OCTOBER 2021 | DEFINITIONMAGAZINE.COM
Printed in the UK
“Investors will double their spend in five years if we provide the space”
DOP Matt Gray balances surf and turf in claustrophobic submarine drama Vigil
Small screen, BIG PICTURE Display technology taken up a notch
WE LCOME .
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Regulars 05 ON THE COVER
Gear 32 THE RESOLUTION REVOLUTION
Landing 20 Emmy noms for Ted Lasso , has Apple TV+ entered the big leagues? 06 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production.
With the arrival of new cameras solidifying the
application of 8K, it’s time to re-examine the landscape.
39 SILVER LINING
The pandemic accelerated virtual and remote operations, but does editing have a future in the cloud? SMALL SCREEN From portable designs, to sunlight-beating brightness, we explore the features crucial for on-set monitoring.
Production 08 GOING FOR GOLD
A fter all the major camera manufacturers pulled out of NAB Show, it was only going to be a matter of time before news of its cancellation broke. The annual confab, which in 2019 reported an attendance of roughly 91,000, is one of the largest industry events on the calendar, and we’ll no doubt feel repercussions from another year without it. Trade shows like NAB market themselves as a museum for all the latest tech, but more than that, they are an opportunity to discuss trends with industry providers and patrons. This is why we will continue to deliver more content about how video production technology is moving forward, with features dedicated to expert opinions. Of course, at the heart of Definition are the shoot stories, and in this issue, we’ve devoted six pages to the Emmys! If there’s one positive from all this, it’s the quality of TV that’s been produced in the past two years – and we’ve got the low-down on how nominated cinematographers shot their acclaimed projects. There’s also a discussion with Adrian Wootton OBE about the UK’s booming production infrastructure, tech analyses on the current state of 8K, a perspective on editing in the cloud, and so much more in this jam-packed issue of Definition . DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley
47 T HE REALLY
Four DOPs up for an Emmy share how they shot their acclaimed shows.
55 THE 8K EDGE
Kinefinity’s new Mavo cinema camera packs very high resolution, and unique design benefits.
17 IN THE DEEP END DOP Matt Gray talks
uncovering secrets beneath the waves in the BBC’s new submarine thriller, Vigil .
Industry 25 WHY THE UK?
Adrian Wootton OBE reveals why international production companies are so attracted to our shores.
BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD Bright House 82 High Street Sawston Cambridgeshire CB22 3HJ, UK EDITORIAL DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley email@example.com FEATURES WRITER Lee Renwick CHIEF SUB EDITOR Alex Bell SUB EDITORS Matthew Winney & Harriet Williams CONTRIBUTORS Adam Duckworth, Kevin Hilton, Phil Rhodes & Emily Williamson EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Roger Payne
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Cover image Ted Lasso | © Apple TV+ 2021
3. OCTOBER 2021
BATTLE OF THE STREAMERS ON THE COVER .
SUPER TED Battle of the streamers IS APPLE TV+ CATCHING UP?
N etflix is under siege. More than two decades after the media company was founded – and 14 years since it moved into streaming – its competitors have woken up. The firm has built a critical mass of over 200 million subscribers, streams in almost every country, and has been making its own Netflix Originals since 2011. These films and television shows have also aligned themselves with the entertainment industry’s big hitters, with Mank , Two Distant Strangers , If Anything Happens I Love You , My Octopus Teacher and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom snagging seven Academy Awards between them at this year’s Oscars. But Netflix’s position as king is being seriously challenged – and not only by Amazon and Now, but by relative newcomer Apple TV+. When it launched in 2019, critics heralded its simple and convenient way of putting shows in front of viewers’ eyeballs – one update to iOS and the new streaming icon can appear on devices around the world. Where it lacked experience was in content. Known as a family friendly and risk- averse company, its shows failed to surprise or delight audiences – until recently, that is. At this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, Apple has landed 35 nominations. This includes 20 for Ted Lasso , which broke records by becoming the most nominated series of this season, and the most nominated freshman comedy series ever. Ted Lasso dominated major categories, including Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Jason Sudeikis; two nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple; four nominations for Outstanding Support Actor in a Comedy Series for Brendan Hunt, Brett Goldstein, Jeremy Swift and Nick Mohammed; three for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series; two for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series; and two for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing in a Comedy Series.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES Ted Lasso has been a welcome boost for Apple TV+, gaining Sudeikis (above) a Golden Globe
“For us, nothing is more exciting than witnessing our exceptionally talented cast and creative teams be recognised for their extraordinary work. We love the evolution and growth of the stories being told across all Apple Originals, and we can’t wait for audiences to experience even more,” says Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s head of Worldwide Video. “It is an incredible achievement for so many of our programmes to be recognised by the Television Academy and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”
05. OCTOBER 2021
INDUS TRY. BRIEFINGS
Industry briefings The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production
VP PRO 4.27 UPDATE Mo-Sys has introduced VP Pro 4.27, with a raft of new features to support the Epic Games Unreal Engine 4.27. During the preview period of Unreal Engine 4.27, Mo-Sys used the new update to complete a full multi-camera shoot with Amazon. It was also put through a comprehensive, multi- camera technical rehearsal for a big Netflix production. The VP Pro 4.27 upgrade brings four new key features, including an improvised compositor, NearTime rendering, an online lens distortion library and remote control capability. Mo-Sys has carried out a complete overhaul of its internal compositing system. The latest update now provides improved help for high-end graphics features, such as refraction, and performance is enhanced by 15%. Other features include support for reflection and refraction of video in CG objects, advanced ray-tracing features, fur and groom – and advanced controls for CG shadows on video. The updated VP Pro 4.27 also widens the Beta program for the new NearTime rendering workflow, to give access to more users. NearTime is an automated, cloud-based re-render that increases and homogenises visual quality, and allows for higher resolutions (UHD, 4K, 8K) without the performance restrictions of real time. The moment the shot is complete, a cloud-based NearTime render starts. Mo-Sys is also launching its online lens distortion library as part of the upgrade, giving users access to a wide selection of calibration tools – and allowing them to tweak their lenses on-set in a cost-effective way. These features are also included in VP Pro XR, which launched earlier this year, and is the company’s latest multi- node XR server designed specifically for final-pixel XR shooting in high-end film and TV.
