NOVEMBER 2021 | DEFINITIONMAGAZINE.COM
Girl power Meet the extraordinary women behind the camera
SWITCH IT UP Marden Dean & Mark Wareham discuss the contrasting light
sources in Clickbait “It’s more competitive than usual” Elstree’s Grace Downer on the studio space race
DUNE VFX INDUSTRY NEWS
Six experts explore the future of collaborative remote post-production
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Regulars 05 ON THE COVER
Industry 29 HEAD IN THE CLOUD
See the tech behind Dune ’s stunning interstellar backdrops. 07 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production. Production
Remote working has moved into a new era. Here, experts discuss what this means for collaborative post-production.
W hen I made a call-out about an article giving a platform to the talented women working behind the camera, I expected to have an outpouring of responses. But, in fact, many were reluctant to get involved out of fear of making a stance, or because they had been so beaten down by the industry. For privacy reasons, this person shall remain anonymous, but her message to me read: “After 20 years in the industry, I have come to the realisation that there is no future for me in lighting, and I am currently pursuing other options. I sincerely hope new entrants will have a better start, as things are changing. But I have no fight left in me.” This was saddening to hear, and exemplified exactly why I should be doing more features to bring recognition to the women – and indeed, filmmakers of any gender and background – who are working tirelessly to create the content we love. I highly encourage anyone working in the professional video industry to get in touch with me. I’d like Definition to be a voice for change. This has always been an important topic for me, but with all the recent news of skills shortages and lack of crew, showcasing talent is surely something we can all get behind. DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley
37 STUDIO, STUDIO, WHERE ART THOU STUDIOS?
How studios are continuing to evolve in order to sate the world’s demand for more and more content.
46 GIRLS IN GEAR
The inspiring women who have broken through barriers to find their home in the film industry.
12 A LIGHT ON SAINTS AND SINNERS
Gear 55 LIGHTS OF FANCY How LED technology is
Kramer Morgenthau brings The Sopranos to the big screen with a soft touch and nods to past gangster flicks.
evolving on- and off-frame.
19 SCREEN TIME
63 CAMERA LISTINGS Showcasing the bodies revolutionising digital images now.
Clickbait DOPs tell us how they masterfully obscured, and then illuminated, the show’s mystery.
BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD Bright House 82 High Street Sawston Cambridgeshire CB22 3HJ, UK EDITORIAL DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURES WRITER Lee Renwick CHIEF SUB EDITOR Alex Bell SUB EDITORS Matthew Winney & Harriet Williams CONTRIBUTORS Alex Fice, Phil Rhodes & Emily Williamson EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Roger Payne
ADVERTISING GROUP AD MANAGER Sam Scott-Smith email@example.com 01223 499457 SENIOR ACCOUNTS EXECUTIVE Emma Stevens firstname.lastname@example.org 01223 499462 DESIGN DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGNER Emma Di’Iuorio JUNIOR DESIGNER Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong
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Cover image Dune | © Warner Bros 2021
3. NOVEMBER 2021
DUNE ON THE COVER .
HOTTING UP Dune is one of the most anticipated films of the year, after its pandemic-induced delay
ON THE COVER Space race
INFINITE POSSIBILITIES OF VIRTUAL PRODUCTION
D enis Villeneuve’s interpretation of the classic 1965 Frank Herbert novel will see Dune adapted to the big screen for a second time. David Lynch was the first in 1984, though it was not favourably received by critics. Many called it incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the book, and suspected fans would be disappointed with how it strayed from the original plot. Since then, many filmmakers have attempted to reimagine Dune , but the book’s depth and symbolism has always been too intimidating and difficult to translate. Until now, that is: Villeneuve is using groundbreaking artificial backdrops to bring Dune ’s feudal interstellar society to life. It’s a filmmaking technique from the very beginning, to create the illusion of large sets and locations, but the director has brought it into the 21st century with digital front projection and LED video walls. At the forefront of the technology is DNEG, a London-
based VFX house whose virtual production credits already included Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Damien Chazelle’s First Man – for which it received Academy Awards – and now Dune . The company has a full range of virtual production services: location scouting, cameras, real-time mixed reality VFX and LED volumetric stages. Driven by the impact of Covid-19, it is continuing to develop through exciting new partnerships. With Dimension, Unreal Engine, Arri, Mo-Sys, 80six, Roe and Brompton Technology, DNEG is shooting a proof-of-concept virtual production test, led by creative director Paul Franklin. It demonstrates how clients can use its services for the best of both worlds: the flexibility of a visual effects process, and the immediate realism of actual photography. To find out more, head to: dneg.com/led-real-time-engine-dimension
05. NOVEMBER 2021
BRIEFINGS INDUS TRY.
