MODERN REBIRTH How camera and lens developers established large format as the language of film
PLUS: SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTIONS, LIGHTING GREY’S ANATOMY, GRADING THE PROTÉGÉ, GEAR REVIEWS AND MORE James Laxton on The Underground Railroad’s colossal undertaking
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CHELSEA FEARNLEY DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley Railroad – a production on such a huge scale, it goes far beyond pure visual spectacle, reflecting the historical struggle of black people in America. DOP James Laxton discusses his responsibility when creating intimate, yet powerful images that reflected the way he and director Barry Jenkins felt about the material (page 7). Also, with the sobering realisation that the average tent-pole film generates 2840 tonnes of CO2 during production – a total carbon impact equivalent to 11 one-way trips from the earth to the moon – we talk to sustainability consortium Albert (page 17) about how film can reduce its immense carbon footprint. Our gear features also evoke a brighter industry future. With advances to WELCOME T his issue is all about exhibiting positive change. We focus on The Underground technology, modern-day jibs and cranes can replace some drone work – especially where it’s necessary to seek an alternative for licensing reasons, or to limit noise pollution (page 36). And, with camera, lens and even lighting developers working to make large format the new language of film, we look at what’s in store for this trend – now that it’s fast becoming the norm (page 28).
EDITORIAL Deputy editor Chelsea Fearnley email@example.com Features writer Lee Renwick Chief sub editor Alex Bell Sub editors Beth Fletcher, Elisha Young Contributors Adam Duckworth, Kevin Hilton, Phil Rhodes Editorial director Roger Payne ADVERTISING Group ad manager Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designer Emma Di’Iuorio Ad production Man-Wai Wong PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck
MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF
CONTENTS 04 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS
28 MODERN REBIRTH
The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of production.
Kevin Hilton thumbs through the dictionary to get the big picture on large format and full-frame, talking to camera and lens developers leading the trend. Drones are hugely popular, but sometimes more traditional options are required. We look at what modern technology has done for jibs, cranes and stabilised heads.
07 ILLUMINATING HISTORY
Shot on a massive scale, James Laxton evokes enhanced naturalism, despite challenging set builds on The Underground Railroad .
36 FEET ON THE GROUND
@definitionmags @definitionmags @definitionmagazine
12 ANATOMY OF A DRAMA
Alicia Robbins discusses the challenges of working on Grey’s Anatomy , a show
42 GEAR REVIEW:
that dramatised the Covid-19 crisis as it proliferated in the real world. 17 LIGHTS, CAMERA, CLIMATE ACTION We speak to Albert, the Bafta-led
LITEPANELS GEMINI Combining a very punchy light with modifiers, which do cut down on intensity, this 1x1 Hard LED panel can be used in many different ways.
sustainability consortium, to find out how editorial and production crews can reduce their carbon footprint.
47 CAMERA LISTINGS
COVER IMAGE The Underground Railroad © Amazon Prime Video 2021
A showcase of the camera bodies currently revolutionising how we create digital images.
24 SHADES OF GREEN
Colourist Vanessa Taylor describes how she balanced the unlikely foliage in new action film, The Protégé .
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.
JULY 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 03
INDUSTRY | BR I EF I NGS
INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production. This month: LED volume and intimate conversations
LED volume and the developing capture technology that comes with it is most certainly on the rise. In recent issues, we’ve explored the current state of this cutting- edge innovation, studied its use on set, and questioned how far it may be taken in the future. In another telling sign of things to come, Arri has opened its own mixed- reality studio in Uxbridge, London. Available for UK-based productions to hire, the space is equipped with 343 sq m of LED wall, making it one of the largest fixed locations of its kind. It was installed in partnership with NEP Live Events and specialist firm, Creative Technology. The volume’s main ‘in vision’ curve offers a sizeable backdrop for wider frames, at 30m in width and 5m in height. Two moveable and tiltable side screens – 3m wide by 4m high – and an 18m-wide curved MAKING VIRTUAL A REALITY
ABOVE Arri’s mixed-reality studio is equipped with a massive 343 sq m LED wall
– even when not in frame – cast dynamic lighting on to performers. Bookings can be made for feature films, television, commercial shoots and events. Camera, grip and lighting packages are supplied by Arri Rental through the adjoining facility. arri.com
back wall create a fully encapsulated space. A 9.6x9.6m height-adjustable ceiling panel completes the design. Advancing the technology and creative potential beyond many comparable volumes, Arri’s LED arena can be programmed to display 360° images that
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BR I EF I NGS | INDUSTRY
A NEW LEASE OF LIFE
too, with support for Canon’s original IP-based XC Protocol. The powerful pair can be operated remotely via Canon’s RC-IP100 remote. On the internal side, and rounding out the list of top-line updates, the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III now support Look File functionality. Recognised as 3D LUTs, the files can be imported into the camera for internal recording, providing unique visual characteristics without colour grading. canon.co.uk
initiated in this mode. The C70 can be used with seven new EF lenses in conjunction with the EF-EOS R 0.71x mount adapter, too. The updated EOS C500 Mark II records in 4:3 and 6:5 aspect ratio, while in full- frame sensor mode in Cinema Raw Light. Alongside the EOS C300 Mark II, the camera now features a 1.8x desqueeze option, enabling choice from a wider range of anamorphic lenses. Both cameras have live production improvements,
