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Category Archives: Cinematography

Killing Eve EP Sally Woodward Gentle talks Season 3

By Iain Blair

Killing Eve is more than just one of the most addictive spy thrillers on TV. It’s also a dark comedy, a workplace drama and a globe-trotting actioner that tells the story of two women engaged in an epic game of cat-and-mouse — Eve, head of a secret MI6 unit (Sandra Oh), and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), a beautiful, (and strangly likeable) psychopathic assassin she’s been tasked to track down.

Sally Woodward Gentle

The award-winning show continues the story of the two women when it returns for its third season on April 26 on both BBC America and AMC. Season 3 sees Eve back in action after having survived being shot by Villanelle in the Season 2 finale. Eve is now in Rome and her current MI6 status is in flux after being manipulated by Carolyn (Fiona Shaw).

Continuing the show’s tradition of passing the baton to a new female writing voice, for Season 3 Suzanne Heathcote serves as lead writer and executive producer, joining executive producers Sally Woodward Gentle, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lee Morris, Gina Mingacci, Damon Thomas, Jeff Melvoin and Sandra Oh. Killing Eve is produced by Sid Gentle Films and is distributed by Endeavor Content.

I recently spoke with EP Sally Woodward Gentle — the BAFTA-winning and Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated EP of the dramas Any Human Heart and The Durrells in Corfu — about making the show (based on the books of Luke Jennings), the Emmys and her love of post.

What can you tell us about Season 3 without giving too much away?
It’s a much more emotional season. We move Eve and Villanelle’s relationship on, and we get to see more of what Villanelle is really about. At the same time, Eve is really tested.  And we bring in lots of new characters, which is very exciting, and Carolyn and Konstantin (Eve’s handler, played by Kim Bodnia) have got huge roles to play.

The appeal of two women leads seems obvious now, but were there doubts at first having them play traditional male roles when you first optioned the Luke Jennings novellas?
Not really. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind. I just felt that people really enjoy having a female assassin, and that it would be great to have another woman chase her.  And I didn’t feel that the idea was wildly original. It just felt right, but I knew there were other female assassin shows out there, and I didn’t want people to go, “Oh, there’s La Femme Nikita.” I did feel it was time to do something more bold with it.

Is that how you decided to involve Phoebe Waller-Bridge?
Exactly. I’d read Fleabag and we’d had a meeting, and I just loved her attitude. Back then, she’d only done Fleabag and written some very clever comedy. I loved the idea of putting Luke’s novellas together with her attitude, joie de vivre and love of TV and what it could do. It didn’t feel like, “Wow, this will be earth-shatteringly different!” It just felt like something really interesting to do. Just do it and see what comes out.

You’ve executive produced all three seasons. What are the main challenges of this show?
To keep it feeling really fresh each year, and to not repeat stuff you’ve done. To examine new, different areas of emotional relationships, and to put people under different types of stress. The other big challenge is we have to turn it around from start to finish in just one year. We have to write all the scripts, shoot them, post them and get them out there in that time. It’s really hard work, both physically and mentally, but a lot of our team’s been here since the start. They love it, and that really helps, and everyone wants to push it a bit harder every season, so we embrace all new ideas.

Is it true that when Sandra Oh was first approached, she didn’t quite believe she was being cast as Eve?
Yeah, she hadn’t pictured herself in the role, but she’s brilliant.

What do Sandra and Jodie bring to the mix?
They bring so much. We were still finishing scripts for Season 1 as we shot, so you can’t help but feed back their input into the scripts, and the characters really have so much of the actors’ DNA. They just know them so well and how they’d respond.

You always use great locations. Where did you shoot Season 3?
In Spain, Romania, the UK. We get around!

Where do you post?
All at Molinaire in London. We do everything from the edit to the grade, and we do all the sound at Hackenbacker, which is part of Molinaire.

Do you like the post process?
I love it, and really enjoy it. We have a great post supervisor, Kate Stannard, who’s been on the show since the start. The great thing about post is that you get to rewrite all the raw material and be really creative with it.

Talk about editing. You have several editors, I assume because of the time factor. How does that work?
We have a great team of editors, including Dan Crinnion, who’s been on the show since the start, and an Italian editor Simone Nesti who does the assembly and who’s also been with us since the start. As soon as a director has finished shooting, we get right in there with the editor who does that block.  We shoot in blocks of two episodes,and each block has its own editor and assistants. It’s not a huge team considering the amount of work.

The show is a real genre mash-up – thriller, comedy, action, emotional drama. How do you handle all the shifting tones?
That’s the big editing challenge, and the thing we were most concerned about in Season 1  — that Eve’s and Villanelle’s two stories were too disparate to be knitted together properly. But once you start to get a feel for what the show is, and what works and what doesn’t, it flows more easily. For me, if it gets too broad and it doesn’t feel truthful, that’s not good. But then it’s also a big piece of entertainment, so you can be really wild with it. We’re not saving lives, and there’s no massive message. We just want to be truthful about human behavior and be very entertaining.

There’s obviously a lot of attention also paid to the sound and the music.
Thanks for noticing. We have a great production sound team. Nigel Heath is our rerecording mixer, and our aim is to not have the dialogue too clean and out front. We like to keep a lot of texture in the background and make it feel quite immersive. Then in terms of the music, composer David Holmes is quite bold in his choices. That’s very tricky as we try hard not to be too genre and obvious with the cues, so they don’t just reinforce the visuals and what you should feel. So at a very dark moment the score might be quite celebratory and glorious. We’re constantly trying to flip it.

What about the DI?
It’s incredibly important, and our colorist Gareth Spensley has worked on it since season 1 so he knows the show really well, and he works very closely with our DP Julian Court who’s done most of the episodes since the start. Sometimes we have to shoot out of sequence, at different times of year, so you have to match all that. We try to find locations that feel fresh and exciting, and then we try hard not to over-stylize the look, and keep all the skin tones as natural and real as possible, and then enhance the beauty of the rest of it. At the very start of the show, we thought of pushing the look to get a more ‘noir’ look, but it just didn’t feel right, so we just leant more into the pleasure of the visuals.

How important are the Emmys to a show like this?
Hugely important, for both the show and the actors. I think it’s given us far more visibility.

I heard you already got picked up for Season 4. How far along are you with it?
We’re already writing and nearly have the whole season arc worked out, and we’ll start shooting it at the end of September. Of course, it all depends on what happens with the Covid-19 crisis, but that’s the plan.

Will you do more seasons?
I can see us going on as long as we keep refreshing it and move their relationship along. Then we have all these new characters we’ve created who’ll be there in Season 4 and beyond, so there’s plenty to explore.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Emma DP Christopher Blauvelt talks looks and workflow

Focus Features Emma, the latest reincarnation of the Jane Austen novel, was directed by Autumn de Wilde and shot by cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt. For de Wilde, a photographer and music video director, Emma is her feature film directorial debut. In addition to her still work on CD covers for The White Stripes, Fiona Apple and Beck she has directed music videos for indie bands, including Spoon, The Decemberists and Rilo Kiley.

DP Christopher Blauvelt (right)

Blauvelt and de Wilde met in 2000 when she directed Elliott Smith’s Son of Sam music video. He then shot some 16mm footage that was projected behind Elliott on his tour, and the collaborators became friends. When it came time to start on her directorial debut, de Wilde reached out, knowing that he could help her bring her vision to the screen.

Emma was shot with the ARRI Alexa LF using ARRI Signature Prime lenses. Blauvelt had done some tests with it a year or so ago for a film he shot with Gus Van Sant, called Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, so he was familiar with the camera. “We looked at many different cameras to find our aesthetic,” Blauvelt explains. “I remember making a note about the softness and way it treated skin. It was also something I would think about for scope and scale, for which Emma provided the environments in the form of castles and the English countryside. Of course, we didn’t just test cameras — Autumn had given me many references to use as our guide in finding the unique look of Emma, so we tested many different lenses, cameras, filters, lights and lookup tables.”

Principal photography began in March 2019. Blauvelt hadn’t worked on a feature film in the UK before but was fortunate enough to team up with Mission, a UK-based DIT and digital services company, who assisted in setting up a workflow and a color pipeline that ensured that the director and DP’s vision was communicated to everyone. Mission’s Jacob Robinson was the DIT.

DITs have become a more and more important part of the camera crew and often build close working relationships with DPs. Designing the look of a production is a collaborative process that often begins in preproduction. “I really enjoy my working relationships with DITs; they are the people I rely on to inform me on the rules we’ve put in place on any particular shoot,” says Blauvelt. “Usually during prep, we will do an enormous amount of testing and come up with the recipe that we decide on for the shoot.”

The final DI colorist is often part of the mix too. For Emma, Goldcrest’s Rob Pizzey was the DI colorist, so he was also involved in creating the color pipeline and LUTs with Blauvelt and DIT Robinson. As Blauvelt explains, “It’s also really great having the chance to create custom LUTs with our final grade colorist. We work hard to have a formula that works while on location and all the way to the final grade.”

There are several different ways for a DP to work with LUTs. In Blauvelt’s case, during testing the team created several different base LUTs, including day/exterior, day/interior, night/exterior, night/interior, day/exterior in clouds and sun and other variations they might encounter during the shoot. “These LUTs are all adjustable as well,” he continues, “and will be manipulated live on set to achieve the desired look. We also have images to serve as our spirit throughout the shoot to remind us of the original intent as well.”

The digital lab process on Emma was straightforward. Every day, DIT Robinson would send the capture drives from set along with a Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve project with CDLs applied. Mission’s Niall Todd and Neil Gray were tasked with creating synced H264s and DNxHD 115 files for Avid. The data was then backed up to dual LTOs and a G-Tech 10TB G-Drive.

Mission’s on-set to near-set process made it simple for Blauvelt’s vision to be conveyed to everyone. “Mark Purvis has created a collective and creative environment with Mission that I had not experienced before.”

The digital intermediate process was straightforward, with Goldcrest’s Pizzey using DaVinci Resolve to complete the final grading. Emma, which was edited by Nick Emerson, is now streaming.

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Sebastian Robertson, Mark Johnson on making Playing For Change’s The Weight

By Randi Altman

If you have any sort of social media presence, it’s likely that you have seen Playing For Change’s The Weight video featuring The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, Lukas Nelson and musicians from all over the world. It’s amazing, and if you haven’t seen it, please click here now. Right now. Then come back and read how it was made.

L-R: Mark Johnson, Robbie Robertson, Sebastian Robertson, Raan Williams and Robin Moxey

The Weight was produced by Mark Johnson and Sebastian Robertson, Robbie’s son. It was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Band’s first studio album, Music From Big Pink, where the song “The Weight” first appeared. Raan Williams and Robin Moxey were also producers on the project.

Playing For Change (PFC) was co-founded by Johnson and Whitney Kroenke in 2002 with the goal to share the music of street musicians worldwide. And it seems the seed of the idea involved the younger Robertson and Johnson. “Mark Johnson is an old friend of mine,” explains Robertson. “I was sitting around in his apartment when he initially conceived the idea of Playing For Change. At first, it was a vehicle that brought street musicians into the spotlight, then it became world musicians, and then it evolved into a big musical celebration.”

Johnson explains further: “Playing For Change was born out of the idea that no matter how many things in life divide us, they will never be as strong as the power of music to bring us all together. We record and film songs around the world to reconnect all of us to our shared humanity and to show the world through the lens of music and art.” Pretty profound words considering current events.

Mermans Mosengo – Kinshasa Congo

Each went on with their busy lives, Robertson as a musician and composer, and Johnson traveling the world capturing all types of music. They reconnected a couple of years ago, and the timing was ideal. “I wanted to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Band’s Music From Big Pink — this beautiful album and this beautiful song that my dad wrote — so I brought it to Mark. I wanted to team up with some friends and we all came together to do something really special for him. That was the driving force behind the production of this video.”

To date, Playing For Change has created over 50 “Songs Around the World” videos — including The Grateful Dead’s Ripple and Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower — and recorded and filmed over 1,000 musicians across more than 60 countries.

The Weight is beautifully shot and edited, featuring amazingly talented musicians, interesting locales and one of my favorite songs to sing along to. I reached out to Robertson and Johnson to talk through the production, post and audio post.

This was a big undertaking. All those musicians and locales… how did you choose the musicians that were going to take part in it?
Robertson: First, some friends and I went into the studio to record the very basic tracks of the song — the bass, drums, guitar, a piano and a scratch vocal. The first instrument that was added was my dad on rhythm and lead guitar. He heard this very kind of rough demo version of what we had done and played along with it. Then, slowly along the way, we started to replace all those rough instruments with other musicians around them. That’s basically how the process worked.

Larkin Poe – Venice, California

Was there an audition process, or people you knew, like Lukas Nelson and Marcus King? Or did Playing For Change suggest them?
Robertson: Playing For Change was responsible for the world musicians, and I brought in artists like Lukas, my dad, Ringo and Larkin Poe. They have this incredible syndicate of world musicians, so there is no auditioning. So we knew they were going to be amazing. We brought what we had, they added this flavor, and then the song started to take on a new identity because of all these incredible cultures that are added to it. And it just so happened that Lukas was in Los Angeles because he had been recording up at Shangri-La in Malibu. My friend Eric (Lynn) runs that studio, so we got in touch. Then we filmed Lukas.

Is Shangri-La where you initially went to record the very basic parts of the song?
Robertson: It is. The funny and kind of amazing coincidence is that Shangri-La was The Band’s clubhouse in the ’70s. Since then, producer Rick Rubin has taken over. That’s where the band recorded the studio songs of The Last Waltz (film). That’s where they recorded their album, Northern Lights – Southern Cross. Now, here we are 50 years later, recording The Weight.

Mark, how did you choose the locations for the musicians? They were all so colorful and visually stunning.
Johnson: We generally try to work with each musician to find an outdoor location that inspires them and a place that can give the audience a window into their world. Not every location is always so planned out, so we do a lot of improvising to find a suitable location to record and film music live outside.

Shooting Marcus King in Greenville, South Carolina

What did you shoot on? Did you have one DP/crew or use some from all over the world? Were you on set?
Johnson: Most of the PFC videos are recorded and filmed by one crew (Guigo Foggiatto and Joe Miller), including myself, an additional audio person and two camera operators. We work with a local guide to help us find both musicians and locations. We filmed The Weight around the world on 4K with Sony A7 cameras — one side angle, one zoom and a Ronin for more motion.

How did you capture the performances from an audio aspect, and who did the audio post?
Johnson: We record all the musicians around the world live and outside using the same mobile recording studio we’ve used since the beginning of our “Song Around the World” videos over 10 years ago. The only thing that has changed is the way we power everything. In the beginning it was golf cart batteries and then car batteries with big heavy equipment, but fortunately it evolved into lightweight battery packs.

We primarily use Grace mic preamps and Schoeps microphones, and our recording mantra comes from a good friend and musician named Keb’ Mo’. He once told us, “Sound is a feeling first, so if it feels good it will always sound good…” This inspires us to help the musicians to feel comfortable and aware that they are performing along with other musicians from around the world to create something bigger than themselves.

One interesting thing that often comes from this project that differs from life in the studio is that the musicians playing on our songs around the world tend to listen more and play less. They know they are only a part of the performance and so they try to find the best way to fit in and support the song without any ego. This reality makes the editing and mixing process much easier to handle in post.

Lukas Nelson – Austin, Texas

The Weight was recorded by the Playing For Change crew and mixed by Greg Morgenstein, Robin Moxey, Sebastian and me.

What about the editing? All that footage and lining up the song must have been very challenging. I’m assuming cutting your previous videos has given you a lot of experience with this.
Johnson: That is a great question, and one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of the process. It can get really complicated sometimes to edit because we have three cameras per shoot/musician and sometimes many takes of each performance. And sometimes we comp the audio. For example, the first section came from Take 1, the second from Take 6, etc. … and we need to match the video to correspond to each different audio take/performance. We always rough-mix the music first in Avid Pro Tools and then find the corresponding video takes in Adobe Premiere. Whenever we return from a trip, we add the new layer to the Pro Tools session, then the video edit and build the song as we go.

The Weight was a really big audio session in Pro Tools with so many tracks and options to choose from as to who would play what fill or riff and who would sing each verse, and the video session was also huge. with about 20 performances around the world combined with all the takes that go along with them. One of the best parts of the process for me is soloing all the various instruments from around the world and seeing how amazing they all fit together.

You edited this yourself? And who did the color grade?
Johnson: The video was colored by Jon Walls and Yasuhiro Takeuchi on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and edited by me, along with everyone’s help, using Premiere. The entire song and video took over a year to make, so we had time throughout the process to work together on the rough mixes and rough edits from each location and build it brick by brick as we went along the journey.

Sherieta Lewis and Roselyn Williams – Trenchtown, Jamaica

When your dad is on the bench playing and wearing headphones — and the other artists as well — what are they listening to? Are they listening to the initial sort of music that you recorded in studio, or was it as it evolved, adding the different instruments and stuff? Is that what he was listening to and playing along to?
Robertson: Yeah. My dad would listen to what we recorded, except in his case we muted the guitar, so he was now playing the guitar part. Then, as elements from my dad and Ringo are added, those [scratch] elements were removed from what we would call the demo. So then as it’s traveling around the world, people are hearing more and more of what the actual production is going to be. It was not long before all those scratch tracks were gone and people were listening to Ringo and my dad. Then we just started filling in with the singers and so on and so forth.

I’m assuming that each artist played the song from start to finish in the video, or at least for the video, and then the editor went in and cut different lines together?
Robertson: Yes and no. For example, we asked Lukas to do a very specific part as far as singing. He would sing his verse, and then he would sing a couple choruses and play guitar over his section. It varied like that. Sometimes when necessary, if somebody is playing percussion throughout the whole song, then they would listen to it from start to finish. But if somebody was just being asked to sing a specific section, they would just sing that section.

Rajeev Shrestha – Nepal

How was your dad’s reaction to all of it? From recording his own bit to watching it and listening to the final?
Robertson: He obviously came on board very early because we needed to get his guitar, and we wanted to get him filmed at the beginning of the process. He was kind of like, “I don’t know what the hell you guys are doing, but it seems cool.” And then by the time the end result came, he was like, “Oh my God.” Also, the response that his friends and colleagues had to it… I think they had the similar response to what you had, which is A, how the hell did you do this? And, B, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

It really is amazing. One of my favorite parts of the video is the very end, when your dad’s done playing, looks up and has that huge smile on his face.
Robertson: Yeah. It’s a pulling-at-the-heart-strings moment for me, because that was really a perfect picture of the feeling that I had when it all came together.

You’re a musician as well. What are you up to these days?
Robertson: I have a label under the Universal Production Music umbrella, called Sonic Beat Records. The focus of the label is on contemporary, up-to-the-minute super-slick productions. My collaboration with Universal has been a great one so far; we just started in the fall of 2019, so it’s really new. But I’m finding my way in that family, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.

Another really fun collaboration was working with my dad on the score for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. That was a wonderful experience for me. I’m happy with how the music that we did turned out. Over the course of my life, my dad and I haven’t collaborated that much. We’ve just been father and son, and good friends, but as of late, we’ve started to put our forces together, and that has been a lot of fun.

L-R: Mark Johnson and Ahmed Al Harmi – Bahrain

Any other scores on the horizon?
Robertson: Yeah. I just did another score for a documentary film called Let There Be Drums!, which is a look into the mindset of rock and roll drummers. My friend, Justin Kreutzmann, directed it. He’s the son of Bill Kreutzmann, the drummer of the Grateful Dead. He gave me some original drum tracks of his dad’s and Mickey Hart’s, so I would have all these rhythmic elements to play with, and I got to compose a score on top of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s percussive and drumming works. That was a thrill of a lifetime.

Any final thoughts? And what’s next for you, Mark?
Johnson: One of the many amazing things that came out making this video was our partnership with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa from Bahrain, who works with us to help end the stereotype of terrorism through music by including musicians from the Middle East in our videos. In The Weight watch an oud master in Bahrain cut to a sitar master in Nepal followed by Robbie Robertson and Ringo Starr, and they all work so well together.

One of the best things about Playing For Change is that it never ends. There are always more songs to make, more musicians to record and more people to inspire through the power of music. One heart and one song at a time…


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years.


Assimilate intros live grading, video monitoring and dailies tools

Assimilate has launched Live Looks and Live Assist, production tools that give pros speed and specialized features for on-set live grading, look creation, advanced video monitoring and recording.

Live Looks provides an easy-to-set-up environment for video monitoring and live grading that supports any resolution, from standard HD up to 8K workflows. Featuring professional grading and FX/greenscreen tools, it is straightforward to operate and offers a seamless connection into dailies and post workflows. With Live Looks being available on both macOS and Windows, users are, for the first time, free to use the platform and hardware of their choice. You can see their intro video here.

“I interact regularly with DITs to get their direct input about tools that will help them be more efficient and productive on set, and Live Looks and Live Assist are a result of that,” says Mazze Aderhold, product marketing manager at Assimilate. “We’ve bundled unique and essential features with the needed speed to boost their capabilities, and enabling them to contribute to time savings and lower costs in the filmmaking workflow.”

Users can run this on a variety of places — from a  laptop to a full-blown on-set DIT rig. Live Looks provides LUT-box control over Flanders, Teradek and TVLogic devices. It also supports video I/O from AJA, Bluefish444 and Blackmagic for image and full-camera metadata capture. There is also now direct reference recording to Apple ProRes on macOS and Windows.

Live Looks goes beyond LUT-box control. Users can process the live camera feed via video I/O, making it possible to do advanced grading, compare looks, manage all metadata, annotate camera input and generate production reports. Its fully color-managed environment ensures the created looks will come out the same in dailies and post. Live Looks provides a seamless path into dailies and post with look-matching in Scratch and CDL-EDL transfer to DaVinci Resolve.

With Live Looks, Assimilate takes its high-end grading tool set beyond Lift, Gamma, Gain and CDL by adding Powerful Curves and an easy-to-use Color Remapper. On-set previews can encompass not just color but realtime texture effects, like Grain, Highlight Glow, Diffusion and Vignette — all GPU-accelerated.

Advanced chroma keying lets users replace greenscreen backgrounds with two clicks. This allows for proper camera angles, greenscreen tracking/anchor point locations and lighting. As with all Assimilate software, users can load and play back any camera format, including raw formats such as Red raw and Apple ProRes raw.

Live Assist has all of the features of Live Looks but also handles basic video-assist tasks, and like Live Assist, it is available on both macOS and Windows. It provides multicam recording and instant playback of all recorded channels and seamlessly combines live grading with video-assist tasks in an easy-to-use UI. Live Assist automatically records camera inputs to file based on the Rec-flag inside the SDI signal, including all live camera metadata. It also extends the range of supported “edit-ready” capture formats: Apple ProRes (Mov), H264 (MP4) and Avid DNxHD/HR (MXF). Operators can then choose whether they want to record the clean signal or record with the grade baked in.

Both Live Looks and Live Assist are available now. Live Looks starts at $89 per month, and Live Assist starts at $325 per month. Both products and free trials are available on the Assimilate site.


Director Vincent Lin discusses colorful Seagram’s Escapes spot

By Randi Altman

Valiant Pictures, a New York-based production house, recently produced a commercial spot featuring The Bachelor/Bachelorette host Chris Harrison promoting Seagram’s Escapes and its line of alcohol-based fruit drinks. A new addition to the product line is Tropical Rosé, which was co-developed by Harrison and contains natural passion fruit, dragon fruit and rosé flavors.

Valiant’s Vincent Lin directed the piece, which features Harrison in a tropical-looking room — brightened with sunny pinks and yellows thanks to NYC’s Nice Shoes — describing the rosé and signing off with the Seagram’s Escapes brand slogan, “Keep it colorful!”

Here, director Lin — and his DP Alexander Chinnici — talks about the project’s conception, shoot and post.

How early did you get involved? Did Valiant act as the creative agency on this spot?
Valiant has a long-standing history with the Seagram’s Escapes brand team, and we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to brainstorm a few ideas with them early on for their launch of Seagram’s Escapes Tropical Rosé with Chris Harrison. The creative concept was developed by Valiant’s in-house creative agency, headed by creative directors Nicole Zizila and Steven Zizila, and me. Seagram’s was very instrumental in the creative for the project, and we collaborated to make sure it felt fresh and new — like an elevated evolution of their “Keep It Colorful” campaign rather than a replacement.

Clearly, it’s meant to have a tropical vibe. Was it shot greenscreen?
We had considered doing this greenscreen, which would open up some interesting options, but also it would pose some challenges. What was important for this campaign creatively was to seamlessly take Chris Harrison to the magical world of Seagram’s Escapes Tropical Rosé. A practical approach was chosen so it didn’t feel too “out of this world,” and the live action still felt real and relatable. We had considered putting Chris in a tropical location — either in greenscreen or on location — but we really wanted to play to Chris’ personality and strengths and have him lead us to this world, rather than throw him into it. Plus, they didn’t sign off on letting us film in the Maldives. I tried (smiles).

L-R: Vincent Lin and Alex Chinnici

What was the spot shot on?
Working with the very talented DP Alex Chinnici, he recommended shooting on the ARRI Alexa for many reasons. I’ll let Alex answer this one.

Alex Chinnici: Some DPs would likely answer with something sexier  like, “I love the look!” But that is ignoring a lot of the technical realities available to us these days. A lot of these cameras are wonderful. I can manipulate the look, so I choose a camera based on other reasons. Without an on-set live, color-capable DIT, I had to rely on the default LUT seen on set and through post. The Alexa’s default LUT is my preference among the digital cameras. For lighting and everyone on the set, we start in a wonderful place right off the bat. Post houses also know it so well, along with colorists and VFX. Knowing our limitations and expecting not to be entirely involved, I prefer giving these departments the best image/file possible.

Inherently, the color, highlight retention and skin tone are wonderful right off the bat without having to bend over backward for anyone. With the Alexa, you end up being much closer to the end rather than having to jump through hoops to get there like you would with some other cameras. Lastly, the reliability is key. With the little time that we had, and a celebrity talent, I would never put a production through the risk of some new tech. Being in a studio, we had full control but still, I’d rather start in a place of success and only make it better from there.

What about the lenses?
Chinnici: I chose the Zeiss Master Primes for similar reasons. While sharp, they are not overbearing. With some mild filtration and very soft and controlled lighting, I can adjust that in other ways. Plus, I know that post will beautify anything that needs it; giving them a clean, sharp image (especially considering the seltzer can) is key.

I shot at a deeper stop to ensure that the lenses are even cleaner and sharper, although the Master Primes do hold up very well wide open. I also wanted the Seagram’s can to be in focus as much as possible and for us to be able to see the set behind Chris Harrison, as opposed to a very shallow depth of field. I also wanted to ensure little to no flares, solid contrast, sharpness across the field and no surprises.

Thanks Alex. Back to you Vincent. How did you work with Alex to get the right look?
There was a lot of back and forth between Alex and me, and we pulled references to discuss. Ultimately, we knew the two most important things were to highlight Chris Harrison and the product. We also knew we wanted the spot to feel like a progression from the brand’s previous work. We decided the best way to do this was to introduce some dimensionality by giving the set depth with lighting, while keeping a clean, polished and sophisticated aesthetic. We also introduced a bit of camera movement to further pull the audience in and to compose the shots it in a way that all the focus would be on Chris Harrison to bring us into that vibrant CG world.

How did you work with Nice Shoes colorist Chris Ryan to make sure the look stayed on point? 
Nice Shoes is always one of our preferred partners, and Chris Ryan was perfect for the job. Our creatives, Nicole and Steven, had worked with him a number of times. As with all jobs, there are certain challenges and limitations, and we knew we had to work fast. Chris is not only detail oriented, creative and a wizard with color correction, but also able to work efficiently.

He worked on a FilmLight Baselight system off the Alexa raw files. The color grading really brought out the saturation to further reinforce the brand’s slogan, “Keep It Colorful,” but also to manage the highlights and whites so it felt inviting and bright throughout, but not at all sterile.

What about the VFX? Can you talk about how that was accomplished? 
Much like the camera work, we wanted to continue giving dimensionality to the spot by having depth in each of our CG shots. Not only depth in space but also in movement and choreography. We wanted the CG world to feel full of life and vibrant in order to highlight key elements of the beverage — the flavors, dragonfruit and passionfruit — and give it a sense of motion that draws you in while making you believe there’s a world outside of it. We wanted the hero to shine in the center and the animation to play out as if a kaleidoscope or tornado was pulling you in closer and closer.

We sought the help of creative production studio Taylor James tto build the CG elements. We chose to work with a core of 3ds Max artists who could do a range of tasks using Autodesk 3ds Max and Chaos Group’s V-Ray (we also use Maya and Arnold). We used Foundry Nuke to composite all of the shots and integrate the CGI into the footage. The 3D asset creation, animation and lighting were constructed and rendered in Autodesk Maya, with compositing done in Adobe After Effects.

One of the biggest challenges was making sure the live action felt connected to the CG world, but with each still having its own personality. There is a modern and clean feel to these spots that we wanted to uphold while still making it feel fun and playful with colors and movement. There were definitely a few earlier versions that we went a bit crazy with and had to scale down a bit.

Does a lot of your work feature live action and visual effects combined?
I think of VFX like any film technique: It’s simply a tool for directors and creatives to use. The most essential thing is to understand the brand, if it’s a commercial, and to understand the story you are trying to tell. I’ve been fortunate to do a number of spots that involve live-action and VFX now, but truth be told, VFX almost always sneaks its way in these days.

Even if I do a practical effect, there are limitless possibilities in post production and VFX. Anything from simple cleanup to enhancing, compositing, set building and extending — it’s all possible. It’d be foolish not to consider it as a viable tool. Now, that’s not to say you should rely solely on VFX to fix problems, but if there’s a way it can improve your work, definitely use it. For this particular project, obviously, the CG was crucial to let us really be immersed in a magical world at the level of realism and proximity we desired.

Anything challenging about this spot that you’d like to share?
Chris Harrison was terrible to work with and refused to wear a shirt for some reason … I’m just kidding! Chris was one of the most professional, humblest and kindest celebrity talents that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. This wasn’t a simple endorsement for him; he actually did work closely with Seagram’s Escapes over several months to create and flavor-test the Tropical Rosé beverage.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 


DP Chat: Carnival Row cinematographer Chris Seager

By Randi Altman

For British DP Chris Seager, BSC, his path to movies and television began at film school. After graduation, he found his way to BBC Television’s film department, working on docs and TV movies, including John Schlesinger’s Cold Comfort Farm, starring Kate Beckinsale, Ian McKellen and Rufus Sewell. Soon after, he left the BBC and started his career as a freelance cinematographer.

Chris Seager

Seager’s CV is long, and includes the films A Kind of Murder, Retreat and New in Town and series such as The Alienist, Watchmen and most recently Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row. In fact, Seager, who has been working on Season 2 of the series, received an ASC Award nomination in the non-commercial TV series category for his work on Episode 5, “Grieve No More.”

The show, which stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, follows a variety of mythical creatures who had to flee their homeland for the big city during what looks very much like a fantastical Victorian era. As you can imagine, tensions grow between the local humans and these magical immigrants, who are forced to live in a ghetto known as Carnival Row.

We reached out to DP Seager to find out more about the show’s look, his workflow and what inspires him.

Can you talk about the look of the show?
There had been many discussions — between the producers, writers, Legendary, Amazon, the production designer, costume designer, etc. — before I came on board. The production design team had produced some very fine concept drawings that firmly put the show in a, shall we say, “Victorian period.”