Industry briefings The latest news, views and hot tips from the world of video production
Cloudbusting Sony has launched the latest-generation solution for linking cameras to the cloud, using just a mobile connection. The Camera-Connect-Cloud Portal (C3 Portal) enables users to upload files to the edit suite ready for post-production using 5G, LTE or wireless networks via the C3 Portal App for Android OS and iOS. Files can be output and maintains the resolution of the image. It also copes well with common tracking issues, such as occlusion. There are three different software solutions to choose from depending on your specific requirements: Pro, Studio and Broadcast. The software therefore caters to a range of shooting styles and studio sizes. PANASONIC TO OFFER EXCLUSIVE POLYMOTION CHAT PRO SOFTWARE FROM MRMC A partnership between Panasonic and Mark Roberts Motion Control Ltd (MRMC) will see the introduction of an exclusive version of MRMC’s Polymotion Chat Pro software for Panasonic. Polymotion Chat Pro Panasonic Edition will enable automated control of Panasonic’s integrated PTZ cameras, PTZ heads and Box cameras. Up to three cameras can be controlled at one time from a single PC, for a streamlined and efficient workflow. Polymotion Chat utilises limb detection software to track a moving subject with the same steady movement as a human operator, making it a powerful tool for recording live events and various broadcast and capture scenarios, such as news, sports and weather. Unlike some pan and scan systems, Polymotion Chat produces high-quality broadcast level
A film festival with a twist
The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, EnergaCAMERIMAGE, is turning the format on its head. Unlike other festivals, this Polish event emphasises the often- underappreciated role of the cinematographer, allocating awards based on visual, aesthetic and technical values. This 29th edition is from 13-20 November in Toruń. It will spotlight films, documentaries and music videos of talented filmmakers from around the world, with attendees also enjoying related seminars and workshops.
involved with production to access files remotely, reducing time to air or time to edit. Camera operators can add comments and essence marks to XAVC proxy files, ensuring clear communication with the rest of the production team. The C3 Portal is compatible with various Sony cloud-based products, other third-party suppliers and non-linear editing suites. It will be released at the end of November.
shared easily by scanning a QR code on the side of compatible cameras to log in to the app. Alternatively, smartphone users can connect to their cameras using a USB, or combine multiple cellular networks to speed up transfer times. Editing time on the production floor can also be reduced by sending files to the portal, using the C3 Portal’s Chunk File Transfer feature. The C3 Portal supports a collaborative process by making it easier for everyone
07. NOVEMBER 2021
BRIEFINGS INDUS TRY.
Through the looking glass
of the frame, requested by cinematographer Greig Fraser. The Arri Rental Moviecam lenses incorporate vintage glass in modern lens housings, to produce high- performance lenses with a classic look. They’re available in 11 focal lengths, ranging from 16mm to 135mm. Most of them offer a T2 stop, with the exceptions being the 100mm and 135mm (T2.8) and 60mm (T1.5). The 60mm is well-suited to low-light scenarios, and also capable of creating attractive bokeh backgrounds. Both lens series are available exclusively through Arri Rental facilities around the world.
Arri has announced two new large-format lens series: Alfa anamorphic lenses and Moviecam spherical lenses. Both are LPL-mounted and utilise LDA chips for efficient lens data workflows. Responding to demand for a greater variety of large-format anamorphic lenses, Arri Rental’s global development team conceived the Alfa series. They worked together to adapt sets of Master Anamorphic lenses to cover the larger format, while Arri Rental technicians ensured that the lenses would produce a soft vignette at the edges and a clear, focused image at the centre
THE FUTURE OF THEATRE
In recent years, theatre productions have become increasingly ambitious and pioneering in their use of VFX to create mesmerising spectacles. The latest show to put VFX designers to the test is Back to the Future: The Musical , which arrived at London’s Adelphi Theatre in August 2021. Rising to the challenge of recreating time travel for the stage is disguise, the platform behind productions such as Frozen and Harry Potter . Video design plays a fundamental role in creating a contrast between the ordinary world and science fiction. Three disguise gx 2 media servers fuel the production, powering extensive Notch LC video files and Notch generative video content. Video is delivered through a large 3.9mm Roe Visual Diamond LED wall upstage, while Brompton Technology LED processors project onto a gauze downstage, immersing the performers in the action. Disguise has played a fundamental role in supplying traditional playback and live-generated content, which was integral to the stage design of Back to the Future . Its powerful servers are reliable and responsive, meaning all technical challenges could be met, with sound, lighting and automation data coming together seamlessly. For designers, the ability to visualise the show using an accurate 3D simulation while offline was essential to preparing the venue in a short space of time. Disguise also set up an intuitive workflow for communicating with external systems during the show, allowing video and lighting to be merged in the same auditorium circuit board. By proving itself capable of both magic and time travel, disguise has made enormous waves in the world of VFX and is paving the way for the future of theatre and live productions.
09. NOVEMBER 2021
INDUS TRY. BRIEFINGS
How is Brexit affecting film & TV production?