Canon has announced major firmware updates for a number of its Cinema EOS cameras and lenses. The additions bring about new features and improvements, in line with professional Canon users’ feedback. The EOS C70 now offers increased autofocus control over a larger area, with the addition
of whole area AF to existing large/small
frame options. Touch tracking can also be
MASTERCLASS Director of photography, Alexander Hackinger, has taken the cinematic look online, with the help of Cooke. Working on the Wolff Brothers’ educational Meet Your Master series, he used the S4/i prime lenses alongside Arri Amira and Alexa Mini cameras. The platform offers viewers the opportunity to learn from experts in their field across a broad subject range, from adventuring to acting. Hackinger comments: “Although it is an online format, it was always important for us to create an exciting image with high production values. Meet Your Master should feel like you are sitting at a table with the master in a personal conversation. “I have shot many commercials, corporate films and music videos on both Cooke S4/i Primes and the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses. Even though I often consider other choices, I mostly come back to the S4/i lenses. On this project, I didn’t test against other optics, because I knew they would fit the bill perfectly. “I love the character of the Cooke S4/i optics. They trace skin tones beautifully, almost envelop the skin, frame the silhouette and have a wonderful soft transition into the bokeh. I also love the gentle contrast of the optics, with a sharp image that is never too crisp. They generate a classically beautiful look that always delights. I usually shoot at f/2.8.” You can watch Hackinger’s extracts and read his production notes online now. shotoncooke.com/video/meet-your-master
GOING BIGGER With a sizeable upgrade over its older sibling, Atomos has announced the arrival of the Shinobi 7 monitor. A lightweight design and 7in screen, it’s packed with potential when it comes to fieldwork. A 2200- nit screen means there’s no requirement for a sun hood, even in bright environments. It also functions in line with the growing use of HDR, with 10+ stops of dynamic range. Crucial camera features – including aperture, white- balance, shutter angle and ND – can be controlled at a touch, while a USB-C to serial cable, plus additional USB and RJ45 control points, offer a range of
connectivity options. As well as Log to HDR conversions, the Shinobi 7 can feed custom 3D LUTs to other devices or a live feed. Eight custom LUTs can be held via SD card. Power comes by way of dual batteries, allowing for hot-swapping, although mains power is also an option. V-Lock batteries can be harnessed with an additional DC to D-Tap cable. Additional highlights include 4:1, 2:1 and 1:1 zoom for focus pulling, varied exposure tools including zebra and histogram, bi-directional HDMI signal, and HDMI 2.0 support for 4Kp60. atomos.com
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THE UNDERGROUND RA I LROAD | PRODUCTION
Shot on a colossal scale, The Underground Railroad broaches delicate subject matter. Cinematographer James Laxton reunites with director Barry Jenkins to create an enhanced naturalism, despite challenging set builds
lengthy journey of an enslaved woman, Cora, and her courageous escape. The scale of the production is just as large, although we’re handed an intimate portrait. It’s a fine balance – and not an easy one to achieve. A CONSIDERED AESTHETIC Early moments of The Underground Railroad paint a picture we’re already acquainted with. Rich, warm landscapes are the backdrop to uneasy tension: heavy darkness with the soft glow of firelight, hiding moments of something close to freedom. However, others do not. Viewers may notice a distinct blue hue to the moonlight and the sudden flashbulb effects that see the antebellum-era characters lit in stark white. These are the fingerprints of DOP James Laxton. “The flash-style spotlights are very interesting to me,” he says. “There’s an episode called The Great Spirit , in which
WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES AMAZON
R ace has been at the heart of director Barry Jenkins’ body of work for more than a decade. Most recently, his astute gaze turned to the challenging period of pre–American Civil War slavery. His feature films, backed by James Laxton’s distinct cinematography, have received high praise, culminating in a Best Picture Oscar for Moonlight in 2017. At around ten hours, Jenkins’ new TV series is a sizeable beast, covering the
ABOVE Director Barry Jenkins surveys one of the vast exterior location sets
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PRODUCTION | THE UNDERGROUND RA I LROAD
ABOVE There’s plenty of delicate interactivity between characters and tiny key light sources, such as candles
characters discuss a certain energy that exists within all living things. It’s a theme referenced throughout the show and I needed a way to represent that on-screen. I started thinking about early photography – more specifically, the Native American belief that having your photograph taken removes your spirit.” Laxton admits it was a challenge to capture the on-camera flash look with motion picture. But he felt it was important to include, because “those moments were a reminder of the energy that exists within the slaves and their masters”. Unsurprisingly, the eye-catching contrast was a careful choice, too. “Colour is a tool that I tend to utilise in bolder ways than others might,” says Laxton. “It was also important to have as much interactivity between the subjects and small light sources as possible. Used as a key light, a candle could feel significant in that way – without it, we would be in complete darkness.” With such difficult subject matter at hand, other decisions had to be handled with care. Jenkins and Laxton made a strong choice to avoid gratuitous violence, not labouring this aspect, but instead choosing to cover the impacts of it. However, they were also cautious not to paint an all-too-pretty picture. “We shot the show in Georgia, which was a major state in American slavery,” says Laxton. “It is very beautiful at times,
