By Bob Hoffman
While crowds lined up above the south hall at NAB to experience the unveiling of the new Lytro camera, across the hall a packed theatre conference room geeked-out as the curtain was slightly pulled back during a panel on the making of director Jon Favreau’s cinematic wonder, The Jungle Book. Moderated by ICG Magazine editor David Geffner, Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato, ASC, along with Jungle Book producer Brigham Taylor and Technicolor master colorist Mike Sowa enchanted the packed room with stories of the making and finishing of the hit film.
Legato first started developing his concepts for “virtual production” techniques on Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, and shortly thereafter, with James Cameron and his hit Avatar. During the panel, Legato took the audience through a set of short demo clips of various scenes in the film while providing background on the production processes used by cinematographer Bill Pope, ASC, and Favreau to capture the live-action component of the film. Legato pointedly explained that his process is informed by a very traditional analog approach. The development of his thinking is based on a commitment to giving the filmmaking team tools and methodologies that allow them to work within their own particular comfort zones.
They may be working in a virtual environment, but Favreau’s wonderful touch is brilliantly demonstrated by the performance of 12-year-old Neel Sethi on his theatrical debut feature. Geffner noted more than once that “the emotional stakes are so well done you get involved emotionally” — without any notion of the technical complexity underlying the narrative. One other area noted by Legato and Sowa was the myriad of theatrical-HDR deliverables for The Jungle Book, including up to 14-foot lamberts for the 3D presentation. This film, and presentation, was just another clear indicator that HDR is a clear differentiator that audiences are clamoring for.
Bob Hoffman works at Technicolor in Hollywood.