Definition August 2024 - Web

Magnopus take us inside Fallout’s bleeding edge virtual production, three of the world’s top aerial DOPs share insights, and technicians take us through the process of rehousing vintage cinema lenses. Plus Baby Reindeer DOP Krzysztof Trojnar takes us through his approach to lighting and lensing the show, Bridgerton’s costume designers reveal how they brought the show’s sumptuous aesthetic to life and lots more.






PLUS BTS ON BABY REINDEER, BRIDGERTON, QUEENIE & MORE! Discover how Magnopus brought Fallout’s post-apocalyptic universe to vivid life, blending 35mm film with cutting-edge virtual production techniques VIRTUAL VISIONARIES

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EDITORIAL Editor in chief Nicola Foley

Senior staff writer Katie Kasperson Chief sub editor Matthew Winney Sub editor Minhaj Zia Junior sub editor Molly Constanti Editorial director Roger Payne Contributors Adrian Pennington, Phil Rhodes ADVERTISING Sales director Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 Sales manager Emma Stevens 01223 499462 | +447376665779 DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Magazine design manager Lucy Woolcomb Junior designer Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman Junior designer and ad production Holly May PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck Bright Publishing LTD Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridgeshire, CB22 3HJ, UK Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge, CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.

F ollowing the success of The Last of Us , Amazon Studios’ Fallout has once again demonstrated the immense potential of live-action video game adaptations. Depicting a future US ravaged by nuclear war, this sprawling sci-fi series is a visual feast, blending kitsch fifties Americana with post-apocalyptic wastelands, feral ghouls and mutant monsters. During the making of it, a unique intersection of 35mm film and virtual production brought novel technical challenges – from syncing the film camera with the LED walls to colour-matching the real and virtual worlds. AJ Sciutto, director of VP at Magnopus, talks us through the process on page 6. Following that, Stage Precision shares how its software facilitated an innovative workflow on the series, ensuring the production ran smoothly. We also hear from Baby Reindeer DOP Krzysztof Trojnar, who shares his approach to lighting and lensing the show, plus colourist Simon Bourne, who discusses his role in shaping the visual signature. Elsewhere, we sit down with Nathalie Pitters, DOP on Channel 4’s Queenie , while Bridgerton ’s costume designers reveal how they brought the show’s sumptuous aesthetic to life on page 44. In our last issue, we learnt about the ins and outs of creating compelling driving sequences using virtual production, and this month, we’re continuing the series with a look at how to nail skyscapes. Hear what experts from MARS Volume and Dimension had to say on page 14. Also taking to the skies – real rather than virtual this time – are three incredible aerial DOPs: John Marzano, Dylan Goss and Jeremy Braben, who share stories of the high life over on page 24. We also delve into the process of lens rehousing, discovering how skilled technicians give vintage glass a new lease of life on page 34. Enjoy the issue and see you next month!

Editor in chief










44 BRIDGERTON The show’s costume designers on blending history and fantasy 48 QUEENIE DOP Nathalie Pitters talks collaboration and creative problem-solving on-set 54 IN SHORT Director Vika Evdokimenko reveals all about her short film Truth Serum 56 POST-PRODUCTION The magic of visual effects work on Avatar: The Last Airbender 58 ROUND TABLE A look at the future of production workflows with industry experts 68 MANAKI BROTHERS Definition chats to the director of the acclaimed North Macedonia festival 72 TOOLKIT A whistle-stop tour of the best new gear on the market


06 FALLOUT We dive into the cutting-edge virtual production techniques on the show 12 WORKFLOW WONDERS Stage Precision shares details of Fallout ’s innovative workflow 14 SKY’S THE LIMIT Experts from MARS Volume and more offer tips for creating VP skyscapes 20 BABY REINDEER DOP Krzysztof Trojnar talks us through lensing this disturbing thriller 24 THE HIGH LIFE Three incredible aerial DOPs share stories and tips from lofty careers 34 CLASSICS REBORN Learn how vintage lenses are given a new lease of life through rehousing 43 TAKE TWO In this month’s nostalgia trip, we revisit animated classic The Iron Giant




© Amazon MGM Studios




WORDS Phil Rhodes IMAGES Amazon Content Services LLC




A s virtual production has become a better-understood part of filmmaking, the vast set-ups which sparked so much early interest are often less common than facilities sized for cars and interviews. But Amazon’s production of Fallout needed some elbow room. LA-based studio Magnopus helped build a stage with enough space to do the job – and to suit the production’s ambitions to shoot 35mm film. Magnopus’ director of VP, AJ Sciutto, had already worked with Kilter Films on Season 4 of Westworld . His involvement first began when the series was still in development, “when only the pilot had

been written,” he recalls. “Creatively, we offered some guidance on the best use of VP, then worked with the filmmakers to analyse the scripts, so we could identify scenes and environments which would gain the most from in-camera visual effects,” he elaborates. The stage built for Fallout would have a hybrid layout, with curved and straight sections, measuring 75x100ft overall. “It combined the lighting benefits of a curved volume with the flexibility of flat wall sections for longer walk-and-talk scenes,” Sciutto points out. As plenty of nascent facilities have found throughout the history of filmmaking, a building

