NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION THE TECH ACCELERATING 8K, FROM CAPTURE TO DELIVERY P24
“The UK’s inward investment of £3bn could double in five years” Adrian Wootton on creating more studio space and jobs, despite Covid-19 setbacks THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Phedon Papamichael shoots to the rhythm of a multilayered script
Lol Crawley underexposes to create colourful shadows in a light vs dark tale
AN INTERVIEW WITH GAFFER, JERAD MOLKENTHIN
LIGHTING FUTURES: GREEN GENERATORS, HIGH-OUTPUT LEDS, APPS AND PRACTICAL FIXTURES
WELCOME B ack in March, we created Defiant , a platform for people in the industry to share their experiences following the effects of Covid-19. The general feeling was of trepidation, followed by a Munchian scream as lockdown restrictions persisted and sets were still a no-go. Still, a beacon of light shone through. Remote working forced post-production houses to speed up investment in cloud-based infrastructure – something that’s been talked about for years to reduce expenditure and cast a wider talent net, let alone be a safety net in global pandemics. Then, autumn came, and despite the usual ‘fall’ connotations that go with the time of year, the film industry started to blossom. Of course, it wasn’t the return to the salad days we had all hoped for, with workers required to wear masks and occasionally undertake virus tests as they arrived on-set each morning, but it was something – something that spurred on industry innovations, just as it did with the post-production houses back in March. We are seeing a rise in virtual sets (read more on this in our next issue) and remote lighting controls (p34), plus 8K workflows are accelerating (p24). In current affairs, the US election got the whole world talking – but Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 (p18), which focuses on the front line of a sixties culture war, shows there is a battle that rages in America still, with the president’s vilification of protesters (Nixon then, Trump now) and the police’s excessive use of force. At least now, there’s a chance for healing – and not just in America, but all across the world. So, as we close this chapter on the year and look ahead to a future that’s filled with more investment in the industry and in our jobs (p30), we’re not so much defiant as we are optimistic.
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Chelsea Fearnley ONTENTS REGUL ARS 04 TITLE SEQUENCE His Dark Materials returns with a camera
CHELSEA FEARNLEY DEPUTY EDITOR
MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF
30 SILVER SCREEN LINING
Adrian Wootton says the UK’s production boom is still booming, despite setbacks. GEAR 8K has begun its assault on the industry and we’ve got all the tech you need to accelerate your workflows.
upgrade that’s advantageous to its heavy VFX.
12 GAFFER’S CORNER
24 BEYOND 4K
Jerad Molkenthin gets creative with the fixtures used to light The Devil All the Time .
50 SPOTLIGHT ON…
Philippe Rousselot receives a Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award and shares his epic career story. PRODUCT ION Lol Crawley strives for something more painterly than just a high pixel count with Arricam ST and LT. 18 THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Find out why Phedon Papamichael shot the courtroom scenes in large format and the riot scenes handheld. 6 THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME
34 LIGHTING FUTURES
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LEDs are king, but there’s still some other trends to look out for in 2021.
40 PORTKEYS BM5 II
This new monitor is the perfect partner for BMPCC 4K or 6K set-ups.
42 HOLLYLAND MARS 400S PRO
A video transmitter from China that’s great for remote monitoring.
COVER IMAGE The Devil All the Time ©Netflix 2020
46 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings, with expert advice on how to put your kit together.
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DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 03
04 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
H I S DARK MATER I ALS | TITLE SEQUENCE
HIS DARK MATERIALS SERIES TWO This handsomely assembled adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy is the result of one of the most ambitious feats of storytelling ever seen on TV. In series one, more than 2000 shots of CG and animation work were used to bring its richly imagined universe and colourful denizens to life, and we can expect even more from series two thanks to a new camera package. The Arri Alexa LF was swapped for the Sony Venice to record in native full-frame 6K in X-OCN, as this allowed for more re-racking and reframing of images, which is a particularly useful feature when creating heavy VFX scenes. Here, Lyra Silvertongue, played by the extraordinary Dafne Keen, has a new realm to explore with her daemon, Pan (pictured right) – plus a new companion to explore it with in the shape of Amir Wilson’s slightly puzzled Will Perry. It’s now airing on BBC One in the UK and on HBO in the US.
