SOLO STORIES Fullest Star Wars coverage

HOW WAS IT? The Cine Gear experience

PERIOD TWIST New take on costume drama

MAJESTIC The Crown Season 2

July 2018





ARRI DNA: A Star Wars Story – ARRI creates the right 50mm optic.

Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridgeshire CB22 3HJ UK EDITORIAL EDITOR Julian Mitchell 01223 492246 EDITOR IN CHIEF Adam Duckworth CONTRIBUTORS Adam Garstone SENIOR SUB EDITOR Lisa Clatworthy SUB EDITORS Siobhan Godwood, Felicity Evans ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Matt Snow 01223 499453 SALES MANAGER Krishan Parmar 01223 499462 ACCOUNT MANAGER Harriet Abbs 01223 499460 KEY ACCOUNTS Nicki Mills 01223 499457 DESIGN DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGN MANAGER


Welcome It was so obvious if you thought about it. While the core story of the series of Star Wars movies was untouchable in terms of its look, the offshoots, the Star Wars Story series didn’t have such restraints and were much more open to interpretation. Within that interpretation came the opportunity for the DOP to investigate different formats and tones. Last year we had Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with DOP Greig Fraser championing a camera format that was still wet behind the ears and new to ‘A’ camera territory. He pushed for the ARRI ALEXA 65 camera even with the drought of glass which would work with it. Now we have Solo: A Stars Wars Story and DOP Bradford Young is again bringing darkness to these ‘single subject’ tales. He was also tough on his supplier and was even unsure about digital as 35mm film seemed more of a comfortable choice for him. Bradford wanted a dark and gritty look, which would reflect the tale of Hans Solo ten years before the first ever film appeared. So he was looking at it as a period piece. He wanted lenses that would give him this dark quality and allow him to play around in the shadows. ARRI was put under enormous pressure to create such a lens, a 50mm model which formed the origins of its DNA range. They made it, see the picture above, but if you want to know where the base optics are from, DNA means: Do Not Ask.




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TITLE SEQUENCE 06 GETTING THE BABY BLUES Tully is a baby observation classic. NEWS 08 VITEC INVEST IN THE UK The huge Vitec Group has opened its new support factory in Britain. 12 CINE GEAR REVIEW If you haven’t visited the Cine Gear Expo in LA yet, you’re missing out. 16 THE LACIE STORY We had a research project for NAB this year and it was Lacie laced. SHOOT STORY 18 LOST IN SPACE We talked with the main DOP for the show and found progression. 28 A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL Film heavyweights come together for brilliant BBC drama. 34 THE WOMAN IN WHITE This DOP wouldn’t accept the job unless the brief changed. 44 SOLO A STAR WARS STORY As an offshoot Star Wars film there was room for image experiments. 50 THE CROWN SERIES 2 We find out how the look of the show has evolved. FEATURES 57 WORLD IN MOTION As a big supporter of film, HP brings some major stargazing. GEAR TESTS 62 HP ZBOOK X2 LAPTOP HP is late to detachable tech but the x2 is worth the wait. 63 QUASAR RAINBOW LIGHT The latest tube technology ticks all the boxes. 65 PAG MICROCHARGER We take a look at this very mobile answer to power management. 66 4K CAMERA LIST Keep up to date with the latest.













IMAGE Marlo (Charlize Theron) waiting for the big day and before she meets Tully, the night nanny who will change her life.


OP Eric Steelberg has shot most of Director Jason Reitman’s movies, they have known each other since they were teenagers and now such is their familiarity they even finish each other’s sentences, cute. Eric shot Tully on the ARRI ALEXA Mini with Master Primes. The camera choice was mostly to deal with some of the small locations found with Jason while they were scouting (Reitman prefers real locations to building sets). Eric wanted the sharpness of the lenses but maybe not the contrast so used a LUT designed by the colourist at EFILM after trying some filters on the camera to try the low contrast approach. Jason Reitman’s latest movie is Tully, written and shot by regulars Diablo Cody and DOP Eric Steelberg


VITECGROUP EXPANDS INBRITAIN Something old, something new: established Vitec Group opens new building

the industry leadership they have built in key areas of the broadcast market.” The Vitec Group employs around 1700 people in 11 different countries across the globe and is organised into three divisions; imaging solutions, production solutions and creative solutions. The Vitec Group plc is publicly traded on the LSE with 2017 revenues of £378.1 million. In 1910, William Vinten founded a company to manufacture projection machines for Kinemacolor, the world’s first successful colour motion picture

support brands, including Autocue, Autoscript, O’Connor, Sachtler and Vinten. The factory includes an advanced carbon-fibre cell for the manufacture of the award-winning camera tripod, flowtech. “After a 54-year presence in Bury St Edmunds, the investment in this new purpose-built site reflects the success of our premium brands in the global marketplace,” said Stephen Bird, Group CEO. “We’re very proud of the outstanding accomplishments of our people and our products, and

he Vitec Group’s Production Solutions Division has opened a new facility, on a new site in Bury St Edmunds, UK, a town where The new 66,000 square foot Vitec Production Solutions UK headquarters is the latest achievement in Vitec’s ongoing investment in Bury St Edmunds and in British engineering and manufacturing. Employing close to 200 people, the new facility is the design home of the company’s teleprompting and broadcast camera they have been since 1964.