Samsung’s six-proof protection, which prevents damage fromwater, extreme temperatures, X-ray, wear and impact. Samsung’s Pro Plus microSD cards are aimed at more discerning content creators, with impressive read speeds of up to 160MB/s and write speeds of up to 120MB/s, and will be available in three capacities: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. The improved Evo Plus microSD is great for casual users. It’s highly reliable, with stable performance and transfer speeds of up to 130MB/s. Compared to the previous version, it has a 1.3x faster sequential read speed, and will be available in the following capacities: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.
The latest additions to Samsung’s range of memory cards have lightning-fast read/ write speeds and are more durable than ever. They offer guaranteed protection and outstanding storage options for day-to-day or professional use. Both the Pro Plus microSD and enhanced Evo Plus microSD cards can expand mobile device storage, capture high-quality photos and 4K UHD video, and work with action cameras and drones. The cards withstand the most challenging environments, thanks to
Advances to XR and virtual production
ICVFX Studio in Helsinki, using Roe LED products. Fireframe are inspired by the creative possibilities of real-time technology, and are the first to bring virtual production to Finland. They began exploring it last year, doing real-time engine tests, and also looking at how to build an LED volume. “After a comprehensive study with industry experts, we chose Roe Visual as our provider, for their reliability and technical quality,” says Mikko Kodisoja, Fireframe founder and CEO.
innovations and customer feedback to guide respective product roadmaps. The partnership is an extension of Disguise and Roe Visual’s long-standing relationship, dating back to 2017 when they began research and development into XR workflows. Since then, Disguise XR stages in London and Los Angeles offices have used Roe Visual LED volumes only. In other news, virtual production company Fireframe Oy has finalised the build of the brand-new
Roe has solidified a partnership with Disguise, a key player in the fields of extended reality (XR) and virtual production, to further develop the technology and equip studios in the future. The partnership sees Roe powering the expansion of Disguise offices around the world, including XR stages and innovation hubs in Beijing, Seoul, New Zealand and Hong Kong at the end of the year. Both companies will leverage each other’s technical knowledge,
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PRODUC T I ON . EMMY SPECIAL
Four DOPs up for a gilded statuette at this year’s Emmy Awards share how they shot their acclaimed projects WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley IMAGES. Various Going for gold
EMMY SPECIAL PRODUC T I ON .
VISUAL SUCCESSION ADRIANO GOLDMAN, THE CROWN
We have followed Adriano Goldman throughout his six-year tenure on Netflix’s The Crown – and as the show has transitioned through five decades and two cast changes. We’ve also witnessed an evolution of the visuals. The biggest change, something the crew had little control over, were the locations. “Even in Season 2, when Princess Margaret leaves the palace to meet Tony Armstrong at his London studio – that signalled to me the show was evolving. There was nothing I, nor anyone else, could do to change that, because we’re making something based on real events,” explains Goldman. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this episode [Beryl] did so well at the awards. It’s likely to do with the way we mixed royalty with the real world.” In Season 4 this is even more obvious, as the show tackles the unmaking of the working class under Margaret Thatcher’s “I lit from the outside in, so it still feels elegant, precise and very much The Crown ”
rule of state. Episode 5 even retells the story of Michael Fagan – the man who broke into the palace and allegedly had a conversation about the prime minister’s severe policies at the Queen’s bedside – and opens up with his backstory. “He’s an impoverished man, a victim of Thatcher’s cuts to benefits and services, and the council house that he’s living in is falling apart around him,” says Goldman. “It’s a location unlike any other we’ve seen on The Crown . Nonetheless, my approach to lighting and framing remained the same. I lit from the outside in, so it still feels elegant, precise and very much The Crown – it’s just the location and characters that are different.” Goldman notes, however, that the lighting was slightly toned down, and he relied on natural light instead of sources to help separate the two stories. It also made sense from a practical perspective, since the location was much smaller than usual – and several blocks high. Another cinematography change enhanced by fresh locations is the ability to move the camera in more animated ways. In episode 3, for example, we see a young and carefree Diana Spencer in a nightclub with friends, and the camera dances with her. “We’ve never done that before. But we’re always trying to shake things up a little bit – never resting or settling into the idea we know how to
