DEFINITION March 2022 – Newsletter

Be the change Welcome to the big climate issue, jam-packed with tips and tricks for reducing your carbon footprint in production. We’ve got a roundtable with opinions from experts in sustainability, plus insight into how equipment manufacturers are doing their bit. Also in this issue: we find out why the world is falling in love with Korean drama, explore the latest innovations in lighting and for the high demands of aerial filmmaking, and discern the very meta visual effects in the Matrix Resurrections. Don’t miss out!



Why the world is falling in love with Korean drama K-RENAISSANCE

Flying fast Aerial innovations for demanding stories Bright idea Journey to the cutting edge of lighting


The big climate issue Sustainability experts address the industry’s environmental impact – and explore ways of reducing its enormous carbon footprint

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Regulars 05 ON THE COVER

Industry 33 IT’S EASY BEING GREEN Experts reveal the best

Cinesite VFX balances realism with fantasy in Raising Dion 07 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production Production

tips for sustainable filmmaking practices


T oday’s news is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper – what seems novel now will soon be forgotten. It isn’t until something happens on a universal scale that news lingers. The Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps the best modern example of something still prevalent in people’s minds since it was first made public. But, with Boris Johnson’s most recent announcement that those with the virus will no longer need to isolate, I wonder if Covid-19 will become another greasy serving platter? It made me think about other problems brushed under the rug that are still very much present. Climate change is one of the biggest issues we face, but even though its effects are fast upon us, little is being done to enact change. Film and TV produces an enormous amount of CO2 – and, as a magazine that serves that industry, it’s vital to address measures that can reduce its carbon footprint. Welcome to the big climate issue. DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley 05



Leading manufacturers take us on a tightrope walk along the cutting edge of LED



HIGH PLACES Aerial innovations for demanding stories 57 QUASAR SCIENCE LEDS Consistent, accurate light quality, with lots of features


Lighting brings to life the Muslim punk narrative in We Are Lady Parts 16 THE KOREAN WAVE We explore how K-dramas and K-films became so loved in the West 25 REAL AND UNREAL Reality and unreality are blurred with the visual effects of The Matrix Resurrections BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD Bright House 82 High Street Sawston Cambridgeshire CB22 3HJ, UK EDITORIAL DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley FEATURES WRITER Lee Renwick CHIEF SUB EDITOR Alex Bell SUB EDITORS Matthew Winney & Harriet Williams


ADVERTISING GROUP AD MANAGER Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 SENIOR ACCOUNTS EXECUTIVE Emma Stevens 01223 499462 DESIGN DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGNER Lucy Woolcomb JUNIOR DESIGNER Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong


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.

CONTRIBUTORS Adam Duckworth, Phil Rhodes & Emily Williamson EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Roger Payne


Cover image Raising Dion | © Netflix 2022




3. MARCH 2022


RAISING DION Mr Dark Sky CINESITE VFX CAREFULLY BALANCES REALISM WITH FANTASY I n Netflix’s Raising Dion , a newly widowed mother tries to protect her son, who is blessed with supernatural powers. While searching for the truth about her weather-enthusiast husband’s death, ‘rain people’ warn her about a danger fast approaching.

Skies darken and clouds roll in when he appears – and he is made of clouds, with an outline highlighted by lightning bolts to form a human shape. When first introduced, his human form is silhouetted, but it becomes defined over the series as he consumes more people. For these effects, the team combined live action photography with projection and animated matte painting. Larger lightning strikes – hand-animated – are close to the ground, forming his main features, while smaller bolts provide definition for details. They followed the laws of physics as much as possible, but since real lightning travels at the speed of light, a degree of interpretation was needed to create a coherent form. Making this natural phenomenon believable was a challenge for Cinesite, but a convincing one – The Crooked Man is terrifying.

These rain people are the souls of those killed by storms, manifesting as mist-like apparitions. To create them, Cinesite’s Montreal team projected LiDAR scans of the actors onto fluid simulations, with density disturbed using a custom velocity field made from a curl noise of their performances. This retains the actors’ efforts in the finished shots. When the danger finally presents itself, it’s a menacing, 100m-tall figure known as The Crooked Man, who manipulates weather patterns with varying degrees of intensity depending on his mood.

05. MARCH 2022


Industry briefings The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production

HEDGE SIMPLIFIES Hedge has added three products to its suite of filmmaking tools. The updates are designed to address common problems, such as disorganised media, Raw transcoding and archiving spanning multiple LTO tapes. Hedge Elements allows for customisable metadata that users can now associate and store with a file, to clarify its role to other users. People who receive files can specify what elements of information they need to organise and process, by creating a preset that they send to Hedge operators during data transfer. As Hedge moves data from camera cards and other storage sources, a ‘review’ panel will pop up to prompt the operator to insert the required data. The EditReady transcoding application now supports Raw video, including Arri Raw, Codex HDE, ProRes Raw, Red R3D and Blackmagic Raw.

