BOOM AND REGENERATION UK PRODUCTION REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
January 2020 £4.99
THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD The slow-burn indie that crackled into a cinematic hit
ALSO INSIDE BSC EXPO PREVIEW | LE MANS ’66 | THE WITCHER SIGMA FP CAM | THE NEW VISUALISERS | CAMERA LISTINGS WHY SCALING IS THE SECRET SAUCE IN CATS RATIO ASPECT THE
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His Dark Materials in production at Wolf Studios in Cardiff
I t’s almost ridiculous to think that the news of Disney’s and Netflix’s wholesale takeover of Pinewood and Shepperton might be overshadowing the even bigger UK production story. This is the regeneration of industrial spaces to production ones that is going on right now on our shores. It’s already happened in Canada, where a similar trend has been continuing for a few years, but now up and down the UK old industrial areas are being earmarked as new high- end TV and film production locations. Just a few of the new developments are Pentland Studios in Scotland, with an investment of £140 million, Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, with a £20 million investment and Church Fenton Studios near Leeds, with a £12 million investment – ITV’s Victoria is already made at Church Fenton. Recently Comcast, the new owners of Sky, announced that a huge new film and TV complex is to be built on a 32-acre site just a stone’s throw from Elstree, making the area a major draw for American streaming production. And according to the BFI, last year production spend in the UK hit a new high of £7.9 billion. Whisper it if you dare: it’s boom time!
JULIAN MITCHELL EDITOR
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SET- UP 06 TITLE SEQUENCE Production shot from Netflix episodic The Witcher: gym-enhanced monster hunter. 08 SKY’S PRODUCTION STATEMENT The huge UK broadcaster has announced a massive new production hub near Elstree. Start planning your BSC Expo visit with our selective equipment preview. DRAMA 16 THE RATIO ASPECT OF CATS When you use oversized sets to visualise undersized cats, there’s fun to be had. 28 THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD Season 2 of the teenage angst tale with CONTENTS 10 BSC EXPO
a darkening theme. FEATURES 39 CONTENT COUNTRY
We may be in the grips of Brexit but we’re also experiencing an unprecedented production boom. How did it happen, are you a part of it and how long will it last?
50 LIGHTING LE MANS ’66
Trying to light as northern France while shooting in California requires some punch.
54 THE NEW VISUALISERS
These new image professionals previsualise and conceptualise to make you look good.
GEAR TESTS 62 SIGMA FP CAMERA
Sigma could have the surprise package of 2020 with this, their new compact, full-frame camera.
66 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings now offer kit essentials and recommended accessories.
JANUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 05
The original Polish books and the subsequent original console and PC games that inspired the video games, have in turn inspired this eight-episode Netflix series. Actor Henry Cavill is the eponymous genetically enhanced monster hunter. With a Game of Thrones feel, DOP Gavin Struthers shot half the episodes with a Panavision Millennium DXL2 camera with Primo lenses. The show was shot in Budapest, Hungary, and the showrunner is Lauren Schmidt.
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SET- UP | NEWS
SKY BACKS THE UK’S PRODUCTION TIDE INDUSTRY INVESTMENT A major broadcaster in the UK joins the production wave and commits millions of pounds to content creation WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES SKY J ust when you thought Disney’s takeover of Pinewood and Netflix’s similar alliance at Shepperton were the culmination of this particular Sky added, would be part-financed by Legal & General (L&G), which would also contribute to developing the site. TIGHT STAGE SPACE ABOVE Sky hopes the investment will bring more original content to viewers, such as Chernobyl
production boom cycle, we get Sky, already a huge producer of content especially with its recent deal with HBO, announcing plans to develop a new 32-acre TV and film studio at Elstree in Hertfordshire, creating up to 2000 jobs. The company claims that the proposed new development, situated next to the current Elstree Studios, represents a “significant new investment in the UK and European creative economy”. Sky hopes the new facility, with 14 sound stages, will open in 2022, subject to planning permission, and attract an additional £3 billion of production investment over the first five years of its operation. “Once complete, the site will include production offices, a set construction workshop, a screening cinema and state- of-the-art post-production and digital facilities,” Sky said in a statement. The broadcaster did not reveal a cost, but that the development had the backing of its new owner, Comcast, and sister firm NBCUniversal, which has been behind top movies, such as the Fast & Furious and Despicable Me franchise. The project,
“We are proud to be working with our colleagues at NBCUniversal and Comcast, and our partners Hertsmere Borough Council and L&G to bring this project to life. Together we share a joint vision to create a world-leading production capability that will support the creation of thousands of jobs in the creative sector. We can’t wait to get started.” Gary Davey, chief executive of Sky Studios, commented: “This was an opportunity to build something new, state-of-the art and at scale. Fourteen sound stages means it’s a big enough site to attract high-end production in television and film from all over the world. It’s a big deal.” Fourteen sound stages means it’s a big enough site to attract high-end production in TV and film
The availability of UK production space has been narrowing over the past few years and the rise of the SVOD platforms has accelerated this huge investment. Earlier last year, Sky’s rival, Disney, leased the majority of stage space at Pinewood, while in July, Netflix struck a deal to rent the bulk of Shepperton – owned by Pinewood Group. Sky Studios Elstree “will provide significant capacity for Sky Studios to produce more original content in-house, while continuing to work with independent production companies across Europe”, the statement read, adding: “The new studio space will also play host to major film productions from Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title, and television series from NBCUniversal Content Studios. “It will also have capacity to host productions from third-party producers.” Sky’s group chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, said: “We know our customers love our award-winning Sky Originals like Chernobyl and our investment in Sky Studios Elstree will enable us to bring more unique stories to more viewers.