Fallout’s speculative future called for a host of spectacular environments. We discover how cutting-edge virtual production techniques played a vital part




MAMA MURPHY’S LAW Syncing 35mm with LED walls was key to making Fallout work

with uninterrupted space would be a concern. “Finding a suitable stage near the Brooklyn base of the production was a challenge, though we ultimately built the volume in Bethpage, Long Island,” he says. Fallout ’s LED wall was built using ROE Black Pearl 2V2 panels, controlled by Brompton Tessera SX40 processors. “For tracking,” Sciutto adds, “we used the Stype RedSpy cameras and the Stype Follower system for objects.” The facility’s servers, meanwhile, are packaged up in a shipping container, built out by Fuse to provide 12 4K outputs to drive the LED wall, and another six for wild walls to be positioned for specific set-ups. “It’s all operated by six operator stations in mission control,” Sciutto continues. “From our team, 37 people worked on Fallout over the full season. We had 19 artists building virtual sets, six operators running the Unreal nDisplay system – with others handling camera tracking, lighting programming and overall production supervision.” With the technical set-up in place, Sciutto and his team could move on to design. The economics of VP have always worked best on shows which might otherwise have relied on upscale set builds, as it was on Fallout . “We collaborated closely with production designer Howard Cummings and his art directors to determine what would be built physically versus virtually. With the scale of the environments, replacing those with physical set builds would have required massive stages or locations,” Sciutto highlights. 35mm had largely petered out in the 2010s, but Fallout is part of something of a revival. The intersection of 35mm film and VP, however, has been reasonably rare – though Sciutto immediately

understood the method. “It brought a distinctive aesthetic, an artistic grit and a layer of separation between the different elements of the wasteland. But it also presented technical challenges, such as syncing the film camera with the digital LED walls and ensuring colour consistency between physical and virtual elements.” Fallout was shot on ARRICAM ST, genlocked to the video wall systems, but matching colour between the real and virtual worlds took deeper thinking. Colour in VP is often an iterative process, but on 35mm that would be slower. “Part of commissioning an LED volume is ensuring a validated colour

pipeline,” Sciutto explains. “You start with the source content in Unreal, route it through the various equipment and display technologies, then finish with the captured imagery in-camera. The process of developing the film captured on our pre-light days created a three- day turnaround from shoot to review. The video tap on a film camera is meant for framing – not colour accuracy – so we used secondary digital camera systems, allowing our operators to have accurate data to dial against.” Sciutto and his group also worked closely with Fallout ’s lighting team on an image-based lighting set-up capable of reacting convincingly to alterations in the virtual world. “It allowed us to dynamically change the lighting in real time, such as during a scene where lights needed to turn on while Lucy was exiting an elevator in the vault door environment. That on- the-fly adjustment wouldn’t be possible without a synchronised lighting system.” The speculative future of Fallout called for a variety of spectacular





THE SCENE REQUIRED A lighting change MID- SHOT, FROM dusk to night ”

environments, one of which depicted an ersatz virtual environment system purportedly created with fifties tech. Built to give the dwellers of an underground refuge the impression of open skies, the system would project images of the natural world as a background to a subterranean field full of real crops. Sciutto describes it as ‘the wedding scene in the cornfield within Vault 33’. He adds: “The scene required a dynamic lighting change mid-shot, transitioning from dusk to nighttime, which was initiated by a narrative line from the Overseer. “Since we had two existing lighting set-ups – one for sunset and one for night – it was as easy as animating the moon asset to rise while transitioning between the two lighting environments,”

Sciutto reveals. “It was a great example of how VP can allow that kind of real-time environmental change.” Different techniques were called for when the projection system was required to fail during a scene Sciutto calls ‘the battle between Vault 33 and the surface dwellers’. “We incorporated a film-burn effect on the LED walls when the projectors were hit by gunfire. Our Houdini team built this effect based on research into the burning patterns of fifties film stock,” he explains. VP displays often have huge overall resolution, and Sciutto’s team had to build the necessary assets with that in mind. “Creating this imagery to spread across a dozen 4K outputs simultaneously through Unreal was challenging,” he recalls, “but




RAD-X RESULTS The blend of physical and virtual set builds enabled the creation of believable large-scale environments

with proper scene optimisation and updated EXR playback systems in Unreal, we created something visually stunning. Seeing this effect spread dynamically across the walls and affect the lighting of the physical set with orange light from the burning film added a lot to the intensity of the scene.” With Fallout enjoying a glowing reception from both audiences and critics, a second season is reportedly in the works. As so often, Sciutto isn’t in a position to hint at Magnopus’ future projects – but as VP settles into position as a mainstream production technique, new ideas continue to flow. The design and approval process is one place Sciutto sees opportunity for improvement. “We’re excited about WebGL and how it will allow filmmakers to enter their virtual environments as part of the development process, without needing technical assistance to deploy high-powered PCs and VR headsets.” That way, Sciutto goes on, the same assets might find new uses outside of production work. “The most interesting trait of web-based tools for 3D environment reviews is that the same technology can put audiences inside those finished environments once the show is completed and released.” There’s a certain symmetry to the idea of a television show based on a video game that might, in the end, donate its assets back to a real-time interactive experience.




