WIRELESS WONDERS INNOVATIVE DEVICES FOR UNTETHERING PRODUCTIONS
JANUARY 2022 DEFINITIONMAGAZINE.COM
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Gorgeous and gruesome: Dariusz Wolski captures the tonally complex story of the Gucci dynasty TWISTED FAIRYTALE
Anamorphics strike a balance between sadistic sensibility and domestic fantasy in You KILLERS FRAMING workload and storage Decoding different codecs for quality, MATHEMATICS CAMERA
Our experts untangle the challenges of LED volumes and predict how far the technology can be pushed Virtual insa ity
EMILY IN PARIS VP STUDIOS INDUSTRY NEWS
LIFE IMITATES ART THE DISCONCERTINGLY POWERFUL SET DESIGN OF SQUID GAME
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Regulars 05 ON THE COVER
Industry 31 M IXING REALITIES
Filming in the city of love for Emily in Paris . 06 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video. Production 08 THE DARK SIDE OF FASHION Dariusz Wolski captures the infamous story of one high-fashion dynasty in House of Gucci . 17 DISTORTED PERSPECTIVES S pecialist anamorphic lenses balance dreamlike domesticity with psychological thriller in Netflix’s You . 24 S ETTING SQUID GAME Life imitates art in the
Continuing our round table series, experts discuss how virtual production is transforming filmmaking.
41 SPACE RACE
Looking at the facilities charging ahead to set up virtual production stages.
H ere we are: 2022. What’s your New Year’s resolution? Maybe 8K, 12K or beyond? A joke... but as we enter a third year of the pandemic, a little laugh wouldn’t go amiss. Our duty at Definition is to entertain, inform and inspire – and in this jam-packed issue, we’ve got some fascinating features to get you through the January slump. Fans of horror (I use this word lightly) will be pleased, as we pick apart the cinematography in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci and Netflix’s love-to-hate series You – and, as a post-Christmas treat, our usual two production stories become three, with a delve into Squid Game ’s set design. Continuing our popular round table series, we focus on the future of virtual production. We also get mathematical about codecs, and untangle sets, with the latest wireless gear. Definition has always been about looking towards new technology – but it’s also important to celebrate what has been, because it’s only with practice and experience that innovations emerge. DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley
46 B IG SQUEEZE
We decode the capabilities of different codecs, and explain how underlying tech affects the performance of its hardware. UNTETHERED Key players in wireless offer the lay of the land for a production world set free from cables.
record-breaking hit Squid Game ’s thought-provoking set design.
63 C AMERA LISTINGS
The bodies revolutionising digital images – featuring the new Sony Venice 2.
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Cover image Emily in Paris | © Netfilx 2022
3. JANUARY 2022
EMI LY IN PAR I S ON THE COVER .
C’EST BEAU! We predict more stunning shots of the French capital’s most beautiful and famous locales
EMILY IN PARIS Filming in the city of love
E mily in Paris is the show many swanky Parisian agency – an unrealistic arc for someone who doesn’t speak French or understand the culture. Naturally, its people were scathing, and despite the outpouring of criticism that littered social media (“Too many baguettes,” howled one French tweeter), Emily in Paris bag-uetted itself two 2021 Golden Globe nominations, an Emmy nod, and the prestigious title of most-watched comedy that year. With those accolades, its return for Series 2 comes as no surprise. From the Instagram announcement, cheekily presented via a letter from Emily’s boss at Savoir, expect more dazzling shots of pretty streets and landmarks. It read: “We hope that by extending her time in Paris, love to hate. It centres on a cheery Chicago marketing exec (Lily Collins), who lands a job at a
Emily will further the relationships she has already made, delve deeper into our culture and perhaps pick up a few words of basic French.” Unlike many US productions during the pandemic, Emily in Paris is shot on location – much to the displeasure of Parisians (and probably Netflix’s accountants). Under the headline, “They think they’ve bought the neighbourhood”, newspaper Le Monde laid into the show, after local complaints in La Place de l’Estrapade, where Emily’s apartment is based. The crew was also spotted at the Louvre and the Riviera, where Emily and pals are seen heading on vacation in the trailer. Here, we think she was welcomed, with one of the most glamorous hotels in the world – the Four Seasons’ Cap-Ferrat – closed to all but cast and crew. Emily in Paris returns to Netflix on 22 December.
05. JANUARY 2022
INDUS TRY. BRIEFINGS
Industry briefings The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production ANGELBIRD GETS
EVEN MORE EXPRESS Angelbird introduces two new CFexpress media cards, positioned to grant filmmakers access to industry-leading technology, capable of supporting 8K+ Raw video and photo production. The 512GB AV Pro CFexpress SE Type B card guarantees sustained write speeds of 800MB/s, combined with Stable Stream technology to ensure no dropped frame rates and smooth footage. Its advanced Y2 processor supports some demanding recording settings, and pushes maximum read speeds of 1785MB/s for quick data transfers between shooting sessions. Stable Stream technology backs these powerful, sustained write speeds, maintaining a reliable range throughout the duration of a shoot. It’s essential for 8K+ Raw recording, as capturing detailed, high-definition frames requires write speeds that don’t throttle, or drop off in performance as card capacity fills. The 160GB AV Pro CFexpress SX has the capacity for creatives looking to tap into pro-consumer video cameras. All while supporting the capture of detailed stills,
are shielded from moisture, X-ray, shock, dust and extreme temperatures, including low power draw and bus-powered components, for minimal drain on battery life and improved runtime. Each card can be restored to a factory-fresh state – and have its lifespan extended with the Secure Erase feature. As with most Angelbird products, there is warranty coverage for three years.
