Definition May 2024 - Web

Inside our May issue, we sit down with Dune: Part Two’s Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser, head behind the scenes on Love Lies Bleeding, and catch up with Adriano Goldman, DOP across the entirety of The Crown’s six seasons. We also look at the promise and challenges of running sets on zero-emissions energy, put the Sony BURANO through its paces, take a look at how we can strengthen on-set safety and loads more! Enjoy.



Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC reveals the tricks & tools that brought Denis Villeneuve’s audacious vision to life




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EDITORIAL Editor in chief Nicola Foley

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

L ike many film fans, we’ve been hit by Dune fever lately – so we jumped at the chance to sit down with the film’s Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC to find out all about the tech and tricks at work on the hit sci-fi sequel. From infrared imagery to Unreal Engine’s crucial role in pre- production – and of course bringing that unbelievable sandworm riding scene to life – turn to page 10 to unpack the film’s most striking visuals with the man behind the camera. Also catching our attention in recent weeks has been Love Lies Bleeding : A24’s steamy thriller from rising star Rose Glass. DOP Ben Fordesman talks us through the film’s slick cinematography on page 20. Elsewhere in the issue, we catch up with Adriano Goldman, DOP across the entirety of The Crown ’s six seasons. He discusses the evolving visual language of the iconic series over on page 60. Sustainability is in the spotlight too this month: a panel of experts address how we can collectively pave the way to a more sustainable future for the industry on page 46, while The Flint ’s Neal Romanek delves into the promise and challenges of running sets on zero-emissions energy on page 54. We also get the lowdown on this month’s Media Production & Technology Show, put the Sony BURANO through its paces, take a look at how we can strengthen on-set safety, bring news on the best new kit to hit shelves and lots more. Enjoy the issue and see you next month!

Editor in chief







MAY 2024

40 06 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS News of a fresh film studio, upcoming shows and festivals not to miss 10 DUNE: PART TWO Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC discusses his work on the epic sci-fi sequel 16 SAFETY ON SET Phil Rhodes looks at where problems are arising – and how to fix them 20 LOVE LIES BLEEDING DOP Ben Fordesman on capturing A24’s eighties-set romantic thriller 25 CAREER STORIES Three VFX maestros tell us about their professional highs and lows Open-source or commercial files? Our thought leader talks workflow solutions 33 THE CODEC CONUNDRUM 34 LONDON CALLING A guide to the best of this May’s Media DOP Callan Green talks us through his work on Guy Ritchie’s action-comedy 45 IN SHORT Writer-director Iggy London reveals all about Area Boy , his latest project 46 ROUND TABLE A panel of experts offer insights on making film production more sustainable Production & Technology Show 40 THE GENTLEMEN

54 ZERO-CARBON POWER The Flint ’s Neal Romanek talks running sets on zero-emissions energy 59 THINK PIECE Katie Kasperson asks: should movies be made for the big screen? 60 THE CROWN DOP Adriano Goldman on establishing and evolving the look of this hit show Cinedeck’s COO explores managing content in the most efficient way possible 67 UNLOCKING WORKFLOW EFFICIENCY 68 TOOLKIT New launches from Godox, Pixotope and more in our latest gear round-up 70 GEAR REVIEW We get up close and personal with the Sony BURANO, and highlight some accessories not to be missed



© Warner Bros ON THE COVER





OMA V Film Studios launches in Hertfordshire L ocation Collective, a major UK studio owner-operator, has announced the opening of OMA V Film Studios: a new, purpose-built space for high-end TV shows and feature films. Located in Hertfordshire, the launch comes hot on the heels of the Spring Budget, which revealed a series of landmark new tax and business rates relief packages in recognition of the film and TV industry’s importance to UK growth. The first high-spec studio facility in the St Albans area, the new studio offers easy access to the M25 and 65,000 sq ft of high-specification sound stages (one 32,000 sq ft stage and two 16,500 sq ft stages), fully soundproofed to industry standard NR25 level. The facility also boasts 35,600 sq ft of production office and support space, while a power upgrade ensures the facility can run from renewable stage and house power. Antony Iredale, founder of Location Collective, comments: “We are hugely excited to be launching our third studio in such a prime location for film and TV production, and proud to have created the first high-specification film studio in the St Albans area, at such a pivotal moment for our industry. We look forward to welcoming our first production onto the stages at OMA V, and delivering the same quality of service customers are already experiencing at our currently operational facilities.” OMA V joins Location Collective’s growing portfolio – including flagship sites OMA One, OMA X and OMA V film studios – a group whose recent credits include Napoleon , The Crown , Black Mirror and The Boys in the Boat .