I NS I DE FALLOUT’S UN I QUE WORKF LOW Stage Precision shares how it bridged the gap between traditional and virtual production

F allout ’s worldbuilding required the use of extensive virtual production technology to bring its environments to life on celluloid film for executive producer Jonathan Nolan. Creative design and VP studio partners All of it Now (AOIN) and Satore Studio consulted Nolan’s production team on their first time shooting in a large-scale 24K resolution in-camera VFX LED volume – and their toolset included deploying Stage Precision’s SP software as a versatile monitor to manage multiple tracked objects and cameras in the middle of the set. “Our goal was to blend background scenes generated using Unreal Engine and seen in-camera, with data from tracking systems attached to those same cameras to create a seamless production pipeline of visuals displayed on the LED screens in the volume,” begins Berto Mora, head of creative technology at AOIN. One of the main VP elements of the show focused on scenes featuring the Vertibird helicopter, set against a barren and post-nuclear wasteland backdrop. To achieve this, a hydraulic-powered Vertibird prop was placed in front of a collection of movable LED screens, displaying the desolate background and forming the physical basis of the shoot in the volume. AOIN and Fuse Technical Group customised Stype Follower tracking beacons to fit both the Vertibird prop and the volume’s movable LED carts. These beacons send their positional and rotational tracking data within the volume to Unreal Engine and Stage Precision simultaneously. As the Vertibird, film cameras and movable LED carts move around the volume, the tracking data must update the background LED content to the correct position and perspective relative to the helicopter doors and camera views.

Not only did SP provide a valuable tool for data validation and camera tracking, the AOIN crew leveraged SP’s data monitoring features to build an alert system in case of data issues. After importing 3D models of each screen, prop and camera model into SP, they programmed each model to light up green whenever there was good data transmission and red for any errors. “There is much data to be handled, so it was fantastic to bring it all into SP where we can check and monitor the statuses of our tracked systems,” says Neil Carman, technical director at AOIN. “Catching dropouts or errors in data means rectifying any issues before the production crew is aware, which is critical when downtime for troubleshooting on a film set can result in costly budget overruns. Traditional film crews hope their VP counterparts do not delay or intrude too much on their workflow. Stage Precision allows us to work in parallel with them instead of halting the whole production. Our post-production partners can also work faster knowing we have delivered fully informed tracking data recorded within SP instead of data unknowingly strewn with errors.”

TRACKING TOMORROW SP software’s role extended beyond tracking, acting as a tool for visualising complex shots




SP’s 3D viewport features to be pivotal in providing a visual reference to what was happening in the volume. AOIN built a 3D model of the volume, complete with Vertibird, cameras and movable LED screens to compose a bird’s-eye view of the action taking place within the studio. “Because both the set and volume were so large, we didn’t have a direct line of sight to what was going on during filming. SP gave us that visibility, which is beneficial not just to us, but also the other crew members less familiar with VP,” remarks Tupac Martir, founder and creative director at Satore. “When the DOP had questions about the position of the LED screens, we were able to use SP as a previsualisation tool to show him how he should block out his movements and lensing.” The AOIN team also capitalised on the collected data and 3D models to create a virtual tour of the set on a VR headset, and deployed AR tests to ensure the 3D space remained aligned with the physical set. Reflecting on the Fallout project, the AOIN team testify to the time-saving power of handling complex VP workflows in SP, and its ability to reduce downtime. “There are several people on-set, and navigating all of these moving parts can be challenging,” explains Carman. “We were fortunate to have SP in our toolkit on this project. Even though this was a new workflow for us, we realised we needed it once on-site. SP’s user interface made it easy and intuitive to roll out.” AOIN came to understand that the system they created in SP expedited the smooth operation of the volume and offered an extra layer of visibility which would not have previously been possible on a shoot of this scale. “The whole crew were appreciative of how smoothly the shoot went, and I believe that’s thanks to SP,” concludes Mora. “SP just keeps the production rolling.”

Extensive and time-consuming camera tracking calibration across different technologies was unified into SP, further saving time. Recalibration throughout the shoot could be run quickly and efficiently from the single source of truth in SP. “SP gave us the agility we needed to adjust on the fly,” continues Mora. “If we lost tracking at any point, we could unhook a camera from the data flow in the SP interface and move it to where it was meant to be in the workflow without needing to manually move cameras around.” With a unified tracking and data- monitoring workflow put in place, the AOIN and Satore teams also found

THE WHOLE CREW WERE APPRECIATIVE OF just how smoothly the shoot went ”




Adrian Pennington speaks to the experts, discovering how to create spectacular skyscapes using virtual production


W hether you want to golden-hour sunset, virtual production environments can deliver convincing, meteorologically accurate (or even science-fiction fantasy) skyscapes. Getting it right means ensuring you have chosen the right content pipeline for the project. “For a beautiful generic sunset, a 2D video playback content pipeline may be best,” explains Joanna Alpe, chief commercial officer at Bild Studios and MARS Volume. “You can capture this at high resolution with a camera and play it back with agility on fly among the clouds or capture the perfect