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 05
PRODUCTION | THE DEV I L ALL THE T IME
06 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
THE DEV I L ALL THE T IME | PRODUCTION
LEFT Robert Pattinson menaces as Reverend Teagardin
PAINTING A STORY Part American gothic, part winding drama, The Devil All the Time is many things, not least beautiful. Cinematographer Lol Crawley tells us just how he did it
WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES NETFL I X
I n a film packed with A-list performers playing monumentally large characters, sprawling narratives and exquisite production design, blink and you could miss Lol Crawley’s nuanced visuals. For those with an eye for cinematography, The Devil All the Time is a real treat. For anyone else, his approach works its subtle magic well enough to grasp their attention. A large part of the film’s success can be attributed to its characters. Of course, writer and director, Antonio Campos’s baleful lot are well-penned and superbly performed, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a visual language, acknowledged or not, that creates an inescapable air. Bill Skarsgård’s traumatised and rageful Willard looms, Tom Holland’s damaged Arvin is held at arm’s length, save for a few introspective moments, and Robert Pattinson’s Reverend Teagardin flits between a frame-
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 07
PRODUCTION | THE DEV I L ALL THE T IME
LEFT The Arricam ST set up inside the church, one of the film’s most pivotal locations
filling showman and a scoundrel slinking around the edges of the screen. “There’s a scene that springs to mind, with Teagardin’s sermon,” Crawley tells us. “We very much chose to keep him in centre frame with a lower camera position to give him the authority he was commanding. If you compare that to Harry Melling’s earlier sermon with the spilling of the spiders, which was all shot handheld to really convey a sense of unpredictability, there’s a strong contrast there.” He continues: “I’ve always been a fan of just lighting the space, largely in a naturalistic way, and letting the characters or actors inhabit that, as opposed to locking them down too much. Certainly, lighting-wise, I think it’s all about trying to create a complete world. “Of course, some scenes were more carefully planned based on the shot list and choreography, with shots informed by the language of the scene.” Set between the 1940s and 1960s in the rural Midwest, light sources were limited. Naturally, the production had to follow suit, leaving Crawley with the challenge
I don’t want the moonlight to feel Hollywood blue. I want the world to be believable
Before moving too far from the film’s other elements, Crawley takes some time to reflect on the bigger picture. Certainly, The Devil All the Time is a wholly unified film, as many of the best are and as many others strive to be. “I think elements like Emma Potter’s costumes, Craig Lathrop’s production design and my photography do all work very well together,” he explains. “I’d put that down to the simple point that everybody needs a director. Some people have an idea that the director’s role is to direct the actors – and, of course, that is the case – but he or she is also directing everything else and looking at the movie as a whole. I think also, especially early on, their job is to make sure they’ve got a good team and to choose collaborators that they can work well with and that understand the film.” Looking at himself as part of a whole, Crawley surmises: “It’s my job as a cinematographer to offer up ideas in
of using very few on-screen options. Thankfully, it was one he faced head-on. “I really embraced the limitations of the period and it offered me a lot of creative potential,” he enthuses. “I’m a fan of being as bold as possible with the lighting – again, I lean into a certain naturalism. I want things to feel real. I don’t want the moonlight to feel overly Hollywood blue. I want you to see the world and I want it to be believable. “During the scene where we’re introduced to adult Arvin, for example, the room was lit only by the birthday cake candles, a little bit of light coming through the window and a single small light source above the table they’re sat around. I relish these moments of getting to be so bold, especially shooting on film – to be right on the edge of underexposure. “So, period-practical lighting and these single-source lights like oil lamps and candles are a challenge, undoubtedly, but it’s so rewarding when you get it right.”
BELOW Gaffer Jerad Molkenthin created an 8x8ft LED moon box for outdoor night shoots.
08 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
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PRODUCTION | THE DEV I L ALL THE T IME
ABOVE Lol Crawley oversees with a skilled eye as director, Antonio Campos, views a frame
photographically, that it would feel too much like a patchwork.” There were few downsides to the medium, but the shoot wasn’t entirely without difficulty. “I suppose any real issues were just to do with continuity of light. The most advanced digital cameras today are incredibly sensitive in low light, which can be a benefit, of course. “When shooting film, you have to introduce more light into the scene than you otherwise would. So, keeping continuity of light or even just keeping light levels up was one of the biggest challenges,” he explains. When it came to lens choice, Crawley wanted a look in line with strong and classic vision, so opted for a set of Cooke S4/i primes as his primary glass. “We also looked at using closer focusing lenses and went for the Canon K35 Primes,” he tells us. “This helped practically during moments like the prayer log, which is a very difficult location to access, but also at times when we wanted to get particularly intimate with the characters. The camera would be physically close, handheld, and the K35s let us capture a beautiful very shallow depth- of-field.” What we’re left with is a visual delight – a film that’s strong on all fronts, reflective of the work that went into its creation.