Sky champions diversity in new initiative S ky has pledged to ‘widen the playing field’ with a new initiative geared towards supporting diverse-owned and led production companies in creating content for its factual channels. The move aims to ensure Sky hears from ‘a diverse range of voices as they pursue best-in- class boxsets and premium feature documentaries’. Sky is inviting companies to apply for the opportunity to access a minimum of £15,000 towards enhancing their development slate, with ideas directed towards Sky Documentaries. The pick of the ideas will go on to a fully funded

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT Sky Documentaries is known for commissioning award-winning content with a narrative- driven and bold creative approach, such as The Essex Murders Poppy Dixon, director of documentaries and factual at Sky, said: “I’m thrilled to introduce our initiative supporting diverse-owned production companies. Sky is committed to fostering inclusivity in the industry. This opportunity is a commitment to mentorship and ongoing dialogue, with the goal of ensuring underrepresented voices stand out.” For further information, email with the subject heading Diverse Indies Development Initiative. companies receiving financial backing and a six-month partnership with Sky Documentaries.

development. Interested parties must meet the criteria of having founders, owners or senior management creatives who are members of ethnic minorities, deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent, with the three successful




DIARY DATES 1-10 May, Jeonju, South Korea, Jeonju International Film Festival With a focus on indie and experimental cinema, JIFF launched in 2000 and has a reputation as one of the most important film festivals in Asia. The programming spans feature films, animation, documentaries and more, with awards up for grabs including the grand prize and special jury prize. 14-25 May, Cannes, France, Cannes Film Festival The world’s most prestigious film festival returns to the Riviera for its 77th year, bringing star-studded premieres, networking opportunities and glittering galas. Alongside the famous fest runs the Marché du Film – a major film market and hotbed of big deals and key players. 21-23 May, Dubai World Trade Centre, CABSAT An annual broadcast digital media and satellite expo, CABSAT is a platform for the global media, entertainment and technology industry. In addition to almost 400 exhibition stands, highlights will include the Virtual Production Studio and the Content Congress, delving into creating, connecting and monetising the content lifecycle. 28 May-2 June, Vienna, Austria, Vienna Shorts Now in its 21st year, this celebration of short-form filmmaking spotlights works of under 30 minutes, attracting submissions from around the world. The festival normally offers a diverse, excellently curated series of screenings, as well as various prizes, panel discussions, industry events and more.

Boiling Point director steams ahead with new production company P hilip Barantini, director of the lauded Boiling Point TV series and 2021 film, has joined Samantha Beddoe (exec producer on the show) to launch freshly minted indie, It’s All Made Up Productions. With offices in London and plans to expand into their home city of Liverpool, the duo already has an impressive slate of productions in development, with a focus on drama and documentaries. Bringing a combined 35 years of industry experience, they have vocalised their commitment to championing under-represented voices. Barantini, who began his career acting in acclaimed dramas Band of Brothers and Chernobyl , moved behind the camera on Boiling Point , before going on to direct shows including BBC’s The Responder and Netflix feature The Accused . His upcoming crime thriller Adolescence – written by Stephen Graham and Jack Thorne, and produced by Warp Films, Plan B and Matriarch Productions for Netflix – is currently in pre-production. “We want to tell powerful stories which resonate through film, drama and documentaries on the biggest scale possible,” he comments. “I am deeply passionate about the industry and where I come from, and to work with my close friend and long-time collaborator, Sam, is a dream come true.”






Andrew Tiffen named president of The Tiffen Company Andrew Tiffen has been named president and COO of The Tiffen Company, marking three generations of family ownership for the firm, which specialises in accessories for the imaging, motion picture, TV and broadcast industries. All new at Azimuth Post-production company Azimuth has relocated from Holborn to Soho, revealing a new base with seven floors of cutting edge tech. With Yives Reed and Carl Grinter at the helm, the site has been custom-designed with all-new infrastructure, offering robust on-prem and in-cloud workflows. Visual Impact updates Visual Impact, a leading supplier of broadcast equipment for the production community, has bid a fond farewell to Rob Newton, business and marketing manager at the firm for two decades until his recent retirement. An industry veteran, Newton started his career at Sony in 1982. There, he spearheaded expansion into the broadcast sector, before joining Visual Impact where he would go on to play a pivotal role in shaping business strategies, enhancing brand presence and integrating group marketing activities. The company now has two new onboards, marketing manager Niki Esmaili and Luke Tait, senior sales and business development.

Best supporting role I t’s been revealed that ARRI tech and services were behind the scenes in six out of ten best picture nominees, while three of the five films nominated for best cinematography were captured with ARRI cameras. As a camera manufacturer, ARRI pays close attention to the achievement in cinematography award (as do we!), and the team is naturally delighted that the majority of contenders in this category chose ARRI cameras for their masterpieces. These films were El Conde , filmed by DOP Edward Lachman, ASC; Killers of the Flower Moon , lensed by Rodrigo Prieto ASC, AMC; and Poor Things shot by Robbie Ryan BSC, ISC. Hoyte van Hoytema NSC FSF, ASC, won the Oscar for his outstanding work on Oppenheimer .

Shepperton Studios expansion off to a flying start

T he expansion at Shepperton Studios in Surrey is now open, making the facility as a whole the second-biggest film and HETV studio in the world. Amazon MGM Studios and Netflix are both in residence already, taking full advantage of the expansion’s amenities – which include an additional 17 sound stages, 548,000 sq ft of production and workshop spaces as well as two backlots. The whole site now covers 1.5 million sq ft. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who recently visited the studios, commented: “The two largest content producers in the world have chosen Shepperton as the base for their global productions. Netflix have taken possession of 17 new state-of-the-art sound stages at Shepperton Studios, making Pinewood Group the biggest studio complex in Europe.”




