FULL TEST ON THE NEW FX9 CAMERA
April 2020 £4.99
8K MOVIE MAYHEM Guns Akimbo delivers 4K from high-res capture FLARE NECESSITIES The lenses that are encouraging the artefact
ALSO INSIDE FOCUS ON MULAN DOP MANDY WALKER’S CENTURIES-OLD LENS TRICK DRACULA VFX | NEW ROLE FOR EX-MILL BOSS | THE HUNT COOLER LIGHT TECH | FIILEX 4K TEST | CAMERA LISTINGS
EDITORIAL Editor Julian Mitchell email@example.com Staff writer Chelsea Fearnley Contributors Ash Connaughton, Phil Rhodes and Verity Butler Chief sub editor Beth Fletcher Senior sub editor Siobhan Godwood Sub editors Felicity Evans and Elisha Young ADVERTISING Group ad manager Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 firstname.lastname@example.org Sales manager Krishan Parmar 01223 499462 email@example.com Account manager Russell Marsh 01223 499461 firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designer Bruce Richardson Ad production Man-Wai Wong DIGITAL Head of digital content Daisy Dickinson PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD, BRIGHT HOUSE, 82 HIGH STREET, SAWSTON, CAMBRIDGESHIRE CB22 3HJ UK
Mandy Walker on the set of Mulan
W hat a great picture of Mandy Walker, above, striking a classic DOP pose with her Arri Alexa 65 camera – and what we think is a Canon telephoto lens with a Panavised lens mount. But it was another Mulan lens package that we found more interesting, with origins hundreds of years old. Sounds similar to the fable of Hua Mulan herself... Arri Rental fulfils its promise of more custom-made glass by producing new DNA optics, with what it’s calling T types. These are based on very early 20th century optical designs and performance, similar to the early Voigtländer-Petzval objective lens of the late 1800s. They create a strong centre-punch area of focus, and more extreme focus fall-off and focus aberration towards the edge of frame, which is exaggerated on an Alexa 65 sensor due to sensor size and lens image circle. Focussing on the centre of the frame was exactly what Walker and Disney wanted. The Mouse House wanted Mulan to dominate the minds of the movie audience, even in the battle scenes, so actor Liu Yifei was encouraged to complete a lot of the stunts herself, to keep her presence in the scene and the lens firmly on her.
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JULIAN MITCHELL EDITOR
COVER IMAGE Mulan, © Disney 2020
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.
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 03
SET- UP 06 TITLE SEQUENCE
The Hunt is a thinly veiled satire on identity politics – with murderous undertones. 08 INTERVIEW – ROBIN SHENFIELD Shenfield’s route to a new position at virtual tech company Ncam included 30 years at The Mill.
13 NAB SHOW PREVIEW
A selective preview of some of the technology at this year’s show. ACT ION DOP Stefan Cuipek breaks down this intense, multicamera gun-fest. DRAMA
18 GUNS AKIMBO
A new live remake from Disney harks back to the animation, but legitimises the narrative. DRAMA More from this Netflix/BBC episodic, with a deep dive into the VFX and sound design. FEATURE
36 DRACULA PART 2
42 FLARE NECESSITIES
The aesthetic of this light artefact has never been so popular, and there are new lenses.
48 WATER BORN
Cineo lighting is using the computer world’s liquid cooling technique for its new light.
GEAR TESTS 51 SONY PXW-FX9 CAMERA Sony’s replacement for the hugely popular FS7 is more expensive – but better in every way.
56 FIILEX MAG 4K
Fiilex’s prototype high-powered LED measures well in our test.
60 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings now offer kit essentials and recommended accessories.
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 05
With the tag line the ‘Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen’, The Hunt started as it means to go on by dressing up the action thriller as a political satire, namely to play with your mind, in a similar vein to Get Out. The Hunt has DOP Darran Tiernan shooting a riot of violent deaths through his Zeiss Supreme Prime lenses and Arri Alexa cameras. THE HUNT
06 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 07
SET- UP | I NTERV I EW
THE MILL’S CO-FOUNDER JOINS THE VIRTUAL WORLD VIRTUAL EMPLOYMENT Robin Shenfield, co-founder of The Mill, backs Ncam Technology for rapid expansion so much that he joined the company
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL I n a perfect-storm moment at the Games Developers Conference in March 2017, Epic Games and The Mill demonstrated how VFX was possible as a cinematic live element. The two companies brought their newest technologies together to produce an impressive demo of live augmented reality in a short film for Chevrolet, called Human Race . The result, also seen live on stage at the event, was a reskinning of The Mill’s specially designed BLACKBIRD mule vehicle – search YouTube for the event. There was also a demo of live re- colouring of Chevrolet’s cars as a consumer customisation tool. But this wasn’t as new as it seems. UK company Ncam Technology had shown a similar demo at NAB the previous year with its camera tracking and depth mapping technology – a similar effect, but wildly different tracking methods. Also at that year’s GDC was co- founder and group CEO of The Mill at the time, Robin Shenfield. This reskinning through the use of the Unreal Engine became a wake-up moment for him. “I went to that keynote at the GDC. I had arrived a couple of days earlier, there were about 30 Epic developers in the room and probably another 50 at their HQ; the demo