That decision led everyone to research that period, so shape, color and design of buildings, sets, costumes and practical lights. For me, that meant the use of candles, oil and gas lamps and the warmth they generated in terms of color and quality of the emitted light from each of those sources. The variety of locations — from The Row exteriors to government buildings, a brothel, bars, upper class establishments and more — gave me many opportunities to use light sources to full effect.

The nighttime streets in The Row showed dark seedy corners and alleyways intermixed with orange dancing flames from braziers, with the street people warming their hands. The streets were awash with rain and mud, horses and carriages, humans, faes and pucks, all fighting their way through the smoke from the fires. It was backlit with a sultry greenish moonlight that gave the cinematic images that brought the viewer into the period. Daylight was slightly cold and threatening and was mixed with the oil lamp warmth on interiors.

How did the showrunners/producers tell you what they wanted for the look?
It all starts with the scripts. I’m a firm believer that it is the words that conjure up the emotions within the script, and in turn they are echoed in the cinematography. And not only the cinematography but the production design, the costumes the makeup, the visual effects, the editing.

In prep, I really like to spend time with the director and production designer going through the script page by page. It’s those first conversations that begin to bring life to the script, the mood of the actors in a scene, their emotions, their fear or anger, are they happy or sad. Just gaining that information from the director plants a suggestion of the feel of that particular scene, whether it’s hard shafts of light, high sun, moody sunset, soft silky light or dark dingy light.

A mood begins to be set and a discussion will take place about the use of the camera — whether it’s still, fast-moving, reflective or perhaps angry. Then comes the choice of the lens package. There are many choices and collectively — through the collaboration with the director — a mood and style emerges, which the team can take on board.

How early do you get involved in a production?
The cheeky answer to that is, probably never early enough. In truth, it does depend on the complexity of the production. You nearly always think you need more prep time, but invariably you just about get enough. Most departments in the filmmaking process would say the same.

Certainly, prep time is very important. It’s when you formulate the style, look and feeling of the piece. It’s also when you have time to meet, discuss, ask questions and get the answers that start to put shape to the project. Then you begin to plan scenes with the director and all the relevant departments that make up the team. On Carnival Row’s first season, I got six weeks of prep before we started shooting.

Can you talk about working with the show’s other departments?
One of the joys of being a cinematographer on a production is working with the other creative departments. Collectively, we are all responsible for giving the show a look. My first contact with other departments is usually the locations team and the production designer. Typically, these two teams have been busy before I arrive on the show, so some locations and set designs have already been looked at or even chosen.

During the first few days of my prep, I get up to speed quickly with their ideas and plans. This is often done with meetings with the showrunner, director, production designer, locations, 1st AD and visual effects to talk through the show’s concepts and journey. Then we discuss script requirements regarding locations or set builds and set extensions (CGI).

Do you enjoy working with the design team?
I love it. Lots of sets had to be built during the shooting of Carnival Row. Some were the mainstay sets, like the Constabulary, Spurnrose House, Balefire, Parliament and the boarding house. Then, of course, the backlot street set and numerous location sets, as well as real locations. Six stages were used at Prague’s Barrandov Studio. Discussions with the production designer were mostly about the size of a set, number of windows, entrances and ceilings, or whether to have them or not. And if you do have them, what’s their height, the set texture, color and darkness, etc. Not a day would go by without a discussion with the design team.

I would also talk the with costume and makeup departments about the colors of the costumes and hair styles, all important aspects of the show. There would be lots of “show and tell” with costumes and props. The makeup effects department was a fun place to visit. It was here where the wings of the fae were designed and built, along with the pucks’ horns and numerous dead bodies.

Can you talk about your camera team?
My A camera operator, Jakub Dvorsky, was a dream to work with. He somehow seemed to instantly understand what I would require with a shot. My gaffer, Enzo Cermak, was also exceptional, as was his team of talented friendly electricians. Thanks to Enzo’s help, I was able to effectively paint a scene.

Earlier you mentioned using candles, oil and gas lamps for lighting. Can you dive into that a bit further?
I liked the idea that the poorer streets of The Row had a cold daylight look to them, interspersed with firelight used for roasting chestnuts, cooking food or just for warmth. That, along with smoke from the fires, gave it a particular look. This cold light was used for the interiors scenes as well. For the Burgue, or well-off areas, we used warmer light with more contrast, and windows on sets were larger. This allowed more light in.

What about the nights?
Night shoots on The Row backlot were backlit or cross-lit with a blue/green moonlight, as referenced earlier. I used ¼ or ½ or sometimes full Wendy lights (tungsten) depending on distance from the set, with ½ blue and ¼ plus green gels. Invariably, if I used a ½ Wendy, one section would have ¼ or ½ diffusion filter as well as the moonlight gels. This gave me options to have a softer moonlight if needed, and I also had the ability to switch off sections of the Wendy lights to get the exposure levels that I wanted.

I would also use an LED tube balloon from a crane over the mid sections of the street set to allow a soft top moonlight. On the busy Row streets, I made use of brazier fires where street sellers cooked food. This gave me the warm light that contrasted with the moonlight. I would then add smoke and the scene would be set.

For interiors, I used a mixture of candles and oil lamps and, occasionally, gas lamps. Candles were used in the Haruspex set to great effect, and also the brothel set. Oil lamps were used in houses and the Constabulary.

Real oil lamps?
Some were real oil lamps and others were look-alike oil lamps. For these I used 650W lighting bulbs dimmed down to around 18% and then a slight flicker was added; the result was a very convincing warm glowing oil lamp look.

You mentioned that the show was shot in Prague?
Yes, Carnival Row was shot in the Czech Republic. The production base was at the historically built Barrandov Studio in Prague. Locations in and around Prague were also used.

You shot on the ARRI Alexa Mini. How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses this project?
Our frame size was a wide-screen format 1: 2.40. and the lens package was the ARRI Master Primes. The cameras gave us 3.2K upscaled to 4K picture quality. The wide-screen format gave us the ability to use the wonderful width of the frame to our advantage. The Master Primes give us the solid look that they are known for, with solid frames with little to no distortion and with good contrast.

Why the Alexa Mini?
I’m a fan of the ARRI Alexa range of digital cameras. I was always keen to use ARRI film cameras when film was at its height. When digital cameras started to become the vogue, ARRI brought out the D21 camera. It was a heavy, rather large camera with what would be described today as having limited digital prowess. Strangely, I liked the “look” this D21 gave me and used it on quite a few TV shows up until the ARRI Alexa hit the scene.

The Alexa was a game changer for cinematographers. I believe that the Alexa Mini was designed to be used as its name suggests: as a compact camera to be used in tight corners or on weight-limited camera rigs, like Steadicam and stabilized rigs. However, it was soon being used as the studio camera on many productions, and thanks to upgrades over time, it has become my “must-have” camera. It has a wonderful look, and when used in low light, it seems to have a different life. You can push it and pull it into different exciting looks. It’s my friend.

Any scenes that you are particularly proud?
There are many, but here is an example of one such scene. It’s in Season 1, Episode 5, directed by Andy Goddard. Philo (Orlando Bloom) revisits his childhood orphanage to investigate a murder. Between me and Andy, we set up a series of shots following Philo into his old dormitory as memories of his childhood come flooding back.

With no words spoken, we tracked with him through the numerous beds in this grey stone room, with haze-filled soft light coming through tall soulless windows. This gave the room a monochrome feel — a going-back-in-time look. We then devised a camera dolly shot that tracks and pans with Philo on the dolly and moving with the camera as if he is floating. As we tracked, we panned the camera along with Philo, and that developed into a flashback of him as a child with his friends. We then cut out to a wider shot to reveal just Philo standing alone, and the flashback has disappeared. We used this technique a couple of times within those scenes and they were both telling and subtle.

 

Is this like any other project you’ve worked on?
A short answer to that is no. Working on Game of Thrones (Season 3)is probably the nearest it gets, but Carnival Row is a very different beast. Each episode had a wonderment about it and is very magical in some way. The whole series was written as a fantasy world, set in a supposedly Victorian age, with humans, pucks and fae all thrown together. It was dark, mysterious, dangerous, intriguing and exciting.

How did you become interested in cinematography?
It all started when I was 11 years old. The family TV, one late September night, suddenly went bang, with a cloud of blue smoke and a flash. I was somehow fascinated by this event, and on my 12th birthday, my parents bought me a wonderfully illustrated book on how television worked from the television studio to the home. I was then on a mission to be involved somehow in the TV/film business. Art was one of my favorite subjects at school and my art teacher encouraged me to take up photography alongside my painting.

At 18 years old, off I went to art school to study photography. I enjoyed my first year, but I somehow became more interested in the team-oriented film and TV crowd. I moved from photography to cinematography, and the rest is history.

What inspires you artistically?
The obvious answer to that is art. Paintings inspire me. They always have. The way an artist uses light, shape, form, darkness, color, technique, composition, aspect ratio and sheer size or smallness of a canvas, how depth is created, senses of emotion, fear, happiness. Photography equally inspires me. Black and white versus color and that “decisive moment” when the shot is taken, a magnificent moment.

How do you stay on top of new technology?
Advancing technology comes at you from seemingly every direction today. The speed of that advancement during the 20th and 21st centuries is outstanding. I started shooting film at school with a clockwork wind-up 16mm Bolex camera with just two lenses, and look where we are now. I love the technical revolution. It’s important to embrace it, otherwise it overtakes you.

I seem to always be reading trade magazines to see the new developments. It’s also important to talk with other cinematographers to discuss their views and experiences on new technology.

Looking back, what technology has changed the way you work?
I suppose the biggest game changer, apart from digital cameras, is the advancement in LED light fixtures. For me, to be able to use light fixtures like the ARRI SkyPanel LED range — it offers low power and low-output heat, bi-color capabilities, dimming and effects… plus it has firmware that lets you produce gel colors across the spectrum — is just awesome. Camera and grip technology have also changed. The use of high-quality/small-footprint drones are an example, along with telescopic cranes with stabilized heads and cable camera systems.

Digital cameras have advanced over the last few years too, with 4K and 6K capability along with ISO changes from the base ISO of 800 to 2500 and 5000. There’s also the on-set color grading facility that enables the cinematographer to put his/her “look” on to the dailies.

What are some of your best practices you try to follow on each job?
For me, being well prepped and turning up on set early every day is a must for me. I have that nervous adrenaline hit within me at the start of the shooting day. A mixture of excitement and just nerves, which is the way I am. As soon as the rehearsal starts, I’m calm… well, mostly.

Getting into the director’s head [so to speak] is also important for me. Finding out what they like or dislike. We have to be a team and that includes the 1st AD, production designer, operator and many more. It’s important to remember that filmmaking is a team effort and I,  for one, encourage input from my team.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 


Amazon’s The Expanse Season 4 gets HDR finish

The fourth season of the sci-fi series The Expanse was finished in HDR for the first time streaming via Amazon Prime Video. Deluxe Toronto handled end-to-end post services, including online editorial, sound remixing and color grading. The series was shot on ARRI Alexa Minis.

In preparation for production, cinematographer Jeremy Benning, CSC, shot anamorphic test footage at a quarry that would serve as the filming stand-in for the season’s new alien planet, Ilus. Deluxe Toronto senior colorist Joanne Rourke then worked with Benning, VFX supervisor Bret Culp, showrunner Naren Shankar and series regular Breck Eisner to develop looks that would convey the location’s uninviting and forlorn nature, keeping the overall look desaturated and removing color from the vegetation. Further distinguishing Ilus from other environments, production chose to display scenes on or above Ilus in a 2.39 aspect ratio, while those featuring Earth and Mars remained in a 16:9 format.

“Moving into HDR for Season 4 of our show was something Naren and I have wanted to do for a couple of years,” says Benning. “We did test HDR grading a couple seasons ago with Joanne at Deluxe, but it was not mandated by the broadcaster at the time, so we didn’t move forward. But Naren and I were very excited by those tests and hoped that one day we would go HDR. With Amazon as our new home [after airing on Syfy], HDR was part of their delivery spec, so those tests we had done previously had prepared us for how to think in HDR.

“Watching Season 4 come to life with such new depth, range and the dimension that HDR provides was like seeing our world with new eyes,” continues Benning. “It became even more immersive. I am very much looking forward to doing Season 5, which we are shooting now, in HDR with Joanne.”

Rourke, who has worked on every season of The Expanse, explains, “Jeremy likes to set scene looks on set so everyone becomes married to the look throughout editorial. He is fastidious about sending stills each week, and the intended directive of each scene is clear long before it reaches my suite. This was our first foray into HDR with this show, which was exciting, as it is well suited for the format. Getting that extra bit of detail in the highlights made such a huge visual impact overall. It allowed us to see the comm units, monitors, and plumes on spaceships as intended by the VFX department and accentuate the hologram games.”

After making adjustments and ensuring initial footage was even, Rourke then refined the image by lifting faces and story points and incorporating VFX. This was done with input provided by producer Lewin Webb; Benning; cinematographer Ray Dumas, CSC; Culp or VFX supervisor Robert Crowther.

To manage the show’s high volume of VFX shots, Rourke relied on Deluxe Toronto senior online editor Motassem Younes and assistant editor James Yazbeck to keep everything in meticulous order. (For that they used the Grass Valley Rio online editing and finishing system.) The pair’s work was also essential to Deluxe Toronto re-recording mixers Steve Foster and Kirk Lynds, who have both worked on The Expanse since Season 2. Once ready, scenes were sent in HDR via Streambox to Shankar for review at Alcon Entertainment in Los Angeles.

“Much of the science behind The Expanse is quite accurate thanks to Naren, and that attention to detail makes the show a lot of fun to work on and more engaging for fans,” notes Foster. “Ilus is a bit like the wild west, so the technology of its settlers is partially reflected in communication transmissions. Their comms have a dirty quality, whereas the ship comms are cleaner-sounding and more closely emulate NASA transmissions.”

Adds Lynds, “One of my big challenges for this season was figuring out how to make Ilus seem habitable and sonically interesting without familiar sounds like rustling trees or bird and insect noises. There are also a lot of amazing VFX moments, and we wanted to make sure the sound, visuals and score always came together in a way that was balanced and hit the right emotions story-wise.”

Foster and Lynds worked side by side on the season’s 5.1 surround mix, with Foster focusing on dialogue and music and Lynds on sound effects and design elements. When each had completed his respective passes using Avid ProTools workstations, they came together for the final mix, spending time on fine strokes, ensuring the dialogue was clear, and making adjustments as VFX shots were dropped in. Final mix playbacks were streamed to Deluxe’s Hollywood facility, where Naren could hear adjustments completed in real time.

In addition to color finishing Season 4 in HDR, Rourke also remastered the three previous seasons of The Expanse in HDR, using her work on Season 4 as a guide and finishing with Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15. Throughout the process, she was mindful to pull out additional detail in highlights without altering the original grade.

“I felt a great responsibility to be faithful to the show for the creators and its fans,” concludes Rourke. “I was excited to revisit the episodes and could appreciate the wonderful performances and visuals all over again.”


Review: GoPro’s Hero 8 and GoPro Max 360 cameras

By Brady Betzel

Every year GoPro outdoes themselves and gives users more reasons why you should either upgrade your old GoPro action camera or invest in the GoPro ecosphere for the first time. Late last year, GoPro introduced the GoPro Hero 8 (for review the Black Edition) and the GoPro Max — a.k.a. the re-imagined Fusion 360 camera.

If you aren’t sure whether you want to buy one or both of the new GoPro cameras, you should take a look at the GoPro TradeUp program where you can send in any camera with an original retail value of $99.99 or more and you will receive $100 off the Hero 8 or $50 off the Hero 7. Check out the TradeUp program. That at least will take the sting off of the $399.99 or higher price.

GoPro Hero 8 Black Edition
Up first, I’ll take a look at the GoPro Hero 8 Black Edition. If you own the Hero 7 Black Edition you will be familiar with many of the Hero 8 features. But there are some major improvements from the Hero 7 to the Hero 8 that will make you think hard about upgrading. The biggest update, in my opinion, is the increase in the max bit rate to 100 Mb/s. With that increase comes better quality video (more data = more information = more details). But GoPro also allows you to use the HEVC (H.265) codec to compress videos, which is a much improved version of the antiquated H.264. You can get into the weeds on the H.264 vs H.265 codecs over at Frame.io’s blog where they have some really great (and nerdy) info.

Anyway, with the bit rate increased — any video from the GoPro Hero 8 Black Edition has the potential to be better than the Hero 7. I say “potential” because if the bit rate doesn’t need to be that high, the GoPro won’t force it to be — it’s a variable bit rate codec that only uses data if it needs to.

Beyond the increased bit rate, there are some other great features. The menu system has been improved even further than the 7, making it easier to get shooting without setting a bunch of advanced settings. There are presets made to set up your GoPro quickly and easily, depending on what you are filming: Standard (1080, 60, Wide), Activity (2.7K, 60, SuperView) and Cinematic (4K, 30, Linear). Live Streaming has been upped from 720p to 1080p, but we are still stuck with streaming from the GoPro through your phone natively to the sites YouTube and Facebook. You can stream to other sites like Twitch by setting up a RTMP URL — but Instagram is still off the list. This is unfortunate because, I think live Instagram streams/stories would be their biggest feature.

Hypersmooth 2.0 is an improved version of Hypersmooth 1.0 (still on the Hero 7). You can stabilize even more if you enable the “Boost” function, which adds more stabilization but at the cost of a larger crop on your video. Hypersmooth is an incredible, gimbal-replacing stabilization that GoPro has engineered with the help of automatic Horizon levelling, GPS and other telemetry data.

Coming soon will be external attachments called “Mods,” which will include a Media Mod adding an HDMI output, 3.5mm microphone jack and two cold shoe mounts; a Display Mod adding a flip up screen to see yourself from the front (think vlogging); and a Light Mod, which will add an LED to the camera for lighting. These will require the Media Mod ($79.99) to be purchased in addition to the Light ($49.99) and/or Display Mod ($79.99). Keep an eye on the GoPro store for info on pre-orders and purchases.

GoPro cameras have always taken great pictures and video… when the lighting is perfect. Even with the Hero 8, low light is the Achilles Heel of GoPro — the video starts to become muddy and hard to view. The Hero 8 shares the same camera sensor as the Hero 7 and even the same GP1 processor, but the Hero 8 was able to squeeze some more tech out of it with features like Timewarp 2.0 and Hypersmooth 2.0. So you will get similar images and videos out of both cameras at a base level, but with the added technology in the Hero 8 Black Edition, if you have the extra $100 you should get the latest version. Overall, the Hero 8 Black Edition is physically thinner (albeit a little taller), the battery compartment is no longer on the bottom and the Hero 8 now has a built-in mount! No more need for extra cages if you don’t need them!

GoPro Max
So last time I used GoPro’s 360 camera creation it was the Fusion. The Fusion was a hard-to-use, bulky, 360 camera that required two separate memory cards. It was not my favorite camera to test, in fact it felt like it needed another round of beta testing. Fast forward to today, and the recently released GoPro Max, which is what the Fusion should have been. While I think the Max is a marked improvement over the Fusion, it is not necessarily for everyone. If you specifically need to make 360 content or want a new GoPro, but also want to keep your options open to filming in 360 degrees, then the Max is for you.

The GoPro Max costs $499.99, so it’s not much more than a Hero 8 Black and it can shoot in 360 degrees. One of the best features is the ability to shoot like a traditional GoPro (i.e. one lens). Unfortunately, you are limited to 1080p/1440p 60/30/24fps — and maybe worst of all no slow-mo. You don’t always need to shoot in 360 with the Max, but you don’t quite get the full line-up of frame rates offered by the traditional Hero 8 Black Edition.

In addition, the bit rate of the Max — maxes out (all pun intended) at 78Mb/s not the 100Mb/s like the Hero 8. But if you want to shoot in 360, the GoPro Max is pretty simple to get running. It will even capture 360 audio with its six-mic array, shoot 24fps or 30fps at 5.6K resolution for stitched spherical video and, best of all, editing the spherical video is much easier in the latest GoPro phone app update. Unfortunately, editing on a Windows computer is not as easy as on the phone.

I am using a computer with Windows 10, Intel i7 6-core CPU, 32 GB memory and an Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU — so not a slow laptop. You can find all of the Windows software and plugins for 360 video on GoPro’s website. It seems like GoPro is trying to bury software for computers because it wasn’t easy to find these Windows apps. Nonetheless, you will want to download the GoPro Max Exporter and the Adobe GoPro FX Reframe plugins if you plan on editing your footage. Before I go any further, if you want to watch a video tutorial, I suggest you watch Abe Kislevitz’s tutorial on the GoPro Max workflow in Adobe Premiere. He is really good at explaining the workflow. Abe works at GoPro in media production and always has great videos, check his website out while you’re at it.

Moving on, in MacOS, iOS and Android, you can work with GoPro Max’s native 360 file format via the GoPro built apps. The 360 file format is a Google-created mapping known as EAC or Equal Area Cubemap. Get all the nerdy bits here.

Unfortunately, in Windows you need to convert the 360 videos into the “old school” equirectangular format that we’ve been used to. To do this, you run your 360 videos through the GoPro Exporter, which can use the power of both the CPU and GPU to create new files. This extra step stinks, I can’t sugar coat it. But with better compression and mapping structures come growing pains… I guess. GoPro is supposedly building a Windows-based reframer and exporter like the MacOS version, but after trolling some GoPro forums it seems like they have a lot of work to do and/or came to the conclusion that most users are going to use their phones or a MacOS-based system.

Either way, the process to reframe your 360 video and export as 1920×1080 or 1080×1920 goes: convert your 360 files to a more usable Cineform, H.265 or H.264 Quicktime > import into Adobe Premiere > create a sequence that will match your largest output size (i.e. 1920×1080) > apply the GoPro FX Reframe plugin and identify your output size (i.e. 1920×1080) > keyframe rotation, edit, reframe, etc. > export.

It’s not awful as long as you know what you are going to get yourself into. But take that with a grain of salt; I am a professional video editor that works in video 10-12 hours a day at least five days a week. I am very comfortable with this kind of stuff. It seems like it would take some more work if I wasn’t an editor by trade. If I was to try and explain this to my wife or kids, they may roll their eyes at me and just ask me to do it… understandably. If you want to upload to a site like YouTube without editing, you will still need to convert the 360 videos to something that is more manageable for YouTube like H.264 or H.265.

When working in Premiere with the GoPro Reframe plugin I actually found the effect controls overlay intuitive when panning and tilting. The hard part when keyframing panning and tilting in Premiere is adjusting the bezier curve keyframe graph. It’s not exactly intuitive, which makes it a challenge to get smooth starts and ends to your pans and tilts… even with Easy Ease In/Out set. With a little work you can get it done, but I really hope GoPro gets their Windows-based GoPro Max 360 editor up and running so I don’t have to use Adobe.

But after I did a couple of keyframed pans and tilts to my footage I took while riding It’s a Small World at Disneyland with my three sons, I exported a quick H.264. For about 50 seconds of footage took four minutes to export. Not exactly speedy. But playing back my footage in a 1920×1080 timeline in Premiere at ¼ resolution when using the GoPro plugin was actually pretty smooth.

You can check out the video I edited with the GoPro FX Reframer plugin in Premiere on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/frhJ3T8fzmE. I then wanted to take my video of our Tea Cup ride at Disneyland straight from the camera and upload it to YouTube. Unfortunately, you still need to convert the video in the GoPro Max Exporter to an H.264 or the like but this time it only took 1:45 to export a two-minute 4K video. You can check out the 4K-360 Tea Cup ride on YouTube.

Final Thoughts
Are the GoPro Hero 8 Black Edition and GoPro Max 360 camera worth an upgrade or new purchase? I definitely think the Hero 8 is worth it. GoPro always makes great cameras that are waterproof down to 33 feet, take great pictures when there is enough available light, can create amazing hyperlapses and timewarps incamera with little work, fine tune your shutter speed or flat-color footage with ProTune settings, and all of this can fit in your pocket.

I used to take a DSLR to Disneyland, but with the Hypersmooth 2.0 and the improved HDR images that come out of the Hero 8, this is the only camera you will need.

The GoPro Max is a different story. I like what the GoPro Max does technically; it films 360 video easily and can double as a 1440p Hero camera. But I found myself fumbling a little with the Max because of its larger footprint when compared to the Hero 8 (it’s definitely smaller than the old Fusion 360 camera though). And when editing on your phone or doing a straight upload, the videos are relatively easy to process, as long as you don’t mind the export time. Unfortunately, using Premiere to edit these videos is a little rough; it’s better than with the Fusion but it’s not simple.

Maybe I’m just getting older and don’t want to give in to the VR/360 video yet, or maybe it’s just not as smooth of a process as I would have hoped for. But if you want to work in 360 and don’t mind a lack of slow motion, I wouldn’t tell you to not buy the GoPro Max. It’s a great camera with durable lenses and exterior case.

Check out the videos on YouTube and see what amazing people like Abe Kislevitz are doing; they may just show you what you need to see. And check out www.gopro.com for more info including when those new Hero 8 Mods will be available.


 


MPI restores The Wizard of Oz in 4K HDR

By Barry Goch

The classic Victor Fleming-directed film The Wizard of Oz, which was released by MGM in 1939 and won two of its six Academy Award nominations, has been beautifully restored by Burbank’s Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI).

Bob Bailey

To share its workflow on the film, MPI invited a group of journalists to learn about the 4K UHD HDR restoration of this classic film. The tour guide for our high-tech restoration journey was MPI’s VP of operations and sales Bob Bailey, who walked us through the entire restoration process — from the original camera negative to final color.

The Wizard of Oz, which starred Judy Garland, was shot on a Technicolor three-strip camera system. According to Bailey, it ran three black and white negatives simultaneously. “That is why it is known as three-strip Technicolor. The magazine on top of the camera was triple the width of a normal black and white camera because it contained each roll of negative to capture your red, green and blue records,” explained Bailey.

“When shooting in Technicolor, you weren’t just getting the camera. You would rent a package that included the camera, a camera crew with three assistants, the film, the processing and a Technicolor color consultant.”

George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, spoke about why the film was chosen for restoration. “The Wizard of Oz is among the crown jewels that we hold,” he said. “We wanted to embrace the new 4K HDR technology, but nobody’s ever released a film that old using this technology. HDR, or high dynamic range, has a color range that is wider than anything that’s come before it. There are colors [in The Wizard of Oz] that were never reproducible before, so what better a film to represent that color?”

Feltenstein went on to explain that this is the oldest film to get released in the 4K format. He hopes that this is just the beginning and that many of the films in Warner Bros.’ classic library will also be released on 4K HDR and worked on at MPI under Bailey’s direction.

The Process
MPI scanned each of the three-strip Technicolor nitrate film negatives at 8K 16-bit, composited them together and then applied a new color grain. The film was rescanned with the Lasergraphics Director 10K scanner. “We have just under 15 petabytes of storage here,” said Bailey. “That’s working storage, because we’re working on 8K movies since [some places in the world] are now broadcasting 8K.”

Steven Anastasi

Our first stop was to look at the Lasergraphics Director. We then moved on to MPI’s climate-controlled vault, where we were introduced to Steven Anastasi, VP of technical operations at Warner Bros. Anastasi explained that the original negative vault has climate-controlled conditions with 25% humidity at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the combination required for keeping these precious assets safe for future generations. He said there are 2 million assets in the building, including picture and sound.

It was amazing to see film reels for 2001: A Space Odyssey sitting on a shelf right in front of me. In addition to the feature reels, MPI also stores millions of negatives captured throughout the years by Warner productions. “We also have a very large library,” reported Anastasi. “So the original negatives from the set, a lot of unit photography, head shots in some cases and so forth. There are 10 million of these.”

Finally, we were led into the color bay to view the film. Janet Wilson, senior digital colorist at MPI, has overseen every remaster of The Wizard of Oz for the past 20 years. Wilson used a FilmLight Baselight X system for the color grade. The grading suite housed multiple screens: a Dolby Pulsar for the Dolby Vision pass, a Sony X300 and a Panasonic EZ1000 OLED 4K HDR.

“We have every 4K monitor manufactured, and we run the film through all of them,” said Bailey. “We painstakingly go through the process from a post perspective to make sure that our consumers get the best quality product that’s available out in the marketplace.”

“We want the consumer experience on all monitors to be something that’s taken into account,” added Feltenstein. “So we’ve changed our workflow by having a consumer or prosumer monitor in these color correction suites so the colorist has an idea of what people are going to see at home, and that’s helped us make a better product.”

Our first view of the feature was a side-by-side comparison of the black and white scanned negative and the sepia color corrected footage. The first part of the film, which takes place in Kansas, was shot in black and white, and then a sepia look was applied to it. The reveal scene, when Dorothy passes through the door going into Oz, was originally shot in color. For this new release, the team generated a matte so Wilson could add this sepia area to the inside of the house as Dorothy transitioned into Oz.

“So this is an example of some of the stuff that we could do in this version of the restoration,” explained Wilson. “With this version, you can see that the part of the image where she’s supposed to be in the monochrome house is not actually black and white. It was really a color image. So the trick was always to get the interior of the house to look sepia and the exterior to look like all of the colors that it’s supposed to. Our visual effects team here at MPI — Mike Moser and Richie Hiltzik — was able to draw a matte for me so that I could color inside of the house independently of the exterior and make them look right, which was always a really tricky thing to do.”

Wilson referred back to the Technicolor three-strip, explaining that because you’ve got three different pieces of film — the different records — they’re receiving the light in different ways. “So sometimes one will be a little brighter than the other. One will be a little darker than the other, which means that the Technicolor is not a consistent color. It goes a little red, and then it goes a little green, and then it goes a little blue, and then it goes a little red again. So if you stop on any given frame, it’s going to look a little different than the frames around it, which is one of the tricky parts of color correcting technical art. When that’s being projected by a film projector, it’s less noticeable than when you’re looking at it on a video monitor, so it takes a lot of little individual corrections to smooth those kinds of things out.”

Wilson reported seeing new things with the 8K scan and 4K display. “The amount of detail that went into this film really shows up.” She said that one of the most remarkable things about the restoration was the amazing detail visible on the characters. For the first time in many generations, maybe ever, you can actually see the detail of the freckles on Dorothy’s face.

In terms of leveraging the expanded dynamic range of HDR, I asked Wilson if she tried to map the HDR, like in kind of a sweet spot, so that it’s both spectacular yet not overpowering at the same time.

“I ended up isolating the very brightest parts of the picture,” she replied. “In this case, it’s mostly the sparkles on their shoes and curving those off so I could run those in, because this movie is not supposed to have modern-day animation levels of brightness. It’s supposed to be much more contained. I wanted to take advantage of brightness and the ability to show the contrast we get from this format, because you can really see the darker parts of the picture. You can really see detail within the Wicked Witch’s dress. I don’t want it to look like it’s not the same film. I want it to replicate that experience of the way this film should look if it was projected on a good print on a good projector.”

Dorothy’s ruby slippers also presented a challenge to Wilson. “They are so red and so bright. They’re so light-reflective, but there were times when they were just a little too distracting. So I had to isolate this level at the same track with slippers and bring them down a little bit so that it wasn’t the first and only thing you saw in the image.”

If you are wondering if audio was part of this most recent restoration, the answer is no, but it had been remastered for a previous version. “As early at 1929, MGM began recording its film music using multiple microphones. Those microphonic angles allowed the mixer to get the most balanced monophonic mix, and they were preserved,” explained Feltenstein. “Twenty years ago, we created a 5.1 surround mix that was organically made from the original elements that were created in 1939. It is full-frequency, lossless audio, and a beautiful restoration job was made to create that track so you can improve upon what I consider to be close to perfection without anything that would be disingenuous to the production.”