As it isn’t possible to edit Raw directly, EditReady reliably converts Raw camera footage into the Log format native to the camera manufacturer. For NLEs that don’t support a particular type of Raw, Hedge users can accurately convert, for example, Blackmagic Raw to ProRes. LTO is an advanced storage technology that’s scalable to hold vast amounts of data. Before Hedge released Canister – a drag-and-drop interface and cataloguer – users found the software overly technical. Canister prompts users to insert a new LTO tape when needed and keeps a catalogue of the files. This means that when the material has to be retrieved, the user can insert the LTO tapes required to restore the archive. This removes some of the complexity, with the company believing it could be a major step towards making LTO a universal archival medium for filmmakers and studios.

Virtual New York To meet the growing demand for a fully-equipped virtual production venue on the US East Coast, mixed-reality experts Silver Spoon and production house Schrom have partnered to launch a new XR studio in New York. Featuring a 100x50in stage, with a polished and level floor, soundproofing and drive-in accessibility, the space offers both Unreal Engine and Disguise as part of its pipeline. The LED wall is 35x14in – and includes back, side and ceiling panels, so that it can be moved as necessary for easy placement. Silver Spoon and Schrom’s heritage as leaders in the production industry brings expertise to the studio space – and those new to the world of virtual production will have advice on- hand as they explore its facilities. Sitting in the heart of the city’s entertainment hub, XR New York has been pitched as a space not just for big-budget productions, but as a studio available for all content creators. “We’re always looking for new ways to expand the boundaries of content production,” says Laura Herzing, executive producer at Silver Spoon. “It’s wonderful to be collaborating with Schrom, to offer a much-needed resource to the creative industries in New York and to share our experience in virtual production with the wider community.”

CLEVER THINKING One benefit of Hedge’s Canister is that it doesn’t use a proprietary database to track files on LTO tapes. Instead, it creates a catalogue of files, which becomes part of the host computer’s file system – and is universally available

07. MARCH 2022


ARRI FOR ALL Arri is offering a more accessible option for high-quality equipment, with pre-owned lighting fixtures. Undergoing rigorous testing, all the products in the Certified Pre-Owned programme maintain Arri quality, with a two-year warranty. In other news, Arri released a rain cover for its SkyPanel S60. Made of solid aluminium, it allows

for usage in wet conditions without compromising light output, beam control or airflow, and features an integrated accessory slot for eggcrates or honeycombs. The company is also expanding its accessory range for the Orbiter LED luminaire, with the introduction of the Bag-o-Light, Docking Ring and Dome Mini.

Record for UK HETV The latest figures from the BFI research and statistics unit show further growth in the economic recovery of UK film and high-end TV (HETV) production. The combined spend reached over £5.64 billion in 2021, the highest figure ever reported – and £1.27bn higher than for the pre-pandemic

year of 2019. Inward investment spend from major international productions for HETV also topped record levels in 2021. At £4.713bn, it was an 86% increase on 2020’s figure, and reinforced the UK screen industry’s position as a leading global centre. Cinema admissions totalled 74 million in 2021, an increase of 68% on 2020’s figures. But the year presented two very different business halves, with the first four months marked by closed cinemas, before reopening their doors in May. Then, in October, when No Time to Die was released, admissions reached 16.4 million – the third- highest October on record. This trajectory of recovery saw admissions reach 38.8 million in the final quarter of the year, and total box office revenue generated by all films on release in the UK was £602m – a 144% increase on the £247m in 2020. No Time to Die was the highest grossing film of the year, earning £96.6m. Collectively, the top 20 films grossed £441m and accounted for 73% of the total box office; the top 20 UK qualifying film releases grossed £234m; and the top 20 qualifying independent film releases grossed £26.8m. The top grossing independent film was The French Dispatch , which undertook some of its production work in the UK.

THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND As Daniel Craig reprised his role as 007, No Time to Die sat atop the UK Film Chart for three weeks


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It’s a Riot

DOP Diana Olifirova tells us about ambitious experimentation on the set of We Are Lady Parts – bringing dynamic characters to life and merging harmony with discord

WORDS. Emily Williamson



A confused mix of hash anthems and sour girl power. One part boredom, two parts identity crisis. This is how our leading lady first describes the titular girl band at the centre of We Are Lady Parts , accompanied by visuals of band practice in a hazy bedsit. The Channel 4 series, shot on the Arri Alexa Mini with Cooke Anamorphic lenses, chronicles how mild-mannered PhD student/guitar virtuoso Amina (Anjana Vasan) becomes swept up in the rock and roll world of the Muslim female punk band, as their lead guitarist. The show is underscored by this feeling of merging worlds – the meeting of punk and pastel, of fantasy and reality. The stories of British Muslim women are all too rarely told. The experience is homogenised, often denying them autonomy and individuality in media. We Are Lady Parts is a breath of fresh air that treats us to a cast of distinct characters with unique experiences, thoughts, desires and perspectives. They are goofy, moody, creative, intelligent, anxious, angry and flawed. The show manages to explore themes of racism, sexism and LGBTQ+ identity, while remaining vibrant, upbeat and effervescent. COLOURFUL CHARACTERS DOP Diana Olifirova recounts one of her favourite parts of the process: the pre-production meetings with writer and director Nida Manzoor and production designer Simon Walker, where they developed a visual language for the series. This focused largely on individuals, she explains: “We thought a lot about what each character is like, and how they feel in their space. We tried to decide who each scene is ultimately about – and that would inform decisions on-set.” These