was running at about half-speed, but it was fine on the day. To capture all those shadows, reflections and highlights and to superimpose a different vehicle in real time – yes, that was a light-bulb moment.” Little did Shenfield know then that he would leave The Mill in January of this year, and join Ncam as chairman a month later. JOINING BRIEF There’s a lot The Mill has been doing since, with Epic in particular and virtual production in general, like many companies. There’s also a real-time animation product
IMAGES Above right, Robin Shenfield, new chairman of Ncam Technology. Top and right, The Mill’s BLACKBIRD 1
08 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
SET- UP | I NTERV I EW
that The Mill has developed called Mascot, plus an app called Mill Colour. Coming soon will be BLACKBIRD 2... So, Shenfield has experience of monetising projects within the company, something that Ncam wants him to carry on for them. Virtual production is a subject that had kept Shenfield busy at The Mill, but his feeling was that perhaps The Mill should have been at the VP party a little earlier. “This combination of live-camera tracking and game engine tech really moving on so fast became a huge talking point for us. It seemed like a natural sequel to come and join the guys at Ncam. “I’ve been looking at the kind of things they have been doing recently, especially the work that they have done with Fortnite for their world cup. There’s a lot going on in the background to make the work more user- friendly for broadcast, features and events such as Fortnite. So I do think I have joined at a time when much of the hard work has been done. “They do have an investor in the business, so I will be helping them scale the business as I have experience with four investors at The Mill – including U2 and Ridley Scott. I’ll also be helping them think
The combination of live-camera tracking and game engine tech really moving on so fast became a huge talking point for us
about their sales channels, commerciality and marketing. The job of a chairman is to be a bit of everything, you don’t come in with all the answers but you come in with experience. Some of which is quite pertinent to a business that I feel has got a really exciting proposition, at a point where it feels the market is on the verge of really deploying this technology rapidly. “I’m here at Ncam as a resource for the senior management team and to share some experiences, and be a sounding board and hopefully a bit of a mentor. The company just feels like its posed for a lot of growth. “The single most talked about subject at The Mill in the last year was virtual production. We, at The Mill, weren’t involved with The Mandalorian but we looked at the creative flexibility
of productions like that; the advantage of actors responding to real sets is massive. There are a lot of ideas bubbling inside production and VFX companies about how to deploy camera tracking and game engines to do new things.” AR FOR GLADIATOR Augmented Reality authoring is part of Ncam’s offering, and Shenfield thinks back to how it would have helped when The Mill produced the VFX for Gladiator in 2000. “Rather than having a J section of the Coliseum back in Valetta we would be able to see a set extension while we were shooting with all the reactions. I was there when they were producing the VFX and it was absurdly complicated between the crowd, the actors and all the elements that were shot separately. “As a filmmaking tool, Ncam has been involved with movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story , The Nutcracker , and TV episodics such as Game Of Thrones ,” Shenfield continues. “But then you have the work they did for Fortnite with those big arenas, augmenting that experience for those watching esports. You also have the more traditional sports arena material, such as the Superbowl, and the football with Sky. “I suppose that’s a bit of a surprise for me, this convergence of requirement from different parts of production, and I feel Ncam’s in a really good spot to service the breadth of that right now,” he concludes.
IMAGES Ncam’s AR technology would have made the VFX for Gladiator much easier to do; left, The Mill’s live animation tool, Mascot
10 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
PREV I EW: NAB SHOW | SET- UP
The biggest broadcast and production show in the world returns for 2020. Here’s our pick of what to see NAB PREVIEW ONES TO WATCH
Disclaimer: At the time of print, the NAB Show is scheduled to go ahead and the proceeding companies are committed to attending the show. Any changes to the show due to coronavirus (Covid-19) will be updated on the NAB Show website at nabshow.com
Sam Nicholson, ASC, cinematographer and visual effects director, talks about the advances in modern VFX and highlights his recent developments in creating real time effects using Stargate Studios’ on-set VFX system, ThruView. ThruView enables DOPs to shoot in real time, while seeing CG elements – complete with reflections and lighting – integrated into the camera, eliminating the need for the more conventional, albeit time consuming green screen set-ups.
P|PW KEYNOTE: VIRTUAL PRODUCTION: ON SET VISUAL EFFECTS IN REAL TIME WHEN: Sunday 19 April at 3:30pm – 4:45pm WHERE: S222/S223
Sony is showing its family of 4K and 6K cameras, including the Venice, which now features v5.0 firmware – adding new frame rates and monitoring options to streamline production workflows. Since its inception in 2017, the camera has become a hugely popular choice for filmmakers and has been used on a wide range of high-profile productions across the globe, such as the BBC and Netflix’s dramatisation of Dracula , which aired earlier this year. Also on display is the Sony FX9, the latest addition to Sony’s full-frame 6K line-up, which includes fast hybrid AF, dual base ISO and S-Cinetone colour science. You can also see a selection of Sony’s Trimaster monitors for on-set and post-production applications, alongside audio equipment for location-based audio recording.
