LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN CAMERA MOTION P50
February 2019 £4.99
DIGITAL AND THE QUEENS The Elizabeth and Mary tale BEYOND POKEMON GO The AR roadmap is unveiled DOLL FACE MARWEN MOCAP Leaving the uncanny valley BASICS OF LIDAR CAPTURE CVP’S NEWMEGASTORE ITV’S BANCROFT SERIES 2 THE PANTHER S-TYPE DOLLY
EDITORIAL Editor Julian Mitchell 01223 492246 firstname.lastname@example.org Editor in chief Adam Duckworth Features writer Chelsea Fearnley Contributor Phil Rhodes Chief sub editor Beth Fletcher Senior sub editor Siobhan Godwood Sub editor Felicity Evans Junior sub editor Elisha Young ADVERTISING Sales director Matt Snow 01223 499453 email@example.com Sales manager Krishan Parmar 01223 499462 firstname.lastname@example.org Key accounts Nicki Mills 01223 499457 email@example.com DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designer Lucy Woolcomb Senior designer & production manager Flo Thomas Ad production Man-Wai Wong PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook @definitionmagazine Twitter @definitionmags Instagram @definitionmags MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD, BRIGHT HOUSE, 82 HIGH STREET, SAWSTON, CAMBRIDGESHIRE CB22 3HJ UK
A lthough we loved the way Robert Zemeckis pushed the technology of motion capture (mocap) in films like The Polar Express and Beowulf , we had to excuse him for the the vacant and sickly faces of those who had been captured. Behind the great narrative of the films, we found the CGI characters unnerving and deserving inhabitants of what has become known as the ‘uncanny valley’. The subconscious human reaction is to see these computer-generated creatures as disconcerting and, naturally, avoid them. We don’t relate to them in quite the normal way. This means what VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie and his team have achieved in Welcome to Marwen is quite significant and sets the precedent for the future mocap of human faces. Producers of sci-fi, fantasy movies and (potentially) TV drama now have a choice when creating a digital human – Method Studios has already done the groundwork. Welcome to Marwen ’s DOP C. KimMiles and Kevin are now firm friends, managing to meet somewhere in the middle of traditional cinematography language and Unreal Engine code.
JULIAN MITCHELL EDITOR
Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.
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CONTENTS SET- UP TITLE SEQUENCE 3D capture is back with the new cyborg movie Alita: Battle Angel . RETAIL THERAPY While others rush to an online model, super reseller CVP wants to meet its customers. BAFTA BIG-UP 06 08 12 We talk with DOP John Mathieson, who was aching to make a ‘big’ vista out of a theatrical narrative. LEAVING THE VALLEY The movie Welcome to Marwen has released motion-captured faces from the scourge of the ‘uncanny valley’. BANCROFT SERIES 2 Another slightly damaged detective pursues perpetrators in mostly dark environments. FEATURES WHAT’S NEW IN CAMERA MOVEMENT AND LIGHTING We catch up with what’s happening in these important sectors of the market. SPACE RACE 5 New ways of capture including AR and LIDAR scanning. 58 22 14 34 40 We present a Definition preview of the runners and riders in the 2019 awards. SHOOT STORY MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
GEAR TESTS PANTHER S-TYPE DOLLY We feature the new Dolly from Panther, the S-Type, in an
exploded view review. CAMERA LISTING
Our unique reference guide to all professional video cameras from 4K capture and above.
POSE FOR A SHOT Producers Jon Landau and James Cameron with the director, Robert Rodriquez, pose for the classic ‘look yonder at something interesting’ shot on the set of the new 3D Alita: Battle Angel movie. In the background is something you don’t often see on sets these days, which is a 3D camera rig. Being a James Cameron-produced movie, we’re thinking that the cameras are Sony-based and perhaps Sony Venice. This Frankenstein- esque story involves a female cyborg who is found in a rubbish dump and given life by a benevolent scientist. Who said Theresa May?
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SET- UP | PRO V I DEO RETA I L
THERAPY FOR RETAIL CVP – one of the biggest resellers in the UK –has pushed against the tide of failing high street retail stores by opening its own five-storey shopping experience in central London INTERVIEW
I f you ask equipment buyers what their thoughts about CVP are, you would probably hear about the hugely successful and lively website with hundreds of different product lines vying for your attention. Why then would CVP invest such large amounts of time and money in a bricks and mortar site when retail trends are against the high street? Jon Fry, sales director of CVP, explains: “The concept behind the Newman Street facility is to provide visitors with an engaging, personalised experience in an environment designed to connect creative vision and technology. This permanent display of equipment is a playground where people can come to see, handle and test every single bit of kit required to bring their project to life,” WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES CVP
FITZROVIA The show room is in Newman Street, W1. The Fitzrovia townhouse offers five floors of production equipment from leading manufacturers, including ARRI, RED, Sony, Canon, Zeiss, Panasonic, Blackmagic and more, presenting an experience that enables visitors to identify a technical solution that will deliver on their creative vision. “From an HDMI cable to large format cameras and everything else in between, this creative space gives everyone in the industry a place to learn new skills and get their hands on all the latest kit,” says Fry. The launch of another space in Fitzrovia was a catalyst for Newman Street. “Last year, we opened a customised site for ARRI where pros could get hands-on with the range in a soft selling environment,” Fry adds.