and non-continuous, high-speed shooting of broadcast sports and news reporting – and it’s capable of handling 8K+ Raw. Both cards feature Adaptive Thermal Management technology that signals a safe shutdown in the event of overheating – protecting the card and content from potential damage or loss of frames. Power Loss Protection does the same in the event of sudden power loss. The cards
A light for all seasons Creamsource has launched the all-new Vortex4 1x1 325W high-powered LED, for film and TV production. An extension on the proprietary Vortex lighting
port. This makes interaction possible between Vortex4 and third-party instruments and protocols.
allows users to bring the fixture closer to the subject without loss of space. Built with durability and elegance in mind, it melds many production methods – from precision-machined extrusions and high-strength die casting, to leading- edge technopolymer components and aerospace-grade sealing. The result is an IP65-rated water-resistant fixture that handles the elements, from messy effects machines to extreme dust, while integrated internal power supplies simplify rigging and cabling. For further versatility, Vortex4 adopts Vortex Connect, a suite including LumenRadio TimoTwo built-in, Ethernet with sACN, Bluetooth, 5pin DMX, Wi-Fi, USB-A and Creamsource Accessory
platform, this light embodies an artist- first approach to UI/UX, for maximum creative output. It affords customers seamless integration with the Vortex8 for easily expanded lighting configurations. Despite being its baby brother, the Vortex4 has all the same functionality as the Vortex8, including a narrow native beam angle of 20° and CCT range from 2200K to 15,000K – enabling plenty of flexibility. It can be used as a hard punch light, to bounce or push through diffusion – or as a creamy soft light with the Creamsource diffuser or dome. This
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PRODUC T I ON . HOUSE OF GUCCI
The dark side of fashion
Through use of costume, lighting and locations, House of Gucci captures the whirlwind world of the famous Italian family – bringing to life a tragic tale
WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley
H ouse of Gucci is a Succession -esque tale of greed, deceit, murder and glamour. Inspired by Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book of the same name, the film is a truly astonishing account of what happened when socialite Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) entered into the Gucci dynasty and was eventually charged with the murder of former husband Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), after he traded her in for a younger woman. Brandished the ‘Black Widow’ by tabloids, Reggiani is a character so full of venom, you’ll have a hard time believing she isn’t fictitious – but she is real, as is her Gucci legacy. It is a story that Giannina Facio had envisaged for over a decade. She is the producing partner, muse and wife of Ridley Scott – and unlike Reggiani, Facio and Scott were keen on keeping this business outside of the family. Her
approaches towards other directors were nonetheless unsuccessful and once filming had wrapped on The Last Duel , which also starred Driver, Scott conceded. Driver had expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of playing Maurizio, but it was Gaga’s interest in Reggiani that had the legendary director convinced. Since the success of A Star is Born , the singer has become an acting powerhouse in her own right, and Scott had no doubt that her portrayal of Reggiani would be magnetic. Joining this stellar cast and crew – also from the set of The Last Duel – was DOP Dariusz Wolski. His role in House of Gucci , however, took less persuading. “I’ve known Ridley for years, and we’ve collaborated on many projects – I forget the exact number.” (It’s eight, soon to be nine, with production on Kitbag already under way.) “We have an attuned understanding towards the visuals, so working together is easy. This film, in particular, was fairly simple because it’s contemporary – The Last Duel , on the other hand, was set in the medieval period, so the detail to all the sets and costumes was more exhaustive.” A BITE OUT OF HISTORY Wolski doesn’t say this to discredit the work that went into making House of Gucci . This is a film that cuts through a slice of real history, and everything had to be perfectly faithful to the era and, of course, the style. Costume designer Janty Yates was even given access to the
WELCOME TO THE A-LIST Al Pacino (above), Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto star alongside Gaga and Driver
HOUSE OF GUCCI PRODUC T I ON .