BLACKMAGIC DESIGN blackmagicdesign.com
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera line has become a favourite among indie producers and DOPs, and the latest iteration shoots 6K at a smaller price compared to other cinema cameras. It features a Super 35 sensor, making it compatible with a wide range of Canon EF mount lenses, which are largely available and have excellent optics. The Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K, which offers 15 stops of dynamic range and can shoot at up to 300fps, is also on display, alongside the DaVinci Resolve 16. Visitors are able to get hands-on with the grading software and play around with new features, including a cut page designed for speed and fast turnaround work.
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 13
SET- UP | PREV I EW: NAB SHOW
SESSION PICK WHAT COLOR IS YOUR LIGHT? AN EXPLORATION OF CRI, TLCI AND SSI WHEN: Tuesday 21 April, 3:30pm – 4.45pm WHERE: S225
When LED lights first came on the market, they revolutionised TV and film production – we all talked about how great they were, then we found out our measuring system had some pretty serious holes. Join imaging guru Gary Adock and Blair Paulsen as they talk about the differences between using the established Colour Rendering Index (CRI) versus the newer Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) and the Academy’s Spectral Similarity Index (SSI).
The 2020 NAB Show sees the debut of the next generation of Mole-Richardson Co LED Spacelites, the Vari-space 2 and Vari-space 4. These spacelites utilise the same colour science and user interface found in the popular Mole Vari line of Fresnels. The Vari-space 2 and Vari-space 4 have been designed to fit the needs of the 2000 watt and 6000 watt quartz spacelites, respectively. With power draws of 350 watts and 900 watts, both spacelites feature variable colour temperature (2700K to 6500K,) plus/minus green correction, built-in LumenRadio, RDM and Bluetooth compatibility. Along with the complete line of Vari-Fresnels and Vari-Soft Panels, Mole-Richardson Co is also featuring the 20k LED. This 24in, single-source LED delivers unparalleled output on two 15-amp circuits.
QUASAR SCIENCE quasarscience.com
to the rail itself. The rotator block is designed like a small grip head for attaching to industry-standard 5/8in or 3/8in pins and rods, such as a C-Stand arm. Magnetic feet and a battery plate for run-and-fun filming round out the offering.
With a variety of accessories, the mounting system provides a skeletal framework to help place lights in precisely the right spot and attach them to almost anything. For large arrays, the Frame Array fits RR or R2 at 6 and 12 lights respectively. The Ossium block brackets form smaller arrays in two- and four-bank configurations. Accessories also include a
Quasar’s RR100 and RR50 linear LED lights, recent additions to the Quasar product range, have really caught our attention for this year’s NAB Show. An enhancement of Quasar’s tubular form factor with their larger widths, these LEDs manage to keep the low-profile shape of the company’s legacy lights. Enter Quasar’s latest innovation, Ossium. A new rigging system with a name deriving from the Latin for bones, this system matches the originality of the RRs that it was designed for. Both the RRs and R2 come with a mounting rail down the back, lined with 1/4-20 mounting points and a NATO profile.
locking slider that travels along the
rail. A baby pin attaches to the slider or
14 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
PREV I EW: NAB SHOW | SET- UP
Creamsource is the current cream of the crop in the lighting world and one to watch at the NAB Show. Starting in 2004, the company has come a long way from building an industry-first, large-scale and high-powered LED installation for the movie, Happy Feet . In 2020, Creamsource can boast lighting some big and notable names in Hollywood. Earlier this year, we looked at how the Creamsource Micro bi-colour was used for Le Mans ’66 in effectively dealing with the brightness of a Californian set. The light was also used in the film, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn . At NAB Show, Creamsource is presenting its first-ever smart lighting platform. Creamsource claims it will be the first cellular radio lighting platform for unprecedented connectivity potential – more details of which will be announced soon.
The film and television worlds are not unfamiliar with Bebob batteries, having energised our industry’s cameras for more than 25 years. With this in mind, the news of a collaboration between the established German battery supplier and industry staple Arri was most welcome. The growth in power consumption by new cameras and lights was something that required a partnership of knowledge and expertise to resolve, and so, the B-Mount was born. The B-Mount is a new battery mount that has been built to sufficiently power today’s equipment, while also possessing the flexibility The new batteries provide 24-volt high power, but also boast multi-voltage use (12 volts and 24 volts). In other words, this new B-Mount system makes it possible to power every device on-set entirely on its own. required and expected when powering modern-day production equipment. Dejero returns to the NAB Show with its latest contribution, distribution and connectivity solutions. Highlights include an enhanced EnGo mobile transmitter, new smaller CuePoint return feed server and a new WayPoint receiver, in addition to its WayPoint 204 that supports SMPTE ST2110 workflows. The new EnGo 260 is at NAB for the first time and features Dejero’s double Emmy award- winning Smart Blending and Hybrid Encoding technologies. The 5G-ready mobile transmitter now weighs 30% less, features a screen that is 85% larger and includes a three-hour internal rechargeable battery and global modems for simplified international travel. A new smaller CuePoint 50 is also being unveiled. It simplifies talent cueing, production and confidence monitoring, and real-time teleprompting in the field, with as little as 250 milliseconds’ latency. Up to eight return video and teleprompting feeds from the facility can be seen in the field by the talent on a tablet or monitor next to the camera, or on multiple mobile devices. DEJERO ldejero.com
NBCUNIVERSAL AND CINEO LIGHTING cineolighting.com
NBCUniversal company, Cineo Lighting, is a don’t miss this year. After gradually expanding its presence in the UK and Europe in the past few years, its lighting solutions have become far more accessible for the film, television and broadcast industries. This year, Cineo is showcasing its LightBlade Edge series. This series presents versatile production lighting systems, featuring reference-quality tunable white light, combined with a rec. 2020 saturated colour system. The USP of the series is the individual blades. Measuring at 24in or 48in wide by 2.5in deep, the individual LightBlades bring versatility and a low-profile footprint that can discreetly light the darkest corners of your sets. Each LightBlade boasts the ability to operate as a stand- alone fixture, with internal AC power supply, control electronics with DMX and local control. The pairing of crisp white light with full-gamut saturated colour technology, means an individual LightBlade can deliver up to 5000 lumens at an 80-watt power draw. Both 24in and 48in LightBlades are some of the most powerful linear lighting engines on the market. Offering a unique modular design, the LightBlades are integrated into the mounting system to create the LightBlade 160 (two- blade) and LightBlade 320 (four-blade) fixtures, delivering 10,000 or 20,000 lumens.