WORDS. Chelsea Fearnley
A s expected, the Brexit deal hasn’t changed too much for the film and TV industries. Arguably, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement’s main achievement is the allowance of tariff-free and quote-free trade of goods between the UK and the EU, which has limited impact for the creative industries. However, there are a few key points to note. Pre-Brexit, UK citizens could work in Europe without a permit, and vice versa. This meant British crew employed on international productions, like Game of Thrones , could easily travel around Europe to shooting locations in Spain and Croatia. But the new deal only allows UK citizens to visit the EU (and vice versa) for 90 days within a 180-day period. This allowance applies to tourism and certain business trips, such as attending conferences, trade fairs and consultancy meetings. Crucially, providing creative services, or working abroad for the fulfilment of a contract, are not included. The BFI had hoped the Brexit deal might extend the forms of business trip to cover activities relevant to film and TV production, but this was largely not the case. So, for any work to be undertaken in the EU, producers have to look at the rules for each member state to see if a visa is required. There has been plenty of press coverage about how the 90-day allowance for business visits does not cover musicians on tour. They will need a visa
unless member states’ individual rules allow for visa-free entry. The industry is already lobbying for this to be changed. Many musicians, including Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran, have signed a letter published in The Times that said: “The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be. Everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment.” For film and TV production, the Brexit deal specifically states that professional equipment can be transported between the UK and EU on a temporary basis, with “total conditional relief from import duties and without application of import restrictions or economic prohibitions”. According to the BFI, though, this means ATA Carnets will still be required. And there are new rules on heavy-load trailers, which could affect talent trailers being driven to the EU. AXING BRITISH TV Beyond production, the EU is looking into how it can reduce the “disproportionate” amount of UK content on European TV and streaming services, in the wake of Brexit. As per The Guardian , an EU document filed 8 June cites the continued inclusion of UK productions in EU quotas, despite the country no longer being an EU member state, as an unfair privilege that hurts “cultural diversity”.
The quotas apply to broadcasters and VOD platforms, coming under the European Audiovisual Observatory; they dictate that TV channels must largely show European programming, and VOD platforms must contain at least 30% of such content. This figure is higher in some countries. Currently, British shows like The Crown qualify, allowing streamers to fulfil the quotas with those programmes. Large- scale UK productions are often pre-sold into Europe as a key fundraising method. The rules around which countries qualify under the quotas is due to be assessed in the summer of 2024. But it is thought that France taking over the EU presidency in January next year could kick-start the process. It currently enforces the strictest content quotas in the continent. If the UK were removed from inclusion, i.e. defined as non-European, it could serve as a serious blow to UK producers, with content less appealing to European broadcasters – and streamers that need to meet the criteria. According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, the UK provides half the European TV content presence of VOD in the continent, and UK works are the most actively promoted on VOD (the lowest EU27 share of promotion spots is also found in the UK). The industry has long feared the EU would seek to undermine UK dominance of the audiovisual market once the country had left the bloc. It seems now that this is only a matter of time.
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PRODUC T I ON . THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK
A light on saints and sinners
Blessed with the task of bringing one of the world’s most beloved TV shows to the big screen, Kramer Morgenthau did so with a soft touch, some fitting nods to past gangster films and a wealth of sixties beauty
WORDS. Lee Renwick IMAGES. Warner Bros W hen it aired at the turn of the millennium, The Sopranos changed the way we viewed episodic television forever. By the time it ended, just shy of ten years later, audiences around the world enjoyed more narrative depth, character development and production value than they’d ever seen before. As the final credits rolled, one thing was certain: there will never be another as iconic as Tony Soprano. So, how does a filmmaker go about bringing such a story back to life? Albeit in a different time period, with a different performer – James Gandolfini’s son, no less – and through a different medium. If you were to draw an answer from
Kramer Morgenthau’s approach during the creation of The Many Saints of Newark , it would be, ‘considerately’. “We definitely wanted to pay homage to the original series and give it a cinematic quality at the same time,” Morgenthau explains. “The original series is film-like itself and has beautiful lighting. But the deference we paid was mostly in the visual language of the film, which is to say, minimalist and classical. “There’s not much camera movement and we created a lot of single compositions, which allowed characters to play in the frame for long periods of time. Often, those frames contain an ensemble that becomes an entire figurative horizon to gaze across – just like a painting.
“As the final credits rolled, one thing was certain: there will never be another as iconic as Tony Soprano”
A WORTHY HOMAGE Striving for “logical naturalism”, many interior scenes were lit with powerful, diffused LEDs, pushed through a window as a single, key source
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK PRODUC T I ON .
ALL HANDS ON DECK Morgenthau (left) and director Alan Taylor (centre) eye one of many still, painterly frames
13. NOVEMBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK
INSPIRING THE VISION While much of The Many Saints of Newark’s look was inspired by the period, Morgenthau included techniques popularised by iconic gangster films like The Godfather
“Within single shots, we used wide lenses to bring viewers close to these characters, and make them feel as though they’re right there with them,” Morgenthau continues. “The camera is often quite low – almost always below eyeline – which brings an Orson Welles quality to the film. It makes the characters larger than life and gives a perspective that’s just not quite normal. It’s a viewpoint, but not an intrusive one.” The lens choice, more specifically, was a mix of old and new. A selection of modern Panavision T Series anamorphics were coupled with vintage C Series glass, dating back to the late sixties – the same era as The Many Saints of Newark . Naturally, they had a wider appeal to Morgenthau than just their focal lengths. “Dan Sasaki, Panavision’s VP of optical engineering, detuned the lenses to take an edge off the Arri Alexa LF’s digital look, letting sources glow and artefact in the frame. We were also able to achieve a very shallow depth of field. “Part of that came down to the Alexa’s large format sensor, which was something The family business Christopher Moltisanti, a key character in The Sopranos and Tony Soprano’s protégé, narrates The Many Saints of Newark . Christopher’s father, Dickie, mentors a young Tony throughout the film.