WORDS Trevor Hogg IMAGES Warner Bros

Epic sci-fi sequel Dune: Part Two is the year’s most successful cinematic release to date. Academy Award- winning cinematographer Greig Fraser , ACS, ASC reveals the secrets behind this sandblasted spectacle




R eturning for the sci-fi sequel Dune: Part Two – in which Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) faces a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the universe – cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC saw an opportunity to expand the visual language of this smash-hit franchise. “The images and characters have become more intimate than Part One ,” he begins. “There, we were starting the journey and building a relationship as an audience member through these characters. We felt like we could be

emboldened in Part Two to be less conservative with our framing choices.” Fraser, who won an Academy Award for his cinematography on the first Dune , says that knowing the film would be released in a variety of formats informed his creative decisions: “There are instances in Part Two where we were super close. We knew we were going to IMAX too, and you would be sitting in the cinema seeing Timothée Chalamet’s face the size of an eight-story building!” he laughs. “We made those choices as we wanted to get inside Paul Atreides’




head as a character. Also, we now felt like we had experienced the desert for what it was – and could be bolder with our choices of colour.” A seasoned filmmaker whose other credits include The Creator and Rogue One , Fraser highlights Unreal Engine’s growing significance, describing it as a tool which becomes more indispensable with each production he works on. On Dune: Part Two , the game engine was deployed for planning desert sequences, which were pivotal to the film’s narrative. The production schedule was structured with stage work in Budapest, Jordan and Abu Dhabi, and meticulous planning was imperative owing to tight schedule constraints – especially prior to shooting in Jordan. “We were on a real tight ship,” recalls Fraser. “We absolutely had to make our days count as there wasn’t any wiggle room to go over.” Utilising Unreal Engine, the team conducted extensive light studies to precisely determine the sun’s positioning; especially crucial for scenes set amid intricate rock formations, such as the eclipse sequence. “That scene takes place over more than ten locations, so we had to be on the ball when it came to knowing what time we were going to shoot things, how long we were there for – and effectively planning,” he shares. Past experiments with infrared light came in handy when depicting Giedi Prime, where House Harkonnen resides. The revelation of removing the infrared lens filter from digital cameras – allowing for the capture of original infrared light –

is a concept Fraser has been playing with for over a decade. In Rogue One , infrared light played a significant role in the visual effects, though it was often imperceptible as it was employed for tracking markers, mattes and alpha channels. “I’ve always known how cool it looks, so have been looking forward to finding the right application for it,” enthuses Fraser. “Denis [Villeneuve, director] told me he was thinking about doing this exterior in black & white because maybe the sun doesn’t record colour. I told him I had an idea I wanted to show him – and he loved it! I’m happy we got to do it. From a narrative perspective, it was 100% the right tool for the job.” An iconic moment from the source material, which had to be executed to perfection, was Paul Atreides riding a

EPIC SCOPE Production took the team from Budapest to Abu Dhabi, presenting plenty of new challenges along the way




sandworm. “I don’t know the last time you rode a sandworm, but it’s actually really fun, fast and scary!” grins Fraser. “We were rolling on that before we even started principal photography – it was clear we’d need a lot of time to film the sandworm ride sequence. “It’s important to Paul’s journey, but more than that, it’s critical to the Dune story in general. If it didn’t quite work, or wasn’t as visceral as it needed to be, it could have let the movie down. Everybody felt that pressure.” Given that Steven Spielberg called the sequence one of the greatest things he had ever seen, it’s fair to say the team succeeded. Getting the right quality of light was crucial in seamlessly integrating the different locations into a singular environment. “In Budapest, we built the back of a sandworm for Paul to ride on. But around it, we also built a dome that was made out of a sand-coloured wood in a similar colour to the sand dunes. Not dissimilar to what we did on Dune: Part One with the ornithopter scene, where the sandworm eats the harvester. If we had a different-coloured bounce, it would have affected the look significantly.” Most of the footage was captured using a single ARRI ALEXA 65, with the ARRI ALEXA Mini LF also deployed for action sequences. “For the Baron’s box and exterior, we used a 3D rig because we shot with one camera in colour and one camera in infrared, so we could transition between normal colour and infrared seamlessly. The Mini LF was good for that,” explains Fraser. IF THE SANDWORM RIDE WASN’T as visceral as it needed to be, IT COULD HAVE let the film down ”




MAKING HAY Shooting on the sand dunes of Jordan required careful planning to get the most out of limited time, including use of Unreal Engine to determine sun positioning

Two since lenses needed protection from the elements. The crew opted for ND filters in front of their glass, since the ALEXA 65 doesn’t have in-built NDs. After testing a selection of top-quality filters, they opted for Formatt Hitech Firecrests, which Fraser describes as working great. “I love the worm run,” states Fraser, reflecting on his favourite moments from the finished feature. “I love the harvester attack too, but also love the characterisation between Chani and Paul. It’s an intimate story, but at the same time it’s big, bold, grand and incredibly exciting.” On top of basking in the critical and box-office response, another good thing about the film being out in the wild is having the press embargo lifted. This came as a huge relief, according to Fraser. “I remembered that we finished the shoot down in Namibia with – spoiler alert obviously – Anya Taylor-Joy and we couldn’t tell a soul. I was talking to friends of mine who had worked on Furiosa not long after that and wanted to say ‘Anya is lovely and had a great time’. I couldn’t do it, I was having to keep the secret. Now I can tell the world!”