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SET- UP | BSC PREV I EW
BSC EXPO 2020 ONES TO WATCH It’s wet, it’s cold but it’s one of the best. Here’s our first preview of what to expect at this year’s BSC expo in London
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Sony’s high-end cinema camera, Venice, will be featuring v5.0 firmware. Since its launch in 2017, the camera has become a hugely popular choice for filmmakers and has been used on a wide range of high- profile productions in the UK and across the world, such as ITV’s fish-out-of-water drama of last year, Wild Bill . Also on display is the PXW-FX9, the latest addition to Sony’s full frame line-up which includes Fast Hybrid AF, Dual Base ISO and S-Cinetone colour science. You can also see a selection of Sony’s Trimaster monitors for on-set and post-production applications, alongside audio equipment for location-based audio recording. Quasar Science is showcasing its new RR100 and RR50 linear LED lights. The design of these lights advances Quasar’s tubular form factor with a larger width, but retains the low-profile shape of the company’s legacy lights. “We were asked to make a panel. But with the market saturated in panels, it did not help anyone to add another. So, we went in a different direction,” says Quasar Science CEO, Steven Strong. Affectionately dubbed the “Double Rainbow”, the RR has two rows of pixels expanding animation and FX QUASAR SCIENCE quasarscience.com
capabilities, making it ideal for process car work and special lighting effects. And, with its trademark Swaptics interchangeable lens system, the RR can be fitted with the slim diffuser – which comes included – the Light Barrel large diffuser and the Light Magnifier projection lens.
In addition to wired DMX, the RR can be controlled with sACN, Artnet and controlled wirelessly by CRMX, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Like the Rainbow before it, the RR has integrated AC power supply and auxiliary DC input.
P+S TECHNIK pstechnik.de
Celebrating its 30th birthday, P+S Technik is gifting BSC Expo an unveiling of its new designed primes. The primes are part of the Technovision 1.5x anamorphic lens series, which covers larger formats, and will join the already well- known Evolution 2x lenses for Super 35mm. Also on display is the Lenschecker, a small, compact and mobile tool to evaluate lenses by projection, and the newly launched Optica Magnus Xpanders which come in five different magnification factors.
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BSC PREV I EW | SET- UP
The premium lens manufacturer Leitz (sister company to Leica AG) – renowned for its Thalia, M 8.0, Summilux-C and Summicron-C lenses – has just expanded its range with the delivery of its highly anticipated new large format Leitz Primes and Leitz Zooms. The first sets arrived at CAMTEC, SANWA Cine Equipment Rental Company, Camalot Audiovisual Facilities, Ljud & Bildmedia AB, Keslow Camera, Technological Cinevideo Services (TCS) and at Creative Video Productions (CVP) for Futureworks Media. The company is showcasing the lenses, available with PL- and LPL-Mount options including metadata interface Cooke /i and Arri LDS-2, together with its new achromatic diopter Macrolux 114, which was has been added to the product line-up to even improve close focus abilities of Leitz Primes and Leitz Zooms. Like Macrolux 95, the Macrolux 114 is available with strengths +0,5, +1 and +2. They will fit lenses with a 114mm front diameter and are stackable to enhance the effect without adding any chromatic aberration to the lens.
Senna is known for its Skybeast console, which is an advanced wireless lighting controller with a range of 300m for Skypanels, Kino Flo, DMG Lumiere, Senna lights and all other DMX lighting fixtures. With six universes and over 3000 DMX channels, Skybeast controls all options of 96 SkyPanels and 192 Standard mode lights. At this year’s BSC show, visitors can also test Senna Wall, a super powerful luminaire which gives over 90,000LUX at one metre, but with a very low power consumption of only 1600W. It can be powered with eight V-Mount batteries for over three hours and has the wireless control option of dimming and colour temperature.
Zeiss is showcasing its large portfolio of full-frame lenses, including its new Supreme Prime Radiance lenses, which are on display for the first time in the UK. Under regular lighting, these lenses render like modern cinematography lenses. But with the appropriate lighting, however, they start to flare. This is all down to their newly developed lens coating, T blue. It enables filmmakers to create consistent and controlled flares, while still offering large format coverage, a high speed of T1.5, robustness and smooth and reliable focus. The Supreme Prime Radiances lenses are produced on a pre-order basis only. Orders are open until 31 March 2020 and shipping of the complete set starts in April 2020.