and people in our history will have witnessed some very dramatic events, against a backdrop of the sunset shining through the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. You can’t avoid that – and I think it would have been strange for us to change the way we approached the natural beauty of our location. You tell a story about a subject in the place it exists, but we didn’t want to embellish it in that sense.” The show sees Cora go on a journey across the United States, and with that comes an inevitable change in tone and appearance. It was an evolution Laxton worked hard to communicate as a reflection of her path northward. “Cora interacts with new people, visits new spaces and undergoes personal growth,” he says. “So, we changed the way we photographed episodes, adapting them to what seemed appropriate for the tone of particular scenes. “With my feature films, I try to be as conscious as possible about making choices that are unique to each story. There are through lines in the way we shot the whole series, but each episode was unique – and we knew they needed to come across that way visually.” In part, the look of certain episodes was shaped by a somewhat unusual choice – a move away from the spherical Panavision Primo 70 lenses, used for the bulk of the series, and towards anamorphic T Series glass.
Those tunnels were the biggest and most challenging set build – we had real trains running through them. We built around 200 feet of tunnel over existing tracks
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THE UNDERGROUND RA I LROAD | PRODUCTION
ABOVE Lens choice was crucial. Laxton opted for a modern sharpness with vintage augmentations
tunnels were the biggest and most challenging set build – we had real trains running through them,” recalls Laxton. “The ‘underground’ scenes were all shot in Savannah, Georgia, at a train museum. We built around 200 feet of tunnel over existing tracks, and our art department – led by Mark Friedberg – also created the connecting stations.” These sets were rigged with 30 to 40 LED units, with lots of 2x4, 4x4 and 4x1 panels – depending on space and what was needed. Lights were hidden in the ceiling, largely by headers the art department had designed to look like support beams. “One of the reasons it was such a difficult task was because we had to make
When we ask about the decision to change up the lenses, Laxton tells us it was because there are three episodes that depart from Cora, providing a context for the rest of the series. “Because they do something different structurally, I wanted to find a different way to tell those stories visually. Not a dramatic change, but a different perspective.” Used alongside the Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF, the choice of lenses helped find the look of the show, with Panavision offering support technically, as well as creatively. “Working with large format in general, there’s a great deal of new options for lenses and a handful of old lenses, but not much in-between. I didn’t want to shoot on something soft and vintage, but didn’t want anything too clinical, either,” he says. Thanks to Dan Sasaki at Panavision Woodland Hills, Laxton was able to augment the Primo 70s to fit the aesthetic he was hoping for in a lens package. “Managing to retain sharpness, we infused some vintage characteristics, which were tested and changed over the course of a few months,” he says. “We made flare profiles, honed the shapes on the edges of frame and fine-tuned the vignetting.” STATION TO STATION While the scale of the entire production is huge, there are a few standout moments. The titular railroads themselves are certainly something to behold. “Those
it safe for the actors to walk around and interact – not just with the station and tracks, but with the trains themselves. “Another sizeable one was the North Carolina chapter. There’s a scene where Cora hides in an attic space above a large downstairs living area, and that was all another set build,” says Laxton. “Those scenes actually ended up as some of my favourites – I’m really proud of the work our lighting team did in that space. There were fine details, like subtle LED sources to illuminate trees outside. They really made it feel lived-in.” The size of the production goes far beyond pure visual spectacle. Jenkins, Laxton and the wider team understood
RIGHT Fellow enslaved American, Ceasar (played by Aaron Pierre), aids Cora in her initial bid for freedom, as the pair reach the titular railroad
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PRODUCTION | THE UNDERGROUND RA I LROAD
“Things between us were as similar as ever,” says Laxton. “When we got on set, the choices we were making – and how we made them – felt as they have for the past 20 years, which is organic and instinctual. That’s the process where we end up making the images we’re most proud of.” Yet, because of the scale, a different approach was taken to the pre-production process on a technical level, but that “everything creative felt just as always”. Laxton credits this feat, where all the technical challenges seemed to “fall by the wayside”, to the crew and “their ability to help support us in that way”. Indeed, Laxton is only too well aware of how important the whole ensemble is to a production. “We knew that if we were able to get what we wanted from Barry and myself, we could put the machine behind us and let it support our actors, our production and costume designers. It’s the type of trust you can only have after working together for so long,” he says. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IS STREAMING NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
On any given night exterior, we had upwards of six condors, with Arri 18Ks or 9K HMIs
all the different ways in which I need to be more efficient and responsible within the show,” he says. “It’s not necessarily just lighting, but talking to the special effects department, making sure I have the right rigging team, discussions with my producers and the AD department, and more. It was a learning curve.” Finally, it would be remiss to overlook his unique relationship with Jenkins. How did the process compare to the intimate sets of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk ?