NEW HORIZONS Unreal Engine played a key role in Masters of the Air’s VP scenes

an LED volume. If the scene calls for a more dynamic range of action, and your director needs more flexibility to control action sequences – such as planes flying across the sky and explosions occurring – 3D playback with scenes built in a real- time engine is the best tool for the job.” Recent productions such as Masters of the Air have been important in proving what’s possible. Both Bild Studios/MARS and teams at Dimension worked on the Apple TV+ drama. “For flight scenes in the sky, you have a motion base moving your set piece around,” explains George Murphy, creative director, Dimension and DNEG 360. “The environment is genuinely

surrounding the actors and filmmakers. They have the freedom to move through it and the environment reorientates to their movement. We’re able to immerse the actors and filmmakers in a world with natural reflections on surfaces, in characters’ eyes and in glass.” MASTERS OF THE VOLUME The workflow for creating skies in Masters of the Air involved integrating all available





Unreal Engine sky-related techniques and systems, along with custom-made solutions to render convincing dynamic skies for the aerial battle scenes. James Dinsdale (VP supervisor) and Chris Carty (senior content generalist) at Dimension/ DNEG 360 helped merge these tools and systems into one larger asset, allowing for complete control and fast iteration when running the scene on a volume. “We based our approach on an art- directed high dynamic range image (HDRI) projected onto a sphere 100km across – so the distant sky moved with the correct parallax effect,” says Dinsdale. “We layered in effects like atmospheric

height fog and hazing to blend the horizon and integrate with the rest of the sky. We crafted fully volumetric clouds within each scene by using 3D volumetrics along with masking layers and extra custom tools and interfaces.” This novel workflow was crucial for key moments, like the B-17 bombers dipping in and out of clouds. “It ensured the skies existed in a grounded and consistent space along with the other assets and planes in the scene, allowing for natural interaction in camera,” he adds. Typically for big, open skyscapes you won’t miss the parallax 3D scenes (CGI) will bring, as the objects are often not

THE SKIES EXIST IN A grounded and consistent space WITH OTHER ASSETS IN THE SCENE”




found in the close foreground. Two- dimensional or background plates are cost effective to capture and photoreal out of the box, so often the most suitable as final-pixel assets for skyscapes. “Productions would capture a plate array from a physical location, these would be stitched to create a seamless 270° or 360° plate which is then played back on the volume,” says Alpe. “This approach has been used at MARS Volume for rooftop scenes, backdrops for set-built walls with windows and helicopter travel sequences.” An exception to this was its work on Masters of the Air – its explosive aerial action required animation sequences and timed explosions happening in the foreground. In this case, 3D scenes were the best pipeline. “One of the goals for Masters of the Air was making it historically accurate, and virtual production allowed us to do that,” says Alpe. “Weather data, sunrises and sunsets could all be reconstructed in the real-time engine with historical accuracy. Virtual cinematography of skies played a vital role in delivering natural reflections and performance flexibility – allowing director and actors to see

UNREAL ENGINE SCENES WERE painstakingly recreated. WE’D PLAY THEM BACK TO THE VOLUME FOR maximum flexibility ”

and respond to the aerial dogfights and explosions in the action in real time. “The Unreal Engine scenes were painstakingly created with this degree of care and attention. We were able to play them back to the LED volume and build tools that gave the directors maximum flexibility, for timing action sequences and what they would see on the set, in camera, at any one time.” AUGMENTED WITH PRACTICALS If you need to get the sun in shot (or any kind of directional lighting), you need to augment it with practical lights.

BIG RIG The team at Dimension and DNEG 360 had to make a practical B-17 bomber interact convincingly with the LED volume




INTO THE FRAY Balancing practical lighting with LED volume environments is another tricky challenge

“A limitation of LEDs is in generating hard, crisp light, but they’re very good at general directional and ambient fill, with natural colour and immersion,” comments Murphy. “For aerial shots featuring movement through clouds, you’d need to replicate fog on-set, which is possible but requires forward planning.” For the VR worlds of Netflix sci-fi hit 3 Body Problem , the team filmed against a large 180° wall consisting of ARRI SkyPanel LEDs filtered through and hidden behind a Rosco scrim. “Our board operators could control any kind of colour we wanted,” explains Richard Donnelly ISC. “This enabled us to light the actors precisely – for instance with the sun rising – instead of being led by VFX. We augmented the set with many other lights but, essentially, we lit the actors by the wall. It’s almost the reverse of volume capture where you use plates filmed on location to light live action.” The subtlety of balancing practical lights with the skyscape environment generated on a volume ‘is an art form’, says Alpe, that sets an experienced DOP apart from the rest. “The ambient lighting from an LED volume, as reflected on the skin tones of a person, can sometimes look different to what you would expect by being outside,” she says. “When working in a real-time environment, it’s important for volume control teams to take the time to share lighting understanding with the DOP, to empower them to fully understand exactly what they have control over in

the scene. It is through the strength of this collaboration that DOPs can be set up for success on-set.” LED screens featuring high dynamic range (HDR) are becoming standard, which means they produce a variety of intensities that feel more natural. “When you’re framing something up in camera, even if you’re supplementing it with practical lights, it can feel like those intensities and exposures and colour saturations are realistic. Once cinematographers begin to trust that, they’re becoming more confident in what they can achieve.”