CCT from 2200K to 15,000K. Creamsource SpaceX is also on display. This 1200W, full colour top-light has punch optic options that boasts an array of six LED engines, cooled by an efficient yet quiet fan system. It also incorporates an integrated lightweight power supply, doing away with bulky and heavy ballasts. Alongside these lights, Creamsource is showing its micro multi yoke and micro hand grips.
Creamsource is showcasing the latest in LED lighting technologies for film and TV production. On stand 330, visitors can see its Creamsource Sky, the original high- power full spectrum softsource now with optional optics. These include Creamsource Micro, with a compact weatherproof form factor that fits into small spaces; and Creamsource Micro Colour, featuring calibrated RGBW LEDs, as well as white light in any
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SET- UP | BSC PREV I EW
Bebob and Arri have collaborated to meet the increasing power consumption of modern cameras and lighting with a sustainable battery mount system. The new B-Mount will be used in all of Arri’s future cameras. At BSC Expo, Bebob is now announcing the availability of final series production B-Mount products. Its new
Arri is showcasing its expanding range of camera systems and lighting products, including the Alexa Mini LF. This camera is the perfect combination of large format image sensor and compact body and is on display for the first time at BSC, after it was announced in March last year. Of course, members of the Skypanel family are on show alongside the new Orbiter. This LED fixture features changeable optics that can transform it into many different types of lampheads, including projection, open face and soft light. It also delivers a wide colour gamut and colour rendition across all colour temperatures, along with smooth dimming from 100% to 0%. Arri is also exhibiting Stellar, its lighting control app available on iOS and Android.
B-Mount batteries provide 24v high-power but are also equipped to support multi-voltage use (both 12vand 24v). This adaptability to the respective needs of compatible devices makes it possible to supply all devices on set with a single B-Mount battery system. Bebob is also showcasing various B-Mount bi-voltage batteries and B-Mount Chargers, V-Mount and Gold Mount-compatible micro batteries and accessories, as well as matching hot swap adapters and battery plates on stand 641.
LCA is a supplier of LED lighting and accessories to the film and broadcast industry and is showing some exciting new products. Litegear is displaying its new Litemat spectrum, which features an expanded kelvin range and the ability to add accent colour through a patented colour mixing process. It also maintains the thin, lightweight and easy-to-rig functionality of other products in the Litemat series, while providing Truehybrid white light that follow the Planckian locus exactly. The Cinema Series of LED Literibbon, also on show, is said to be one of the best applied phosphor LED products available in the industry. With CRI and full-spectrum output, the Cinema Series is 30% brighter than the previous VHO Pro Literibbon and proudly joins the Litegear Cinema family of unified colour-space products including S2 Litemat, Litemat Plus and Litetitle Plus. Visitors can also find new products from Creamsource, DMG and DoPchoice on display at stand 330.
ARRI RENTAL arrirental.com
CINELAB LONDON cinelab.co.uk
Arri Rental is showing the Alexa 65 LF camera, along with its current range of available 65mm format lens options. These include six new optics for the exclusive Prime DNA series, developed in-house through collaborations with major cinematographers and now comprising a total of 14 lenses. Based on diverse and modified vintage optics, the Prime DNA range is an eclectic collection of characterful lenses, displaying unusual but highly creative image attributes. Joining the Prime DNA lenses on the stand are three other exclusive lens series offered by Arri Rental for the Alexa 65, Prime 65, Prime 65 S and Vintage 765 lens sets. Further prime and zoom lenses adapted by Arri Rental for use with the Alexa 65 are also on display, including, among others, Leica Thalia and Cooke S7/i primes.
Cinelab London is the only film lab in Europe complete for providing a one-stop-shop solution for film from acquisition to delivery. Services include film processing of 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 65mm film, telecine, film scanning, digital grading, film recording, 35mm prints, content digitisation and content restoration. Cinelab has worked on major films and TV series, such as Mission Impossible 6: Fallout , Phantom Thread , Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Succession Season 1 and 2, as well as on commercials for Nike, Mini Cooper and John Lewis.
ABOVE Cinelab London services on HBO Drama series Succession included processing and scanning Super16mm film and delivering uncompressed 2K data from the UK to the US
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SET- UP | BSC PREV I EW
Aspectra, an international distributor of professional camera accessories, offers protective bags and covers, battery systems, tripods and fluid heads, broadcast and field monitors, LED lights, wireless transmission solutions and portable backup storage devices. At BSC, Aspectra is showcasing products from PAG, which include its MPL50 mini PAGlink V-Mount batteries alongside a selection of its best powerhubs, chargers and battery systems. Camgear Inc. tripods, including the latest Elite series with 3S-Fix Quick Lock tripods, are also on display, together with TVLogic’s best field production and multi- format monitors. Camrade’s protective covers and bags, including its new collection of Travelmates, can be tested on the stand alongside NextoDI’s NPS-10 protable back up devices. NextoDi will also be demonstrating wireless transmission solutions from new partner Crystal Video Wireless.