the significance of the task at hand. “Our scope in the show and this world is, in many ways, a stand-in for black people in America’s journey over the past few centuries. The responsibility of that is big. We wanted to make sure that sensation was visual,” says Laxton. “The hope was to create big, powerful images that felt the way we felt about the material – namely, our history.” Much of Cora’s world comes to life in darkness, so there could be no shying away here. “A small scene with a little bit of key light on someone’s face was going to do it. Any time we wanted to turn the camera around, even at night, we needed to see a cotton field or some distant trees,” explains Laxton. It required a lot of planning and pre-production to ensure everything was prepared come the shoot, Laxton explains. “On any given night exterior, we had upwards of six condors, with either Arri 18Ks or 9K HMIs. There were large LED softboxes to create a blanket effect, then some key light coming in elsewhere.” For his part, Laxton’s role as a department head on such a shoot required a bit of ‘growing up’. “I had to learn about
RIGHT As episodes unfold and locations change, so too does the look. Northern states often differ greatly from the golden sunset light of Georgia
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PRODUCTION | GREY ’ S ANATOMY
IMAGE Grey’s Anatomy has never shied away from depicting real-life events, so it made sense to cover the Covid-19 pandemic in Season 17
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ANATOMY OF A DRAMA DOP Alicia Robbins discusses the challenges of working on a show that dramatised the Covid-19 crisis, as it proliferated in the real world WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES EMMANUEL BATES COMMUN I CAT I ONS L ast summer, staff members at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital were in the turbulent early stages of the pandemic. They were taking Covid-19 cases only, with the rarest of exceptions, and the days had turned into a lengthy hunt for PPE – one enormous nightmare of new, stringent safety measures. It GREY ’ S ANATOMY | PRODUCTION
would have been unusual and against the grain for a melodrama like Grey’s Anatomy to avoid depicting the current crisis completely, but it certainly jumps into the thick of it. “Madhouse. On fire,” is Dr Bailey’s succinct reaction. Incorporating the pandemic into Season 17 of the show brought big complications to the set. Provoking images of Monsters, Inc. , and the CDA monsters whose job it was to search and take away any human contaminant, actors had to wear an unsightly combination of powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR), masks and shields. But the PAPR – a loose-fitting helmet with a clear screen – presented the biggest challenge for DOP Alicia Robbins, because even though the actors’ mouths were visible, the screen drew “crazy reflections” from lighting. “Chandra Wilson, who plays Dr Miranda Bailey, seemed to attract the most reflections,” says Robbins. “She’s
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PRODUCTION | GREY ’ S ANATOMY
With a telescoping
very small, 5ft to be exact, and has to look up at other actors when performing. For some reason, that caused more reflections. Glancing in a different direction seemed to help, though.” This constrained approach to acting filtered its way into the lighting, which couldn’t be adjusted at all once it had been positioned in the right spot. However, after about a month, Robbins was able to secure an anti-reflective plastic to replace the original PAPR screen. This was better, but expensive. “They were also more delicate,” she says. “Each piece was $1000 – and actors were a bit slapdash with them at the end of a scene, pulling the PAPR over their heads, because it would have no doubt been stuffy to wear.” But it was still cheaper than relying on VFX, which the team had to use in the month they were operating a fastidiously designed lighting set-up. “Digitally removing reflections from a plastic screen is very expensive, because of the facial structure and moving mouths that need to be reanimated,” explains Robbins. “In some instances, when it was impossible to get the reflection out – even with the anti-reflective – we had to pull the screen out completely and put tracking marks around the helmet for the VFX team to digitally paint back in, and that was also very expensive.” KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE Filming took place while the pandemic was still rife in the real world, creating its own
crane, you can get closer to the actors without having to man the camera
set of complications. Crew had to maintain a safe distance from the actors and relied heavily on specialist remote production gear to ensure they remained at the heart of the action. One useful tool was a new telescoping crane from Servicevision, called Scorpio 17’. Shipped in from the UK, the Grey’s Anatomy production was its first job on American soil. “For this season, we needed a telescoping crane, because you can poke it out and get closer to the actors without having to man the camera, which was good for social distancing.” says Robbins. “I’ve been a fan of the Chapman Miniscope for a long time, but it does have limitations. So, when Steve at the Crane Company – which sources and supplies all our cranes and remote heads – told me about the Scorpio 17’, we had to get it for the whole season. It’s designed specifically for interiors and allows for a small and compact configuration for taxiing through doorways. This was perfect for the labyrinthine hospital corridors.” The team were also reliant on the far-flung capabilities of LED, especially
10 The number of hours crew were permitted to work a day during the pandemic 6 The number of former series regulars who returned for Dr Grey’s Covid coma
BELOW Crew had to wear masks and maintain a Covid-safe distance from the actors, as well as rely on remote production gear
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GREY ’ S ANATOMY | PRODUCTION