DUNE: PART ONE WAS PAUL before Arrakis . IT WAS interior, WHILE THE IMAX WAS exterior ”

On the glass front, spherical lenses were favoured over anamorphic. “Part of the change between films is that Part One was Paul before Arrakis; Paul before he sets foot in the environment, which had an anamorphic feel. It was interior, while the IMAX was exterior. Spherical opened up his world into an IMAX frame. “We worked from a focal range around 40mm to 135mm, and made use of Moviecams and DNAs out of ARRI, as well as Iron Glass rehoused optics – the Helios and Jupiter lenses – in 37, 58 and 85mm. We employed a few long lenses from Canon, too.” LEDs were heavily relied upon, especially Creamsource Vortexes, plus

lights from Aputure and Digital Sputnik. “We have been talking to Creamsource about joining their Vortexes together for ages and I wanted a smart way to do it,” reveals Fraser. “They had indicated they were working on something – or were thinking about it – and I said ‘speed it up, send it to us and we’ll test it for you’. “They sent us a prototype of the LNX System and it’s used to join all of the fixtures together,” he continues. “The first one we built was a 64-Vortex rig called the Vortex 512, because it had 512 pixels. It was quite fantastic as a big, powerful, punchy LED source.” Also crucial was the filtration system, which took on a new importance in Part




A recent survey by The Mark Milsome Foundation and Bectu revealed that over 75% of UK film and TV crew feel their safety or that of a colleague has been compromised at work. Phil Rhodes looks at where problems arise – and what can be done to solve them I n the tragic aftermath of Rust , the film industry has often concerned itself with risks associated with the most spectacular things it does. While most productions don’t involve guns, bombs and explosive physical effects, they do involve other risks which are less obvious but may prove equally deadly. Samantha Wainstein is chair at the Mark Milsome Foundation. Milsome, a camera operator, was killed during a botched stunt while working on Black Earth Rising in 2017. Wainstein distinguishes that situation carefully from more common – but just as lethal – concerns: “It’s the tragic deaths that make the headlines, and they are tragic, and must not be ignored – but the everyday grind of health and safety is the issue we need to solve,” she begins. “Driving while tired is one of the biggest concerns. We have a largely freelance workforce in a sector which is very much feast or famine – and recently, it has been famine more than feast. People are very concerned about their jobs, and that leads to concern about discussing health and safety and working hours.”




JUMPING THE GUN In creating a safe and conscious environment on set, problems can be reported and dealt with before tragedy arises

“That,” Wainstein continues, “leads to danger. People see something that looks dangerous and think ‘is it my role to bring it up’? That’s when there’s an accident.” The Foundation, according to her, is not a reporting service. “We do get people emailing us saying ‘I’m currently working on a set, here’s what’s happened, it’s terrible and someone’s going to be killed’. They go into a lot of detail, then they say ‘you can use this information, but don’t say who it came from’.” It’s easy to criticise the situation, but harder to suggest a solution. Wainstein explains one of the Foundation’s proposals: “We produced a production safety passport course, which is cheap as chips because we wanted to reduce any barriers for people to do it. We’ve got it and we’ve offered it to universities at low rates to cover our costs. We’ve tried to cover any film or TV related courses to do this and be certified before they graduate.” The initiative, Wainstein says, aims to address the most common risks. “One chapter is about speaking up, one about working hours and another about mental health. We have had some success

with streamers and studios recently purchasing unlimited courses for all their productions. The other thing we’re doing is lobbying the government to update the Health and Safety at Work act from 1974. [It] was written at the time we were making Herbie Hancock films!” Heads of department notwithstanding, one individual likely to be key to any discussion on safety is the first assistant director. Jay Arthur, chairman of the AD Guild UK, describes issues of working time as both a professional and personal concern. “Costume and makeup departments can be there an hour

or two after wrap. Then, they’re in first thing. Seconds, base runners, plus all the background people are sometimes in two and a half, three hours before call. I’ve fallen asleep at the wheel countless times and been lucky it’s only been for a brief second. I was dreaming of the road in front of me, I didn’t know I was asleep. That’s unbelievably dangerous.” These are problems Arthur suggests every department can help address. “If you have to end a day with a hundred backgrounds and several cast members, you try to schedule the next morning with just one cast member, so at least half