“This is a big-screen cinematic experience, and we wanted the audience to be immersed”
Large format wasn’t without its challenges, though. “We didn’t have the Alexa Mini LF; we had the studio-camera-size version, which made it very difficult for Steadicam and handheld. But it was so worth it to have that sensor. This is a big-screen movie, a cinematic experience, and we wanted the audience to be immersed. That really comes across through anamorphic lenses and large format.”
we really pushed for on the film,” says Morgenthau. “The background falls off in such a beautiful way, which helped maintain the period illusion while working in certain locations. We couldn’t control every visible detail, but if the background just went soft, a little more painterly and a little more impressionistic, then suddenly those details aren’t an issue. The characters really pop out in the frame.”
PRODUC T I ON . THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK
influenced by them, in a way. There’s a lot of top and directional light in the film – it may not be hard light like you would expect, but it’s directional. There’s also a lot of chiaroscuro, with an interplay of shadow and light. “We were also influenced by the lighting of the original show,” Morgenthau continues. “It has something minimalist about it that doesn’t distract from the characters. So, I stayed true to the logical directions of naturalism. “A lot of times, that meant single- source lighting, such as coming in through a window with a giant soft source – a real Vermeer influence – or utilising practical lights in the set. “When we’d take a scene with two characters and key light from the side, I wouldn’t flip anything between shots for the sake of glamour. I left the light static in relation to the characters, as it would be in the real world.” Ironically, the crew’s conviction to create a convincing period piece required the use of thoroughly modern tools. Morgenthau lists control, colour, intensity and speed as the main draws of LED. “We used a lot of Arri SkyPanels, as well as Fresnel-style L5-C, L7-C and L10-C lamps when we needed something more directional. Those were often diffused through very dense magic cloth. With the
“A part of that period look meant emulating film stocks from the time – through lighting, lens choice, colouring and the broader production design. Two of the LUTs designed for the movie were Kodachrome and Ektachrome film emulations. Then, at the DI stage, Live Grain added diffusion, softening effects, grain and also gate weave. Some of those details are barely perceptible, but they are present!” Still, the lighting of the ‘gangster flick’ is too strong to be overlooked entirely. But how did Morgenthau manage to pay fitting tribute within the confines of a late Summer of Love setting? “I think the Godfather films are, with lighting by Gordon Willis, the holy grail of all modern mob films. We were very
SETTING THE SCENE Director Alan Taylor and writer/ producer David Chase on location of the film’s pivotal riot scenes. Many lighting fixtures were built into storefronts by Bob Shaw’s production design team
A TROPE YOU CAN’T REFUSE There’s an almost delicate beauty to The Many Saints of Newark ’s visuals. The warm, film-like atmosphere is a far cry from the harshness found in other iconic titles within the genre. This stands in fierce juxtaposition with the familiar bouts of violence. It’s a pleasant turn from heavily stylised, often suppressive convention. “We wanted the film to have a period feeling, with a genuine naturalism, and a certain expressionist quality. I didn’t want it to feel lit,” Morgenthau muses.
Just desserts Made famous by The Sopranos ’ infamous ending, Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary makes another appearance in TMSON .
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK PRODUC T I ON .
HISTORIC Set during the summer of 1967, TMSON explores the development of Tony Soprano, against a background of unrest and racial discrimination
LUTs, we were able to give the LEDs a tungsten quality. “Were we missing out on something by not using real tungsten?” Morgenthau asks himself. “Maybe. There’s something very intense about a real heat source, something very primitive, but sometimes you’ve got to go with control.” The Many Saints of Newark ’s riot sequences are distinct enough to have been made into a film in and of themselves. They’re unique to view and, as Morgenthau explains, were just as unique to create. “We actually studied original photos and film of the historic Newark riots, shot by news cameramen at the time. We really wanted to emulate the drama and significance.
“We actually studied original photos and film of the historic Newark riots, shot by news cameramen”
“We took over four city blocks in downtown Newark, and the art department did some outstanding work. All the storefront lights and neon signs were really built, then the fire light sources were real flame bars, or a result of actual fires you can see in certain shots. “I used maxi rutes on large condors for backlighting, to supplement all that. The warmer tungsten lights felt more fitting with the period, compared to a bluer HMI. We also switched out any modern LED streetlights in frame for orange ones
you would have seen around in the sixties, fitting to the era.” Looking back at what can only be seen as the successful undertaking of a somewhat perilous task – considering The Sopranos ’ fanatical following and significance, at least – Morgenthau remains modest. “I’d say it’s a lighter footprint than what I’ve done on other films,” he concludes. “I remained reserved in many ways and gave the story the space it deserved.” Out now in UK and US cinemas
17. NOVEMBER 2021
CLICKBAIT PRODUC T I ON .