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 15
SET- UP | PREV I EW: NAB SHOW
SESSION PICK THROUGH THE LENS: SHOT COMPOSITION TECHNIQUES WHEN: Wednesday 22 April, 2pm – 3.15pm WHERE: S230
This is designed for the producer, director and DOP who needs to keep all aspects of a production in mind while composing the perfect shot. UAS instructor, Douglas Spotted Eagle, talks about increasing the value of a production by changing the way you look through a lens. The seminar will cover choosing the right positions, angles and lenses to build powerful, emotional and consistent scenes.
P+S TECHNIK pstechnik.com
Optica Magnus and is showcasing the new Optica Magnus Full-Frame- Finder – a real optical viewfinder system. The repetition of this partnership was something hoped for by cinematographers, who will be pleased to discover that the new Full- Frame Finder will work with all sensor formats up to an image diameter of 46.31mm (Super35, FF, VV and LF). With an ergonomic and lightweight design, the viewfinder system includes a bright ground glass. It can be used for spherical and anamorphic cine lenses –
With a commendable history of supplying cinematographers with the Technovision Classic and Evolution 2X anamorphic lens ranges, as well as its specialised lens systems, optical adapters and lens mount solutions, any addition to its ranges is always highly anticipated. P+S is presenting the new Technovision 1.5X anamorphic primes, which now cover larger formats including full-frame, along with the Evolution 2X lenses for Super 35. In addition to this, P+S has teamed up again with Kish and
the current supported squeeze factors are 1.5X and 1.8X and 2.0X. Equipped with the P+S Interchangeable Mount System, the viewfinder boasts up to ten different lens mount options, a level of variety not often available to lenses of this calibre.
The premium lens manufacturer, Leitz – sister company to Leica AG – is well-known for its Thalia, M 0.8, Summilux-C and Summicron-C lenses. It has recently expanded
its range of highly developed cinema optics with its highly anticipated high- performance Leitz primes and Leitz zooms, which were launched late last year. As well as its new primes and zoom, the company is focusing on its Thalia range – particularly the macro set of Thalia lenses. This includes the Thalia 24mm, 55mm and 120mm. The Thalia prime lenses offer a cinematic look throughout the range of nine lenses, from 24mm to 180mm, with an image circle of 60mm. The lenses are compact, with a matched front diameter of 95mm and are available in PL, LPL and XPL mount with Cooke/i Technology metadata contacts.
If you want to focus your NAB experience on lenses, make sure to visit Zeiss at some point during the event. Zeiss has established itself as a company with a long and colourful history. Started by Carl Zeiss in 1846, Zeiss has been central in shaping the optical world. From microscopes to working with the likes of Nasa, Zeiss’ diverse past seems to constantly feed into its modern innovations. This year, we expect to see Zeiss showcasing its portfolio of full-frame lenses, including its new Supreme Prime Radiance lenses. These lenses render
like modern cinematography lenses – but with a twist. Despite the standard rendering, they also flare thanks to their coating, T blue. This means that filmmakers can now produce controlled flares while the lenses maintain a large format coverage. With a high speed of T1.5, robustness and smooth focus, this range is definitely something of note. Complete shipping of this new range of lenses begins in April.
