another in the crowd during a nighttime entertainment presentation.
created in Singapore by combining the exterior of the ultramodern Reflections residential complex — designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind — with a soundstage set for the interiors. A visit to that set during preproduction nudged Guleserian toward the movie’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. “Originally we thought about shooting ’Scope, and Drake and I even talked about how all the environments we were scouting would actually be really cool in www.theasc.com
4:3,” the cinematographer explains. “But when we saw the apartment sets, they were almost constructed in [the dimensions of ] 1.85:1. Also, as we were scouting, I was shooting stills on a little Sony a6000 in 16:9, and I just started to get married to the idea of a similar aspect ratio for the movie.” Silas’ spartan living space features a bed, wardrobe closet and dining counter that retract into the walls when not in use. A large window offers a view August 2016
Love and Dystopia Right: After he’s been officially diagnosed with SOS, Silas is given a new job with significantly less personal interaction. Below: Guleserian follows Stewart through the garden.
of the cityscape. Creating that view by using greenscreen was out of the question because of the reflective surfaces that Schaedler and co-production designer Katie Byron selected for the walls of the futuristic abode. Instead, Guleserian employed a pair of xenon Barco 40 projectors to rear-project visual-effects plates of the city onto a 17'x30' screen located just outside the set. To add additional light inside the 68
apartment, Guleserian placed a Canon EOS 7D DSLR behind the projection screen to shoot only the portion of the digital matte painting visible in the shot; the image from the 7D was then fed into two additional Barco 40 projectors, which were rigged onto a Condor and shot into the window through 4'x4' frames of Grid Cloth. The cinematographer notes that he worked with projection-effects supervisor Lester American Cinematographer
Dunton “to come up with the projection plan, and he was on set to implement it.” The apartment’s retractable furnishings were constructed of frosted Plexiglas and frosted glass, with the non-camera-facing side lined with bicolor LED tape. The direction and intensity of the key light for any given scene could then be determined in accordance with whichever piece of furnishing was in use. “With the LEDs,” Guleserian adds, “we also had the ability to make the apartment any color we wanted in order to track Silas’ emotional state.” Silas must guard those emotions most vigilantly while at his job, where he toils as a graphic designer as Nia works just a few desks over as a writer. The location the production found for this workspace is in actuality the school cafeteria at Japan’s Nagaoka Institute of Design. The space was re-dressed to include a false wall where students normally stand in line for food. A concrete wall and trees were also added in the courtyard to obfuscate a distant road. The early static wide shots of the location — showcasing the cavernous
ceilings and symmetric, impersonal workstations — were lit almost entirely by available light, and the Alexa’s color temperature was set to 4,200K for a cool blue hue. When shooting coverage, Guleserian augmented the sunlight with Kino Flo Celeb 200s and 400s pushed through various levels of Grid Cloth. For night scenes, a bank of LED Pars was aimed through panes of frosted glass added to the location by the production-design team. As impersonal as the workspace is during the workday, it becomes Silas and Nia’s refuge after hours as they sequester themselves in a shower stall free of prying eyes. The shower-stall scenes were shot on a set in Singapore within walls built of frosted Plexiglas. A single LED pixel bar provided cyanhued illumination. “We tested a lot of different ways to approach lighting those scenes,” says Guleserian. “Initially I thought I would light up all three of the set’s walls because it’s such a small space, but that one light ended up just wrapping around their faces perfectly.” Cyan played again at Singapore’s Henderson Waves bridge, which provided another clandestine meeting place for Silas and Nia. The highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, Henderson Waves features a series of half-rotundas with ribbed ceilings, and a wooden, boardwalk-esque walking path. To light the rotundas, Guleserian used 2' and 4' LED pixel bars, and to offset the warmth of the location’s existing LEDs that dotted the railing of the boardwalk, Half CTB was added to each practical. Even with the Super Speeds wide open, the Alexa’s ISO was pushed to 1,600 to achieve proper exposure — in contrast to the majority of the picture, which was shot at 800 ISO. Each LED within the pixel bars could be individually controlled, a feature Guleserian used to good effect for mid-shot color changes as the rotunda’s hue shifts in a wave that sweeps from one side of the structure to the other. “We wanted the light in the movie to have this motion and mind of its own,” the cinematographer notes. ➣
Silas finds hope and empathy in — and gleans advice from — fellow SOS sufferer Jonas (Guy Pearce, middle, center).
Love and Dystopia Right: Silas’ apartment interior — which features retractable furnishings such as a bed, couch and dining counter — was built onstage in Singapore. The set’s design encouraged Guleserian to frame Equals in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Below: Guleserian gets a shot of Hoult in the apartment set. The view outside the window was a rear-projected cityscape.