DOPs Marden Dean and Mark Wareham tell us how they masterfully obscured – and then illuminated – the mystery at the heart of Clickbait
WORDS. Emily Williamson
I ABUSE WOMEN - AT 5 MILLION VIEWS I DIE read the signs held up by Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) in his viral hostage video. His family, the police and nameless online sleuths scramble to uncover his location, while they watch the view count skyrocket. Some burning questions plague our cast of characters: who did this, where is Nick and – perhaps most gut-wrenching – has he really done what he’s confessed to? Clickbait is one of the latest additions to the impressive roster of quality
Netflix Originals. Nick’s disappearance unfolds over an eight episode limited series, each giving us the perspective of a different character. The thrilling narrative explores the uncomfortable, but increasingly relevant topics of cybercrime, and anonymous vigilante collectives that undermine police forces to investigate them. The series is stylistically and thematically reminiscent of another Netflix Original hit – the 2019 documentary Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer .
THRILLING Clickbait follows the abduction of Nick Brewer – with twists and turns at every corner
19. NOVEMBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . CLICKBAIT
PERSONAL PROFILE DOP Mark Wareham explains that this reference, as well as the character- hopping narrative structure, are all part of creator Tony Ayres’ writing style. “That documentary was definitely something we talked about. Ayres gets a lot of ideas from real stuff. He’s also done a number of shows where he looks at a story from different points of view, that’s a trademark. We wanted to play with the idea that everyone had a different perspective. And that the internet has one, too.” The show’s style evolves throughout each episode to incorporate different visual storytelling techniques. The aim was to explore unique themes and subjective perspectives, while maintaining a harmonious aesthetic. The whole season was shot with Sony Venice cameras and Panavision C Series and T Series anamorphic lenses – which certainly helped with maintaining a consistent visual style. However, the team didn’t shy away from exploring a variety of grip and lighting scenarios for characters and sets. DOP Marden Dean further elaborates on how this was achieved through the production, by comparing episode one ( The Sister ) with episode three ( The Wife ). The camera movement and shot lengths were carefully considered to help us understand the characters, as well as emphasise the contrasts between them. The first episode largely employs the use of handheld shots to express Pia’s (Zoe Kazan) chaotic persona. But, Dean describes how for Sophie’s (Betty Gabriel) episode, they used “controlled steadicam, dollys and considered framing to underscore a desire to control the narrative, despite the spiralling chaos around her”. These well-considered camera choices make the most of the show’s episodic narrative structure, giving the audience opportunity to explore the experience of these characters – and the dichotomy between them. LIGHT MODE Dean also explains that the lighting in these characters’ homes was purposefully designed to further illuminate their differences. ‘’I wanted to give disparate spaces a distinct look, while feeling cohesive.” He continues: “Pia’s house is lit with Astera Titan LED tubes, screens and gelled fluorescent sources. This juxtaposes sharply to the near-uniform Tungsten light of Sophie’s house.” As a result, Sophie’s house appears much more conventional, clinical and perhaps cold – despite being a family home. This is congruent with her highly strung, type A personality – she is, after all, known to require that guests remove their shoes. This creates conflict both visually
and contextually with her sister-in-law Pia, whose dwelling is saturated in unnatural hues. The unconventional and experimental use of light and colour in her home is reminiscent of the strip and nightclub where she spends time, which are bathed in neon signs and disco lights. The interior locations of Sophie’s and Pia’s houses were shot in studio set builds, meaning the team had complete control
over the lighting of shots. Wareham also states that there were practical considerations that impacted the choice of lighting in the studio. “For the exterior we used LEDs, but inside – because they didn’t budget for a big lighting package – we had Fresnels and Tungstens.” Dean elaborates on how he used these to his advantage to create what he required. “I was able to craft various looks for
Production Interruption Filming ceased for six months before episode seven. This had advantages – the team saw edits of the prior episodes – and disadvantages – Jaylin Fletcher had a growth spurt and was noticeably taller.
CLICKBAIT PRODUC T I ON .
OMINOUS Coloured lighting plays an important role in the moderation of the show’s eerie atmosphere
“Well-considered camera choices make the most of the show’s episodic narrative structure, to explore the experience of these characters”
COMPLEXITY The DOPs consciously used different lighting to capture the nuances of each character, like Pia Brewer (above) and Sophie Brewer (right)
21. NOVEMBER 2021
PRODUC T I ON . CLICKBAIT
LOCATION Though the series is set in Oakland, California, the filming largely took place in Melbourne, Australia. Luckily they are both vegetated with gum trees!