shoot, because the show evolves with each season,” he explains. GEAR FOR THE ERA As part of the transition through decades and casts, Goldman also changed glass. For Seasons 1 and 2, set in the late-forties, fifties and sixties, he used Cooke Panchros, rehoused by TLS UK. Plus, Tiffen Glimmerglass filters to add glow in the highlights and haze to the atmosphere, helping make the visuals less naturalistic and a tiny bit more romantic. For Seasons 3 and 4, set in the seventies and eighties, he switched to Zeiss Super Speeds, which are still vintage, but a bit sharper than the Panchros. There will be one more cast change before the series draws to a close and, presumably, one more lens change. He explains: “If I want to alter something, I need to present my reasoning for the decision. It influences the look of the cast, set design, costume and makeup. I have to research and test – it’s a long process.” For Seasons 1, 2 and 3, the lenses were attached to a Sony F55 camera, rated at 500 ISO for day shots and 1000 ISO for night shots. While he doesn’t describe himself as a technical DOP, Goldman says, “The 500 ISO base preferred a little underexposure, whereas the 1000 ISO base wanted to be overexposed by a stop and a half, to kill any noise.” From the beginning, the vision for The Crown has always been to look less like TV and more like film, taking an elegant and minimalist approach – and avoiding unnecessary cuts and camera movements. “It should feel, and be watched, like a single-camera show, an authorial sort of filmmaking style. It’s just me, my camera and my cast, as this helps deliver a different quality of product, and distinguishes it from other period dramas,” says Goldman. He has an A and B camera on-set, but the B camera doesn’t act in a traditional way. “It’s not a tool for the editors, to help increase the pace, it has a purpose. It either opens or closes a sequence, or captures a profile moment. For example, in a scene with a lot of dialogue, the A camera will shoot over the shoulder, while the B camera captures the profile. And if you save the profile shot until the end of the scene, it looks more like a dedicated shot than a B camera shot.” He adds: “They should all look like dedicated shots, and I think the editors on The Crown celebrate the fact they have another angle – but resist using them unless it’s appropriate.”
HIGH AND MIGHTY Season 4 of The Crown highlighted the deep divide between the British royal family (left) and a young Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin (below)
09. OCTOBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . EMMY SPECIAL
COLOUR POP JEFFREY JUR, BRIDGERTON
Unapologetically daft, Bridgerton luxuriates in playing with the form and conventions of costume drama. It instils the genre with a modern sensibility and the sort of overblown production design last seen in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette . The direction was not to be too precious about the look. DOP Jeffrey Jur explains, “We referenced many high-end period TV and film productions that came before. All beautiful, but we were after something contemporary, current and ‘now’. Director Julie Anne Robinson mentioned at one point that it should be ‘bonkers’, which rattled around in my head throughout the shoot. It was a license to free up the style – I didn’t want a veil over the visuals. It needed to feel like it could have happened yesterday, as opposed to watching a faraway piece of art or distant memory.” Bridgerton carefully balances the audience’s gaze on the male and female “The ‘female gaze’ was key to this project, and unique to film and TV in general”
body, equally. It is rare to find on-screen depictions of sex where the men are as unclothed as the women, but here, there are more male tops off than the 1994 Take That European tour. “The ‘female gaze’ was key to this project, and unique to film and TV in general. We were very careful about our POV with camera placement, always remembering who was looking at whom,” explains Jur. “It was important to keep the two primary families – the Bridgertons and Featheringtons – visually distinct. The upper-class world of those families had a clean, precise look. The Featheringtons had bold, even garish colours; the Bridgertons a cool, blue, Wedgwood tone. When the show visited the working-class villages, rougher parts of London and Will in his boxing world, we often shot handheld with a looser feel Because of Netflix’s requirement for 4K, Jur needed a high-resolution camera for the job. “I have a friend who worked with the Sony Venice and recommended it. So, I tested it and fell in love with its interface, ability to shoot high resolutions and filmic quality. The show should feel big and expansive; I wanted all the glorious detail and richness of locations, sets, production design, costumes, makeup and hairstyles to come through with vibrancy and clarity – but not pushed too far, or to be artificial in any way,” he explains. “I tested lenses, looking for a clean, sharp image quality, but the bokeh of – and lit with more grit.” TECHNICAL TOUCH
WORLDWIDE SENSATION Bridgerton was an enormous hit for Netflix, becoming their most-watched scripted series ever – and plans are already afoot for a further three seasons
candlelight was very important. The Arri Signature Primes gave the most perfect, round circle from the soft, out-of-focus candle flames.” To achieve the intended look, Jur worked with his trusty colourist, Pankaj Bajpai from Technicolor. “He’s truly a genius in his field. I can’t express enough what he brings to that stage of production. He worked with me on Carnivàle and Bessie for HBO, as well as others. We talked about bringing a unique look to Bridgerton , something rich and alive to avoid the monochromatic, diffused tone of period dramas. ‘Lifted’ became our catchword, and Bajpai had some secret sauce in his board to devise this,” he explains. “Colour was going to be strong in our set design and costumes, so it was important to represent that accurately, but honour the mood of each scene. Lighting was soft, natural and always motivated by something real. I am a film guy from way back, so I believe it’s important to get the look in camera and not rely on post to create it from scratch. Having said that, what post can do is amplify the ideas and intent I put on the camera sensor.”