The shadows in this film could be considered a character in their own right. Characters lurk in them, they invade the screen and they play into the southern gothic tone greatly. Thematically, the film holds an overarching feeling of dark versus light, and Crawley created an appropriate chiaroscuro to match. “Rather than going for what’s always been celebrated in film, which is those inky blacks, what I’ve been trying to do through my process is to find some very subtle colours in those blacks. Purples, browns and dark oranges mostly,” he says. “It’s rare that a painter of that era would use pure black in the way that many photographers are seeking to. What the painters would do is build up those shadows with certain deep, dark colours. I think it’s fascinating that with film you can try to use a very painterly approach and be inspired by it in that way.” Specifically, Crawley used the Arricam ST and LT camera packages, loaded with Kodak 250D and 500T film stocks, often push processed by one or two stops, because “I love those stocks and know them so well”. “Early in the film, we wanted more grain and more texture, but in the later scenes we wanted a cleaner look, so I didn’t push process those,” he explains. “I wanted a unity to the photography, especially because there are so many voices in the film with the many characters. We felt early on that if we really pushed those scenes in different directions
prep and during the shoot, and the ones that are suited to the tone we’re trying to create will stick. Between Antonio and me, our approach was very classical. We were just trying to go for a very strong, assured, robust photography that served the characters and served the story.” EACH FRAME A PAINTING There are many shots, particularly within those low-light scenes Crawley enjoyed so much, that possess a real painterly feel – a certain quality that’s hard to define for many viewers, but offers a taste of Rembrandt and his contemporaries. “Shooting on film is such a large part of it in my mind,” Crawley explains. “There’s just this quality to celluloid that isn’t looking to be as high resolution as possible. Especially when you shoot film the way I choose to shoot film, which is to underexpose and push process, it increases not only the grain and texture in the film, but it affects the shadows.”
Rather than go for those inky black shadows, I try to find some subtle colours in there
10 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
GAFFER ' S CORNER | JERAD MOLKENTH I N
LIGHTING THE DEVIL Our inaugural Gaffer’s Corner with Jerad Molkenthin, who reveals a labour of love lighting The Devil All the Time
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY
T he Devil All the Time has five key time periods: the late 1940s, the year 1950, the year 1957, the spring of 1965 and the summer of 1965. When gaffer Jerad Molkenthin first read the script, he noted these different time periods and looked at how practical fixtures would play a part. “This was going to be my first period piece, and also one set in a very rural setting, so I knew that we would often be supplementing anything from gas lanterns, to incandescent and fluorescent fixtures. Since Lol [Crawley, the DOP] had chosen to shoot on film, as he had on our first collaboration together [ Vox Lux ], I knew that we would be doing a fair amount of lighting for not only the night exteriors, but for the day exteriors as well. After discussions with Lol about
the look that he and the director, Antonio Campos, wanted to create, with the artwork of Andrew Wyeth and his use of tone and texture as inspiration, Lol and I decided on a complement of Arri M-Series HMI fixtures, Arri Skypanels, Litepanel 1x1 LED units and traditional tungsten fresnels.” To keep the natural look desired for the film, day interiors were mostly lit from outside through windows using the larger HMI units. Occasionally, a Skypanel or Litepanel 1x1 would be used inside as a ceiling bounce for a little fill. “Night interiors generally called for tungsten units, for the quality that only they can achieve, and were sometimes mixed with a Chimera Pancake Lantern. We filmed some night interiors day-for-night and,
in those instances, Lol had the grips attach thick ND frames – plus CTO gel for colour correction – to the outside of the windows, so that the interior would be darkened and colour corrected for the film stock used, but details outside could still be seen. Then, we would punch an Arrimax through the window as our motivated ‘moonlight’,” explains Molkenthin. For large night exteriors, an 8x8 Sourcemaker LED bicolour blanket light was rigged inside a softbox that the grips built on to a condor and skinned with a quarter grid. “This set-up makes for a broad and even ‘moonlight’ source that is easily powered with one 110V extension and one piece of DMX that runs up the arm of the condor. Adjustments both Keeping the lighting consistent was a daily challenge, as we were constantly chasing cloud cover or full sun. I did a lot of cloud watching
LEFT Jerad Molkenthin in the process trailer on set of The Devil All the Time. Photo courtesy of Kali Riley
12 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
GAFFER ’ S CORNER | JERAD MOLKENTHIN
TOP RIGHT Arri 650W fresnal with custom duct work attachment for a gas lamp scene at Emma and Earskell’s house. Photo courtesy of Oren Jones
NAME: Jerad Molkenthin KNOWN FOR:
bicolour LED ribbon for its flexibility and ease of placement and use.” The film was shot at a great many locations and each one presented its own host of challenges. Though, throughout all locations, whether interior or exterior, one challenge remained a constant: the unpredictable Alabama weather. “There’s a saying there, that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes because it’s going to change. That being said, keeping the lighting consistent was a daily challenge, as we were constantly chasing cloud cover or full sun. I did a lot of cloud watching with my gaffer’s glass, letting Lol know when to roll the camera or not. That’s also when the larger HMIs came into play, to mimic the direct sunlight that we had established
to colour temperature and intensity are made via a small pocket console dimmer,” explains Molkenthin. “By using this kind of lighting unit, there’s no need to lose a crew member to the bucket of the aerial lift, as all adjustments can be made from the ground. I have used the ‘moon box’ in this configuration on several films, and it’s a fantastic and time-saving way to create night-time ambience for night scenes.” On a side note about creating moonlight, he adds: “I tend to mix the bicolour LEDs to 4300K as a colour temperature, because it looks more natural to my eye than the blue moonlight that is so often used; especially when a warmer tungsten source is also in the frame. For car interiors, day and night, we used a Lite Gear
Marriage Story , Vox Lux , Bad Education , 30 Rock , Being Frank , Shooter HERO GEAR:
The Astra 1x1 bicolour LED from Litepanel is one of my quick go-to units. Whether it’s used with or without the Chimera Pro Bank, it’s ready to go at all times and can be hard-powered or powered by battery. They particularly come in handy for a quick fill light or when we need a bit of eye light.