ABOVE Supporting its positive view of the future, Vitec Group has opened a new UK HQ.






people of Vitec Production Solutions and the broader Bury St Edmunds community.” The official opening celebration included key company and community representatives such as Elaine Vinten, the wife of Bill Vinten (son of Vinten founder William Vinten); members of Vitec’s Board of Directors and leadership team; Bury St Edmunds community figures; contracting companies for the new facility’s design and construction; and current and former staff members.

Of the new opening, Alan Hollis, Divisional CEO, Vitec Production Solutions, commented, “Through the years, our people have been our greatest asset and the real reason our brands have remained at the cutting edge of innovation. Our new divisional headquarters has been designed to reflect our people-centric approach, with workspaces focused on communication and collaboration. I would like to congratulate the cross- functional team that has made the move a success, all of the fantastic

process. Over the ensuing decades, W Vinten Ltd would go on to invent and commercialise groundbreaking cameras and, later, camera supports, cranes, dollies and pan-tilt camera heads. Early on, the BBC standardised on Vinten equipment, a partnership that remains strong today. The company relocated to Bury St Edmunds in the mid-1960s and later changed its name to The Vitec Group. The Vinten name lives on as a leading manufacturer of manual and robotic camera support systems and accessories.

ABOVE Keeping it in the family: Elaine Vinten officially opens Vitec’s new facility.




AVATAR CHOOSES VENICE Avatar director announces new Sony camera for new sequels

ony chose Cine Gear Expo to announce that director James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment will use their


new Venice motion picture camera system for principal photography on the upcoming Avatar sequels, with the first one slated for 2020. Production on the movies has already started as part of the huge motion capture which the movies are well known for. As with their relationship previously with ARRI, the new Sony Venice will be a highly customized camera system where the head is removed from the rest of the body. A conceptual camera system was being shown on Sony’s booth at the Expo (see picture, below). “The Venice camera delivers the most astonishing image I’ve ever seen,” said Avatar Director James Cameron, “The blacks are rich, deep and velvety, the highlights and source lights are amazingly bright. For the

with no degradation in image quality. For the upcoming Avatar sequels, multiple Venice cameras will be paired in various 3D stereoscopic rigs. Using the new Sony cabling system, the only part of the Venice carried on the rig will be the image sensor optical blocks, reducing on-board camera weight to about three pounds per sensor block. By lowering the weight and improving ergonomics, Cameron and the Lightstorm team will have the ability to shoot with greater flexibility and freedom. The Avatar sequels will be among the first feature films to use the new Venice extension, but it also has potential for wider use with handheld Steadicams, drones and gimbals, and remote mounting in confined places. This new extension system is part of Sony’s new version 2 firmware for Venice. Also announced is their plan for high frame rate support for the new camera system.

first time, we truly appreciate what the term High Dynamic Range means.” Principal photography on the Avatar sequels using Venice is expected to begin first quarter of 2019 although performance capture is underway now. The process is supported by a variety of additional Sony imaging technologies including multiple Alpha mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, PXW-Z450 and PXW-X320 camcorders and the compact RX0 camera. The production is also using Sony’s F55 and Alpha cameras to record behind- the-scenes footage and stills. The Sony-Lightstorm collaboration began in 1999, resulting in the development of a unique extension system allowing the camera body to detach from the actual image sensor block. A similar approach has been adopted for Venice, with each sensor and camera body connected by a cable at distances of up to 20 feet

IMAGES The new Sony Venice motion picture camera will bring the world of Pandora to life like never before.




Acquisition may be a niche market, but it’s a growing one. Cine Gear is the trade show to go to if you want to knowmore THE GREAT OUTDOORS


Definition managed to bend the arm of the locals by offering free slush puppies and complementary sunglasses as long as you picked up a copy of the magazine – not too much to ask. But there was more. With more than 500 very orange Definition badged sunglasses to give away, we devised a competition: take a selfie with the shades on, post it on social media with the hashtag #defshadesla and for a chance to win one of several hard drives from G-Technology and Lacie – thanks to them. Well, America, you certainly love a competition and rose to the occasion with some brilliant pictures, just check the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. THE SHOW With only two days and hundreds of exhibitors who are all part of the Definition remit to visit, we had to be selective. Alphabetically speaking we start with ARRI . As part of our research in to the shooting and general production of Solo: A Star Wars Story , we were on the hunt for the now famed DNA glass that persuaded DOP Bradford Young to stop searching for his lens choice. It was there on ARRI’s booth, even the 50mm that initially persuaded Bradford to look no further than this glass which allowed him to