ABOVE The Fitzrovia Townhouse offers five floors of production equipment.
The Charlotte Street site is also a meeting place for professionals who need a West End base. It was this low-key approach to showing products that appealed to Fry. “We also wanted to ‘show-off’ our exceptionally knowledgeable team members who are on hand at the new premises to advise visitors about the features, functions and compatibility of the equipment for their unique requirements,” says Fry. CVP also wants to expands people’s perception of what it does. “We’re not a stack them high, sell them cheap company. We are now a main service centre for Red cameras and are taking on more service contracts from other high-end manufacturers.”
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SET- UP | PRO V I DEO RETA I L
THE FLOORS The sales team occupies the basement of Newman Street, another way of turning the sales approach on its head. “If you want all the sales messaging, just go to our website and see all the ads there,” says Fry. The CVP Creative Experience on Newman Street currently houses: • A dedicated Canon floor with a selection of the main Canon pro and consumer cameras, plus third-party manufacturer accessories and a separate room with Canon DP monitors. • A floor exclusive to Sony with a selection of the main Sony pro and consumer cameras, along with third- party manufacturer accessories. • Europe’s largest display of Zeiss lenses; visitors may bring their own cameras to test them with, or choose from the selection available in the showroom. • A Blackmagic suite with a DaVinci Resolve editing space and other BMD products such as switchers, converters, recorders, adapters and more. • Cameras from ARRI, RED, Panasonic and Blackmagic. • Lenses from Angénieux, Leica, Canon, Sigma, Sony, Kowa and more. • Gimbals and accessories from partners, such as DJI, Freefly, eMotimo, 1A Tools and CineMilled. • Camera accessories fromWooden Camera, Vocas, Zacuto, SmallRig,
We wanted to ‘show off’ our knowledgeable team, on hand at the new premises to advise visitors
In addition, visitors can use the Camera Testing Area to rig and test their newly purchased kit, or any custom solution they may have built with the showroom’s equipment, to ensure they are happy with the whole package before investing in it. MOTION ROOM There is also a very popular Motion Room filled with a variety of gimbals to explore the most suitable for specific needs, as well as a Monitor Wall with the best 5in and 7in monitors the industry currently offers, all displayed side by side and synced via a video router to enable like- for-like comparison. Visitors can plug-in any camera or video feed and the same image will be displayed across all 20 monitors at exactly the same time. This is a really great way to test a variety of monitors to really see which best fits your needs. The Creative Experience is also designed to be used as an event space, ideal for product and skill set training by manufacturers and industry professionals, as well as networking, seminars and screenings. There are already a number of events taking place at the facility. For more information about these events, visit: cvp.com/events.
Miller, Sachtler, Ronford Baker, OConnor, Manfrotto, Anton Bauer, Hawk-Woods and more.
ABOVE LEFT CVP’s Jon Fry is taking a low-key approach to selling with the new Newman Street store in London.
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SET- UP | BAFTA NOMI NAT IONS
BAFTA & DEFINITION NOMINATIONS The 2019 BAFTA Awards are approaching and many of the films up for a gong have been covered in this very magazine. Coincidence? We think not... AWARDS
A s we get ready for the annual covered on the pages of the magazine and online that are up for multiple nominations. backslapping that is the EE British Academy Film Awards, we’ve rounded up a list of the movies
nominated for Best Cinematography, but we have also highlighted other craft awards, including Best Special Visual Effects and Best Director. It should be a great night on Sunday 10 February. If you’re not going, catch the winners on BBC One.
We like to think we may have had some influence on the voting as Definition is read by members of the film community that makes up BAFTA – you never know. Our coverage over the past 12 months included interviews with three of the DOPs
Mary Queen of Scots Best Costume Design / Best Make Up & Hair ( Definition February 2019)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald
The Favourite Best Film / Outstanding British Film / Best Director / Best Original Screenplay / Best Cinematography / Best Editing / Best Production Design / Best Make Up & Hair ( Definition January 2019)
Bohemian Rhapsody Outstanding British Film / Best Cinematography / Best Editing / Best Costume Design / Best Make Up & Hair / Best Sound ( Definition November 2018)
Best Production Design / Best Special Visual Effects ( Definition December 2018)
BlacKkKlansman Best Film / Best Director / Best Adapted Screenplay / Best Original Music ( Definition September 2018)
Cold War Best Film Not in The English Language / Best Director / Best Original Screenplay / Best Cinematography ( Definition November 2018)
Free Solo Best Documentary ( Definition October 2018)
Avengers: Infinity War Best Special Visual Effects ( Definition June 2018)
You Were Never Really Here Outstanding British Film ( Definition June 2018)
Isle of Dogs Best Animated Film / Best Original Music ( Definition April 2018)
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SHOOT STORY | MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
CLASH OF QUEENS DOP John Mathieson explains the digital route of this traditional royal period drama with two impressive female leads
WORDS JULIAN MITCHELL / PICTURES PARAMOUNT
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MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS | SHOOT STORY