Such “sentient” lighting also appears in a scene in which Silas and Jonas (Guy Pearce), a fellow “sufferer” of SOS, discuss their shared affliction. The night exterior was shot at the Hyakudanen, or 100 Stepped Garden, located at the Awaji Yumebutai complex, which features 100 small gardens within concrete flowerbeds. Guleserian keyed the scene with Kino Flo Celebs adorned with Rosco’s Cyan 30 and Cyan 60 gels, and also used a quartet of Celebs for backlight that were 70
placed in the frame for the wide shots — to get the necessary kick — and then were painted out in post. Each of the garden squares visible on screen was given an LED pixel bar to light its concrete façade. The filmmakers referenced The Man Who Fell to Earth and Fahrenheit 451 while prepping Equals, but Guleserian points out that the inspiration for the movie’s color palette actually came from images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been recordAmerican Cinematographer
ing its cosmic observations from just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere for more than a quarter century. “For the scene at [the 100 Stepped Garden] we took all of these different colors from the Hubble telescope and had the pixel bars constantly shifting between them,” the cinematographer explains. “The society in Equals looks up to space travel as something that’s almost spiritual, so we considered that when thinking about how they would light their world.” Balancing those bold colors with Equals’ low-contrast aesthetic was one of the difficulties faced by Peak during the digital grade — as was seamlessly blending-in multiple layers of visual effects from different vendors. “One of the bigger challenges was bringing all of these CG effects into Equals’ very soft, organic look,” says Peak, who colored in Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve. “Visual-effects vendors aren’t used to working in very subtle, slightly desaturated and cool tones, so all the interfaces came in from the vendors very saturated and contrast-y. We had to dial all that back — separate from the photography.” The colorist’s most laborious scenes, though, had little to do with incorporating visual effects. The meet-
ings of an underground support group for SOS sufferers required footage from Singapore and Japan to be mixed with Los Angeles reshoots. “John and Drake didn’t really like either the original shoot or the reshoot for those scenes,” says Peak. “They were both shot with stronger colored lights than the rest of the film, so for those scenes we did a lot of keying and windowing and a little bit of roto to isolate the more saturated colors in the background and on the rims of faces, to get those way down into the right palette.” As his starting point, Peak used a custom soft 1D LUT, eschewing Arri’s 3D LUTs because of the level of saturation and contrast they impose on the image. The grade then became more about matching the tone from scene to scene rather than technically matching the look of locations. “It wasn’t important for the same location to look [exactly] the same when we revisit it at different points in the film,” Peak says. “It was more about the feel from the previous scene and the emotional arc of the film.” That emotional arc was paramount, Doremus affirms. “This is not a film about intellectual ideas but simply emotional ones,” he observes. “I love the way the film feels, and a lot of that has to do with John’s [cinematography] and his commitment to that feel. To me it’s his best work yet.” ●
TECHNICAL SPECS 1.85:1 Digital Capture Arri Alexa XT Plus Arri/Zeiss Ultra Prime, Zeiss Super Speed
Telecine & Color Grading “Jod is a true artist with a great passion for his craft.” – John W. Simmons, ASC
Contact Jod @ 310-713-8388 Jod@apt-4.com
Going Big By Noah Kadner
It’s another sleepless night for Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) as she wanders through her home at the orphanage. Hearing a noise outside, she peeks out the balcony window to see a 25' giant (Mark Rylance) creeping through the streets. Their eyes meet and he absconds with her to his cottage in Giant Country. Not the monster he initially appears to be, however, the self-proclaimed Big Friendly Giant shows Sophie the ways of dream catching — chasing down flitting balls of light for delivery to the slumbering populace. Sophie takes to calling her new friend “BFG,” and the two team up with the queen of England (Penelope Wilton) to rid the world of the giant’s much-larger and decidedly nasty brethren. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s popular 1982 children’s book of the same name, The BFG marks the latest collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and director of photography Janusz Kaminski, whose partnership dates back to 1993’s Schindler’s List. The BFG is the first feature the duo shot entirely digitally — with Arri Alexa cameras and Panavision Primo lenses. Considering the story’s massive characters and fantastical settings, the filmmakers realized early on that extensive motion capture and virtual cinematography would be critical techniques for bringing the story to life. Weta Digital handled all of the film’s visual effects, creating a powerful array of tools that enabled Spielberg and 72
Kaminski to bring their traditional filmmaking skills into the virtual world. Joe Letteri, Weta’s senior visual-effects supervisor, explains the methodology: “We got very excited when Mark Rylance was cast as BFG, because he’s such a great theater actor. We asked, ‘Can we take this idea of [a theatrical performance] and combine it with motion capture?’ So we came up with ‘moody mo-cap,’ which includes props and cinematic lighting to give Mark something to work off of — just like a stage production. The difference was that Steven and Janusz were right there with him and the other actors. It gave us a great way to bring all the live-action elements of filmmaking together with performance capture and visual effects. “For the motion capture, we use highly calibrated monochrome cameras with ring lights around them,” Letteri continues. “Your stage becomes a volume and each camera triangulates a portion of that volume. The actors wear a head rig with a boom arm holding a small HD camera that captures their facial performances. We’ve written a lot of our own proprietary tools for that [process]. “We always wanted Mark and Ruby to be able to act together,” he adds, “but because [we were working with] two very different scales, we had to do both halves of the performance separately. We’d build ‘giant’ sets on the mo-cap stage with all the props scaled down to human size, so Mark could [interact with] everything. Then we would go through it again for Sophie’s size — with Mark up on risers or a camera feeding his image onto a screen we
The BFG image courtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co. and Disney Enterprises.
Motion capture, live-action sets and virtual cinematography were all brought to bear for the story of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a young orphan, who befriends the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) in the feature adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book The BFG.