for lighting the actors. This was because any adjustments could be made remotely through the DMX board, without having to get near the cast. Tungsten lights were still used, but only for sun streaks through windows – and even the ER, which historically used tungsten sources, became illuminated with bicoloured LED tubes. Robbins liked this alteration, because the changeover between people coming in and out of the ER was always long. On previous seasons, they would knock the lights out and re-gel everything to change from daylight to tungsten, to show the time difference. “It’s much quicker to do this switch with bicoloured LEDs,” she says. MINI MAGIC Despite the modifications necessary to reimagine Grey’s Anatomy for the Covid-19 crisis, the camera package mostly remained the same. Robbins has
ABOVE Robbins used bicoloured LED tubes to help light the set at a distance
always used Arri cameras, but for this season, the Alexa Classic was switched out in favour of the Alexa Mini for archiving purposes, but also for its higher 3.2K resolution. “We were so limited on time with our ten-hour days, that if I wasn’t able to get all the shots, the editors could use that extra resolution to adjust the frame. But it’s crazy, because we actually did get everything we needed,” says Robbins.
Similarly, Robbins had the Cooke S4s – lenses the DOP has used on the last two seasons – but had to change up the filtration system. “For many years, Grey’s has been shot with nets on the back of the lens, and although they look fantastic on skin tone, they turn specular highlights into a honeycomb shape,” she explains. “Knowing that we were going to be working with more specular reflections from the PAPR screen, I switched to the Hollywood Black Magic filter, because it matched the net look, but didn’t produce this honeycomb effect. I reserved two long netted lenses, just in case we needed them for close-ups, but you couldn’t tell the difference between the filters.” This is most definitely not a show that celebrates the subtleties of acting, but for key moments – where Robbins felt the scenes needed to be about two people, and those two people alone – she’d shoot wide open on the S4s at 180mm. Similarly, speciality Kardan swing tilt lenses were brought in to enhance the emotion of certain scenes, such as the opening moments in episode 4, where Dr Meredith Grey is put into a coma. It was a bold move to make for several episodes with the show’s central character, but with both the working conditions and plot lines provided by the pandemic, the writers and crew could shake things up a bit. Yes, it’s dramatic, but the show always has been – and even after 17 seasons, viewers still find themselves drawn back in to the “madhouse on fire”.
GREY’S ANATOMY SEASON 17 IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO WATCH AND DOWNLOAD ON SKY WITNESS
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SUSTA I NAB I L I TY | PRODUCTION
LIGHTS, CAMERA, CLIMATE ACTION The average tent-pole film produces 2840 tonnes of CO2, but this figure can be brought down. We speak to Albert, the Bafta-led sustainability consortium, to find out how
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES VAR I OUS
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PRODUCTION | SUSTA I NAB I L I TY
ABOVE William Bourns, sustainability analyst for the Bafta-led sustainability consortium, Albert
In 2011, the BBC and Bafta collaborated to create Albert, the sustainability consortium for the film and TV industry. How does it work? WILLIAM BOURNS: We’re an industry- funded project, backed by broadcasters, media groups and indies. Currently, we have two aims. One is to show the film and TV industry that planet placement can have a massive impact on the audience; the other is to help them recognise and reduce production-associated emissions. What do you mean by planet placement? BOURNS: Reducing the footprint of productions is important. But, by far the greatest opportunity to make an impact is through the content the screen industry puts out to audiences. Producers and writers can shift mindsets by carefully curating editorial to promote positive environmental behaviours. For example, [children’s programme] Shaun the Sheep has solar panels on the roof of his house, while the producers of EastEnders are very good at displaying recycling signs in all their pubs and restaurants. It’s this kind of subliminal messaging that has a much greater impact on the audience than something that’s in your face. We’re not asking you to be earnest or educational, scare people into taking action, or create the type of content you’d expect from an NGO. We’re just asking you to tell fascinating stories in a human way – like you always do. Are there examples of this being done on bigger productions, where, for example, there may be more red tape over what can be shown? BOURNS: Yes. Much of Wes Anderson’s film, Isle of Dogs , takes place on Trash Island, which is used solely for the disposal of rubbish and can be seen as a commentary on humanity’s consumption and creation of waste. This is a great example of how planet placement can be a story element and part of the dialogue, but it doesn’t have to be. In Season 2, episode 2, of His Dark Materials ,
for service providers, studios and facility companies. To help, we’ve created a carbon emissions calculator, for productions to get a better understanding of their environmental impact. It’s concerned with four key areas of production: materials, energy and water, studio buildings and facilities, and studio sites and locations. For each one, you can input what you’re using and how you’re using it. We can then provide you with methods to either reduce or offset the calculated emissions, through a personalised carbon action plan. Specifically, how can lighting and camera departments make a difference? BOURNS: They can challenge suppliers to support the use of low-energy lighting, while asking producers how much they’re paying for electricity, helping them understand the long-term savings that are possible. Second to that is energy consumption, so if these departments switch to LED – which has a surprisingly large impact on not only energy bills, but the subsequent associated emissions – their carbon footprint will be reduced. One studio in the UK switched all their lights to LED, and were able to reduce energy