In all, it was an amazing experience to go behind the scenes and see how the wizards of MPI created a new version of this masterpiece for today and preserved it for future generations.

This restored version of The Wizard of Oz is a must-see visual extravaganza, and there is no better way to see it than in UHD, HDR, Dolby Vision or HDR10+. What I saw in person took my breath away, and I hope every movie fan out there can have the opportunity to see this classic film in its never-before-seen glory.

The 4K version of The Wizard of Oz is currently available via an Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and digital.


Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya

Marriage Story director Noah Baumbach

By Iain Blair

Writer/director Noah Baumbach first made a name for himself with The Squid and the Whale, his 2005 semi-autobiographical, bittersweet story about his childhood and his parents’ divorce. It launched his career, scoring him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Noah Baumbach

His latest film, Marriage Story, is also about the disintegration of a marriage — and the ugly mechanics of divorce. Detailed and emotionally complex, the film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as the doomed couple.

In all, Marriage Story scooped up six Oscar nominations — Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score. Laura Dern walked away with a statue for her supporting role.

The film co-stars Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Robbie Ryan, editor Jennifer Lame and composer Randy Newman.

Just a few days before the Oscars, Baumbach — whose credits also include The Meyerwitz Stories, Frances Ha and Margot at the Wedding — talked to me about making the film and his workflow.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
It’s obviously about a marriage and divorce, but I never really think about a project in specific terms, like a genre or a tone. In the past, I may have started a project thinking it was a comedy but then it morphs into something else. With this, I just tried to tell the story as I initially conceived it, and then as I discovered it along the way. While I didn’t think about tone in any general sense, I became aware as I worked on it that it had all these different tones and genre elements. It had this flexibility, and I just stayed open to all those and followed them.

I heard that you were discussing this with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as you wrote the script. Is that true?
Yes, but it wasn’t daily. I’d reached out to both of them before I began writing it, and luckily they were both enthusiastic and wanted to do it, so I had them as an inspiration and guide as I wrote. Periodically, we’d get together and discuss it and I’d show them some pages to keep them in the loop. They were very generous with conversations about their own lives, their characters. My hope was that when I gave them the finished script it would feel both new and familiar.

What did they bring to the roles?
They were so prepared and helped push for the truth in every scene. Their involvement from the very start did influence how I wrote their roles. Nicole has that long monologue and I don’t know if I’d have written it without Scarlett’s input and knowing it was her. Adam singing “Being Alive” came out of some conversations with him. They’re very specific elements that come from knowing them as people.

You reunited with Irish DP Robbie Ryan, who shot The Meyerowitz Stories. Talk about how you collaborated on the look and why you shot on film?
I grew up with film and feel it’s just the right medium for me. We shot The Meyerowitz Stories on Super 16, and we shot this on 35mm, and we had to deal with all these office spaces and white rooms, so we knew there’d be all these variations on white. So there was a lot of discussion about shades and the palette, along with the production and costume designers, and also how we were going to shoot these confined spaces, because it was what the story required.

You shot on location in New York and LA. How tough was the shoot?
It was challenging, but mainly because of the sheer length of many of the scenes. There’s a lot of choreography in them, and some are quite emotional, so everyone had to really be up for the day, every day. There was no taking it easy one day. Every day felt important for the movie.

Where did you do the post?
All in New York. I have an office in the Village where I cut my last two films, and we edited there again. We mixed on the Warner stage, where I’ve mixed most of my movies. We recorded the music and orchestra in LA.

Do you like the post process?
I really love it. It’s the most fun and the most civilized part of the whole process. You go to work and work on the film all day, have dinner and go home. Writing is always a big challenge, as you’re making it up as you go along, and it can be quite agonizing. Shooting can be fun, but it’s also very stressful trying to get everything you need. I love working with the actors and crew, but you need a high level of energy and endurance to get through it. So then post is where you can finally relax, and while problems and challenges always arise, you can take time to solve them. I love editing, the whole rhythm of it, the logic of it.

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Talk about editing with Jennifer Lame. How did that work?
We work so well together, and our process really starts in the script stage. I’ll give her an early draft to get her feedback and, basically, we start editing the script. We’ll go through it and take out anything we know we’re not going to use. Then during the shoot she’ll sometimes come to the set, and we’ll also talk twice a day. We’ll discuss the day’s work before I start, and then at lunch we’ll go over the previous day’s dailies. So by the time we sit down to edit, we’re really in sync about the whole movie. I don’t work off an assembly, so she’ll put together stuff for herself to let me know a scene is working the way we designed it. If there’s a problem, she’ll let me know what we need.

What were the big editing challenges?
Besides the general challenges of getting a scene right, I think for some of the longer ones it was all about finding the right rhythm and pacing. And it was particularly true of this film that the pace of something early on could really affect something later. Then you have to fix the earlier bit first, and sometimes it’s the scene right before. For instance, the scene where Charlie and Nicole have a big argument that turns into a very emotional fight is really informed by the courtroom scene right before it. So we couldn’t get it right until we’d got the courtroom scene right.

A lot of directors do test screenings. Do you?
No, I have people I show it to and get feedback, but I’ve never felt the need for testing.

VFX play a role. What was involved?
The Artery did them. For instance, when Adam cuts his arm we used VFX in addition to the practical effects, and then there’s always cleanup.

Talk about the importance of sound to you as a filmmaker, as it often gets overlooked in this kind of film.
I’m glad you said that because that’s so true, and this doesn’t have obvious sound effects. But the sound design is quite intricate, and Chris Scarabosio (working out of Skywalker Sound), who did Star Wars, did the sound design and mix; he was terrific.

A lot of it was taking the real-world environments in New York and LA and building on that, and maybe taking some sounds out and playing around with all the elements. We spent a lot of time on it, as both the sound and image should be unnoticed in this. If you start thinking, “That’s a cool shot or sound effect,” it takes you out of the movie. Both have to be emotionally correct at all times.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
We did it at New York’s Harbor Post with colorist Marcy Robinson, who’s done several of my films. It’s very important, but we didn’t do anything too extreme, as there’s not a lot of leeway for changing the look that much. I’m very happy with the look and the way it all turned out.

Congratulations on all the Oscar noms. How important is that for a film like this?
It’s a great honor. We’re all still the kids who grew up watching movies and the Oscars, so it’s a very cool thing. I’m thrilled.

What’s next?
I don’t know. I just started writing, but nothing specific yet.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Filmic DoubleTake allows multicam workflows via iPhone 11

Filmic’s DoubleTake, is a new iOS app designed to turn an Apple iPhone 11 into a multicam studio. Available now from the Apple App Store, Filmic DoubleTake enables iPhone 11 users to capture video from two cameras, simultaneously from a single device, to create a multi-angle viewing experience.

Filmic DoubleTake allows content creators to use the multiple cameras in the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max — as well as the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max — to create the effect of using multiple camera angles in a shot.

According to Filmic, DoubleTake was designed for content creators of any skill level and for multiple genres of content — from professional broadcast-style news interviews to YouTubers capturing multiple angles during live events, concerts or any situation that requires more than one perspective to capture the moment.

Key features include:
• Multicam: Enables users to capture two different focal lengths of the same subject at the same time. DoubleTake uses the Ultra Wide lens (iPhone 11 Pro Max, 11 Pro and 11 only) and the Tele lens to capture both an establishing shot and a punch-in shot on a subject simultaneously. Or they can use any other combination of front and rear lenses for unrivaled multicam capture.

• Camera Visualization: Similar to a director’s viewfinder, DoubleTake’s camera picker-view enables users to visualize all available cameras on the device. Users can employ this view to help decide how to frame a shot and which cameras to select.

• Shot/Reverse Shot: Shot/Reverse Shot: Enables users to capture all the organic and intimate interaction between two actors or interviewer and interviewee. Traditionally, filmmakers must employ two cameras and place them in cumbersome “over the shoulder” locations. With DoubleTake, users can place one device between the actors, effectively placing the audience in the middle of the conversation.

• PiP or Discrete: The DoubleTake interface allows users to see both cameras of the video capture at the same time through the use of a picture-in-picture (PiP) window. The PiP window can be moved around the screen, tapped to zoom in or swiped away if distracting; the second video will continue to record. With DoubleTake, users can record videos as discrete files or as a composite video that includes the PiP window animated as it is seen on screen.

• Split-Screen: DoubleTake can also use any two cameras to create a 50/50 split-screen effect that is saved as a single video. This allows for capturing engaging interviews or any scenario in which two sides of the story require equal weighting on screen.

• Focus and Exposure Controls: DoubleTake enables users to set and lock focus and exposure on both cameras during multicam capture with Filmic unified reticle. Users can tap anywhere to set an area of interest with the reticle, then tap again to lock or unlock. Filmic camera switcher effortlessly moves between A and B cameras during a recording to adjust the focus and exposure for each, independently of one another.

Select video specifications include:
• Full-frame focus and exposure for smooth and easy automated focus and exposure adjustments
• Selectable broadcast frame rates:  24fps, 25fps and 30fps depending on project requirements
• 1080p video at high-bit-rate encoding for maximum quality. (Note: 1080p video is the maximum resolution supported by Apple today for multicam capture.)
• Composited PiP or separate discrete video files recorded as H.264 Mov files are saved to DoubleTake’s internal library, which supports batch export directly to the camera roll.

Roger Deakins and 1917 win Theatrical prize at ASC Awards

The Theatrical Award for best cinematography in a motion picture went to Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, for 1917 at the 34th American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Jarin Blaschke took the Spotlight Award for The Lighthouse and Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma won the inaugural Documentary Award for Honeyland. In the TV categories, winners included Colin Watkinson, ASC, BSC, for The Handmaid’s Tale; John Conroy, ISC, for The Terror: Infamy; and C. Kim Miles, CSC, MySC, for Project Blue Book.

TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz hosted the awards gala, which was held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Below is the complete list of winners and nominees:

Theatrical Release Category – presented by Diane Lane

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC – “1917” – WINNER

Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC – “Ford v Ferrari”

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC – “The Irishman”

Robert Richardson, ASC – “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Lawrence Sher, ASC – “Joker”

Jarin Blaschke – The Lighthouse

Spotlight Award Category – presented by Bartosz Bielenia

 

Jarin Blaschke – “The Lighthouse” – WINNER

Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF – “Honey Boy”

Jasper Wolf, NSC – “Monos”


Documentary Category – presented by Todd Phillips

Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma – “Honeyland” – WINNER

Nicholas de Pencier – “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch”

Evangelia Kranioti – “Obscuro Barroco”


Episode of a Series for Non-Commercial Television – presented by Emily Deschanel

David Luther – “Das Boot,” Gegen die Zeit (episode 6)

M. David Mullen, ASC – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Simone

Colin Watkinson – Handmaid’s Tale

Chris Seager, BSC – “Carnival Row,” Grieve No More

Brendan Steacy, CSC – “Titans,” Dick Grayson

Colin Watkinson, ASC, BSC – “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Night – WINNER


Episode of a Series for Commercial Television – presented by Jane Lynch

Dana Gonzales, ASC – “Legion,” Chapter 20

C. Kim Miles, CSC, MySC – “Project Blue Book,” The Flatwoods Monster – WINNER

Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC – “Legion,” Chapter 23

Peter Robertson, ISC – “Vikings,” Hell

David Stockton, ASC – “Gotham,” Ace Chemicals


Motion Picture, Miniseries, or Pilot Made for Television – presented by Michael McKean

John Conroy – The Terror: Infamy

John Conroy, ISC – “The Terror: Infamy,” A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest – WINNER

P.J. Dillon, ISC – “The Rook,” Chapter 1

Chris Manley, ASC – “Doom Patrol,” pilot

Martin Ruhe, ASC – “Catch-22,” Episode 5

Craig Wrobleski, CSC – “The Twilight Zone,” Blurryman

With the exception of Deakins, all of the awards were handed out to first-time winners. Deakins collected the top honor last year for “Blade Runner 2049” and previously for “Skyfall,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Honorary awards were also presented, including:

Frederick Elmes (left) talking about his award.

The ASC Board of Governors Award was given to Werner Herzog by Paul Holdengräber, interviewer/curator/writer and executive director of the Onassis Foundation. The award recognizes Herzog’s significant and indelible contributions to cinema. It is the only ASC Award not given to a cinematographer and is reserved for filmmakers who have been champions of the visual art form.

  • The ASC Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Frederick Elmes, ASC, by writer-director Lisa Cholodenko. The duo collaborated on the Emmy-winning “Olive Kittridge.”
  • The ASC Career Achievement in Television Award was handed out to Donald A. Morgan, ASC, by actor Tim Allen. The two work together on the award-winning “Last Man Standing,” and previously collaborated on “Home Improvement.”
  • The International Award was bestowed upon Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC, by writer-director Joel Coen. The duo has joined forces on several films, including the Oscar-nominated “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
  • This year’s President’s Award went to Don McCuaig, ASC. It was given to him by longtime friend and actor-stuntman Mickey Gilbert.
  • The ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction was given to Kim Snyder, president and CEO of Panavision. This award is presented to an ASC Associate Member who has demonstrated extraordinary service to the society and/or has made a significant contribution to the motion-picture industry.

 Main Image: Roger Deakins and his wife James Deakins

Director James Mangold on Oscar-nominated Ford v Ferrari

By Iain Blair

Filmmaker James Mangold has been screenwriting, producing and directing for years. He has made films about country legends (Walk the Line), cowboys (3:10 to Yuma), superheroes (Logan) and cops (Cop Land), and has tackled mental illness (Girl Interrupted) as well.

Now he’s turned his attention to race car drivers and Formula 1 with his movie Ford v Ferrari, which has earned Mangold an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The film also received nods for its editing, sound editing and sound mixing.

James Mangold (beard) on set.

The high-octane drama was inspired by a true-life friendship that forever changed racing history. In 1959, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is on top of the world after winning the most difficult race in all of motorsports, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But his greatest triumph is followed quickly by a crushing blow — the fearless Texan is told by doctors that a grave heart condition will prevent him from ever racing again.

Endlessly resourceful, Shelby reinvents himself as a car designer and salesman working out of a warehouse space in Venice Beach with a team of engineers and mechanics that includes hot-tempered test driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). A champion British race car driver and a devoted family man, Miles is brilliant behind the wheel, but he’s also blunt, arrogant and unwilling to compromise.

After Shelby’s vehicles make a strong showing at Le Mans against Italy’s venerable Enzo Ferrari, Ford Motor Company recruits the firebrand visionary to design the ultimate race car, a machine that can beat even Ferrari on the unforgiving French track. Determined to succeed against overwhelming odds, Shelby, Miles and their ragtag crew battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to develop a revolutionary vehicle that will outshine every competitor. The film culminates in the historic showdown between the US and Italy at the grueling 1966 24 hour Le Mans race.

Mangold’s below-the-line talent, many of whom have collaborated with the director before, includes Academy Award-nominated director of photography Phedon Papamichael; film editors Michael McCusker, ACE, and Andrew Buckland; visual effects supervisor Olivier Dumont; and composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

L-R: Writer Iain Blair and Director James Mangold

I spoke with Mangold — whose other films include Logan, The Wolverine and Knight and Day — about making the film and his workflow.

You obviously love exploring very different subject matter in every film you make.
Yes, and I do every movie like a sci-fi film — meaning inventing a new world that has its own rules, customs, language, laws of physics and so on, and you need to set it up so the audience understands and they get it all. It’s like being a world-builder, and I feel every film should have that, as you’re entering this new world, whether it’s Walk the Line or The French Connection. And the rules and behavior are different from our own universe, and that’s what makes the story and characters interesting to me.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
Well, given all that, I wanted to make an exciting racing movie about that whole world, but it’s also that it was a moment when racing was free of all things that now turn me off about it. The cars were more beautiful then, and free of all the branding. Today, the cars are littered with all the advertising and trademarks — and it’s all nauseating to me. I don’t even feel like I’m watching a sport anymore.

When this story took place, it was also a time when all the new technology was just exploding. Racing hasn’t changed that much over the past 20 years. It’s just refining and tweaking to get that tiny edge, but back in the ‘60s they were still inventing the modern race car, and discovering aerodynamics and alternate building materials and methods. It was a brand-new world, so there was this great sense of discovery and charm along with all that.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
Trying to do what I felt all the other racing movies hadn’t really done — taking the driving out of the CG world and putting it back in the real world, so you could feel the raw power and the romanticism of racing. A lot of that’s down to the particulates in the air, the vibrations of the camera, the way light moves around the drivers — and the reality of behavior when you’re dealing with incredibly powerful machines. So right from the start, I decided we had to build all the race cars; that was a huge challenge right there.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX?
Day one. I wanted to use real cars and shoot the Le Mans and other races in camera rather than using CGI. But this is a period piece, so we did use a lot of CGI for set extensions and all the crowds. We couldn’t afford 50,000 extras, so just the first six rows or so were people in the stands; the rest were digital.

Did you do a lot of previz?

A lot, especially for Le Mans, as it was such a big, three-act sequence with so many moving parts. We used far less for Daytona. We did a few storyboards and then me and my second unit director, Darrin Prescott — who has choreographed car chases and races in such movies as Drive, Deadpool 2, Baby Driver and The Bourne Ultimatum — planned it out using matchbox cars.

I didn’t want that “previzy” feeling. Even when I do a lot of previz, whether it’s a Marvel movie or like this, I always tell my previz team “Don’t put the camera anywhere it can’t go.” One of the things that often happens when you have the ability to make your movie like a cartoon in a laboratory — which is what previz is — is that you start doing a lot of gimmicky shots and flying the camera through keyholes and floating like a drone, because it invites you to do all that crazy shit. It’s all very show-offy as a director — “Look at me!” — and a turnoff to me. It takes me out of the story, and it’s also not built off the subjective experience of your characters.

This marks your fifth collaboration with DP Phedon Papamichael, and I noticed there’s no big swooping camera moves or the beauty shot approach you see in all the car commercials.
Yes, we wanted it to look beautiful, but in a real way. There’s so much technology available now, like gyroscopic setups and arms that let you chase the cars in high-speed vehicles down tracks. You can do so much, so why do you need to do more? I’m conservative that way. My goal isn’t to brand myself through my storytelling tricks.

How tough was the shoot?
It was one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever had, with my regular crew and a great cast. But it was also very grueling, as we were outside a lot, often in 115-degree heat in the desert on blacktop. And locations were big challenges. The original Le Mans course doesn’t exist anymore like it used to be, so we used several locations in Georgia to double for it. We shot the races wide-angle anamorphic with a team of a dozen professional drivers, and with anamorphic you can shoot the cars right up into the lens — just inches away from camera, while they’d be doing 150 mph or 160 mph.

Where did you post?
All on the Fox lot at my offices. We scored at Capitol Records and mixed the score in Malibu at my composer’s home studio. I really love the post, and for me it’s all part of the same process — the same cutting and pasting I do when I’m writing, and even when I’m directing. You’re manipulating all these elements and watching it take form — and particularly in this film, where all the sound design and music and dialogue are all playing off one another and are so key. Take the races. By themselves, they look like nothing. It’s just a car whipping by. The power of it all only happens with the editing.

You had two editors — Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland. How did that work?
Mike’s been with me for 20 years, so he’s kind of the lead. Mike and Drew take and trade scenes, and they’re good friends so they work closely together. I move back and forth between them, which also gives them each some space. It’s very collaborative. We all want it to look beautiful and elegant and well-designed, but no one’s a slave to any pre-existing ideas about structure or pace. (Check out postPerspective‘s interview with the editing duo here.)

What were the big editing challenges?
It’s a car racing movie with drama, so we had to hit you with adrenalin and then hold you with what’s a fairly procedural and process-oriented film about these guys scaling the corporate wall to get this car built and on the track. Most of that’s dramatic scenes. The flashiest editing is the races, which was a huge, year-long effort. Mike was cutting the previz before we shot a foot, and initially we just had car footage, without the actors, so that was a challenge. It all transformed once we added the actors.

Can you talk about working on the visual effects with Method’s VFX supervisor Olivier Dumont?
He did an incredible job, as no one thinks there are so many. They’re really invisible, and that’s what I love — the film feels 100% analog, but of course it isn’t. It’s impossible to build giant race tracks as they were in the ‘60s. But having real foregrounds really helped. We had very few scenes where actors were wandering around in a green void like on so many movies now. So you’re always anchored in the real world, and then all the set extensions were in softer focus or backlit.

This film really lends itself to sound.
Absolutely, as every car has its own signature sound, and as we cut rapidly from interiors to exteriors, from cars to pits and so on. The perspective aural shifts are exciting, but we also tried to keep it simple and not lose the dramatic identity of the story. We even removed sounds in the mix if they weren’t important, so we could focus on what was important.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
At Efilm with Skip Kimball (working on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve), and it was huge on this, especially dealing with the 24-hour race, the changing light, rain and night scenes, and having to match five different locations was a nightmare. So we worked on all that and the overall look from early on in the edit.

What’s next?
Don’t know. I’ve got two projects I’m working on. We’ll see.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Directing bookend sequences for Portals, a horror anthology film

By Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull

Portals is a genre-bending feature film anthology focusing on a series of worldwide blackouts — after which millions of mysterious objects appear everywhere across the planet. While many flee from the sentient objects, some people are drawn toward and into them with horrifying consequences.

Portals

The film was in the final stages of post when writer/director Liam O’Donnell (Beyond Skyline and the upcoming Skylines film) called to see if I would like to get involved and direct some bookend sequences to add more scope and setup, which the producers felt was very much needed. I loved the premise and the world of the anthology, so I said yes. I pitched an idea for an ending, that quickly evolved into an extra segment at the end of the film, which I directed. That’s why there are officially four directors on the show, with me getting executive producer and “end-segment created by” credits.

Two of the other sequences are around 20 to 25 minutes each, and O’Donnell’s sequence was around 35 minutes. The film is 85 minutes long. Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project) co-directed their segments. So the anthology feature film is really three long segments with my bookend sequences. The only connections among all the stories are the objects that appear, the event itself and the actual “portal,” but everything else was unique to each segment’s story. In terms of production, the only consistencies throughout the anthology were the camera language — that slight hand-held feel — and, of course, the music/sound

I had to watch the latest cut of the entire anthology film to get my head into that world, but I was given freedom to bring my own style to my sequences. That is exactly the point of an anthology — for each director to bring his or her own sensibilities to the individual segments. Besides Liam, the main producers I worked closely with on this project were Alyssa Devine and Griffin Devine from Pigrat Productions. They are fans of my first feature film, The Beyond, so they really encouraged the grounded tone I had demonstrated in that film.

The portal in Portals.

I’ve been a huge advocate of Blackmagic cameras and technology for a long time. Additionally, I knew I had to a lot to shoot in a very short time space (two days!), so I needed a camera that was light and flexible yet able to shoot 4K. I brought on cinematographer Colin Emerson, who shoots in a very loose way but always makes his stuff look cinematic. We watched the cut of the film and noticed the consistent loose nature to the cinematography on all the segments. Colin uses the Fig Rig a lot and I love the way that rig works and the BMD Pocket Cinema 4K fits nicely on it along with his DSLR lenses he likes to use. The other reason was to be able to use Blackmagic’s new BRaw format too.

We also shot the segment using a skeleton crew, which comprised of myself as director/producer; VFX supervisor/1st AD John Sellings, who also did some focus pulling; James De Taranto (sound recording); DP/camera op Colin Emerson, FX makeup artists Kate Griffith and Jay James; and our two actors, Georgina Blackledge and Dare Emmanuel. I worked with both of them on my feature film The Beyond.

The Post
One thing I wanted to make sure of was that the post team at The Institution in LA was able to take my Resolve files and literally work from that for the picture post. One of the things I did during prep of the project (before we even cast) was to shoot some tests to show what I had in mind in terms of look and feel. We also tested the BRaw and color workflow between my setup in London and the LA team. Colin and I did this during location recce. This proved to be extremely useful to ensure we set our camera to the exact specs the post house wanted. So we shot at 23.98, 4K (4096×1716) 2:39 cropped, Blackmagic color design log color space.

HaZ’s segments were captured with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

During the test, I did some quick color tests to show the producers in LA the tone and mood I was going for and to make sure everyone was on board before I shot it. The look was very post apocalyptic, as it’s set after the main events have happened. I wanted the locations to be a contrast with each other, one interior and one exterior with greens.

Colin is used to shooting most of his stuff on the Panasonic GH, but he had the Cinema Pocket Camera and was looking for the right project to use it on. He found he could use all of his usual lenses because the Cinema Pocket Camera has the same mount. Lenses used were the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 + Metabones Speedbooster; the Olympus 12mm f2; and the Lumix 35-100mm f2.8

Colin used the onboard monitor screen on the Pocket Cinema Camera, while I used a tethered external monitor — the Ikan DH5e — for directing. We used a 1TB Samsung external SSD securely attached to the rig cage along with a 64GB CFast card. The resolution we shot in was determined by the tests we did. We set up the rushes for post after each of the two days of the shoot, so during the day we would swap out drives and back things up. At the end of the day, we would bring in all the picture and sound rushes and use the amazing autosync feature in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve to set it all up. This way, when I headed back home I could start editing right away inside Resolve.

Resolve

I have to admit, we were hesitant at first because I was shooting and capturing Log in QuickTime ProRes 4:4:4:4, and I always avoided DNG raw because of the huge file size and data transfer. But the team at Blackmagic has always been so supportive and provided us with support right up till the end of the shoot, so after testing BRaw I was impressed. We had so much control as all that information is accessed within Resolve. . I was able to set the temp look during editing, and the colorist worked from there. Skin tones were of utmost importance; because of the intimate nature of the drama, I wanted a natural look to the skin tones. I am really happy with the way they came out at the end.

They couldn’t believe how cinematic the footage was when we told them we shot using the Pocket Cinema Camera, since the other segments were shot on cameras like Red. We delivered the same 4K deliverables spec as the other segments in the film.

HaZ on set, second from right.

I used the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 version of the Blackmagic eGPU. The reason was because I wanted to edit on my MacBook Pro (late 2017) and needed the power to run 4K in realtime. I was so impressed with how much power it provided; it was like having a new MacBook Pro without having to buy one. The eGPU had all the connectivity (two Thunderbolt and four USB-3) I needed, which is a limitation of the MacBook Pro.

The beauty of keeping everything native was that there wasn’t much work to do when porting, as it’s just plug and play. And the Resolve detects the eGPU, which you can then set as default. The BRaw format makes it all so manageable to preview and playback in real time. Also, since it’s native, Resolve doesn’t need to do any transcoding in the background. I have always been a huge fan of the tracking in Resolve, and I was able to do eye effects very easily without it being budgeted or done as a VFX shot. I was able to get the VFX render assets from the visual effects artist (Justin Martinez ) in LA and do quick-slap comps during editing. I love the idea that I can set looks and store them as memories, which I can then recall very quickly to apply on a bunch of shots. This allows me to have a slick-looking preview rough cut of the film.

Portals

I sent a hard drive containing all the organized rushes to the team in LA while I was doing the final tweaks to the edit. Once the edit was signed off, or if any last-minute notes came in, I would do them and email them my Resolve file. It was super simple, and the colorists (Oliver Ojeil) and post team (Chad Van Horn and Danny Barone) in LA appreciated the simple workflow because there really wasn’t any conforming for them to do apart from a one-click relink of media location; they would just take my Resolve file and start working away with it.

We used practical effects to keep the horror as real and grounded as possible, and used VFX to augment further. We were fortunate to be able to get special effects makeup artist Kate Griffiths. Given the tight schedule she was able to create a terrifying effect, which I won’t give away. You need to watch the film to see it! We had to shoot those make-up FX-heavy shots at the end of the day, which meant we had to be smart about how we scheduled the shoot given the hours-long make-up process. Kate was also on hand to provide effects like the liquid coming out of the eyes and sweat etc. — every detail of which the camera picked up for us so we could bring it out in the grade.

The Skype-style shots at the start of the film (phone and computer monitor shots) had their VFX screen elements placed as a separate layer so the post team in LA could grade them separately and control the filters applied on them. For some of the wide shots showing our characters entering and leaving the portal, we keyframed some movement of the 4K shot along with motion blur to give the effect of in-camera movement. I also used the camera shake within Resolve, which comes with so many options to create bespoke movement on static frames.

Portals is now available on iTunes and other VOD platforms.


HaZ Dulull is known for his sci-fi feature films The Beyond and 2036 Origin Unknown, also in television for his pilot and episodes on Disney’s Fast Layne. He is currently busy on projects at various stages of development and production at his production company, hazfilm.com.

DP Chat: The Grudge’s Zachary Galler

By Randi Altman

Being on set is like coming home for New York-based cinematographer Zachary Galler, who as a child would tag along with his father while he directed television and film projects. The younger Galler started in the industry as a lighting technician and quickly worked his way up to shooting various features and series.

His first feature as a cinematographer, The Sleepwalker, premiered at the in 2014 and was later distributed by IFC. His second feature, She’s Lost Control, was awarded the C.I.C.A.E. Award at the Berlin International Film Festival later that year. Other television credits include all eight episodes of Discovery’s scripted series Manhunt: Unabomber, Hulu’s The Act and USA’s Briarpatch (coming in February). He recently completed the feature Nicolas Pesce-directed thriller The Grudge, which stars John Cho and Betty Gilpin and is in theaters now.

Tell us about The Grudge. How early did you get involved in planning, and what direction were you given by the director about the look he wanted?
Nick and I worked together on a movie he directed called Piercing. That was our first collaboration, but we discovered that we had very similar ideas and working styles and we formed a special relationship. Shortly after that project, we started talking about The Grudge, and about a year later we were shooting. We talked a lot about how this movie should feel, and how we could achieve something new and different from something neither of us had done before. We used a lot of look-books and movie references to communicate, so when it came time to shoot we had the visual language down fluently and that allowed us keep each other consistent in execution.

How would you describe the look?
Nick really liked the bleach-bypass look from David Fincher’s Se7en, and I thought about a mix of that and (photographer) Bill Henson. We also knew that we had to differentiate between the different storyline threads in the movie, so we had lots to figure out. One of the threads is darker and looks very yellow, while another is warmer and more classic. Another is slightly more desaturated and darker. We did keep the same bleach-bypass look throughout, but adjusted our color temperature, contrast and saturation accordingly. For a horror movie like this, I really wanted to be able to control where the shadow detail turned into black, because some of our scare scenes relied on that so we made sure to light accordingly, and were able to fine-tune most of that in-camera.

How did you work with the director and colorist to achieve that look?
We worked with FotoKem colorist Kostas Theodosiou (who used Blackmagic Resolve). I was shooting a TV show during the main color pass, so I only got to check in to set looks and approve final color, but Nick and Kostas did a beautiful job. Kostas is a master of contrast control and very tastefully helped us ride that line of where there should be detail and where it should not be detail. He was definitely an important part of the collaboration and helped make the movie better.

Where was it shot and how long was the shoot?
We shot the movie in 35 days in Winnipeg, Canada.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project and why these tools?
Nick decided early on that he wanted to shoot this film anamorphic. Panavision has been an important partner for me on most of my projects, and I knew that I loved their glass. We got a range of different lenses from Panavision Toronto to help us differentiate our storylines — we shot one on T Series, one on Primo anamorphics and one on G Series anamorphics. The Alexa Mini was the camera of choice because of its low light sensitivity and more natural feel.