PRODUC T I ON . EMMY SPECIAL
SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL NEVILLE KIDD, THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
If you’ve seen Fargo , you’ll recognise the black humour wrapped in violence that marks Steve Blackman’s writing style when watching his latest show, The Umbrella Academy . Based on a comic-book series of the same name written by Gerard Way, The Umbrella Academy revolves around a dysfunctional family of adopted sibling superheroes, who reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death – and repel the threat of an imminent apocalypse. The comic became something of a cult classic in the US following its release in 2007. “Visually, we wanted to give it a Wes Anderson spin because of that dysfunctional family angle. But since it’s a VFX-heavy show, with one of the main characters, called Pogo, being a CG
chimp, it would of course have its own aesthetics,” explains DOP Neville Kidd. “Weta Digital was brought in to produce Pogo; it was great to work with them to see the character’s realism come alive. Weta took our lighting cues and replicated them in post, and if there was ever any confusion, they would come back and ask what we wanted.” In planning, the Weta team described what requirements they needed from Kidd; for instance, the witness cameras had to be
in 4K to capture a high enough resolution. “We started on Sony F5 cameras, run either side, giving us full-length actor shots that could be applied to the chimp character they were making,” he says. For the shoot, Kidd wanted the same camera-and-lens combination he used on fellow Netflix show Altered Carbon (also written by Blackman). This meant all his experimentation with the Arri Alexa 65, Canon Cine Primes and Cooke S5s on that show would come in handy.
“Our worlds are two degrees apart... mixing Tungsten with LED lighting showed this contrast”
EMMY SPECIAL PRODUC T I ON .
85mm on the Supremes and 100mm on the S5s – and found them to be a perfect match together. The Supremes are so fast, too.” WHAT’S REAL? WHAT’S NOT? Kidd wanted to adopt a different approach to lighting. To make the imaginary world feel more ‘real’, the sets were lit from the outside in. “It was a challenge – albeit a fantastic one – to make the sets 360˚ by keeping the lighting on the outside. It made them feel like real houses, which helped the actors relax within the world of The Academy . We didn’t want it to be overly lit, although it made lighting much harder for myself and my gaffer, Terry Banting. We used
Arri Skypanels with softboxes in the ceiling skylights, so it looked like daylight coming through the windows. And because we were using Skypanels, we could change to night at the touch of a button,” he explains. Although the visual motive was to make audiences feel as if The Academy world is the same as ours, there are script differences Kidd was keen to show. “Our worlds are two degrees apart. There are no mobile phones, no internet, no connection with anything real: [John F.]Kennedy was never shot, for instance. Mixing Tungsten with LED lighting showed this contrast,” he explains. “I made the decision early on to make all the street lights white. Normally, they are warmer, with more of an orange tone coming through. There’s a basement set which is like a kid’s room where they all grew up. We wanted to make that a dark and gloomy place, but it had an atmosphere to it – the white street lights flooding in worked really well here.”
“We wanted the same look – and luckily Arri was happy to do a deal so we could use that camera again,” says Kidd. “The Alexa 65 provides such a wide scope, giving your lenses a great way to see the world. Aesthetically, it’s stunning, and it gave us beautiful realism in The Umbrella Academy world, even though it’s completely made up.” The Alexa 65 was used in combination with the Alexa LF, and from Season 2, Kidd also matched the Cooke lenses with Zeiss Supremes. “There are so many lens options for the 65 – but unfortunately, when we started shooting, we couldn’t get hold of any Supremes. I used them on Apple TV’s Amazing Stories with the Cooke S5s, though, shooting at up to
FAMILY FEUDS The six siblings of The Umbrella Academy (far left) are a dysfunctional lot. This includes the time-hopping Five (left) and flamboyant Klaus (below)
13. OCTOBER 2021
EMMY SPECIAL PRODUC T I ON .