t was Definition magazine’s first official turn as an exhibitor at Cine Gear Expo, the show that persuaded RED cameras to abandon its revolutionary lab-like booth at NAB to meet and greet fans in the timeless backlot of Paramount Pictures. RED was there with its slimmed down range of cameras on a big stand, but more of that later. It is not only RED who has recognised this show as having the magic combination that brings out the acquisition crowd, but what’s the draw? Well, there is the convenience of Paramount with its exclusive fake New York streets and eateries, the glamour of operating in such a hub of film and TV production and the weather – well once the ‘June gloom’ had dispersed. Unfortunately, due to Paramount production reasons, the stands had to be stretched out this year making the journey from the New York streets to a couple of sound stages more of a hike than a stroll, not a huge problem, especially for sun- starved Brits. Healthy crowds on both days of the Expo initiated talk of a third day. It seemed like a great idea but one that was countered by exhibitors who thought a two-day show concentrated the mind enough to get the job done.

‘play in the shadows’ of this darkened Star Wars story. Anton Bauer was showing its new battery range with the Dionic XT90 and 150. We had an entertaining demo and picked up one of Anton’s smartphone batteries, but the best impressions are from customers and this is what wildlife filmmaker and photographer Bertie Gregory said from the remote island of South Georgia, Antarctica: “The three things that stand out for me about the Dionic XTs are that they work really well in the cold (and it’s extremely cold here), they have great power capacity, and they allow me to save weight and space.” Oliver from Cinefade was showing a new product evolved from the company’s magic filter, which allows you to change depth-of-field while keeping a constant exposure. The new product gives you the

THIS PAGE The Anti Gravity Cam with Segway and ARRI’s DNA glass as used on Solo: A Star Wars Story.





a new sensor block for only $2500, slight downside was you don’t get all the frame rates. Chapman Leonard braved the non-shaded outside location with its fantastic range of support and dollies where I found that dollies were first used to load bombs on Second World War aircraft. Chapman Leonard also won the best show accessory with its full surround wicker hats (actually, make that second best in our opinion, to our sunglasses!). The Carl Zeiss booth was all about its new Supreme large-format lenses. Early adopter Balazs Bolygo commented: “What I really like is that the lenses have a beautiful gentle roll- off on the focus while still retaining the resolution demanded by these higher pixels count cameras. They also aid achieving maximum detail in the highlights and due to their ‘micro- contrast’ coating also help to achieve

Cinefade effect but is also a variable ND filter; you can dial in the level of ND that you want so you don’t have to continuously change a filter, also good for remote set-ups on cranes for instance and Steadicams. With Oliver on C-Motion ’s stand, it was the perfect opportunity to eye its new cvision focus assist system, which uses a stereo based measurement tool that measures hundreds of thousands of points per second. The 62˚ field of view allows you to measure key points on set and even track subjects before they come into frame. The demo quickly attracted a bunch of focus pullers who joked (well, half-joked) that their jobs were in danger. Canon ’s stand was concentrating on its new C700 FF camera, which has entered the large-format world with its non-standard sized new sensor. As a show promotion Canon was offering to update your C700 with

maximum tonal separation in the high to mid lows.” Cineo Lighting celebrated its local show with a great booth featuring a huge NBCUniversal Lightblade image. Apart from its own gear, Aladdin Lighting had its distributed lines including Zylight ; the company manages to distribute lighting products as well as selling its own, which is a pretty unique position. They were showing their Fabric-Lite, a 3x3 foot LED panel that folds up for packing and manipulation, with all controls on an outboard box.

THIS PAGE Oliver from Cinefade with the company’s latest product, and C-Motion’s new cvision focus assist system.





Tube lighting is on the increase with new ones from Kino Flo , called FreeStyle LED tubes, for use in 4Bank, double and single fixtures and for stage design lighting. It features the same lighting management with RGBW and True Match white as the company’s FreeStyle 41, 31 and 21, Diva light range and the Celeb range. The FreeStyle 41 is a narrower and longer version of the 31. Other tubes come from Quasar Science with its Rainbow light (reviewed in this issue on page 63); Digital Sputnik with its Voyager and Astera ’s AX1 PixelTube. The AX1 is a pixel controllable tube with wireless DMX, long battery life and is app controllable. Hive Lighting was showing its cute line of stinging insect derived lighting including Bee, Hornet and Wasp. The Hornet 200-C uses only 150 watts, which rates as equivalent to a 650–1000W incandescent and 2.5 times brighter than the original Wasp

100-C. This, the company claims, makes it the brightest single point colour changing LED in the world. In the New York street setting, CW Sonderoptics team was looking for all the world like an F1 team, in natty red shorts and white shirts. All its superb lenses were on show, including the new Thalia range, ready for the large-format shooting explosion. On the opposite side of the street, which you’d recognise from the Austin Powers movies, Duclos Lenses ’ Matthew was showing his new Duclos 1.7x Expander, the saviour of the S35mm lenses intended for use in large-format cinematography. The Expander effectively increases the image circle of the taking lens, providing a narrower field of view but with great image quality. If you wanted a relief from the heat and also a quick tune-up of your Fujifilm XT camera you could visit the Fujinon booth and get a sensor clean and a general service of your camera – all day, every day. While you waited you could check out all the new cine lenses. The Global Cinematography Institute (globalcinematography. com) isn’t as scary as it sounds with its monthly education programme for cinematography. These are courses based on sound stages with professionals lending their experience and wisdom.