when Will and Lyra are walking along in the street, ‘Saving the Arctic’ posters can be seen in the background. And behind the scenes, Peaky Blinders – filmed in Liverpool – used an almost entirely local crew to cut down on travel-associated emissions and invest in the local economy. Are travel-related emissions something productions need to be more mindful of? BOURNS: Yes. Around 51% of the screen industry’s emissions are related to transport, with 30% of that accounted for by air travel and 70% by land. The rest is due to energy consumption, with 34% of the average blockbuster’s CO2 emissions going on mains electricity and gas, and 15% on diesel generators. So, what can the screen industry do? BOURNS: The predicament we are in is down to poor planning. No exit plans exist for the majority of materials and resources that enter our industry – and little consideration is given to carbon emissions created from generators, or where props spend the rest of their days. Fixing this is our principal challenge, and one that represents a great opportunity
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SUSTA I NAB I L I TY | PRODUCTION
In light of growing interest around the topic of sustainability, Bebob has shared more insight into its current engagement. The action plan is fourfold. Regional production is the first step, ensuring transport routes are limited to just a few miles, while also reducing CO2 emissions. When Bebob’s batteries are transported and sold, they’re done so in uncoloured, recyclable cardboard packaging with zero plastic. Foam, polystyrene and bubble wrap have also been replaced by biodegradable flakes in most instances. That’s step two. Third, Bebob has a unique battery re-celling approach, with all products designed in such a way that the original cells can be replaced when they lose performance. It’s environmentally friendly, but also more economical as far as production or user budgets are concerned. By using screws on the cell housing to this effect, environmentally harmful adhesives common in the industry are avoided. Finally, when batteries do reach the end of their life, Bebob recycles almost every part, with the help of the CCR REBAT return system. A free postal service is offered for customers returning Bebob batteries for responsible disposal – or those of any other brand. bebob.tv
consumption by 70%. We also recommend incorporating digital production processes, by using collaboration platforms for planning schedules, but even for shooting scenes. Host , the tiny British horror film conceived and made in lockdown, was all done remotely via Zoom. That’s quite a lot of responsibility for one (or two) departments. Is there someone in charge to make sure everyone complies? BOURNS: Yes, that person is called a green runner – and we’ve seen an increasing number of productions hiring them. But the role sounds quite hectic, because they’re often the only person concerned with sustainability on set. I heard of one green runner who told cast and crew to make sure they finish all food on their plates, because otherwise it will go to waste. Then another who was able to get thousands of dead fish – which were used for filming – to a seal sanctuary so they weren’t wasted. It’s a huge undertaking, but one way to empower green runners is to get them involved in pre-planning phases, where key decisions are made: the sets to be constructed, how supplies are procured, locations, etc.
ABOVE The Peaky Blinders production has always stayed on home soil, even employing a local crew to cut down emissions associated with travel
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PRODUCTION | SUSTA I NAB I L I TY
Louise Marie Smith, the green runner on Jurassic World: Dominion , had great success with its key characters: the dinosaurs. The silicone and fibreglass moulds used to make the animatronic superstars were recycled by a company called Green Clover, who melted the materials down so they could be used again. Sustainability solutions were found in some surprising places, including the stunt department. All wire and safety equipment must be brand new and cannot be donated or reused, due to safety concerns. However, Extreme Rigging – the company that provided the stunt wire – now has a process where it can take used wire, reduce it to individual fibres and reuse to make new products. Also, Jurassic World was one of the first to get back to production after the initial national UK lockdown, and was under scrutiny as a model for other productions ready to resume shooting. Beyond working from home, and the huge CO2 savings from reducing flights and overall travel, another benefit was reduced paper use. Smith says the attitude before the pandemic was ‘please don’t print call sheets/scripts’, but it became ‘absolutely don’t print anything unnecessary’, once work resumed. The production team also took the conscious decision to remove beef from their catering menu. The onus isn’t just on the editorial and production crews, because the infrastructure also needs to change
ABOVE In Season 2 of His Dark Materials, ‘Saving the Arctic’ posters were visible in the background
assess their impact. It’s harder to offer them a carbon action plan, because of how different things are from country to country – particularly in terms of waste disposal and energy resources. We need a bit more research into the infrastructure of places elsewhere before we can offer this to them – and it is something we believe is really important, because obviously not all UK productions are based in the UK, with many on location. Not that it’s necessarily bad in other places, because the UK can do a lot better compared to countries like Iceland, where all their energy comes from renewable sources. Is carbon neutrality an achievable goal for the film and TV industry? BOURNS: I think it certainly is. But the onus isn’t just on the production and editorial crews, because the infrastructure also needs to change. We’ve seen emissions associated with energy use on film sets decrease year on year, due to the increase of renewable resources in the UK – but there’s more that needs to be done. The screen industry can help move it forward by looking at low-emission alternatives and making sure they’re used where possible, without any compromise to the
quality of what they’re producing. Often, the issue is timing. And when anyone – not just those working in the screen industry – bumps into a problem like this, the fastest option is always more desirable than a sustainable one. So, get yourself a green runner well in advance!