W e interviewed DOP John film and Mary Queen of Scots both come under the banner of ‘period’, they couldn’t be more different. Where The Favourite uses film, unusual angles and lenses and is quite ‘rock’n’roll’ – John’s term – Mary Queen of Scots remains a more traditional piece. John did think it could have ‘rocked’ a bit more. “I wish it was a bigger movie, it needed to be bigger I felt. It’s the trick of British low- budget films that you rely on talent to throw you so far. “I got a sense of Scotland but just never got a sense of England or how wealthy or different it was; why didn’t Elizabeth have more to draw on than Mary? Elizabeth’s future was pretty uncertain, there were all sorts of people trying to do her in, she was surrounded by hostile countries, it was a very uncomfortable time for her. I wish we’d had more resources to get a sense of the countries; it’s very play-like. The queens never actually met, so that scene was fabricated in the movie. Scotland at the time was a real threat to England, you had the Church of Scotland rising at that time.” A BIT OF KEN RUSSELL? “I could have been a lot more radical with the lighting or the sets,” Mathieson continues. “If you’re going to go modern with those Elizabethan faces and costumes, I could have recalled The Devils : Derek Jarman art directed it, he was one of the people who got me going. Even now it looks really good; you take something and turn it on its head. Maybe we should have done that more. “I did come on to the film late, I took over from Seamus McGarvey. So I kind of fell into it a bit and kind of did my thing. I suppose I did traditional things really and of course there’s nothing wrong with that but I didn’t really have time to go through all the options. “Shooting on film was talked about before I joined and it would look better on film, undoubtedly, but we didn’t have the time or the budget to do it. Ironically I’ve just shot a film on film, and the budget for the stock went down because you shoot less and you shoot less hours; and less hours mean less overtime. Film is more expensive per frame but if your shooting ratio goes down to about an hour a day, even with multi-cameras it generally costs less. With digital I find people shot about two hours or two and a half hours so that means that during that extra hour or hour and a half you can’t lay track, dress the set, fluff Mathieson around the time that the movie The Favourite was released and even though that
BELOW DOP John Mathieson with crew members on set.
Shooting on film was talked about but we didn’t have the time or the budget to do it
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HOW TO MAKE A ‘BIG’ FILM
things up because the camera’s running. I found runners outside the studios with cold Starbucks because they couldn’t get in and had been waiting for half an hour for the digital camera to stop. If you’ve got ten great takes there’s no point in shooting 30; the candles will burn down, the Irish Wolfhound that was sleeping by the fire will walk off. “You then have to add that hour to the end of the day which means the editors have to do more work and add crew overtime and that’s your film cost difference gone. So the argument that film is more expensive is absolute nonsense; digital is much more expensive.” PANAVISION DXL Mathieson went with the Panavision DXL large format camera. “It has a large format sensor which was nice. It was great to use this camera with the vintage 65 Sphero lenses, they had a very good feeling and fell off the focus nicely, the backgrounds bloomed with all those candles and mushy background scenes. “You needed a feel of the time, especially in Scotland where you have a lot of castles with wet dripping walls and skinny little ladies in waiting who are trying to keep away from the walls and as near to the fire as possible. You then have the opulence of Elizabethan England, these big Gothic rooms we found up and down the country in places like Oxford. Even though there is a scene with both queens in, much of the shooting was of them separately. “We initially shot Margot as she was off to do something else and then started again with Saoirse; they were very much on their own, very independent women and instinctive actresses. They know exactly what they want to do and I was sure to give them as much rehearsal time as possible as unless you’re happy with the rhythm of it there’s no point in shooting. You then have to give them the space to shoot it right. Stagecraft wise I think Margot is precise and is very exacting which is
John Mathieson talks about how other directors build a ‘big’ movie. “With other directors like Ridley Scott you know where you are. You look at films like Blade Runner ; it wasn’t Stanley Kubrick’s squeaky clean world, the world’s going to hell, the environment is screwed, it’s going to be raining and all the rich people are up in the shiny buildings and all the poor people are down in the street. “ Gladiator was the same: it wasn’t historically accurate but you did feel like you were in Rome, you felt how that society worked. He was good at putting you in the right place and giving you enough big shots, not necessarily wide shots, more fixed shots, very layered shots. For the thing about cinema is that you want to be in the world, you don’t want to notice the photography. Roma for instance is a great example:
nothing happens. A husband leaves a wife, the maid becomes pregnant and loses the baby, but you want to be in Mexico City by the end of it. “When you don’t really notice the framing or photography any more as you are in the film, that was my thing with Mary Queen of Scots , I felt that we didn’t quite feel the world around us, to feel the power of England, to feel the uncertainties, to see the power of the church and how militaristic they were. Rome controlled everything and to break from Rome was a big deal. “You want to feel the agricultural richness of England with billowing fields of wheat, hay wains and overweight cattle with Scotland so barren and cold. It’s not a big film for me, not a big-looking film, I wish it had been. But to be fair it was never really written as such.”