DIRECTORS As well as having a large cast, there were four directors working on episodes over the course of the series
the house, with felled space lights for ambience and warmed 20Ks for sunlight, along with an 18K HMI for when I wanted more shape and contrast.” Though light and colour were integral to emphasise space, Dean was creating the specific visual style of the series: “This urban noir look was created through a restricted gel pack I devised in pre-production.” The series artfully uses the obscuring shadows associated with thriller and mystery genres, while pushing the limits of coloured light to remind us about the eerie aspects of the devices we unquestioningly hold dear. The result is a scene, “bathed in the artificial glow of screens, urban hues of deep sodium oranges, unsettling green fluorescent glows and the artificial colour sources ever pervasive from technology surrounding us”. The green, in particular, enhances the woozy, sickening feelings of dread, discomfort and unease that underscore the plot. Though viewers often associate orange with warm, natural light – indeed, most production teams want it to read as sunlight – the ocherous hues here are uncompromisingly artificial. This culminates in a series that oozes contemporary style and has a faint feeling of hyperreality. SCREENS ON SCREEN Aside from the traditional lighting solutions to mimic screen light, like gels and LEDs, the production also made use of the real thing. This ranged from
phones providing an extra fill, to relying heavily on computer monitors lighting the actors. The most notable example is when we enter Ethan’s room (Camaron Engels). Dean paints the picture: “Ethan’s room is an island carved out in this space, lit virtually entirely from the huge screens that dominate his space, serving as a portal to an online community with questionable motivations.” In many ways, it is typical for a young man’s bedroom to be lit solely with his devices. Within the context of the story, the blue light spilling onto Ethan’s face in the close-ups highlights his isolation – contributing to Clickbait ’s distinctive look and feel. There’s also a heavy nod to film noir visuals in episode two ( The Detective ), when Ethan is sat on his bed and lit from beyond a window. This casts a shadow of Venetian blinds on his face, in an unmistakable reference to classic mysteries that audiences are no doubt familiar with. Pia’s house and Ethan’s room are just two examples of the use of these unconventional light sources. The glow of phones and tablets is abundant throughout the series. This posed a unique challenge for production. As Wareham explains, controlling the screen light through the device’s software would cause unwanted flashing, which they felt would interrupt the viewers’ absorption in the series. “When you dim phones, they can flicker, so we made up neutral density gels to fit over the phone.”
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE The narrative switches between viewpoints to curate a smoke and mirrors noir
This allowed the team to have greater control over the lighting coming from the screens, reducing the intensity, without causing any flicker. However, these surfaces were all green screens. This was done so that the team reserved the ability to tweak the narrative in post-production. They could choose what text or web pages would be visible, without having to create graphic overlays that may have lacked realism. Aware that actors interacting with green screens can also seem inauthentic, the team devised a solution. “They made up this programme where it said ‘swipe here’ or ‘swipe there’, so the actors knew exactly where to touch,” says Wareham. “You might think ‘of course they did that’, but that’s not always the case.” Though the use of green light is purposefully present throughout the series, Wareham states that they were careful not to capture any extraneous
CLICKBAIT PRODUC T I ON .
more immediate and impactful visual design. There is, again, plenty of air at the top of the frame to allow the post- production team to project the screens in a way that he compares to Minority Report . This method is more effective in communicating the inescapable and suffocating experience for our protagonist to the audience. The team that executed these graphics had previously worked on BBC’s Sherlock . Wareham remarks that he felt that had been the first show to represent text messaging on screen successfully. He also explains that it took a long time in post to get it right – they understood the importance of well-made graphics to the overall effect of the show. The team behind Clickbait chose to embrace technology with open arms, including the parts that can often be a sure-fire way to instantly dissipate a viewer’s immersion in the story, when improperly used. Screens, social media and text chat have already become integrated into our personal narratives. However, their use in entertainment is often still clumsy or poorly planned. This production took the best examples from the past and used unique solutions to provide an authentic, but stylised and heightened experience – exploring the dark side of the modern world. The series provides the new standard for urban noir aesthetics, enhancing the thrilling, roller-coaster ride it presents. Watch Clickbait now on Netflix
glare from the green screen on the actors’ hands, which would ruin the illusion. EXPERIENCING TECHNOLOGY Crime programmes and cop shows often employ the use of handheld light sources, such as torches, and Clickbait is no exception. There is, however, a scene that uses devices to turn this convention on its head, somewhat. As stated, the looming presence of the anonymous internet masses feature heavily throughout the narrative. During the hunt for Nick, Pia and Detective Amiri (Phoenix Raei) find themselves surrounded. A gang of vigilantes crowd them, all holding up the torches from their phone cameras. This is, in part, purely practical – of course, any civilian searching in the dark would have their phone handy – but also clearly serves a narrative purpose. The light is oppressive and jarring to Pia and Amiri, like the proverbial spotlight shone on them due to the hysteria about the case. But it also casts shadow on the individuals around them. This is the perfect personification of an online collective – silhouettes shrouded in mystery and free from personal accountability. Clickbait crafts an ultra-modern narrative that’s inextricably linked to the use of instant messaging, online video streaming and screens as a whole. This meant that the team had to tackle something that’s proved quite challenging