Now more general questions…

How did you become interested in cinematography?
My father was a director, so I would visit him on set a lot when I was growing up. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do when I was young but I knew that it was being on set. After dropping out of film school, I got a job working in a lighting rental warehouse and started driving trucks and delivering lights to sets in New York. I had always loved taking pictures as a kid and as I worked more and learned more, I realized that what I wanted to do was be a DP. I was very lucky in that I found some great collaborators early on in my career that both pushed me and allowed me to fail. This is the greatest job in the world.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
Artistically, I am inspired by painters, photographers and other DPs. There are so many people doing such amazing work right now. As far as technology is concerned, I’m a bit slow with adopting, as I need to hold something in my hands or see what it does before I adopt it. I have been very lucky to get to work with some great crews, and often a camera assistant, gaffer or key grip will bring something new to the table. I love that type of collaboration.

 

DP Zachary Galler (right) and director Nicolas Pesce on the set of Screen Gems’ The Grudge.

What new technology has changed the way you works?
For some reason, I was resistant to using LUTs for a long time. The Grudge was actually the first time I relied on something that wasn’t close to just plain Rec 709. I always figured that if I could get the 709 feeling good when I got into color I’d be in great shape. Now, I realize how helpful they can be, and that you can push much further. I also think that the Astera LED tubes are amazing. They allow you to do so much so fast and put light in places that would be very hard to do with other traditional lighting units.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
I try to be pretty laid back on set, and I can only do that because I’m very picky about who I hire in prep. I try and let people run their departments as much as possible and give them as much information as possible — it’s like cooking, where you try and get the best ingredients and don’t do much to them. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some great crews over the years.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I really try and keep an open mind about gear. I don’t feel romantically attached to anything, so that I can make the right choices for each project.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

ASC’s feature film nominees include 1917, Joker

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has nominated eight feature films in the Theatrical and Spotlight categories of the 34th ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards. Winners will be named at the ASC’s annual awards on January 25 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

This year’s nominees are:

Theatrical Release

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, for 1917
Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC, for Ford v Ferrari
Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, for The Irishman
Robert Richardson, ASC, for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Lawrence Sher, ASC, for Joker

Spotlight Award
Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse
Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF, for Honey Boy
Jasper Wolf, NSC, for Mono

This is Deakins’ 16th nomination by the society, which has sent him home a winner four times (The Shawshank Redemption, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Skyfall, Blade Runner 2049). Richardson earns his 11th nomination, while Papamichael and Prieto have each been recognized three times in the past by the organization. Sher, Blaschke, Braier and Wolf are first-time nominees.

Last year’s Theatrical winner was Łukasz Żal, PSC, for Cold War, which was also Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography.

The Spotlight Award, introduced in 2014, recognizes cinematography in features that may not receive wide theatrical release. The accolade went to Giorgi Shvelidze for Namme in 2019.

Uncut Gems directors Josh and Benny Safdie

By Iain Blair

Filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie have been on the verge of the big time since they started making their own distinctive brand of cinema: one full of anxiety, brashness, untamed egos and sweaty palms. They’ve finally done it with A24’s Uncut Gems.

Following their cinema verité Heaven Knows What — with its look at the New York City heroin subculture — and the crime thriller Good Time, the Safdies return to the mean streets of New York City with their latest, Uncut Gems. The film is a twisty, tense tale that explores the tragic sway of fortune, family and fate.

The Safdies on set.

It stars Adam Sandler in a career-defining performance as Howard Ratner, a profane, charismatic New York City jeweler who’s always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a high-wire act by balancing business, family and encroaching adversaries on all sides.

Uncut Gems combines relentless pacing with gritty visuals, courtesy of DP Darius Khondji, and a score from Brooklyn-based experimental composer Daniel Lopatin.

In the tradition of ‘70s urban thrillers by Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese (who produced, along with Scott Rudin), the film creates an authentic tapestry of indelible faces, places, sounds and moods.

Behind the camera, the Safdies also assembled a stellar team of go-to collaborators that included co-editor Ronald Bronstein and production designer Sam Lisenco.

I recently sat down with the Safdies, whose credits include Daddy Longlegs, Lenny Cooke and The Pleasure of Being Robbed, to talk about making the film (which is generating awards buzz) and their workflow.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
Josh Safdie: The exact one you see on the screen. It changed a lot along the way, but the cosmic vibe of it and the mélange of characters who don’t seem to fit together but do on this journey where we are all on on this colorful rock that might as well be a colorful uncut gem – it was all there in the original idea. It’s pulpy, cosmic, funny, tense, and it’s what we wanted to do.

Benny Safdie: We have veteran actors, first-time actors and non-professionals in the cast, working alongside people we love so much. It’s great to see it all come together like it did.

How tough was it getting Adam Sandler, as I heard he initially passed on it?
Josh: He did. We sent it to him back in 2012, and I’m not sure it even got past “the moat,” as we call it. But once he saw our work, he immediately responded; he called us right after seeing Good Time. The irony is, one of his favorites was Daddy Longlegs, which we’d tried to approach him with. Once we actually made contact and started talking, it was instantly a strong kinship.

Benny: Now it’s like a deep friendship. He really got our need to dig deep on who this character is, and he put in the time and the care.

Any surprises working with him?
Josh: What’s funny is, we had a bunch of jokes written for him, and he then ad-libbed so many little things. He made us all smile every day.

What did he bring to the role of Howard, who could easily be quite unlikeable?
Josh: Exactly, and Adam brought that likeability in a way only he can. We had the benefit of following up his 50-city standup tour, where he did three hours of material every night, and we had a script loaded with dialogue. His mind was so sharp, so by the time he did this — and we were giving him new pages over lunch sometimes — he could just ingest them and regurgitate them and go out on a limb and try out a new joke, and then come back to the dialogue. He was so well oiled in the character that it was second nature to him.

Benny: And you root for him. You want him to succeed. Adam pushed us on stuff, like the family and the kids. He knew it was important to show those relationships, that audiences would want to see and feel that. And he wanted to create a very complicated person. Yes, Howard’s doing some bad things, but you want him to get there.

Was it difficult getting former pro basketball player Kevin Garnett to act in the film?
Josh: It’s always tough when someone is very successful in their own field. When you try to convince them to do acting, they know it’s a lot of work and they don’t need the money, and you’re asking them to play a version of themselves — and there’s the huge time commitment. But Kevin really committed, and he came back a bunch to shoot scenes we needed.

You’re well known for your run-and-gun, guerilla-style of shooting. Was that how you shot this film?
Josh: Yeah, a lot of locations, but we built the office sets. And we got permits for everything.

Benny: But we kept the streets open and mixed in the 80 SAG actors in the background.

How does it work on the set in terms of co-directing?
Josh: On a technical level, we’ll work with our DP on placing the camera. It was a bit different this time since Benny wasn’t also acting, like he did in Good Time. We were co-directing and getting that much closer to the action; you see different parts of a performance that way, and we have each other’s backs. We are able to put our heads together and get a really full picture of what’s happening on set. And if one of us talks to somebody, it’s always coming from both of us. We’ve been working together since we were kids, and we have a huge amount of trust in each other.

The way characters talk over each other, and then all the background chatter, reminded me a lot of Robert Altman and his approach.
Benny: Thanks. He was a huge influence on us. It’s using sound as it’s heard in real life. We heard this great story about Altman and the film McCabe and Mrs. Miller. About 15 minutes into the premiere Warren Beatty turned to Altman and asked, “Does the whole movie sound like this?” And Altman replied excitedly, “Yeah!” He was so far ahead of his time, and that’s what we tried to emulate.

What’s so great about Altman is that he saw life as a film, and he tried to get the film to ride up parallel to life in that sense. We ended up writing 45 extra pages of dialogue recording — just for the background. Scott Rudin was like, “You wrote a whole other script for background people?” We’d have a character there just to say one line, but it added all these extra layers.

Josh: On top of the non-stop dialogue, Howard’s a real loudmouth; he hears everything. Our post sound team was very special, and it was very educational for us. We began with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman, but then he had to go off to do The Irishman, so Skip Lievsay took over. Then Warren Shaw came on, and we worked with the two of them for a very long time.

Thanks to our producers, we had the time to really get in there and go deeper and deeper. I’d say the soundscape they built in Dolby Atmos really achieved something like life, and it also had areas for music and sound design that are so meticulous and rich that we’d watch the movie without the dialogue.

Where did you do the post?
Benny: All in New York. For sound, we started off at Soundtrack and then went to Warner Bros. Sound. We edited at our company offices with co-editor Ronny Bronstein. Brainstorm Digital did most of the crazy visual effects. We worked closely with them and on the whole idea of, “What does the inside of a gemstone look like?”

How does editing work with Ronny?
Josh: He’s often on the set with us, but we didn’t cut a frame until we sat down after the shoot and watched it all. I think that kept it fresh for us. Our assistant editor developed binders with all the script and script supervisor notes, and we didn’t touch it once during the edit. I think coming from documentaries, and that approach to the material, has informed all our editing. You look at what’s in front of you, and that’s what you use to make your film. Who cares what the script says!

One big challenge was the sheer amount of material, even though we only shot for 35 days — that includes the African unit. We had so many setups and perspectives, in things like the auction and the Seder scenes, but the scene we spent the most time writing and editing was the scene between Howard and Kevin in the back room… and we had the least time to shoot it — just over three hours.

L-R: Benny Safdie, Iain Blair and Josh Safdie.

You have a great score by your go-to composer Daniel Lopatin, who records as Oneohtrix Point Never.
Josh: We did the score at his studio in Brooklyn. It’s really another main character, and he did a great job as usual.

The DI must have been vital?
Josh: Yes, and we did all the color at The Mill with colorist Damien van der Cruyssen, who’s a really great colorist and also ran our dailies. Darius likes to spend a lot of time in the DI experimenting and finding the look, so we ended up doing about a month on it. Usually, we get just four days.

What’s next? A big studio movie?
Josh: Maybe, but we don’t want to abandon what we’ve got going right now. We know what we want. People offer us scripts but I can’t see us doing that.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

DP Chat: The Morning Show cinematographer Michael Grady

By Randi Altman

There have never been more options to stream content than right now. In addition to veterans Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, Disney+ and Apple TV+ have recently joined the fray.

In fact, not only did Apple TV+ just launch last month, its The Morning Show — about what goes on behind the scenes on, well, a morning show — has earned three Golden Globe nominations. The show stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Billy Crudup.

L-R: Mimi Leder and Michael Grady on set.

Veteran cinematographer Michael Grady (On the Basis of Sex, The Leftovers, Ozark) was called on by frequent collaborator and executive producer Mimi Leder to shoot the show. We reached out to Grady to find out more about the show and how he works.

How early did you get involved on The Morning Show, and what direction were you given about the shoot?
I have worked with Mimi Leder often over the last 15 years. We have done multiple projects, so we have a great shorthand. We were finishing a movie called On the Basis of Sex when she first mentioned The Morning Show. We spoke about the project even before she was certain that she would take it on as the executive producer and lead director. Ultimately, it is awesome to work with Mimi because she really creates an amazingly collaborative and open work environment. She really allows each person to bring something specific to a project while always staying at the wheel and gently guiding everyone toward a common goal. It’s a very different process from many directors. She knows how to maximize the talents of those around her while staying in control.

Mimi directed episodes 1 and 2. They are essentially the pilot and the setup of the show. After her two episodes, there was a very seasoned and talented group of directors that did episodes 3 through 9. On episode 4, I worked with Lynn Shelton, who is truly an amazing director working with actors. She is one of the loveliest and deeply collaborative directors that I have ever experienced.

For episode 6, I had the pleasure of working with Tucker Gates. Tucker is a brilliant veteran director that I immediately felt at ease with. I adored working with him. We really saw eye to eye on the common ground of filmmaking. He is a director that is experienced enough to really understand all aspects of filmmaking and respects each person on the crew and what they are also trying to achieve. I thought that he directed the most technically challenging episode created this season.

Next, I had another decorated director to make episode 6. Michelle MacLaren has made some great TV in the past, and she did it again on her episode of The Morning Show. We had worked together on The Leftovers, and I loved the work we did together on that show and again on this one. She is a visionary director. Extremely driven.

How would you describe the look of show?
Well, Mimi and I looked at a lot of films as reference before we began. We settled in on a clean, elegant, classical feel. The look of Michael Clayton, shot by Robert Elswit, was a key reference for the show. We used a motif of reflections: glass, mirrors, water, steel, hard surfaces, and … of course, moving images on monitors. Both natural and man-made reflections of our cast were all sign posts for framing the look of the show. It seemed an appropriately perfect motif for telling the story of how America’s morning news programs function and the underbelly that we attempt to investigate.

How did you work with the producers and the colorist to achieve the intended look?
Siggy Ferstl at Company 3 is our colorist. Siggy and I have collaborated on well over 10 movies for the last 15 years. I think he is, without question, the best colorist in the movie business.

The show has a rich, reserved elegance about it. On a project like this, Siggy needs very little guidance or direction from me. He easily understands the narrative and what the look and feel should be on a show. We talk, and it evolves. He is amazing at identifying what you have created in the shoot and then expanding upon those concepts in an attempt to enhance and solidify what you were attempting in image acquisition.

Where was it shot, and how long was the shoot?
We shot in LA on the Sony lot, all over LA and then also in New York City and Las Vegas. We shot for five months. The shoot ran November through the middle of May. I began prep a month or so before.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project? Can you talk about camera tests?
We opted for the Panavision Millennium DXL2 with Primo 70 lenses — Apple’s specs required a 4K minimum. We tested a few systems and ended up choosing the Panavision for its awesome versatility. One camera does it all — Steadi, hand-held, studio, etc. At the time, there were few options for large format. There are many more now. We tested quite a few lenses with Jenn, Reese and Billy and ultimately chose the Primo 70s. We loved the clean but smooth look of these lenses. We shot them clean with zero filtration. I really liked the performance of the lenses for this show.

Can you talk about lighting?
Obviously, lighting is everything. Depth, contrast, color and the overall richness of the image are all achieved through lighting and art direction. Planning and previsualization are the key elements. We tried to take great care in each image, but this Panavision camera is groundbreaking in terms of shooting raw on the streets at night. The native 1600 ASA is insane. The images are so fast and clean, but our priority on this show was how the camera functioned within the realm of skin tones, texture, etc. We loved the natural look and feel of this camera and lens combo. The DXL really is an awesome addition to the large-format camera choices out there right now.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging?
We had an episode that took place in Las Vegas, and we shot for one long night. All mostly just grab and go. Very guerilla-style. Most of the sequences on Las Vegas Boulevard are all natural … no artificial light. Along the same lines as above, the camera performed on the streets of Las Vegas beautifully. The images were very clean, and the range and latitude of the DXL were amazing. I am shocked at how today’s cameras perform at low-light levels.

You’ve also shot feature films. Can you talk about differences in your process?
I don’t really see huge differences any more between features and high-end TV like this show. It used to be that features were given more time, and then more was expected. Well, you may still get more time, but everyone expects feature-quality, cinema-like images in dramatic television.

We have three huge international movie stars; I treat them no differently than if their images were to go up on the big screen. One-hour drama shows are the single most difficult and demanding projects to work on these days. They have all of the same demands as feature films, but they are created in a much tighter window. The expectations of quality seem very much the same today. Further, I think that the long grind of episodic TV also makes it tougher. It’s a long marathon, not a sprint.

Now for some more general questions …
How did you become interested in cinematography?
I was always an art student. I studied painting and drawing mostly. Later, I studied philosophy and business in college. I took private lessons from local artists growing up and also spent a lot of time playing sports (football). But I always loved movies. I found this to be the perfect job for me. It combines all of those elements. To me, telling stories with pictures requires the many skills that I learned from both sports and art.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
I used to be inspired by photos and art and other cinematographers’ work on films and shows. Of course, those things still inspire me, but people inspire me so much more now. The inspiration of reality seems far more interesting to me than abstractions today. The real emotions of people are what actually inspires movies to attempt to be art. Emotions are what movies are truly about. How can an emotion inspire an image and how can an image inspire an emotion? That’s the deal.

Technology and I don’t really get along very well. To me, it’s always only about storytelling. Technology has never been all that interesting to me. I stay somewhat aware of the new toys, but I’m not very obsessed. My crew keeps me informed also.

That being said, how has technology changed the way you work?
The film-to-video transition was obviously the biggest technological change in my career. Today, I think that the insanely sensitive cameras and their high native ASA ratios are the biggest technological advantages now. These fast cameras allow us to work in such low-light levels that it just seems a lot easier than it was 20 years ago.

The incredible advances in LED lights have also really altered the work process. They are now so powerful in such a compact footprint that it is increasingly easier to get a decent image today. It’s all smaller and not so cumbersome.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
Over the years, I have gone from obsessed to maniacal to relaxed to obsessed again. Today, I am really trying to be more respectful of all the artists working on the project and to just not let it all get to me. The pressure of it affects people differently. I really try to stay more even and calm. It really is all about the crew. DPs just direct traffic. Point people in the right way and direct them. Don’t give them line readings, but direct them. You just must be confident in why you are directing them a certain way. If you don’t believe, neither will they. In the end, the best practice a DP can ever have is to always get the best crew possible. People make movies. You need good people. You are only as good as your crew. It really is that simple.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
Mimi Leder is my best example of a collaborative director. We have a shared taste, and she really understands the value of a talented crew working together on a clearly defined common goal. The best directors communicate well and share enough information and ideas with the crew so that the crew can go and execute those ideas, and ultimately, expand upon them.

If a director clearly understands the story that they are telling, then they can eloquently communicate the concepts that will bring that story to life. The artists around them can expand a director’s ideas and solidify and embed them into the images. We all bring multiple levels of detail to the story. Hopefully, we are all inserting the same thematic ideas in our storytelling decisions. Mimi really allows her department heads to explore the story and bring their aesthetic sensibilities to the project. In the end, real collaboration is synonymous with good directing.

What’s your go-to gear? Things you can’t live without?
Lots of iced lattes and cold brew. I really don’t have a constant accessory, short of coffee.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood director Marielle Heller

By Iain Blair

If you are of a certain age, the red cardigan, the cozy living room and the comfy sneakers can only mean one thing — Mister Rogers! Sony Pictures’ new film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is a story of kindness triumphing over cynicism. It stars Tom Hanks and is based on the real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

Marielle Heller

In the film, jaded writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), whose character is loosely based on Junod, is assigned a profile of Rogers. Over the course of his assignment, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is helmed by Marielle Heller, who most recently directed the film Can You Ever Forgive Me? and whose feature directorial debut was 2015’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Heller has also directed episodes of Amazon’s Transparent and Hulu’s Casual.

Behind the scenes, Heller collaborated with DP Jody Lee Lipes, production designer Jade Healy, editor Anne McCabe, ACE, and composer Nate Heller.

I recently spoke with Heller about making the film, which is generating a lot of Oscar buzz, and her workflow.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
I didn’t want to make a traditional biopic, and part of what I loved about the script was it had this larger framing device — that it’s a big episode of Mister Rogers for adults. That was very clever, but it’s also trying to show who he was deep down and what it was like to be around him, rather than just rattling off facts and checking boxes. I wanted to show Fred in action and his philosophy. He believed in authenticity and truth and listening and forgiveness, and we wanted to embody all that in the filmmaking.

It couldn’t be more timely.
Exactly, and it’s weird since it’s taken eight years to get it made.

Is it true Tom Hanks had turned this down several times before, but you got him in a headlock and persuaded him to do it?
(Laughs) The headlock part is definitely true. He had turned it down several times, but there was no director attached. He’s the type of actor who can’t imagine what a project will be until he knows who’s helming it and what their vision is.

We first met at his grandkid’s birthday party. We became friends, and when I came on board as director, the producers told me, “Tom Hanks was always our dream for playing Mister Rogers, but he’s not interested.” I said, “Well, I could just call him and send him the script,” and then I told Tom I wasn’t interested in doing an imitation or a sketch version, and that I wanted to get to his essence right and the tone right. It would be a tightrope to walk, but if we could pull it off, I felt it would be very moving. A week later he was like, “Okay, I’ll do it.” And everyone was like, “How did you get him to finally agree?” I think they were amazed.

What did he bring to the role?
Maybe people think he just breezed into this — he’s a nice guy, Fred’s a nice guy, so it’s easy. But the truth is, Tom’s an incredibly technically gifted actor and one of the hardest-working ones I’ve ever worked with. He does a huge amount of research, and he came in completely prepared, and he loves to be directed, loves to collaborate and loves to do another take if you need it. He just loves the work.

Any surprises working with him?
I just heard that he’s actually related to Fred, and that’s another weird thing. But he truly had to transform for the role because he’s not like Fred. He had to slow everything down to a much slower pace than is normal for him and find Fred’s deliberate way of listening and his stillness and so on. It was pretty amazing considering how much coffee Tom drinks every day.

What did Matthew Rhys bring to his role?
It’s easy to forget that he’s actually the protagonist and the proxy for all the cynicism and neuroticism that many of us feel and carry around. This is what makes it so hard to buy into a Mister Rogers world and philosophy. But Matthew’s an incredibly complex, emotional person, and you always know how much he’s thinking. He’s always three steps ahead of you, he’s very smart, and he’s not afraid of his own anger and exploring it on screen. I put him through the ringer, as he had to go through this major emotional journey as Lloyd.

How important was the miniature model, which is a key part of the film?
It was a huge undertaking, but also the most fun we had on the movie. I grew up building miniatures and little cities out of clay, so figuring it all out — What’s the bigger concept behind it? How do we make it integrate seamlessly into the story? — fascinated me. We spent months figuring out all the logistics of moving between Fred’s set and home life in Pittsburgh and Lloyd’s gritty, New York environment.

While we shot in Pittsburgh, we had a team of people spend 12 weeks building the detailed models that included the Pittsburgh and Manhattan skylines, the New Jersey suburbs, and Fred’s miniature model neighborhood. I’d visit them once a week to check on progress. Our rule of thumb was we couldn’t do anything that Fred and his team couldn’t do on the “Neighborhood,” and we expanded a bit beyond Fred’s miniatures, but not outside of the realm of possibility. We had very specific shots and scenes all planned out, and we got to film with the miniatures for a whole week, which was a delight. They really help bridge the gap between the two worlds — Mister Rogers’ and Lloyd’s worlds.

I heard you shot with the same cameras the original show used. Can you talk about how you collaborated with DP Jody Lee Lipes, to get the right look?
We tracked down original Ikegami HK-323 cameras, which were used to film the show, and shipped them in from England and brought them to the set in Pittsburgh. That was huge in shooting the show and making it even more authentic. We tried doing it digitally, but it didn’t feel right, and it was Jody who insisted we get the original cameras — and he was so right.

Where did you post?
We did it in New York — the editing at Light Iron, the sound at Harbor and the color at Deluxe.

Do you like the post process?
I do, as it feels like writing. There’s always a bit of a comedown from production for me, which is so fast-paced. You really slow down for post; it feels a bit like screeching to a halt for me, but the plus is you get back to the deep critical thinking needed to rewrite in the edit, and to retell the story with the sound and the DI and so on.

I feel very strongly that the last 10% of post is the most important part of the whole process. It’s so tempting to just give up near the end. You’re tired, you’ve lost all objectivity, but it’s critical you keep going.

Talk about editing with Anne McCabe. What were the big editing challenges?
She wasn’t on the set. We sent dailies to her in New York, and she began assembling while we shot. We have a very close working relationship, so she’d be on the phone immediately if there were any concerns. I think finding the right tone was the biggest challenge, and making it emotionally truthful so that you can engage with it. How are you getting information and when? It’s also playing with audiences’ expectations. You have to get used to seeing Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, so we decided it had to start really boldly and drop you in the deep end — here you go, get used to it! Editing is everything.

There are quite a few VFX. How did that work?
Obviously, there’s the really big VFX sequence when Lloyd goes into his “fever dreams” and imagines himself shrunk down on the set of the neighborhood and inside the castle. We planned that right from the start and did greenscreen — my first time ever — which I loved. And even the practical miniature sets all needed VFX to integrate them into the story. We also had seasonal stuff, period-correct stuff, cleanup and so on. Phosphene in New York did all the VFX.

Talk about the importance of sound and music.
My composer’s also my brother, and he starts very early on so the music’s always an integral part of post and not just something added at the end. He’s writing while we shoot, and we also had a lot of live music we had to pre-record so we could film it on the day. There’s a lot of singing too, and I wanted it to sound live and not overly produced. So when Tom’s singing live, I wanted to keep that human quality, with all the little mouth sounds and any mistakes. I left all that in purposely. We never used a temp score since I don’t like editing to temp music, and we worked closely with the sound guys at Harbor in integrating all of the music, the singing, the whole sound design.

How important is the DI to you?
Hugely important and we finessed a lot with colorist Sam Daley. When you’re doing a period piece, color is so crucial – that it feels authentic to that world. Jody and Sam have worked together for a long time and they worked very hard on the LUT before we began, and every department was aware of the color palette and how we wanted it to look and feel.

What’s next?
I just started a new company called Defiant By Nature, where I’ll be developing and producing TV projects by other people. As for movies, I’m taking a little break.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Atomos Shogun 7 updated to 10.4, offers multicam switching

Atomos has updated its Shogun 7 HDR monitor-recorder/switcher designed to make multicamera filmmaking available to a variety of content creators. The update adds touch-controlled switching, quad monitoring and ISO recording functionality to the Shogun 7. This allows users to accurately switch back and forth between four live HD SDI video streams up to 1080p/60fps.

Tapping on an input stream’s window in the quad-view will switch to that source as the program feed — which is then output via HDMI, SDI or both simultaneously. You can record all four streams, with the switched program output as a fifth stream. This is done asynchronously, without the need for genlocked sources.

The streams are all recorded to the same high-performance SSD drive and can be ready to edit right after the shoot ends. Each is recorded as a separate ISO in either Apple ProRes or Avid DNx. This helps post production with the convenience of having multiple, synchronized camera angles when they are in the edit suite.

All input switches are recorded in metadata with a choice of transition type. Once users have finished capturing the streams, they can import the resulting Apple Final Cut XML file, along with the ISOs, into an NLE and the timeline automatically populates with all the transitions in place.

In terms of audio, every ISO can record the two-channel embedded digital audio from each source, as well as analog stereo channels coming into the Shogun 7 (via optional XLR breakout cable). The program stream always records the analog feed and can switch between audio inputs for the on-camera audio to match the switched feed.

On-screen, you can choose to view the four input streams at once in a quad-view or a full-screen view of any one of the four input streams. In full-screen you can access tools like waveforms, magnify or engage peaking check focus for each angle and make any adjustments to get the perfect HDR or SDR shots.

“This latest update takes the Shogun 7 — a product that costs less than $1,500 — to a whole new level by giving a new storytelling tool to our customers,” says Jeromy Young, CEO of Atomos. “With live switching now available to any filmmaker, on a simple-to-use, touchscreen device, we’re taking multicamera video out of the purely professional domain and giving every content creator access.”

Atomos 10.4 is available now as a free download from the Atomos website. This replaces the earlier limited beta and users of that version should update to Atomos 10.4.

Colorfront’s Express Dailies 2020 for Mac Pro, new rental model

Coinciding with Apple’s launch of the latest Mac Pro workstation, Colorfront announced a new, annual rental model for Colorfront Express Dailies.

Launching in Q1 2020, Colorfront’s subscription service allows users to rent Express Dailies 2020 for an annual fee of $5,000, including maintenance support, updates and upgrades. Additionally, the availability of Apple’s brand-new Pro Display XDR, designed for use with the new Mac Pro, makes on-set HDR monitoring, enabled by Colorfront systems, more cost effective.

Express Dailies 2020 supports 6K HDR/SDR workflow along with the very latest camera and editorial formats, including Apple ProRes and Apple ProRes RAW, ARRI MXF-wrapped ProRes, ARRI Alexa LF and Alexa Mini LF ARRIRAW, Sony Venice 5.0, Blackmagic RAW 1.5, and Codex HDE (High Density Encoding).

Express Dailies 2020 is optimized for 6K HDR/SDR dailies processing on the new Mac Pro running MacOS Catalina, leveraging the performance of the Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon 28 core CPU processor and multi-GPU rendering.

“With the launch of the new Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR, we identified a new opportunity to empower top-end DITs and dailies facilities to adopt HDR workflows on a wide range of high-end TV ad motion picture productions,” says Aron Jaszberenyi, managing director of Colorfront. “When combined with the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, Express Dailies 2020 subscription model gives new and cost-effective options for filmmakers wanting to take full advantage of 6K HDR/SDR workflows and HDR on-set.”

 

Behind the Title: Matter Films president Matt Moore

Part of his job is finding talent and production partners. “We want the most innovative and freshest directors, cinematographers and editors from all over the world.”

NAME: Matt Moore

COMPANY: Phoenix and Los Angeles’ Matter Films
and OH Partners

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Matter Films is a full-service production company that takes projects from script to screen — doing both pre-production and post in addition to producing content. We are joined by our sister company OH Partners, a full-service advertising agency.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
President of Matter Films and CCO of OH Partners,

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I’m lucky to be the only person in the company who gets to serve on both sides of the fence. Knowing that, I think that working with Matter and OH gives me a unique insight into how to meet our clients’ needs best. My number one job is to push both teams to be as innovative and outside of the box as possible. A lot of people do what we do, so I work on our points of differentiation.

Gila River Hotels and Casinos – Sports Partnership

I spend a lot of time finding talent and production partners. We want the most innovative and freshest directors, cinematographers and editors from all over the world. That talent must push all of our work to be the best. We then pair that partner with the right project and the right client.

The other part of my job is figuring out where the production industry is headed. We launched Matter Films because we saw a change within the production world — many production companies weren’t able to respond quickly enough to the need for social and digital work, so we started a company able to address that need and then some.

My job is to always be selling ideas and proposing different avenues we could pursue with Matter and with OH. I instill trust in our clients by using our work as a proof point that the team we’ve assembled is the right choice to get the job done.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
People assumed when we started Matter Films that we would keep everything in-house and have no outside partners, and that’s just not the case. Matter actually gives us even more resources to find those innovators from across the globe. It allows us to do more.

The variation in budget size that we accept at Matter Films would also surprise people. We’ll take on projects with anywhere from $1,000 to one million-plus budgets. We’ve staffed ourselves in such a way that even small projects can be profitable.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
It sounds so cliché, but I would have to say the people. I’m around people that I genuinely want to see every single day. I love when we all get together for our meetings, because while we do discuss upcoming projects, we also goof off and just hang out. These are the people I go into battle with every single day. I choose to go into the battle with people that I whole-heartedly care about and enjoy being with. It makes life better.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
What’s tough is how fast this business changes. Every day there’s a new conference or event, and just when you think an idea you’ve had is cutting edge and brand new, you realize you have to keep going and push to be more innovative. Just when you get caught up, you’re already behind. The big challenge is how you’re going to constantly step up your game.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
I’m an early morning person. I can get more done if I start before everybody else.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I was actually pre-med for two years in college with the desire to be a surgeon. When I was an undergrad, I got an abysmal grade on one of our exams and the professor pulled me aside and told me that a score that low proved that I truly did not care about learning the material. He allowed me to withdraw from the class to find something I was more passionate about, and that was life changing.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I found out in college. I genuinely just loved making a product that either entertained or educated people. I started in the news business, so every night I would go home after work and people could tell me about the news of the day because of what I’d written, edited and put on TV.

People knew about what was going on because of the stories that we told. I have a great love for telling stories and having others engage with that story. If you’re good at the job, peoples’ lives will be different as a result of what you create.