16 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
ACTION | GUNS AK IMBO
AND GUNS A dystopian punk tale with 3000 cuts, over 1000 VFX shots and a condensed shooting schedule all shot in 8K and delivered in 4K. DOP Stefan Ciupek explains how he coped CAMERAS A SHOOTING
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES SABAN FI LMS
18 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
GUNS AK IMBO | ACTION
D irector of Guns Akimbo , Jason Lei Howden, started his creative life as a VFX artist working on some major CG movies like War for the Planet of the Apes and Avengers Assemble . But he was bound for higher things, and in 2015 he wrote and directed Deathgasm , a zombie flick with plenty of cool VFX in between the death metal-driven teen-killing plot. It’s a similar career to another VFX artist turned writer/director, Neill Blomkamp, who, after a lower-profile VFX career to Lei Howden’s, wrote and directed movies like 2009’s District 9 and 2015’s Chappie . He’s now making digital movies using the Unity game engine and generally pushing the digital filmmaking envelope. Lei Howden has now made Guns Akimbo , a high-intensity independent movie with plenty of SFX and VFX, starring Daniel Radcliffe. The premise of the movie involves a psychotic gang, Skizm, which uses members of the public for a Hunger Games -type fight to the death. Think Mad Max meets Hunted meets 6 Underground . DOP and architect of the ensuing mayhem of Guns Akimbo is Stefan Ciupek; a creative artist and technologist who has been at the forefront of digital cinematography since operating on Alexander Sokurov’s epic one-shot opus Russian Ark back in the early 2000s. He was also one of the camera operators for Slumdog Millionaire , and
was vitally important in making all the smaller cameras work in 127 Hours . His fruitful relationship with Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle started with Dear Wendy in 2005 up to Dredd in 2012. Ciupek now earns his living as a cinematographer, recently shooting the luscious period drama The Spanish Princess and sci-fi thriller, Synapse . CULTURAL REFERENCES Ciupek remembers reading the script for Guns Akimbo for a number of reasons. “It was the most insane script I’d ever read – and I’ve read many scripts,” he says. “It’s a rollercoaster ride without stopping with one action scene after another; it could easily have the budget of a Mission Impossible or a Bond movie. I’d always wanted to do an action movie; my usual film is more of a straight drama or contemporary piece. This was more of a graphic-novel movie like Sin City , for example, and I thought our film was going to be like that.” He continues: “Jason saw the movie as a possible new version of 1987’s The Running Man and with inspiration from the Terminator movies. But on his mood board
there were lots of stills from Dredd – the 3D film I did with Anthony. That became an interesting starting point for me to get the job. But how do you reference all those eighties movies and still be modern? I felt like this movie had to be groundbreakingly new. Luckily, Jason was very open to other references as well – I saw the look was more graphic novel.” PREVIS POLARISATION The world of previs is stretching itself out and polarising. At the highest end, there are complex game engine animations with real physics behind them to ground you in reality. At the bottom end, you have storyboards and references. Lei Howden had his renders for Guns Akimbo, which was the way he worked when he was in VFX for movies like The Hobbit films. Ciupek explains how both the systems evolved for the movie. “Jason already had animatics of scenes instead of storyboards – they were pre-rendered scenes so he had very good idea of what he wanted. For me, it was a bit too pre-formulated; he’d pretty much shot-listed the whole scene as an animatic. You could see it on playback, and I just thought there could be more to it.
The best way to proceed is to have a plan, but to leave yourself some room to see new angles
APR I L 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 19
ACTION | GUNS AK IMBO
I think you are limiting your imagination this way. I really like to see the location and, from there, I build the look with the lighting and also block the scene and then come up with a shot list.” When preparing the sets with the production designer, Nick Bassett, Ciupek’s method involved finding the locations, then creating 3D models of them as to-scale sets. This then allowed him to experiment with angles, change the lighting and demonstrate to Lei Howden what the set could look like. “The best way to proceed is to have a plan, but to leave yourself some room to see new angles when you start shooting,” he explains. “We had mood boards and 3D renders with the precise scale of our locations. I could actually sit with the artist, move the camera through 3D space and find interesting angles. I also worked on part of the lighting and colours in this CG world, so we created a mood render of an actual set before we went there and started filming.” For the less experienced, it can be sometimes hard to imagine how an empty warehouse can look once it’s dressed up with lighting and props, but for Ciupek, it was “great to play with the angles and lighting tones”. He adds: “Once I had it and Nick and I were happy with it, we would show it to Jason and get approval.” CAMERA CHOICE Every film that Ciupek has worked on featured cameras systems that were brought in to do a specific job for that movie. The choice was not just based on the look the camera could produce. For Guns Akimbo , the With large format, you can shoot very wide and the distortion is much more interesting