had on a pole, to give Sophie something to play off of directly.” As production commenced, Technicolor’s supervising digital colorist, ASC associate Michael Hatzer, worked with Kaminski to help define the look of the film. “Joe Letteri and part of his team worked with [ASC associate] Josh Pines, Janusz and me in Los Angeles to create a suitable LUT for all the visual-effects and live-action material,” says Hatzer. “Our team here at Technicolor — which includes project manager Ladd Lanford, producer Bob Peishel and color assistant Chris Jensen — worked closely with Janusz and Amblin Partners post executive Mark Graziano to develop a comprehensive color-management pipeline that insured continuity from on-set dailies through final home-video deliverables. “Our Technicolor mobile DI trailer, outfitted with a Christie DLP projector, was used to grade and review 2K projected dailies,” Hatzer continues. “Dailies colorist John Vladic graded dailies with [Blackmagic Design’s] DaVinci Resolve. When production moved to the U.K. for additional aerial and visual-effects shoots, Technicolor London adapted the dailies-grading workflow to [FilmLight’s] Baselight.” The BFG was shot primarily at Mammoth Studios in Vancouver, Canada, with additional location work done in England and Scotland. The movie is bookended by sequences captured on mostly live-action sets, including Sophie’s orphanage and Buckingham Palace. The bulk of the remainder was captured in entirely virtual environments, including Giant Country and Dream Country. “The orphanage was basically a full practical set with extensions,” explains visual-effects supervisor Guy Williams, who supervised Weta’s visual-effects efforts during production and post. “One interesting aspect was our virtual-cam tent, which had all the previs tools and a virtual version of the set. Steven and Janusz could go inside and use a virtual camera to decide if they wanted to change an angle or a shot. Steven really enjoyed working with the handheld unit, which had a small screen along with two 55-inch monitors at either end of the v-cam table. You hold it like a camera and it behaves like one, but it only weighs a few pounds. So Steven could plan
shots inside the v-cam tent and then go out onto the real set and shoot. “We also did a lot of SimulCam and SimulCap,” Williams continues. “SimulCam represents the virtual environment through the motion-picture camera’s viewfinder, while SimulCap captures mo-cap performances in real time and feeds the virtual character, or characters, back into the camera. It meant that the camera team had a live-action movie shoot, where they could look at the characters and environment and figure out how they wanted to frame their camera in real time. So if Janusz wants to try to find a great angle on a window-insert stage, he can still see the rest of the wall and bias the framing [accordingly].” BFG’s dash from the orphanage to Giant Country is described in the book as being so fast that the landscape blurs away. “A lot of that sequence was virtual just because of the limitations of practical cinematography,” notes Williams. “It’s hard to safely get a camera going 20 feet in the air at 60 miles an hour down London city streets. But once we got out into the countryside, we did an aerial-unit shoot over northern England and Scotland and captured things that would be used for background plates.” Sophie and BFG travel to Dream Country by trekking up a mountain to a tree, whose reflection in an adjacent lake reveals an alternate plane abuzz with luminous dreams, like so many super-sized, multicolored fireflies. The two friends leap into the water and emerge on the other side, where the reflection is now their reality. “There are so many wonderful sequences in this film that were a real joy for me to grade,” Hatzer enthuses. “I love the transition from the rain sequence [in Giant Country], through BFG’s ascent into the clouds, and into the fantastical world of Dream Country.” After bottling up a few selected dreams, Sophie and BFG hatch a plan to use their procurements to enlist the queen’s help. Successfully securing an audience with the monarch, the unlikely pair is given the royal treatment at the palace. “One of my other favorite scenes is with the queen in the ballroom, where BFG is having breakfast,” says Hatzer. “You see BFG walking to his table and the light is streaming in. We www.theasc.com
created a really fun and beautiful golden look that we were all very happy with.” Hatzer graded the final version of The BFG in Autodesk’s Lustre using 2K DPX files on an Eizo ColorEdge CG247 monitor in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. “Weta supplied mattes for a majority of the different characters, which allowed us to pick out areas within the frame,” says Hatzer. “The challenging part was seamlessly blending the practical lighting on Sophie’s character within all the CGI worlds. With Janusz and Steven’s direction, I would augment key, shadow and highlights, particularly on BFG’s face, in order to ‘bend’ the Weta footage a little closer to [the filmmakers’] signature style and level of contrast and highlights. The goal was to make BFG as realistic [as we could], and the lighting as dramatic as possible.” In addition to delivering a neutral base grade on many live-action plates, and overseeing dailies and final grading, Hatzer also graded the film’s many final deliverables. “This is Janusz and Steven’s first film graded in Dolby Cinema EDR,” he reveals. “The DI opened up a lot of creative ideas for them. I think they really enjoyed the ability to put additional finessing into the shots and take them to another level.” “We weren’t sure how the story was going to translate from the book,” Letteri confesses, “but the more we saw Mark and Ruby working together, and the more we saw that relationship between BFG and Sophie start to work on the screen, the easier it became for us to add in additional qualities. We added warmth into the environment, and used the idea of dreams as light sources to give us color and magic.” “Steven always puts tons of depth and complexity into his movies,” observes Williams. “He and Janusz really loved this project and wanted to do the best job they could. I was constantly blown away by the way people were crafting this movie, and it was amazing to watch them really swing for the fences. We were able to get such genuine and beautiful performances — while really striving to make not just another ‘kids’ movie,’ but a great movie.” ●
Filmmakers’ Forum A behind-thescenes shot from the making of Life, on which cinematographer David Stump, ASC put the pioneering lightfield capture system Lytro Cinema through its paces.
Seeing the Light in Life By David Stump, ASC
Light-field capture, or computational imaging, has been hailed by many as the future of filmmaking. While we are admittedly still in the early stages, the technology itself promises to deliver new opportunities in the way we capture images. I recently had the opportunity to serve as director of photography on Life, the first short film captured with Lytro Cinema — a pioneering light-field capture system that was introduced at NAB this year. This article relays my experience on the project, shot for director Robert Stromberg, and serves as an introduction to light-field cinematography for readers who may not be familiar with the concept. Preparing for Life As the chair of the Camera subcommittee for the ASC, and as a matter of personal interest, I’m often asked to evaluate new prototype technologies. When Lytro reached out to Robert and the Virtual Reality Company production studio to assemble Life, I was asked to be the cinematographer, both through my ASC affiliations and as the chief imaging scientist at VRC. The concept for Life was developed and designed by Robert, and the shots were defined in collaboration with Jeff Barnes, Lytro’s executive director of studio productions, to showcase the capabilities of the technology. The short is a visual poem that tells the story of a 74
boy and girl as they traverse from youth to old age. It was the first use of the system on a production set — and that along with a tight deadline for our NAB premiere contributed to making Life a brave and exciting endeavor. We knew going in that we needed to present Lytro Cinema as a practical, production-friendly solution, with images that could intercut seamlessly with conventional footage, so we decided to capture half of the shots on the Arri Alexa SXT. I want to relay a big thank-you to Arri for supporting the project and providing us with production gear. Though it will get there very soon, the Lytro camera is not yet optimal for shooting an entire show or feature, due to the amount of data and the current size of the camera in its first-generation state. In its present incarnation the camera is best used for shots that are visual-effects oriented or otherwise impossible to capture traditionally. Light Field I have been following the development of light-field capture and plenoptics since the first research papers on the topic came out of Stanford University. There are different approaches to light-field capture, but the fundamental principles are generally the same. A light field is a collection of rays of light that reflect off of objects, generally defined by whatever is in one’s view. We interpret these rays from the points of view of our eyes, which help our brain
Images courtesy of Lytro.