for filmmakers for the past few decades: representing online messages to the show’s audience. Portraying the internet and texting on screen is integral to the progression of the story, but Wareham made sure they weren’t artistically compromised within the series. “We didn’t want it to look too formal... I love that style, but we preferred it to feel like it had a little bit of edge, like an indie film.” It’s clear that the on-screen graphics were not an afterthought, but were carefully planned by Dean, Wareham and the team. In episode one, for example, we see a low-angle shot of Pia, positioned at the bottom of the screen. This leaves room for the troll comments to pop up all around her – trapping her and preventing any escape. “We had mock-ups, meaning we knew that if the shot was written to be text-on-screen, we would always give it air.” Later in the episode, Pia enters her workplace and sees that the whole room seems to be watching the hostage video. For this, Wareham explains, they didn’t want to do a plethora of shots of people looking at screens, so they opted for a
REAL LIFE Clickbait explores the dangers of social media – and the chasm that can exist between in-person and online encounters
“Screens, social media and text chat have become integrated into our personal narratives. However, their use in entertainment is often clumsy”
23. NOVEMBER 2021
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FULL THROTTLE MEDIA Filmmaker and petrolhead Adam Duckworth discovers that the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch allows him to kick his workflow up a gear
ALL-ACTION Many shoots in the field aren’t optimal for kit, to say the least. But the sturdy Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch is ready to face any challenge head on
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YOU’RE FACING A long day of shooting massive files, miles from the technological world; athletes are soaring, dirt is flying, and you can’t afford to miss a second of it – what do you do? You reach for the best equipment available. That was Adam Duckworth’s experience during a recent commercial project for a leading off-road motorcycle manufacturer. “My production crew, MotoHead Media, and I went to showcase the brand’s off- road team and a new bike. That included covering interviews and preparation, the ride itself, then a wrap-up afterwards. “I knew powerful portable SSDs were needed for a few reasons,” continues Duckworth. “We had to produce a social media edit the same day, with a specific file- sharing method – while using new cameras.” Of course, any filmmaker knows the implications of fresh kit... “We cranked things up to 11, going for the highest bit rates and most data-rich codecs. Some footage was 240p Full HD, some was 4K 120p. We were using 4:2:2 10-bit the whole time – so, files were huge. We ended the day with almost 1TB of data.” This amount of footage is problematic at the best of times, but MotoHead’s shared workflow raised an even bigger issue. “We empty our cards onto a single portable SSD, then share those files among other drives so everyone leaves with a complete set of footage, all titled and organised in a uniform fashion. The first time we used SSDs, it still took a few hours. With the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch, we were done in around 20 minutes.” Thanks to USB 3.2 Gen 2 and PCIe NVMe technology, the Samsung is almost 10x faster than comparable external HDDs. Sequential read and write speeds of up to 1050MB/s and 1000 MB/s make handling huge files a breeze. Exceptional speed doesn’t just work wonders for file transfers – it opens up a whole world of potential. “The motorcycle brand couldn’t be beaten to the punch by anyone at the track on social media,” Duckworth explains, “so
ON THE FLY With Samsung’s Portable SSD, speed means versatility. You can store data, transfer files and edit in the field
we edited a 30-second teaser video right there on location. “I chose to use the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch as a scratch disk and, even with those demanding files and professional editing software, it worked a treat.” While Duckworth was exceptionally impressed by the portable drive’s speed, the Samsung is no one-trick pony. “The 2m shock resistance is essential on shoots like this – and when driving to location. Because it’s so small, it tucks in the pocket of a bag; suddenly, it’s even safer. “Shared usability also blew me away. Its USB-C interface worked with my laptop, then I used the USB-A connection at home on another machine. It was instantly compatible with everything we hooked it to, which has been a real issue with other drives.” Duckworth didn’t have to look hard to see the value in the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch’s innovative fingerprint security pad, with an informative LED surround. It’s based on secure AES 256-bit encryption and offers a typical password input option.
“We cranked things up to 11, going for the highest bit rates and most data-rich codecs”
“We’ve sent drives back and forth via courier in the past; doing that even more securely would be reassuring. I also work on highly confidential jobs. Protecting those
files at the time is crucial,” he says. It’s no surprise that a tech-savvy
filmmaker like Duckworth has used SSD for some time – but Samsung went above and beyond, even by his high standards. “For reasons of speed, reliability and more, professionals can’t justifiably use external hard drives any more. Having worked with many SSDs, I can confidently say that the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch is among the very best of today’s consumer options.”