Armed & Safe

the wardrobe and makeup department can get a break. One of my pet hates is when someone turns around and says ‘we’re just shooting your schedule’! I do this job because I love the end result, film and TV. I’m not here to shoot a schedule. Someone may want to start the day with a hundred backgrounds because we ended with them last night – without thinking about the wardrobe and makeup department, who are only getting three hours’ sleep.” For Arthur, a common issue across productions is ‘scripts not being ready at the start of a shoot’. He adds: “They have the funding, they’ve built the sets. But then you’re not given the time to schedule it. That’s when mistakes occur. You don’t get time to talk to your director. It costs the production money. A happy crew is a fast crew. We’re going to get tired, but tiredness to the point it becomes dangerous slows everything down.” In the end, the problem is often one of communication. “As an assistant director, you’re there to help . Having the crew not talk to you, not be open with you, not feel they will be treated as a human being, is a flaw among ADs. We should be the person everyone can confide in.”

The MD of Bare Arms, providing weapons and firearms safety on set, looks at the Rust tragedy and safety in the film industry

It’s hard to consider film set safety in 2024 without also considering the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Rust . As a military advisor and armourer, Ben Simmons followed the incident with professional interest – and his analysis tells us something about accidents in general. “I was in the army for ten years,” Simmons begins. “With my business partner, I set up Bare Arms while we were both still serving, and after 18 months or so, we left to run it full-time. We provide advice, personnel and equipment to the film industry, theatre and games. And one of the key things we work on is safety around firearms.” At the time of writing, Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed faces 18 months in prison, though Simmons’ conclusions go beyond simply apportioning blame. “My personal view is that there are people who are responsible for setting the conditions for allowing her to fail at her job,” he says. “While I think she is right to bear a proportion of the responsibility, it’s difficult for someone at the start of their career to stop the machine without being very, very confident that people

will be on their side. While I think she is right to do some time, she was put in that situation by people higher up the chain.” Simmons bases his view on what’s been called the Swiss-cheese model of hazard prevention, where a series of individually less catastrophic problems – holes – must align to allow a serious problem to arise. “If you look at all the examples where people have died on set, it’s very rarely a single mistake.” That’s exacerbated because a film production must inevitably break certain firearms rules. “One of the key safety principles is to never point a firearm at someone you’re not trying to shoot. That’s drilled into you on day one but on film sets, you sometimes have to break that rule. When on-set, you get so used to pointing guns at people that it’s less of a warning sign. Therefore, we need to triple-check everything else is in place,” says Simmons. “In general, the industry needs to slow down and try to do less in a day. That starts with the producers, budget and schedule having some leeway, so when things do go wrong for whatever reason you have some capacity.”

RISK MITIGATION The Swiss-cheese model suggests that a series of smaller problems must align for a major catastrophe to occur




WORDS Oliver Webb IMAGES Anna Kooris

DOP Ben Fordesman on capturing eighties excess, Americana and the world of bodybuilding in A24’s Love Lies Bleeding




R evenge gets ripped in reunite with cinematographer Ben Fordesman. Exploring the tumultuous relationship between Lou (Kristen Stewart), a reclusive gym manager, and Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a bodybuilder passing through town on her way to a competition, Love Lies Bleeding is a steroid-steeped depiction of eighties Americana. As the two grow closer, they are dragged into the violent underworld of Lou’s criminal family. Fordesman began his career as a director Rose Glass’s second feature film, which sees her technician, initially working on a feature in 2007 as a trainee electrician. “At first, I was mostly interested in lighting,” he begins. “I found working in the lighting department a useful way to learn on the front line next to some talented gaffers and cinematographers. Thanks to low-budget music video productions, I became a young gaffer myself. It was music videos where I also started to shoot my own work as a cinematographer with up-and-coming directors who saw something in me.”

Fordesman’s debut feature film as cinematographer came in 2019 with the psychological horror Saint Maud , which also marked his first collaboration with Glass. The film was a turning point for both director and cinematographer, and saw Glass nominated for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer at the 2021 BAFTA Film Awards. Meanwhile, Fordesman nabbed best cinematography at the British Independent Film Awards for his work on the film. “It was a great debut for Rose, backed up by A24 in the US. Love Lies Bleeding was next and lucky for me she brought me back on,” shares Fordesman. When it came to initial conversations about the look of Love Lies Bleeding , Fordesman was given a long list of film references by Glass. “ Show Girls (1995), Paris, Texas (1984) and To Live and Die in LA (1985) were just some of the films we looked at,” he recalls. “We were embracing the eighties’ excess. Compositionally, we approached the film much the same way as Saint Maud for people talking in rooms, but the larger set pieces were new and proved to be a head-scratcher to work out.” Fordesman opted to shoot the film with the ARRI ALEXA Mini, accompanied with Panavision PVintage lenses. “Newer, larger format sensor cameras were available, but I’ve always felt this look is so contemporary and more towards a familiar digital look with its reduced depth-of-field,” notes Fordesman. “We originally wanted to shoot on film, but couldn’t for budget reasons. The ALEXA Mini was closer to Super 35 and more digital noise in given ISO, which was embraced. Also, the camera weight is lighter with the ALEXA Mini, meaning longer handheld takes and movement becomes less inhibited.” One of the most challenging sequences to realise for Fordesman was the surreal climatic scene, which sees Jackie transform into a giant,