A good VP team will be able to advise on the best approach that will suit the production and director needs.

EVER SKYWARD “There’s some unusual phenomena in the skies – from rainbows to light shimmering through rain,” concludes Murphy. “Recent developments in ray tracing are enabling us to accurately capture the refractive nature of light through atmospherics in camera. We’ll see much richer clouds and skies on demand, which are more photoreal and detailed.”




Richard Gadd’s autobiographical limited series Baby Reindeer sees a fictional Donny Dunn desperate for a career in the limelight amid a severe case of stalking. DOP Krzysztof Trojnar explains how he kept Donny’s story at the centre

WORDS Katie Kasperson IMAGES Netflix




C reated by writer-comedian based on Gadd’s own experience with a stalker, fictionalised as Martha Scott (played by Jessica Gunning, with Gadd as protagonist Donny Dunn). Aligned with Donny’s struggles as an aspiring stand- up comedian, the series keeps him in the (sometimes literal) spotlight, employing a number of unique lensing and lighting techniques to do so. Richard Gadd, Baby Reindeer is a part drama, part black comedy STUCK IN THE MIDDLE Acting as cinematographer on the first four episodes, Krzysztof Trojnar established the show’s visual tone with director Weronika Tofilska – an old friend from film school. “When I read the script, I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” Trojnar admits. “It was so engaging; you’re immediately in this world, and Martha is such an unusual character.” Adapted from Gadd’s one-man show of the same name, Baby Reindeer is largely told in the first person, with Donny narrating the story – one that’s deeply subjective yet universal, that comments on human flaws and the price of fame – as it unfolds. “It was always his story,” states Trojnar. “The camera was always close to him, and we knew from the start it was going to be his point of view – not literally, but in the way we portray him.”

He and Tofilska agreed that they didn’t want to feel detached from Donny’s story. “It was all about being with the character and feeling the intensity,” Trojnar reflects. To that end, he opted for wide lenses – specifically ARRI Rental’s DNA lenses. “They have this great characteristic where they lose the resolution towards the edge of the screen. This worked perfectly with the idea that Donny is in the middle of the story. There are always central compositions, as he talks about being the centre of attention. “We predominantly shot the show on 35mm large format – so a little bit wider than traditional 35mm work – but that was the main lens of choice,” Trojnar continues. “Depending how the scene felt or what kind of emotion we were trying to evoke, we would go wider if needed.” For instance, in episode 4, which centres around Donny’s abusive relationship with a man named Darrien O’Connor, Trojnar wanted Darrien’s flat to appear distorted and feel like an ‘unsettling and uncomfortable place’. ALL OF THE LIGHTS Episode 4 is a harrowing watch, portraying a series of sexual assaults initiated by Darrien, a successful TV writer whom Donny meets while attending the Edinburgh Fringe. The show hired both an intimacy coordinator and an on-set

SWIFT HALF Cinematographer for four out of seven episodes, Trojnar worked closely with Tofilska to maintain the story’s dark tone

It was always his story. WE KNEW FROM THE START IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE his point of view ”




psychologist to maintain a safe space and provide support. “We would rehearse everything with stand-ins so that we would never overdo anything – unless the actors wanted to do it,” recalls Trojnar. When it came time to film, “we were 40 days in, and I think everyone knew each other on a human level,” alleviating some of the unease. To shoot these scenes, the crew built Darrien’s flat from scratch, installing a removable ceiling that swapped as a lighting rig. “There were so many technical elements of us wanting to put the camera in certain places,” begins Trojnar, particularly in the sequences when Donny takes LSD. “When Donny is high in Darrien’s flat, there was this idea of the streetlight suddenly becoming the spotlight and the drugs enhancing it. Initially, we projected a warm light into the apartment, but when he gets high, we see it in a more pronounced way. We swapped our source with this super concentrated beam of light; it would hit Donny and then bounce back to the ceiling and create this dramatic face when he’s lit.” According to Trojnar, “the idea of the spotlight was motivated by the script. It came from this idea that Donny is this struggling comedian metaphorically looking for the spotlight and needing it to fulfil his desire or vision of himself.”

START A TAB Donny and Martha (portrayed by Gadd and Gunning) are often shot in the pub in which the characters first meet

Throughout the series, Donny enables Martha’s stalking, begging others to suggest he enjoys the attention while also experiencing a sense of guilt and responsibility towards her. “The spotlight is a perfect metaphor,” continues Trojnar. “It’s playing in different moments – like at

the comedy club. In comedy clubs, you rarely get a spotlight, but for the story, it made sense.” In the stand-up scenes, Trojnar wanted to use practical lighting sources, citing Joker as a visual inspiration. He also nods to Fight Club ; “it has a first-person point of view,” he explains. “ Fight Club had incredible textures of urban grittiness that I loved. It was definitely a reference.” IN THE END Being Trojnar’s first narrative project, the extent of Baby Reindeer ’s runaway success came as a surprise. “We always thought it would be far more of a niche show. We never thought it would end up being watched by so many people,” he beams. “I remember watching it for the first time, fully finished, in a cast and crew screening, and it was incredible how all the elements came together. It was satisfying to see it work out in the end.” Baby Reindeer is out now, streaming on Netflix