IO Industries was showing its Flare camera as part of a volumetric capture system. The camera offers a Raw signal and a size that allows for over 100 units to fit this type of new capture. MK-V Omega launched and demo’ed its new VR set simulation. This is a way of using film equipment on set without being there – but it’s not a gimmick. You can actually practise with equipment from Techno cranes to dollies and you can even import your own virtual sets so initiating gear set-ups before you get on the real set is a possibility. Like a video game you can also practise and rehearse with other crew members or trainees. At the show if you donned a VR headset you could use real crane wheels to rehearse moves. At the booth Disney Academy used the tool

ABOVE In the VR driving seat with MK-V Omega’s new VR set simulator.

BELOW No sting in the tail: Claiming to be the brightest single point colour changing LED in the world, Hive Lighting’s Hornet






the intricacies of the RED product line so streamlining it made sense for us, whether it does for existing customers, we’re not sure. If you haven’t heard, here’s the topline: there will be one DSMC2 camera BRAIN with three sensor options: MONSTRO 8K VV, HELIUM 8K S35 and GEMINI 5K S35. The single DSMC2 camera BRAIN includes high-end frame rates and data rates regardless of the sensor chosen. The great news is that this streamlined approach will result in a price reduction compared to RED’s previous camera line-up. Finally, Sony was obviously ready for its Avatar sequels announcement as some of the indigenous folks from Pandora were available for press calls. James Cameron had designed a remote camera system based on the Venice full-frame camera as he has done with camera systems before. Sony also revealed details of Venice firmware v2 with, amongst other features, Dual base ISO – with 15+ stops of exposure latitude supporting high base ISO of 2500 in addition to the existing ISO 500; a selection of off-speed fps in individual frame increments; several imager modes, 25p in 6K Full-Frame, 25p in 4K 4:3 Anamorphic, 6K 17:9, 1.85:1 and 4K 6:5 Anamorphic and now users can remove the PL mount and use a wide assortment of native E-mount lenses.

LEFT Art in motion, Panavision’s art installation took shape over the Expo’s two days. ABOVE The newly created Panavision DXL-M accessory kit, designed to work with RED’s DSMC2 camera.

and saw how useful it would be for its students. You could definitely see this working for a particular scene that needs careful rehearsal, for instance; everyone becomes a player from their own workstation including the director. You could see producers seeing this as a possible budget saving when costing out days on set. In Panavision ’s backyard you’d expect a big showing and you wouldn’t have been disappointed with product launches, ‘merch’ competitions and even an art installation. Four new large-format lens sets were on display. Primo X is the first cinema lens range specially designed for use on drones and gimbals. They are fully sealed, weatherproof and counterbalanced to be aerodynamic and come in two primes – 14mm (T3.1) and 24mm (T1.6) – and one 24-70mm zoom (T2.8), and they’ll be available next year. H Series is a traditionally designed spherical lens set created with vintage glass and coating. These lenses offer slightly elevated blacks for softer contrast. Also available next year, Ultra Vista is a series of large-format anamorphic optics. Using a custom 1.6x squeeze, Ultra Vista covers the full height of the 8K sensor in the DXL and presents an ultra-widescreen 2.76:1 aspect

ratio along. And finally, PanaSpeed is a large-format update of the classic Primo look. Panavision also showed the newly created DXL-M accessory kit, designed to work with RED DSMC2 cameras. DXL-M brings the popular features of DXL to RED MONSTRO, GEMINI and HELIUM sensors, such as the DXL menu system, LiColor2, motorised lenses, wireless time code (ACN) and the Primo HDR viewfinder. It’ll be available in Q4. Talking about RED , the company’s announcement pre Cine Gear certainly took people by surprise. We always wondered about

BELOW LEFT RED’s DSMC2 BRAIN with the HELIUM 8K S35 sensor, one of the three now available with the BRAIN as part of the new streamlining. BELOW RIGHT Far from feeling blue, Sony announced Avatar sequels.