With a continued focus on sustainability, Universal Production Services now offers new, state-of-the-art ‘green’ 200kVA Generator Carrier Vehicles. They all run exclusively on hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel, which has up to 90% fewer life-cycle emissions than fossil diesel – they’re also LEZ, ULEZ and NRMM compliant. These vehicles are fuelled with HVO for both driving and location power, in order to significantly reduce emissions. UPS also offers Voltstack battery electric portable power supply stations, which have zero emissions, are easy to operate and transport, and are silent.
Is Albert only concerned with productions inside the UK?
BOURNS: No. We’re very much global – and productions all around the world can use our carbon emissions calculator to
IMAGE Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs had a clear environmental message
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ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | ASTERA
NO GREY IN THIS HOSPITAL DOP Alicia Robbins explains how she was able to illuminate the complexities of the Grey’s Anatomy hospital setting, using Astera LED tubes
THIS IS DEFINITELY a moment for Astera. Cinematographers all over the world are loving the flexibility the company offers with its tubes, and DOP Alicia Robbins is no exception. For her work on Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy – incorporating the Covid-19 pandemic into its storyline – she used a version of Astera LEDs in every single interior scene. There were many different reasons for this, but one of the biggest was that the tubes were able to blend seamlessly with the overhead fluorescent lights of a hospital setting. She explains: “When we had doctors standing around the patients’ beds, we hung Helios tubes in Kino Flo casings from the ceilings above them, which served as their key light. Since many of the actors were wearing PAPR [full head-covering PPE gear with a plastic face shield], these lights were often
TOP From remote controls to hanging the tubes on their own, Astera lighting is versatile – andespecially well suited to a hospital setting
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ASTERA | ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE
ABOVE Astera lighting became a key aspect when focusing on the actors, whether from above or on the side. Its versatility meant Alicia Robbins could deliver a warmer or cooler atmosphere with ease
“Astera lights can be dialled into the RGB colour space, which makes them easy to adjust on the fly” possible to place the sources in areas that were harder to get to – such as under or behind furniture, or in a plant.” The ability to stick the tubes to any wall to add a pop of light was especially useful for long walk-and-talk Steadicam shots, where the occasional dead zone for light is to be expected. “When you’re moving down hospital hallways, there aren’t many convenient places to put a key light, because of their narrow nature,” says Robbins. “Being able to hang either the bare bulb Astera tube, or an Astera tube in Kino Flo housing, was the best way to get light into the tighter areas. “We placed tubes vertically behind the door frames that the actors walked through, and also tucked one into the place where the wall meets the ceiling to give the actors a light from above. This helped us feel the light change from different directions. So, in one section it was mostly coming from overhead, then – as the actors crossed the threshold – the light would come in more from the side.” Once the lights were put into place, Robbins could focus on the colour control. Luckily, Astera lights can be dialled into the RGB colour space, which makes them easy to adjust on the fly.