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 13
GAFFER ' S CORNER | JERAD MOLKENTH I N
‘spider dump’, so we had to scramble and pull out every HMI and Skypanel that we had to match the lighting that had been established during the rest of that scene.” Molkenthin reflects on the scene he is most proud of lighting, when Willard arrives home to Emma and Earskell’s house. “In the kitchen and the bedroom, a gas lamp is the motivating light source. But to be able to actually light that scene and supplement the lamp, we devised a homemade attachment on to the face of an Arri 650W fresnel. I did a Home Depot run and found an HVAC round tee duct that my best boy, Oren Jones, then affixed to a speed rig, so that it could be attached to the front of the fresnel. He also cut pieces of half and full CTO, plus diffusion, which was placed inside the open end of the duct tee, while the other end of the tee was capped. The idea was to have the light beam from the fresnel bounce around inside the metal ductwork, then through the open end so it would be a less direct and softer source. Any light spill was controlled with a black wrap snoot. I think the end result was a beautiful light that convincingly looked like it was coming from the gas lamp.” He concludes, “One other source that we used, to give the actors an eye light in tricky low-light scenes, was a mini Maglite flashlight. I used it with the lens hood off, and my best boy once again fashioned sleeves of varying ‘flavours’ of CTO and ND gels so that we could warm up the bulb and control its intensity. It was a great quick, easy and low-cost way of adding an eye light next to the lens of the camera.” THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME IS CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX WORLDWIDE It was completely dark when we filmed the ‘spider dump’, so we had to scramble and pull out every HMI and Skypanel
ABOVE Jerad Molkenthin at Red Mountain Park, the location of the prayer log, with rigging gaffer, Sean Feehan. Photo courtesy of Marc Hammer
provide us with our ‘moonlight’. The other main sources were the period flashlights, which were colour corrected with 1/4 CTO and either 1/8 or 1/4 Minus Green gels.” About the church location, Molkenthin reveals that the windows on each side of the building made placing the HMIs in a way that wouldn’t be seen on camera quite challenging: “We had just one corner of the building where we could place a 125ft condor rigged with an Arrimax 18K. The height of the articulating condor wasn’t needed as much as its length and ability to place the lamp where we needed it to be, in order to light through the windows without the base of the condor being seen. The rest of the lighting was done from the ground using Arri 9Ks and 4Ks on American Roadrunner stands and steel combo stands, which could be moved around and hidden between windows as needed. “We spent a week at the church location filming all of the scenes there, and each day the short spring daytime hours created a bit of a struggle. For the scene where Roy pours spiders on his head, it was completely dark outside by the time we filmed the actual
for certain scenes before the clouds covered the sky.” Two of the most challenging locations Molkenthin faced were at the prayer log and church. “The prayer log scenes were filmed at Red Mountain Park in a section of woods that created a small valley, and the log itself was set between two hills that rose above it at 45° angles. This area was also set back 400ft or more from the road where our equipment trucks and generators were parked, so everything to be hand-carried in. Due to budget constraints, grip and electric crews were kept to eight people per department. I restricted the electric crew to five shooting electrics, including myself, and three rigging electrics, headed up by rigging gaffer, Sean Feehan. Needless to say, we went home each night thoroughly exhausted! For the night exterior at the prayer log, two Arrimax 18K HMIs did the heavy lifting, flanking from either side of the hill and punching through the foliage to
14 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | SAMSUNG
DRIVE PAST THE LIMIT The Samsung Portable SSD X5 gets pushed on every front by Black Cloud Visual’s Mo Kamara
are even more demanding than many users’ typical editing workflows. “We were amazed by how greatly the speed of the render process increased, while using the portable drive.” This noticeable change is a direct result of the Samsung Portable SSD X5’s blistering read and write speeds – 2,800MB/s and 2,300MB/s respectively to be precise. “We were running clips off multiple CPU-intensive programs simultaneously ABOVE The Samsung Portable SSD X5 is the perfect editing tool and more than capable of keeping up with even the most CPU-intensive programs
ALL-ROUND PERFORMANCE For an independent production company, having a storage device that can be used at every stage of the creation process is a real game changer. Kamara was pleasantly surprised to find the Samsung Portable SSD X5 does just that and does it well. “We used the Samsung Portable SSD X5 the whole way through the shoot,” he explains. “On set, it was used to store and back up footage alongside important metadata. While we were in the editing suite, we set all of our editing and visual effects programs to run off and write directly to it, too. Our editing style usually features a lot of visual effects, so our needs
Dynamic duo Mo Kamara and Marco Badchkam are the creative minds behind south London-based production company, Black Cloud Visuals. Working primarily in the music video scene, the team’s particularly vibrant and stylised productions are incredibly demanding every step of the way. But for their efforts, they’ve accumulated millions of hits online. With such a growing workload, they need robust, fast and reliable gear. During a recent music video shoot and edit, Kamara put the Samsung Portable SSD X5 well and truly through its paces. But did it stand up to the job? We find out...