WORDS ADAM DUCKWORTH THE DATA REVOLUTION Faster and bigger hard drives that keep your data safe from prying eyes are becoming reality

“We have seen an exponential rise in the amount of data created,” he said. “Things have been changing so rapidly. At first 720p was the big deal, then 1080p, and now 4K, 8K and VR goggles – soon there will be 8K and beyond screens. The data sets have been exploding.” SECURITY With lots of data being moved around, security is becoming a problem. The massive amount of data for things like Hollywood movies is vast, so can’t be stored on the cloud. That means hard drives with very important and often sensitive data are often being shipped around on portable hard drives –

storage industry, Tim Bucher, who is senior vice president of Seagate consumer solutions, and who looks after all the external hard drive products made by Seagate and its extended family of companies such as LaCie. With the Seagate group being one of the two big global companies involved in making hard drives and flash storage from its HQ in Cupertino, Tim understands not just what filmmakers want and what they will need in the future, but also the requirements of other users of data, from consumers on their mobile phones to Hollywood SFX specialists creating feature films.

t’s fair to say there has been an explosion in the amount of data we need to safely store and access, and this trend is set to not only continue but increase. With cameras chasing higher resolution up to 8K and beyond, and VR and multi- camera editing found everywhere, it’s no surprise that the amount of data we create is predicted to increase tenfold by the year 2025. That’s a huge amount of data, which all needs to be accessed at lightning-fast speed when being edited – and it needs to be kept safe and protected from those who want to access it without permission. That’s the view of one of the top men in the global hard drive and

ABOVE The LaCie 12big Thunderbolt 3 is available in capacities up to 120TB.





its new range of HAMR hard drives, which will begin shipping in huge numbers in 2019 in sizes over 20TB, with 40TB drives on the horizon. And the prediction is that 70% of all data will be stored on hard disks in future, despite the increase in SSDs. HAMR uses a new kind of media coating on each disk that allows data bits to become smaller and more densely packed than ever. A small laser diode attached to each recording head enables data to be written, and only uses a tiny amount of power without generating any increase in heat. “Price of storage has come down a lot. We recently unveiled our HAMR (Heat Assist Magnetic Recording) technology. With this you’ll have a 20TB single drive, and that’s just around the corner. It’s not a $100 situation at first but it will be in the future.”

LEFT Tim Bucher, SVP of Seagate

consumer solutions.

drives are still very important for us as SSDs have penetrated laptops. The capacity has gone down significantly in these laptops, so people buy an external drive for backup or the content they are creating. In future, we will continue to make HDDs and flash, but the key is performance. It’s not one 4K stream anymore, as when you’re editing you might have four 4K streams at the same time. That’s why you need fast transfer via Thunderbolt 3. The spec is 40GB/s but you don’t actually get that. It’s more like 2.8GB/s, which is plenty to stream multiple 4K and 8K streams for editing. It’s not capacity – performance is becoming a more dominant variable.” HUGE SSD But Seagate is also focusing on capacity. It recently showed off a 60TB SSD, heralded as the world’s biggest at the time. And at the NAB show in Las Vegas this year it had 104 SSDs Raided together for a staggering one petabyte of storage. That’s 1024 terabytes. And these aren’t just any SSD drives, but very high-quality ones. Not all drives are created equal, explains Tim. “Flash drives have a finite life but it depends on the quality of the flash. We have Enterprise flash SSDs and we have consumer SSDs. I wouldn’t store my Star Wars movie on a consumer SSD but the Enterprise class ones are fine,” he says. “You are limited to the number of writes on a SSD but that’s been changing quite a bit. We embrace both flash and HDD technologies and you will see more and more of both solutions coming out.” The future will not only be about SSD drives but also a new generation of more advanced and faster HDD hard drives that can handle much more data. The firm recently unveiled

which is why leaks can and have been happening. “These TV and movie data breaches are occurring as people ship large hard drives to colour correction and editing. These are billion-dollar issues for films such as Star Wars – to be able to secure those is really important,” says Tim. “To prevent such breaches we have launched the LaCie Rugged Secure hard drive, which has hardware encryption – you can make sure it is only shared with trusted sources.” So, even if the hard drive unit is disassembled, there will be no way to access the information on it without the passcode. “We will start rolling this out to all our hard drives – Enterprise technology we are bringing to our consumer and creative professional solutions,” says Tim. And for security of your data on location, the new LaCie Rugged Raid Pro has two separate drives inside a Raid formation. So if one of the drives should fail, the other still has a safe copy of your work. In terms of performance, Seagate is now driving forward in its development of ever-faster and reliable SSDs thanks to its recently- announced deal to be part of the group acquiring Toshiba. “We’re going even deeper into the flash business,” says Tim. “Hard


LaCie’s newRugged RAID Pro 4TB not only gives protection against harsh environments thanks to its tough build and rubber coating, but also offers a built-in RAID to protect data due to two separate hard drives inside. It also comes with an integrated SD card reader, and a USB-C connector compatible with Thunderbolt 3 connections and USB 3.0. LaCie is so confident of its products, the RAID Pro 4TB includes a three-year warranty with data recovery services and a one-month Adobe All-Apps plan featuring Adobe Premier Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator CC and more. With speeds of up to 240MB/s in RAID 0 and RAID, the drive will cost £319/$349. LaCie also has the Rugged Secure drive, which allows you to transport your data and keep it protected from unauthorised access via self-encrypted technology. It’s USB-C, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt 3 compatible and costs £139/$139 for a 2TB version. The firmalso launched Collective, an online community bringing together creative professionals to share ideas and hone their skills by collaboratingwith like-minded filmmakers and industry experts. The site hosts a select group of experts who will nurture talent by providing content and feedback during their residency.