09. JANUARY 2022
PRODUC T I ON . HOUSE OF GUCCI
me about making a profit. As soon as you do that, you become part of the public domain.” Although Yates had exclusive access, only two ensembles are archival: one is the double G shirt and leather skirt, seen when Reggiani is served with divorce papers. The other is when she purrs “our name, sweetie”, and is aptly dressed head-to-toe in Gucci; a double G tunic and flared trousers, while talking to her husband about counterfeits jeopardising the brand’s reputation. Gaga does not repeat a single look – it’s estimated there were 60-70 outfits for her alone. Yates made around 30
Gucci archive, although those in their intimate circle have since been critical of the production. Patricia Gucci, Maurizio’s first cousin, told the Associated Press that she was “truly disappointed” by it. “They are stealing the identity of the family to make a profit and increase the income of the Hollywood system. Our family has an identity, privacy. We can talk about everything, but there is a borderline that cannot be crossed.” Scott dismissed this in an interview with Today , citing their chequered past: “You have to remember that one Gucci was murdered, and another went to jail for tax evasion, so you can’t be talking to
dresses, 20 suits, various shirts, skirts, trousers and half a dozen coats. For the runway recreations, which included the 1984 Versace and 1995 Tom Ford shows, associate designer Stefano De Nardis made everything from scratch – and this likeness to history was extended to lighting. “We very carefully watched clips of these shows to create a verbatim imitation of what they were like back then. I would even say that we did the Versace show a little better, because the lighting wasn’t as great in those days,” Wolski jests. He adds: “Everyone did their homework, but especially Lady Gaga. She watched documentaries about Reggiani, read newspaper articles – but didn’t speak with her. She was cautious that their meeting would cloud her performance, because Reggiani would have wanted Gaga to portray her in a way that would suit her. Gaga wanted to tell the truth, not make her look good.” TIME CAPSULE The film spans three decades, from the heady disco seventies, to the culturally rich nineties. It also takes place in numerous cities, including New York, Milan and Rome. Even Studio 54 serves as a hook, with Reggiani dancing under a strobe light in the trailer – it HOUSEHOLD NAME It’s not just Gucci that claim to have an iconic name. Scott, now 84, has grown into an industry giant. His upcoming project, Kitbag, will be distributed by Apple TV+, the next stage in the company’s foray into streaming
“The film spans three decades... it also takes place in numerous cities, including New York, Milan and Rome. Even Studio 54 serves as a hook”
PRODUC T I ON . HOUSE OF GUCCI
Reaching new heights There is a 13-inch height difference between co-stars Lady Gaga and Adam Driver – but this is not the biggest in cinema history. One of the most notable was when Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred together in Twins , with 16 inches between them (but we’d be wrong if we didn’t note that this physical anomaly was essentially the plot of the movie).
modern apartment in Milan with a large terrace that we wrapped in green screen to emulate the Manhattan skyline; and then for the Gucci store, a big space in Rome. The interiors were a set design, but the exteriors had to be green screen – and this was quite tricky, because the original New York Gucci store was in an iconic location, on the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. For Times Square, which was the hardest to recreate, we went back to Milan, as it has more modern architecture than Rome.” The wilds of Gressoney, in the Italian Alps, doubled as the lavish St Moritz. It was there, in the little Italian ski resort, that Lady Gaga took refuge during last year’s winter lockdown. Wolski adds: “All the exteriors were shot in Gressoney, but
unfortunately doesn’t make it into the movie, but Wolski recalls shooting the scene with incredible nostalgia. “A lot of the cast and crew, including myself, remember being there; so we were all arguing about our own memories of how it should be depicted,” he laughs. Milan features as itself, as does Rome – but sometimes, the two double as each other and were used together to recreate New York. This required quite a bit of VFX work, particularly since The Big Apple looked very different in decades past, and plates had to be fashioned from a mixture of old and new footage. “There were three key New York locations: Patrizia and Maurizio’s apartment, the Gucci store and Times Square,” explains Wolski. “We found a
“We were inspired by William Klein, who took fashion photography in a whole new direction, capturing both the beautiful and grotesque”
ITALIAN PERSPECTIVE One of the locations – Rodolfo’s home – was shot in the stunning Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan. As a museum, this art deco monument is open to visitors
HOUSE OF GUCCI PRODUC T I ON .
we used a stage for the cabins; the Swiss ones are so uniquely quaint that they had to be built. But this was the only stage we used in the entire movie.” REMOVING THE FACADE The visual direction was a little out of the ordinary for Wolski, who’s had ample experience shooting period films: “They’re usually more subdued and darker, whereas House of Gucci is flashier and more playful with lighting,” he says. “At the same time, we didn’t want to go too overboard with spectacle, because although this is a fashion story, it’s the underside of that tale that we wanted to get to: the mystery, the greed and the horror. We were inspired by William Klein, who took fashion photography in FOREBODING FRIENDSHIP Salma Hayek (below) plays the role of psychic Giuseppina Auriemma – friend and later accomplice of Reggiani
Loose script Ridley Scott is known to encourage actors to improvise, allowing them to explore their characters as they wish – which often has fabulous results. ‘Father, son and House of Gucci’, which has become the unofficial tag line for the movie, was ad-libbed by Lady Gaga.
a whole new direction, capturing both the beautiful and the grotesque by taking models out of the studio and onto the streets – I wish there was more of that in the film, because that was real life, which was what we were capturing.” Wolski shot on an Arri Alexa Mini LF, which is the camera he used on The Last Duel and the Oscar-nominated News of the World (for this, he was given one of the earliest models by Arri). He doesn’t describe himself as a very ‘technical‘ person, but says it’s the tool he’s most comfortable with. He feels the same about
lenses, and shoots using Panavision for most of his films. For House of Gucci , he chose the vintage 65s – for the classic look they bring to modern day – and the Panaspeeds, which are the high-speed, large format companions of the Primos. “You could spend years testing lenses, and I’m not going to do that,” he says. “I know what I’m comfortable with and I know how to make them work for me, regardless of setting.” Wolski is a man with tremendous experience – and is a trusted collaborator of Ridley Scott. He’s had the pleasure of photographing many illustrious celebs. But when you do this eight or nine times over, you’re bound to become numb to that starstruck feeling mere mortals enjoy – that was until he got his camera out on House of Gucci . He explains: “Of course, seeing Adam and Lady Gaga act together was phenomenal, but casting Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci and Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci was special for me. I grew up watching their movies, so it was an honour and a privilege to film them.” Out now in US and UK cinemas
13. JANUARY 2022
ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE . SAMSUNG
STAGGERING SIZE, POWERFUL PERFORMANCE
Pitch-to-publish filmmaker Ella Rose Howlett needed a storage device with versatility to match her own – then she laid hands on the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch
SAMSUNG ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE .
SOME CREATIVES SETTLE into a niche, while others simply can’t be tethered to just one specialism. Director, videographer and editor Ella Rose Howlett is firmly the latter. Though her mastery of a broad skill set is hugely beneficial for production, it makes piecing together the perfect kitbag all the more challenging. “I create a wide variety of short-form content within the travel, corporate and documentary spheres,” Howlett explains. “The nature of that work is very run-and- gun. I’m dealing with perhaps hundreds of sizeable clips while out on location. That’s demanding on storage devices. Because I’m constantly on the move, I need something highly portable – and with the markedly confidential nature of some projects, encryption is a real priority.” Enter the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch. With outstanding top read and write speeds of 1050MB/s and 1000MB/s, it’s no surprise that the first of Howlett’s boxes was comfortably checked. “I use slower, higher-capacity drives to store backups, but rapid SSDs are an absolute essential during projects. It’s not unusual for me to strip 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 files from a cinema camera card before we wrap a shoot day, or produce an edit in the field. In those cases, slow storage delays production. I timed the transfer of 190GB of footage between CFexpress cards and the Samsung portable drive, and it took five minutes. That’s truly awesome.” In addition to transfers, Howlett completed her edit utilising the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch as a scratch disk. Its speed was no less impactful.
“I timed the transfer of 190GB of footage between CFexpress cards and the Samsung portable drive, and it took five minutes. That’s truly awesome”
SSD T7 Touch packs enough punch to impress even the most discerning and multifaceted of filmmakers. “Speed and portability can’t be overstated,” she says. “And the price may be the biggest surprise of all. To gain this level of performance at such a reasonable cost is an easy business decision.”
“It was unnoticeable, which is exactly what I want while editing,” she enthuses. “The moment there’s lag is when I realise a drive isn’t fast enough for me. But the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch handled all my files perfectly smoothly.” So, what of portability – Howlett’s next non-negotiable? There’s little use in an external drive that’s hard to move around. Thankfully, the flyweight Samsung weighs in at 58g. “The size was the most staggering thing when I opened the box. I could fit three of these in my bag and barely notice the weight. You don’t find that with other SSDs, so it’s a real standout feature. I never get moments to sit down at a desktop – I work almost exclusively on a laptop – so it’s ideal for creatives like me. “Other physical features weren’t lacking, either,” Howlett continues. “The fingerprint scanner was fantastic. I’ve used drives with password protection in the past, but that takes time to load and input. To touch your SSD and have your files right there is amazingly handy.” Rest assured, the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch doesn’t forego security in place of convenience. Based on advanced AES 256-bit encryption, classified files can be handled with confidence. Up to four fingerprints may be stored, for use among broader crew – and less frequent users can still access via a password. As Howlett’s time with it draws to an end, it’s evident the Samsung Portable
POCKET-SIZED Impressed most of all by its compact design, Howlett is confident she could carry a fleet of Portable SSD T7 Touch drives in her kitbag comfortably
A PERFECT MATCH With speeds that exceed an HDD by up to 9.5 times, it’s the ideal external companion for a laptop
15. JANUARY 2022
YOU PRODUC T I ON .
GUIDING THE AUDIENCE Getting viewers to like the show’s murderous main character is no easy task
DOP Byron Shah tells us how anamorphic lenses and a telescoping crane help lure us into a false sense of security for Season 3 of You WORDS. Emily Williamson Distorted perspectives
W hen the much-anticipated and psychological messiness. Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) faces many new challenges – most notably, marriage and fatherhood. We follow Joe and his wife Love (Victoria Pedretti), as they do their best to settle into suburban family life and move on from less-than-stellar pasts. third season of You premiered last year, fans were treated to characteristic high drama
You is a thought-provoking, nuanced show. To have an audience empathise with a psychopathic stalker and murderer – even one as charming and handsome as Joe – seems like a big ask. But the writing and production has always done this deftly, and Season 3 is no different. Following the revelations at the end of Season 2, Joe and Love’s complicated relationship makes for a journey that breaks many of the show’s
17. JANUARY 2022
PRODUC T I ON . YOU
conventions, bringing a new layer to the ethical dilemmas within the narrative. This shapes much of the storytelling – and influences cinematographic decisions. DOP Byron Shah explains that Covid-19 lockdowns afforded an unexpected advantage to the production of You . “We had a really nice prep, because it was during the shutdown when no one was working. We were able to spend about three months meeting, to talk about the look of the show.” Shah worked with Cort Fey, who also shot for Season 2. This time spent together contributes to a strong thematic consistency – something difficult to achieve, as DOPs don’t often have much opportunity to collaborate when working on different episodes of the same series. “Having a very clear sense of the tone – and letting all instinctual decisions flow from that place – doesn’t always happen.” Shah notes that this synchronicity was vital on a project like You , where the subtle nuances in cinematography are essential in helping the audience relate to its main characters. “For us to empathise with that kind of dehumanisation is really asking a lot. It’s only possible if you don’t realise it’s happening. The cinematographic elements play a big part, because you need to be lured and seduced.” TONE COLD KILLER A great deal of this tone and aesthetic can be attributed to the distortion from the chosen anamorphic lenses. “We ended up shooting with these Todd-