perceive an object’s position in the world. If you then think about a light field in terms of camera capture, traditional cameras capture an image from a single lens, and stereo cameras from two lenses; in the case of Lytro Cinema, however, light can be captured from multiple vantage points, as if there were an array of hundreds of thousands of cameras standing side by side, perfectly synced to capture a scene. Lytro has developed several technologies that enable this type of capture, along with software that interprets the light field by computing the angles of the rays arriving at the sensors. Light-field capture in the Lytro Cinema system is made possible through the use of a “micro-lens array,” which is the equivalent of millions of lenses that are built at the wafer scale and inserted between the main camera lens and the camera sensor. The micro-lens array takes the light within a scene and breaks it apart into the color, intensity and direction of the rays, which are captured by a collection of pixels under each micro lens, on the sensor. It takes a bit to digest all of this — and without getting too deep into the weeds, I would recommend watching some of the detailed video presentations, easily searchable online, given by Lytro’s head of light-field video, Jon Karafin. The magic behind Lytro Cinema lies in the fact that each captured pixel has color properties, directional properties and a calculated awareness of its exact placement in space. As the process produces a lot of data, Lytro Cinema isn’t just a camera; it’s an end-to-end solution. The workflow includes a camera, a server for storing and processing light fields, and software plug-ins that work hand-in-hand with off-the-shelf production solutions. Since we were going to be working with an alpha camera, my gaffer, Craig “Cowboy” Aines, and I flew up to the Lytro headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., early on to get a feel for the system and gauge our cabling and lighting needs. The camera has a variable length extending from about 6'-11', depending on framing and refocusing range. The unit had substantial weight, so from a planning perspective we needed to be adequately prepared for the mechanics of moving, panning, tilting and dollying
These before (top) and after (bottom) images illustrate the light-field system’s ability to pull depth mattes for background replacement without the use of blue- or greenscreen or the need for rotoscoping.
on set. We also had to take into consideration the parameters of shooting at very high frame rates, with a fixed T-stop lens at the sensor’s native ISO, which was around 200. Given these circumstances, Cowboy and I went to Mole-Richardson to speak with honorary ASC member Larry Mole Parker, in order to spec out lamps that would give us the horsepower to create beams and shafts of light within smoke at the illumination levels we would need for a successful shoot. One of my early mentors, Phil Lathrop, ASC — who shot The Pink Panther and the Peter Gunn television series using very high key-light levels — taught me how to control big lighting units and how to use hard light. It was very rewarding to draw on his mentorship as part of this project. Set Life The experience on set with Lytro www.theasc.com
Cinema was designed to be sensitive to the standard workflow of traditional cinematography. In addition to capturing the light-field data — comprised of 755 raw megapixels with 16 stops of dynamic range — we took advantage of the camera’s ability to capture QuickTime ProRes, which allowed us to review files on-set, immediately after the take. Because the metadata in the light field is tied directly to the information in the preview capture, we could make on-set decisions — which got baked into the metadata of the file system — just like you would on a traditional shoot, and then see those versions in the real-time preview. Those files were then uploaded to our editor, Damien Acker, based at the Third Floor, who began cutting while we were still on set. As a cinematographer, there really wasn’t much about the Lytro Cinema workAugust 2016
Top and middle: Cast and crew work onstage with the Lytro Cinema system. Bottom: Stump (left) adjusts the frame as director Robert Stromberg (right) watches the monitor.
flow that was any different to me than a typical shoot; the Lytro on-set support team made the amount of data flowing through our project mostly invisible to me. Their solution includes a drive array, and because captured data moved through a 100-meter cable, there was effectively no restriction as far as the fiber tethering of the camera to the drive, and the servers could be placed anywhere for sound considerations. The camera specs out at up to 300 fps, but for this project we did most of the shots between 24 and 120 fps, which still offered us the ability to manipulate all of the aspects of the image that make this camera unique. At 755 megapixels, the files coming off of the camera contain a dense amount of data, but the end goal for Lytro Cinema is that all of these files will be stored and processed in the cloud. There were many remarkable scenes throughout the shoot, but there are a handful that would have been impossible to achieve with any other camera. One was the wedding scene, where the couple is standing at the altar in front of a preacher. Theyâ€™re on a little walkway with an arch of flowers behind them, and we shot this on a bare stage, with grips walking behind the actors while camera rolled, rather than incorporating a blue- or greenscreen. Traditionally, that would have been very difficult to shoot and pull mattes from, because there is fine detail in the foliage and the young womanâ€™s hair, and we had reflective Mylar confetti flying through the air in front of the couple. From the light-field data, we were able to use depth extractions to create mattes for the couple, and composited them into the final matte-painting environment. To be able to pull a matte from depth alone and selectively include or remove objects in a scene based on their depth value was truly empowering. Another scene that confounds filmmakers is at the start of the short, when the boy is playing baseball with an impossibly shallow depth of field â€” in this case f.5. This scene demonstrates how Lytro Cinema enables you to select what you want in focus in a scene, and then change the aperture of that focal plane to any desired fstop.
Seeing the Light in Post Nuke Studio was used as the primary creative software framework on the post side, together with custom computational plug-ins developed by Lytro for depth keying and image processing. The frames captured on set go through a processing system that turns them into light-field EXR files with embedded metadata to match the decisions made on set. In the case of Life, one of our first steps in post was to sit in on a light-field editorial session to experiment with different possibilities with depth of field and focus — expanding on the initial determinations made on set with the help of preview files, and in the initial edit. Robert and I came out of this sixhour session with our final EDL, or lightfield decision list (LDL). When you retain the Z-depth information of everything in a scene and don’t have to fully commit to what was captured on set, it gives you the ultimate creative flexibility to hone a shot exactly the way you envision. Looking toward the future of cinematography, these are going to become very powerful tools. That being said, it is still essential to retain the original creative vision of the director and the intended look established by the director of photography in any production. In the case of light-field capture — or any project for that matter — it is important for the cinematographer and director to oversee the phases of postproduction that build on look development. The visual-effects artists found the ability to derive an alpha matte solely based on depth, and to separate objects without having to deal with any green- or bluescreen spill, to be revolutionary. Once completed, the visual effects were dropped into scenes, and the plates and visual effects were then rendered as traditional flattened 2D files to move into our DI session, which took place at Technicolor with colorist Jason Fabbro. The DI session moved very quickly because the material was in such great shape. At that point, only minimal refinement was necessary. All in all, we had a little over two months from beginning to end to complete Life. In that brief period, we were able to produce a piece that showcases why lightfield capture is the wave of the future, and
Top: Lytro Cinema allows the cinematographer to select what is in focus and change the f-stop of that focal plane. For this shot, Stump opted for an “impossibly shallow” f.5. Bottom: Stump checks the monitor for a different setup.