A SENSE OF DIRECTION Nida Manzoor (above) won a Rose d’Or Emerging Talent Award for her work on We Are Lady Parts

conversations also centred around how to keep visuals consistent and rooted in reality, while leaving the freedom to heighten them as the story progressed. The character-led aesthetics focus primarily on Amina and lead singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey). “The show is so dynamic and fast, we were able to explore the other characters a little, but chose to focus on those two,” explains Olifirova. Saira, an unlikely champion of Amina, sees something in her and fights for her position as part of the band. She is edgy and Amina is straight-laced, and these contrasts in personality, mannerisms and outlooks are echoed in the stylistic decisions of the show. Brighter, cleaner lights, static shots or smooth Steadicam and dolly movements are used for Amina, whereas Saira is characterised with a

darker, muted palette and a rougher, handheld perspective. The production team’s visual rules are so deceptively simple and contrasting, it is easy for the audience to immediately understand the message they convey. As a result, they could also choose to deviate from these rules to show a shift in character. An example is a scene from episode 4. One of Saira’s arcs revolves around her relationship with family, commitment and romance. She is dating Abdullah (David Avery), but struggling to provide him with the vulnerability he desires. Saira coaxes Amina to a poetry open-mic evening in order to help her overcome stage fright. Unbeknown to her, however, Abdullah has been set up on a date for the same event. The lighting is low, warm and naturalistic as Saira congratulates Amina for getting onstage, but there is a jarring shift in mood, tone and lighting when Saira spots Abdullah. “The content of the scene was quite intense, so we needed it to be powerful,” Olifirova explains. “We had to take it in a completely different direction, to emphasise her feelings at that point.” The lamps and hanging Edison bulbs begin to flash, and spotlights are used to illuminate Saira’s face – as well as Abdullah and his date. And the camera slowly, but smoothly, tracks towards the two parties. The most daring element is the addition of blue flashing lights that flood the room. These serve a dual purpose, providing contrast to the spotlights and further drawing us to the warmly lit faces – but they place the scene somewhere between naturalism and a more heightened style. “I thought this would be interesting, because it’s in-between being real, but also very

“The series, shot on the Arri Alexa Mini with Cooke Anamorphic lenses, chronicles how mild-mannered Amina becomes swept up in the rock and roll world”

11. MARCH 2022


COLOUR SPECTRUM From the hazy darkness of the punk scene to bright pastels, lighting is crucial to the narrative

whole thing in an hour, because we were able to finesse the lighting and blocking. In the end, we didn’t take more time than we would have otherwise. It was worth it, since it was such an exciting new way of doing things.” As a viewer, the scene itself is engaging – the smooth, circling motion of the camera captures the apprehensive energy perfectly. “Some things are hard to just imagine, you also have to try them. It was nice not to completely struggle because it didn’t go how it was supposed to when we were planning – it doesn’t have to be locked in.” This approach helped with some of the larger-than-life surrealist elements. Our protagonist Amina is – especially in comparison to her bandmates – sensitive, sweet, sometimes naive and lives partly in her own head. The use of this narrative device is one of the things that makes the show so charming and watchable. The sets are inventive, and the production team commit to the aesthetic in a way that makes these scenes more effective and enjoyable. It did mean they were planning for complicated sets that they could not rehearse in before the shoot days – therefore decisions had to be made on the day to achieve the desired look and feel. The first such scene occurs towards the end of the very first episode when

“There’s a scene in the bedsit... we were planning to shoot it handheld and have it more in Saira’s style. But, as we rehearsed, I asked Nida what she thought – and she said we should shoot with Steadicam”

surreal. It’s like when you’re in a bar and the police drive by, creating a very bright light and vivid colour. We had never done something like that for Saira, and I remember asking Nida if she was okay with it.” BEAT OF THEIR OWN DRUM As Olifirova explains, there was often the opportunity to experiment and make decisions on the day, because of the director’s approach to production. “I think Nida was very happy with things not being perfect – rough and not glossy or flashy.” This speaks to the nature of the series – because the content and themes centre around punk music and riot grrrl aesthetics, perfection no longer needs to be the goal. A fast and loose,

experimental approach translates to punchy, dynamic visuals. Moments of collaboration often altered the direction of the production. “There’s a scene where they have a parlay in the bedsit, and they are trying to convince Saira to let them launch an online presence for the band. We were planning to shoot it handheld and have it more in Saira’s style. But, as we rehearsed, I asked Nida what she thought – and she said we should shoot with Steadicam.” Time on-set is often tight, and although the thought of deviating from a well-laid plan at the last minute may seem counterproductive, Olifirova says it paid off. “It was a super-big challenge. We spent about two hours rehearsing it, making it work. But then we covered the

Did you know?