AO anamorphics, which are very rare, beautiful and unique. The same set were deployed on Season 1 – we decided to go back to the look of the first season a bit more aggressively.” The visual effect of the lenses – with their vignetting, blurring and distortion around the edges – helps create a subtle sense that something’s not quite right. Shah discusses how we’re brought into Joe’s world, where he and Love are masquerading as the perfect couple. But their sadistic sensibilities encroach on domestic fantasy. As such, the crew took extra care to position much of the action in the centre of the frame, so that this distortion and resultant feeling of unease were almost subconscious – and only made overt when certain props were placed in the edges. “We were very careful when putting the story on those edges. When you’re lured into the tale, it looks normal, because you’re really only paying attention to the centre of the frame. Until it’s time to make you realise, and feel subconsciously that you’re looking through a very distorted perspective.” An example is when Joe returns from his life-altering camping trip in episode 5, placing his new crossbow to the bottom of the frame. The visual artefacts from the lenses are even more blatant in this production than they might otherwise be. This is due to the employment of a 2:1 aspect ratio, and shooting in 6K resolution for lenses intended for a Super 35 format. Shah explains: “When an old-school
anamorphic movie came out, it would be 2.4:1. By shooting 2:1, there’s a lot more of the vertical area that’s exposed on the lenses, and you’re outside of the area that was originally designed. Basically, we were overscanning in both directions, because we ended up shooting 6K. We were expanding sideways, top and bottom to shoot a lot of the funky edges of the lenses.” The team were looking to strike a balance, and didn’t intend for the distortion to become overt and distracting for the narrative. This season was shot on the Sony Venice – as opposed to the Red Monstro and Arri Alexa LF for Seasons 1 and 2, respectively – and this decision was made in part because of the adaptability of aspect ratio. “The camera gave us
“The visual effect of the lenses – with their vignetting, blurring and distortion – helps create a subtle sense that something’s not quite right”
YOU PRODUC T I ON .
UNIQUE VIEWING You has one of the most distinctive visual looks in recent production history
the most flexibility when it came to overscanning – because it allows for different aspect ratios and resolutions. It therefore enabled us to just find the sweet spot – for most of the lenses, that is. Some were a little bit too vignetted on the edges, so those had to be slightly less than 6K. We were on the edge of where you would really just be paying too much attention to it,” states Shah. These choices result in a season that elevates the show’s already strong visual style. The team chose to break from anamorphics when giving the audience a glimpse into Joe’s past. “The flashbacks
19. JANUARY 2022
YOU PRODUC T I ON .
LOCATION The show’s
sickeningly sweet setting isn’t a real town, and production took place in various locations around California. The town’s name, Madre Linda, means ‘pretty mother’ in Spanish CAST Dylan Arnold plays Love’s secret toy boy Theo, but auditioned for Joe in Season 1, and Forty in Season 2. Victoria Pedretti auditioned for Beck, before landing the role of Love
that we’re seeing the action via someone’s eyes, rather than the objective detachment of a camera lens. “One important aspect of the cinematographic approach was the moving camera. I’d say 70% of the time we were on a short, telescoping crane. This allowed us to give a sinuous perspective to the shots that, again, is deliberately not objective,” Shah says. “It works on a pretty subtle level, where instead of the camera just sitting and watching things unfold, it’s always coming from somebody’s point of view.” This also accentuates the paranoia of Love and Joe, who are worried about the prying eyes of their neighbours. FRAMING FOR MURDER The roller coaster that is the central relationship becomes increasingly chaotic over the course of the season, and is eventually totally derailed. The show’s cinematography matches the tone and pace of a toxic relationship – its highs associated with brighter environments and physical closeness, while its lows are punctuated by darkness, distance and uncertainty. “When they’re in sync, they’re in close proximity physically, even if the world is bigger and kind of ambiguous around
are different from the rest of the story. We were in the boy’s home, shooting spherical and wider lenses, trying to have a more subjective viewpoint,” he explains. “This was so it felt more like Joe’s version of reality, rather than an objective sense of what the truth might have been. That did a pretty strong job of letting us feel that Joe’s just making the best of it – he is almost doing the right thing.” These scenes are integral to having the viewer in Joe’s corner. The choice of spherical lenses eradicates all aforementioned unease caused by the distortion, because we are not intended to feel morally confused by Joe’s actions when he is an innocent child. Another way the team chose to subtly present a subjective perspective was to use movement to facilitate the feeling “I’d say, 70% of the time we were on a short, telescoping crane. This allowed us to give a sinuous, deliberately subjective perspective”
FATHERHOOD Joe has to grapple with the challenges of raising a child, while dealing with his own demons
them,” Shah explains, citing the scene where Love is watching the media circus next door through the window, before Joe comes to comfort her on the couch. “There’s already a lot of friction between them, as they’re in this predicament because she couldn’t contain her rage, while he couldn’t contain his lust. But there’s a moment when they’re fighting together to make things right.” The cinematography presents a much more hostile picture at times, when Joe and Love are positioned more directly as adversaries. “That’s distinct from the moments where Joe is realising that Love is an enemy to be dealt with. For example, the dinner scene when she tries to murder him with the poison on the handle of the knife,” he muses. “In
21. JANUARY 2022
YOU PRODUC T I ON .