to produce highly complex sequences — that otherwise would have required substantial visual-effects man hours — in record time. Why Light Field Matters Over the years, I’ve given a lot of consideration to what we would be able to do when this technology finally arrives in a usable state, and what the most exciting part of this adventure would be for me. The notion of being able to derive depth data for every pixel on a camera image is incredibly exciting. In addition to shooting movies, I’m integrally involved in the visual-effects and 3D arenas, and the possibilities of what you can do with the depth data that Lytro www.theasc.com
Cinema affords is remarkable. It will give us the ability to generate 3D movies from a single camera, with left- and right-eye points of view from the same lens; to derive depth information to generate 3D incamera far more accurately; and to pull mattes without a greenscreen. All of these creative capabilities, along with the many tricks with focus that can be done in post using synthetic depth of field, introduce so many new possibilities to filmmaking. It’s still early days for Lytro Cinema, but the technology is advancing rapidly, and I’m looking forward to bringing it into a studio feature or episodic project soon. ●
New Products & Services FilmLight Upgrades Baselight FilmLight has introduced Baselight 5.0, the latest version of its flagship color-finishing system. Baselight 5.0 introduces a host of high-tech features and creative tools. The most notable new concept is Base Grade. To give colorists instinctual access to subtle grading, this creative tool moves away from the traditional lift-gamma-gain approach in favor of controls that accurately mimic the way the eye appreciates color: via exposure, temperature and balance. Baselight 5.0 provides added HDR capabilities through color-space “families” — which simplify the deliverables process for distinct viewing environments such as television, 4K projection and handheld devices — and gamut optimization to provide natural gamut-mapping deliverables and avoid clipping when captured colors can’t be displayed on a cinema or television screen. Baselight 5.0 boasts several tools that are tailored to give colorists more creative control and reduce the time and energy spent on back-and-forth with other effects and finishing systems. These
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features include: perspective operator, perspective tracking, grid warper, dedicated keyer, paint tool, relight tool and Matchbox shader. Baselight 5.0 further streamlines workflows by introducing a new approach to remote grading, whereby Baselight workstations in different locations can collaborate. Facilities and freelancers at remote sites can now browse any scene on their own or be locked to the master suite and follow a grading session live. The remote colorist can take over and suggest changes, which will be instantly reflected on the other systems. FilmLight has also introduced Prelight, a freely licensed Mac OS X application designed to help cinematographers and other professionals to author and review looks in preproduction and on set. Prelight’s simple-to-operate interface makes it easy to check how shots appear with looks or LUTs applied, and to import or add grading decisions that can be passed downstream. Images can be imported from almost any camera, and graded references can be exported in almost any format. The creative team can enhance the grade with simple but familiar tools to create new reference stills as well as 3D LUTs or Baselight Linked Grade files. With the render-free BLG workflow, the grades are non-destructive; additional BLG metadata is created and attached to the stills. The free license for Baselight for Avid or Nuke, which makes it free to read and render BLG files, makes this workflow available to productions on any budget. An extended license can be purchased so that when these files arrive in the Baselight post house, or on a Daylight system for near-set dailies, the metadata is attached automatically and the BLG file becomes the basis of the grade, which can then be refined right up to the moment the deliverables are created. The additional license also includes enhanced logging and monitoring capabilities. Prelight complements the FilmLight products Flip and Daylight, which already provide full on-set and near-set grading capabilities. Prelight can also fit into any postproduction workflow because of the ability to export standard ASC CDL lists and third-party formatted 3D LUTs. For realtime viewing, Prelight can interface with the majority of professional LUT boxes or monitors. Additionally, FilmLight has announced a new collaboration with Avid that will see both companies introduce a new Professional Color bundle for editors. The Professional Color bundle brings together Baselight for Avid with Avid Media Composer in one single package, making it even easier for editors to increase their finishing capabilities directly within their NLE system. For additional information, visit www.filmlight.ltd.uk.