Red Monstro 8K camera ticked a number of boxes. “I’m always looking for the new things out there,” he explains. “First, I look at ergonomics, especially for a fast action movie where the camera is never going to stand still. I knew the camera was going to be rigged and mounted to ridiculous places, so I needed a small camera, but I also wanted to shoot large format.” For Guns Akimbo , Ciupek had a very particular look in mind for Daniel Radcliffe’s character, Miles. “I wanted a very wide look for him, a kind of immersive experience for his journey through the story. But I didn’t want it to feel like it’s a wide-angle lens. That’s the great thing about large format, you can shoot very wide and ABOVE Previs for Skizm’s den and their computer centre LEFT The Red
the distortion you get is more interesting than on Super 35. You still get the focus fall-off, so you see more of your set and are physically close to the actor,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of Alexa 65 movies and seen the look and feel of it. “We did lots of tests with the actors as well. With wide lenses, I had to make sure that the distortion was kind to the characters – we literally had lenses touching Daniel’s nose and it was really interesting the look we were getting. So every time he was under extreme stress, we used it.” NAILING THE LOOK When someone does a camera test, Ciupek reveals it’s very important to do them in a place that looks like where you will eventually shoot and with the actual lighting. “I see so many tests being made in the garage of a rental house, for instance, which has no relevance for the shoot. This way, you are already establishing a language and a flavour for the film in the testing process. So I made sure we had a location that was a little bit like this underworld, this Skizm world that was littered with intense primary-coloured lighting.” To Ciupek, it quickly became apparent that, if you shoot monochromatically in one colour, you need a high-resolution camera for the image to remain sharp. “3K or 4K on a Bayer-patterned sensor quickly gets soft, because of the lack of resolution in it,” he
Monstro fully rigged, but Ciupek stripped it down for fight sequences
20 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020
ACTION | GUNS AK IMBO
explains. “You could see the difference in this primary-coloured lighting very clearly in the resolution. Mostly, I was after the look of large format in a small form factor. 8K was initially a bonus, but allowed us to deliver 4K, so we worked on the VFX shots and everything else in 4K. It’s stunning to see that coming out of an 8K source.” As for lenses, “it was probably the widest-shot film I have ever done”. Ciupek adds: “We were shooting wider than we ever would in spherical – I hardly went over a 70mm lens, as that on large format is like a 45mm. For an action movie with so much camera dynamic, it’s very unusual, but I wanted to show the great sets and locations we had on the wide shots and even the close-ups. Large format allows you to do this without the audience immediately knowing it’s a wide shot.” Ciupek admits he spent quite a long time deciding on which prime lenses to use. “At the time we shot, the amount of available large format lenses was small. I was still looking for a very cinematic look and I was lucky to try the Leica Thalia, which had just come out. I was fascinated about the look, especially from the wide lenses. The 24mm in particular has incredible close focus – we were just about touching Daniel’s nose and still getting it sharp. At the same time, it distorted in a We literally had lenses touching Daniel’s nose and the look we got was really interesting
ABOVE Daniel Radcliffe’s character Miles’ life spins out of control as the camera does the same
very pleasing way and it also had a nice fall- off and softness, making it more filmic. “The Thalias were very usable out of the box even though we started with some diffusion, but most of the film is shot without any filtration. With most lenses, I usually work with diffusion, but in this case, I felt the lens gave me the look I wanted out of the box. The Thalia also only had a T2.6 or T2.8 in the wide lens and, on the 24mm, T3.6, but that wasn’t limiting at all. In large format, you don’t have to have shallow depth-of-field – it looked really nice. “The Thalia comes from large format Leica stills photography; I think it’s called the Leica SL for stills cameras. It’s been rehoused and given a new flavour – bringing it into the world of cinema lenses. There’s something very special about those lenses, it’s like every single lens is made to photograph people and faces.” MOVING MAYHEM With the camera and lenses decided upon, how did Ciupek want to control the camera movement? “I had a meeting with the Steadicam operator, key grips and my assistants early on and said that I wanted three or four different purpose-built rigs for the camera. I really wanted to have a
dynamic that mixes formats. I was going to mix Steadicam with handheld, for instance. “Normally, what I did was operate the B camera, while my Steadicam operator, Benjamin Treplin, operated the A camera. The Steadicam was the MK-V Omega, which I’ve been using on my last six feature films – what I really love about it is that it really keeps the horizon clean and you can actually do jib arm moves. You can move around in a very dynamic way – go up from the feet and go into the faces, for instance.” For scenes when he needed to convey a sense of unease, Ciupek made use of a new rig feature that Steadicam operator Benjamin Treplin discovered, which synchronised the movement of a smartphone to the movement of the rig using the phone’s accelerometer. “I had the phone attached to tripod head, so as Benjamin went through a Steadicam move, I spun the camera. There’s this scene where Miles wakes up and realises he has the guns bolted to his hands – I wanted to make the audience feel as nauseous as he feels, so for three minutes the camera moves and spins around at the same time. Also, for some of the action sequences where he’s been shot and falls and runs and tumbles, we rigged an iPhone to his neck. So when he falls, the
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I was shooting shots I wouldn’t dare to do if I was the only camera shooting the scene