25. NOVEMBER 2021
ADVERT I SEMENT FE ATURE . NVIDIA AND SCAN COMPUTERS
Escaping the YouTube rat-race Lewis McGregor was producing a series for YouTube until the project faltered, lacking support. This is what happened next…
of Death, had a 20-strong crew). We had backing from an Indiegogo campaign, but continuing after the initial £20,000 ran out was untenable. People who were signed up had to get on with their lives and became unavailable. Production was something that I tried to achieve on my own, using personal savings. “I remember the moment when I realised it was spinning out of control. It was a narrative scene. I was trying to pull focus with my left hand, holding the tripod with my right, pulling the dolly with my right leg, while panning the tripod head with my chin.” MANAGING EXPECTATIONS While for content creators, YouTube is an unstoppable force, it does ask a lot
BEING A VIDEO YouTube content creator can be a merry-go-round of pressure points. You have to produce regularly, on-trend content is essential, you need to be seen with the latest gear and your advice should be authoritative. But there is an alternative, as Lewis McGregor discovered. He has become a solo-narrative filmmaker. If this term isn’t one you’ve heard before, then it basically means you produce films that you can achieve on your own. But this doesn’t have to be as restrictive as it sounds – at least that’s McGregor’s experience. But what pre-empted his move from multifaceted filmmaker to going solo? “I had two web series that crashed and burned. (One, called Grim: A Tale
of its producers. By his own admission, McGregor fell into the trap of believing projects he liked on the platform were relatively simple to achieve. “It’s easy to be influenced and try to execute something similar. The truth is, even the smallest of projects and commercials usually have entire teams behind them.” His answer was to press pause on his ambition to produce multi-layered, plot- driven films. They would now be under five minutes long, and produced with the help of his experience, a few friends, and the gear he had already collected. His route to solo-narrative filmmaking would also include becoming a landscape videographer. Having the beautiful heritage coast of the Vale of Glamorgan just down the road helped.
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McGregor has bought a Canon EOS C300 Mark III, and he records audio directly into the camera. Previously, he had to attach his mixer onto his camera cage, then the microphone position would be somewhere near the action. “For example, in The One with the Ferris Wheel (youtube.com/ watch?v=dyTAwu4CGjw), the actor’s microphone was attached on a stand to the gearshift. There’s that element where, if they were moving, I would have to be quite close to get that level of audio. Whereas, if I’m far back with a 50mm or something, it’s not possible to get such quality audio, which is expected from narrative pieces. “With that, the focal range lingers around the 20mm area, so I can get in nice and close with the camera for the image to still appear quite wide. But it means I can get the microphone in close, too. I recently picked up the Sigma 14mm and it has become my new favourite lens. On the C300, I think that equates to 21mm. It lets me move quite close to the face of the actor. However, because it’s an ultra-wide angle, it appears as a mid shot. It allows me to get close, but I can get nice audio because I’m in close with the camera, too.” BE SMART WITH YOUR GEAR BUYS When working as a solo filmmaker, it’s not as if you are going to have substantial monitors to go back and forth with. You’re primarily using a three- to five-inch camera screen to monitor, where issues will not always be apparent. McGregor did miss seeing
“I often think it may be too much of a stretch to have a fully completed short with typical narrative structure. To a degree, sometimes I just like capturing moments, ones that work by themselves, or possibly better when in a larger project. It’s landscape photography, but with motion. So, just capturing really organic and beautiful landscape imagery; it’s like people browsing landscape pictures through a Flickr archive, but they’re watching them move.” WHAT A SOLO FILMMAKER CANNOT DO When you go solo, you understand certain shots can’t be done, such as moving the camera too much. You won’t have the advantage of many lights or lots of actors, and will have to use what is available as part of the set. In McGregor’s case, that includes local landscapes. He sees his new life as a management of expectations. “I guess I can’t attempt anything elaborate, something that involves plenty of camera movement. Specifically, when there are actors and talent moving around. When I create short films, I try to have the camera in a very stationary state. So, flipping the camera position and lighting isn’t then a giant task for me.” You also have to control audio, as you are recording and mixing as well. If recording separately, you then have to adapt your shooting style to a more close-up approach. “I do own my audio kit – from the field mixer, to the microphone and boom pole. If there is something complex, I might be able to wrangle a friend to just do that for me.”
“Having the new Nvidia laptop has completely changed the way I work”
himself appearing by mistake in the background of a film, so decided to invest in a laptop – an Nvidia Studio Machine, which has a 4K screen. “Having the new Nvidia laptop has completely changed the way I work. Now, I have a kind of video village in the back of the car. Everything is transferred really quickly. I can check everything there and then, put together a small little rush edit, spot if there are any compositional errors, or just kind of get a general feel of what I’ve shot. “The efficiency of the Nvidia GPU, in terms of how it processes media, is unparalleled for a laptop. It also allows me to apply minimal colour grades, maybe some motion graphics – stuff that would usually clog up the GPU, on a PC at least. The laptop can handle it.” McGregor’s advice for would-be solo filmmakers is to concentrate on narrative devices, rather than character development. “I find with short films – the kind that linger under three to five minutes – there’s not a lot of time for character development. Sometimes it’s down to a jump scare, a clever twist, or nifty camerawork to be memorable. “Always look at the comments on your YouTube videos to see if narrative devices are working, if the plot twists are effective. YouTube has given me more breaks than the typical route of taking it through festivals. I tend to get more opportunities thrown my way through uploading a short to YouTube. “Whereas obviously, with a lot of festivals, they want you to have it offline until it’s done the entire circuit. So, I try not to go that way. The online exposure tends to work better for me.” Lewis McGregor’s films and tutorials are at UglyMcGregor on YouTube
SOLO OPERATOR When you are doing the lighting, audio, camera movements, focus pulling and everything else yourself, your goals have to be realistic – and equipment that won’t let you down is an absolute must
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