16 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
SAMSUNG | ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE
IMAGES Sometimes the fun of shooting in the field includes offloading files from the boot of a car, so wherever you use it, the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is made rugged and ready to go
with no lag,” Kamara enthuses. “Without exaggeration, importing a number of large-sized files was happening almost instantaneously. We also found exporting final projects was so much faster than the drives we currently own and regularly use.” Editing alone is a time-sensitive endeavour, so it’s integral that storage kit can keep up. The shoot, however, is a different league altogether. When it was crunch time, and daylight was burning and time was of the essence, Kamara found that the Samsung Portable SSD X5 came into its own. “On set, we transferred around 30GB of footage on to the portable drive for storage in seconds, allowing the card to be removed and formatted without delay when it really mattered,” he says. The Samsung Portable SSD X5’s incredible speed is aided greatly by its advanced Thunderbolt 3 interface, which delivers the fastest bandwidth of up to 40 GB/s for startling results. ABOVE AND BEYOND Some would say it’s a natural progression for filmmakers to eventually move on to bigger and better things. We’re not only talking about greater commercial success here, but more advanced means of recording, too. “We were aching to use the Samsung portable drive alongside our monitor recorder, because I simply knew it would have done an excellent job with even larger Raw files than we were shooting,” Kamara tells us. “Sadly, we never got the chance. “We did start recording the majority of shots in 4K with high frame rates, though, which is something we’ve rarely done consistently before. We were confident
“We transferred 30GB of footage on to the portable drive in seconds, allowing the card to be formatted without delay”
Kamara says. “I also found the drive’s dynamic thermal guard keeps it cool, even when plugged in for hours.” Another real draw when it comes to design features is the portable drive’s protections. Reinforced with magnesium alloy, it can withstand a drop of up to 2m. Inside, too, things are just as secure, with AES 256-bit Encryption. “The shock protection is obviously reassuring, but it’s also a bonus to know if we were to ever lose the drive, our intellectual property would be safe,” says Kamara. Reviewing his time with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, Kamara concludes: “I could certainly see it becoming an everyday feature of our workflow, both on set and in the editing suite. It was so easily integrated into our set up. “Having a versatile piece of equipment like this can only streamline our work and make shoots, editing and the business more efficient overall.”
that the Samsung Portable SSD X5 could keep up and have enough space to store all that data while out in the field with just the single drive.” When larger files such as Raw codecs are being handled, you can rest assured there’s adequate capacity, with 500GB, 1TB and 2TB options available. “Again, the speed was so crucial here, as it allowed those 4K clips to run smoothly in editing playback.” With such a great deal of tech packed into one compact drive, you may be fooled into thinking the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is a veritable monster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. At 119mm long, 62mm in height and weighing only 150g, it simply doesn’t make a dent in the kitbag. In a real-world scenario, this makes a world of difference to filmmakers like Kamara. “Its portability and small size make it a genuine ease to bring to shoots, while the Thunderbolt 3 interface, with its USB-C design, eliminated the need to carry any additional adapters,” he explains. For those in the visual arts, it doesn’t hurt by any stretch that the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is visually appealing too. “The design is sleek and modern, but also ergonomically nice to handle,”
MORE INFORMATION: samsung.com/uk/memory-storage
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 17
PRODUCTION | THE TR I AL OF THE CH I CAGO 7
IMAGE Aaron Sorkin directs his talented ensemble cast
18 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
THE TR I AL OF THE CH I CAGO 7 | PRODUCTION
Not your average courtroom drama: DOP Phedon Papamichael talks shooting to the beat of Aaron Sorkin’s multilayered script in The Trial of the Chicgo 7
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES NETFL I X T he latest Netflix drama to hit our screens is The Trial of the Chicago 7 . It focuses on a group of 60s radicals on trial for charges relating to anti-Vietnam protests during the 1968 Democratic Conference in Chicago. Although the event happened more than half a century ago, there’s a relevance to today that cuts through the patchouli oil and strawberry incense. The trial unfolds as part of a jigsaw puzzle, intercut with the peaceful turned violent protests and the political rivalry between social activists Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden. It’s a particularly satisfying marriage between the subject matter and the showy talents of the film’s writer and director, Aaron Sorkin, who, for the past 30 years, has carved out a space as one of America’s most renowned screenwriters. But The Trial of the Chicago 7 is just his second film as a director, and his technical inexperience demanded more visual heavy lifting from the film’s cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael. “Sorkin’s the first to admit how much he relied on me,” says Papamichael. “He’s all about
Sorkin didn’t want any shots that weren’t of the person who was speaking
the language and the rhythm of the words, so he didn’t want any shots that weren’t of the person who was speaking. For example, creating a cinematic crane shot in the park, where the protests are happening, would be useless to him and useless to the script. So, I had to learn how to convey the moment in a matter of seconds; to create visuals that wouldn’t alter or change the pace of the script.” He adds: “As a cinematographer, it’s ultimately my job to serve the director as well as I can and give them a result that matches their vision, but I always tried to offer Sorkin additional visuals that could help enhance the feeling of the script.”