spaces and pairs well with Blackmagic Design’s Micro Cinema camera and GoPro cameras, as well as gimbals. Building on the popular DH5 monitor, the DH5e is a 5" field monitor that boasts a full-HD panel with 1920x1080 pixels and 4K support. The DH5e has touch-screen capabilities including pinch-to-zoom. This lightweight oncamera monitor is ideally suited for gimbal operators or anyone using 4K cameras such as the Sony a7S. Sony Unveils 55" 4K OLED Sony has introduced the PVM-X550 55" Trimaster 4K OLED monitor. The quadview monitor allows customized individual display settings across four distinct views in HD. The PVM-X550 is equipped with the same signal-processing engine as Sony’s BVM-X300, providing a 12-bit output signal for picture accuracy and consistency. It also supports industry-standard color spaces, including the wider ITU-R BT.2020 for Ultra High Definition. These all work in tandem with Sony’s Trimaster EL technology. “As demand grows for 4K and High Dynamic Range content, production teams and their clients need more tools for evaluating video,” says ASC associate Gary Mandle, senior product manager for Sony Electronics. “This new monitor delivers quad-viewing flexibility in a size that meets the need for larger, more detailed monitors in postproduction suites.” The PVM-X550 supports HDR through Electro-Optical Transfer Functions (EOTF), such as S-Log3, SMPTE ST.2084 and Hybrid Log-Gamma, covering applications for both cinema and broadcast. The PVMX550’s narrow bezel, lightweight design and off-axis viewing performance make it suited to wall mounting, a benefit in liveproduction environments where space is often at a premium. For additional information, visit www.sony.com/monitors. Ikan Expands Monitor Offerings Ikan has introduced a line of 4Kcompatible on-camera monitors: the VL35, the DH5e and the VXF7. The VL35 is a lightweight and compact on-camera field monitor. With a 3.5" screen, the VL35 works well in tight
The 7" VXF7 monitor is the latest update to Ikan’s VX series. The VXF7 has a full-HD plus IPS panel (1920x1200 pixels), 4K support and an SDI-to-HDMI converter. Designed to function more like a standard production monitor, the VXF7 has easy-toaccess knobs, professional BNC connectors,
SGO Partners With AJA Software developer SGO and hardware developer AJA Video Systems have announced a dynamic integration partnership. Mistika, SGO’s flagship color-grading and finishing system, is now fully compatible with AJA’s line of Kona and Corvid video-capture and playback cards, resulting in optimized video output. The alliance provides customers with high-quality delivery outcomes and finely tuned feature sets to further enhance workflows. The combination of the new Mistika version with the AJA hardware boosts support for video www.theasc.com
and a four-pin XLR power connector. It also has 3G-SDI, component, composite, and HDMI inputs and outputs. This on-camera monitor works well with cameras such as Sony’s FS7. Ikan has also announced that it is now the exclusive distributor in North and South America (excluding Canada) for the entire line of broadcast, field, high-brightness and recordable monitors, as well as other video accessories, from South Korean manufacturer Bon. The current Bon product lineup includes 10-bit processing monitors (the BEM and BSM Series), 12-bit processing monitors (BXM Series) and premium OLED reference monitors (TXM Series). The company’s Postium Rackmount Monitors will also be available with features such as waveform, vectorscope, time code and audio meters. For additional information, visit www.ikancorp.com. Atto Builds ThunderLink Atto Technology, Inc. — a global provider of storage, network connectivity and infrastructure solutions for data-intensive computing environments — has unveiled its Gen 6 Fibre Channel product portfolio. The Gen 6 line includes Celerity 32Gb and 16Gb Host Bus Adapters (HBAs),
formats such as 4K 3D dual-link, even at frame rates up to 60p. AJA’s Kona capture, display and mastering products for SD, HD, 3G, Dual Link HD, 2K and 4K are a perfect match with Mistika, which provides a complete postproduction feature set. Stereo 3D output in 4K using the Corvid 88 I/O card is already available, along with viable future 8K capabilities for Mistika Ultima 8K systems. For additional information, visit www.sgo.es and www.aja.com.
both in low-profile single- and dual-port versions. Both the 32Gb and 16Gb versions are backward-compatible and take full advantage of advancements for reliability and forward error correction. Atto’s additions to its Fibre Channel portfolio will enable companies to capitalize on their existing SAN infrastructure and address the growing need for high-performing, scalable and secure storage to support exponential data growth from applications such as 4K/8K editing and high-performance computing and data warehousing, along with the proliferation of virtualized servers and flash arrays. Complementing the new HBAs are Atto’s FibreBridge 7500 and 6500 Storage Controllers and Thunderbolt enabled devices, which connect mobile computer platforms to high-speed networks and storage infrastructures. On the Thunderbolt front, the company has introduced a line of Thunderbolt 3 to 40GbE devices. These ThunderLink devices — the ThunderLink 3402 dual 40Gb/s Thunderbolt to dual 40GbE and ThunderLink 3401 dual 40Gb/s Thunderbolt to single 40GbE — feature USB-C connectors, allowing greater flexibility when connecting to any Thunderbolt 3enabled Windows platform. With protocol speeds of 40Gbs, users can expect read and write speeds capable of handling demanding bandwidth-intensive applications. ThunderLink products help content creators increase productivity and decrease costs while incorporating a seamless workflow process, utilizing next-generation workstations and workbooks to ingest and edit 4K video whether in the field or in the edit bay. Atto’s ThunderLink components also feature exclusive Advanced Data Streaming technology, enabling consistent bandwidth and controlled acceleration of data transfers. For additional information, visit www.attotech.com.
Assimilate Supports ProRes, VR Assimilate has added support in its Scratch postproduction tools and workflow for encoding and decoding using the Apple ProRes 4:4:4:4 XQ codec, which is the highest-quality version of the ProRes codec for 4:4:4:4 image sources, including alpha channels. This format has a very high data rate to preserve the detail in HDR imagery generated by today’s highest-quality digital image sensors.
Assimilate has also expanded its Scratch Web cloud-platform capabilities to offer a professional, Web-based dailies and review tool for reviewing headset-based VR content anywhere in the world. Once users launch the Scratch Web review link for the VR content, they can play back VR imagery, pan around imagery or create a “magic window” so that they can move a smart phone around, similar to looking through a window at the 360-degree content behind
Drylab Views Dailies Drylab R&D has introduced Dailies Viewer 2.7, which now runs on all iOS devices, from the smallest iPhones up to the 12.9" iPad Pro. Dailies Viewer multitasks in split-screen mode on iPad and iPhone 6/6s Plus, so the application can be open alongside a script, for example. Users can comment on takes, and draw and annotate
it. The VR content, including metadata, is automatically formatted for 360-degree video-headsets, such as Google Cardboard or Samsung GearVR. The reviewer can then make notes and comments on the mobile device to send back to the sender. For additional information, visit www.assimilateinc.com. Divergent Media Integrates ScopeBox Divergent Media has launched a new version of its EditReady digital-media prep, monitor and delivery software for DITs and editors. With this new version, EditReady now integrates Divergent Media’s ScopeBox software, providing users with a single workflow to quickly and easily get footage from the camera to the editor, regardless of camera or file format. With support for all popular camera and editing formats, EditReady converts media for immediate preview and playback, and lets users apply LUTs for color correction, view and edit metadata, easily convert between DNxHD and ProRes, and run simultaneous batches, allowing them to generate proxy media or convert footage from different cameras. With ScopeBox integration, users have dedicated, full-time scopes without the need for external hardware. Divergent Media has also partnered with Pomfort to integrate ScopeBox with the latest version (5.1) of Silverstack XT, Pomfort’s signature media-management
on frames with Apple Pencil or simply a finger. Other improved features include larger thumbnails, keyboard shortcuts and improved streaming. Dailies Viewer 2.7 is available in Apple’s App Store and is free to download. For additional information, visit www.drylab.no.