LIGHT CRAFT Fordesman’s adept handling of lighting techniques contributed to the film’s striking visual aesthetic

god-like figure. “The scene proved to be particularly time-consuming as well as difficult to capture,” he shares. “It changed so much from the original idea that we had to adjust the plan while already shooting: plate scenes for the wide shots and closer coverage of Katy in a studio to composite her as a giant in our location plates, which consisted a lot of maths and crossed fingers.” There were around eight weeks of prep during the initial stages of pre- production. The duration of the shoot lasted seven weeks in New Mexico – beginning in June 2022 – with an additional week of pickups a few months later. Fordesman relied on production designer Katie Hickman and costume designer Olga Mill, plus the makeup department, to help capture the visual aesthetic of the eighties. “Of course, the wigs helped too!” he adds. “I was also inspired by the sodium vapour street lighting, which was around in the eighties and had a green tint; they can mostly be seen in Paris, Texas .” Initial tests were shot in prep and a LUT was created with Rob Pizzey from Goldcrest in London, who did the grade. “Our post schedule was delayed, so I ended up colour grading with Vanessa Taylor instead who did an incredible job. I also have to give a massive shout out to our onset DIT Tim Gregoire, who was doing live grading. He was balancing our images throughout, and in tune with how I liked things. I didn’t even need to keep checking in his tent; I had full trust in his abilities and sense of what to do.” Discussing his approach to lighting the film, Fordesman notes the daylight interior scenes had a little help from extra-large HMI sources. “HMI sources bounced in usually, but not to overpower

since the quality of natural sunlight is hard to replicate,” says Fordesman. “Night interior scenes made use of practical light sources with Astera NYX bulbs controlled from a desk for full control over colour. LED sources like Creamsource Vortex and ARRI SkyPanels are part of everyone’s lighting lists these days just for ease of use. They can drive light through diffusion or bounce with a light source, which can quickly be controlled

remotely and access almost any colour. I’m still very old-school when it comes to tungsten. I like to use Lowel Rifa lights still for close-ups on skin, also 2K spring balls dimmed down. There is something about a bulb dimmed down with its warmth that I find hard to replicate.” “I have always wanted to shoot a film in the US; American cinema has shaped my understanding of film culture since I can remember,” Fordesman concludes. “Particularly this film, being so drenched in Americana references and shot in New Mexico. Every day of production was exciting – my crew were incredible, and so fun and kind to work with too.” Co-produced by A24 and Film4, Love Lies Bleeding premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and is released in the UK on 3 May. The film is currently showing in theatres throughout the US

AMERICAN CINEMA HAS SHAPED my understanding of film ”




INTERVIEWS Oliver Webb A trio of the world’s top VFX artists share their career stories so far

The second-ever female VFX Oscar winner , Sara is co-founder of Milk , a London-based VFX studio S ara Bennett originally studied to become a makeup artist in the West Midlands. “It was my dream back then to specialise in horror makeup and prosthetics. Later, I moved to London to try and find an internship or entry-level role within the film industry, which proved very difficult,” she explains. “I secured a role working on reception at an SFX company, and it turned out the company held weekend courses in makeup and prosthetics. In the hopes of landing a job within this area, I spotted an opportunity and helped the team organise the courses, which enabled me to get noticed and network with very senior professionals in the industry. Working there exposed me to the craft of digital effects and I was so intrigued that I started applying for runner positions within a VFX facility. Soon enough, I was hired and found my place – I knew it was where I wanted to be and gradually honed my skills. One thing I love now is mentoring as much as possible since it was never available to me, nor were training courses when I started out.” “It’s a brilliant way to see all disciplines within VFX and it helped me decide my career path: compositing was where I wanted to be,” Bennett continues. “I was working as a VT operator and doing very junior comp work for a company called Tele-Cine Cell, and many senior artists I had worked with moved on to help start up The Mill. They were looking for roto/ prep artists for Babe: Pig in the City , which really kick-started my career.”



simulated ocean and then a big finale shot at the end that takes us from a topside stormy CG ocean with a 100ft wave, into a flooded interior cabin and back out into an underwater CG environment, which was around 3000 frames. Those shots gave us many sleepless nights! From a CG point of view, this meant layers of complex simulations and heavy assets being passed between departments. A condensed timescale between shot turnaround and final delivery added to the importance of coming up with a solid and consistent pipeline for this work.” When picking a favourite VFX shot from her career, Bennett explains there are too many to choose from. “A key highlight would be a shot I did in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets . It was one of my first big CG comp shots and it was for the spiders in the forest. Honestly, it’s hard to choose a favourite, but I was also proud of Netflix’s The Woman King and The Old Guard . Looking forward, we’ll soon be able to share one of our biggest projects to date with NBC Universal and Loud Minds’ Surviving Earth, which as a company we’re really proud of.”