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 19
THE TR I AL OF THE CH I CAGO 7 | PRODUCTION
LEFT Expanded anamorphics were crucial for intimate close-ups in the courtroom as they also caught the mood of other characters
THE TRIAL Sorkin wanted the courtroom to look like the original, which was wooden and enclosed. But Papamichael had to take some liberties with the set design, using light from the windows, which the original courtroom didn’t have, in order to effectively convey the passage of time. “I wanted to be able to show how long the trial was, lasting from September 1969 through to mid-February 1970,” explains Papamichael. “So, I created a lot of different lighting looks, which I controlled by encasing the courtroom location in a gigantic lightbox. Within that box, I put in enough sources so that I was able to turn over from hard sunlight to moody overcast, to fall day, to rainy winter day, all within minutes. It helped reflect the mood of the script and create a coherent timeline for the trial.” Papamichael shot with three cameras – though he would have preferred four – to capture as much as possible in the courtroom. He used the same large format set-up he experimented with on Ford v Ferrari ( Le Mans ‘66 in Europe and the UK): the Arri Alexa LF with expanded Panavision anamorphics to cover the sensor. He recalls: “On Ford v Ferrari , I wanted to stay anamorphic because I love that aspect ratio. In fact, the slight anamorphic
PROTESTS AND RIOTS In contrast to the designed shots of the courtroom, Papamichael was inspired by Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool documentary of the event and took a cinema verité- style approach to shooting the riot scenes, following the crowd of extras as Chicago police and protesters. Fortunately, he got to film on location in Grant Park, the nearby bridges and in front of the Hilton, where the Democratic Convention took place back in 1968. “It all still looks the same as it did back in the 60s, so little visual effects were needed. We were very lucky to film there,” says Papamichael. The riot scenes were scripted to function as rapidly intercut vignettes, interspersed with archival footage that had been processed in black & white. Nothing was storyboarded or shot-listed, and Alan Baumgarten, the film’s editor, used all of the footage from the four days of shooting. “We would set the crowd, work out their beats and I would tell my two operators, who were shooting handheld, to immerse themselves and make a documentary about it,” says Papamichael, explaining the process. “The actual event had more than 10,000 people in the park,
distortion really helps convey the look of that period. The only problem is they don’t cover the sensor of the LF. So, I turned to Dan Sasaki, the lens guru of Panavision and he told me he could expand them. Now, everyone’s using them.” Chicago 7 is set in a similar period to Ford v Ferrari and the story is not too dissimilar, with its multiple characters and themes of togetherness and friendship. “Expanded anamorphics lean into those themes, because even when you do a close-up, you don’t isolate other characters. That’s because they’ve got a widescreen aspect ratio with classic anamorphic lens vignetting, so you get a beautiful fall off in the background,” elaborates Papamichael. “Sorkin initially wanted to use a long lens for close-ups but I convinced him that getting physically close with a wide lens would allow us to get intimate close-ups, while also feeling the surrounding mood of the courtroom.”