You have the opulence of Elizabethan England, these big Gothic rooms
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We didn’t have many sets so it was so great when we were outside as we could move around
great for us. Saoirse is a bit more loose but I wouldn’t say that her stagecraft is not good, I’m just saying that Margot is more precise. “She would be asking me questions about where she should be moving when the camera was moving, those kind of questions. Saoirse not so much. It’s incredibly emotional some of it, especially for both of their characters who are incredibly tied up in knots by their respective men-folk. Elizabeth becomes more and more isolated and non-feminine but she came out on top after all that had happened to her, including Mary’s threat.” MOVING THE CAMERA In the movie there are various scenes in the court where the royal procedures of the day meant couriers are sitting and standing while the Queen does the same; this hindered John’s original idea of moving the camera. “If you address the Queen you stand, this was very symmetrical and rigorous. We didn’t have many sets so it was so great when we were outside as we could move around. I would have loved to shoot the streets of London or when she goes to Westminster Cathedral to pray or something, with all that entails. But to get that sense of scale and all those extras wasn’t within our budget and also that would’ve introduced more movement. I’m not saying you should rush around everywhere or start doing handheld for instance but I like movement, I like it when people ‘move through’. A big wide shot
collects everyone, collects the feeling of a place, Spielberg and Ridley Scott do that very well. We did move when we wanted to but again you are cutting between the two stories of the two letters the women are writing to each other. So you don’t have an in and an out in a scene, you’re crashing into it, you hear a voiceover and there you are. “We did overshoot so some things you will lose like your big crane shots, your developing shots and your wide shots; the film overruns and if those scenes are not script relevant and not really doing anything they tend to end up on the floor. That’s a shame so I often try and get people talking in a wide shot with any close-up coverage so they have to use it; as a DOP you learn how to manipulate the shots in this way by getting them talking beforehand or something else that is significant. “So you try and create the environment, the courts, the palaces. Yes we have some interiors and big places, but I would have liked to have gone through doors into other chambers that led to more chambers and really opened it up – that means you can move. We had a lot more successful movement with Margot than with Saoirse but that was just the way that fell.”
30 The number of hair and make-up artists on the film 1 Number of feature films Director Josie Rourke has directed
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SHOOT STORY | MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
frequent collaborator, Mathieson. “He used more low lighting, especially for interiors, to help create a realistic feel, and the smoke just helps in the same way. It can be a bit tricky in the grade to maintain consistency with the smoke and atmosphere but all that really helps evoke the mood of the times.” The film was shot in some beautiful exteriors and inside large, stately homes in Scotland and in England and Ensby worked with the filmmakers to fine-tune subtle differences between the feel of these two countries. “England was more opulent and warmer,” he explains, “while Scotland was a bit colder. This is reflected in the colour palette of the sets and costumes and we Ensby worked with the filmmakers to fine- tune subtle differences between the feel of the two countries
the beam stand out but we’re not trying to make the room too smoky. “You then have the fire light, a lot of old style space lights in the ceiling. These are not the modern LED style, but with a little bit of blue on to make the castle seem slightly damp, green and wet. Also Maxi lights which are old rock ’n’ roll lights which were aircraft landing lights from the second world war. The lighting was very traditional, nothing too outrageous but then again it’s a period film so didn’t really need the modern ‘fancy’ LED lights. But also I find them quite abrupt and hard on faces even though some of them were soft. The light is very specular and travels in very straight lines and you’re forever softening it. I find tungsten just wraps around people more and it’s softer and kinder; we had some very good looking girls and boys in this film and so it was nice The filmmakers of Focus Features’ Mary Queen of Scots strove to bring a fresh kind of look to the period drama. Its story, the bloody rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, has been filmed before but director Josie Rourke and cinematographer John Mathieson BSC set out to steer it away from a more staid approach associated with old-school television and to be more contemporary and cinematic. Colourist Paul Ensby of Company 3, London describes Mathieson’s use of wider lenses and longer takes than audiences might expect and a significant amount of atmosphere, captured in-camera with smoke on set, that he feels help give this telling of the historical drama a unique feel. “John doesn’t particularly like what you think of as a ‘clean’ image,” says Ensby of to make them look great.” DIGITAL FINISHING
RIGHT Director Jose Rourke with Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I and Joe Alwyn as Robert Dudley.