Bennett co-founded Milk VFX in 2013 alongside people she had worked with at The Mill. “We knew The Mill wanted to move away from TV and film, and the founding members of Milk saw a hidden opportunity in this despite the industry challenges of the writers’ strike during that year. Milk VFX has been established for 11 years now; we’ve expanded into other regions such as Dublin, Bordeaux and Barcelona, which offer new cultural ideas and inspiration. It helps us have more creative freedom tapping into the incredible talent across UK and Europe.” In 2016, Bennett won an Academy Award for her work on Ex-Machina . “I had worked with Alex Garland previously on Dredd so when he came in to discuss Ex Machina, we were keen to be part of it,” explains Bennett. “He is a very talented and inspiring director. Plus, Andrew Whitehurst – who was the overall production supervisor – was of the same ilk, it was a great project to be part of.” One of the most challenging shots of Bennett’s career came in 2018. “We created 70 stormy ocean shots for Adrift ,” notes Bennett. “There was a huge 7000-frame opening shot with a fully

THERE WAS A HUGE 7000-frame OPENING SHOT WITH A fully- simulated OCEAN”




With credits on several huge blockbusters, triple Academy Award winner Paul has enjoyed an illustrious career, working on films including Dune and First Man P aul Lambert studied aeronautical engineering at university, but decided instead to go to art school on a part-time basis where he learned how to sculpt. “I also had to work, so I was a courier for about two years,” he explains. “It was there I kept doing these pickups for a production company that hired out editorial systems. They dealt with Moviolas, Steenbecks and Kems; it was at the transition point when Avid and Lightworks were starting to come into the film industry. I then went on to work at this hire company for just under two years. During this time, I started to learn about the film industry and eventually, visual effects. Up until then, I had loved watching movies but I never thought it was something I could do. VFX seemed like the perfect balance of artistry and technology so I quit my job and took a week’s course at SGI in Soho Square. I was applying to all the post-houses in Soho; it was only by chance that I had reapplied to Cinesite and I came in for a two-week stint. I was super eager and they took me on full-time. At night, I would teach myself how to use the Infernos there – I was 26 so I got into it quite late. “When I joined Cinesite, they had two Infernos and one Fire; by the time I left, they had six Infernos,” Lambert continues. “I’d developed that department to a place where we could work on feature films. I got to a certain stage where I wanted to go off to the centre of the film industry. I went to SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles and spoke with Sony, ILM and Digital Domain. I chose DD because their culture seemed like a good fit for me

SAVING FACE Bennett’s work on Ex Machina in 2014 won her an Academy Award for best visual effects




and I was intrigued by their in-house software, Nuke. I learned everything about what it meant to become a supervisor and also contributed to many tools inside Nuke, including creating the IBK keying system. After 13 years at DD, I wanted to have more time on-set and saw an opportunity in the newly opened DNEG Vancouver office, where I became the client-side supervisor. Then, I came back to LA and I’m now executive VFX supervisor at Wylie.” Lambert won the Academy Award for best achievement in visual effects in 2018 for his work on Blade Runner 2049 , going on to win the award again in 2019 for First Man and once more in 2022 for Dune . “ Blade Runner was a massive IT’S SIMPLE: TRY TO GET the best you can WITH ALL THE incredibly talented PEOPLE ON SET”

what I needed without interfering with things on set. For First Man, we did such a range of different work and it was one of the first to use an interactive LED screen. We also took archival footage from the sixties and seventies, cleaned it up, reframed it and made it more cinematic – including using footage which hadn’t been seen before. Then, of course, the whole collaborative experience working on Dune . My way of working is quite simple: try to get the best you can with all the incredibly talented people on-set and never have the attitude of ‘fixing it in post’. I firmly believe there isn’t such a thing as bad visual effects, just bad prep and time-constrained shoot decisions.” Lambert’s last project was Dune: Part Two.

experience,” says Lambert. “That’s also where I first met Denis Villeneuve; we got on very well. I was there for the entire shoot with John Nelson, who was the overall supervisor. It was such an experience to see Roger Deakins at work – a real crash course in getting exactly




Currently at Union VFX, BAFTA winner Jane has lent her creative prowess to Poor Things , All Of Us Strangers and more ane Paton studied computer animation at Bournemouth University and soon after, landed her first visual effects job on My Week with Marilyn (2011). “We needed to grade her eyes blue across the entire film,” she begins. “I applied to various companies after university. It wasn’t an easy time to graduate because in London, they had just finished the Harry Potter films and John Carter , so I felt lucky to get that role. “I started at LipSync, a relatively small company. For me, it was a great first job because, at a smaller studio, you can get more opportunities. I could learn prep and comp early on, whereas perhaps at a larger company you could be doing roto for two years solid. Working on small- scale projects, they also have fewer set-ups and templates to fall back on, so you learn how to do things from scratch yourself. It was a steep learning curve, but it was a great first step as I truly got an overview of everything.”