“One of the ways we sought to portray that was to use a cool fill and warm light. So, there’s always a difference in colour temperature in the house. It’s never simple and easy, as there’s always a feeling of things being unresolved. That’s pretty much the whole season of interiors.” Bringing conflict into the visuals in almost imperceptible ways is a truly masterful means of representing the underlying antagonism. More extreme lighting is utilised when this tension is overt, like in violent situations. Here, the aesthetic leans into horror visuals. “When things go really bonkers with violence, that is all played darker and more ambiguous – cooler and greener.” The horror motifs are in contrast to bright, warm visuals in episode 8, where our couple invite neighbours Sherry (Shalita Grant) and Cary (Travis Van Winkle) to explore polyamory. The narrative suggests that this can be Joe’s escape from the relationship. “That was deliberately played happy and warm. Like, this could go great, this could be exactly how Joe wants it
to,” Shah points out. “As the evening unravels, and especially as Joe and Love get into an argument downstairs, we reintroduce the cooler colours in contrast with the warmer highlights. This creates a notion of imbalance, and we get a darker palette for a greater sense of danger.” It all culminates when Joe and Love are downstairs, in almost complete darkness, fearing the couple upstairs – who may know their terrible secret – will cause their downfall. In this moment, it’s easy to forget that Sherry and Cary are innocent, and Joe and Love are the real threat. Therein lies the crux of what makes You so addictive. The latest season of You breaks the format created over the previous two, which is a risk to take with such a successful show. However, it allows us to engage with our protagonist in new ways, and delve into more facets of his perspective. The production choices help mould and influence the audience in a way that is chilling and exciting; allowing us to explore the moral quandary that the script provides. Joe is a liar, a manipulator, a cheat, a stalker and a murderer – and yet we all find ourselves wanting him to be OK. It begs the question who the real villain is here: Joe, or… you? Watch You now on Netflix
ON A KNIFE’S EDGE Suburban life mingles with classic horror imagery and lighting, in crescendos of tension
that case, they’re sitting there together, but they’re apart. She goes away to the kitchen. He’s alone. They’re shot in discrete singles in such a way to suggest distance and separation between them.” The shot lengths and types were chosen specifically – to either minimise or exacerbate physical closeness between the couple, and be symbolic of the health of their union. Regardless of where we are in their toxic cycle, any soft moment between them is undercut by an unease that underscores their nauseating waltz.
“Bringing conflict into the visuals is a masterful means of representing antagonism in the narrative”
23. JANUARY 2022
PRODUC T I ON . SQUID GAME
The world was blown away by the Korean Netflix sensation Squid Game. But it’s the astonishing sets illuminating this brilliantly original production that have helped it soar into stardom Setting Squid Game
WORDS. Verity Butler
E very time it seems that the latest Netflix phenomenon can’t be topped, another show comes along and blows it out of the water. From Money Heist to Breaking Bad , A Series of Unfortunate Events to Sex Education , it’s undeniable that the streaming giant is a trailblazer for atypical and eccentric production. But its latest sensation, Squid Game , enters a whole new arena of extraordinary creativity. After the success of Korean Oscar-winner Parasite , the west finally seems to have opened its eyes to the exceptional talent and content that Korea has been pumping out for a long time.
Squid Game focuses on Player 456, Seong Gi-hun, performed masterfully by Lee Jung-jae – a likeable and enigmatic protagonist, despite his clear flaws and self-destructive personality. The story sees him enter the dystopian Squid Game arena, as one of 456 destitute players, vying to win a colossal glass piggy bank of money. To be exact, 45.6 billion South Korean won. It doesn’t take them long to realise they are part of something far more sinister than traditional youthful pastimes, and that it is a Hunger Games - style bloodbath – each death dolloping another 100,000 won into the bank.
From cutting a perfect shape out of a honeycomb in a gigantic playground, to a deadly tug of war, the childlike imagery makes it all the more chilling. One would think the creator and director of Squid Game , Hwang Dong-hyuk, would be filling his own glass piggy bank with cash after its unprecedented success – especially considering that it recently surpassed Bridgerton to become the most successful Netflix series of all time. However, he has been dealt an unfair hand. He first wrote the series way back in 2009, and was rejected over and over again by different streaming platforms. He was only signed by Netflix in 2019, in a move to ‘expand its foreign offerings’. Yet it seems the broadcasting behemoth has reaped the benefits of the comparatively small contract that was originally signed – having not paid him any additional profits from its one-of-a- kind success. To recognise Dong-hyuk’s masterpiece as his own achievement, rather than Netflix’s, it’s time to take apart the elements of Squid Game that make it so groundbreaking. Namely, its rich, magical-realist, life- sized sets – their striking nature a catalyst for the series’ achievements within the production space. SCALING UP It seems impossible to believe that CGI or special effects were scarcely used when creating the brightly coloured and unique sets seen throughout the series. Instead, establishing a whole new benchmark for dystopian production, almost every single set was built to scale. A stunning example of this is the set for the third challenge, tug of war. The players compete on towering platforms, wherein the team that pulls the
“It seems impossible to believe that CGI or special effects were scarcely used when creating the brightly coloured and unique sets”
SQUID GAME PRODUC T I ON .