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL The effect created by the ARRI lenses helps keep Donny as the focus




Going dark Company 3’s senior colourist Simon Bourne reveals how he made the grade, shaping Baby Reindeer’s ultimate visual style

L ondon-based Baby Reindeer borrows its look from similar stories: those with bleak plot points and subjective storytelling, set in an urban area. Gadd, Tofilska, Trojnar and the rest of the team wanted to convey Donny’s state of mind through the colour grade. “The subject matter of the show was dark, and the look was supposed to reflect this,” shares Simon Bourne, the series’ colourist. The series does achieve this visual and metaphorical darkness, with many scenes taking place at night, on dimly lit streets or in atmospheric pubs and nightclubs. “The subject matter suggests deep, dark shadows,” begins Bourne, “and we knew we’d take some of these concepts to extremes. The series is ultimately about being inside Donny’s head. It made sense to take the visuals further than we might for a more objective type of storytelling.” PICKING A PALETTE Bourne recalls long hours discussing the show’s colour palette. “You can make certain colours pop when you limit the number of them in the scene. There was the idea of concentrating on certain colours – shades of red in particular – and avoiding others, such as blue,” he recounts. “This affected every aspect of production, from costume design to lighting.” For the grade, Bourne drew inspiration from various films with ‘some emotional connection to the story in Baby Reindeer ’,

including Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King of Comedy , as well as David Fincher’s Fight Club . “For some of the most intense parts,” begins Bourne, “I thought about horror films like The Shining ,” and the prominent use of the colour red. “We had talked about creating show LUTs for the various locations and feelings different scenes conveyed, but that approach can quickly become unwieldy,” Bourne explains. “I built one LUT that added some of the characteristics we’d discussed but didn’t constrain the imagery too much. No matter how good a LUT is, I believe 75% of the work is best left to the final grade.” ALL TOGETHER NOW To create this final grade, Bourne used FilmLight’s Baselight. “It’s what I’ve become used to,” he shares. He worked alongside Gadd, the directors and DOPs, as well as a Netflix representative “who was on board with the strong look,” he says. “Occasionally, I would be alone, but we’d all look at it and fine-tune it together. It was a collaborative process. “It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t say challenging,” Bourne continues. “Colour can be challenging if the client doesn’t have strong ideas or if clients disagree among themselves,” he reveals. Luckily, on Baby Reindeer , “everyone was on the same page about what we were trying to achieve. We pretty much stuck to the basic principles we started with.”








WORDS Adrian Pennington

H is first aerial credit was for Bad Boys , the original 1995 hit. Nearly 30 years on, Dylan Goss is one of a handful of go-to aerial cinematographers in the business. Name a blockbuster and you have probably seen his work. Among them are The Game, Titanic , Kundun , Pushing Tin , Up in the Air , Fast & Furious 6 , Elysium , San Andreas , Independence Day: Resurgence, Skyscraper , American Made , Avengers: Infinity War , First Man , Black Panther: Wakanda Forever , Free Guy and, just this year, The Fall Guy and Civil War . He has also shot aerials on shows you may not associate with sweeping vistas, like the Oscar-winning Crash and Funny Games, and considers himself equal parts technician and photographer.

“I grew up wanting to code computers and solder electronics. Back then, there weren’t YouTube videos telling you how to do it. I enjoyed figuring it out myself. So now, when we have to come up with solutions and custom integrations, I feel pretty comfortable doing that.” On a new untitled Paul Thomas Anderson feature, Goss had to adapt a gimbal to fit large 35mm VistaVision cameras which were never designed for aerial work. “Even though they are supposed to be mimicking digital news footage coming from a helicopter, so they could easily have shot digital, they were adamant about using VistaVision. We built this crazy rig to put an awkward camera inside that gimbal.” On another recent project, he helped design a 360 rig fit with six RED V-RAPTORs to capture shots to be used on a volume built by Lux Machina. “We took the existing gimbal design, worked out the geometry of the lenses and how they would work in sideways or portrait mode, and helped them understand the challenges of putting this on a helicopter. “You just learn how things work in an aircraft. Although there are remote- control options, everything needs to be wired and needs to be redundant. You are in a real flight environment, and when you start working with a product that was not made for that scenario, you have to make some adjustments.” Equipment used to be so specialised that Goss was once flown out to Australia for just one day to shoot a commercial, purely because there was no such kit or crew in the country. Kit now is more solid-state electronics, with fewer moving parts, and designed to be bulletproof. “In the old days, you had to keep returning to the factory and to

A FRESH ANGLE With a truly impressive CV, Goss’ film and TV credits span three decades and various genres

Definition explores the world of aerial cinematography through the lens of three high-flying DOPs




IT MAKES SENSE TO fly over big spaces FOR THE MOMENTUM you can’t get with a drone ”