To show how long the trial was, I created a lot of lighting looks, which I controlled by encasing the courtoom in a gigantic lightbox
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 21
THE TR I AL OF THE CH I CAGO 7 | PRODUCTION
RIGHT Shooting wide and using light creates a balance between characters in scenes where there are multiple involved, such as here, in the practice interrogation scene
but we only had 200 extras, so we had to be smart about how we covered those scenes. It was helpful not to get wide. If you look at Haskell’s original footage, you can see that the event happened on a nice, sunny day. Unfortunately, filming took place in October and I was battling with leaves turning brown, but the use of smoke for tear gas helped and I was able to isolate some leaves and colour correct them in post.” For Sorkin, there was a visual beat that was important to hit, such as the throwing of a molotov cocktail or the baton hits that caused bloody head injuries. This signalled a violence that the defendants had lost control of. But Papamichael felt it was also important to show the early tensions in the crowd, so he tried to capture key moments along the way. “For example, the woman who is pulled to the ground by three men and sexually assaulted is seen in earlier scenes, carrying an American flag and being shouted at with abuse by the same three men,” he says. “It brings an energy to the My biggest concern was figuring out how to juice up the visual stagnancy of a courtroom drama
film because, of course, my biggest concern was figuring out how to juice up the visual stagnancy of a courtroom drama.” CONSPIRACY OFFICE In a climatic one-two punch, William Kunstler [the Chicago 7’s lawyer] grills Hayden during a practice interrogation before he takes the stand. It involves a tape recording that has incriminating evidence of Hayden exhorting a rally crowd to “make sure that if blood is going to flow, let it flow all over the city”. Once again, though, Papamichael had to convince the director to get coverage of all defendants in that scene. “Sorkin was only concerned with getting close-ups of Kunstler, Hayden and the tape recorder, but there were ten other people in the room,”
he explains. “Plus, Hoffman interrupts the interrogation to reveal that Hayden doesn’t use personal pronouns, and that what he meant was, ‘if our blood is gonna flow, let it flow all over the city’. This is a crucial moment and it was important to at least feel him, as well as the other defendants, in the seconds leading up to that point.” Papamichael shot the close-ups and then also suggested shooting wide, using light instead of framing to create a hierarchy between the characters. “I had the defendants up against a wall in the fall off of the light, which was a lamp situated on the table between Kunstler and Hayden. Those two appeared brighter, while the others were darker, more subdued. Of course, Sorkin liked it, but it’s not like he would come to me and ask me for that. I had to try and understand what he wanted, and I made sure he got exactly that, plus some extra little candies along the way.” He conludes: “Thankfully, our editor, Alan Baumgarten, was happy to embrace all the extra footage!” THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 IS CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX WORLDWIDE
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 23
GEAR | BEYOND 4K
The tech accelerating 6K and 8K workflows, from capture to delivery
WORDS PH I L RHODES / P I CTURES VAR I OUS
THE CAMERAS At least, that’s true if we take ‘straightforward’ to mean using conventional lenses. Red’s Helium was an early example, Kinefinity has a 6K MAVO, and Blackmagic now has its Ursa Mini Pro 12K option, all of which offer more than 4K on sensors sized for conventional Super 35 glass. The 12K is still fairly new and hard to summarise, but it’s already been out on a spot for Kia Motors, directed by Glenn F Clements and photographed by Vance Burberry. As much as it’s convenient to be able to use well-established, well-liked Super 35 glass to shoot
high-resolution material, packing so many pixels into a given space means compromise is going to be inevitable. Clever noise-management techniques are a key part of more or less every modern camera, but for people who are not prepared to make any such compromise, larger sensors are the answer. That’s certainly Arri’s preferred answer, in the absence of the higher-resolution Super 35 camera that it has hinted at previously. For now, beyond-4K resolutions require recourse to the Alexa LF, a 4.5K camera, or to go significantly beyond 4K, the Alexa 65, with its titanic 6560x3100 imager. The sheer physical size of the A3X sensor in the Alexa 65 – around 54mm across – demands lenses based on large format stills glass or made for 65mm film origination. This includes the company’s own Prime DNA, Prime 65 and Vintage 765 ranges, or the Leitz Thalia. Not to be left out, Red’s collaboration with Panavision on the DXL2 offers us another option from the old-established part of the film industry, with a full 8192 photosites across its 41mm-wide sensor. Given Panavision’s long-established enthusiasm for lens development, it’s no surprise to find that the company offers no fewer than 11 series of
he question of resolution in drama production goes back more than 20 years. It had long been clear that replacing film would require at least HD video – and ideally, a bit more than that. The idea of HD goes back at least another 30 years, to the analogue systems of the early eighties, but progress in the 21st century has been meteoric. With commercial broadcasters increasingly demanding 4K delivery, there’s a reason to acquire even more pixels, and manufacturers have responded by making beyond-HD acquisition relatively straightforward.