The techniques of shooting TV episodics are being refined by some very experienced crew. Netflix’s Lost in Space is a great example WORDS JULIAN MITCHELL IMAGES NETFLIX

“From my experience on Game Of Thrones , the overall style of the piece emanates more from the content than the way we photographed it,” says Sam. “You try and allow the script and story to define the style of what you end up doing. You’d think that if you put a dozen episodes of Game Of Thrones back to back that they would end up looking very similar. We were given carte blanche on that show as directors and cinematographers so the characters within those stories were also defining the style. “I really like that way of working as you don’t go in paying homage to anything or referencing any other content. You may use some material as a tonal reference but then let the script dictate how everything was photographed. For instance, in the pilot and the second episode of Lost in Space we kept the camera very static to let the family introduce themselves in their new environment. New planet, new ship and the rest. This allows the audience to take everything in, so there wasn’t a lot of handheld; in fact we kept well

he TV and movie business is also a people business – something DOP Sam McCurdy can attest to, as his star has risen alongside that of his friend, Director Neil Marshall. These two Newcastle lads started out shooting and directing some quite dark material, with adult-oriented drama including Dog Soldiers , The Descent , Centurion and a stint on Game Of Thrones before Netflix commissioned them to take on the heavy lifting on Lost in Space , a more family-friendly show. “I hadn’t really done any family drama,” says Sam on being faced with filming the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ in space. “But we knew we weren’t afraid of going dark in the style of maybe Jurassic Park or some of the later Harry Potter movies. We wanted to push that family limit but not too far.” Netflix itself was very keen to keep the show family friendly but with an edge. It is their first attempt at that kind of science fiction, a story that was very much about the characters and their journeys. It had to be family based but still gripping.





underpinned by certain disciplines in shooting. Sam’s experience crosses features and television so he is ideally placed to comment on the differences in shooting. “You take on something like Lost in Space and you get that immediate feeling of having to get a lot of coverage to be able to cut it down to fit into a certain slot,” he explains. “But it is different with Netflix as you’re not stuck making room for commercial breaks; you can make your single hour just an hour or an hour and two minutes. You’re also allowed to shoot it the way you want to shoot it, you don’t have to over- cover your shots. “Having discipline in the way you shoot automatically can give you a sense of style. Generally, we purposely stayed away from handheld, we stayed away from Steadicam. The camera only moved when people moved in shot; as we were in nice big open spaces we were more prone to keep a frame open and let the action happen within it. Then when it came to coverage we made that conscious effort of saying if we’re out on a wide shot, it’s single camera unless there’s a second wide that is offering something interesting. All our coverage from then

away from it as we didn’t want to disorientate people but wanted to keep everyone grounded and enjoying the setting. Only as the series progressed could it get a little bit frantic, a bit more edgy – we could change the drama of the camera work. “By the time you got to episode ten, where it’s mass panic in space, you could then take it up a notch or two and play a lot of it handheld. You’ve seen the landscape and the environment and we felt by then we could take the audience somewhere else. For me it was really challenging, we knew we wanted a feature film look and would try not to deviate often from that. We all understood that TV now is watched on a variety of devices but at the same time needs to remain exciting to watch. But we never wanted to lose that sense of scale and that sense of being somewhere very different. It was always a fine balance of big close-ups because of the television factor but also one of being with the family all the time.” TV VERSUS FILM COVERAGE This insight into how the specialist episodic crews tune their work to appeal to viewer’s habits is

would physically move in so it wasn’t about bringing lenses from a distance trying to get coverage. “So other than when we were getting into heavy drama we would be out on 12s, 17s for the wide shot but then we would physically move into the next size. Nine times out of ten that would be around the 32 or 40 mark; we probably never really went any longer than 65mm, that would only be if the ‘B’ camera was picking up profile work. I personally didn’t work with any zooms even when we were on cranes. We tried to make it work within fixed lenses. This gave us a discipline to work with as well as the actors having a similar discipline. “Staying away from the Steadicam where you tend to follow everything indiscriminately was part of that discipline, we’d plot and plan things through on a Dolly and Dance floor to make sure everything was structured properly. For me it made a big difference because it instils a little bit

ABOVE The pilot and early episodes introduce the family

to the viewer. BELOW As the

series progresses, things get darker.