REINVENTING TV GREIG FRASER, THE MANDALORIAN
We’re sure our readers are familiar with the filming efforts The Mandalorian employed to create visual effects. Unlike previous Star Wars projects, which relied heavily on location shots or green screen technology, The Mandalorian used real-time, in-camera compositing. This involved shooting on a stage in front of a structure termed ‘the volume’: a concave video wall enveloping the set with photorealistic digital backgrounds. “I think this technology is the most groundbreaking, revolutionary breakthrough in maybe 50 to 70 years – or even since sound. When processed screens came along, that was a leap forward, but to be frank, they looked a little hokey in the early days,” explains DOP Greig Fraser. “I still question green screen’s effectiveness because it’s not a lighting tool: I have major contentions with processed screens as they stand. If you are trying to light a set, with in-camera VFX everything around you is a lighting tool.” Despite this, the look is still classic Star Wars , with beautiful, big wide shots complementing tight shots and small camera moves. “If you look back to how Star Wars: Episode IV was made, you’ll see
CUTE CLOSE-UP Anamorphic lenses, in combination with the Arri Alexa LF, allowed for character shots without losing focus
a particular style – we drew upon that from the beginning,” explains Fraser. “Jon Favreau (showrunner) wanted me to watch a number of westerns and samurai films because of their influence on the gunslinger idea of Mando . We started there and figured out the path through. We also knew we were going to shoot with new technology, the LED volume, so we had to create a look for that environment. It meant we didn’t do too much handheld because the volume doesn’t love that. But we made sure there were enough slow moves, dusk shots and landscape shots to work for both the volume and our own aesthetic.” A SPRINKLING OF MAGIC One of the things that makes Star Wars characteristically Star Wars is that it’s widescreen. Fraser and Favreau did discuss switching the 2.40:1 format to 16:9, since The Mandalorian is for TV, but it didn’t quite hit the right spot. “That’s not to say Star Wars could never be 16:9, but for us, the use of a wide aspect ratio makes it what it is.” Fraser’s choice of lens – which he combined with the Arri Alexa LF – was also influenced by the cinematic style of the franchise. “We had the good fortune to use the Alexa 65 on Rogue One and the Alexa LF on The Mandalorian – both times with anamorphic lenses. We used CONTINUED RECOGNITION After winning seven gongs at last year’s Emmy Awards, Season 2 of the space-western is nominated in a whopping 24 categories for 2021
different squeeze ratios, and they had anamorphic qualities,” he says. “Again, you don’t have to shoot anamorphic for Star Wars , as proven fantastically by DOP Bradford Young on Solo . But on The Mandalorian , it was just one of those things that added little drops of Star Wars to the series.” Fraser adds: “What I love about using the LF with anamorphic lenses is the focus fall-off. As we all know, for a larger sensor, the same focal length gives a wider field of view. If you shoot with a 50mm anamorphic on an Alexa LF, it acts as a wide lens without the distortion or bowing that normally has. This really brings the audience in. “For me, if you get a wider field of view, you have to move in. Suddenly your 50mm is closer than it would have been on Super 35; you are nearer to the actor, but not wider. You don’t get that distortion putting a wide lens in someone’s face, so it’s a beautiful look.” “This technology is the most groundbreaking, revolutionary breakthrough in maybe 50 to 70 years – or even since sound”
15. OCTOBER 2021
ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE . MOTION IMPOSSIBLE
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Motion Impossible’s Agito is a powerful machine, but could Marcus Domleo push beyond its limits on a challenging sports shoot?
Agito. That’s not to say it didn’t make an impression on Domleo, though. “There was a decent budget, but not huge,” he says. “Plus, we had to wrap everything in one day. We needed a simple dolly on a track for the living room, something akin to a crane for the long jump, but an entirely unique set-up for the football. Only one tool could do all that.” Beyond its impressively high speeds, finely controlled motion, rugged build and controllability, it was the Agito’s modularity that impressed Domleo most. “Based on the fact you can make it do so many different jobs that usually require other, more expensive kit and people, I could see it replacing conventional tools at some point. “In the meantime, if you have a number of difficult shots and need something to do it all, nothing else comes close to the Agito.”
“WE HAD THREE scenes,” DOP Marcus Domleo explains, about a shoot that posed some logistical problems for his crew. “And needed to capture two sporting moments, then have the action pull back through a TV screen into a living room setting. “We needed a straight, backwards tracking motion – and discussed various options – but couldn’t find one that fulfilled all requirements. Then we discovered the Agito. “Our first challenge was speed. We filmed an athlete performing a long jump, and while she could take the edge off slightly, it still had to look real. She was sprinting fast – a normal dolly could never have kept up. The Agito was the only thing that could get to around 15mph from a standstill, then decelerate before it went through the back wall of the studio,” Domleo laughs. The pit offered yet another obstacle. The team had to show the jumper’s powerful landing on-set, so a shower of “You can make it do so many different jobs that usually require other, more expensive kit”
sand could cascade through the television in the final edit. “We had to arm the camera out over the sand to avoid tracks,” says Domleo. “It was rigged outwards about eight feet from the Agito, with some twin-tube scaffold, gliding over the top of the pit while the dolly drove next to it.” In the second scene, we see a footballer kick a ball straight into the camera, before it rebounds off ready for another shot. “We used the Agito in its smallest form, right on ground level. Naturally, we had to protect the camera, but because the dolly is so modular, our grip built a Perspex shield and rigged it on easily. Our footballer could kick the ball at it relatively hard and it withstood it comfortably.” The third and final scene – the pull back through the television – was fairly simple, requiring only a slower reverse from the
VIGIL PRODUC T I ON .