LOCATIONS John was happy with the number of lights he had but thought some bigger locations would have helped. “DOPs are always going to say that but these two women made countries go to war over them, so how big do you want to go? David Lean? Yes, Please! But the film didn’t have that lilt on it, it wasn’t that way. But we did blast those small castle windows like hell. Shooting digitally, you have to always be aware of where the sun is, you don’t want any clipping so you have to build out from the ‘burn out’ really. So I did let the windows burn but I didn’t want to use green screen outside because of the risk of fizzy, out-of-focus burnt-out green screen in the background. A lot of the windows were very small and narrow and you get people with hair walking in front of them; this camera was also such a large format that the focus was quite narrow so the background goes out of focus quite quickly. Also a lot of these windows have the leaded diamond cut panes, so when that goes out of focus the keys fizz like hell. “Luckily I had great scenic painters and I think it’s amazing what they do, they were painting Scottish landscapes and Caledonian forests. Using those meant I didn’t have to worry about keying the green screen, I could let exteriors burn. It also saves a ton of money on CG. You make sure you have heavy skies on these backgrounds, then I can control how much light comes through by lighting the background and piercing into the rooms with Molebeams, which are very much old-style movie search lights. So you get a strong shaft of light, you put a bit of smoke in which of course makes
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MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS | SHOOT STORY
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS IS ON RELEASE IN THE UK FROM 18 JANUARY. try to just impose a style. You may have 1000 buttons in front of you that can affect the image but if you can make it work as intended with five of them, that’s an approach John and I enjoy.” Ensby is not averse to using his Resolve toolset to build elaborate looks but as a rule, he generally likes to start out with the most straightforward approach of using the “printer light” function, especially when working with a cinematographer with Mathieson’s aesthetic. Ensby suggests his years in the lab as a photochemical timer inform these instincts. “I don’t use lift, gamma and gain tools extensively,” he says, “and certainly not at first. I want to keep true to what was in the camera for a first pass so the cinematographer doesn’t lose the ‘plot’ of what he’s shot. If it came out of a camera, I want to k now what was in the camera and what was the intention before we start to work with all the bells and whistles that are available. “I teach people starting out to simplify the work. They might spend ten minutes working on an image first thing. It’s easy to lose your way. Your eye is constantly adjusting to what’s on the screen. It’s daft to
just gave it a bit more of a push in post. Mary is exiled in Scotland and the viewer is meant to feel that Elizabeth’s England is a nicer, more hospitable, place and her cousin inhabits a world that’s colder and darker.” Costumes were obviously a very important aspect of the look and very slight changes in lighting could have a significant effect on a garment’s appearance. Director Rourke was very specific about costumes, which would sometimes look quite different on screen than they did on the set. So they did a costume pass, in which Ensby would pull keys to isolate areas and very subtly tweak them. “Depending on the kind of light on it,” Ensby says, “it looks massively different. John sourced the material and brought it into the colour grading theatre so we had it right there in front of us.” Ensby has a strong appreciation for Mathieson’s aesthetic and the two share a fondness for the look of celluloid, even though much of their work has been entirely digital. Mary was shot on Panavision’s new DXL digital camera and Ensby and Mathieson created a film emulation LUT to infuse the images with filmic attributes. He used the LUT as a starting point in the final grade and also added some digital grain via DaVinci Resolve’s Open FX toolset. “It’s very subtle,” he says of the grain he layered in, “but it’s there.”
BELOW Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots and Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley.
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SHOOT STORY | WELCOME TO MARWEN
LEAVING THE VALLEY The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol paved the way for director Robert Zemeckis’ latest feature, in which life-like dolls bring the story to life
WORDS JULIAN M ITCHELL / PICTURES UN IVERSAL PICTURES
R obert Zemeckis’ track record speaks for itself: a whole host of films in which he has pushed technology to the limits. It’s safe to say he has become the doyen of movie motion capture with films such as The Polar Express , A Christmas Carol and Beowulf . And don’t forget classic and more culturally significant films like the Back to the Future series, Forrest Gump , Contact and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – all VFX-heavy movies, but not totally reliant on motion capture (mocap). Mocap has taken us close to ‘re-skinning’ someone’s movements, applying the expression and personality of one person to someone or something else. But there’s a fly in the ointment – recreating the human face, something Robert was determined to nail for his new film Welcome To Marwen . The vacant, expressionless look on some motion-captured faces even has its own moniker: ‘uncanny valley’. MY HERO Into this world of revolutionary motion capture came DOP C. Kim Miles, whose
IMDB entry is littered with episodics but not so many features. Luckily for Kim, Robert Zemeckis’ children were avid watchers of one of those episodics, The Flash , and Robert soon arranged a meeting to talk about a possible feature film. “I was doing The Flash in 2017 when my agent called and said that Robert Zemeckis’ office had called and wondered if I was available and interested in doing a movie. Bob’s been a hero of mine my whole career, I’ve looked up to his work and his shot design, and had always tried to create shots that told stories like his. “My agent encouraged me not to count on anything and that he would call back if he hadn’t heard anything more. About 90 minutes later he calls me back and says, ‘They want you to look at a script tonight and also take a phone call tonight’. As I was on-set, we arranged a phone call for the following morning when Steve Starkey, Bob’s longtime producer, called and basically pitched me the movie. “I don’t think there was anything he could have pitched me that would have
IMAGES Robert Zemeckis pushes technological boundaries, breathing life into his inanimate creations.
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WELCOME TO MARWEN | SHOOT STORY
What if we do it the other way around? What if we make digital dolls and glue the actors faces on those? So, how do you do that...?