PAG is boasting its new Mini PAGlink system of smaller and lighter linking batteries in 50Wh and 99Wh capacities. The new range is designed to power 4K+ cameras and accessories simultaneously, while maintaining compatibility with larger cameras. The Mini PAGlink system has all the benefits of PAGlink’s patented technology, which allows batteries of any rated capacity, in any state of charge, to be linked intelligently for charge or discharge. The batteries also feature user-configurable outputs; a fixed D-Tap is accompanied by a removable USB (2A) unit, which can be swapped easily by the user for a Lemo, Hirose or another D-Tap unit. The batteries give you the ability to control the weight and capacity of your power source to suit the application. If you’re shooting handheld, you can keep it light with just one or two batteries. If your set-up is tripod mounted and includes multiple accessories, you can use two or three batteries to provide a longer run-time. Mini PAGlink batteries can be charged individually or linked using existing PAGlink chargers. PAG also offers the new, travel-sized Micro Charger, which can be powered from a USB-C PD laptop battery charger. Two fully discharged 99Wh batteries can be full charged in eight hours using a 30W PD charger.
XM2 AND PURSUIT AVIATION pinewoodgroup.com
XM2 and Pursuit Aviation form a complete aerial solution provider, capable of capturing aerial content from any airborne platform for major motion pictures, visual effects and TV industries. Combining globally experienced pilots with the latest developments in aerospace and film equipment, XM2 and Pursuit Aviation is able to deploy teams to the most logistically and environmentally challenging destinations around the world. Its also has access to one of the most diverse portfolios of aerial picture vehicles available and a worldwide network to source these aircrafts, as well as the ability to safely coordinate them. The company recently developed what was considered a first-of-its- kind set-up inside a helicopter. The Whiskey Wheels System enables DOPs, who would have traditionally stayed on the ground, to transition their skill set to the skies.
Its cine section has cameras from all the key manufacturers, but rather than just displaying the likes of the Canon C500 Mark II and the Sony PXW-FX9, CVP will be demonstrating how these cameras, among others, can be used in different production environments. CVP also has a new wearable area, enabling visitors to try on and demo products like the Steadicam, Arri Trinity, Easy Rig and more, plus the popular lens bar and monitor wall for visitors to test and compare.
CVP’s stand is choc full of all the latest kit. But perhaps its greatest strength is its technical experts, who will be on hand to help visitors make informed buying decisions. CVP is offering a seminar/workshop programme for the first time at the show, with scheduled sessions from specialist guests to give visitors a taster of the kind of informative events held at its Newman Street and Charlotte Street creative facilities. CVP is also showcasing its Engineering and Services divisions, which are a key part of its offering to customers.
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DRAMA | CATS
A GRAND SCALE This megamusical has now transferred its feline fantasy to the silver screen, but Cats has caused controversy from the very first trailer...
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES UN I VERSAL PICTURES
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CATS | DRAMA
A fter 8000 performances in London’s West End and over 7000 on New York’s Broadway (and many worldwide productions), it’s time for Cats the movie. There is plenty of precedent for a successful musical to be turned in to a cinematic experience: Oliver! , Chicago , Les Misérables , The Sound of Music , Hairspray , Grease ... there’s a big list. But Cats is different. First, it’s primarily a dance musical and it’s just cats, so you have the anthropomorphic hurdle to cross. And then, how do you stage it? But all these questions were ones already served up back in 1981 when Cats first opened at the New London Theatre and the following year at the Winter
The initial concept for the movie was to bring the world down to the size of cats
references to the meeting, so I made a list of things I thought were good for us to talk about. I knew that the film was set in London’s Soho of the late twenties, early thirties – the idea being that it was the back streets of Soho that hadn’t been redeveloped at the time. I’d seen some concept art that production designer Eve Stewart had done, so I pulled together some references for a rain-soaked, neon- and-gas-lit London street of the time. After reading the script, I also read the original TS Eliot poems and read a little bit about
Garden Theatre on Broadway. Definition talked to cinematographer Chris Ross while he was still grading the 1900 shots from the movie (he was actually balancing Rumpleteazer’s white levels at the time). When asked how he got the job on Cats , Ross recalls: “I had finished a movie called Yesterday for Danny Boyle and, behind the scenes, Danny and Tom [Hooper] had a conversation, and I was invited to meet Tom and have a chat. “One of the things I like to do to trigger conversation is to bring some
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was great to be part of an amazing team with the production designer Eve Stewart, Tom’s editor Melanie Oliver and sound recordist Simon Hayes. It was a phenomenal creative team behind the project. “What’s great about the scaling is it’s kind of like a double-edged sword. It offers up some huge logistical challenges, but from a framing perspective, it offers up loads of fun to be had. For instance, we’re currently grading the Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer song and that exists in an oversized garden that leads in to an oversized bedroom, to an oversized staircase, to an oversized dining room. They ransack the house, kind of thing. Eve built the huge armchairs, the double bed, the enormous gramophone – every item in the room was created as a real element and the choreography team, led by Andy Blankenbuehler, did a great job of bringing the dance routine into the