Along with her television work, Singaporean star

Anjana Vasan (left) has been

involved in several stage productions



CENTRE STAGE The show’s music numbers are shot with raucous energy and a dreamlike sensibility

to illuminate. I placed lights through the rails of clothes, and they would fade in and out – but we also wanted them to move through the clothing. This was realised as an optical effect, created through the clever placement of mirrors in the back.” The movement of the scene creates a dizzying experience, masking the transition between the bedroom and wardrobe sets. “We decided to transition by zooming in on the poster of Don McLean inside the wardrobe, and then moving away. We had so

Amina returns home, feeling dejected and unloved as her search for a husband isn’t going to plan. In a Narnia-esque twist, she opens her closet to reveal a fantastical safe place to express her melancholy. Usually stricken by debilitating stage fright, Amina is able to perform her own rendition of Man of Constant Sorrow – accompanied by sock puppets, of course. To achieve this desired dreamlike effect, Olifirova had to be savvy with her equipment. “The set was essentially a long corridor, with clothes stretching out either side. It was technically very challenging

“Some things are hard to just imagine, you have to try them... It doesn’t have to be locked in”

GIRL POWER Exploring the lives of twenty-something Muslim women with punk music makes for engaging viewing

13. MARCH 2022


The way the picture closes in while the set moves out creates a delightful sense of motion. This device is employed several times throughout the series, to make visual references to older media, such as black & white cinema. Of course, the picture could be cropped in post, but Olifirova chose to do this in-camera. “I prefer to only see what the viewer will. Though technically the camera sees more, it’s so important that everybody, including the art department, knows where the edges are.” We Are Lady Parts is impactful, for a variety of reasons. Narratively, it provides autonomy to female Muslim characters and representation for those who see themselves in the band members. Paired with punchy, dynamic visuals, interludes of Amina’s imagination and enjoyably tongue-in-cheek tunes such as Voldemort Under My Headscarf , this is an immensely charming and watchable show. Watch We Are Lady Parts on All 4 now “I wanted to play with the perspective, things shifting. It makes it a little bit mysterious”

Right . “We had to build a set that looked exactly like the panelling of the restaurant booth you can see in the profile shot of the two characters,” she explains. The shot cuts from a close-up of Amina in the restaurant, to the two of them in the set. The constructed booth immediately begins to pull apart, revealing the set behind. This happens simultaneously, with a shift in aspect ratio – changing from 2.35:1 to 1.85:1. It’s a genius trick, reminiscent of the 4:3 aspect ratio one would associate with classic game shows, without compromising on capturing all the important visuals on the periphery of the screen.

many ways of moving – the zoom, the slide and the dolly. I wanted to play with the perspective, and the feeling of things shifting. It makes it a little bit mysterious,” explains Olifirova. Although the same lens was used, the problem of making smooth transitions between naturalistic scenes and Amina’s imagination still needed to be solved. MODE OF TRANSPORT Olifirova recounts a scene in the final episode. Amina is on a disappointing date before the restaurant is transformed into a set, for a fourth-wall-breaking dating show in the style of The Price Is

Production Fact File

PRODUCTION The original pilot was a 14-minute short, made in 2018

RECEPTION It has a 100% critic rating score on Rotten Tomatoes

INFLUENCES Manzoor cites work such as This Is Spinal Tap and A Clockwork Orange



How K-dramas and K-films became so loved in the West The Korean wave

WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley

K orean entertainment has taken off in the West, but it’s been popular in the East for years. K-dramas, in particular, were a main motivator for the Korean wave, or hallyu: a term coined by Beijing journalists in the late nineties as they discussed the rising popularity of Korean cultural imports. While most sources point to What is Love? as the genesis for hallyu, with the 1991 family drama ranking second in China’s all-time imported video content, others say it was Star in My Heart or the broadcast of 1992 series Jealousy . Since then, K-dramas, K-films and K-pop have made their way across the globe, but their success has a surprising political history. After the Korean War, dictator Park Chung-hee was encouraged by the US (which still had a presence in the country at the time) to invest in the rapid industrialisation of South Korea. But the media and entertainment industries were still ignored or heavily censored by the regime. It wasn’t until Park’s assassination in 1979 that South Korea started to

change. Throughout the eighties and nineties, the country began cultivating its cultural imports as it modernised, and corporations like Samsung seized the opportunity to invest in filmmaking. Samyang Optics, which was founded in 1972, also started exporting its lenses overseas. In 1994, a South Korean government report was published, suggesting that one blockbuster (the example given was Jurassic Park ) could single-handedly equal the sales of over a million Hyundai cars. It was a profitable venture that became attractive after the shattering 1997 Asian financial crisis, when South Korea suddenly faced economic troubles, followed by a deluge of international bailouts. At his 1998 inaugural address, President Kim Dae-jung said, “We must pour energy into globalising Korean culture… tourism, the convention industry, the visual industry and special cultural commodities are a treasure trove for which a limitless market is awaiting.” Essentially, with that speech, hallyu was born.