of the corridor, to the destruction of the entire place.” All of this helped Ciupek to create the stylised “neo-noir meets graphic novel” look he had in mind, especially for the Skizm world. He explains: “It’s quite brave in regard to the saturation of the colours – I usually pushed the colour intensity to the limit, where the camera would nearly get in to clipping, as I really felt that this is how I would imagine a graphic world to be: super saturated and really dark.” ONE-SHOT FIGHT Originally, there was the idea to introduce the character Nix in a one-shot, three- minute sequence, where she takes down a coke den full of baddies. However, this was cut down by about 30 seconds in the edit. The scene starts with a fluid Steadicam shot viewing the quiet scene of the den, then the camera reaches the exit and someone flies through. The view then moves in reverse back to the starting point. “We spent quite a while designing this shot and the stunt rehearsals for it, as it has a lot of hidden cuts. We had the stunt supervisor who worked on Kingsman, who rehearsed his team endlessly,” says Ciupek. “Jason had a board of how the sequence would go, but then once you get the input from the stunt people, the whole thing develops from there. Over several weeks, the stunt team refined their choreography on their own stage, with a new version
lights, which were Astera LED tube lights. We had to do a full blackout of this place and rig it like it was a real stage. We had one main shooting area, which was basically the Skizm video control room with a 300m long corridor – great for entrance shots and showing the scale of the place.” As soon as Ciupek saw the set for the first time, he knew how he wanted to light it. “It was like an eighties or nineties set-up video studio design, so it was going to be lit in a combination of deep red and cyan blue primary-coloured lighting, which came from the Asteras. We had all the practical Astera tube lights on an iPad control, so we could dial in the final colours. Another reference for me were the warm inky blacks and yellowish lighting of Fallen Angels , which was shot by Chris Doyle in the nineties.” He continues: “We also had around ten HMI lights on rostrums, which had filtration and were iris adjustable. I could basically create shafts of lights with those, and I also had two massive Mole Beams more for ambient lighting. We had different lighting set-ups ready, so we could move over to different scenes on the stage quite quickly; it only took about five minutes to swap over the look of a scene dramatically – from maybe the cool Blade Runner blue
camera is totally synchronised and does the same spin as he does – it’s very intense. “The grip crew came up with dozens of body rigs and different set-ups so we could rig a camera to Daniel’s body. Obviously, we had gimbals, but wouldn’t go gimbal all the time and I wouldn’t go Steadicam all the time – sometimes, I thought something else was better. Also, I did an interesting thing that I adopted from the early days of working with Anthony Dod Mantle, where I had the idea to mix unusual camera set-ups. “Basically, A camera did the boarded shots on Steadicam, I roamed around and did a handheld set-up of the same scene in a more of a kind of documentary way, more immersed in the emotions of Daniel. Then the editors cut from a super-clean front shot into a shaky profile shot, it was very unusual way of feeling the tension more – it worked very well this combination. As I felt that the Steadicam always did the safe set-up, I was shooting shots that I wouldn’t dare to do if I was the only camera shooting the scene.” SKIZM’S LAIR Guns Akimbo was shot half in Auckland, although the film is set in America, so it is strange seeing the traffic on the wrong side of the road. The other half was shot in Munich, Bavaria, where an abandoned paper factory served as the HQ of Skizm. “It had around 80% of the texture and look before we even started,” says Ciupek. “We only had 40 shooting days and no real second unit (just a few pick-up units), so we were under loads of pressure to work fast. I spent some time with my gaffer, Chris Böck, to convert this huge factory building in to a stage where you could have computer-controlled
BELOW Auckland doubled as a US city – spot the traffic on the wrong side of the road for America
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ACTION | GUNS AK IMBO
We managed to strip down the Monstro to just a bit bigger than a DSLR for fight scenes
allowed to shoot there for one day, so one day for all the exteriors and one for the green screen shots inside on the stage.” Overcoming this was “the most impossible task I’d ever been asked to do”. “I came up with the idea that the only way to do this was if major parts of this chase sequence were choreographed as one. So, you don’t go for specific set-ups (and shoot only these set-ups), you have to go through and throw an armada of cameras into the sequence, which we ended up doing. “We had three Red Monstros, a russian arm, another tracking vehicle, drones, cameras rigged to the car and motorcycle all at the same time, six or seven cameras working at the same time. My camera operators had their specific part of the boards and the shots they were supposed to get and once they were through, they just freestyled through the sequence with additional footage of the chase.” He points out: “Because all the cameras were in each other’s shots, they had to be painted out, but the priority was to get the scene done. That was also day one of the movie with a brand-new crew and they all looked at the shot list and the schedule and couldn’t believe that this had to happen. But we got through it and made those 100 set-ups, as it turned out. We had more shots than we had actually boarded and they had a lot of fun putting that sequence together. It was a brilliant start. After that day, we felt that we could do anything.” Ciupek is justifiably proud of his achievement with Guns Akimbo . He concludes: “Every action scene in the movie has its own style and design. We never went generic, as we always wanted every sequence to have its own flavour.”