software. With the integration of the ScopeBox application, Silverstack XT now offers a variety of software emulations of video scopes, including waveform and vectorscope, plus new ways to visualize video signals. For additional information, visit www.divergentmedia.com and www.pomfort.com. MTI Film Enhances Cortex MTI Film has unveiled the latest version of Cortex, the company’s dailies and media-management software. Conceived as a streamlined dailies-processing application, Cortex has developed into an end-toend solution for managing media from the set through delivery. Cortex can now create IMF delivery packages for Netflix, Sony and other distributors, as well as AS02 packages for HBO. Cortex also outputs HDR video and controls the Dolby Color Management Unit hardware; the HDR metadata can be edited and delivered while simultaneously monitoring
HDR and SDR. Dead-pixel detection, included in all Cortex editions, quickly alerts production when a camera sensor has a fault. Deadpixel correction, a feature of Cortex Enterprise, automatically finds and repairs dead pixels in edit masters and camera clips. Additionally, with MTI HQ or MTI-Samsung UpRes, users can resize files up or down, including taking HD source files up to 4K. The latest version of Cortex also features an improved Project Manager with a global search tool so users can easily find and consolidate clips from different shoot days for revision and re-delivery to the editing room. Cortex’s new Edit feature can be used to create custom compositions on a timeline. Color can be generated and applied via LUTs, CDLs, stills and supported tactile panels; Cortex is ASC-compliant with full ACES support. For additional information, visit www.mtifilm.com. ●
Classifieds CLASSIFIED AD RATES All classifications are $4.50 per word. Words set in bold face or all capitals are $5.00 per word. First word of ad and advertiser’s name can be set in capitals without extra charge. No agency commission or discounts on classified advertising.PAYMENT MUST ACCOMPANY ORDER. VISA, Mastercard, AmEx and Discover card are accepted. Send ad to Classified Advertising, American Cinematographer, P.O. Box 2230, Hollywood, CA 90078. Or FAX (323) 876-4973. Deadline for payment and copy must be in the office by 15th of second month preceding publication. Subject matter is limited to items and services pertaining to filmmaking and video production. Words used are subject to magazine style abbreviation. Minimum amount per ad: $45
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Advertiser’s Index Adorama 13, 29 AFM 87 Alan Gordon Enterprises 82 Arri 7, 25 ASC Film Manual 40 ASC Master Class 51 Aura Productions 71 B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio 21 Backstage Equipment, Inc. 63 Blackmagic Design 5 Cavision Enterprises 82 Chapman/Leonard Studio Equip. 9 Cinebags, Inc. 83 Cinematography Electronics 63 Cinekinetic 82 Cooke Optics 11 CW Sonderoptic Gmbh 17
Deck of Aces 83 Digital Sputnik Lighting Systems 23 Duclos Lenses 71 Eastman Kodak C4 Filmotechnic 49 Fluotec 77 Hexolux/Visionsmith 83 IBC 85 Jod Soraci 71 K5600 15 Kino Flo 41 Lights! Action! Co. 82 Mac Tech LED 39 Mole-Richardson/Studio Depot 82 Molinare TV & Film Ltd. 8 Movie Tech AG 82 NBC/Universal 39 Nila, Inc. 71 Off Hollywood/Vitec Creative Solutions 27
P+S Technik Feinmechanik Gmbh 83 Pille Filmgeraeteverleih Gmbh 82 Powermills 82 Pro8mm 82 Scheimpflug Rentals 63 Schneider Optics 2 Selected Tables 84 Super16, Inc. 83 Teradek, LLC C2-1 Tiffen C3 Treasury of Visual Effects 61 Willy’s Widgets 82 www.theasc.com 81 Yes Watches 50
ASC Elects Officers, Board Kees van Oostrum has been elected ASC president for the 2016-’17 term. The other officers are Vice Presidents Bill Bennett, Lowell Peterson and Dean Cundey; Treasurer Levie Isaacks; Secretary Frederic Goodich; and Sergeant-at-Arms Roberto Schaefer. Also elected to the Board of Governors were John Bailey, Bennett, Curtis Clark, Richard Crudo, Fred Elmes, Michael Goi, Victor J. Kemper, Stephen Lighthill, Daryn Okada, Woody Omens, Robert Primes, Cynthia Pusheck, Owen Roizman, John Simmons and van Oostrum. The alternates are Schaefer, Mandy Walker, Karl Walter Lindenlaub, Oliver Bokelberg and Cundey. “It is our task as an organization to educate the industry on the value of the cinematographer as authors of the images, to be involved in advancing imaging technology, and most importantly, to promote our artistry,” says van Oostrum. “I’m honored to be selected along with these officers to lead my peers and colleagues into new visual frontiers, and continue the educational mission of the organization.” Members Participate in L.A. Film Fest ASC members Joan Churchill, Amy Vincent, Tami Reiker and Mandy Walker 86
ASC at Cine Gear Expo Cine Gear Expo recently wrapped its 2016 edition at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. On the first day of the event, Cine Gear presented its Cinematography Lifetime Achievement Award to Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC; Storaro was also in attendance for a screening of Café Society and participated in a discussion moderated by Jon Fauer, ASC. The following day, ASC members Bill Bennett, Dean Cundey, Michael Goi, David Klein, Charles Minsky, Donald A. Morgan, Guillermo Navarro, James Neihouse, Daniel Pearl, David Perkal, Cynthia Pusheck and Lisa Wiegand participated in a “Dialogue With ASC CineAmerican Cinematographer
matographers” moderated by George Spiro Dibie, ASC. A number of other Society members participated in activities throughout the expo, including Amy Vincent and Bruce Logan, who were among the judges for Cine Gear’s film competitions. Marking the end of the expo, the ASC hosted its annual barbecue — sponsored by the Sim Group — at its Clubhouse in Hollywood.