CRITICAL DARLING Lee Isaac Chung’s 2020 drama Minari was widely acclaimed, with six Academy Award nominations



BASKING IN THE GLOW Hellbound became even more popular globally than smash-hit Squid Game

17. MARCH 2022


To help it develop, the government subsidised arts industries, providing funding and benefits to conglomerates as an incentive to promote dramas, films, entertainment, video games and music. Two decades later, in 2019, Korean cultural exports netted $10.3bn, an 8.1% increase from 2018. This was undoubtedly bolstered by the increasing popularity of K-dramas on streaming services like Netflix, which is available in over 190 countries. Before streamers, K-dramas expanded outside of Asia, most notably with the success of 2003 historical series Jewel in the Palace . The global sensation harks back 500 years to the Joseon dynasty, based on the true story of a girl named Jang-geum. She was the first female, supreme royal physician in a time that boasted a rigidly hierarchical, male-dominated social structure. Tackling the country’s own political turmoil and ideas of gender, the series sparked interest in other historical K-dramas, such as Empress Myeongseong . Then, in 2021, Squid Game landed. Luring in 111 million fans a month after its debut, the dystopian thriller became one of Netflix’s most popular series to date. Underneath all the hype, it resonated deeply for its takedown of capitalism. In the series, indebted people play children’s games for the chance to Did you know? As well as taking home the Academy Award for best picture, Parasite also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival.

RIDING HIGH Historical fantasy epic Arthdal Chronicles is one of the top-rated Korean dramas in the nation’s recent history

“In more isolated parts of the world like North Korea, bootleg copies of South Korean dramas are increasingly smuggled into the country”

win a cash prize, and are killed if they fail. It satirises our money-obsessed society, a theme also powering the plot of multiple-Oscar-winner Parasite . The 2019 black-comedy thriller, depicting the desperation of poverty in Korea, made movie history. It took home the award for best picture, alongside best original screenplay, best international feature and best director. COMPELLING CONTENT Despite political roots, it is the engrossing storytelling of Korean cultural exports that have contributed to their longevity. Taking on socio-economic issues and universal themes of family, friendship and love, K-dramas and K-films offer parallels that echo across geographical borders. Jewel in the Palace , with its lack of sex and violence, even made it to Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – which often reject Western programming for its explicit content. Similarly, in more isolated parts of the world like North Korea, bootleg copies of South Korean dramas are increasingly smuggled into the country. And, as expected, hardly a day goes by without Kim Jong-un or state media railing

against “anti-socialist and non-socialist” influences spreading into his country. But at a time when the North’s economy is struggling and diplomacy with the West is “spurious”, it’s likely this act of censorship is nothing more than a paddy to instate some authority over its youth. Minari , which also addresses the failures of capitalism by confronting the elusive American dream, received critical acclaim comparable to Parasite . It didn’t take home best picture at the Golden Globes following a controversy around classification, but did win best foreign film. At the Oscars, Minari ’s cheeky, but wise grandmother Youn Yuh-jung won best supporting actress – the first-ever Korean acting winner. Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung was overflowing with praise for his cast, which included The Walking Dead ’s Steven Yeun, as well as the less-recognised eight-year-old actor Alan Kim, who will win over your affection in his role as David. For Chung, it was Han Ye-ri – who plays Monica, the anxious wife of Yeun’s fervent Jacob – that offered the most understated performance. Han navigates the tricky, emotionally nuanced territory of being an immigrant in the US, grappling feelings of guilt and identity

LAVISH Following in a line of recent high-budget series, Arthdal Chronicles cost around three billion won per episode

19. MARCH 2022


pleasing. Part of the reason is that they demand high-value production budgets. Two decades ago, when there were only three major broadcasters in South Korea, the average drama series cost 36.5 million Korean won per episode. In 2021, that rose to a staggering 700 million Korean won. If we’re including streamers, that average will surely be higher. When period drama Mr Sunshine first aired on tvN in 2018, a benchmark was set: production costs surpassed one billion won per episode. When Netflix broadcast it internationally a couple of months later, that increased to 2.2 billion, conveying to the world how serious this global entertainment conglomerate was about breaking into the Korean market. Mr Sunshine ’s production was soon matched, with the 2019 fantasy series Arthdal Chronicles costing three billion won an episode. Later, it was beaten again by Netflix’s Suriname , a six-part crime drama which reportedly commanded 5.8 billion won for each instalment.