“Before rolling the cameras, my gaffer and I would watch the actors rehearsing and decide how we wanted the scene to look. If we wanted to make it a bit warmer or cooler, he’d call it in over a walkie to our board operator with the DMX number associated with the unit, and get them to dial it in – using very small increments. And the colour quality was very good. “This was also the first season of Grey’s Anatomy that utilised mostly LED technology. Previously, colour adjustments were made by placing gels on tungsten sources, which can be quite time-consuming – not a good option for us, due to on-set Covid-19 restrictions that permitted us to work just ten hours a day.” The requirement for social distancing also made the Asteras a great choice. Not only for their ability to be adjusted on the fly and away from actors, but because they demand fewer electricians. Robbins explains: “Rather than one electrician set up the lighting, and another run the power, we only needed one to set the lights up, since there are no cables involved. This helped keep more of our crew separated and helped with multitasking the lighting.” To buy, rent or discover more about Astera LED tubes, go to astera-led.com
seen reflected in the shield. But in this instance, it didn’t matter, because Asteras are very similar to the lights you’d find in a real hospital – and looked completely natural to the scene. This was not the case for other sources, which needed to be painted out in post.” Uniquely, Asteras fit into Kino Flo housing, which meant that Robbins was able to position the Titan and AX1 tubes overhead without running any sort of power. These were then remotely controlled using the Astera box that talks wirelessly to the dimmer board. “Putting them in Kino Flo cases made it quicker to hang, especially since they’re already constructed with side doors for light control – and with a mounting bracket that can go on either a C-stand, or be hung overhead from the built-in lighting grid on the stages,” says Robbins. “But there were times when we could hang the tubes on their own without the casing; simply by using clips that could grab the bare Astera tube and literally screw the tube to the wall. This made it
MORE INFORMATION: astera-led.com
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POST- PRODUCTION | THE PROTÉGÉ
Colourist Vanessa Taylor on how she balanced the unlikely foliage in new action film, The Protégé SHADES OF GREEN D irected by Martin Campbell, The Protégé tells the story of Anna (Maggie Q) and Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), elite assassins who share WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES NU BOYANA
to old collaborators. DOP David Tattersall joins the director for a third time after working on Vertical Limit (2000) and The Foreigner (2017), while editor Angela M Catanzaro returns for her latest project with Campbell. She also edited Reckless (2013), Warriors (2014) and two unaired television pilots. With Catanzaro and Tattersall on board, we can expect similar pacing and visuals to those we saw in The Foreigner . But the film’s story takes an unusual turn and moves the assassins out of a typical city backdrop and into a natural envrionment. Filming took place in Bulgaria, where set designers had to recreate the vibrancy of a Vietnamese forest by dressing the treeline with tropical plants. However, Tattersall also relied on the skills of the grading team to match the foliage and merge the greens of two different forests. Pulled together by producer Paula Crickard, the grading team included colourist Vanessa Taylor. “Tropical foliage is a bright yellow- green, whereas European foliage is darker and more blue-green, so I used hue, saturation and brightness controls to nudge the shades closer together,” says Taylor.
a mysterious past. When Anna’s mentor, Moody (Samuel L Jackson), is murdered, she and Rembrandt form an uneasy alliance to track down his killer in Vietnam. Campbell is well-known among fans of the action genre, as well as for his loyalty
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THE PROTÉGÉ | POST- PRODUCTION
GRADED VS UNGRADED The image on the left is graded, whereas the brighter image above is ungraded. Colourist Vanessa Taylor’s direction from DOP David Tattersall was to use simple enhancement techniques, evening out basic primaries to complement the natural tone that was set in-camera.
Your eye is always drawn to the brightest part of any picture by darkening or brightening areas her lipstick pinged out. This can happen with lipsticks that contain fluorescent pigments; digital cameras pick them up, making lips appear too luminous. I used a combination of keyer and garbage matte to track around the mouth, reducing the hue and saturation of the lipstick only.” STAYING ON BRIEF Taylor joined the project as filming The fiddly foliage presented further challenges for a monastery set in the jungle. “Again, we needed to balance out the greens, but remove spill reflecting on Maggie Q’s face,” explains the colourist. “As soon as I pushed the primary temperature warmer, was nearing completion. Tattersall and Campbell were back in the UK shooting
pickups, which meant she and the team could spend 12 days finalising the grade together. Although it was done during lockdown, the team had access to a large DI theatre at Nu Boyana in Wandsworth, London, which meant adequate space for social distancing, enabling the whole team to collaborate in the same room. When describing the brief, Taylor says that Tattersall had already set the tone in-camera and, minus a few challenges, it was a matter of employing simple enhancement techniques to even out basic primaries and give it a natural finish. A key focus, however, was guiding the audience through scenes and allowing them to turn their attention to specific focus points, crucial to the plot progression. As Taylor notes, “your eye is always drawn to the brightest part of any picture by darkening or brightening areas”. For example, during the apartment fight scene between Anna and Rembrandt, Anna falls into the corner of the room and knocks the radio, which starts blasting romantic music. “The corner was dark, so we needed to brighten the stereo in order to make the connection with the sound,” says Taylor.
There was another scene that required extra attention in the grade, involving a motorbike and the characters Anna and Billy Boy (Robert Patrick). “In this sequence, camera angles are shot forwards and backwards, capturing various colour temperatures on the sensor,” says Taylor. “Tattersall and I worked closely to balance this scene, using primary and curve tools to achieve a match.” SUPPORTING THE VISION Taylor graded The Protégé on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and was especially fond of its beauty tools, using the hue compression to flatter more mature skin. Nonetheless, she remains true to the idea that a colourist’s role is to enhance. “The more you try to push an image from its natural starting point, the more digital the result will look,” she says. “What we do is complementary. It’s the most beautiful images that are the easiest to grade and Tattersall did an amazing job capturing the look of the story, so I’m very pleased with the result. It’s a great-looking film.” THE PROTÉGÉ IS IN CINEMAS IN AUGUST
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