Barbuda Ocean Club

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We just wrapped a large shoot in Maryland for Live Casino, and a different tourism project for a luxury property in Barbuda. We’re currently developing our work with Virgin, and we have a shoot for a technology company focused on developing autonomous driving and green energy upcoming as well. We’re all over the map with the range of work that we have in the pipeline.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
One of my favorite projects actually took place before Matter Films was officially around, but we had a lot of the same team. We did an environmentally sensitive project for Sedona, Arizona, called Sedona Secret 7. Our campaign told the millions of tourists who arrive there how to find other equally beautiful destinations in and around Sedona instead of just the ones everyone already knew.

It was one of those times when advertising wasn’t about selling something, but about saving something.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My phone, a pair of AirPods and a laptop. The Matter Films team gave me AirPods for my birthday, so those are extra special!

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
My usage on Instagram is off the charts; it’s embarrassing. While I do look at everyone’s vacation photos or what workout they did that day, I also use Instagram as a talent sourcing tool for a lot of work purposes: I follow directors, animation studios and tons of artists that I either get inspiration from or want to work with.

A good percentage of people I follow are creatives that I want to work with at some point. I also reach out to people all the time for potential collaborations.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I love outdoor adventures. Some days I’ll go on a crazy hike here in Arizona or rent a four-wheeler and explore the desert or mountains. I also love just hanging out with my kids — they’re a great age.

Quick Chat: The Rebel Fleet’s Michael Urban talks on-set workflows

When shooting major motion pictures and episodic television with multiple crews in multiple locations, production teams need a workflow that gives them fast access and complete control of the footage across the entire production, from the first day of the shoot to the last day of post. This is Wellington, New Zealand-based The Rebel Fleet’s reason for being.

What exactly do they do? Well we reached out to managing director Michael Urban to find out.

Can you talk more about what you do and what types of workflows you supply?
The Rebel Fleet supplies complete workflow solutions, from on-set Qtake video assist and DIT to dailies, QC, archive and delivery to post. By managing the entire workflow, we can provide consistency and certainty around the color pipeline, monitor calibration, crew expertise and communication, and production can rely on one team to take care of that part of the workflow.

We have worked closely with Moxion many times and use its Immediates workflow, which enables automated uploads direct from video assist into its secure dailies platform. Anyone with access to the project can view rushes and metadata from set moments after the video is shot. This also enables different shooting units to automatically and securely share media. Two units shooting in different countries can see what each other has shot, including all camera and scene/take metadata. This is then available and catalogued directly into the video assist system. We have a lot of experience working alongside camera and VFX on-set as well as delivering to post, making sure we are delivering exactly what’s needed in the right formats.

You recently worked on a film that was shot in New Zealand and China, and you sent crews to China. Can you talk about that workflow a bit and name the film?
I can’t name the film yet, but I can tell you that it’s in the adventure genre and is coming out in the second half of 2020. The main pieces of software are Colorfront On-Set Dailies for processing all the media and Yoyotta for downloading and verifying media. We also use Avid for some edit prep before handing over to editorial.

How did you work with the DP and director? Can you talk about those relationships on this particular film?
On this shoot the DP and director had rushes screenings each night to go over the main unit and second unit rushes and make sure the dailies grade was exactly what they wanted. This was the last finesse before handing over dailies to editorial, so it had to be right. As rushes were being signed off, we would send them off to the background render engine, which would create four different outputs in multiple resolutions and framing. This meant that moments after the last camera mag was signed off, the media was ready for Avid prep and delivery. Our data team worked hard to automate as many processes as possible so there would be no long nights sorting reports and sheets. That work happened as we went throughout the day instead of leaving a multitude of tasks for the end of the day.

How do your workflows vary from project to project?
Every shoot is approached with a clean slate, and we work with the producers, DP and post to make sure we create a workflow that suits the logistical, budgetary and technical needs of that shoot. We have a tool kit that we rely on and use it to select the correct components required. We are always looking for ways to innovate and provide more value for the bottom line.

You mentioned using Colorfront tools, what does that offer you? And what about storage? Seems like working on location means you need a solid way to back up.
Colorfront On-Set Dailies takes care of QC, grade, sound sync and metadata. All of our shared storage is built around Quantum Xcellis, plus the Quantum QXS hybrid storage systems for online and nearline. We create the right SAN for the job depending on the amount of storage and clients required for that shoot.

Can you name projects you’ve worked on in the past as well as some recent work?
Warner Bros.’ The Meg, DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell, Sonar’s The Shannara Chronicles, STX Entertainment’s Adrift, Netflix’s The New Legends of Monkey and The Letter for the King and Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island.

Deluxe NY adds color to Mister Rogers biopic

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood stars Tom Hanks as children’s television icon Fred Rogers in a story about kindness triumphing over cynicism. Inspired by the article “Can You Say…Hero?” by journalist Tom Junod, the film is directed by Marielle Heller. The cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes worked on the color finishing with Deluxe New York’s Sam Daley.

Together Heller and Lipes worked to replicate the feature’s late 1990’s film aesthetic through in-camera techniques. After testing various film and digital camera options, production opted to shoot a majority of the footage with ARRI Alexa cameras in Super 16 mode. To more accurately represent the look of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Lipes’ team scoured the globe for working versions of the same Ikegami video cameras that were used to tape the show. In a similar quest for authenticity, Daley got a touch up on the look of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by watching old episodes, even visiting a Pittsburgh museum that housed the show’s original set. He also researched film styles typical of the time period to help inform the overall look of the feature.

“Incorporating Ikegami video footage into the pipeline was the most challenging aspect of the color on this film, and we did considerable testing to make sure that the quality of the video recordings would hold up in a theatrical environment,” Daley explained. “Jody and I have been working together for more than 10 years; we’re aesthetically in-sync and we both like to take what some might consider risks visually, and this film is no different.”

Through the color finish process, Daley helped unify and polish the final footage, which included PAL and NTSC video in addition to the Alexa-acquired digital material. He paid careful attention to integrate the different video standards and frame rates while also shaping two distinct looks to reflect the narrative. For contrast between the optimistic Rogers and his colorful world, Daley incorporated a cool moody feel around the pessimistic Junod, named “Lloyd Vogel” in the film and played by Matthew Rhys.

Director Robert Eggers talks about his psychological thriller The Lighthouse

By Iain Blair

Writer/director Robert Eggers burst onto the scene when his feature film debut, The Witch, won the Directing Award in the US Dramatic category at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. He followed up that success by co-writing and directing another supernatural, hallucinatory horror film, The Lighthouse, which is set in the maritime world of the late 19th century.

L-R: Director Robert Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke on set.

The story begins when two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) arrive on a remote island off the coast of New England for their month-long stay. But that stay gets extended as they’re trapped and isolated due to a seemingly never-ending storm. Soon, the two men engage in an escalating battle of wills, as tensions boil over and mysterious forces (which may or may not be real) loom all around them.

The Lighthouse has the power of an ancient myth. To tell this tale, which was shot in black and white, Eggers called on many of those who helped him create The Witch, including cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, production designer Craig Lathrop, composer Mark Korven and editor Louise Ford.

I recently talked to Eggers, who got his professional start directing and designing experimental and classical theater in New York City, about making the film, his love of horror and the post workflow.

Why does horror have such an enduring appeal?
My best argument is that there’s darkness in humanity, and we need to explore that. And horror is great at doing that, from the Gothic to a bad slasher movie. While I may prefer authors who explore the complexities in humanity, others may prefer schlocky films with jump scares that make you spill your popcorn, which still give them that dose of darkness. Those films may not be seriously probing the darkness, but they can relate to it.

This film seems more psychological than simple horror.
We’re talking about horror, but I’m not even sure that this is a horror film. I don’t mind the label, even though most wannabe auteurs are like, “I don’t like labels!” It started with an idea my brother Max had for a ghost story set in a lighthouse, which is not what this movie became. But I loved the idea, which was based on a true story. It immediately evoked a black and white movie on 35mm negative with a boxy aspect ratio of 1.19:1, like the old movies, and a fusty, dusty, rusty, musty atmosphere — the pipe smoke and all the facial hair — so I just needed a story that went along with all of that. (Laughs) We were also thinking a lot about influences and writers from the time — like Poe, Melville and Stevenson — and soaking up the jargon of the day. There were also influences like Prometheus and Proteus and God knows what else.

Casting the two leads was obviously crucial. What did Willem and Robert bring to their roles?
Absolute passion and commitment to the project and their roles. Who else but Willem can speak like a North Atlantic pirate stereotype and make it totally believable? Robert has this incredible intensity, and together they play so well against each other and are so well suited to this world. And they both have two of the best faces ever in cinema.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together, and is it true you actually built the lighthouse?
We did. We built everything, including the 70-foot tower — a full-scale working lighthouse, along with its house and outbuildings — on Cape Forchu in Nova Scotia, which is this very dramatic outcropping of volcanic rock. Production designer Craig Lathrop and his team did an amazing job, and the reason we did that was because it gave us far more control than if we’d used a real lighthouse.

We scouted a lot but just couldn’t find one that suited us, and the few that did were far too remote to access. We needed road access and a place with the right weather, so in the end it was better to build it all. We also shot some of the interiors there as well, but most of them were built on soundstages and warehouses in Halifax since we knew it’d be very hard to shoot interiors and move the camera inside the lighthouse tower itself.

Your go-to DP, Jarin Blaschke, shot it. Talk about how you collaborated on the look and why you used black and white.
I love the look of black and white, because it’s both dreamlike and also more realistic than color in a way. It really suited both the story and the way we shot it, with the harsh landscape and a lot of close-ups of Willem and Robert. Jarin shot the film on the Panavision Millennium XL2, and we also used vintage Baltar lenses from the 1930s, which gave the film a great look, as they make the sea, water and sky all glow and shimmer more. He also used a custom cyan filter by Schneider Filters that gave us that really old-fashioned look. Then by using black and white, it kept the overall look very bleak at all times.

How tough was the shoot?
It was pretty tough, and all the rain and pounding wind you see onscreen is pretty much real. Even on the few sunny days we had, the wind was just relentless. The shoot was about 32 days, and we were out in the elements in March and April of last year, so it was freezing cold and very tough for the actors. It was very physically demanding.

Where did you post?
We did it all in New York at Harbor Post, with some additional ADR work at Goldcrest in London with Robert.

Do you like the post process?
I love post, and after the very challenging shoot, it was such a relief to just get in a warm, dry, dark room and start cutting and pulling it all together.

Talk about editing with Louise Ford, who also cut The Witch. How did that work?
She was with us on the shoot at a bed and breakfast, so I could check in with her at the end of the day. But it was so tough shooting that I usually waited until the weekends to get together and go over stuff. Then when we did the stage work at Halifax, she had an edit room set up there, and that was much easier.

What were the big editing challenges?
The DP and I developed such a specific and detailed cinema language without a ton of coverage and with little room for error that we painted ourselves into a corner. So that became the big challenge… when something didn’t work. It was also about getting the running time down but keeping the right pace since the performances dictate the pace of the edit. You can’t just shorten stuff arbitrarily. But we didn’t leave a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor. The assembly was just over two hours and the final film isn’t much shorter.

All the sound effects play a big role. Talk about the importance of sound and working on them with sound designer Damian Volpe, whose credits include Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Leave No Trace, Mudbound, Drive, Winter’s Bone and Margin Call.
It’s hugely important in this film, and Louise and I did a lot of work in the picture edit to create temps for Damian to inspire him. And he was so relentless in building up the sound design, and even creating weird sounds to go with the actual light, and to go with the score by Mark Korven, who did The Witch, and all the brass and unusual instrumentation he used on this. So the result is both experimental and also quite traditional, I think.

There are quite a few VFX shots. Who did them, and what was involved?
We had MELS and Oblique in Quebec and Brainstorm Digital in New York also did some. The big one was that the movie’s set on an island but we shot on a peninsula, which also had a lighthouse further north, which unfortunately didn’t look at all correct, so we framed it out a lot but we had to erase it for some of the time. And our period-correct sea ship broke down and had to be towed around by other ships, so there was a lot of clean up. Also with all the safety cables we had to use for cliff shots with the actors.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
We did it at Harbor with colorist Joe Gawler, and it was hugely important although it was fairly simple because there’s very little latitude on the Double-X film stock we used. We did a lot of fine detail work to finesse it, but it was a lot quicker than if it’d been in color.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
No, they always change and surprise you, but I’m very proud of what we did.

What’s next?
I’m prepping another period piece, but it’s not a horror film. That’s all I can say.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Behind the Title: Logan & Sons director Tom Schlagkamp

This director also loves editing, sound design and working with VFX long before and after the shoot.

Name: Tom Schlagkamp

Company: Logan & Sons, the live-action division of bicoastal content creation studio Logan, which is based in NYC and LA.

Job Title: Director

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I can honestly say I love every detail of the job, even the initial pitch, as it’s the first contact with a new story, a new project and a new challenge. I put a lot of heart into every aspect of a film — the better you’ve prepared in pre-production, the more creative you can be during the shoot; it brings you more time and oversight during shooting and more power to react if anything changes.

Tom Schlagkamp’s short film Dysconnected.

For my European, South African and Asian projects, I’m also very happy to be deeply involved in editing, sound design and post production, as I love working with the material. I usually shoot footage, so there are more possibilities to work with in editing.

What’s your least favorite?
Not winning a job, that’s why I’m trying to avoid that… (laughs).

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Well, plan A would be a rock star — specifically, a guitarist in a thrash metal band. Plan B would be the exact opposite: working at my family’s winery — Schlagkamp-Desoye in Germany’s beautiful Mosel Valley. My brother runs this company now, which is in its 11th generation. Our family has grown wine since 1602. The winery also includes a wine museum.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
In Germany, you don’t necessarily jump from high school to college right away, so I took a short time to learn all the basics of filmmaking with as much practical experience as I could get. That included directing music videos and short films while I worked for Germany’s biggest TV station, RTL. There I learned to edit and produced campaigns for shows, and in particular movie trailers and campaigns for the TV premieres of blockbuster movies. That was a lot of work and fun at the same time.

What was it about directing that attracted you?
The whole idea of creating something completely new. I loved (and still do) the films of the “New Hollywood” and the Nouvelle Vague — they challenged the regular way of storytelling and created something outstanding that changed filmmaking forever. This fascinated me, and I knew I had to learn the rules first in order to be able to question them, so I started studying at Germany’s film academy, the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

What is it about directing that keeps you interested?
It’s about always moving forward. There are so many more ways you can tell a story and so many stories that have not yet been told, so I love working on as many projects as possible.

Dysconnected

Do you get involved with post at all?
Yes, I love to be part of that whenever the circumstances allow it. As mentioned before, I love editing and sound design as well, but also planning and working with VFX long before and after the shoot is fascinating to me.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
As I answer these questions, I’m sitting at the airport in Berlin, traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m excited about shooting a series of commercials in the African savanna. I shot many commercials this year, but was also happy that my short film Dysconnected, which I shot in Los Angeles last year, premiered at LA Shorts International Film Festival this summer.

What project are you most proud of?
I loved shooting the Rock ’n’ Roll Manifesto for Visions magazine, because it was the perfect combination of my job as a director and my before-mentioned “alternative Plan A,” making my living as a musician. Also, everybody involved in the project was so into it and it’s been the best shooting experience. And winning awards with it in the end was an added bonus.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Manifesto

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
1. Noise cancelling headphones. When I travel, I love listening to music and podcasts, and with these headphones you can dive into that world perfectly.
2. My mobile phone, which I hardly use for phone calls anymore but everything else.
3. My laptop, which is part of every project from the beginning until the end.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Cycling, hiking and rock concerts. There is nothing like the silence of being in pure nature and the loudness of heavy guitars and drums at a metal show (laughs).

Todd Phillips talks directing Warner Bros.’ Joker

By Iain Blair

Filmmaker Todd Phillips began his career in comedy, most notably with the blockbuster franchise The Hangover, which racked up $1.4 billion at the box office globally. He then leveraged that clout and left his comedy comfort zone to make the genre-defying War Dogs.

Todd Phillips directing Joaquin Phoenix

Joker puts comedy even further in his rearview mirror. This bleak, intense, disturbing and chilling tragedy has earned over a $1 billion worldwide since its release, making it the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2019 and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Not surprisingly, Joker was celebrated by the Academy, earning a total of 11 Oscar nods, including two for Phillips.

Directed, co-written and produced by Phillips (nominated for Directing and Screenplay), Joker is the filmmaker’s original vision of the infamous DC villain — an origin story infused with the character’s more traditional mythologies. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is portrayed — and fully inhabited — by three-time Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. Longing for any light to shine on him, he tries his hand as a stand-up comic but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy, cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this powerful, allegorical character study.

Phoenix is joined by Oscar-winner Robert De Niro, who plays TV host Murray Franklin, and a cast that includes Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Leigh Gill.

Behind the scenes, Phillips was joined by a couple of frequent collaborators in DP Lawrence Sher, ASC, and editor Jeff Groth. Also on the journey were Oscar-nominated co-writer Scott Silver, production designer Mark Friedberg and Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges. Hildur Guðnadóttir provided the music.

Joker was produced by Phillips and actor/director Bradley Cooper, under their Joint Effort banner, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.

I recently talked to Phillips, whose credits include Borat (for which he earned an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay), Due Date, Road Trip and Old School, about making the film, his love of editing and post.

You co-wrote this very complex, timely portrait of a man and a city. Was that the appeal for you?
Absolutely, 100 percent. While it takes place in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and we wrote it in 2016, it was very much about making a movie that deals with issues happening right now. Movies are often mirrors of society, and I feel this is exactly that.

Do you think that’s why so many people have been offended by it?
I do. It’s really resonated with audiences. I know it’s also been somewhat divisive, and a lot of people were saying, “You can’t make a movie about a guy like this — it’s irresponsible.” But do we want to pretend that these people don’t exist? When you hold up a mirror to society, people don’t always like what they see.

Especially when we don’t look so good.
(Laughs) Exactly.

This is a million miles away from the usual comic-book character and cartoon violence. What sort of film did you set out to make?
We set out to make a tragedy, which isn’t your usual Hollywood approach these days, for sure.

It’s hard to picture any other actor pulling this off. What did Joachin bring to the role?
When Scott and I wrote it, we had him in mind. I had a picture of him as my screensaver on my laptop — and he still is. And then when I pitched this, it was with him in mind. But I didn’t really know him personally, even though we created the character “in his voice.” Everything we wrote, I imagined him saying. So he was really in the DNA of the whole film as we wrote it, and he brought the vulnerability and intensity needed.

You’d assume that he’d jump at this role, but I heard it wasn’t so simple getting him.
You’re right. Getting him was a bit of a thing because it wasn’t something he was looking to do — to be in a movie set in the comic book world. But we spent a lot of timing talking about it, what it would be, what it means and what it says about society today and the lack of empathy and compassion that we have now. He really connected with those themes.

Now, looking back, it seems like an obvious thing for him to do, but it’s hard for actors because the business has changed so much and there’s so many of these superhero movies and comic book films now. Doing them is a big thing for an actor, because then you’re in “that group,” and not every actor wants to be in that group because it follows you, so to speak. A lot of actors have done really well in superhero movies and have done other things too, but it’s a big step and commitment for an actor. And he’d never really been in this kind of film before.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
I really wanted to shoot on location all around New York City, and that was a big challenge because it’s far harder than it sounds. But it was so important to the vibe and feel of the movie. So many superhero movies use lots of CGI, but I needed that gritty reality of the actual streets. And I think that’s why it’s so unsettling to people because it does feel so real. Luckily, we had Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who’s one of the great New York producers. She was key in getting locations.

Did you do a lot of previz?
I don’t usually do that much. We did it once for War Dogs and it worked well, but it’s a really slow and annoying process to some extent. As crazy as it sounds, we tried it once on the big Murray Franklin scene with De Niro at the end, which is not a scene you’d normally previz — it’s just two guys sitting on a couch. But it was a 12-page scene with so many camera angles, so we began to previz it and then just abandoned it half-way through. The DP and I were like, “This isn’t worth it. We’ll just do it like we always do and just figure it out as we go.” But previz is an amazing tool. It just needed more time and money than we had, and definitely more patience than I have.

Where did you post?
We started off at my house, where Jeff and I had an Avid setup. We also had a satellite office at 9000 Sunset, where all the assistants were. VFX and our VFX supervisor Edwin Rivera were also based out of there along with our music editor, and that’s where most of it was done. Our supervising sound editor was Alan Robert Murray, a two-time Oscar-winner for his work on American Sniper and Letters From Iwo Jima, and we did the Atmos sound mix on the lot at Warners with Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic.

Talk about editing with Jeff Groth. What were the big editing challenges?
There are a lot of delusions in Arthur’s head, so it was a big challenge to know when to hide them and when to reveal them. The scene order in the final film is pretty different from the scripted order, and that’s all about deciding when to reveal information. When you write the script, every scene seems important, and everything has to happen in this order, but when you edit, it’s like, “What were we thinking? This could move here, we can cut this, and so on.”

Todd Phillips on set with Robert DeNiro

That’s what’s so fun about editing and why I love it and post so much. I see my editor as a co-writer. I think every director loves editing the most, because let’s face it — directors are all control freaks, and you have the most control in post and the editing room. So for me at least, I direct movies and go through all the stress of production and shooting just to get to the editing room. It’s all stuff I just have to deal with so I can then sit down and actually make the movie. So it’s the final draft of the script and I very much see it as a writing exercise.

Post is your last shot at getting the script right, and the most fun part of making a movie is the first 10 to 12 weeks of editing. The worst part is the final stretch of post, all that detail work and watching the movie 400 times. You get sick of it, and it’s so hard to be objective. This ended up taking 20 weeks before we had the first cut. Usually you get 10 for the director’s cut, but I asked Warners for more time and they were like, “OK.”

Visual effects play a big role in the film. How many were there?
More than you’d think, but they’re not flashy. I told Edwin early on, if you do your job right, no one will guess there are any VFX shots at all. He had a great team, and we used various VFX houses, including Scanline, Shade and Branch.

There’s a lot of blood, and I’m guessing that was all enhanced a lot?
In fact, there was no real blood — not a drop — used on set, and that amazes people when I tell them. That’s one of the great things about VFX now — you can do all the blood work in post. For instance, traditionally, when you film a guy being shot on the subway, you have all the blood spatters and for take two, you have to clean all that up and repaint the walls and reset, and it takes 45 minutes. This way, with VFX, you don’t have to deal with any of that. You just do a take, do it again until it’s right, and add all the blood in post. That’s so liberating.

L-R: Iain Blair and Todd Phillips

What was the most difficult VFX shot to do?
I’d say the scene with Randall at his apartment, and all that blood tracking on the walls and on Arthur’s face and hands is pretty amazing, and we spent the most time on all that, getting it right.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
At Company 3 with my regular colorist Jill Bogdanowicz, and it’s vital for the look. I only began doing DIs on the first Hangover, and the great thing about it is you can go in and surgically fix anything. And if you have a great DP like Larry Sher, who’s shot the last six movies for me, you don’t get lost in the maze of possibilities, and I trust him more than I trust myself sometimes.

We shot it digitally, though the original plan was to shoot 65mm large format, and when that fell through to shoot 35mm. Then Larry and I did a lot of tests and decided we’d shoot digital and make it look like film. And thanks to the way he lit and all the work he and Jill did, it has this weird photochemical feel and look. It’s not quite film, but it’s definitely not digital. It’s somewhere in the middle, its own thing.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

DP Chat: Good Boys cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski

By Randi Altman

Cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski is no stranger to comedy. His resume is long and includes such projects as the TV series Search Party and Inside Amy Schumer, as well as Judd Apatow’s documentary, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.

Jonathan Furmanski

So when it came time to collaborate with director Gene Stupnitsky on the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced Good Boys feature, he was more than ready.

Good Boys follows three 12-year-old boys (Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams) as they discover girls and how to get in and out of trouble. Inspired by earlier coming of age films, such as Stand By Me, Furmanski aimed for the look of the film to have “one foot in 2019 and the other in 1986.”

We reached out to Furmanski to find out about Good Boys, his workflows, inspiration and more.

Tell us about Good Boys. How early did you get involved in this film, and how did you work with the director Gene Stupnitsky?
Good Boys was a great experience. I interviewed with Gene and the producers several months before prep started. I flew up to Vancouver about a month before we started shooting, so had some time to sit with everyone to discuss the plan and style.

Everyone gave me a lot of room to figure out the look of the film, and there was universal agreement that we didn’t want Good Boys to look like a typical pre-teen comedy. Each conversation about the photography started with the idea that, despite the story being about three 12-year-old boys in a small suburban town, the film should feel bigger and more open. We wanted to show the thrill and fear of adolescence, discovery and adventure. That said, Gene was very clear not to undermine the comedy or constrain the actors.

How would you describe the look of film?
My hope was that Good Boys would feel like it had one foot in 2019 and the other in 1986. We got a lot of inspiration from movies like Stand By Me, The Goonies and ET. I didn’t want the film to be slick-looking; I wanted it to be sharp and vibrant and with a wider point of view. At the same time, it needed some grit and texture — despite all the sillier or crazier moments, I very much wanted the audience to be lulled into a suspension of disbelief. So, hopefully, we achieved that.

How did you work with the director and colorist to achieve the intended look?
We were very lucky to have Natasha Leonnet at Efilm do the final color on the film. She locked into the look and vibe. We were immediately on the same page about everything.

I obsess over all the details, and she was able to address my notes — or talk me off the ledge — while bringing her own vision and sensibility, which was right in line with what Gene and I envisioned. Just like on the shoot, I was given a lot of room to create the look.

You shot in Vancouver. How long was the shoot?
We shot for about 35 days in and around Vancouver.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses this project? Can you talk about camera tests?
I spent a bit of time thinking about the best camera and lens combo. Initially, I was considering a full-frame format, but as we discussed the film and our references, we realized shooting anamorphic would bring a little more “bigness.”

Also, we knew we’d have a lot of shots of all three boys improvising or goofing around, so the wider aspect ratio would help keep them all in a nice frame. But I also didn’t want to be fighting the imperfections a lot of anamorphic lenses have. That “personality” can be great and really fun to shoot with, but for Good Boys, we needed to have greater control over the frame. So I tested every anamorphic series I could get my hands on — looking at distortion, flaring, horizontal and vertical sharpness, etc. — with a few camera systems. I settled on the ARRI Master anamorphic lenses and Alexa SXT and Mini cameras.

Ultimately, why was this the right combination of camera and lenses?
Well, I’ve shot almost every scripted and documentary project in the last five years on some model of Alexa or Amira, so I’m very familiar with the sensor and how it handles itself, no matter what the situation. And I knew we’d shoot ARRIRAW so would record an awesome amount of information. I’m so impressed with what ARRIRAW can handle; sometimes it sees too much. But really, there’s so much to think about while shooting, no matter how much you like the image in front of you, it’s reassuring to know you have heaps of information to work with.

As for lenses, I wanted a package that gave me all the scope and dimensionality of anamorphic without the typical limitations. Don’t get me wrong; some of the classic anamorphic series with all their flaws can be beautiful and exciting, but they weren’t the right choice for this film. I wanted to select how much (or how little) we had in focus, and I didn’t want to lose sharpness off the center of the frame or have to stop way down because we needed three boys’ faces in focus. So the Master anamorphics ended up being the perfect choice: a big look, great contrast and color rendition, lovely depth and separation, and clean and sharp across the frame.

Can you talk about the lighting and how the camera worked while grabbing shots when you could?
One of the challenges of working with three 12-year-olds as your lead actors is keeping things loose enough so they don’t feel fenced in, which would sap all the energy out of their performances. We worked hard to give each scene and location a strong look, but sometimes we lit a little more broadly or lensed a little wider so the boys had room to play.

We kept as much lighting out of the room or rigged overhead as we could so the locations wouldn’t get claustrophobic or overheated. And the operators were able to adjust their frames easily as things changed or if an actor was doing something unexpected.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of or that you found most challenging?
Without question, the most challenging sequence was the boys running across the highway. It was the biggest single scene I’ve shot, and it had multiple units shooting over five days — it was really tough from a coordination and matching perspective. Obviously, the scene had to be funny and exciting, but I also wanted it to feel huge. The boys are literally and figuratively crossing the biggest barrier of their lives! We got a little lucky that there was a thin layer of haze most of the time that took the edge off the direct sun and made matching a bit easier.

The key was sitting with our AD, Dan Miller, and coming up with the most advantageous shooting order, but not hopping around so much that we lose continuity or waste tons of time resetting everything. And almost every shot had VFX so our key grip, Marc Nolet, drilled small washers into the tarmac for every camera position and we took copious notes so we could go back if necessary, or second unit could come in and replicate something. It was a lot of work, but the final sequence is really fun and surprising.

Now for some more general questions. How did you become interested in cinematography?
I went to film school with the idea of being a writer/director, but I discovered very quickly that I wasn’t really into that. I was drawn immediately to cameras, lenses and film stocks, and I devoured all the information I could find about cinematography. My friends started asking me to shoot their student projects, and it took off from there. I’m lucky that I still get to work with some of those college friends.

How do you stay on top of advancing technology?
I don’t find it too difficult to stay on top of the latest and greatest camera or light or other widget. The basic idea is always the same, no matter how new the implementation, and when something truly groundbreaking comes along, you hear about it quickly.

Of course, many of my friends are in the camera or lighting departments, so we talk about this stuff all the time, and there are great online resources for checking out gear or swapping ideas. Probably the best place to learn is at events like Cine Gear, where you can see the latest stuff and hang out with your friends.

What inspires you artistically?
It’s easy to find inspiration almost anywhere: museums, books, online, just walking around. I also get great inspiration from my fellow cinematographers (past and present) and the work they do. The DP community is very open and supportive, maybe surprisingly so.

What new technology has changed the way you work?
The two innovations that have impacted my work most are digital cinema cameras and LED lighting. Both have afforded me a more lightweight and efficient way of working without sacrificing quality or options.

Jonathan Furmanski

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
I credit my documentary work for teaching me to keep an open ear and an open mind. When you listen, you can prepare, anticipate or hear a key piece of information that could impact your approach. This, of course, leads to improvisation because maybe your idea doesn’t work or a better idea is presenting itself. Don’t be rigid. I also try to stand next to the camera as much as possible — that’s where all the action is.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
It’s exactly that… a collaboration. I don’t want to be off by myself, and I don’t want to just pass information from one person to another. The best director/DP relationships are an extended, evolving conversation where you’re pushing a clear vision together but still challenging each other.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I think the ARRI Amira is the best camera ever made, although I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to cameras and lenses — I don’t think I’ve used the same lens package twice on all my narrative projects. The two things I must have are my own wireless monitor and a good polarizing filter; I want complete control over the image, and I don’t like standing still.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Terminator: Dark Fate director Tim Miller

By Iain Blair

He said he’d be back, and he meant it. Thirty-five years after he first arrived to menace the world in the 1984 classic The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned as the implacable killing machine in Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest installment of the long-running franchise.

And he’s not alone in his return. Terminator: Dark Fate also reunites the film’s producer and co-writer James Cameron with original franchise star Linda Hamilton for the first time in 28 years in a new sequel that picks up where Terminator 2: Judgment Day left off.

When the film begins, more than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor (Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, changed the future and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Now, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator — a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) — travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor. As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that might be their last best hope.

To helm all the on-screen mayhem, black humor and visual effects, Cameron handpicked Tim Miller, whose credits include the global blockbuster Deadpool, one of the highest grossing R-rated films of all time (it grossed close to $800 million). Miller then assembled a close-knit team of collaborators that included director of photography Ken Seng (Deadpool, Project X), editor Julian Clarke (Deadpool, District 9) and visual effects supervisor Eric Barba (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Oblivion).