source within the spacecraft itself, within all of the rooms off the main spacecraft. Pretty much every set we had, we came up with a lighting plan that worked within Ross’ production design. “I had complete control over everything. For instance around the outside of the main hub of the spaceship there was a kind of a tramway lighting system around the whole circumference. We fitted, in four foot sections, RGB LEDs and bi-colour LEDs and every single section of the four foot panels was controllable back to us via an iPad. So I had complete control of colour, density, weight; in fact everything within the spaceship. This included the control panels so we could have them as bright as we wanted, we could have them flicker, go into emergency mode, we could do almost anything we wanted in the ship. For me it was kind of like having a massive rig but it was basically just fixtures and fittings

of that filmmaking procedure on set. I love digital but sometimes you do lose some of that old school precision. It’s great that everyone was on board to do it properly, to block something through and allow everyone to see it so that we know what we’re doing rather than that very quick blocking then set up some cameras and see what we get. Hopefully it gave it a sense of personality over and above some other similar episodics.” PRODUCTION LIGHTING One of the first conversations that Sam had was with Ross Dempster, the production designer and Todd Lapp the gaffer, so he could design a suitable lighting approach. “I had said to Todd that to design the lighting on the main set I’d love it if I didn’t bring one light on to the set. Between the three of us we came up with a system that we could put into all of Ross’ fixtures and fittings which included all of the control panels, the main lighting






I GOT TO THE POINT WHERE I LITERALLY DIDN’T BRING A LIGHT ON TO THE SET that I had complete control of. Because we had that control, all I did when we went in for coverage was actually turn things off for shaping. I was literally going in there with diffusion frames and negative. All we ever did was augment backgrounds from outside the ship; so we would put a bit of hard sun in the background or a moonlit night or overcast day. “I got to the point where I literally didn’t bring a light on to the set. That gave us all unbelievable freedom and it gave it its own sense of style and looked like it was practically lit. This makes the look a lot more natural like recent science fiction such as Rogue One and the recent Marvel movies. Sci-fi movies from the nineties were over-lit but that wasn’t particularly a bad thing, we’ve just moved on now with these incredible sensors. You can virtually light people with monitors that are on the wall for more intimate scenes. “It was fantastic and something I could never have done even a few years ago. It lends itself to a much more natural and easier approach for everybody. We could even tweak the colours in a scene when you thought somebody’s skin tone wasn’t quite right or not the same as the day before, out in the sun for instance. You can warm up or cool down a skin tone back in line with everyone else in the scene.”

afford shooting on anamorphic lenses, but we wanted an anamorphic-like flare. So we positioned the filter in the top third of the shot or maybe top eighth of the shot. Then Todd the gaffer would run a torch up and down the side of the mattebox just to accentuate the flares every once in a while, JJ Abrams-like. “We didn’t want everything to be so clear and sharp; something like flare lends more atmosphere. You’re just taking the edge off things and making it a bit cosier.” CAMERA AND LENSES When Lost in Space was planned the Netflix edict for only 4K cameras to be used for their productions was in full flow so Sam had to look at non-ARRI options. Sam had always been a big fan of RED cameras and the Helium sensor had just come out. Up to that point the camera had only shot big features and this Netflix episodic was its first TV job. “We had RED send a couple of Heliums up to Panavision as we loved the look,” says Sam. “Then for the lenses we chose the Leica Summiluxes. We went with them primarily because I had used them a number of times and found that you could literally get three or four different looks depending on the stop that you could allow yourself. “When you stop the lenses down to around T2.8 it starts taking on a kind of Master Prime feel to it. It gets a little sharper, the blacks get a little deeper so we used different stops a lot especially in the spaceship as I had that control over the lighting so could gain a stop or two – we were even able to shoot some high speed inside the ship. It also helped with close-ups to be able to put a little more light in there and bring the stop up to maybe 2.5 from a 1.6.”

Sam was using ARRI SkyPanels as their main daylight source but for the fixture and fittings they made their own sources. “We built these RGB and bi-colour wands which were 12 to 18 inches long and were just wooden cones that we wrapped the LED lights around. These would run wirelessly with their own power supply so we could hide them anywhere. We used them as accent lights, occasionally as beauty lights because you could get them to a low level. We’d also use them as flare lights. Something I’d done in the past was to take a set of blue streak filters, and we couldn’t

IMAGES Sam’s approach to lighting gives the series a modern, natural sci-fi look.




MATCHING THE MASTERS More great cinematography fromUK series Vera. This time DOP Stephen Murphy talks about using Fujinon zooms to enhance Master Prime glass

s we’ve mentioned before in Definition , the UK drama series Vera has become a hotbed for superb cinematography. Series

close-ups with a 4x4 key light, usually a Kino Flo four-feet 4tube through a frame of Lee 129 using a DOP Choice Snap Grid to keep the light off the walls. I’d usually add a light amount of atmosphere too. I’m not a huge fan of LED lights so I try to favour larger HMI or Tungsten Fresnels outside the set with smaller lamps and practicals indoors.” NARRATIVE GLASS Stephen and his director had definite ideas for focal lengths to make the most of the Vera personality but also used an old but tried-and-tested movie technique using Fujinon telephoto lenses. “For our interior coverage the director (Paul Gay) and I found a very nice visual language relying primarily on a 25mm for our wide shots and moving physically closer on a 40mm for our close ups. While we did use other focal lengths when needed, that initial limited lens choice gave us a visual core that worked incredibly well and gave a very consistent, classical visual style. “For our exterior coverage I had something slightly different in mind. I had wanted to carry a set of