It’s unsurprising, then, that the production value of K-dramas on streamers is still increasing – Netflix, especially, is famed for its tough policy on 4K capture, ambitious on-location shoots and visual effects demands. Hellbound , its newest Korean hit, cost a more-than- respectable 3.3 billion won per episode. The series includes fantastic CG elements for its monsters, which would have accounted for a large sum of the budget. In terms of popularity, Hellbound has exceeded Squid Game as the most-watched series on the streaming platform, with an estimated 142 million households in 94 countries tuning in. Of course, we’ll have to watch this space, with Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk revealing that a second season of the show is on its way; there could well be a battle for top spot. It seems the popularity of K-culture will only continue to flourish, and we at Definition are excited to see how it adapts, shaped by the outside influence that’s given it worldwide recognition. If there’s one thing Korean programming does well, it’s combining elements of East and West to generate mass appeal. Even if you don’t understand the language, or struggle to see past the one-inch barrier of subtitles, the content is compelling enough to steal the hearts of film and TV fans everywhere.

CHILD’S PLAY Squid Game was a global sensation in more than just viewing figures – and a second season is coming

loss, without the outsized performance Hollywood often tends to revere. As well as captivating the hearts of fans across the globe for being well- written, emotionally enchanting and skilfully performed, Korean films and dramas are particularly aesthetically

“Two decades ago, the average drama series cost 36.5 million Korean won per episode. In 2021, that rose to a staggering 700 million Korean won”

SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME Just the latest in a line of premium Korean productions, Squid Game’s gorgeous set design came at a price – about 2.9 billion won per instalment

21. MARCH 2022


CRAFTING LIGHT Quasar Science puts the artistry back into production, with innovative and stress-free colour controls


BRILLIANT WHITE Quasar Science Crossfades (above) can be used as point lights, or for a host of accent and area work

light. “Why do you need anything else? It creates more work!” Hue adjustment, as well as control over temperature and plus- or minus- green changes, has been another target for improvement. “The thing I’ve often questioned about colour temperature controls is that, on many lights, they’re in fixed increments on a dial,” Kang continues. “One click is 100K, 50K, whatever. You have more increments than you need in the Daylight end, and not enough at the Tungsten end. To a cinematographer, it doesn’t make sense.” INTUITIVE COLOUR Kang found a better way, based on fundamental research nearly a century old. “There’s a certain minimum change in colour where you can barely see the

THE OPTION TO change colours at the touch of a button makes modern lighting a joy. But controlling those colours, and getting lights to match, can be complicated. Tim Kang is a cinematographer and colour/ imaging developer at Quasar Science, and someone whose work on the company’s light engine helps make things easier. “Every aspect of the light engine is new to most people,” he begins. “We hate colour modes on some lights, where you have to decide between saturated colours or accurate white. We’ve always been parameter-based. Put in the colour temperature and plus- or minus-green adjustment, so you’ve set a white point, then set hue and adjust saturation.” There’s absolutely no reason, Kang says, that simply reducing the saturation to zero shouldn’t create a high-quality white

difference half the time. That’s called a just-noticeable difference, a JND.” Making that part of the control system on Quasar’s lights develops a more intuitive control. “We set up the hue angle wheels so that each click represents a JND. It’s based on what the scientific community says the human eye sees as green, yellow or magenta. I divided it up, so as you go



“All I do is set exposure with white light, then dial in my saturation – and I’m set. It’s a much cleaner way to expose for saturated colour” around the hue wheel, the colours are evenly distributed.” The same approach works for colour temperature. As Kang puts it, “When you’re communicating with a lighting technician, you can ask for, say, five more points of blue to cool it off. Those five points mean the same thing, regardless of where you started. You don’t have to think in numeric kelvins. That’s too abstract a concept for everyday use.” CLEAN EXPOSURE With colour under control, Kang turned his attention to exposure, in the knowledge that most light meters can’t read saturated colours reliably. “There’s no way you’re going to properly meter a magenta, red or blue,” he says. Not only that, but the output varies depending on colour. “One not-so- hidden secret is that the blue diode is more efficient – two to four times more than other diodes.” That means some lights emit blues that are two or three stops brighter than other colours. “With many lights,” Kang warns, “when you set exposure according to red – and you’re doing a police chase in the US, where the lights are blue and red flashing – you’ll clip out in the blue.” Quasar’s light engine avoids this problem. “We’ve normalised the output of the saturated colours to white light. So, all I need to do is

CHOOSE YOUR COLOUR The Rainbow 2 is built with multi-pixel control, and makes use of RGBx technology

create a deliberately limited spectrum. That might mean simulating old-style industrial lighting or, crucially, matching less-capable devices. “This control moves from the best possible spectrum to the worst, and any blend in-between. We’ve put a spectral fingerprint display in the device itself, so you can see the spectrum line at all times. If I select a rainbow effect and go to that screen, I can see the fingerprint morph.” These ideas, Kang concludes, are far from an academic exercise. “Between JNDs, hue equalisation and spectrum control, the goal is to bring back the art, so you’re not saddled with technical issues. You can feel your way into lighting set-ups more easily, it’s more seamless. It shouldn’t just be us doing this, it should be a craft that everyone has in their toolkit.”

set my exposure with white light, then dial in my saturation – and I’m set. It’s a much cleaner way to expose for saturated colour. We call it hue intensity equalisation.” No matter how sophisticated a light may be, though, Kang’s thoughts turn to the reality that no set is likely to be outfitted with just one type. The flexibility of Quasar’s colour controls makes matching easier –particularly a new control letting users


23. MARCH 2022


In this VFX special, DNEG’s Huw Evans breaks down the groundbreaking and meta visual effects used to create the dojo, Exo-Morpheus, the Mega City and the legendary foetus fields Real and Unreal

WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley IMAGES. DNEG ©️ 2021 Warner Bros.