Tim Miller on set

I recently talked to Miller about making the film, its cutting-edge VFX, the workflow and his love of editing and post.

How daunting was it when James Cameron picked you to direct this?
I think there’s something wrong with me because I don’t really feel fear as normal people do. It just manifests as a sense of responsibility, and with this I knew I’d never measure up to Jim’s movies but felt I could do a good job. Jim was never going to tell this story, and I wanted to see it, so it just became more about the weight of that sense of responsibility, but not in a debilitating way. I felt pretty confident I could carry this off. But later, the big anxiety was not to let down Linda Hamilton. Before I knew her, it wasn’t a thing, but later, once I got to know her I really felt I couldn’t mess it up (laughs).

This is still Cameron’s baby even though he handed over the directing to you. How hands-on was he?
He was busy with Avatar, but he was there for a lot of the early meetings and was very involved with the writing and ideas, which was very helpful thematically. But he wasn’t overbearing on all that. Then later when we shot, he wanted to write a few of the key scenes, which he did, and then in the edit he was in and out, but he never came into my edit room. He’d give notes and let us get on with it.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
A continuation of Sarah’s story. I never felt it was John’s story to me. It was always about a mother’s love for a son, and I felt like there was a real opportunity here. And that that story hadn’t been told — partly because the other sequels never had Linda. Once she wanted to come back, it was always the best possible story. No one else could be her or Arnold’s character.

Any surprises working with them?
Before we shot, people were telling me, “You got to be ready, we can’t mess around. When Arnold walks on set you’d better be rolling!” Sure enough, when he walked on he’d go, “And…” (Laughs) He really likes to joke around. With Linda — and the other actors — it was a love-fest. They’re both such nice, down-to-earth people, and I like a collegial atmosphere. I’m not a screamer. I’m very prepared, and I feel if you just show up on time, you’re already ahead of the game as a director.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
They were all different for each big action set piece, and fitting it all into a schedule was tough, as we had a crazy amount of VFX. The C-5 plane sequence was far and away the biggest challenge to do and [SFX supervisor] Neil Corbould and his team designed and constructed all the effects rigs for the movie. The C-5 set was incredible, with two revolving sets, one vertical and one horizontal. It was so big you could put a bus in it, and it was able to rotate 360 degrees and tilt in either direction at the same time.

You just can’t simulate that reality of zero gravity on the actors. And then after we got it all in camera, which took weeks, our VFX guy Eric Barba finished it off. The other big one was the whole underwater scene, where the Humvee falls over the top of a dam and goes underwater as it’s swept down a river. For that, we put the Humvee on a giant scissor lift that could take it all the way under, so the water rushes in and fills it up. It’s really safe to do, but it feels frighteningly realistic for the actors.

This is only my second movie, so I’m still learning, but the advantage is I’m really willing to listen to any advice from the smart people around me on set on how best to do all this stuff.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX?
Right from the start. I use previz a lot, as I come from that environment and I’m very comfortable with it, and that becomes the template for all of production to work from. Sometimes it’s too much of a template and treated like a bible, but I’m like, “Please keep thinking. Is there a better idea?” But it’s great to get everyone on the same page, so very early on you see what’s VFX, what’s live-action only, what’s a combination, and you can really plan your shoot. We did over 45 minutes of previz, along with storyboards. We did tons of postviz. My director’s cut had no blue/green at all. It was all postviz for every shot.

Tim Miller and Linda Hamilton

DP Ken Seng, who did Deadpool with you, shot it. Talk about how you collaborated on the look.
We didn’t really have time to plan shot lists that much since we moved so much and packed so much into every day. A lot of it was just instinctive run-and-gun, as the shoot was pretty grueling. We shot in Madrid and [other parts of] Spain, which doubled for Mexico. Then we did studio work in Budapest. The script was in flux a lot, and Jim wrote a few scenes that came in late, and I was constantly re-writing and tweaking dialogue and adjusting to the locations because there’s the location you think you’ll get and then the one you actually get.

Where did you post?
All at Blur, my company where we did Deadpool. The edit bays weren’t big enough for this though, so we spilled over into another building next door. That became Terminator HQ with the main edit bay and several assistant bays, plus all the VFX and compositing post teams. Blur also helped out with postviz and previz.

Do you like the post process?
I love post! I was an animator and VFX guy first, so it’s very natural to me, and I had a lot of the same team from Deadpool, which was great.

Talk about editing with Julian Clarke who cut Deadpool. How did that work?
It was the same set up. He’d be back here in LA cutting while we shot. He’s so fast; he’d be just one day behind me — I’ve never met anyone who works as hard. Then after the shoot, we’d edit all day and then I’d deal with VFX reviews for hours.

Can you talk about how Adobe Creative Cloud helped the post and VFX teams achieve their creative and technical goals?
I’m a big fan, and that started back on Deadpool as David Fincher was working closely with Adobe to make Premiere something that could beat Avid. We’re good friends — we’re doing our animated Netflix show Love, Death & Robots together — and he was like, “Dude, you gotta use this tool,” so we used it on Deadpool. It was still a little rocky on that one, but overall it was a great experience, and we knew we’d use it on this one. Adobe really helped refine it and the workflow, and it was a huge leap.

What were the big editing challenges?
(Laughs) We just shot too much movie. We had many discussions about cutting one or more of the action scenes, but in the end, we just took out some of the action from all of them, instead of cutting a particular set piece. But it’s tricky cutting stuff and still making it seamless, especially in a very heavily choreographed sequence like the C-5.

VFX plays a big role. How many were there?
Over 2,500 — a huge amount. The VFX on this were so huge it became a bit of a problem, to be honest.

L-R: Writer Iain Blair and director Tim Miller

How did you work with VFX supervisor Eric Barba.
He did a great job and oversaw all the vendors, including ILM, who did most of them. We tried to have them do all the character-based stuff, to keep it in one place, but in the end, we also had Digital Domain, Method, Blur, UPP, Cantina, and some others. We also brought on Jeff White from ILM since it was more than Eric could handle.

Talk about the importance of sound and music.
Tom Holkenborg, who scored Deadpool, did another great job. We also reteamed with sound design and mixer Craig Henighan and we did the mix at Fox. They’re both crucial in a film like this, but I’m the first to admit music’s not my strength. Luckily, Julian Clarke is excellent with that and very focused. He worked hard at pulling it all together. I love sound design and we talked about all the spotting, and Julian managed a lot of that too for me because I was so busy with the VFX.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
It’s huge, and we did it at Company 3 with Tim Stipan, who did Deadpool. I like to do a lot of reframing, adding camera shake and so on. It has a subtle but important effect on the overall film.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Behind the Title: C&I Studios founder Joshua Miller

While he might run the company, founder/CEO Joshua Miller is happiest creating. He also says there is no job too small: “Nothing is beneath you.”

NAME: Joshua Otis Miller

COMPANY: C&I Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
C&I Studios is a production company and advertising agency. We are located in New York City, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Founder and CEO

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Well, my job is a little weird. While I own and run the company, my passion has always been filmmaking… since I was four years old. I also run the video and film team at the studio, so my job means a lot of things. One day, I can be shooting on a mountain and the next day writing scripts and concepts, or editing, creating feature films or TV shows or managing post production. Since I’m the CEO, I spend a ton of time bringing in new business and adding technology to the company. Every day feels brand new to me, and that is the best part.

Black Violin

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think the thing that surprises most people is that when I’m on set working, I’m not sitting back drinking a mojito. I’m carrying the tripods and the sandbags and setting up the shots. I’m also the one signing everyone’s checks. One of our core beliefs at our company is “nothing is beneath you,” and that means you can do anything — including cleaning toilets —that helps the company grow, and it requires you to drop your ego. In the creative industry that’s a big deal.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is working with my team. I got so sick of the freelance game — it’s so individualized, and everyone is out for themselves. I wanted to start C&I to work with people consistently, dream together, build together and create together. That is by far better than anything else.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part of the job is firing people. That just sucks.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Between 4am and 5am. If you aren’t waking up earlier than everyone else, you aren’t doing it right.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be doing the exact same thing. I could be working at McDonald’s, but I’d be filming with my iPhone or Razer phone and editing. It’s not about the money; you can’t take this thing from me. It’s a part of me, and something I certainly didn’t choose. So, no matter where you put me, this is what will come out. And since Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is free, this is something I could actually do… I could be working at McDonald’s and shooting for fun on my phone and editing in Resolve’s new cut page, which is magic. That actually sounds awesome. Well, except the McDonald’s part (laughs).

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Again, I don’t feel like I chose it. It’s something that I always felt drawn to. I was interested in cameras since I was very young… tearing apart my parents VHS tapes to see how they worked. I was completely perplexed by the idea that a camera does something and then it goes on this tape, and I see what’s on that tape in this VHS player and on TV. That was something I had to learn and figure out. But the main reason I wanted to really dig into this field is because I remember being in my grandmother’s house watching those VHS tapes with my brothers and my family and everyone is just sitting around, laughing watching old memories. I can’t shake that feeling. People feel warm, vulnerable, close… that is the power you have with a camera and the ability to tell a story. It’s absolutely incredible.

Black Violin

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Right now, I’m working on an incredible music video with Black Violin. We are shooting it in Los Angeles and Miami, and I’m really excited about it.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Probably something I’m most proud of is our latest film Christmas Eve. We just poured everything into that film. It’s just magic. We have done a lot of amazing stuff, but that one is really close to me right now.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Camera, computer, speakers (for music — I can’t live without music). Those three things are a must for me to breathe.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m not really into social media, not a big fan of what it has turned us into (off of my soapbox now), but I do follow a ton of film companies and directors. I love following Shane Hurlbut, Blackmagic Design, SmallHD, Red Digital Cinema and Panavision, to name a view.

YOU MENTIONED LOVING MUSIC. DO YOU LISTEN WHILE YOU WORK?
Music is everything. It’s the oil to my car. Without that, I’m toast. Of course, I don’t listen to music when I’m editing, but when I’m on set I love to listen to music. Love the new Chance record. When I’m writing, it’s always either Bon Iver or Michael Giacchino. I love scores and composers.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
To distress, I love the moments in the studio when the staff and I just sit around and get to laugh and just hang out. I have a beautiful family and two wonderful kids, so when I’m not stressing about work I’m giving horsey-back rides to my son, while my daughter tries to explain TikTok to me.

The 5th annual Art of Cinematography speaker series set for NYC

Manhattan Edit Workshop’s “Sight, Sound & Story: The Art of Cinematography” returns to New York City on November 14, taking place at the NYIT Auditorium Theater on Broadway.

This year’s line-up features cinematographers Dean Cundey, ASC, (Jurassic Park, Halloween, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future, Apollo 13), Tom Hurwitz, ASC, (American Dream, Harlan County U.S.A., The Queen of Versailles), Claudia Raschke (RBG, God is the Bigger Elvis) and Tom Houghton, ASC, (Elementary, American Horror Story: Coven, Rescue Me).

Moderators include David Leitner (director/cinematographer), Jim Kamp (producer) and Tony Wisniewski (Zeiss’marketing manager).

Here is the evening’s schedule:

4:15pm – 5:30pm – In The Moment: The Art of Cinematography in Documentary Filmmaking
Panelists: Tom Hurwitz, ASC, Claudia Raschke

5:45pm – 6:45pm – The New Age of TV: Bringing the Look of Cinema to the Small Screen

Panelist: Tom Houghton, ASC

7:00pm – 8:30pm – Behind the Lens: A Conversation with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dean Cundey, ASC

Seating is limited. You can purchase tickets here. Cost includes a ticket to all panels and networking party with an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and sponsored giveaways.

Atomos acquires Timecode Systems, makers of onset sync tools

Atomos has acquired wireless sync technology company Timecode Systems. Together, the companies are building tightly integrated multicamera workflow solutions that unify all recording devices on set, allowing these devices to work together more cohesively. This will allow production teams to experience the full impact of truly collaborative video and audio content creation across all types of workflows.

With demand for video bigger than ever, content creators are using more devices separately to add angles and be creative. But they are limited by the time it takes to edit, align and finish videos that combine multiple sources of video and audio, especially when using prosumer and consumer devices to film alongside professional cameras.

“Right now, this disconnect between recording devices is holding back multicamera content creation. To truly shoot collaboratively, everything needs to work in perfect, frame-accurate sync — there has to be a robust wireless connection,” says Jeromy Young, CEO/founder of Atomos. “The Timecode Systems RF protocol is this bulletproof link. Working together, we now have the glue to create a truly connected multicamera solution.”

Timecode Systems, which develops wireless sync technology, entered the market in 2012. The company first launched WiFi-enabled digislates, then created a timecode sync solution for GoPro cameras and pioneered and patented a timecode-over-Bluetooth timing protocol.

The Timecode Systems wireless sync standard will not only feature across the next generations of the entire Atomos product range but will also be packaged as a free SDK for third-party manufacturers. As a result, existing Timecode Systems and Atomos customers can expect to unlock even greater value from their current systems from this collaboration.

The AtomX Sync module for the Ninja V and the Neon series of monitors will be the first Atomos products to feature integrated Timecode Systems technology.

DP Chat: Marshall Adams talks El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

By Randi Altman

Marshall Adams, ASC, has been working on episodic projects for years, but his road to cinematographer wasn’t a straight one. Adams started as a production assistant on small commercials and docs, but quickly discovered that lighting was his passion.

Adams (right) on set with Vince Gilligan

Adams’ first break was on second unit for Felicity with Michael Bonvillian, ASC. He eventually took on cinematography duties for the series’ final season. Some of Adams’ credits include Monk, CSI: NY and Better Call Saul. His most recent work can be seen in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie for Netflix.

We reached out to talk to him about his work in El Camino and his transition from gaffer to cinematographer.

Tell us about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. How early did you get involved in planning for it?
I got a call from director Vince Gilligan in the fall of 2018, and he talked to me about the project and asked me to come on board.

Prior to that, I had gotten the chance to shoot pick-up shots for the end of Breaking Bad Season 4, which led to shooting the Season 5 opener for cinematographer and director extraordinaire Michael Slovis, ASC. I was on another show, so I wasn’t available to come back, but when Better Call Saul DP Arthur Albert (Seasons 1 and 2) had another project, I got the wonderful opportunity and ended up shooting Seasons 3 through Season 5 of Saul.

I had never gotten a call from Vince directly before, but I knew to answer it!

How would you describe the look of El Camino?
On Saul, I wanted to create realistic, practical-driven looks for night exteriors and low-light interiors that embraced all the colors and looks of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The high ISO on the Panasonic VariCam made that possible. Vince said he wanted to expand upon that look for El Camino, but also stay within the naturalistic look created on the series.

We were very cognizant of tipping the hat to Michael Slovis’ work on Breaking Bad, which was shot on 35mm film, and the overall feel of the series. In our original conversations, we both assumed El Camino would be shot on film. We wanted the flashbacks to have a different feel and style than the “present day” but without using some of the usual visual cues like desaturation or exaggerated color, etc. What we decided that made the most sense was for all the flashbacks to be handheld like most of the series was and the present time would be more anchored. But again, Michael’s work was so good on the series it made it easy to follow his lead on sets like the compound interior or the vacuum shop.

So you shot in New Mexico?
We shot mainly at Albuquerque Studios with a few locations around the city. First week of principal photography probably started in mid-November 2018 and we finished around mid-February of this year.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project? Why was this the right combination of gear?
Vince really wanted to shoot widescreen 2.39:1, so we tested all the cameras we could get, both digital and film and spherical and anamorphic. We viewed the footage in a double-blind test, meaning there was no way to tell from shot to shot which camera was used. We both fell in love with the ARRI Alexa 65 for lots of reasons but mostly for its low-light quality, which we knew we’d be doing shooting quite a bit of.

I knew lenses would be key to making the large-format camera work — because Vince likes lots of different lenses: long lens macros, zooms and everything in between. So, we needed a lens package compatible with the camera that would pair well and offer color and contrast consistency. We ended up getting as many of the ARRI DNA lenses as we could get our hands on, with the 45mm and 80mm becoming our go-to glass, along with a few Prime 65s to fill in, 100mm and 180mm Raptor macros, and a couple of zooms adapted for the large format. This combo allowed us to shoot low light efficiently but mostly control depth of field.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Who was the colorist and how did you work together to achieve the vision for the film?
Dave Cole at FotoKem was my partner in crime. He was phenomenal. Vince hired me knowing I hadn’t shot a feature, and Dave and FotoKem were amazing at guiding us through that experience. With their suggestions, and the help of both my DITs, I was able to capture everything within range exposure wise, so we were able to spend more time on the artistry of the images in the DI versus repairing things. Dave was full of ideas and is very talented. I spent one weekend with Vince and Dave early on in color timing, went off to shoot Saul and then took an episode off to finish up with Vince, Dave and the team.

Dave and I started with the SDR theatrical version first and set the look. Then we were really able to do interesting things with the other versions — which were finished for 1,000-nit 4K HDR and 4,000 nit, as well as a Dolby Vision theatrical pass. We hopped over to Keep Me Posted (a FotoKem company), where we finish Saul, as they had the right monitor for the Dolby Vision pass. The process was very smooth.

Can you describe the lighting?
The gaffer Andrew Smith is an old friend, so we already had a type of shorthand with each other. We spent a lot of time during prep at the night locations and talked about what practicals we wanted to keep, get rid of, change, etc. The great thing about a feature film (versus an episodic series) is you get more time to work on all this.

Now more general questions….

How did you become interested in filmmaking?
My dad had a Super 8 camera and flatbed and I made skateboard movies as a young teen. I also was always volunteering at a theater, where some friends hung out. The creative bug was around me but it wasn’t until David Chase bought a house my dad designed (an architect) that I started to envision a career in filmmaking. David found out I made films and, at the time, he was staff writer on The Rockford Files. He asked me to come watch an episode with him – from writing to shoot. It was coolest thing ever.

I tried film school but I was getting jobs that eventually got me into the union. I’ve even tried my hand at directing, and I appreciated the opportunity, but lighting and cinematography are my passion.

How do you stay on top of advancing technology?
Since there’s a new camera at every turn, sometimes my rental house tells me about new cameras, and I also have someone on my crew who keeps up on everything. I don’t know how he does it, but he shares a lot of great info with me.

What new technology has changed the way you work (looking back over the past few years)?
The speed of cameras. These days they have 3,200 to 5,000 ISO, or faster, versus film, which when pushed can get to 800 or 1,000 ISO. The faster speed allows me to incorporate more practicals and use smaller lights, which fits my style lately.

I was a film guy, coming up using 35mm and 16mm film. CSI: NY was shot on film until we changed to digital after the sixth season. I love the look of film and was resistant to the change, but I have to use the right tool for a particular project. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important that we do what we can to keep film alive, and I’ll happily shoot film anytime, but as much as I love it, it can be more labor intensive for big night exteriors. But there’s nothing like the magic that happens in a 35mm camera.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
In general, the camera operator and I talk about every shot early on and then I leave things with the operator so I can spend more time on lighting with the gaffer and key grip.

What’s your go-to gear?
The Litepanels 1×1 with a 30-degree grid. It’s a 12-inch LED panel light that I use near the camera usually with a ring inside so the source is round and not square. I use it for all my eyelights. I believe you have more freedom lighting-wise in cinematography if you can see a character’s eyes. For me this is the best tool to control eye reflections without feeling like it’s adding any light.

Bernie Su: Creator of Twitch’s live and interactive show, Artificial

By Randi Altman

Thanks to today’s available technology, more and more artists are embracing experimental storytelling. One of those filmmakers is Bernie Su, creator, executive producer and director on the Twitch series, Artificial.

Bernie Su

Artificial, which won Twitch its first Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media, features a doctor and his “daughter — a human-looking artificial intelligence creation named Sophie. Episodes air live with actors reacting to audience input in realtime. This is later edited into clips that live on Twitch.

The unique live broadcast and “choose your own adventure” aspects of the show created a need for a very specific workflow. We reached out to Su to talk about the show, his workflow and his collaboration with show editor Melanie Escano.

Where did the idea for Artificial come from, and what was its path to its production?
The original story came from my co-creator Evan Mandery. When we partnered, we looked at how we could present it in an innovative way. We identified Twitch pretty early in the process as a place to really push some groundbreaking storytelling methods. What would an original series on Twitch look like? What makes it Twitch and not Amazon video (Amazon owns Twitch by the way)? Once we pitched it to Twitch it was all systems go.

Can you talk about what it’s shot on and how you work with your DP to get the look you were after?
We shot on Panasonic Lumix GH4 cameras. We kept it pretty simple. DP Allen Ho and I have worked together a lot, and we tried to make Artificial feel real-yet-polished. Because we were on Twitch and that’s a platform where everything is livestreamed, we wanted it to feel like a real livestream yet have touches of a cinematic look. Every scene we shot in our show… we would always discuss why the camera is even there in the first place and how the characters react to them. The show called Artificial had to feel immersive.

Were you at all intimated by the interactive aspect of the show?
Nervous but not intimidated. I’ve done several interactive shows, but the live element is a different animal. A live interactive series is built around chaos, and if you aren’t embracing that chaos that the audience is going to throw at you, then you shouldn’t be making a live interactive series.

What went into making this interactive? Can you talk about the challenges and how you overcame those?
Well the first step is figuring how you’re building the audience into the story while still maintaining an arc. The second is how you make that audience consequential. You can always let the audience choose something non-consequential, like should someone drink tea or coffee.

Yes the audience made a choice, but it’s not consequential to the story. Now when we have the audience choose what a character’s relationship to another will be, or even if a relationship will end or not, now you’re letting the audience play with fire, and once they do it’s our responsibility to honor the consequences of that. The simplest way I can describe our solution is that we as the storytellers accepted every result we presented. We dared the audience to play with fire and if they burned a character, then that’s the consequences.

Your team used Adobe Creative Cloud to make this a reality. Can you talk about that and how you worked with your editor and post team? How involved were you?
Oh yeah, Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects and Audition were all in play for us. We don’t have a big team, but we have an incredibly versatile team. Any of us could comfortably jump into several of those tools and be able to knock something out quickly. We were all about speed and efficiency.

Once we got the systems in place, I wanted to stay at a very high level and let my team play. I trust them, if I didn’t, they wouldn’t be on my team. Co-producer Jen Enfield-Kane worked closely with our editor Melanie Escano and our writer/sound editor Micah McFarland. They would go back and forth with cuts and mixes. Then upon approval, it would go to creative producer Rachel Williams, who could implement final effects for broadcast. If everything is going smoothly, then we’re good to go.

But because of the speed of weekly broadcasts consisting of 30 to 45 minutes of edited content a week, and the fact that the post-team is literally four people, there were many times that someone would have to assist, and that’s fine. That’s what a great team does.

How did you work with the editor, specifically? What was your workflow?
Pretty straight forward. When you’re innovating in the live format, you purposely make the post system as simple and easy as possible. If the show is chaotic, you don’t want your post to be that. Melanie would do a rough pass using the script supervisor notes, Jen would give her notes on that and she would come back with another cut. After that, they might discuss color correction on a particular scene and get that done but that was rare. We always kept it simple.

Where can people go to experience Artificial?
Please visit https://www.twitch.tv/artificialnext.

Colorist Chat: Scott Ostrowsky on Amazon’s Sneaky Pete

By Randi Altman

Scott Ostrowsky, senior colorist at Deluxe’s Level 3 in Los Angeles has worked on all three seasons of Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, produced by Bryan Cranston and David Shore and starring Giovanni Ribisi. Season 3 is the show’s last.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it follows a con man named Marius (Ribisi), who takes the place of his former cell-mate Pete and endears himself to Pete’s seemingly idyllic family while continuing to con his way through life. Over time he comes to love the family, which is nowhere as innocent as they seem.

Scott Ostrowsky

We reached out to this veteran colorist to learn more about how the look of the series developed over the seasons and how he worked with the showrunners and DPs.

You’ve been on Sneaky Pete since the start. Can you describe how the look has changed over the years?
I worked on Seasons 1 through Season 3. The DP for Season 1 was Rene Ohashi and it had somewhat of a softer feel. It was shot on a Sony F55. It mostly centered around the relationship of Bryan Cranston’s character and Giovanni Ribisi’s newly adopted fake family and his brother.

Season 2 was shot by DPs Frank DeMarco and William Rexer on a Red Dragon, and it was a more stylized and harsher look in some ways. The looks were different because the storylines and the locations had changed. So, even though we had some beautiful, resplendent looks in Season 2, we also created some harsher environments, and we did that through color correction. Going into Season 2, the storyline changed, and it became more defined in the sense that we used the environments to create an atmosphere that matched the storyline and the performances.

An example of this would be the warehouse where they all came together to create the scam/ heist that they were going to pull off. Another example of this would be the beautiful environment in the casino that was filled with rich lighting and ornate colors. But there are many examples of this through the show — both DPs used shadow and light to create a very emotional mood or a very stark mood and everything in between.

Season 3 shot by Arthur Albert and his son, Nick Albert on a Red Gemini, and it had a beautiful, resplendent, rich look that matched the different environments when it moved from the cooler look of New York to the more warm, colorful look in California.

So you gave different looks based on locale? 
Yes, we did. Many times, the looks would depend on time of day and the environment that they were in. An example of this might be the harsh fluorescent green in the gas station bathroom where Giovanni’s character is trying to figure out a way to help his brother and avoid his captures.

How did you work with the Alberts on the most recent season?
I work at Level 3 Post, which is a Deluxe company. I did Season 1 and 2 at the facility on the Sony lot. Season 3 was posted at Level 3. Arthur and Nick Albert came in to my color suite with the camera tests shot on the Red Gemini and also the Helium. We set up a workflow based on the Red cameras and proceeded to grade the various setups.

Once Arthur and Nick decided to use the Gemini, we set up our game plan for the season. When I received my first conform, I proceeded to grade it based on our conversations. I was very sensitive to the way they used their setups, lighting and exposures. Once I finished my first primary grade, Arthur would come in and sit with me to watch the show and make any changes. After Arthur approved the grade, The producers and showrunner would come in for their viewing. They could make any additional changes at that time. (Read our interview with Arthur Albert here.)

How do you prefer to work with directors/DPs?
The first thing is have conversation with them on their approach and how they view color as being part of the story they want to tell. I always like to get a feel for how the cinematographer will shoot the show and what, if any, LUTs they’re using so I can emulate that look as a starting point for my color grading.

It is really important to me to find out how a director envisions the image he or she would like to portray on the screen. An example of this would be facial expressions. Do we want to see everything or do they mind if the shadow side remains dark and the light falls off.

A lot of times, it’s about how the actors emote and how they work in tandem with each other to create tension, comedy or other emotions — and what the director is looking for in these scenes.

Any tips for getting the most out of a project from a color perspective?
Communication. Communication. Communication. Having an open dialogue with the cinematographer, showrunners and directors is extremely important. If the colorist is able to get the first pass very close, you spend more time on the nuisances rather than balancing or trying to find a look. That is why it is so important to have an understanding of the essence of what a director, cinematographer and showrunner is looking for.

How do you prefer the DP or director to describe their desired look?
However they’re comfortable in enlightening me to their styles or needs for the show is fine. Usually, we can discuss this when we have a camera test before principal photography starts. There’s no one way that you can work with everybody — you just adapt to how they work. And as a colorist, it’s your job to make that image sing or shine the way that they intended it to.

You used Resolve on this. Is there a particular tool that came in handy for this show?
All tools on the Resolve are useful for a drama series. You would not buy the large crayon box and throw out colors you didn’t like because, at some point, you might need them. I use all tools — from keys, windows, log corrections and custom curves to create the looks that were needed.

You have been working in TV for many years. How has color grading changed during that time?
Color correction has become way more sophisticated over the years, and is continually growing and expanding into a blend of not only color grading but helping to create environments that are needed to express the look of a show. We no longer just have simple color correctors with simple secondaries; the toolbox continues to grow with added filters, added grain and sometimes even helping to create visual effects, which most color correctors are able to do today.

Where do you find inspiration? Art? Photography?
I’ve always loved photography and B&W movies. There’s a certain charm or subtlety that you find in B&W, whether it’s a film noir, the harshness of film grain, or just the use of shadow and light. I’ve always enjoyed going to museums and looking at different artists and how they view the world and what inspires them.

To me, it’s trying to portray an image and have that image make a statement. In daily life, you can see multiple examples as you go through your day, and I try and keep the most interesting ones that I can remember in my lexicon of images.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Good Company adds director Daniel Iglesias Jr.

Filmmaker Daniel Iglesias Jr., whose reel spans narrative storytelling to avant-garde fashion films with creativity and an eccentric visual style, has signed with full-service creative studio Good Company.

Iglesias’ career started while attending Chapman University’s renowned film school, where he earned a BFA in screen acting. At the same time, Iglesias and his friend Zack Sekuler began crafting images for his friends in the alt-rock band The Neighbourhood. Iglesias’ career took off after directing his first music video for the band’s breakout hit “Sweater Weather,” which reached over 310 million views. He continues working behind the camera for The Neighbourhood and other artists like X Ambassadors and AlunaGeorge.

Iglesias uses elements of surrealism and a blend of avant-garde and commercial compositions, often stemming from innovative camera techniques. His work includes projects for clients like Ralph Lauren, Steve Madden, Skyy Vodka and Chrysler and the Vogue film Death Head Sphinx.

One of his most celebrated projects was a two-minute promo for Margaux the Agency. Designed as a “living magazine,” Margaux Vol 1 merges creative blocking, camera movement and effects to create a kinetic visual catalog that is both classic and contemporary. The piece took home Best Picture at the London Fashion Film Festival, along with awards from the Los Angeles Film Festival, the International Fashion Film Awards and Promofest in Spain.

Iglesias’ first project since joining Good Company was Ikea’s Kama Sutra commercial for Ogilvy NY, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the boudoir. Now he is working on a project for Paper Magazine and Tiffany.

“We all see the world through our own lens; through film, I can unscrew my lens and pop in onto other people and, by effect, change their point of view or even the depth of culture,” he says. “That’s why the medium excites me — I want to show people my lens.”

We reached out to Iglesias to learn a bit more about how he works.

How do you go about picking the people you work with?
I do have a couple DPs and PDs I like to work with on the regular, depending on the job, and sometimes it makes sense to work with someone new. If it’s someone new that I haven’t worked with before, I typically look at three things to get a sense of how right they are for the project: image quality, taste and versatility. Then it’s a phone call or meeting to discuss the project in person so we can feel out chemistry and execution strategy.

Do you trust your people completely in terms of what to shoot on, or do you like to get involved in that process as well?
I’m a pretty hands-on and involved director, but I think it’s important to know what you don’t know and delegate/trust accordingly. I think it’s my job as a director to communicate, as detailed and effectively as possible, an accurate explanation of the vision (because nobody sees the vision of the project better than I do). Then I must understand that the DPs/PDs/etc. have a greater knowledge of their field than I do, so I must trust them to execute (because nobody understands how to execute in their fields better than they do).

Since Good Company also provides post, how involved do you get in that process?
I would say I edit 90% of my work. If I’m not editing it myself, then I still oversee the creative in post. It’s great to have such a strong post workflow with Good Company.

Colorist Joanne Rourke grades Netflix horror film In the Tall Grass

Colorists are often called on to help enhance a particular mood or item for a film, show or spot. For Netflix’s In the Tall Grass — based on a story from horror writers Stephen King and Joe Hill — director Vincenzo Natali and DP Craig Wrobleski called on Deluxe Toronto’s Joanne Rourke to finesse the film’s final look using color to give the grass, which plays such a large part in the film, personality.