eight particularly had some amazing examples, including episode one, shot by Stephen Murphy. Episode one was a grisly tale from the off, involving a blackened body found in an abattoir incinerator; perhaps it’s no wonder Stephen wanted to darken the mood. “I wanted this season opener to have a darker, moodier feeling to it,” he says. “It had some very visual locations right from the start, with the abattoir, the seaside landscapes, the moors... so I was aiming for a Scandi-Noir version of Northern England. “I tried to keep most of the interiors feeling like they were lit from a large single source outside the windows, letting the light fall off very naturally inside. To achieve this, I’d usually work with Gaffer extraordinaire Tony Cook to use large HMIs (18K HMI Fresnels and ARRI M90s) pushed through layers of Day-Grey muslin, sometimes double diffused through an additional layer of Lee 129 Heavy Soft Frost. If necessary I’d supplement







COUNTRYSIDE CHARACTER As other DOPs have found, the landscape from the Vera series almost begs you to use it as a character but Stephen would take it one step further using the Fujinon zooms. “The visual relationship between location and character is always particularly important to me. Newcastle upon Tyne, where the show is shot, is full of incredible landscapes, both natural and urban, and myself and Paul both wanted to let the show breath as much as we could by finding interesting wide shots to contextualise the drama. Using these longer Fujinon zooms at a great distance instead of a more traditional wide angle lens just helped to enhance that cinematic quality. “The added benefit of the Fujinon zooms was we could work a little quicker in certain locations. For example we had one sequence set on a beach against the backdrop of a fast-approaching tide. We had a very narrow shooting window because of tide times. We had to work extremely quickly and efficiently and the zooms really helped us in that regard. I used both the 24-180mm and the 75-400mm with a 2x doubler to

long telephoto zooms with me to compliment the Master Primes I was using so I tested and then used the Fujinon HK Premier 24-180mm and 75-400mm, both of which are a great match for Zeiss and Leica glass. I had an idea their range and compact size would be useful in several locations, but I also wanted to try shooting our exterior wide shots on a longer than usual focal length, to try and compress the backdrops, and give a slightly more dramatic look to the city and some of the landscapes we would be shooting. “The character of the Fujinon zooms was a nice match to the Master Primes particularly in terms of their contrast, sharpness and how they rendered colours, especially all the delicate shades of grey blue in the sea in our coastal locations. The 75-400mm was surprisingly small for such a long focal length zoom, especially compared to something like the Hawk 150-450mm which is a similar focal range. The smaller size and weight of the lenses helped to keep us light on our feet which is a distinct advantage on any busy TV drama schedule.”

compress the background, making it feel like the incoming tide was closer than it actually was. The effect on the 400mm (800mm) was fantastic. The telephoto style worked brilliantly to enhance the drama of this scene and the practical aspect of working on zooms helped us dramatically with our schedule. “Using longer lenses for wide shots is a well-used technique that’s been popular since Tony and Ridley Scott started making commercials. It’s still very popular in features but doesn’t seem to get used as much

IMAGES The character of the Fujinon zooms was ideal for capturing the grey blue shades of the coastal locations.




approach, gave me a beautiful creamy result. Soft light that was flattering and moody along with a snappy image. “In keeping with our classical shooting style we let the actors guide our use of camera movement, with little to no extraneous camera movement. My brilliant key grip Ben Moseley kept all of the moves very precise and almost invisible, and I tend to favour either an Arri Head or an older O’Connor 2575 fluid head which helps with that too. Occasional Steadicam days were operated by the always brilliant John Hembrough whose work is so solid that it matches what we were doing on the dolly absolutely perfectly. “Our director has a great eye and worked really hard to find locations with interesting visual character. The working men’s club was one of my favourites. It looked fantastic from almost every angle, required little to no dressing and I fell in love with the colours (and the low roof!) as soon as I saw it. I think it was my favourite location. I swapped out all the practicals and again relied on

in TV drama, at least in this country anyway. I used it quite a bit on season four of Line of Duty but with a more mobile camera. Here I thought it would work well with the gentler, more considered framing we were using. It’s interesting because when you’re in some of the great locations that the north east of the UK offers, the first instinct would be to lean towards wider lenses to try and capture them but I found using longer focal lengths with the Fujinons at a distance offered a viewpoint that was a little different, and worked well for us.” FILTER FLAVOURS “I tend to use a lot of glass filters, usually to change the quality of the lenses I’m using and fine tune the images to my tastes. In this case I was using a picture of Tiffen Low Con, Smoque and 812 filters throughout most of the shoot. The combination of the contrast from the Zeiss Master Primes and the Fujinon zooms, mixed with the softness of my filter package and the single source lighting


IMAGES Stephen used a lot of glass filters to change the quality of the lenses he was using and fine tune the images to his taste.



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