the musical. The one thing – if you listen to the songs from the show and the movie – is that it’s a musical journey that Andrew Lloyd Webber is taking himself on. He is exercising his different genres. There’s a charleston-style song, a big sweeping ballad, a jazz tap number – it’s quite eclectic, so I wanted to bring a sense of what that mix of musical influences brings to the table.” Ross brought some images from influences like Busby Berkeley, An American in Paris , West Side Story , Cabaret , Sweet Charity , Grease , La La Land , The Greatest Showman and the music videos for Lemonade and This Is America . A hugely wide-ranging list of dance and musical material. “I wanted to create a list of what’s
common and what’s iconic, and how do those two worlds collide?” THE SCALE The initial concept for the movie was to bring the world down to the size of cats, which meant creating an oversized world. Ross explains the process. “We had to then calculate the size of things like double beds, dining room tables, that kind of thing. If you’re going to make a film based on scaling something, then the best reference for that is Toy Story . I also brought a bunch of images from Toy Story and it was like, ‘This is how you make a world inhabited by little creatures’. We had a great meeting and Tom invited me to join him on the adventure. It
If you’re going to make a film based on scaling something, the best reference is Toy Story
IMAGES Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer and Victoria ransack an oversized bedroom
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DRAMA | CATS
IMAGES Taylor Swift as Bombalurina, performing her big number
The Great Windmill Street set was built on Leavesden’s L Stage, which is 80ft wide and 440ft long
LIVING WITH THE 65 In these pages, we have already hugely appreciated the Arri Alexa 65 cameras, but there is a drawback to the use of the camera handheld within a musical setting: it’s big. Ross and his crew had a plan for this. “We did a bunch of tests in prep, I’ve used every variety of stabilised system over the years including the Stabileye, Movi, Arri Trinity, Oculus head, that kind of equipment. The Alexa 65 doesn’t fit on any of these devices, it’s either too long, too fat or too heavy. We did a tech test with everybody by shooting previous tests to analyse what we felt was the best camera and lens combination for dealing with scale and then we shot another test to that was like a full, almost a workflow, test with cast members in their Lycra outfits that they were wearing for the
I photographed a lot of the rehearsals and dance workshops.” The Great Windmill Street set was built on Leavesden’s L Stage, which is 80ft wide and 440ft long, taking the entire width of the stage, fire lane to fire lane. Construction on that set was around 12 to 14 weeks. So you could see the frontage of the Windmill Theatre and the Milk Bar and the Meow Club. “The front doors of our buildings were 24ft high and we quickly got to feel how this was going to affect the imagery. So, we did a few tests in half-built spaces with different camera systems and lens combinations. We also shot a couple of dancers scampering around like cats and then had a look on the big screen to see what was most convincing scale wise. That’s what led us to the Alexa 65 camera,” says Ross.
space. Of all the routines, Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie is the one where we have the most fun with scale.” PREVIS AND PLANNING The director Tom Hooper and Eve Stewart had been working together for about four years before Ross became involved. Stewart had hundreds of concept art drawings of what the different cats could potentially look like and what the sets could look like. One of things they had decided upon was to include the idea of what Great Windmill Street in Soho would look like as an enormous set in its own right. Ross explains: “Eve had drawn up these sets by the time I was involved and the VFX house had rendered them in 3D, so we could basically walk a camera around any of the sets in a rudimentary kind of a way. We had these little figures that were the size of the cats and placed them wherever we wanted to and did an approximate previs of what it was that we wanted to do.” He adds: “But the choreography side of things has a huge influence, so it was really only when Andy [Blankenbuehler] was able to start working with our amazing collective of dancers and cast that he was able to piece together how the sets were going to be inhabited. As a result, Tom and
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DRAMA | CATS
440 feet, the length of the Great Windmill Street set 12 hour work days for the shoot, with an hour’s warm- up for the dancers
film, again on a variety of camera systems. With the Arri Trinity, a regular Steadicam, handheld with four different weights of camera, it was a pretty full-on test for a day’s worth of dancing. “Tom looked at it all and made the assessment that the true version of the film was just the 65. He understood that the Stabileye might allow us to do this and do that but: ‘Why don’t you just shoot as stable and handheld as possible? Why don’t we make that our aesthetic?’ So, we ended up with four Alexa 65s, three of which were in variable shooting modes, one of which was stripped down and on a Steadicam for the duration of the job. Most of the sequences I guess are shot conventionally, inasmuch as on a mixture of dollies, Steadicam and cranes. Then occasional sequences are shot handheld for a bit of visceral, first-person intimacy,” explains Ross. “It worked like a charm. When I first started on Cats when Tom asked me to join him, I did a day rehearsing with the dancers and realised that they were about 30 times fitter than me. I bought myself a treadmill to get fit and then didn’t have a single opportunity to use it, because we were working so hard. But the Alexa 65 was the exercise regime of choice! The imagery stands up for itself, it’s a phenomenal camera and there are four or five lens choices now via Arri Rental. I tested a bunch in the rental house for MTF for technical reasons and then decided against some before we shot a lens test for real.” Ross looked at the lenses on the optical bench and then shot a test for three TomHooper’s assessment was that the true version of the film was just the Alexa 65