this camera, so I could do all this other type of work. Although I did use the Panasonic GH5S camera for some body rigs where the Monstro would have been too big or heavy.” CHASE SEQUENCE Unfortunately, on the first day of shooting a three-day chase sequence, Auckland’s local government reduced production access to one day in the city’s downtown area. Ciupek recalls: “We blocked the whole downtown area of Auckland for this chase scene. Nix is chasing Daniel’s character Miles through the streets. She’s on a motorbike, chasing and shooting, while he’s trying to handle a car, but he has the guns bolted to his hands! At the end of it, she just drives up the car, pushing the wheel of her bike into his face through the smashed windscreen. “When you read a scene like this, you’re thinking how you’re going to shoot it. Originally, we thought we would need three days of main unit and two days of second unit to shoot the sequence and those 80 boarded shots. Unfortunately, we were only
coming to us every day. All the editing wipes were planned in; on the shooting day, we were so well prepared, we shot the whole scene in six hours. The scene had 15 wipe points, with the camera going really crazy, flying through space. There’s one scene where we have all the camera set-ups: handheld, Steadicam with the Omega and spinning the camera and gimbals.” For some set-ups, the stunt team needed their own camera operator, as Ciupek wanted some shots to be very close to Nix. However, the camera also had to be moved quickly out of the way, “otherwise it would’ve got punched”. He explains: “It could only be done by someone who is part of the fight choreography team: we got really close to the faces as the action was happening. For them, we managed to strip down the Red Monstro to just a bit bigger than a DSLR – it was a bit hard for the super-fast gimbal shots. That was great for me, as it meant the camera was the same for the stunt work as for the rest of the movie. It was one of the reasons I wanted
GUNS AKIMBO PREMIERES IN NEW ZEALAND THIS MONTH
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DRAMA | MULAN
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ALL EYES ON MULAN The latest Disney live-action remake is true to the ancient fable of the warrior Hua Mulan, which meant a PG-13 rating, a large format aesthetic and some lenses from the 1800s
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES DISNEY
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Y ou could construe the PG-13 rating of Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan as the media giant putting a more ‘mature’ slant on the much-loved (but very family-friendly) 1998 animated film. The new movie is also the first live- action remake to gain this rating, most likely because of its highly choreographed battle-scene violence. There’s no room for the songs or usual Disney comedic characters like Mushu the talking dragon, voiced energetically by Eddie Murphy. You do, however, get luscious orchestrations of the big hits swelling behind pivotal scenes. The new movie finished shooting by the end of 2018 after five months on location, with sets in New Zealand and China, but there was still a little bit of extra shooting to do last year. The main unit was in New Zealand and there was a second unit and a scenic unit in China. DOP Mandy Walker explains the reasons for the country split. “What we needed to do was quite controlled, so we ended up building a lot of sets on a backlot or on stage in Auckland. Niki [Caro, the director] wanted everything as realistic as possible, so we needed to try and shoot as much in-camera as we could. We had sets with little green screen extensions so the actors were physically in a place.”
CHINESE CINEMA Strip away the Disney songs and comedy relief-based characters and Mulan 2020 begs comparison with some classic Chinese period epics, like The Last Emperor , Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers , especially the use of wire work for the battle scenes. Walker explains: “We did reference those films, but one of the most important
For Walker, Mulan was the job of a lifetime: “It was amazing and really exciting to be doing those big action sequences. It was the first time for me to be shooting battle scenes – also I love the story and working with Niki was great.”
LEFT Director Niki Caro and DOP Mandy Walker on location in New Zealand
One was a special portrait lens based on a Petzval design from the 1800s, which focuses on the centre of the frame
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things for me was something Niki said to me very early on, which was that the film was centred on Mulan – she is the centre of this movie. I always kept that in the back of my mind. We did look at Chinese cinema – like those films from Zhang Yimou – just to see how other people had shot Chinese films with battle sequences and martial arts. We also looked towards the art of China for composition and to use as references.” However, another source of inspiration for Walker was found when she was out scouting. “I noticed the way the architecture was set up in the Imperial City. It was very symmetrical, so helped me indirectly keep Mulan in the centre of things when we started shooting. To that end, I had some lenses designed. One was a special portrait lens based on a Petzval design from the 1800s, which focuses on the centre of the frame and then the edges drop off. So, when Mulan is in the frame, she’s all you look at. We used it for pretty much all her close-ups and moments in the battle sequences. You want the audience to focus on her and not what is going on around her.” These special lenses currently come in three variants, and they are special custom-made Prime DNAs from Arri Rental. These lenses are called ‘T types’ and they are based on very early turn-of-the- century optical design and performance, similar to the early Voigtländer-Petzval objective lens of the late 1800s. This creates a strong centre punch area of focus and more extreme focus fall-off and focus aberration towards the edge of frame that is exaggerated on an Alexa 65 sensor, due to sensor size and lens image circle.
CAMERAS & LIGHTING When it came to shooting stunts with these lenses, one factor that really helped Walker was that Liu Yifei, who plays Mulan, did many of the stunts for the film herself. “So when we were shooting, it wasn’t like when you have a stunt person and you have to
avoid their face. Because Yifei was doing it, we could focus on her and have those lenses on her doing these amazing moves. “So, the aim was to centre on Yifei, but also bring an epic quality to the film with the use of the Arri Alexa 65 camera. We had these epic battle sequences and landscapes, so one of the films we looked at for reference was Lawrence of Arabia , because I think that was a film which managed that really well. They had these beautiful wide landscape shots, but intimate close-ups – I think the big sensor lends itself to that; we got those two shots out of the one camera.” The Arri Alexa LF was also used, but only for high-speed shots as it offers 150fps where the Alexa 65 is restricted to 60fps. Walker also used the Alexa LF for a couple of drone shots over landscapes for top shots. As for lighting, Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast used roughly 700 Arri Skypanels in huge softboxes above massive sets in Shepperton, just outside of London. But for Mulan and those highly choreographed battle scenes, which way did Walker see the lighting design going? She explains: “When Mulan is in her village – which is a huge set, a three-storey high round village – the lighting has a certain style to it to create that family mood and atmosphere. We covered the set to balance the effect of the sunlight going in and out, but those scenes in the village are very intimate and lit accordingly.”
TOP Mandy Walker with the Alexa 65 camera and, left, Donnie Yen as Commander Tung of the Imperial ArmyPage 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68
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