CATCHING A KILLER Suranne Jones stars as DCI Amy Silva, with DOP Matt Gray capturing the drama
DOP Matt Gray talks about uncovering the secrets beneath the surface in the BBC’s new submarine thriller, Vigil WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley IMAGES. BBC Pictures In the deep end F rom the makers of Line of Duty
RHYTHM, BY DESIGN The drama was penned and created by the twice Bafta-nominated screenwriter Tom Edge ( Judy , The Crown ), with James Strong directing and Matt Gray in charge of principal photography. Strong and Gray forged a close relationship after working together on Broadchurch in 2013 – a connection which would have, no doubt, prepared them for the creative challenges faced in bringing to life the claustrophobic, high-pressure HMS Vigil. “From conception, Vigil was a very bold and ambitious project. In the
and Bodyguard , World Productions brings us Vigil . A suffocating and mysterious thriller set aboard the HMS Vigil – a fictional military submarine, which is down one crew member after a death on deck. Suranne Jones heads up a terrific cast as DCI Amy Silva, who’s tasked with exposing what really transpired under the water. But, given it’s a six-episode, hair-raising thriller, there’s more to this case than initially meets the eye, and Vigil is full of slick twists and turns.
17. OCTOBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . VIGIL
first 20 minutes, we see our hero DCI Silva in a helicopter being winched down onto the submarine – our setting for the series,” explains Gray. “For the whole show, we challenged ourselves to do as much in camera as possible. Bringing on three post-production companies (Blazing Griffin, Goodbye Kansas and Savalas) as partners early in the process was crucial. For Amy’s journey to the sub, we shot ship-to-ship plates of the helicopter, then added the extra elements of her on the winch and the conning tower, which were all seamlessly blended together.” Real ballistic missile submarines are swathed in secrecy, and civvies are generally forbidden from tours of their interiors. The design, therefore, had to be constructed from a mix of former submariners’ memories and scouring the internet for similar vessels. While HMS Vigil did require some VFX, it was mostly the handiwork of Tom Sayer – a talented production designer who worked and reworked the set to ensure the cinematography could be as dynamic and gripping as the story itself.
A SENSE OF SCALE The crew played with space to moderate the intensity. From the confines of the submarine (top left), to the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean (above), anamorphic and spherical lenses created the right atmosphere
“We wanted the camera to be constantly moving and flowing through the environment – never letting it get too static”
VIGIL PRODUC T I ON .
VFX Approximately 180 VFX shots were created for compositing and
environment work, such as the creation of the fictional Dunloch naval base
PRODUCTION Filming started in late 2019, but the subsequent pandemic delayed production substantially. It picked back up again in August 2020, with the final edit completed in May this year KEEPING IT REAL As much footage as possible was shot in camera (top), adding bold realism. Reuben Joseph and Rose Leslie (left), as DS Porter and DS Kirsten Longacre
“We wanted to play with opposing colour tones throughout the series, because there’s also the investigation that takes place back on land. For that, we leaned into tones that were representative of the real world and relied on natural lighting,” comments Gray. “In the sub, the tones are very acidic and man-made.” PICK ‘N’ MIX The decision to split the narrative between the sea and terra firma was indisputably wise. Had Vigil only unfolded within the submarine, the sense of claustrophobia could have become overwhelming or lost its edge. Photographically, this is done exceptionally well, with Gray switching up his lenses to minimise the anxiety of a drama predominantly set underwater. “I initially thought I would use spherical lenses in the submarine and anamorphic on land, but separating them like that was too obvious. To me, it made more sense to mix them up based on different intensity cues in the story, whether on land or in the submarine,” says Gray. “I had a set of Tokina spherical
“We did some testing in the submarine set with our Steadicam and B camera operator Martin Newstead, but some adjustments had to be made so that the Steadicam was able to take full advantage. We wanted the camera to be constantly moving and flowing through the environment – never letting it get too static, not to distract from the pace of the story,” says Gray. “We [Gray, gaffer Paul Jarvis and best boy Paul Bates] also worked with Tom to integrate a full range of Astera LED tubes into the set – and that all went back through a DMX, to be managed via tablet. This gave me complete control over every source on the sub – I could envision quite complex lighting changes.” Lighting choices on the submarine were driven by its mythical ability to descend below the surface for long periods of time. Since ballistic subs are nuclear powered, they theoretically have limited endurance – though, in practice, last 90 days at sea, due to finite food stores and depleting crew stamina. This was also the case for DCI Silva’s journey.