FLYING VISIT With limited time and strict budgets, it is vital for aerial DOPs to get the right shot

take the gimbal apart. It was like watch mechanics inside and my job was to keep it all ticking.” While the gear has evolved from Spacecam to WESCAM, from Eclipse to Shotover – and propagated worldwide – Goss is still in high demand even if the gear, pilots, helicopters or special Phenom jets command a premium. “Generally, I’m given a brief and they trust me to deliver. The production has to have confidence that we’re going to execute the brief because shooting from a heli still has a high-dollar value. “Some jobs don’t have the money, so they adjust their creative and shoot drones. There’s always a way to re- engineer something. You could use a stepladder or a crane, but the projects I’m hired for are the big movies that want the big shots done their way.” For bigger-scope shots, “it makes sense to fly an aircraft over big spaces with arcs and large movements for the momentum you can’t get with a drone.” Top Gun: Maverick raised the bar – but few films have the access or budget

to be made with the assistance of the US Navy. Even forthcoming Apple TV+ feature Mayday , in which Ryan Reynolds plays a jet pilot, was largely shot from helicopters aerially directed by Goss. Increasingly, he will work with the VFX supervisor to capture aerial plates. This will involve arrays of cameras configured to capture vast panoramas at high resolution for stitching in post. He finds previs shots a little exhausting because all the shots have been figured out, broken down and budgeted for. “There’s not a lot of room to expand. If I’m sent out to do three shots, I can’t come back and be like, ‘Guess what? I shot an extra 20 hours of helicopter time – and here’s the bill!’” he says. “You have to stick to the brief. But we do find moments where you shoot extra material and you’re wondering if that’s going to get recognised by a director or editor. I can sometimes come back with hours of footage that will never see the light of day.” He enjoys working with directors such as Denis Villeneuve, Alex Garland and




Doug Liman, VFX supervisor Paul Lambert and DOPs like Roger Deakins, who desire to do as much in camera as possible. In Sicario , he was tracking a convoy of FBI jeeps where the heli work had to look like it was shot from a Reaper drone. For the aerial shots of a border crossing, Villeneuve flew with Goss in a heli at dawn down to El Paso. “When we got to the border, it was a beautiful, magical sunrise, one where you couldn’t help but start pointing the camera around. Denis and I are in the back seat of the heli, I look over and he gives me a thumbs up to start rolling. “I shot a lot of footage for that movie; it was amazing to see it in the final film.” Working with Villeneuve again on Dune , Goss found even more of his work in the final cut. “We’re sitting on top of a cliff looking over the Wadi Rum with a camera and

WHEN WE GOT TO THE BORDER, IT WAS A beautiful, magical sunrise – YOU COULDN’T HELP BUT START pointing the camera around ”

tripod just surveying the immense scale of the landscape. They used it because it served the story. “I have lots of obvious aerial action shots from a heli I could quote, but I am awed by being given the opportunity to create with filmmakers of his and Roger Deakins’ calibre.” The ornithopter sequences in Dune and Dune: Part 2 included shots filmed by Goss from a helicopter in Jordan’s Wadi Rum of a different helicopter that suited the scale of the fictional vehicle. “It’s a stand-in for the ornithopter. So while I’m filming an empty frame for a big superhero movie [he has shot sequences for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 as well as Avengers: Endgame ] into which they will insert VFX, for Denis I’m shooting more practical FX. “The tracking of my frame is real, the light on the object is authentic. If it lands or takes off from the desert floor then all these interactions with sand and light add to the plausibility of the final picture.” On the set of forthcoming feature The Instigators , Liman told Goss about his long-gestating project to film Tom Cruise aboard the International Space Station. “Doug [Liman] is a problem-solver and explained that they needed to redesign the camera by removing components which weren’t designed for zero gravity. They were taking an existing camera and space-proofing it. Sign me up! “My understanding is that, if they go at all, it will be Doug and Tom plus a camera since the cost for seats is astronomical. “If you are on the ISS, audiences can really feel that you’re there. The way the light comes through a window, or the way your arms float would be tricky to simulate even on the most cutting-edge sound stage.”


now worked with legends such as Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins




Renowned aerial DOP John Marzano chats sky-high cinematography, the aircraft involved and memorable career moments JOHN MARZANO

WORDS Katie Kasperson

B ased in the UK but a ‘world leader in the field of aerial cinematography’, Marzano Films – headed up by seasoned DOP John Marzano – blends deep, hands-on filmmaking knowledge with a complete aerial production package. With credits spanning more than 150 award-winning features, docs, series and commercials – including House of the Dragon , The Crown , 1917 , Zero Dark Thirty and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – the truly extensive portfolio of Marzano Films speaks for itself. Marzano first began as a camera trainee, “learning the craft from the ground up,” he says. “In 1989, while operating for the second unit on a feature film called When The Whales Came , I was required to set up the camera in the helicopter for some aerial shots,” he recalls. Cultivating a real knack for airborne operation, subsequently his work ‘shifted gradually from ground- based to aerial cinematography.’ READY FOR TAKE-OFF After acting as operator on low-budget projects, Marzano stepped into more mainstream features like The World Is Not Enough , signalling the start of a long