SHIFTING SANDS Lambert relished the collaborative experience of working on the Dune films




WHEN PIGS FLY Paton’s work on Poor Things helped create the colourful, fantastical world in which the film is set

One of the most challenging shots Paton worked on was for the 2014 film RoboCop . “In this shot, I had to fully remove him. It was a very long shot where he was walking along before getting onto a motorbike; there were flashing lights and window reflections. It was super tricky,” explains Paton. “I think because prep is the way you progress up into comp, people assume it’s quite easy. But it can be one of the most challenging things to do in 2D sometimes. I am most proud of my recent work on Poor Things , because it was such a unique and creative project. One of the shots I worked on was the large shot in Alexandria, where the actors are on the stairs and the camera pulls out to reveal the full landscape. It was an unusual mix of live action, miniature and CG. “ Poor Things was such a collaborative project and for me, the visual effects in that shot helped drive the storyline. What made the project challenging was that it was extremely technical, but also very creative in quite a unique way. Our usual workflows didn’t necessarily work for this kind of project, so we basically needed to throw the rule book out the window.”

“ All Of Us Strangers was directly after Poor Things and that was a very different project, using more invisible visual effects,” she adds. “The final shot, when the actors are lying on the bed and the camera pulls out, was a particularly challenging shot. We did it all in 2D and it took about four months. It was a creative process working with the director and getting his vision for the work. He had a specific idea of what he wanted; it was about trying to translate it into the film.” Despite being a small company, Paton enjoys the variety of projects that Union offers. “Every day is so different in VFX, which is why I love this career. At Union, you get to work on arthouse films that are so unique and varied. “It is part of my driving force to progress in this industry, as women are massively underrepresented. It’s absolutely vital to change that bias in the industry and work against it. It’s slow progress, but it is improving. Union has been a great place to work in terms of encouraging diversity. I don’t want to be treated differently; what’s important is just to be treated the same and be given the same opportunities.”

WHAT MADE THE PROJECT challenging WAS IT WAS technical BUT creative IN A UNIQUE WAY”




FORMAT WARS NAVIGATING THE CODEC CONUNDRUM Frank Schönberger, senior product manager at MainConcept, looks at selecting the right codec for VFX workflows

files of the highest possible quality. For believable VFX, details are critical, which is why VFX artists often prefer lossless compression. This ensures files don’t lose quality each time they’re compressed, as can happen with certain codecs. But, as you would expect, there are cost implications to commercial codecs, and this can make their use cost-prohibitive for some productions and use cases. Codec technology is advancing all the time, and I expect we’ll start to see more widespread application of AI for enhanced compression and video optimisation. Next-gen codecs will most likely leverage AI to intelligently analyse and optimise video data, leading to big improvements in compression efficiency and rendering speed. This convergence of AI and codec technology could cause a workflow revolution, enabling even faster turnaround times, higher quality and new possibilities for creative workflows. The choice of open-source and commercial codecs remains a careful consideration for media companies. While open-source provides accessibility and cost-effectiveness, commercial offers greater efficiency, quality and superior features, which are advantageous for demanding VFX workflows. Despite their respective strengths, the choice is not always clear-cut and – as with most things in life – there are trade- offs. Ultimately, the optimal choice of codec depends on the specific needs and priorities of the workflow. Both open-source and commercial solutions will no doubt continue to play integral roles in helping content producers and filmmakers deliver exciting content to viewers worldwide.


or commercial? Lossy or lossless? As with most things in life, there are trade-offs to be had when choosing a codec

W ithout codecs to compress the huge video files involved in video production and VFX workflows, filmmakers simply wouldn't be able to create the incredible movies and shows they currently do. After shooting, footage goes through numerous stages of post-production editing – such as grading and VFX – before the finished product is complete. The way video files are compressed, and the type of codec used, is fundamental to the quality of the finished product, so it’s essential filmmakers use the right codec for the application. But with so many out there, both open-source and commercial, how can video producers make certain? Essentially, codecs compress files to make them smaller in size and more manageable for transport and storage by disregarding data considered non- essential. Codecs also decompress files for the purposes of editing and viewing. There are broadly two types of compression: lossy and lossless, and they both have advantages and disadvantages. Lossy compression is generally better for reducing the file size, but the trade-off is a reduction in quality.

Lossless compression, on the other hand, retains much of the quality of the video – but the file sizes are not reduced by as much as with lossy compression. Unlike with lossy, lossless is reversible, so editors can always revert to the original video. Choosing the right video codec for a specific use case is essential. Determining which is best will largely come down to the nature of the production and the requirements of the workflow. Open- source software is free to use and plays an important role in allowing filmmakers to produce content, even when budgets are tight. Examples of royalty-free codecs include AV1 and VP9, which both support lossless compression. However, open-source codecs typically lack the advanced features and efficacy commercial alternatives like the popular ProRes, DNxHD/DNxHR, AVC and HEVC offer. These codecs – or families of codecs in the case of Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD/ DNxHR – provide compression efficiency, quality and intelligent features making them suited to the rigours of professional production and VFX workflows. In a high-end production, post tasks such as colour grading and VFX require



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