In Memoriam: Robert S. Birchard, 1950-2016 Animation editor, film historian and longtime AC contributor Robert S. Brichard died on May 30. He was 66. A Los Angeles native, Birchard worked in production as a sound editor, animation editor and postproduction supervisor. His credits include the popular series DuckTales and Adventures of the Gummi Bears; the feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest; and the video releases The Return of Jafar and 101 Dalmatians 2: Patch’s London Adventure. As a historian, he contributed to numerous publications and authored books including Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, Silent-Era Filmmaking in Santa Barbara and King Cowboy: Tom Mix and the Movies. Birchard also served as president of the Cinecon Classic Film Festival, the 52nd edition of which is scheduled for Sept. 1-5 in Hollywood and will be dedicated to his memory. ●
Photo of Clubhouse by Isidore Mankofsky, ASC; lighting by Donald M. Morgan, ASC. Photo of Kees van Oostrum by Gunther Campine. Photo of Robert S. Birchard by Lucinda Lewis.
ASC President Kees van Oostrum.
recently joined fellow cinematographer Maryse Alberti in an educational program titled “Women Behind the Lens.” Presented as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival, the panel was held at the ArcLight Cinema in Culver City and moderated by cinematographer Patti Lee. After a quick screening of clips from each participant’s body of work, the discussion covered how each became interested in cinematography and got started in their careers, on-set experiences in a male-dominated industry, and advice for aspiring female cinematographers. The panel was preceded by a brunch celebrating the contributions of these esteemed cinematographers; during the gathering, held at the Culver Hotel, Alberti was presented with the Jaeger-LeCoultre “Glory to the Filmmaker” Award. During the L.A. Film Festival Filmmakers Retreat in Palm Springs, Michael Goi, ASC participated in a discussion about shooting film. In conversation with film critic Elvis Mitchell, Goi discussed the art and science of cinematography, giving the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the making of American Horror Story: Hotel and sharing how-to insights on film’s ability to create moods and effects. Goi also reminded the audience of the archival power of film.
Lisa Wiegand, ASC
When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you? A Clockwork Orange and Alien. I was way too young and they are deeply burned into my memory cells. Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire? Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC — classic and undeniable! Peter Deming, ASC — dark and surreal! Robby Müller, NSC, BVK — fearless innovation! Rachel Morrison (future ASC?) — brave and political, she’s an inspiration! What sparked your interest in photography? My dad taught photography, so we had cameras and a fridge full of film. When I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a Pet Photographer — my young brain assumed that was a thing. I traveled my neighborhood snapping pictures of pets and delivered the prints to the owners. Never charged — didn’t understand that part of the biz.
Who were your early teachers or mentors? Johnny Simmons, ASC; Tom Denove; [ASC associate] Bill McDonald; Gyula Gazdag; Bill Dill, ASC; Steven Poster, ASC; Stephen Lighthill, ASC; Laszlo Kovacs, ASC; and Rodney Charters, ASC, CSC. I’ve had a lot of support from many generous filmmakers. I hope I can do enough in this life to pay it forward. What are some of your key artistic influences? Growing up, I spent many hours at the Detroit Institute of Arts. For me, art museums are like churches. Impactful art makes me feel connected to humanity in a way nothing else can. How did you get your first break in the business? My career has been a long path of baby steps. I’ve felt fortunate at every stage of the game, and it just keeps getting better. There have literally been times at work when I’ve pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I love being a cinematographer, and I’m glad I put all my eggs in this basket! What has been your most satisfying moment on a project? Being the first cinematographer to shoot a scripted series in my hometown of Detroit was surreal and deeply meaningful. I wish my grandparents were alive to visit the set. They were diehard Detroiters and would have been so thrilled. August 2016
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received? My agent, Charles Lenhoff, gives me pep talks before job interviews. Early on he said, ‘Tell them you want the gig.’ I thought he was nuts! I assumed, ‘If I’m interviewing, obviously I want the job.’ I’m still amazed that when I say it, it works. In a couple instances, after the interview, the producers thanked me for telling them, because apparently they often can’t tell if their cinematographer candidates are actually interested. What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you? I’m a TV junkie. Lately, I’m hooked on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, The 100 and The Last Man on Earth. Also: I was inspired by the VR projects at Sundance 2016. I spent three days at the VR exhibit, and now I’m addicted. Music also gets me jazzed up; currently I’m into Kid Cudi, Kate Tempest, Torres and Femi Jaye. I’m reading The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, by Michelle Cruz Gonzales. Her decisions are inspirational because of her strength and purity of cause.
Where did you train and/or study? I attended a record-breaking nine years of film school. Undergrad at Wayne State U. in Detroit. Graduate school at both UCLA and AFI. Then, around the turn of the century, I taught cinematography at UCLA, LMU and AFI.
Have you made any memorable blunders? No way. Why — what have you heard? J.K. Most of my blunders have been political, and those are way worse than any technical F-up.
Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try? My all-time fave is post-apocalyptic sci-fi. But I enjoy variety in my work. For instance, I’m happy that I got to shoot the socially controversial American Crime with John Ridley. It’s invigorating to work on projects that open minds and introduce marginalized perspectives. If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead? My fallback has always been … mortician. Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership? Steven Poster, Stephen Lighthill, Johnny Simmons. I’ve known them for decades and they have each been wonderfully supportive. Having them as sponsors makes my heart-light glow. How has ASC membership impacted your life and career? It’s another thing I constantly pinch myself about. It seems like just yesterday I was a 15-year-old girl hiding out in her room, reading American Cinematographer and discovering her heroes. ●
Photo by Janna Coumoundouros.