Production Fact File
CAST This was the acting
debut of Jung Ho-yeon (Kang Sae-byeok)
BUDGET The show cost
£15.5m, equating to £1.72m per episode
CUTTING SHAPES Challenge number two, getting an intricate shape out of honeycomb, took place in a supersized children’s playground, featuring giant slides and apparatus
25. JANUARY 2022
SQUID GAME PRODUC T I ON .
MAJOR CLUES Once there are only three players left, it’s clear to see each of the challenges painted on the dormitory walls
hardest plummets the opposition to their deaths. These platforms were built to be over 33 feet high, allowing the actors to unlock the fear that their characters would feel. This realism is also notable in the iconic first challenge, ‘red light, green light’, in which all 456 players partake in the initial game, knocking out hundreds of competitors. The scene’s freakishly huge, motion-detecting doll spins round and ‘eliminates’ any players moving after ‘red light’, its robotic eyes scanning the huge arena for any signs of movement – dealing with it in lethal terms. Usually, for scenes of this size that demand swathes of actors, producers turn to technology to generate the other life forms. However, the arena for this challenge was, of course, true to size. This called for a cast of over 400 extras to partake in the scene, and in turn, elevated the thrilling nature of the finished cut. READING BETWEEN THE PROPS Layered throughout Squid Game ’s enormous sets are hidden messages – so many, in fact, that it’s impossible to pick up on all of them after one sitting.
“Usually, for scenes of this size, producers turn to technology to generate the other life forms. However, the arena was true to size”
giveaway – shown in-shot time and time again – is easily missed. There are also multiple set clues to the truth behind the ‘Old Man’, one of which is during the marbles challenge. This process sees the masked soldiers demand each of the players partner up with one another. Naturally, they instinctively select those they have grown to trust. Unbeknown to them, they are choosing the one person they will be competing against to survive the next round. The marbles challenge takes place in a large space, built to look like the narrow streets and walls of a town. The Old Man has a breakdown when entering, which we discover is part of his act. It is clear his character is attacked with nostalgia on arrival, stating that the set strongly resembles where he grew up. This, paired with the childish challenges, is a major hint towards how the games are built around the Old Man’s character. The cast had received the script long before they actually saw the sets in person, and were said to have felt a similar sense of nostalgia when entering the marbles set. PAINTING A PICTURE Among the plethora of hidden messages laced throughout the nine episodes, there are instances where the immense sets,
These small – or sometimes big – details within the sets are hints and clues that foreshadow upcoming events. The loudest of these is found in the set most present throughout the series: the dormitory. The room itself is enormous and striking, with its piles of bed frames (said to be made using tunnelling equipment) that cover the circumference of the large space in descending stacks – each one emulating the life of an individual player. Park Hae-soo, who plays the villainous Cho Sang-woo, stated in press interviews that the dorm felt as though one was acting in the Colosseum – due to the sheer size of the room and its tiered format. As players are gradually eliminated, we see these stacks of bed frames begin to thin out. Particularly after the fight scene; where players eliminate themselves during the night, mass-murdering one another in a dynamic moment of collaborative derangement. As the bed frames come down, the walls gradually become visible. They are littered with markings and childlike drawings. On closer inspection, it becomes clear that each of these illustrations depict all six challenges that the players are due to take part in, providing a massive plot clue. Both the characters and the viewers are so deeply drawn into the unfolding events, that this
27. JANUARY 2022
SQUID GAME PRODUC T I ON .
TAKING INSPIRATION MC Escher’s Relativity is one of multiple major artworks recreated by the show’s sets
chops from Dong-hyuk and his team – portrayed in a supersized format. A VISUAL MASTERPIECE Squid Game is a colourful depiction of the lengths humans go to when desperate for freedom and money. But it also serves as representation of South Korea’s underbelly, where loan sharks, gambling and – most disturbingly – organ harvesting is rife. The gargantuan sets help create this sinister thriller, unlocking the senses with striking imagery. But beneath the sociopolitical perspectives, there are the human messages that seep through as the plot deepens. Each character has their own reason to survive, but are any of them justifiable for the crimes that must be committed to be the last person standing? That’s for you to decide. Squid Game is available to stream on Netflix. Top tip – don’t watch the dubbed-over version!