IMAGES Prima ballerina Francesca Hayward as Victoria was hard to light as she moved so fast
different sets. He chose the Prime DNAs as his set, as “they have the lowest contrast, softest roll-off of their lens choices and they worked perfectly”. LARGE FORMAT AND CATS Despite being around for about 60 years, large format cinematography is a lens and camera system that somewhat vanished from theatrical cinematic production in the late seventies. It became the remit of the IMAX or omni-theatres, as they were the only ones who were doing any R&D on large format systems. The rebirth of the system with the Alexa 65 means many DOPs have turned to Panavision’s older 65mm market to have a look at the Ultra Panatars and other similar lenses. Ross explains: “We wanted to shoot spherically with the flatness of field that you only really get with those lenses. The eclectic mix of MTFs and lens design of the DNAs was a great mix – I tend to pick my camera and lens choices because they have an element of unpredictability about them. I’m not a big fan of the homogeneity of very high-end lens manufacture, because I think it loses some of the fun of storytelling. I quite like sitting on the edge of technical
capability, and that’s why the Prime DNAs were perfect.” When Ross shot Cats last year and early this year, Arri Rental offered a tuning service for the DNAs, but not on all the focal lengths. “One of the things that is very apparent in Tom’s previous work is that he’s a real lover of low contrast and shallow depth-of-field. I wanted to bring that sensibility to shooting on the Alexa 65, but we needed to minimise lens aberrations and a propensity for veiling flares, that kind of thing. These were things that our VFX team would struggle with,” recalls Ross. “One thing that we knew we wanted to do was to add loads of smoke to the sets, which is counter to what the VFX team was working on. So, one of the compromises that we could make was to use a cleaner lens to render the imagery. The DNAs were the right level of low contrast and fast T stop to satisfy all of the conditions.” LENS ROLES Shooting an oversized set with a scale element like the small cats is one thing, then you have to carefully choose your focal lengths on the wide end when using large format aesthetics. Ross says: “One thing you
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DRAMA | CATS
IMAGES From the first trailer, Cats’ digital fur capture was a talking point
really notice when you jump to large format is that the wide end is where the large format bonus comes. When you talk about using a 21mm or 28mm, those lenses in the Alexa 65 world have the same angle of view as a 12mm on a 35mm format camera, but without any of the linear distortion.” Even though the sets were big, the team wanted to make the sets feel even larger in relation to the cats and, as a result, Ross tended to stay at the wider end of the focal lengths. But one of the things he was very wary of, and one of the reasons the team did so many tests was that, once you begin to distort perspective, you start to lose the scaling. “The viewer feels like the horizontal and vertical lines are converging in an unnatural way,” explains Ross. “You realise that your centres are being lied to, you don’t see building as bigger, you end up using the humans as your scale reference. So you see humans in an oversized set, rather than ‘this is a living room, and look how small the cats look!’ It’s a fine line between those two perceptions and it was always important to stay on the second perception. He continues: “We’d typically use the 28mm to 45mm range – pretty much every close-up in the film is shot on either a 35mm or a 45mm. However (this is where there’s a bit of discrepancy in the world of large format), once you get to 28mm, it starts getting a little disappointing below that. So we ended up with a Prime DNA 28mm and then a Signature Prime 21mm and also a Sigma 16mm and then a Prime DNA 12mm.
One thing you really notice with large format is that the wide end is where the bonus is
The wide end is always a bit of a mixture, because those focal lengths are so hard to make cover the large format. We only used the DNA 12mm on about four occasions, mostly for the Rum Tum Tugger scene, because it needed to feel like a Missy Elliott music video. It was also one of our smaller oversized locations, so in order to give it grand scale, we also found ourselves on the widest end of the lenses. He adds: “Also, once you go above 80mm, at least in terms of a character close-up, there’s little difference between a 110mm on the Alexa 65 and a 65mm on a regular 35mm camera; the perspective you’re seeing is roughly the same.” CAMERA SET-UPS The cast, especially the dancers, were on an eleven-hour shift, so it was imperative that as much of the dance was captured
by Ross’s team as possible. “We shot with three cameras all the time to achieve the live vocal scenario and to get as much of the dance as possible. A typical set-up with the cameras would be a 28mm, a 45mm and a 65mm on the three cameras. Ollie [Oliver Loncraine] who was on the C camera would often find himself at 90° to Iain [MacKay] and I, sometimes going as high as the 110mm, but normally somewhere wider.” Ross shot 12-hour days every day and the dancers did 11-hour days, with an hour warm-up. “We’d still run the routines many times, but we’d run a routine, reassess, watch back maybe for ten minutes and then run it again. So we were still probably doing on the big numbers, four or five takes an hour of running a two-minute routine. It was like dancing boot camp, but very exciting.” LIGHTING PERSPECTIVE The lighting of the movie within the huge sets with the story mostly told at night was a major undertaking for Ross. “Lighting on that scale was probably the hardest thing we had to do. Working out where to place cameras was a fairly straightforward procedure, but lighting at that scale was difficult. For instance, Frankie, the prima ballerina, in three seconds can take four steps and those four steps can cover 45ft of a set and so what you’re trying to do is light that 45ft from a distance of 60ft away, so you can give the dancers the floor. “That’s the biggest challenge, how do you cosmetically deal with lighting over