resulted in me saying ‘no’ – so I said ‘yes’, and Steve told me that Bob was anxious to meet me and show me some camera tests that had been done. I flew down to have lunch with Bob and talk about the movie. “Before Steve left the conversation, I did ask how Bob found me and chose me for the movie. He said that Bob’s kids watched The Flash and he had noticed my work. From that he chased me down to see what I was up to.” For Kim, this whole episode was a re-affirmation that the Hollywood dream is alive and well – all you have to do is keep working at it and someone will notice. “I nearly quit The Flash after the second season, but my agent advised me to keep going; ironically it was during the third season that Bob noticed my work.” TOWARDS THE VALLEY Kim was told upfront that the movie would
road with films like The Polar Express and Beowulf , when he just about invented the art. What they had found was that there was a certain amount of the audience that had an emotional disconnect from the characters because they were fully computer generated, and the subtleties of human emotions created by the many muscles around your mouth and eyes are almost impossible to recreate. Bob wanted to avoid going down the uncanny valley yet again. “Then someone said, ‘what if we do it the other way around? What if we make digital dolls and glue the actors faces on to those?’. So, how do you do that? Do you do motion capture and then facial arrays,
use a large element of motion capture for the movie, but not the methodology. “We shot a load of camera tests to decide what that methodology would be, the first that the VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie and Bob tried was the idea of just shooting actors in costume and then turning them into dolls or cladding them as dolls in visual effects. What they found from that was you couldn’t convincingly create plasticity out of a real human because your body just doesn’t move the same way, with the same restrictions that a plastic doll has with the joints and the sockets. “Bob didn’t want to motion capture from the start as he had been down that
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SHOOT STORY | WELCOME TO MARWEN
Framestore delivered one of the film’s key sequences, with VFX supervisor Romain Arnoux overseeing close to 100 shots. Kevin Baillie, the film’s overall VFX supervisor, engaged Framestore to create the film’s first scene, creating a dramatic plane crash and bringing Marwen’s inhabitants to life. “I was seduced, because I knew there was no pipeline that would do this. I had never seen a project like this before,” says Romain. Framestore’s pipeline consisted of animation files going straight to lighting, where artists extrapolated from the setups used on the motion capture stage to create credible exterior lighting that matched the live action. Shots then went to compositing, where the team performed de-aging and completed the integration of the live-action and CG components. Framestore’s pipeline was tweaked, in that it allowed for back and forths between tracking and compositing departments to ensure high-quality tracking. Framestore used advanced motion- capture technology to turn the film’s stars into realistic looking dolls. At the beginning of the film, Zemeckis wants the audience to be tricked – he doesn’t want them to think the dolls are actually being filmed, or that the story is taking place in a doll- like world. To create the perfect hybrid, Framestore’s artists projected 75% of the actors’ faces onto their respective dolls. As soon as the plane crashes, the audience is introduced to a fully doll-like world, where only Steve Carell’s mouth, eyes and part of the chin is preserved to achieve the desired plasticised look. “Because we only had a texture from one camera point-of-view to project on the doll, we had to be perfectly aligned,” Arnoux noted. “There was always some slight variation between the doll’s face and the actor’s face. We used custom tools to calculate the disparities and realign the face, but it wasn’t easy – most of the time, the tracking team had to do it by eye.” FRAMESTORE’S MARWEN
which would mean the actors acting the scenes while multiple cameras shot all the different angles. But what if we did motion capture, and simultaneously lit and photographed their faces? That’s what we tested, and it seemed to work.” LIGHTING They tested two ways of lighting, including flat lighting – so VFX could create whatever lighting direction they wanted – and they tried it with more cinematic lighting, as though the characters were in situ. “The tests proved that lighting them as though they were in situ was the much better way to go, it was much less artificial. So fast-forwarding to the days that we shot the motion capture, we physically shot their faces with real cameras and created shots with real cameras within the motion capture space, while the motion capture equipment was recording the movements. “The way we got around the lighting situation on their faces was to very heavily prep the motion capture. Before we even started shooting the movie, Bob and I would spend weekends with the visual department to create all our doll environments in the Unreal video game engine. They had these 3D environments with 3D characters and 3D representations of the camera, which was mathematically matched to an ARRI Alexa 65 in terms of sensor size and focal lengths. Bob and I would go into these virtual rooms and look at monitors while we moved this virtual camera around the space and created the shots, at least created the general blockings and how we wanted to figure out each scene. What that did was give me enough information to say, if the scene was going to play out like this then we would want to put our sun on this side of the set and put our fill on this side of the set. “That gave us a way to plan for our lighting, so I lit the Unreal virtual sets then used all of our lighting direction and
lighting quality information from some of those pre-visualisations to go to our motion capture stage, and recreate them with physical lights. So instead of the traditional way of us lighting something and then VFX matching it, VFX lit it with my guidance and then it was us matching the lighting on-set. It seems to have worked; we stayed true to everything that we planned and the other information being so extensively prepped gave us extra parameters, like shadows, from door frames and the like. So we were able to create those elements within the motion capture stage and have the actors interact with their set, so to speak, even if there wasn’t any set.” GAME INDUSTRY DISCONNECT For the first couple of days of working like this Kim admits to a kind of disconnect between his world and the video game rooms and look at monitors while we moved cameras around the space Bob and I would go into these virtual
RIGHT The build of a shot from Framestore.