omission of gravity – making it such a thought-provoking piece of art. Use of surrealism highlights the removal from the players’ everyday lives. Another evocation is thrown into the viewers’ faces during ‘red light, green light’. After the first players are shot, blood splashes onto the competitors behind. The camera trombones onto a female player; her hands placed on each side of her blood-spattered face to create an image that is, through gestures and colour palette, reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream . Additionally, there is a depiction of feminist artist Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party , for the ‘Last Supper’ scene with the final players. To be able to meld set design with art and performance in this way demonstrates astounding production
in collaboration with the show’s actors, recreate famous artworks. Perhaps the starkest of these references is to that of the famed lithograph print, Relativity , by MC Escher. An iconic image in which the rules of gravity do not apply, the legendary artwork is mirrored in the dazzling depiction of the staircases within Squid Game ; where the depleted players endlessly clamber between challenges or return to their colossal dormitory. As the players trudge towards the next bloodbath, the bold portrait acts to create tension – and it is sobering upon their silent return, as they process the trauma of the events they have just witnessed (and committed). It hints at how the laws of morality have been removed, mirroring Escher’s
DANGEROUS DOLL The stars of Squid Game have described how the giant doll, 4.57 metres in height and weighing in at 3000kg, originated as a character in Korean school textbooks. The doll itself came from Macha Land (a museum dedicated to horse carriages) in Jincheon County, Chungcheongbuk-do
29. JANUARY 2022
VIRTUAL PRODUCTION ROUND TABLE INDUS TRY.
Continuing our round table series where we discuss the latest buzz with industry specialists, this month we explore how virtual production is transforming the craft of filmmaking Mixing realities
INTERVIEW. Chelsea Fearnley
31. JANUARY 2022
INDUS TRY. V IRTUA L PRODUCT I ON ROUND TABL E
MARINA PRAK: It’s the way it has shaken up film and (in its wake) the industry for commercials and broadcast. With virtual production, there is no limitation to creativity – anything you think of can be put on screen. Furthermore, travelling the earth to go to locations that fit the scenario is no longer needed. You can project everything here and now, and go from sunrise in Japan to sunset in Norway in a second. DAN HAMILL: The seemingly endless creative possibilities it affords filmmakers. They are free from the normal limitations of shooting on location – such as time of day, weather, etc. There is no need to wait for the rain to stop, or until it’s dark to shoot a night scene; these natural restrictions can be ‘fixed’ extremely quickly. Another big plus is sustainability – sending large cast and crew units around the world on planes, emitting huge amounts of CO2, can be kept to a minimum, as long as more studios offering VP as a service keep being developed globally. What advances are being made to speed up the process, and provide greater synchronicity between camera tracking, rendering and LED playback? PILBOROUGH-SKINNER: One of the main driving forces of virtual production adoption is the use of real-time game engines as our render medium. Using video plates and other techniques works well depending on the shot, but Unreal Engine – which is free to learn and run – has accelerated VP and democratised the process. This means it can be deployed across a range of productions, including
CHRISTIAN KAESTNER: The answer for me is actually a non-technical one. While it’s extremely exciting to witness the advancements in technology, real-time rendering and low-latency synchronisation, it’s really the creative aspect of virtual production that excites me the most. Virtual production enables us to become an even bigger artistic partner, and it dramatically expands our involvement very early on in the filmmaking process. In-camera visual effects (ICVFX) require close collaboration between filmmaker, DOP, production designer and the visual effects department – as the shoot is being planned, scripts are being written and stories are being told. Becoming part of this process is super exciting, and requires a refreshing way of thinking about what we do. JEREMY HOCHMAN: Our team has been working with LEDs on-camera for close to 20 years, so to see this become mainstream is incredibly exciting. In the past, we’ve relied on fragile systems with custom software and hand-crafted LED fixture arrays to do these things. To now have an entire industry embracing this type of workflow will benefit moviemakers and VFX companies, ultimately leading to more (and better) content for consumers. DAVID LEVY: The ability to have such a detailed level of control over your environment, without losing creative freedom. In fact, the types of shots you can achieve in-camera are amazing, and would certainly be otherwise impossible on location.
What gets you most excited about virtual production? MARK PILBOROUGH-SKINNER: The most exciting thing is the creative possibility it enables, allowing productions to go to locations that are either non-accessible, dangerous to film at, or simply don’t exist. VP also encourages early collaboration between departments that, in a traditional production process, would normally work in silos. Having your DOP, art director and VFX artists engaged in ongoing conversations prior to shooting means interesting solutions, more creativity, and collaboration can occur before even getting on-set. JONNY HUNT: We’ve been putting LED screens in front cameras for 15+ years, so now having the opportunity to use that experience to solve brand-new challenges every day is incredibly exciting! It has also taken us from being a primarily technical department, to being right in the middle of the creative process, while working with some of the world’s leading DOPs and VFX supervisors – and gaining a real understanding of their vision. We feel very lucky to have been there right from the beginning. “Latency is now being brought down to one frame. At the moment, nobody is able to drop below that figure”
MARK PILBOROUGH-SKINNER VP supervisor, Garden Studios
JONNY HUNT Technical director, VSS
CHRISTIAN KAESTNER VFX supervisor, Framestore
After graduating with a computer programming degree from SAE Institute London, Pilborough- Skinner was lead Unreal developer at Satore Tech for three years, before joining Garden Studios, which boasts a 4800 sq ft virtual production stage.
Hunt studied computer science, before applying his practical mind to the video market. He is now responsible for the management and delivery of every technical aspect of VSS’s project work in the UK, Europe and Middle East.
Kaestner is currently working as overall VFX supervisor on 1899 for Netflix – the newest project from the creators of Dark – which is the first show to make use of Dark Bay, the largest LED volume facility in Europe.
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