lenses, which I used for a good chunk, as it allowed us to compress things and not make it feel too wide. These lenses also have a slight period feel, because they only have one coat on the front. They are much more interpretive than anamorphics, which we used to open the space up a bit.” A set of Arri Master Anamorphics was used to illustrate the expanse of life on land, but also the magnitude of the sub. Gray explains: “These nuclear boats are enormous; they’re one and a half football pitches long and 12 double-decker buses deep. We wanted to be able to show the reality of that.” He adds: “Along with the Master Anamorphics, we employed the Kowa 75mm for our main storyline.” The lenses were paired with an Arri Alexa LF, because of the 4K HDR constraint from the BBC. But more than that, the camera’s sensor was able to hit Gray’s visual requirement for shallow focus and a fall-off around the frame. “I could get near to the actors on the set, which was to be expected in a close- proximity subterranean environment,
19. OCTOBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . VIGIL
FOUL PLAY The crew close ranks as the investigation reveals threats at every turn
We did camera and grade tests before filming. It was important to see how the set and lights would look on-screen – and, since all the lights were integrated into the set, we could choose the tone and luminescence levels before the footage made it into the grade,” explains Gray. “I’m yet to have this confirmed, but I’m pretty sure the BBC is making the HDR version available. Using the ACES colour management system, we were able to go through the SDR and HDR alternatives to ensure they worked as one – Colin did such a great job, it looks really wonderful.” Vigil was a colossal project, with multiple locations to suit the complex
but it was never as sharply realised, due to this effect from the sensor,” he says. This was the the DOP’s first HDR project, although he has subsequently contributed to another – also by World Productions – called Showtrial , airing on BBC One later this year. In 2019, colourist Colin Brown worked with Gray to discuss the look and create the show LUT, but the process was put on hold due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions – the first episode only reached the grade suite in November 2020. “Working with Colin early on was fundamental in setting the colour palette and tones for the submarine interior.
Audio post Savalas Post invested a lot of time in pre-production. They researched environments to get a sense of how spaces might sound – from the Vanguard-class submarine control room, through to the crew’s mess at dinner time. An ex-submariner was on board for the entire production to answer any questions that would help give the show authenticity. The first episode opens with an incredible and complex set-piece sequence, taking place above and below the water. Almost all of the underwater dialogue was replaced, due to the nature of the incident and the noise on-set. This gave Kahl Henderson, dubbing mixer/ MD at Savalas, a greater degree of control to create a rich and intense soundtrack. It was a challenging opening sequence: the first five minutes took a whole day. For one of the quieter scenes, involving two main characters, everything was stripped back to focus on the dialogue and foley sounds from the characters’ points of view. It was heavily processed – futzed – which added to the real sense of claustrophobia and isolation inside the submarine. plot. As Gray concludes, it was a collective labour: “It couldn’t have been achieved without such a fantastic effort from cast, crew, VFX teams – and also, second block DOP Ruairí O’Brien.” Vigil is available now on BBC iPlayer
Awards Actors Suranne Jones and Rose Leslie won Baftas for their roles in Gentleman Jack and Game of Thrones , respectively. Screenwriter Tom Edge is twice Bafta-nominated, for Judy and The Crown , and director James Strong won a Bafta for his work on Broadchurch .
HIGH DRAMA Suranne Jones, as DCI Amy Silva, is winched into the HMS Vigil in one of the first scenes of the series. The creators contrasted the acidic lighting of the sub’s interior with the natural hues of outside spaces
ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE . SAMSUNG
THE POWER TO GROW
Running an at-home studio requires ingenuity, determination – and advanced kit that brings ideas to life. For Sarah Hodgetts, testing the Samsung Portable SSD X5 felt like taking a step into the future
FOR MANY FILMMAKERS, the past year posed huge challenges. While most coped in whatever small ways they could, seasoned professional Sarah Hodgetts took a bold step and launched Tiny Studio – a small, at-home production hub, specialising in product and e-commerce content. “I write and direct, but also have a technical skill set, so you’ll often find me shooting, lighting and editing. I’m a filmmaking Swiss army knife!” Hodgetts laughs. “My partner and I developed Tiny Studio some months ago, and we’ve made films for various brands, agencies, charities and broadcasters throughout lockdown. “We’ve been busier than ever since April, so adding the Samsung Portable SSD X5 to our hardware portfolio has been hugely beneficial. It’s helped with file management, editing, the transfer of footage between work stations – or supporting freelance creatives alongside us.” Hodgetts often works with footage sent in from outside the studio, and it’s easy to
imagine that with such varied practices, she has to be equipped to deal with anything. “I get Raw files from many of the industry-leading cinema cameras,” Hodgetts continues. “Those files are big and the edits are even bigger, so everything starts to move a little slower. In these cases, you need every link in the chain to be as fast and reliable as possible. The whole workflow depends on it. Usually, I experience a lot of lag, but now transfers and editing are as smooth as butter.” As far as speed goes, there’s no better option than the Samsung Portable SSD X5, with top read and write speeds of 2800MB/s and 2300MB/s, respectively. To offer some perspective, this is over 20x faster than many advanced external hard drives. Speed is facilitated by Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, which offers the greatest bandwidth on the market. It wasn’t just the 40Gbps performance that impressed Hodgetts, though.
SAMSUNG ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE .
THE INSIDE SCOOP With food shoots in particular – never mind ones involving ice cream – time is of the essence. There are no precious seconds to waste offloading files, and with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, you won’t have to
“Having a robust connection removes the need for middle-man adapters, which are prone to faults,” she explains. “Everything about the portable drive’s design is optimised with production in mind. It won’t disconnect at random and it won’t overheat, thanks to the heatguard – it’s excellent.” Of course, this isn’t just a matter of efficiency. For hard-working professionals, there’s more at stake. Results have to be delivered – well, and on time. “There is certainly a lot of pressure whenever you work on a sizeable project. Peace of mind goes a long way, and the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is the most trusted portable drive I’ve used.” With content that’s frequently sensitive in nature, Hodgetts also admired the hardy security. The Samsung Portable SSD X5 has password protection, backed by AES 256- bit encryption. There’s physical security, too: 2m drop resistance and a three-year warranty, offering additional peace of mind. The experience has been revolutionary for Hodgetts, who’s certainly sold on the portable drive as a whole. “I’ve never pushed the limits of a drive; I’ve not been confident it could handle the challenge. But I can consider so much more now. It’s portable, high-security and high- quality,” Hodgetts enthuses. “To go back to my old, slower drives would be a step back in time! The Samsung Portable SSD X5 is our go- to at Tiny Studio and it hasn’t let us down.”