In fact, most of the film takes place in a dense Kansas field. It all begins when a brother and his pregnant sister hear a boy’s cries coming from a field of tall grass and go to find him. Soon they realize they can’t escape.

Joanne Rourke

“I worked with Vincenzo more than 20 years ago when I did the video mastering for his film Cube, so it was wonderful to reconnect with him and a privilege to work with Craig. The color process on this project was highly collaborative and we experimented a lot. It was decided to keep the day exteriors natural and sunny with subtle chromatic variations between. While this approach is atypical for horror flicks, it really lends itself to a more unsettling and ominous feeling when things begin to go awry,” explains Rourke.

In the Tall Grass was principally shot using the ARRI Alexa LF camera system, which helped give the footage a more immersive feeling when the characters are trapped in the grass. The grass itself comprised a mix of practical and CG grass that Rourke adjusted the color of depending on the time of day and where the story was taking place in the field. For the night scenes, she focused on giving the footage a silvery look while keeping the overall look as dark as possible with enough details visible. She was also mindful to keep the mysterious rock dark and shadowed.

Rourke completed the film’s first color pass in HDR, then used that version to create an SDR trim pass. She found the biggest challenge of working in HDR on this film to be reining in unwanted specular highlights in night scenes. To adjust for this, she would often window specific areas of the shot, an approach that leveraged the benefits of HDR without pushing the look to the extreme. She used Blackmagic Resolve 15 along with the occasional Boris FX Sapphire plugins.

“Everyone involved on this project had a keen attention to detail and was so invested in the final look of the project, which made for such great experience,” says Rourke. “I have many favorite shots, but I love how the visual of the dead crow on the ground perfectly captures the silver feel. Craig and Vincenzo created such stunning imagery, and I was just happy to be along for the ride. Also, I had no idea that head squishing could be so gleeful and fun.”

In the Tall Grass is now streaming on Netflix.

Color grading IT Chapter Two’s terrifying return

In IT Chapter Two, the kids of the Losers’ Club are all grown up and find themselves lured back to their hometown of Derry. Still haunted both by the trauma that monstrous clown Pennywise let loose on the community and by each one’s own unique insecurities, the group (James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader) find themselves up against even more terrifying forces than they faced in the first film, IT.

Stephen Nakamura

IT Chapter Two director Andy Muschietti called on cinematographer Checco Varese and colorist Stephen Nakamura of Company 3. Nakamura returned to the franchise, performing the final color grade at Efilm in Hollywood. “I felt the first one was going to be a big hit when we were working on it, because these kids’ stories were so compelling and the performances were so strong. It was more than just a regular horror movie. This second one, in my opinion, is just as powerful in terms of telling these characters’ stories. And, not surprisingly, it also takes the scary parts even further.”

According to Nakamura, Muschietti “is a very visually oriented director. When we were coloring both of the films, he was very aware of the kinds of things we can do in the DI to enhance the imagery and make things even more scary. He pushed me to take some scenes in Chapter Two in directions I’ve never gone with color. I think it’s always important, whether you’re a colorist or a chef or a doctor, to always push yourself and explore new aspects of your work. Andy’s enthusiasm encouraged me to try new approaches to working in DaVinci Resolve. I think the results are very effective.”

For one thing, the technique he used to bring up just the light level in the eyes of the shapeshifting clown Pennywise got even more use here because there were more frightening characters to use it on. In many cases, the companies that created the visual effects also provided mattes that let Nakamura easily isolate and adjust the luminance of each individual eye in Resolve. When such mattes weren’t available, he used Resolve to track each eyeball a frame at a time.

“Resolve has excellent tracking capabilities, but we were looking to isolate just the tiny whites of the characters’ eyes,” Nakamura explains, “and there just wasn’t enough information to track.” It was meticulous work, he recalls, “but it’s very effective. The audience doesn’t consciously know we’re doing anything, but it makes the eyes brighter in a very strange way, kind of like a cat’s eyes when they catch the light. It really enhances the eerie feeling.”

In addition, Nakamura and the filmmakers made use of Resolve’s Flicker tool in the OpenFX panel to enhance the flickering effect in a scene involving flashing lights, taking the throbbing light effects further than they did on set. Not long ago, this type of enhancement would have been a more involved process in which the shots would likely be sent to a visual effects house. “We were able to do it as part of the grading, and we all thought it looked completely realistic. They definitely appreciated the ability to make little enhancements like that in the final grade, when everyone can see the scenes with the grade in context and on a big screen.”

Portions of the film involve scenes of the Losers’ Club as children, which were comprised of newly shot material (not cut in from the production of the first It). Nakamura applied a very subtle amount of Resolve’s mid-tone detail tool over them primarily to help immediately and subliminally orient the audience in time.

But the most elaborate use of the color corrector involved one short sequence in which Hader’s character, walking in a local park on a pleasant, sunny day, has a sudden, terrifying interaction with a very frightening character. The shots involved a significant amount of CGI and compositing work, which was completed at several effects houses. Muschietti was pleased with the effects work, but he wanted Nakamura to bring in an overall quality to the look of the scene that made it feel a bit more otherworldly.

Says Nakamura, “Andy described something that reminded me of the old-school, two-strip color process, where essentially anything red would get pushed into being a kind of magenta, and something blue or green would become a kind of cyan.”

Nakamura, who colored Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (shot by Robert Richardson, ASC), had designed something at that point to create more of a three-strip look, but this process was more challenging, as it involved constraining the color palette to an even greater degree — without, of course, losing definition in the imagery.

With a bit of trial and error, Nakamura came up with the notion of using the splitter/combiner node and recombined some nodes in the output, forcing the information from the green channel into the red and blue channels. He then used a second splitter/combiner node to control the output. “It’s almost like painting a scene with just two colors,” he explains. “Green grass and blue sky both become shades of cyan, while skin and anything with red in it goes into the magenta area.”

The work became even more complex because the red-haired Pennywise also makes an appearance; it was important for him to retain his color, despite the rest of the scene going two-tone. Nakamura treated this element as a complex chroma key, using a second splitter/combiner node and significantly boosting the saturation just to isolate Pennywise while preventing the two-tone correction from affecting him.

When it came time to complete the pass for HDR Dolby Cinema — designed for specialty projectors capable essentially of displaying brighter whites and darker blacks than normal cinema projectors — Muschietti was particularly interested in the format’s treatment of dark areas of the frame.

“Just like in the first one,” Nakamura explains, “we were able to make use of Dolby Cinema to enhance suspense. People usually talk about how bright the highlights can be in HDR. But, when you push more light through the picture than you do for the P3 version, we also have the ability to make shadowy areas of the image appear even darker while keeping the details in those really dark areas very clear. This can be very effective in a movie like this, where you have scary characters lurking in the shadows.

“The color grade always plays some kind of role in a movie’s storytelling,” Nakamura sums up, “but this was a fun example of how work we did in the color grade really helped scare the audience.”

You can check out our Q&A with Nakamura about his work on the original IT.

DP Chat: Late Night cinematographer Matthew Clark

Directed by Nisha Ganatra, Amazon Studios’ comedy Late Night stars Emma Thompson as Katherine, a famous talk show host who hires Molly, her first-ever female writer (played by Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay).

Ganatra — whose rich directing background includes Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fresh Off the Boat and Chutney Popcorn — worked closely with her, DP Matthew Clark. The two were students together at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Clark’s credits include Pitch Perfect 3, Up All Night and 30 Rock, among many others.

Matthew Clark

Clark has said that one of the toughest tasks in shooting comedy is to make it look and feel natural for the audience while allowing the space for them to laugh. “The visuals must have some depth to them but you need to let the actors work things out on screen,” he explains. “That was a big part for this film knowing the way Nisha likes to work. She’s visual but she’s also very actor-oriented, so one of the things I wanted to do was make our technical footprint as small as possible to give the actors room to work and to find those comic moments.”

For Late Night, Clark describes the look as “heightened naturalism.” He created a look book of images from still photographers, including Gregory Crewdson (artificial reality) and Robert Frank (super naturalism). He also worked with Light Iron colorists Corinne Bogdanowicz in Los Angeles and Sean Dunckley in New York to develop the look during prep. “There were three distinct kind of looks we wanted,” describes Clark. “One was for Katherine’s home, which was more elegant with warm tones. The television studio needed to be crisp and clean with more neutral tones. and for the writers’ room office, the look was more chaotic and business-like with blue or cooler tones.”

We recently reached out to Clark with a few questions designed to learn more about his work on the film and his most recent collaboration with Ganatra.

How would you describe the overarching look of the film? What did you and the director want to achieve? You’ve described it as heightened naturalism. Can you expand on that?
Nisha and I wanted a sophisticated look without being too glamorous. We started off looking at the story, the locations and the ideas that go along with placing our characters in those spaces — both physically and emotionally. Comedy is not easy in that regard. It can be easy to go from joke to joke, but if you want something layered and something that lasts in the audience’s mind, you have to ground the film.

So we worked very hard to give Nisha and the actors space to find those moments. It meant less lighting and a more natural approach. We didn’t back away completely though. We still used camera and light to elevate the scenes and accentuate the mood; for example, huge backlight on the stage, massive negative space when we find out about Katherine’s betrayal or a smoke-filled room as Katherine gives up. That’s what I mean by “heightened naturalism.”

How did Ganatra describe the look she wanted?
Nisha and I started going over looks well before prep began. We talked photos and films. Two of our favorites photographers are William Eggleston and Philip-Lorca DiCorsia. So I was ahead of the game when the official prep started. There was a definite shorthand. Because of that, I was able to go to Light Iron in LA and work out some basic looks for the film — overall color, highlights, shadow detail/color, grain, etc. We wanted three distinct looks. The rest would fall into place.

Katherine’s home was elegant and warm. The writers’ office was cool and corporate. The talk show’s studio was crisper and more neutral. As you know, even at that point, it’s just an idea unless you have your camera, lenses, etc.

Can you talk about the tools you chose?
Once prep started, I realized that we would need to shed some weight to accomplish our days due to very few extra days for rigging and the amount of daily company moves. So we went without a generator and took advantage of the 5000 ISO Panasonic VariCam 35 in conjunction some old, beautiful Panavision UltraSpeeds and Super Speeds.

That lens choice came after I sat with Dan Sasaki and told him what I was going for. He knew I was a fan of older lenses having used an old set of Baltars and similar Ultras on my last movie. I think they take the digital edge off of the sensor and can provide beautiful anomalies and flares when used to achieve your look. Anyway, I think he emptied out the closets at the Woodland Hills location and let us test everything. This was very exciting for a DP.

What makes the process a smooth one for you?
I think what got me started, artistic inspiration and rules/process, all stem from the same thing. The story, the telling, the showing and the emotion. The refined and the raw. It sounds simple. but for me, it is true.

Always try to serve the story; don’t get tied to the fancy new thing or the splashy piece of equipment. Just tell the story. Sometimes, those things coincide. But, always tell a story.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I think inspiration for each project comes from many different sources — music, painting, photography, a walk in the afternoon, a sound. That’s very vague, I know, but we have to be open to the world and draw from that. Obviously, it is crucial to spend time with the director — to breathe the same air, so to speak. That’s what puts me on the path and allows me to use the inspirations that fit the film.

Main Image: Matthew Clark and director Nisha Ganatra.

Wildlife DP Steve Lumpkin on the road and looking for speed

For more than a decade, Steve Lumpkin has been traveling to the Republic of Botswana to capture and celebrate the country’s diverse and protected wildlife population. As a cinematographer and still photographer, Under Prairies Skies Photography‘s Lumpkin will spend a total of 65 days this year filming in the bush for his current project, Endless Treasures of Botswana.

Steve Lumpkin

It’s a labor of love that comes through in his stunning photographs, whether they depict a proud and healthy lioness washed with early-morning sunlight, an indolent leopard draped over a tree branch or a herd of elephants traversing a brilliant green meadow. The big cats hold a special place in Lumpkin’s heart, and documenting Botswana’s largest pride of lions is central to the project’s mission.

“Our team stands witness to the greatest conservation of the natural world on the planet. Botswana has the will and the courage to protect all things wild,” he explains. “I wanted to fund a not-for-profit effort to create both still images and films that would showcase The Republic of Botswana’s success in protecting these vulnerable species. In return, the government granted me a two-year filming permit to bring back emotional, true tales from the bush.”

Lumpkin recently graduated to shooting 4K video in the bush in Apple ProRes Raw, using a Sony FS5 camera and an Atomos Inferno recorder. He brings the raw footage back to his US studio for post, working in Apple Final Cut Pro on an iMac 5K and employing a variety of tools, including Color Grading Central and Neat Video.

Leopard

Until recently, Lumpkin was hitting a performance snag when transferring files from his QNAP TBS 882T NAS storage system to his iMac Pro. “I was only getting read times of about 100 Mb/sec from Thunderbolt, so editing 4K footage was painful,” he says. “At the time, I was transitioning to ProRes RAW, and I knew I needed a big performance kick.”

On the recommendation of Bob Zelin, video engineering consultant and owner of Rescue 1, Lumpkin installed Sonnet’s Solo10G Thunderbolt 3 adapter. The Solo10G uses the 10GbE standard to connect computers via Ethernet cables to high-speed infrastructure and storage systems. “Instantly, I jumped to a transfer rate of more than 880MB per second, a nearly tenfold throughput increase,” he says. “The system just screams now – the Solo10G has accelerated every piece of my workflow, from ingest to 4K editing to rendering and output.”

“So many colleagues I know are struggling with this exact problem — they need to work with huge files and they’ve got these big storage arrays, but their Thunderbolt 2 or 3 connections alone just aren’t cutting it.”

With Lumpkin, everything comes down to the wildlife. He appreciates any tools that help streamline his ability to tell the story of the country and its tremendous success in protecting threatened species. “The work we’re doing on behalf of Botswana is really what it’s all about — in 10 or 15 years, that country might be the only place on the planet where some of these animals still exist.

“Botswana has the largest herd of elephants in Africa and the largest group of wild dogs, of which there are only about 6,000 left,” says Lumpkin. “Products like Sonnet’s Solo10G, Final Cut, the Sony FS5 camera and Atomos Inferno, among others, help our team celebrate Botswana’s recognition as the conservation leader of Africa.”

Michael Engler on directing Downton Abbey movie

By Iain Blair

If, like millions of other fans around the world, you still miss watching the Downton Abbey series, don’t despair. The acclaimed show is back as a new feature film, still showcasing plenty of drama, nostalgia, glamour and good British values with every frame.

So sit back in a comfy armchair, grab a cup of tea (assuming you don’t have servants to fetch it for you) and forget about the stresses of modern life. Just let Downton Abbey take you back to a simpler time of relative innocence and understated elegance.

Director Michael Engler

The film reunites the series’ cast (including Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith) and also adds some new members. The film starts with a simple but effective plot device, a visit to the Great House from the most illustrious guests the Crawley family could ever hope to entertain — their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary. With a dazzling parade and lavish dinner to orchestrate, Mary (Dockery), now firmly at the reins of the estate, faces the greatest challenge to her tenure as head of Downton.

At the film’s helm was TV and theater director Michael Engler, whose diverse credits include 30 Rock, Empire, Deadwood, Nashville, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and several episodes of the series Downton Abbey.

I recently talked to him about making the film, its durable appeal and the workflow.

You directed one episode in the fifth season of the TV show and then a few in the final season. How daunting was it making a film of such a beloved show?
It was very daunting, especially as people have such high expectations. They love it so much, so you feel you really have to deliver. You can’t disappoint them. But basically, you’re pretty lucky in life and in your career when those are your big problems. Then you also have the advantage of this amazing cast, who know their characters so well, and Julian (Fellowes, the series creator), who loves writing these characters. We’ve all developed such a good working rhythm together, and all that really helped so much. Because of the huge fan base, it’s not like so many projects where you’re trying to get audiences to pay attention. They’re already very invested in it, and I’d far rather have that than the worry of directing an unknown project.

What were the big differences between shooting the series and the movie?
The big one was the need to ramp it up, even though the TV series was always ambitious cinematically, and we knew that the template would be a good one to build on. The DNA of the show was a good foundation. For instance, one of the things we discovered very quickly, even shooting intimate scenes of a few people in a bedroom or a drawing room, it would be full-scale. We could hold the shots longer and see everyone’s reactions in a big wide shot. We didn’t have to emphasize plot points with a lot of cutting as you’d do in TV. We could let the rooms play in full size for a while, and that automatically made it all feel bigger and richer. It almost feels like you’re in those rooms, and you get the whole visual sweep of their grandeur.

Then the royal visit gave us some tremendous opportunities with all the lavish set pieces — the arrival, the banquet, the parade, the ball — to really show them fully and showcase the huge scale of them. In the series, more often than not, you’d imply the sheer scale of such events and focus more on details and pieces of them. I think the series was more realistic and objective in many ways, more “on the ground” and real and undecorated. It is more understated. The film is far more sweeping, with more camera movement. It’s elevated for the big screen.

Was it a plus being an American? Did it give you a fresh perspective?
I was already such a big fan when I began working on the series, and I’d seen many of the episodes several times, so I did feel I knew it and understood it well. But then there was a lot of the protocol and etiquette that I didn’t know, so I studied and learned as much as I could and consulted with a historical advisor. After that, I quickly felt very much at home in this world.

How tough was it juggling so many familiar characters — along with some new ones?
That was difficult, but mainly because of all the filming logistics and schedules. We had people flying in from all over — India, New York, California — maybe just for a day or two, so it was a big logistical puzzle to make it work out.

The film looks gorgeous. You used DP Ben Smithard, who shot Blinded by the Light and Goodbye Christopher Robin. Can you talk about how you collaborated with him on the look?
We wanted it to have a big, rich film feel and look, so we shot it in 6K. And Ben does such beautiful work with the lighting, which really helped take the edge off the digital look. He’s just so good at capturing the romance of all those great sweeping period films and the very different look between upstairs — which is all elegant, sparkly and light-filled — and downstairs, which is rougher, less refined and darker. There are a lot of tonal shifts, so we worked on all those visual contrasts, both in camera and in post and the DI.

L-R: Cinematographer Ben Smithard, director Michael Engler and producer Gareth Neame.

Where did you post?
We did all the editing at Hireworks in London with editor Mark Day and his team, and sound at Hackenbacker Studios and Abbey Road Studios, where we recorded with an orchestra twice as big as any we had on the series, which also elevated all the sound and music. Framestore did all the VFX.

Do you like the post process?
I absolutely love it. I like shooting, but it’s so stressful because of the ticking clock and a huge crew waiting while we fix something and the light is going down. Then you get into post, and it’s stress-free in that sense, and you can look at what you have and start playing with it and really be creative. You can leave for a few days and have a fresh perspective on it. You can’t do that on the set.

Talk about editing with Mark Day. How did that work?
We didn’t start cutting until after we wrapped, and we experimented quite a lot, trying to find the best way to tell all the stories. For instance, we took one scene that was originally early on, and moved it five scenes later, and it changed the entire meaning of it. So we tried a lot of that sort of thing. Then there are all the other post elements that work on a subconscious level, especially once you cut in all the tiny background sounds — voices in the distance, footsteps and so on, that help create and add to the reality of the visuals.

What were the big editing challenges?
The big one was taking the rhythms of the series and adjusting them for the film. In the series, it was far more broken up because all the different stories didn’t have to be finished by the end of an episode. There would be some cliffhangers while some would be resolved, so we could hop around a lot and break up scenes. But on this we found it was far more effective to stay with a storyline and let longer arcs play out and finish. That way the audiences would know exactly where they were if we left one story, went to another and then came back. Mark was very clear about that, keeping the main story moving forward all the time, while juggling all the side stories.

What was involved in all the visual effects?
More than you’d think. We had a big set piece at King’s Cross train station, which we actually shot at a tiny two-track station in the north of England. Framestore then created everything around it and built the whole world, and they did an amazing job. Then we had the big military parade, and they did a lot of work on the surroundings and the pub overlooking it. And, of course, we had a ton of cleanup and replacement background work, as it’s a period piece.

Talk about the importance of sound in this film.
As they say, it’s half the movie, and our supervising sound editor Nigel Heath was so thorough and detailed in his work. He also really understands how sound can help storytelling. In the scene where Molesley embarrasses himself, we played around with it a lot, thinking maybe it needed some music and so on. But when Nigel started on it, he kept it totally silent except for the sound of a ticking clock — and it was so perfect. It made the moment and silence that much more vivid, along with underscoring how time was dragging on. It heightened the whole thing. Sound is also so important downstairs in the house, where you feel this constant activity and work going on in every room, and all the small sounds and noises add so much weight and reality.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
We did the digital intermediate at Molinare with Gareth Spensley, and it’s hugely important to me, though the DP’s more involved. I let them do their work and then went through it with them and gave my notes, and we got quite detailed.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
Much better! I was worried it might feel too disjointed and not unified enough since there were so many plotlines and characters and tones to deal with. But in the end it all flowed together so well.

How do you explain the huge global appeal of Downton Abbey?
I think that, apart from the great acting and fascinating characters, the themes are so universal. It’s like a workplace drama and a family drama with all the complex relationships, and you get romance, emotion, suspense, comedy and then all the great costumes and beautiful locations. The nostalgia appeals to so many people, and the Brits do these period dramas just better than anyone else.

What’s next? Would you do another Downton movie?
I’d love to, if it happens. They’re all such lovely people to work with. Making movies is hard, but this was just such a wonderful experience.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Colorist Chat: Technicolor’s Doug Delaney

Industry veteran Doug Delaney started his career in VFX before the days of digital, learning his craft from the top film timers and color scientists as well as effects supervisors.

Today he is a leading colorist and finisher at Technicolor, working on major movies including the recent Captain Marvel. We spoke to him to find out more about how he works.

NAME: Doug Delaney

TITLE: Senior Colorist

IN ADDITION TO CAPTAIN MARVEL, CANYOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We have just wrapped on Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, which documented Fox News’ Roger Ailes and starred Russell Crow, Naomi Watts and Sienna Miller.

I also just had the immense pleasure of working with DP Cameron Duncan on Nat Geo’s thriller The Hot Zone. For that show we actually worked together early on to establish two looks — one for laboratory scenes taking place in Washington, DC, and another for scenes in central Africa. These looks were then exported as LUTs for dailies so that the creative intent was established from the beginning of shooting and carried through to finishing.

And earlier this year I worked on Love, Death & Robots, which just received two Emmy nominations, so big congrats to that team!

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Yes, these days I tend to think of “colorists” as finishing artists — meaning that our suites are typically the last stop for a project and where everything comes together.

The technology we have access to in our suites continues to develop, and therefore our capabilities have expanded — there is more we can do in our suites that previously would have needed to be handled by others. A perfect example is visual effects. Sometimes we get certain shots in from VFX vendors that are well-executed but need to be a bit more nuanced — say it’s a driving scene against a greenscreen, and the lighting outside the car feels off for the time of day it’s supposed to be in the scene. Whereas we used to have to kick it back to VFX to fix, I can now go in and use the alpha channels and mattes to color-correct that imbalance.

And what’s important about this new ability is that in today’s demanding schedules and deadlines, it allows us to work collaboratively in real time with the creative rather than in an iterative workflow that takes time we often don’t have.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The look development. That aspect can take on various conversations depending on the project. Sometimes it’s talking with filmmakers in preproduction, sometimes just when it gets to post, but ultimately, being part of the creative journey and how to deliver the best-looking show is what I love.

That and when the final playback happens in our room, when the filmmakers see for the first time all of the pieces of the puzzle come together with sound … it’s awesome.

ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF A PROJECT FROM A COLOR PERSPECTIVE?
Understanding that each project has a different relationship with the filmmaker, there needs to be transparency and agreement to the process amongst the director, DP, execs, etc. Whether a clear vision is established early on or they are open to further developing the look, a willingness to engage in an open dialogue is key.

Personally, I love when I’m able to help develop the color pipeline in preproduction, as I find it often makes the post experience more seamless. For example, what aired on Strange Angel Season 2 was not far removed from dailies because we had established a LUT in advance and had worked with wardrobe, make-up and others to carry the look through. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but open communication and planning really can go a long way in creating a stunning visual identity and a seamless experience.

HOW DO YOU PREFER THE DP OR DIRECTOR TO DESCRIBE THE LOOK THEY WANT? PHYSICAL EXAMPLES, FILMS TO EMULATE, ETC.?
Physical examples — photo books, style sheets with examples of tones they like and things like that. But ultimately my role is to correctly interpret what it is that they like in what they are showing me and to discern if what they are looking for is a literal representation, or more of an inspiration to start from and massage. Again, the open communication and ability to develop strong working relationships — in which I’m able to discern when there is a direct ask versus a need versus an opportunity to do more and push the boundaries — is key to a successful project.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Baselight. I love the flexibility of the system and the support that the FilmLight team provides us, as we are constantly pushing the capabilities of the platform, and they continue to deliver.

 

DP Chat: Peaky Blinders‘ Si Bell ramps up the realism for Season 5

By Randi Altman

UK-based cinematographer Si Bell is known for his work on the critically acclaimed feature films Electricity (2015), In Darkness (2019) and Tiger Raid (2016), as well as high-profile TV shows such as Fortitude, Hard Sun, Britannia and Ripper Street. He is currently working on the new Steven Knight drama special, A Christmas Carol.

Si Bell

He also shot the new season of Peaky Blinders, which begins airing on BBC One on August 25 and then makes its way to Netflix on October 4. Peaky Blinders takes place in Birmingham, England not long after World War I, and follows the Shelby family and its mafia-like business. The show is often dark, brutally violent and completely compelling. It stars Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby.

We recently reached out to Bell to ask him about his work on this current season of the edgy crime drama, followed by a look at his career in cinematography.

Tell us about Peaky Blinders Season 5. How early did you get involved in planning for the season? What direction did the showrunners give you about the look they wanted this season?
I got involved pretty early on and ended up having over 10 weeks prep, which is a long time for a TV show. I worked closely with Anthony Byrne, our director, whom I know very well. As the scripts came in, we began to discuss and plan how we were going to tackle the story.

I met with the showrunners early on as well, and they really loved the work Anthony and I had done in the past together on the movie In Darkness and on Ripper Street. Anthony is a very visual director and they trusted us both, so that was really amazing. They wanted us to do Peaky but also to bring our own style and way of working to the table. We were massive fans of the show and had big respect for what the previous directors and cinematographers had done. We knew we had big shoes to fill!

How would you describe the look?
I would describe the Peaky Blinders look as very stylized and larger than life. Lighting wise, it’s known for beams of light, smoke and atmosphere and an almost theatrical look with over cranked camera moves and speed ramps. I wanted to push some realism into the show and not make things quite as theatrical this season yet still keep that Peaky vibe. Tommy (Cillian Murphy) is battling with himself and his own demons more than anyone else in our story.

I wanted to try and show this with the lighting and the camera style. We also tried to use more developing shots in certain scenes to put the audience right in the center of the action and create this sense of visceral realism. We tried to motivate every decision based on how to tell the story in the best and most powerful way to bring out the emotional aspects and really connect with audience.

How did you work with the directors and colorist to achieve the intended look?
I used my DIT James Shovlar to create a look on set for the offline edit and we used that as a starting point for the grade. Then Anthony and I worked with grader Paul Staples at Deluxe in London, whom we had worked with on Ripper Street, and from the reference grade Paul created the finished look. Paul really understood where we wanted to take it, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. We didn’t want it to feel too pushed but we still wanted it to look like Peaky Blinders.

Where was it shot, and how long was the shoot?
We shot around the northwest of England. We were based mainly in Manchester where we built a number of sets, including the Garrison, Houses of Parliament and Shelby HQ. We also shot in Birmingham, Liverpool, Rochdale and Bradford. We shot 16 five-day weeks in total.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project?
We had to shoot 4K, so the standard ARRI Alexa was off the table. A friend of mine, Sam McCurdy, BSC, had mentioned he had been shooting on the new Red Monstro and said he was really blown away by the images. I tested it and thought it was perfect for us. We coupled that with Cooke Anamorphic lenses and delivered in a 2:1 ratio.

Can you describe the lighting?
The lighting is a big part of Peaky Blinders, and it had to be right. My gaffer Oliver Whickman and I used our prep time to draw up detailed lighting plans, which included all of our machine and rigging requirements. We had 91 different lighting diagrams, and because we were scouting and planning the whole six episodes, it was very important that everything had to be written down in a clear, accurate way that could be passed on to our rigging crews.

We were scouting in September 2018, but some of the locations we weren’t shooting until January 2019 and we weren’t going to come back to them because we were so busy shooting. Oliver used the Shot Designer app to make the plans and we made printed books for the rigging gaffer and our best boy Alan Millar. It was certainly the most technically difficult job I have ever done in terms of planning, but everything went very smoothly.

Are there any scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging?
There were many challenging scenes and sets. I’m really pleased how the opening sequence in Chinatown turned out. Also, there’s a big sequence set around a ballet, and I loved how that came together. I thought the design was great, with all the practicals that our designer Nicole Northridge installed in the set. There’s so much in this series, it’s hard to mention one thing.

I’m very proud of all our team. Everyone worked so hard and put so much into it, and I really think it shows. My camera operator Andrew Fletcher, focus puller Tom Finch and key grip Paul Kemp provided exceptional talent to the project. Not only are they great friends, they are the best of the best at what they do and I’m very proud of everything they did on Peaky.

Now let’s dig into some general DP questions. How did you become interested in cinematography?
I used to make skate videos, and then I studied photography in college and started to get interested in the idea of making films. I studied film production at university, and then started to work as a camera trainee once I left. At first I thought I wanted to be a director and made some short films, but after training under some great DPs — Sam McCurdy, BSC, and Lol Crawley, BSC — I realized that’s what I wanted to do, so I started shooting as much as I could and went from there.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology?
I am inspired by watching movies or TV with great stories. I’m also inspired by working with talented people, great directors, great producers and people with a great passion for what they do. Peaky Blinders was massively inspiring as we got to work with some of the greatest actors of our age who are at the top of their game. Working at that level, you need to up your game and that also was massively inspiring.

I always stay on top of new technology by going to trade shows and reading trade magazines.

What new technology has changed the way you work?
I think the camera getting smaller has been the biggest change, as we can use drones, Trinity rigs and other gimbals to move the camera in ways we could never even have dreamed of five years ago.

What are some of your best practices you try to follow on each job?
I always try to bring all my own crew if I can. We have a tight team and it’s so much easier if I can bring all of my guys onto a job as we all have a shorthand with each other. Additionally, I always do detailed lighting diagrams with my gaffer and put in lots of prep and time into the planning of the lighting so we can move quickly and adapt on the day. I also try to build a good relationship with the director as much as I can before shooting.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director or showrunner when starting a new project.
For me it’s ideal when you work with someone who wants to hear your ideas and bounces off you creatively. It should be a collaboration, and you should be able to talk openly about ideas and feel like you’re valued. That connection is very important — sometimes you click, and sometimes you don’t — it’s about chemistry.

What’s your go-to gear? Things you can’t live without?
Things change depending on the show, but I love a Technocrane and a good remote head. If the show has the budget, they are such brilliant tools to move a camera and find the shot quickly.

On Peaky Blinders we used the ARRI Trinity camera stabilizer quite a lot, which is especially great if you have operator Andrew Fletcher, who is a master!