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SHOOT STORY | WELCOME TO MARWEN
world with Profile studio (now Method studios). “I had a hard time articulating, saying for instance that I needed a hard light over here and a really diffused fill light over here. It took a bit of translating to get on the same page, so what they very graciously did was to talk with our electrical department and get photometric data from most of our lighting package, which they then input into their system. Ryan, the lighting designer (at Method) then created an iPad app for me so I could sit in the video game room with them and turned dials in the app to move the position of the sun, raise and lower it, change the intensity and quality of it, including the colour. “So everything was at my fingertips in terms of designing the lighting in each of sets – it was supremely helpful in communicating how we wanted it to look. In effect, they matched their library of lighting tools to our physical sources. As in most things that Bob does, the whole process is kind of groundbreaking while being quite expensive at the same time.” Kim talks about how symbiotic the relationship was between the physical set and the VFX department during the production of the film, which in his experience isn’t usual. “The disconnect between the two departments is entirely unnecessary as everyone is marching towards the same goal. But on this movie, Kevin Baillie, the VFX supervisor who is now a really good friend of mine, was such a great motivator and has such a great understanding of the physical filmmaking side of things that our conversations were much easier than they usually are between myself and VFX supervisors.” INFRARED BLOCK Kim had never experienced motion capture, but this was no normal capture: “In a way
it was like we invaded the sanctity of the motion capture space – they had a space that was roughly a 60 by 40 by 30 feet cuboid space, which was rigged with 30 or 40 motion capture cameras. We then surrounded that volume with bluescreen and blacks so we could use blue when we needed to and black when we needed to. The first thing we discovered we had to adapt to was that the motion capture cameras were infrared sensitive, which is how they get their information from the tracking marks. But anytime we turned on too much lighting trying to physically light the actors, our lights would emit so much infrared information that it would overcome the motion captions cameras. “So, in many ways we had to adapt our lighting methodology to reduce the amount of infrared and still achieve the design we were hoping for. It took a little doing, but with a little bit of give and take we got it done. The other big difference was that we wanted to shoot the faces with our cameras how we normally would with a Technocrane, for instance, so the art department gave us some rudimentary wireframe set decoration shapes for doorframes and stuff like that for our
ABOVE Steve Carell and his miniature co-stars spend time in a world where fantasy and reality collide...
46 The number of minutes of doll VFX in the movie 60 Number of days the doll alter egos were in the mocap studios
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SHOOT STORY | WELCOME TO MARWEN
IMAGES Robert Zemeckis directs with two ARRI Alexa 65 cameras for Welcome To Marwen.
actors to act with. So we were able to put our cameras into the set. “The motion capture guys were able to equip our cameras with what we called little ‘sputnik’ devices, which were motion capture tracking marks that we put on our cameras top and bottom, so their motion capture cameras could keep track of where our physical cameras were going. They could then use that information to position their virtual cameras in relation with the virtual actors. We tried to give them as much information as possible, as early as possible.” CHOOSING THE ALEXA 65 It was clear from the outset that digital capture was going to be the only choice for principal photography, and Robert Zemeckis had previously used the Red Weapon cameras on several of his movies. “On our first meeting, Bob asked me what my feeling was about camera choice. I had been used to using ARRI digital cameras, but at the time the new Panavision DXL system had just come out so we decided to test that, and we also decided to test the Alexa 65. “The reason we went with the larger sensor Alexa 65 – apart from the pixel density, so an abundance of information for visual effects – was because we were creating this world in exactly the reverse way we shoot traditional miniatures, and by that I mean you’re doing everything you can to make the small object look bigger. We had the opposite problem: we had to shoot full-scale actors in full-scale scenarios in a way that looked like we were photographing miniatures. So the biggest thing for me was depth-of-field. “The more depth-of-field you have, the less illusion you have that you’re photographing miniatures. So we picked the largest sensor we could find to at least give us a starting point for visual effects, to artificially shallow the depth-of-field – the 65 is such a superior sensor to the DXL, both in physical size and the quality of the picture, not to mention the simpler Codex workflow that it works with. We ended up shooting with the Prime 65 and Vintage 65 lenses from ARRI. “The Alexa 65 is such a beautiful system and it’s why people shoot images in medium format; there’s a lustre to it that you don’t get with a smaller sensor. It’s also so forgiving on cast members’ features, and there’s just enough fall-off in the depth-of- field that the complexions even out.” WELCOME TO MARWEN WENT ON GENERAL RELEASE IN THE UK ON 1 JANUARY 2019.
A key moment in the movie was Hogie’s dramatic plane crash, which saw Framestore develop a digital P-40 warplane (based on photos of Creation Consultants’ miniature) and building the plane’s cockpit from scratch. “We created a hybrid asset,” says Arnoux. “The geometry is based on the one-sixth scale plane, but we used a lot of full-scale textures. The animators recreated the plane as if it were a full-size aircraft.” Flying at 250mph, the plane covered a lot of ground during the film’s aerial opening sequence, where roughly 20 miles of northern European landscape was laid out in full CG. The effects team filled the sky with scattered debris emanating from the plane, which was also simulated at full scale. When the aircraft crashes into the ground, the crumpling foliage, churned-up mud and flames were all brought to life in what was an almost entirely digital shot. “Our goal was for the audience to immerse themselves in a world that’s imaginary but rooted in reality. Being able to bring these two sides of Hogancamp’s life together in such a unique way was absolutely amazing.’’ Romain Arnoux, VFX supervisor The film is shortlisted for this year’s Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. DIGITAL P-40
We created a hybrid asset. The geometry is based on the one-sixth scale plane, but we used a lot of full-scale textures
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CAPTURE STORY | WELCOME TO MARWEN
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS Kevin Baillie, VFX supervisor on Welcome to Marwen, explains how he brought the dolls to life
WORDS JULIAN M ITCHELL / PICTURES METHOD STUDIOS
K evin Baillie works for Method Studios out of Santa Monica and was the VFX supervisor of Welcome to Marwen . He has also worked with director Robert Zemeckis on a number of his films but started his career as a pre-vis artist on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace when he was just 18. With the new movie, Kevin and his team have moved the motion capture world on from the uncanny valley inhabitants who repel us on a subconscious level. “The original idea was to shoot actors on oversized stages and then augment them with digital doll joints. Robert is such a fan of his actors and their performances that he wanted to make sure that they came through at full fidelity in the final film. But
the tests that we did to that effect looked really terrible, they were totally horrifying. So we were stuck as we couldn’t do that and we couldn’t do traditional motion capture because that technology isn’t good enough for the 46 minutes worth of human doll performance to the screen. “So we had that eureka moment of thinking that instead of putting digital doll parts on Steve [Carell] and the rest of the actors we could put Steve parts on the digital doll using his eyes and mouth. The process of getting to the realisation probably took about a year.”