SMALL SPACE, BIG IDEAS In Hodgetts’ Tiny Studio, maximising space is crucial – but with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing speed and usability. It’s sleek, palm-sized and weighs only 150g
23. OCTOBER 2021
WHY THE UK? INDUS TRY.
It was never the glamour; it was always about hard economic facts
We talk to British film commissioner Adrian Wootton OBE, to find out why international production companies are capitalising in the UK – and explore the impact it is having on the country’s infrastructure
INTERVIEW. Chelsea Fearnley
25. OCTOBER 2021
INDUS TRY. WHY THE UK?
Production in the UK is thriving, and it’s having a big impression on infrastructure, with new studios cropping up every day. Why is this? ADRIAN WOOTTON: The demand for making film and TV in the UK has gone through the roof. It’s having a huge impact on infrastructure, because the only way we can continue to welcome it is by building more studios and providing more skills. What we’re seeing is the result of two things. First, it’s the work that the UK film and TV industry – in partnership with the government – have been doing to create the conditions that make the UK so attractive for international production. And this coincides with a boom in content – which shows no signs of abating. With the battle of the streamers and, quite frankly, the world’s eyeballs wanting more programming, it’s only the beginning. What has the UK done to make the country so attractive to international production companies? AW: We put together a critical package that has meant we’ve been able to take advantage of this demand. At its heart was getting the government to understand that there was an opportunity for billions of pounds of revenue to come
STAR POWER During its production, Game of Thrones created over 6000 jobs in Northern Ireland – making a skilled workforce
The UK tax relief has been a crucial component in inward investment. It’s transparent, tough, and very fraud proof. It doesn’t involve a lot of middlemen: companies just have to pass a cultural test saying that they will use British talent, British stories and British locations. Are these incentives muscling out British production companies? AW: Without the tax relief, which was introduced in 2007, nothing would get made in the UK. Every film – independent or domestic – is supported through this incentive. And then when we introduced the high-end TV tax relief in 2013. That really supercharged things, because it supported the broadcasters, the international TV and satellite channels, and now the streamers. But I wouldn’t say this muscles out British production companies. There’s more production going on in the UK than there ever has been – and that benefits everybody. TV production is not just based in London, it’s all over the country: in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; it’s in Yorkshire, Manchester and Bristol. It’s driving our industry forward in such a way that we’re going to need an extra 20-30,000 people coming in over the next five years. How many other industries can say that? This sounds great, but how do we avoid being complacent? AW: We did a series of confidential surveys with private investors, that essentially asked: if skills and studio shortages weren’t a problem, how much money would you want to spend and bring into the UK economy? They told us that if we provided the space and crew, they would double their spending in the next five years. And it’s not just investment from our industry,
into the UK, and to create and sustain thousands upon thousands of jobs. And we won the financial argument. It was never the glamour; it was always about hard economic facts and being able to show the government how the UK would benefit. The tax relief that the government has given to the country’s film and TV industry has gifted us a seat at the table. Lots of other nations want the economic benefits of production, but unless you have a fiscal incentive to prompt the companies to choose you over other territories, then you’re not going to reap the rewards. The UK has an effective and intelligible process – one that isn’t like other regions, where the tax relief is capped at a certain level, is reviewed by state legislators every six months, or only has a certain amount of money given to it each year. There’s usually a whole bunch of restrictions, and no matter how much other countries rave about their tax relief, the UK has proved time and time again that its system works for the industry. How does the tax relief affect taxpayers in the UK? AW: The fact is, production can claim up to 25% of their expenditure on qualifying budgets, and for every pound that is spent by the exchequer, the UK gets £8 back from the production company. So, it’s almost not costing us anything. For everything we spend, we get it back – that’s why the investment levels are in the billions. In 2019, we saw a record-breaking £4bn spent on production, as high-end TV drove growth. Even last year, when production stopped for four months while we put health and safety procedures in place, we still achieved one of the highest levels of output on record in the last quarter. Now, we’re back up to levels beyond 2019.
Adrian Wootton CEO, Film London & British Film Commission Adrian Wootton OBE is CEO of Film London, the agency charged with developing the screen industries in the capitol, and the British Film Commission, the unit responsible for promoting the UK as the best place to produce feature films and high-end TV. Prior to becoming CEO in 2013, Wootton was acting director of the BFI and, before that, was founding director of Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham and director of the Bradford Playhouse & Film Theatre. He is also programme advisor to several film festivals in the UK and Italy, and regularly broadcasts and reviews films for Radio 4, The Guardian and Sight & Sound.
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