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Official Secrets director Gavin Hood talks workflow on this real-life thriller

By Iain Blair

South African writer/director Gavin Hood burst onto the international scene when he wrote and directed 2005’s Academy Award-winning Tsotsi. The film, which was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Gavin Hood

Hood followed up that success with the harrowing political drama Rendition (Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the sci-fi offering Ender’s Game (with Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley) and the thriller Eye in the Sky (Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman).

For his new film, Official Secrets, Hood returns to the murky world of government secrets and political double-dealing with a true but largely forgotten story that could have prevented the disaster that was the Iraq invasion and war. It tells the gripping story of Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist whose job involves routine handling of classified information. In 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on United Nations Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into an illegal war, Gun defies her government and leaks the memo to the press. So begins an explosive chain of events that ignited an international firestorm, exposed a vast political conspiracy, and put Gun and her family directly in harm’s way.

I recently spoke with Hood about making the film — which co-stars Ralph Fiennes as Gun’s lawyer and Matt Smith as journalist Martin Bright, who helped break the story — and his workflow.

To be honest, I’d never heard of Katharine Gun and her amazing story. Had you?
No, I knew nothing about it either. My producer Ged Doherty, who did Eye in the Sky with me, told me about this incredible true story and suggested I Google Katharine. Two hours later, having done a deep dive into this truly fascinating story, I realized it was this way of getting into the Iraq War and all that convoluted history through a very personal story.

What attracted you to this project?
That personal angle. Here’s a person who’s not a big political figure, but just someone going about her job. She comes across something that just smells rotten and decides she must say so. I thought, this could be any of us, in any organization, and who would be brave enough to become a whistleblower and risk losing our job in order to reveal the truth? She also risked losing her freedom as well, so whatever you think politically, she was very brave in following her conscience. I was intrigued right away by this character but not sure I actually wanted to do it.

I flew to London to meet Katharine. I sat down with her for five days, and each day we’d just talk and work for four or five hours. I’d take all these notes and over those five days, I think I won her trust. The main thing was, I just let her tell me about the events and what really happened without trying to make it into something more “Hollywood” or more exciting in terms of a movie. After that, I felt, “OK, we can do this.”

Lack of government transparency seems more timely than ever.
Absolutely, and that’s why this story is so important.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
A political thriller that’s also an understated personal drama. But making these kinds of films is far more difficult than making non-controversial entertainment fare, and it’s always so difficult getting financing.

Do you feel more responsibility when it’s based on real events and characters?
I do, and though I’ve made these kind of films before, this was the first time for me that all the main people were still alive, so it brings with it certain restrictions. You don’t want to fall short and have them scoff at your efforts, and you can’t take liberties with the narrative and the facts. Then this had the challenge of being a true story that doesn’t follow the conventional Hollywood “hero whistleblower” tale. It didn’t change the world. She’s just an ordinary person who did something extraordinary, and it’s about common decency and dignity.

What did Keira bring to the lead role, as well as Ralph Fiennes as her lawyer and Matt Smith as journalist Martin Bright?
They were all so committed and did a lot of research into their characters. Keira told me it was great to play a strong woman without having to wear a corset, and she really inhabits the role and makes you feel what it was like to be in Katharine’s shoes. She shows so much with just her eyes, so we used a lot of close-up work with a 75mm lens. Ralph shot all his scenes in just six days because of our tight 34-day schedule.

Your DP was Florian Hoffmeister, and you shot with the new Sony 6K Venice camera. Can you talk about how you collaborated on the look and how that affected the DI?
Yes, we were actually the first feature film to use it, so we did a lot of tests. It has an incredible dynamic range, not only moving from highlights to shadow but it’s got this great nuanced control of color. I’ve always loved shooting on film, but this camera’s so amazing that I’m now totally comfortable going all digital. In terms of post and the DI, we were really able to play with the footage.

When I shoot, I never want to push the look too much in-camera, as then you’re really limited in your choices in the DI. So my goal in shooting is always to get as much really detailed raw footage as I can, so I can then manipulate it in the DI. I don’t like to shoot with lots of filters and toys on the lens.

Where did you post?
At Technicolor in London and LA, and we did all the sound at Tribeca West in LA.

Do you like the post process?
I love it. I love writing, I love shooting, but post is where you actually make the film.

Talk about editing with your go-to editor Megan Gill who’s cut almost every film since 2005’s Tsotsi. How did that work?
She visits the set once or twice, but she doesn’t like to see how the sausage is made. She was on location and just to look at the dailies and do her assembly, and I’d drop by and we’d discuss it. Then she started cutting in London and then we finished in LA.

What were the big editing challenges?
It was basically a meticulous search for the most nuanced performances and trusting that we could then let them play out. There’s a scene where Katharine’s visited at home by a detective who tells her she can’t talk to a lawyer or anyone without clearing it with the authorities first. Instead of cutting back and forth between them as you’d usually do, we kept it on Keira and you see her slow burn, and it was far more effective that way. So, often it’s more important where you don’t cut rather than where you do.

VFX play a role. How many were there and what did they entail?
Technicolor VFX did them all, and they were mostly comps for scenes shot in places like rooftops in Manchester and Liverpool, which doubled for London. So it was live shots augmented with matte paintings and VFX for the London skyline. And we had a lot of television comps, but not nearly as many VFX as I had on my last film, Eye in the Sky.

Can you talk about the importance of sound and music, as again, you recruited composers Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian, who have scored a number of your films, including Tsotsi and Rendition.
We go way back, and they’re both amazing South African composers who have such a range — from classical to jazz and world music. That range works so well with my films, which are often multicultural. So in this film we have Britain, but it’s also about Iraq. And Katharine’s husband is Kurdish-Turkish, so we had to build a soundtrack that vibrates with the sound and emotional resonance of all these different places and cultures.

They crafted a great score that did exactly that. We did most of the sound work at Technicolor. Then sound editor Craig Mann, who won the Oscar for Whiplash and who did Eye in the Sky, did all the mixing at Tribeca West… most of it in a very small room. And he worked closely with Paul and Mark and is so good at building atmosphere and tension.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
Also at Tribeca West, and it’s extremely important to me, as I have a background in photography. Florian and I worked very closely with colorist Doug Delaney, and it’s a period piece so we wanted a dusty, slightly period feel without pushing it too far.

What’s next?
I’m developing several projects, so whatever comes together first.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Company 3 buys Sixteen19, offering full-service post in NYC

Company 3 has acquired Sixteen19, a creative editorial, production and post company based in New York City. The deal includes Sixteen19’s visual effects wing, PowerHouse VFX, and a mobile dailies operation with international reach.

The acquisition helps Company 3 further serve NYC’s booming post market for feature film and episodic TV. As part of the acquisition, industry veterans and Sixteen19 co-founders Jonathan Hoffman and Pete Conlin, along with their longtime collaborator, EVP of business development and strategy Alastair Binks, will join Company 3’s leadership team.

“With Sixteen19 under the Company 3 umbrella, we significantly expand what we bring to the production community, addressing a real unmet need in the industry,” says Company 3 president Stefan Sonnenfeld. “This infusion of talent and infrastructure will allow us to provide a complete suite of services for clients, from the start of production through the creative editing process to visual effects, final color, finishing and mastering. We’ve worked in tandem with Sixteen19 many times over the years, so we know that they have always provided strong client relationships, a best-in-class team and a deeply creative environment. We’re excited to bring that company’s vision into the fold at Company 3.”

Sonnenfeld will continue to serve as president of Company 3, and oversee operations of Sixteen19. As a subsidiary of Deluxe, Company 3 is part of a broad portfolio of post services. Bringing together the complementary services and geographic reach of Company3, Sixteen19 and Powerhouse VFX, will expand Company 3’s overall portfolio of post offerings and reach new markets in the US and internationally.

Sixteen19’s New York location includes 60 large editorial suites; two 4K digital cinema grading theaters; and a number of comfortable spaces, open environments and many common areas. Sixteen19’s mobile dailies services will add a perfect companion to Company 3’s existing offerings in that arena. PowerHouse VFX includes dedicated teams of experienced supervisors, producers and artists in 2D and 3D visual effects and compositing.

“The New York film community initially recognized the potential for a Company 3 and Sixteen19 partnership,” says Sixteen19’s Hoffman. “It’s not just the fact that a significant majority of the projects we work on are finished at Company 3, it’s more that our fundamental vision about post has always been aligned with Stefan’s. We value innovation; we’ve built terrific creative teams; and above all else, we both put clients first, always.”

Sixteen19 and Powerhouse VFX will retain their company names.

Scratch 9.1 now supports AJA Kona 5, Red 8K workflows

Assimilate’s Scratch 9.1 now supports AJA Kona 5 audio and video I/O cards, enabling users to output 8K 60p video via 12G-SDI. Scratch 9.1 is also now supporting AJA’s Io 4K Plus I/O box with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. The product also works with AJA’s T-Tap Io 4K, Kona 1 and Kona 4.

Scratch support for Kona 5 allows for a smooth dailies and finishing workflow for Red 8K footage. Scratch handles the decoding and deBayering of 8K Red RAW in realtime at full resolution and can now natively output 8K over SDI through Kona 5, facilitating a full end-to-end 8K workflow.

Available immediately, Scratch 9.1 starts at $89 a month and $695 annually. AJA Kona 5 and Io 4K Plus are available now through AJA’s reseller network for $2,995 and $2,495 respectively.

FilmLight sets speakers for free Color On Stage seminar at IBC

At this year’s IBC, FilmLight will host a free two-day seminar series, Color On Stage, on September 14 and 15. The event features live presentations and discussions with colorists and other creative professionals. The event will cover topics ranging from the colorist today to understanding color management and next-generation grading tools.

“Color on Stage offers a good platform to hear about real-world interaction between colorists, directors and cinematographers,” explains Alex Gascoigne, colorist at Technicolor and one of this year’s presenters. “Particularly when it comes to large studio productions, a project can take place over several months and involve a large creative team and complex collaborative workflows. This is a chance to find out about the challenges involved with big shows and demystify some of the more mysterious areas in the post process.”

This year’s IBC program includes colorists from broadcast, film and commercials, as well as DITs, editors, VFX artists and post supervisors.

Program highlights include:
•    Creating the unique look for Mindhunter Season 2
Colorist Eric Weidt will talk about his collaboration with director David Fincher — from defining the workflow to creating the look and feel of Mindhunter. He will break down scenes and run through color grading details of the masterful crime thriller.

•    Realtime collaboration on the world’s longest running continuing drama, ITV Studios’ Coronation Street
The session will address improving production processes and enhancing pictures with efficient renderless workflows, with colorist Stephen Edwards, finishing editor Tom Chittenden and head of post David Williams.

•    Looking to the future: Creating color for the TV series Black Mirror
Colorist Alex Gascoigne of Technicolor will explain the process behind grading Black Mirror, including the interactive episode Bandersnatch and the latest Season 5.

•    Bollywood: A World of Color
This session will delve into the Indian film industry with CV Rao, technical general manager at Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad. In this talk, CV will discuss grading and color as exemplified by the hit film Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

•    Joining forces: Strengthening VFX and finishing with the BLG workflow
Mathieu Leclercq, head of post at Mikros Image in Paris, will be joined by colorist Sebastian Mingam and VFX supervisor Franck Lambertz to showcase their collaboration on recent projects.

•    Maintaining the DP’s creative looks from set to post
Meet with French DIT Karine Feuillard, ADIT — who worked on the latest Luc Besson film Anna as well as the TV series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel — and FilmLight workflow specialist Matthieu Straub.

•    New color management and creative tools to make multi-delivery easier
The latest and upcoming Baselight developments, including a host of features aimed to simplify delivery for emerging technologies such as HDR. With FilmLight’s Martin Tlaskal, Daniele Siragusano and Andy Minuth.

Color On Stage will take place in Room D201 on the second floor of the Elicium Centre (Entrance D), close to Hall 13. The event is free to attend but spaces are limited. Registion is available here.

DP Chat: Dopesick Nation cinematographer Greg Taylor

By Randi Altman

Dopesick Nation is a documentary series on Vice Media’s Viceland that follows two recovering heroin addicts, Frankie and Allie, in South Florida as they try to help others while taking a look at corruption and exploitation in the rehab industry. The series was inspired by the feature film American Relapse.

Dopesick Nation

As you might imagine, the shoot was challenging, often taking place at night and in dubious locales, but cinematographers Greg Taylor and Mike Goodman were up for the challenge. Both had worked with series co-creator/executive producer Patrick McGee previously and were happy to collaborate once more.

We reached out to DP Taylor to talk about working with McGee and Goodman and the show’s workflow.

Tell us about Dopesick Nation. How early did you get involved in this series, and how did you work with the director?
Pat McGee tapped myself and Mike Goodman to shoot American Relapse. We were just coming off another show and had a finely tuned team ready to spend long nights on this new project. The movie turned out to have a familiar gritty feel you see in the show but in a feature documentary format.

I imagine it was a natural progression to use us again once the TV show was greenlit by Viceland. Pat would keep on our heels to find the best moments for every story and would push us to go out and produce intimate moments with the subjects on the fly. He and producer Adam Linkenhelt (American Relapse) were with us almost every step of the way, offering advice, watching our backs and looking out for incoming storylines. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about that whole crew.

(L-R) Mike Goodman, supervising producer Adam Linkenhelt and showrunner Pat McGee (Photo by Greg Taylor)

How did you work with fellow DP Mike Goodman? How did you divvy up the shots?
Mike and I have worked long enough together that we have an efficient shorthand. A gesture or look can set up an entire scene sometimes, and I often can’t tell my shots from his. We both put a lot of effort into creativity in our imagery and pushing the bar as much as we can handle. During rare downtimes, we might brainstorm on a new way to shoot b-roll or decide what “gritty” should look and feel like.

Covering the often late and challenging days took a bit of baton-passing back and forth. Some days, we would split up and shoot single camera as well. It was decided at some point that I would cover more of Frankie’s story, while Mike would cover Allie. When the two met up at the end of the day, we would cover them together. Most of the major scenes we shot together, but there were times when too much was happening to cover it all. We were really in the addicts’ world, so some events were completely unexpected.

How would you describe the look of the doc?
I’d say gritty would be the best single word, but that can be nuanced quite a bit. There was an overall aim to keep some frames dirty during dialogue scenes to achieve a slightly voyeuristic feel but still leave lots of room for intimate, in-your-face, bam-type moments when the story dictated. We always paid attention to our backgrounds, and there was a focus on the contrast between beautiful southeast Florida and the dark underbelly lurking just next to it. The show had to be so real that no one would ever question the legitimacy of what we were showing. No-filter, behind-the-veil type thinking in every shot.

Dopesick Nation

How does your process change when shooting a documentary versus a fictional piece? Or does it not?
Story is king, and I’d say character arcs for the feature American Relapse were different from the TV version. In the film, we gave an overview of the treatment industry told through the eyes of our two main characters, Allie and Frank. It is structured somewhat around their typical day and sit-down interviews.

The TV show did not have formal interviews but did allow us to dig deeper into accounts from individuals with addiction, the world they live in and the hosts themselves. The 10 one-hour episodes and three-plus months spent shooting gave us a little more time to build up a library of transition pieces and specialty b-roll.

Where was it shot?
Almost all of the shooting took place in and around southeast Florida. A few short scenes were picked up in Ohio and LA.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project? Can you talk about camera tests?
It’s funny because Mike and I both independently came up with using the Panasonic VariCam LT after the director came to us asking what we wanted to shoot with. We chatted and decided that we needed solutions for potentially tougher nighttime setups than we had been used to. When we gathered for a meeting and started up the gear list, Mike and I both had the LT on the top of our requests.

Dopesick Nation

I think that signaled to the preproduction team we were unanimous on what the best system was to use and production manager Keith Plant made it happen. I had seen the camera in action at NAB and watched some tests a friend had shot on it a few months before. I was easily sold on its rich blacks and dual native ISO. That camera could see into the dark and wasn’t so heavy we would collapse at the end of the day; it worked out very well.

Can you talk about the lighting and how the camera worked while grabbing shots when you could?
Lighting on this show was minimal, but we did use fills and background illumination to enhance some scenes. Working mostly at night — in dubious surroundings — often meant we couldn’t light scenes. Lights bring unwanted attention to the crew and subjects, and we found it changed the feel of the scene in a negative way.

Using the available light at each location quickly became fundamentally important to maintain the unfiltered nature of the show. Every bright spot in the darkness was carefully considered, and if we could pull subjects slightly toward a source, even to get 1/3 a stop more, we would take it.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging?
There were a lot of scenes that were challenging to shoot technically, but that happens on any project. You don’t always want to see what you are standing next to, but the story needs to be told. There are a lot of people out there really struggling with addiction, and it can be really painful to watch. Being present with everyone and being real with them had to be in your mind constantly. I kept thinking the whole time, “Am I doing them justice? What can I do better? How can I help?”

DPs Mike Goodman and Greg Taylor shoot Ally interviewing one of the subjects (Photo by Tara Sarzen)

Let’s move on to more some more general questions. How did you become interested in cinematography?
I’ve always loved working with celluloid and photography and was brought up with a darkroom in the house. I remember taking a filmmaking summer camp when I was 14 in Oxford, Mississippi, and was basically blown away. I’ve been aiming for a career in cinematography ever since.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
Artistically, I love Dali, Picasso and the works of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The way light plays in a chiaroscuro painting is really something worth studying and it isn’t easy to replicate.

I like to try and pay homage to the films I enjoy and artworks I’ve visited by incorporating some of their ideas into my own work. With film cameras, things changed slower over the years, and it was often the film stock that became the technological advancement of its day. Granular structure turned to crystal structures, higher ISO/ASA were achieved, color reproduction improved. The same is with the new camera systems coming out. Sensors are the new film stock. You pick what is appropriate to the story.

What new technology has changed the way you work?
I rarely go anywhere nowadays without a drone. The advancements in drone technology have changed the aerial world entirely, and I’m happy to see these new angles open up in an increasingly responsible and licensed way.

DP Greg Taylor shooting in SE Florida. (Photo by Evan Parquette)

Gimbals are a game changer in the way the Steadicam came onto the scene, and I don’t expect them to go anywhere. Also motion-control devices and newer, more sensitive sensors are certainly fitting the bill of ever-evolving and improving tech.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
Be aware and attentive of your surroundings and safety. Treat others with respect. Maintain a professional attitude under stress. If you are five minutes early, you’re late.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
I love discussing what the heart of the script or concept really means and trying to find the deeper connection with how it can be told visually. Referencing other films/art/ TV we both have experience with and finding a common language that makes sense for the vision.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I have an old Nikkor 55mm f1.2 lens I love, and I often shoot personal projects on prime vintage glass. The edges aren’t quite as sharp as modern lenses so in the case of the 55mm, you get a lovely yet subtle sharpness vignette along with a warm overall feel.

It’s great for interviews because it softens the digital crispness newer sensors exhibit without the noticeable changes you might see with certain filtration. The Hip Shot belt has been one of my best friends over the past while, and it saves you on the long days and low, long dialogue scenes when handholding seated subjects.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

GLOW’s DP and colorist adapt look of new season for Vegas setting

By Adrian Pennington

Netflix’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) are back in the ring for a third round of the dramatic comedy, but this time the girls are in Las Vegas. The glitz and glamour of Sin City seems tailor-made for the 1980s-set GLOW and provided the main creative challenge for Season 3 cinematographer Chris Teague (Russian Doll, Broad City).

DP Chris Teague

“Early on, I met with Christian Sprenger, who shot the first season and designed the initial look,” says Teague, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Russian Doll. “We still want GLOW to feel like GLOW, but the story and character arc of Season 3 and the new setting led us to build on the look and evolve elements like lighting and dynamic range.”

The GLOW team is headlining the Fan-Tan Hotel & Casino, one of two main sets along with a hotel built for the series and featuring the distinctive Vegas skyline as a backdrop.

“We discussed compositing actors against greenscreen, but that would have turned every shot into a VFX shot and would have been too costly, not to mention time-intensive on a TV schedule like ours,” he says. “Plus, working with a backdrop just felt aesthetically right.”

In that vein, production designer Todd Fjelsted built a skyline using miniatures, a creative decision in keeping with the handcrafted look of the show. That decision, though, required extensive testing of lenses, lighting and look prior to shooting. This testing was done in partnership with post house Light Iron.

“There was no overall shift in the look of the show, but together with Light Iron, we felt the baseline LUT needed to be built on, particularly in terms of how we lit the sets,” explains Teague.

“Chris was clear early on that he wanted to build upon the look of the first two seasons,” says Light Iron colorist Ian Vertovec. “We adjusted the LUT to hold a little more color in the highlights than in past seasons. Originally, the LUT was based on a film emulation and adjusted for HDR. In Season 1, we created a period film look and transformed it for HDR to get a hybrid film emulation LUT. For Season 3, for HDR and standard viewing, we made tweaks to the LUT so that some of the colors would pop more.”

The show was also finished in Dolby Vision HDR. “There was some initial concern about working with backdrops and stages in HDR,” Teague says. “We are used to the way film treats color over its exposure range — it tends to desaturate as it gets more overexposed — whereas HDR holds a lot more color information in overexposure. However, Ian showed how it can be a creative tool.”

Colorist Ian Vertovec

“The goal was to get the 1980s buildings in the background and out the hotel windows to look real — emulating marquees with flashing lights,” adds Vertovec. “We also needed it to be a believable Nevada sky and skyline. Skies and clouds look different in HDR. So, when dialing this in, we discussed how they wanted it to look. Did it feel real? Is the sky in this scene too blue? Information from testing informed production, so everything was geared toward these looks.”

“Ian has been on the first two seasons, so he knows the look inside and out and has a great eye,” Teague continues. “It’s nice to come into a room and have his point of view. Sometimes when you are staring at images all day, it’s easy to lose your objectivity, so I relied on Ian’s insight.” Vertovec grades the show on FilmLight’s Baselight.

As with Season 2, GLOW Season 3 was a Red Helium shoot using Red’s IPP2 color pipeline in conjunction with Vertovec’s custom LUTs all the way to post. Teague shot full 8K resolution to accommodate his choice of Cooke anamorphic lenses, desqueezed and finished in a 2:1 ratio.

“For dailies I used an iPad with Moxion, which is perhaps the best dailies viewing platform I’ve ever worked with. I feel like the color is more accurate than other platforms, which is extremely useful for checking out contrast and shadow level. Too many times with dailies you get blacks washed out and highlights blown and you can’t judge anything critical.”

Teague sat in on the grade of the first three of the 10 episodes and then used the app to pull stills and make notes remotely. “With Ian I felt like we were both on the same page. We also had a great DIT [Peter Brunet] who was doing on-set grading for reference and was able to dial in things at a much higher level than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

The most challenging but also rewarding work was shooting the wrestling performances. “We wanted to do something that felt a little bigger, more polished, more theatrical,” Teague says. “The performance space had tiered seating, which gave us challenges and options in terms of moving the cameras. For example, we could use telescoping crane work to reach across the room and draw characters in as they enter the wrestling ring.”

He commends gaffer Eric Sagot for inspiring lighting cues and building them into the performance. “The wrestling scenes were the hardest to shoot but they’re exciting to watch — dynamic, cinematic and deliberately a little hokey in true ‘80s Vegas style.”


Adrian Pennington is a UK-based journalist, editor and commentator in the film and TV production space. He has co-written a book on stereoscopic 3D and edited several publications.

DP Chat: David Makes Man’s Todd A. Dos Reis, ASC

The series David Makes Man follows a 14-year-old boy attending a prestigious magnet school and his formerly drug-addicted mother, who is relying on him and his potential to get them out of the rough Miami neighborhood they live in. David is torn between the streets he grew up on and the life he’s capable of living.

Written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, an Oscar winner for co-writing Moonlight, David Makes Man will be premiere on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network on August 14. Along with McCraney, some of the show’s producers include Nantale Corbett, Mike Kelley, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah Winfrey. Dee Harris-Lawrence is a showrunner, along with McCraney.

The series depicts David’s two very different worlds — home and school — each of which  McCraney wanted to have different looks. He called on cinematographer Todd A. Dos Reis, ASC, to help create those two worlds. We reached out to Dos Reis to find out how he accomplished this and his workflow.

Tell us about David Makes Man. How would you describe the overarching look of the film?
Early on in pre-production, showrunner Tarell McCraney and I came up with the idea to have our young protagonist, David, live in two worlds and give each world its own distinct look.

One world was The Ville, the Miami housing project where he lived with his mother and younger brother. David’s home life was unpredictable, and we wanted the viewer to be on edge as David was on a daily basis. The Ville had low-income families and drug dealers that ran their business out of the projects. The Ville would not have the typical lushness dripping with color that everyone is used to seeing in Miami. Our Miami would be a desaturated limited color palette leaning toward the cool blue side of the color wheel.

David’s other world was his middle school that encompassed a warmer tone, with natural lighting that you would see in the early morning and the late afternoon. David is a prodigy and excels in this world, so we wanted to make this environment more welcoming.

How did the director tell you about the look that was wanted?
In our initial meeting, Tarell McCraney, the EP, showrunner and writer, talked about Fresh (1994) and Juice (1992) being a good place to start when discussing the tone of the show. He said he wanted David Makes Man to be a 10-hour film versus 10 one-hour episodes.

We also discussed the works of artist Kerry James Marshall when looking at the blackness of a frame. In David Makes Man, we wanted to accept darkness as a point of expression versus a deficit. Director Michael Williams came in with an amazing look book that referenced images from Mother of George, Daughters of the Dust, Selma and Belly.

How early did you get involved in the production?
As soon as I got the call from producer Wayne Morris that I was their choice for DP, I made myself available for discussions with the showrunners Tarell McCraney and Dee Lawrence Harris. I had three weeks of unofficial prep in Los Angeles and three weeks of prep in Orlando.

It was shot in Orlando?
The story of David Makes Man takes place in Miami, but we filmed in Orlando. We were based at Universal Studios Orlando, where we built the interiors of The Ville housing project apartments (David’s family apartment and friend of the family Elijah’s apartment) and any swing sets that appeared in various episodes. There was one day of filming in Miami with a second unit.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses?
There were many factors that I had to consider. First, how to visually create the two worlds of David. The Ville, where David lived, was going to be hand-held, subjective, wider lenses in your face, and more intimate and chaotic.

His school and outside The Ville world were going to be photographed on a stable platform, i.e. dollies, cranes and SteadiCam. This world was going to have a natural calming feel to offset his home life. I needed a camera that could be used hand-held, on a dolly and on a SteadiCam and switched back and forth quickly. I chose three ARRI Alexa Minis.

David’s two worlds were also enhanced by filming in both spherical and anamorphic. Discussions with the director of Episode 1, Michael Williams, led us to film The Ville with Cooke anamorphic lenses. Because many scenes in the story take place in David’s alternate reality, and I was going to be using the Lensbaby lenses to heighten David’s visions, the Cooke anamorphics created a great foundation to have under David’s visions. The spherical lenses, Cooke Panchro/i Classics, would be used to show the normalcy of David’s school and anything outside of The Ville.

Are there any scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging?
Our most challenging scenes usually took place at The Ville. We built a two-story section of a housing project where some of the interior apartments were practical. For day exteriors in the ever-changing Florida sky and weather, we used a 40×40 quarter silk to cover the courtyard. We could have used an 80×80. Key grip Joel Wheatley and his crew managed the silk like a sail on a yacht, constantly trimming and adjusting for weather changes and shot selection.

Night exteriors at The Ville called for an array of lighting instruments. Working from the inner circle of the hallways, we built fluorescent housings to hang above the exterior hallways and hold two 4-foot cool white fluorescents with cyan 60. This would give our wide range of African American skin tones an unnatural and eerie color. The next circle of color is what lit The Ville courtyard and exterior.

Gaffer Marc Wostak bought safety lights at a local hardware store, and we gelled them with high sodium gel. We built four poles for inside the courtyard and hung the gelled safety lights on the outside corners of each housing project building. The final outside diameter of The Ville had a sprinkling of mercury vapor lighting (1/2 blue and ¼ plus green). To give moonlight ambience, we always used one or two helium balloons above the courtyard and parking area at The Ville. Because helium was a rare commodity on our budget, we usually hung the balloons without helium from 80-foot Condors.

Without giving any story points away, there were night interior scenes where there was no electricity and we were blocked out of any possible moonlight. Being a big fan of John Alcott, BSC, and the film Barry Lyndon, I took my impetus from here. Not having the fast T1.3 lens that Mr. Alcott used, I had the art department buy every three-wick and two-wick candle they could find in Orlando. I augmented the scenes with small china balls and LED Light Gear patches that I could tape to candles and hide behind objects in the room. In some scenes we had the luxury of a character carrying a flashlight, but that was rare.

The most challenging scene would have to be when two characters have a heated discussion with someone holding a Zippo lighter. We taped four dots of tungsten LED Light Gear to the back side of the Zippo and ran the cable down the actor’s wardrobe with my gaffer Marc Wostak walking and adjusting as the actor moved around the room. The choreography between camera operator Bob Scott, Marc Wostak and the actors was something out of a Bob Fosse film.

Can you talk about shooting anamorphic for The Ville housing project scenes?
We wanted to shoot David’s world at The Ville with anamorphic lenses because this is the place he did not want to be. One of David’s main goals in the story is to get out of this life at The Ville. I felt the anamorphic lenses would help isolate David from his surroundings and the drug dealers he didn’t want to be associated with.

The shallow depth of field that the lenses give you was a characteristic that we wanted to create visually. We wanted to show the emotions on his face that David was going through as well as heighten the tension of what was lurking around the dark corners of The Ville. The lenses also helped in giving us a more filmic quality and made all the episodes feel more like a feature film instead of 10 episodes.

How did you become interested in cinematography?
From an early age, I watched a great deal of TV and frequented the local movie theater to see any film that hit my small city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It started with Disney films with my family, then went to Bruce Lee triple features and the Blaxploitation genre.

When I was 13, my grandparents bought me my first Canon still camera and I was fascinated. This led me to photography classes and running the TV studio at my high school. My love for the image grew, and I researched the best film schools for college. I ended up at USC Cinema. I started focusing on cinematography and learned that I could tell a story with just the visual image.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
I am inspired artistically by the journey to be original. I am constantly trying to never repeat myself, and I never want to imitate anyone else in this industry. I use other DPs and directors that I admire as inspirations.

I try to stay on top of advancing technology that serves my vision by always educating myself and surrounding myself with artists and craftsmen who are willing to take chances and are not afraid of failing.

What new technology has changed the way you work (looking back over the past few years)?
I think all the advancements in the LED lighting category have opened up amazing opportunities for filmmakers. In productions where space is always a factor, there is always some nook and cranny to create beautiful, artistic or dramatic lighting.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
On every project, I use the script as my bible. What is the story? What is the auteur trying to convey? What is the emotion of each scene? My job is to visually collaborate with the director, showrunner or writer to get their vision to the screen. The rule I try to follow is that there are no rules in filmmaking. The more rules I can break, the more original I will be as an artist.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
It starts with the script. I like to meet with a director as early and as often as possible. If a director is open to ideas that are not his/hers, then I know I am in a good place. Sharing ideas, watching films together and collaborating and experimenting on the set opens up my creativity.

What’s your go-to gear (camera, lens, mount/accessories) — things you can’t live without?
My most recent go-to gear is a set of Lensbaby lenses that my camera house, Otto Nemenz, created for me. I am also a big fan of Tiffen and Schneider streak filters. The lighting instrument that I can’t do without is a Source Four Leko. I would like to do a project with all Lekos, daylight and tungsten.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years.