relationship with the 007 franchise. “I am proud to have shot the aerials for the last eight Bond films,” he states. “For Daniel Craig’s last appearance as 007 in No Time to Die , we shot both IMAX and 35mm scenes with the Eclipse system in Jamaica, Norway, Italy and the UK.” With global shoots come local aviation laws – “not just for helicopter or aeroplane work, but also for drone work,” explains Marzano. Licensed to operate almost anywhere in the world, Marzano Films trains its team in ‘the intricacies of working around aircraft’ and maintains an ‘unblemished aerial record’. An equipment specialist as well as a creative cohort, Marzano Films “employs a host of helicopter-mounted systems,” begins Marzano, “but our Eclipse gimbal, with its military-grade gyro-stabilisation technology, is the most flexible aerial system currently available, capable of housing anything from a small Sony VENICE 2 right up to an IMAX camera or even our six-camera array.” The team also developed the mini Eclipse – like the Eclipse system, but more compact and lightweight – as well as the First- Person View Hybrid drone (used on The Meg 2 , Fast and Furious and The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power ), a three- camera array system ( Wonka ) and a

I AM SO PROUD TO HAVE SHOT THE AERIALS for the last eight James Bond films ”




CLIFFHANGER (Left) Marzano was the aerial director of photography for 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman

directors’, he admits, such as Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, JJ Abrams and Ridley Scott. “ Black Hawk Down will always be a standout experience for me,” he shares. “As the aerial DOP on the film, I was given two camera helicopters, four US Army Black Hawk helicopters and four Little Bird attack helicopters to play with and an instruction from Ridley to ‘go shoot me some great shit!’ – a challenge the aerial team relished,” he recalls fondly. “I’m so proud of the aerial cinematography, which played a significant part in the final edit, and enjoyed every minute. “At the opposite end of the spectrum,” Marzano continues, “my drone team and I faced some exhausting challenges, riding boats down fast-flowing rapids and carrying drones on long hikes in the jungles of Columbia just to get an amazing shot for Paddington In Peru ,” which hits cinemas in November. “I’m excited to see the fruits of my teams hard work on the big screen.”

drone specifically designed to house an ARRIFLEX 235 ( Saltburn ). In the industry for over 30 years, since the ‘early days of sitting with legs hanging out of the helicopter’s open side door’, Marzano has had a first-hand view of the transformation, noting how drones permanently changed aerial filming. “I’ve been utilising drones for aerial filming for several years and I’m amazed at how quickly the genre has developed,” he admits, having stocked Marzano Films with an ‘extensive inventory of the latest drone aircraft’. To keep the industry abreast of the latest aerial gadgets, Marzano Films

collaborates with major retailers, ensuring new releases integrate with helicopter and drone gimbals. It recently did just this with the Sony BURANO, which James Friend ASC, BSC used on The Wingman . Marzano Films also nurtures fresh talent, feeling “a duty to impart the skills we’ve developed over the years to young film enthusiasts,” says Marzano. “We’ve started a programme to teach drone pilots how to fly for film and train new aerial operators in the art of filmmaking.” LOOKING BACK, LOOKING UP Throughout his career, Marzano has worked with some ‘extremely illustrious





WORDS Katie Kasperson

L ike many in the film industry, Jeremy Braben grew up with a camera always in hand. His parents – both artists – nudged him towards a creative career, yet Braben had another calling: aviation. Documentary making, early jobs in current affairs, TV production and music videos allowed Braben the ‘occasional use of a helicopter’, he highlights. This ‘further whetted the aerial appetite’ – especially filming news segments and live concerts such as Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. After around a decade, he combined his two passions and ‘made the decision to focus solely as an aerial cinematographer’, forming Helicopter Film Services (HFS) in 1993. INDUSTRY ESTABLISHED With over three decades under its belt, HFS offers aerial filming services to features, scripted and unscripted television, commercials and branded content via helicopters, jets, drones and stabilised camera systems. Although based in north-west London, the firm enjoys worldwide operations – having travelled to Greece ( Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery , The Bourne Identity ) and Spain ( House of the Dragon ), as well as Japan, Iceland, Africa, Hawaii and an abundance of other destinations. Braben himself has served as aerial DOP on over 150 productions, including Wicked , Sonic the Hedgehog 3 , The Union and How to Train Your Dragon most recently. On the latter, he shot from both Aerial DOP Jeremy Braben elevates productions to new heights with help from his team at Helicopter Film Services

helicopter and drone, filming on a studio lot and on location in four countries. Over the years, Braben and his team at HFS have worked alongside directors Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and James Cameron – Braben’s first big break was aerial operating on Titanic – as well as actors like Matt Damon, George Clooney, Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford. They even helped Spielberg with his first- ever drone project, filming the stacks sequences in Ready Player One . TODAY’S TECH Aerial cinematography today ‘is split into two areas’, according to Braben: helicopter/aeroplane and drone. When filming from a helicopter or aeroplane, “it’s generally a SHOTOVER six-axis

HIGH-LEVEL SHOOTING Ariel shooting merges skill and creativity, aligning with the director’s overall vision



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