RIGHT The metamorphosis of actor Steve Carell from a nervous mocap artist to a fully formed Cap’n Hogie doll.
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It was so critical that we got the lighting right in that mocap stage
SUCCESS THAT COMES THROUGH FAILURE
“We could use that to compose and make sure that our lighting that we had set was actually going to look good in the final shot. That ended up being so important and I really didn’t know how important until we entered post-production. In post- production we found that if the angle of the light hitting the actor’s faces was even just a few degrees off in our digital renders compared to what it was in the real stage renders, it broke the entire illusion. It was so critical that we got the lighting right in that mocap stage because if we didn’t there was no room for error. It was kind of a ‘moon shot’ to get things right in this stage and this virtual production process really helped us to achieve that.” MEETING OF MINDS Of course there are plenty of big movies that use mocap techniques and virtual production processes to achieve the shots but this movie more than others had to blend traditional cinematography techniques with virtual ones. “On this movie we were so constrained in terms of time, budget and resources that we had to get inventive; we had no choice but to really heavily lean on each other. I certainly couldn’t have lit the film in post without Kim’s lighting designs and Kim couldn’t have lit the movie on the mocap stage without our help.”
Kevin and his team realised through all their failed efforts to make the doll side of the movie work that this new way of achieving it was the only way and they had to make it work. “It took a big leap of faith for Kim the DOP to believe he could light this big grey void that is the motion capture (mocap) stage as if it’s the final movie. That takes some imagination. “To help him with that we created a real-time version of Marwen in the Unreal video game engine. The app allowed him to tweak sun direction and intensity with other custom light. He was actually able to work with Robert to understand what all the blocking and shooting orbits for every scene in the mocap world was going to be. He then spent about two weeks working in this real- time interactive Marwen, pre-lighting every single set-up we were going to be doing in the mocap world. “By the time we got to the mocap stage we knew what the lighting was going to be. We had one monitor which showed us what Kim’s ARRI Alexa 65 was seeing on the mocap stage – which was actors in grey suits and blue screen – and then another monitor that showed us a real-time view of what that same camera was seeing in the Marwen universe.
ABOVE Kevin and his team had to develop new motion capture techniques due to the amount of ‘doll’ time in the film, this included a tilt shift effect.
Having a film crew on a mocap stage isn’t a regular event but for this film it was the only way to shoot. “The unusual thing that happened on our motion capture stage was the intersection of every single normal live action component combined with every single normal motion capture component. There have been films dating back to even Avatar where James Cameron used what he called the Simulcam to see what the Avatar world looked like through a digital camera. But his actors were in these helmet cameras with these dots on their faces in flat lighting. You then have a movie like
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WELCOME TO MARWEN | CAPTURE STORY
Jungle Book which was pre-lit, the lighting was pre-designed but the actor wasn’t being motion captured. So there’s all these movies out there which have used components of what we did and we just basically jammed them all together with the goal of bringing the actor’s souls to the dolls for 46 minutes of the movie without ever dipping into the uncanny valley. I think this is the first time that it has been achieved on this scale which I am particularly proud of. “When the uncanny valley isn’t there then the audiences just focus on watching characters and the actors perform, that’s what I’ve heard from people who have watched this movie. I even heard that when people watch the doll scenes that they forget that they’re even dolls. It’s great that people
aren’t talking about the thing that could have been the film’s biggest problem.” FUTURE RELATIONSHIPS This film has moved the world of mocap on, something that hasn’t been done for decades. But what does the VFX world require from the purely photographic world to move it on even further? “Cameras in general have been getting stunningly better at a crazy pace. We’re already getting all kinds of data off the cameras to help us. What I’m excited for in the future of cameras is products that not only give us data about what was done, how something was shot, but do things like actually sense the depth in a scene and give us real-time camera tracks right out
of the camera using optical tracking and gyroscopic data and things like that. “Certain technologies out there are getting close to being able to do that. If camera manufacturers can deliver a sense of what the camera is doing in the world in addition to the data they provide already, that would be amazingly beneficial. Also depth information; I would like to never use a blue screen again, and there are companies working towards that with AI and machine learning to look at imagery and be able to rotoscope something out of the middle of a shot by just pointing at it. It senses that it’s an object and separates it from the background. An increased awareness not just of what a camera is doing but what is it seeing is very exciting.
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