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DRAMA | CATS
It was difficult to change, as the only way to pan a light left to right was to bring in scissor lifts
such a distance? Your wide shot needs to see a set that is 80ft wide by a 100ft deep and then your close-up needs to be rendered almost in the same conditions. You can’t bring a light in, because it’s in the way, even if it’s not in the way of the character you’re shooting, the camera is in the way of one of the other dancers who is trying to get behind the actor that you’re shooting half way through the dance. They also have to start in one position and end in another.” A lot of Ross’s work involved watching rehearsals in a dance workshop, then plotting those on his drawing of the set that was being constructed, then formulating a lighting plan according to that choreography. He also had to work four or five weeks ahead, because of how large the sets were. He says: “Just running the cable into the L Stage set took two weeks, just to run power to service the lighting. The pre- rig to get that lighting in took three weeks.” As the Great Windmill Street set was 12 sets connected to each other, Ross worked on one set for the prelight one day and then the next set the next day. “This was a huge challenge, and my gaffer Mark Clayton and my rigging gaffer James Summers did an incredible job,” he says. “I worked with a set drawing from the art department that was hand drawn, but to scale of every lighting unit that I’d like to put on to the sound stage. That would be shared with all of my team and then we roughly placed them in those positions with James, and I would finesse it. If the choreography evolved to send the dancers into a different place I hadn’t previously figured, we’d then make a plan to move something somewhere or make an adjustment somewhere. It was
IMAGES A very challenging light design relied on a number of Dino light rigs giving a long- distance punch effect
difficult to change, because the only way to pan a light left to right was to bring in scissor lifts. It’s obviously not something you can do in between takes.” WHICH LIGHTS? A film production like Beauty and the Beast needed to recreate daylight over a whole village set, so had over 700 Kino Flos in banks embedded on giant rigs. Cats is a hybrid of cinema and theatre and needed a different approach, explains Ross. “The most Skypanels we had, for instance, were part of the long set which was the street. One of the things that happens in the street is daylight – most of the film is set at night until the end. So I had 100 Skypanels in softboxes above the rigging. Because we were scaling our world up so much, the sets went all the way to the Reds in the studio, so we had to put the lighting above
“We made the unusual decision in the L Stage to rig a secondary rig 15ft above the Reds, nearer to the roof of the building, so our softboxes sat above and didn’t dangle down and get in the way of the set. There was about one Skypanel every eight feet in the centre section of the street to give me a very low-level soft room tone concept to the fill light of the street. But most of the lighting was using six, nine and 12-bulb dino lights, which are like collections of Par Cans in an array, because I needed that punch over a big distance. Most of the light positions were 40ft away from the cast, so you need to be able to get the light level to right at that distance,” he says. Another thing Ross had to keep in mind is that, when you scale down your world or scale up your world so your cast feels smaller, you also need to scale your light sources. He explains: “I scaled all the light sources by a factor of two. If you were used to shooting an actor’s close-up using a 1K Reefer light for example, which is 1x1m square, then you have to change that dimension to a 2x2m light in order to keep the same continuity of shadows, so your shadows feel softer. The dinos helped me make these bigger light sources. We dropped a lot of textiles from the ceiling, and we used a light source from quite a long way away to keep the floor clear, then hung a textile much closer to the cast member, so effectively the light source quadrupled in size near the cast member to soften the close-ups.” CATS IS CURRENTLY ON WORLDWIDE GENERAL RELEASE.
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DRAMA | THE END OF THE F * * * I NG WORLD
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LINGERING LOOK Our favourite teen criminals are finally back – or, at least, one of them definitely is. We speak to DOP Benedict Spence about how he shot Series 2 of The End of the F***ing World
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / PICTURES STUDIOCANAL S . A . S
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DRAMA | THE END OF THE F * * * I NG WORLD
T he first series of The End of the F***ing World ended with Alyssa and James capping off their increasingly high-risk crime spree by running away from a firearms unit, ending up on a beach. Once there, James urges Alyssa to tell the police he kidnapped her, and that she committed all of the offences against her own will. He then hits her with a rifle – immobilising her long enough for the police to catch her – and makes a run for it towards the ocean. Everything that follows suggests James has been killed by the police, and fans have spent the last two years theorising whether or not it was really the end. Well, now we know, and James is of course alive, but is by no means kicking. He is crippled, orphaned and estranged from Alyssa, who is engaged to someone else. In their separate worlds, they each receive a bullet with their name engraved into the metal. The bullets are sent by newcomer Bonnie, who was in love with Clive, the professor by day, serial killer by night who was murdered by James to protect Alyssa. The opening episode of the second series is dedicated to Bonnie’s pitch-black backstory. She was raised under the cruel discipline of her mother who forces her to memorise the world’s capital cities and eat lipstick. She then rebels by rejecting the education she was supposed to have and becomes a librarian at a college, where she meets and becomes lovesick for the enigmatic professor Clive. This episode, especially the scenes where Bonnie meets with Clive at his murder house, was “mind-boggling” for Benedict Spence – the DOP carrying the cinematography baton on from the first series’ DOP Justin Brown – to shoot. The scenes are set in the past, in parallel to when Alyssa and James entered his house in Series 1. He explains: “They’re meant to look as if they could have been plucked from the first series.” WHAT THE F**K AM I LOOKING AT? Spence was tasked with the heavy responsibility of continuing the look that