I n 1999, John Gaeta’s VFX team at Manex managed to pull off the impossible, with the Oscar-winning bullet time effect. Using multiple cameras to create the illusion of time slowing down or standing still, it is a visual impression that has since been referenced and used in feature films and video games – changing VFX forever. It’s unsurprising, then, that when Lana Wachowski decided to return to the world of The Matrix two decades later for The Matrix Resurrections , there

was apprehension amongst the VFX department about how to up the ante. It’s now much easier to create photorealism, thanks to advances in capture technology. However, the director didn’t want the visual effects to overpower the beautiful love story between Neo and Trinity. “It’s an upgrade, but where the visuals from previous films were concerned with blurring the lines between reality and unreality, Resurrections feels more relatable. It’s a metaverse that’s equal parts sequel, remake and homage,”

25. MARCH 2022


BEST IN SHOW DNEG have won six of the last ten Academy Awards for best VFX – the fine details above show us why

circle when reflected in the glass-still waters below. “We received the scene from Epic and readjusted as we progressed it, adding details such as rippling waters, swaying trees and falling leaves,” explains Evans. “Our plan was to push real-time rendering in Unreal to get final quality renders that would hold up at 4K. But building the Unreal pipeline was a challenge.” The team started with version 4.25 of Unreal. However, it didn’t have the tools needed to use images in their pipeline, such as OCIO colour support and rendering passes separately. These features are now available, but are a result of close dialogue between the Epic Games team and DNEG. “It was super exciting to be at the forefront of driving forward how Unreal Engine can be used,” explains Evans. “If we were to do it again, having set-up for the painful technical issues, it would be a lot smoother. Nonetheless, the ability to quickly block out the cut, and figure out lighting direction and how it was going to look through the camera, was an incredibly big thing for us – as was being able to view it at a decently rendered quality.” EXO-MORPHEUS Another challenge for DNEG, both technically and artistically, was creating

explains DNEG VFX supervisor Huw Evans. “It’s a love story.” The Matrix Resurrections opens with a familiar retread of the first movie’s opening scene, but doesn’t include the bullet time shot. The effect was a point of careful consideration, with Wachowski cognisant about trying to imitate themselves too directly and risk losing the edge of being self-aware. In fact, there is no real bullet time like in the first film. Instead, the characters can move at different speeds – faster than a bullet. This was achieved through use of stereo rigs capturing two frame rates (24fps and 120fps) simultaneously. Therefore, enabling the team to shoot the same scene at two different speeds for compositing in the edit. THE DOJO DNEG, split between its London and Vancouver offices, created 723 shots for the film. It was responsible for moments in the ‘real world’, including the training dojo in which an epic fight between Neo and Morpheus occurs. The scene was created entirely in Unreal Engine and is based around Germany’s Rakotzbrücke, an arched bridge that creates a perfect

“Characters can move at different speeds. This was achieved by capturing two frame rates simultaneously” the physical manifestation of Morpheus’ digital self. In The Matrix world he’s human, but in the real world he’s an exomorphic particle codex, characterised by animated ball bearings. “In the conception stage, Lana gravitated towards creating Exo-Morpheus

THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE The famous German structure in Kromlauer Park was a key inspiration in the movie



(as he’s referred to by cast and crew) as an elegant, abstract and fluid character. We did some proof of concepts – effects tests on how he would move. We realised that for him to be a main character captured up-close, delivering convincing dialogue, he would need to settle into a more humanoid form and be less ethereal. Then the audience could relate to him and understand him visually,” reveals Evans. “We decided his ball bearings should solidify into a more solid surface, depending on where his focus is. So, if he was having a conversation with somebody, the back of his head would be animated, and his face would be solid. Similarly, if he was to extend his arm and shake someone’s hand, his arm would solidify and come together for a nice, solid handshake, then become fluid again once it relaxes.” Multiple witness cameras were used to capture the performance. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays Morpheus,

viewers. Evans explains, “When we did our simulation of the ball bearings, they were reacting to his muscles and skin, particularly around his face. To capture all of those subtle movements, it was important that we went through all of the character build steps before we got to the effects-driven stuff.”

wore full head-to-toe body tracking, so that the team could get a reference for contrast and shapes in greater detail. DNEG then treated him as they would a normal CG character, doing muscle and skin simulations to provide an underlying layer of reality and physicality – even though none of this would be apparent to

“Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays Morpheus, wore full head-to-toe body tracking, so that the team could get a reference for contrast and shapes”

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER The dojo stage (above) was completed with DNEG’s work, to create the full scene (left)

27. MARCH 2022


Production Fact File

AWARDS The film received a Bafta nom for VFX in 2021

EASTER EGG VFX pioneer John Gaeta appears as an extra in the crowd


supported by One of Us and Framestore to create a total of 2350 VFX shots

FOETUS FIELDS Evans’ favourite sequence to work on, however, was the foetus fields. “I loved it because, to me, that is The Matrix – being able to recreate and evolve the imagery of that environment is something I’ll never forget.” For anyone that hasn’t seen The Matrix (we assume nobody reading this magazine), the foetus fields are mass units from which synthetically grown humans are gathered and transferred by harvester

machines to the power plant once older humans die. The foetuses are preserved in their pods by machines with tentacles, while the harvesters maintain the fields; attacking intruders and disposing of dead foetuses into waste funnels, which feed into the human cities’ drainage systems. “Obviously, we had a perfect reference for the VFX from the previous movies – and even restored some of the original assets, which were a challenge to find, get back online and then make usable with modern-day tools,” explain Evans. “We asked around at the various companies that had worked on the assets at the time, and some of them had backups, but we didn’t get a full set of stuff. Oddly, not all The Matrix assets were in one place, and some of them were just stored on the artists’ home computers.” DNEG was able to get a harvester, a doc bot, a sentinel, foetus egg and stalk, then use these as a base to recreate the foetus fields with modern topology. To create the tower stacks, the team started referencing, just by eye, the pod in the original film. They then recreated that in good detail and added connecting cables and additional gubbins to hark back to the first film – still, Wachowski was keen to evolve it.

Did you know? Flashbacks from the movie required de-aging for Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. “We shot them at their current age and gathered photographs from the trilogy archive to create cyber scans of their heads and textures,” says Evans. These scans were then carefully patched together – since the scenes included close-ups of the characters, Aharon Bourland, who oversaw the de-aging process, couldn’t rely fully on CG to make it convincing. “It was decided that the hard-to- digitally-reproduce features, such as the mouth, teeth and eyes should be captured on camera. Then, the rest of the face is just slight changes in bone structure and skin quality.”

“She wanted the machines to feel more organic, almost as if they were fungus growing onto extra pods to acquire more power. You’ll notice they’re less straight and ordered, and are wedged in

HARDWARE See (above) how DNEG use an exercise ball as a carrier for sensors before creating the familiar pods



and around more pods here and there,” explains Evans. “We started with a straight stack, assembled in Houdini, to make good use of referencing. We then created the extra shapes and different densities. Each tower had an average of 84,000 components, with 18,000 pods plugged into them – inside each pod we had little, digital humans sloshing around, bound by wires.” This whole real-world section was fully CG, except for a couple of close- ups of Neo, including his liberation from the pod. For this, a practical pod was built on-set with a ten-metre-tall turbine connected to it – and the CG work expanded it even bigger. Evans explains, “It was probably one of our trickiest to do, but used very invisible effects, because all of the cables attached to him were CG – for safety reasons and ease of shooting, he didn’t actually have any cables attached to him. Instead, he wore tiny tracking ports on different parts of his body that would move with his muscles and slide around with skin. He was also covered in real goo, so once we had all the ports tracked and the CG cables simulated, we had to simulate goo running off Neo and onto the cables. When the cables went into the pod that he’s sloshing around in, we had to replace half that goo and make it CG. It was an enormous effort, and one of those

BLINDING LIGHTS Tone and texture in the VFX scenes really bring the movie to life and create a fresh feel

incidences where, if no one notices it, then it’s a job well done.” MEGA CITY Since Resurrections takes place 60 years after the end of the trilogy, Wachowski felt the Mega City would need to be updated to reflect this. “She wanted it to feel human-built, but with the influence of machines,” explains Evans. “For example, the buildings had a brutalist base mixed with some intricate 3D printed-style architecture. We didn’t want the city to feel too smoggy and dirty, so we looked at clean energy factories and tiered farming plots. In this film, they have a bio-sky, farming proper food,

rather than eating the slop they used in the original film – this enabled us to work out a logic for the city, with the tiered farming connected to water irrigation, walkways and marketplaces. There was an endless array of tiny details that went into making a convincing city.” Creating The Matrix Resurrections assets became some of DNEG’s largest builds. Evans concludes: “It was a bit of a dream job – and we were really lucky to even get it because, at the time, it was all a bit doom and gloom in the world and people were feeling isolated, having to split out and work from home.” Stream The Matrix Resurrections now

“Each tower had an average of 84,000 components, with 18,000 pods plugged into them”

A WORLD UNLIKE OUR OWN Creating the intricate worlds of the movie involved cooperation – much of the filming took place at Studio Babelsberg, Potsdam

29. MARCH 2022

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