LEFT The Alexa Mini LF can record
in open gate in a resolution of 4448x3096
24 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020
BEYOND 4K | GEAR
Screen Films and the Giant Dome Theatre Consortium and, to make it, they used more or less every tool in the box. “We shot on all the Red cameras going back to the Dragon, the VistaVision 8K camera, Helium and the 8K Monstro. We had the Sony F65, F55, the Phantom Flex 4K, Alexa 65, and the LF. And those are just the live-action cameras,” says Chang. “We also had a bunch of time-lapse cameras – the Nikon D810, D850 and the Sony A7R series. Resolution is always our priority, unless there’s a camera that can do something that other things can’t.” Though, it isn’t solely about numbers. “8K would be great,” Chang continues, “but it’s also about higher frame rates. My understanding is that the Blackmagic 12K will do 8K at 120 frames per second. One of the most demanding types of shots for the IMAX formats are aerials, and it’ll be exciting to see what that 12K camera can do when we put it up in the air, and you can record for more than a minute and a half at a time!” But focus pullers might be blanching slightly at the idea of keeping things sharp on a format intended to replace 15-perf 65mm, which has been described as resolving 15 to 18K, and Chang confirms that challenges for a crew can be extreme. “In post, sometimes, we’ll have a shot that’s in focus all the way up to 4K, and then you go beyond and put it on a 100- foot IMAX screen and it’s not any more,” he says. LENS RESOLUTION Keeping things in focus is one thing; choosing lenses capable of satisfying such high-resolution sensors is another. Relating lens resolution to sensor resolution isn’t always an exact science, with concerns of contrast and chromatic aberration key, but Fujifilm’s Marc Cattrall is confident that “pixel “ 8K WOULD BE GREAT, BUT IT’S ALSO ABOUT HIGHER FRAME RATES ”
ABOVE The Blackmagic 12k can shoot 8K at 120fps
large format lenses. These range from the System 65 series built, like Arri’s Vintage 765, for 65mm film origination, all the way through to the Primo 70 lenses, with built-in focus motors, metadata encoding, and cleanliness intended to keep aberration out of the way of high- resolution images. Similar things are possible outside the Panavision ecosystem, courtesy of Red’s own Monstro 8K VV, which may share some technological lineage with the DXL2. Big-chip options continue with Sony’s Venice, which has a 6K full- frame sensor, and Kinefinity pops up
again with the MAVO Edge, boasting a generous 3:2 aspect ratio sensor capable of 75fps at 8K. Someone with a particular reason to be interested in these cameras is Peter Chang of Golden Gate 3D, whose production history includes the famous Venice launch footage (yes, shot in Venice) and what he calls “a number of giant- screen films”. He explains: “They were all designed for large format IMAX screens, so there was an emphasis on resolution.” Chang’s recent production is entitled Cuba . It was produced by his company in association with BBC Earth, Giant
DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 25
BEYOND 4K | GEAR
resolution and lens resolution do work together”. He elaborates: “We tend to measure them by projecting light through the lenses and then measuring the accuracy of the image produced. A lens that can project 200 line pairs per inch will be able to resolve around 22K on to a sensor. That means all of our cinema lenses will easily manage enough line pairs per inch to resolve 8K, even on a Super 35 sensor.” Fujifilm, of course, is in the unusual position of specialising in cinema zooms and has done a lot to dispel the prejudice that zooms inevitably sacrifice quality for convenience. As such, the company has traditionally been less interested in promoting lenses with hugely outspoken optical character, knowing they’ll likely be filtered and graded to match things that bring a specific look. Fujifilm has therefore been less bashful about the pursuit of clarity and sharpness than some manufacturers are. “All of our Premista lenses – the 19-45, 28-100 and 80-250mm – well and truly out-resolve 8K for the Monstro camera,” assures Marc Cattrall, nonetheless. “Our Premier lenses cover way more than 8K on Super 35, and even when we put a 1.7x adapter on them to make them work on full-frame cameras, they resolved well in excess of 12K.” Even the company’s entry-level zoom, the XK6x20, performs well. “You can pick these up for about ten grand, these days. We tested the resolution to see if it would be good for the Blackmagic 12K, and even this lens resolves around 22K in the middle of
the image, dropping to nearer 8K at the edges,” reports Cattrall. With cameras and lenses very much ready to go, cinematographers have routinely been shooting resolutions significantly beyond 4K simply to make a 4K finish look better, in the same way the original Alexa used a 2.8K area of its sensor to shoot HD. So, shooting high resolution is common. Finishing beyond 4K, though, other than for very specific situations, such as Peter Chang’s giant screen work and the occasional theme park ride, is rare. technology seems very much ready to do it. SGO’s Mistika finishing system, which handles everything from editing and audio to paint and grading, exists in its Ultima 8K form to handle 8K material at up to 60fps. The company took an early interest in 360 ° and VR production – both demanding a very high-resolution workflow – and reports supporting a number of clients, who are regrettably publicity-shy, in the areas of theme park and exhibition work. 8K finishing in conventional film is rarer, although on the feature Two Yellow Lines , colourist David FINISHING SYSTEMS Undaunted, post-production
“OUR PREMIER LENSES COVER WAY MORE THAN 8K ON SUPER 35”
Bernstein, working in Baselight at Roundabout, was asked to finish the trailer in 8K. The request came after people from Samsung viewed a test on a Samsung Onyx LED video display, installed at Roundabout West’s facility in Burbank. The growing application of bright, contrasty LED displays for cinema exhibition is a story for another time, but Bernstein tells us that the original intent was to shoot on the Red Helium and leverage the spare pixels for a better 4K finish. Reflecting on the project, Bernstein describes the production as “an independent, low-budget film”. “It came to me via the director and DOP, Derek Bauer,” Bernstein explains. “We previously worked together on a film he shot a few years back, and this is his first directorial effort. I believe the intent was to capture as much detail as possible in the big vistas of Montana, where the film was shot, in order to get a good 4K result by oversampling. “I introduced the filmmakers to Des Carey [head of Cinematic Innovation] from Samsung,” Bernstein continues, “and we performed a brief demo of the film on the Samsung Onyx screen housed in our facility. That led to a conversation about the 8K Association, which is actively
BELOW Fujinon’s Premista lenses out-resolve 8K for the Red Monstro
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