ABOVE James and Alyssa allow a women bent on murdering them – the wild-eyed Bonnie – on to their wistful road trip
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THE END OF THE F * * K I NG WORLD | DRAMA
Symmetry can reveal an unspoken emotion between characters, so it’s fun to play with
WHERE THE F**K IS IT SET? If you have watched The End of the F***ing World , you will know that it inhabits a stylised world that is not really fixed in any time or place. There are no road signs placing it anywhere and restaurants, bars and shops aren’t branded. It feels a little American, a little British, a bit seventies, a bit nineties. “It’s kind of everything and nothing, which I think is brilliant because it allows your imagination to kick in a bit,” says Spence. “The first series is set in the sunny southeast of England, somewhere.” But, because of the progression of the storyline, which sees Alyssa and her mother – a little more trimmed and pruned – living in a cafe in the woods with her aunt, the set has moved to a “sort of damp, forested Pennsylvania”. He elaborates: “It was actually shot in Wales and in the
exciting moment.” He continues: “There’s also something quite pleasurable about keeping your eyes in the centre of the frame and letting the cut do the work for you.” Spence also references the graphic novel from which the show evolved and, although the novel ended where the first series did, with James lying on a beach in a pool of his own blood, he lifted visuals from it where he could. “Actually, my favourite shot of the second series was lifted from the comic and it’s this shot of James lying down on the back seat of his car, hugging an urn containing his dad’s ashes. It’s an amazingly sweet moment that’s well acted by Alex Lawther, who plays James, because we are absolutely destroying this kid who wanted to be – well, he thought he was a psychopath in the first series. Now his legs don’t work properly, and his dad is dead.”
garnered the show’s recognition. It is both gloomy and glamorous, but always good- looking and exquisite in its attention to detail. It’s a strong cinematic look, which he describes as “not being a difficult thing to emulate” for the very reason that it is so strong, but he still felt anxious about making sure he got it just right for the second series. He says: “Lucy Forbes, who was the first block director alongside myself, and I spent hours watching and rewatching the first series; studying what they did and looking to see what rules they created. And similarly, we watched a number of films, the key one being Fargo , which was used as a reference for the first series.” Wes Anderson’s precise, symmetrical style was also a big motivator for Spence, who framed every single shot of the series centrally. He explains: “Symmetry can reveal an unspoken emotion between characters, so it’s quite a fun thing to play around with when you’ve got two leads. The first time you see Alyssa and James stood next to each other, for example, that’s an
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We let it go blue and leaned into the colours the camera produced
and it would just be a red wash inside the cafe, which didn’t quite happen, but I think that Ben Todd, who was the second block DOP, still got to have a bit of fun with it.” Spence wanted to keep the lighting on-set to a minimum to reflect the show’s minimalism and relied on practicals, as much as real daylight. He also used Litegear Litemat 8, Arri Skypanels, Arri M-Series Daylight lamps and Lanternlock china lanterns, channelling simple warm and cool tones, rather than complex colours. 4**K The show is a Channel 4 and Netflix co-production, so clearly there was some motivation behind Spence’s camera choice. It had to be 4K, but it didn’t have to be Red, which was the camera the first series had been shot on. He says: “I think that Justin Brown, who was the first series’ DOP, wanted to shoot it on the Arri Alexa, but wasn’t allowed to because it’s not true 4K – or, whatever you want to call it, it’s not Netflix approved. So, when I was asked to do the series,
loaded with 250D daylight film. “It’s an honest approach,” he says. “For example, when we shot at dusk, we didn’t white- balance anything out. We let it go blue and leaned into the colours the camera produced. One of my favourite scenes was shot at blue hour and it’s the scene where James drives up to the cafe Alyssa is working in, to let her know about the bullet he received. He hasn’t seen her since the beach and he still loves her, but when he gets there, he sees her kissing someone else. It’s another hit to poor James. But it’s a beautiful scene in terms of colour palette – a mixture of blue and red – which is coming from the neon lights that are draped around the cafe.” He continues: “I had a lot of chats with Lucy and our production designer about wrapping the cafe, which had been built specifically for the show, in red neon. Red being a classic warning colour. And unfortunately, because I only shot the first four episodes, I didn’t get to use it for the big shoot-out scene towards the end of the series. I had a vision the lights would go off
wintertime, which was a strange transition from the first series in terms of keeping the lighting consistent, because it was wet and cold, and not sunny and beautiful. And I remember shooting a scene in episode 3, where Alyssa and James crash out of the car impound, and it just bloody rained and rained, which, when you’re trying to do a stunt and have dusty, warm Americana vibes, became almost impossible.” Spence approached lighting by imagining he was using a film camera
RIGHT DOP Benedict Spence and director Lucy Forbes posing on location in the wintery Welsh hills
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