On July 14th, 20th Century Fox released War for the Planet of the Apes, the follow up to 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was once again directed by Matt Reeves. The film marks the third in the rebooted franchise (2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was directed by Rupert Wyatt), and centers around the now mature Caesar, who continues to serve as the apes’ leader. While their colony struggles to coexist with humans, they appear to be gaining an upper hand, as the humans face extinction due to a rapidly spreading, deadly virus.
Editor William Hoy also returned to work on the new release, continuing his collaboration with Reeves. Hoy’s vast credits include Dances With Wolves, both Fantastic Four films, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He is a member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and American Cinema Editors.
“In this particular picture, almost the entire production called for visual effects,” Hoy explains. “It was dedicated to the performance and characters, which was a real plus for me. That’s what we wanted most out of it. The character and emotional character of the apes and the humans.”
Hoy, who has cut a number of Fox features, was acquainted with a number of people surrounding the project, and has developed a trust with the director. “On the first film, you have to learn to trust each other, and on this film it was a real pleasure to work with him,” says the editor. “We’ve become really good friends and that’s something that’s valuable that I take away from the picture, too.”
CULVER CITY, CALIF.— Baby Driver, the critically-acclaimed new film from TriStar Pictures and Writer/Director Edgar Wright, centers on a young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who suffers from tinnitus, a medical condition that causes him to hear a constant ringing in his ears. He copes with the problem by listening to music at high volume through earbuds. For much of the film, the audience experiences the action from Baby’s perspective. So, they hear the music that he hears (including tracks by Beck, Dave Brubeck and the Beach Boys) while the action around him happens in perfect sync.
The task of creating Baby’s aural landscape presented unique challenges and opportunities for the film’s sound team led by Julian Slater, who acted as Sound Designer, Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer. Slater and his crew produced hundreds of customized sound effects and carefully choreographed each one to fit perfectly with the action on screen and the groove flowing into Baby’s ears.
“The whole movie is orchestrated to whatever Baby is listening to at the moment,” Slater explains. “Gunfights are in time with the music. Car chases are cut in sync. Police sirens, barking dogs, speeding trains are at tempo. Much of it is pitched and syncopated so that the music and sound design work as one.”
The novel sound concept is introduced in the film’s opening moments. “The first thing you see is the studio logo,” Slater notes. “The sound from it transforms into a tinnitus ringing, which in turn becomes the braking sound of a car. It is in the same key as the first music cue (Bellbottoms by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), so it all flows.”
Soon after comes a tracking shot covering more than 3 minutes. Baby is gamboling along a downtown street listening to Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle. “Edgar shot the scene in time to the music,” recalls Slater. “We added car alarms, jack hammers, traffic.” The audio effect is mirrored by the visuals as song lyrics, written into posters and graffiti, appear on cue.
Slater did the sound work at Goldcrest Films in London and was assisted by, among others , FX Editors Jeremy Price and Martin Cantwell and Dialogue/ADR Supervisor Dan Morgan. They spent months finessing and fine-tuning the sound effects and the mix. The biggest challenge, he says, was to keep it feeling light and fresh. “The tinnitus Baby suffers from increases in volume the more stressed he gets through the movie,” Slater observes. “The tinnitus, itself, changes depending on the environment and the incoming piece of music he is listening to.”
The result is a film soundtrack unlike any other. “The credit goes to Edgar Wright,” Slater says. “He had been developing this idea for years and he constructed the template that we followed. I’m extremely lucky to work with a filmmaker like Edgar who is committed to projects that are both bold and original!”
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., which is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition, and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. SPE’s Motion Picture Group includes film labels Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, and Sony Pictures Classics. For additional information, visit http://www.sonypictures.com.
Saddington Baynes are well-known for pushing the boundaries of technical innovation in the creative industry, establishing an R&D arm known as SBLabs to showcase this in-house ability. The purpose of SBLabs is to train artists and perfect technical discipline in preparation for commercial projects. The resulting videos range from celebrating London Pride with CG paint, to replicating Gangnam Style through motion capture:
Love is Love – Created using FLIP Fluid Solver, with viscosity and customised colour mixing. The centerpiece statue was simulated using 3D photo scans, before being rendered with Arnold.
VFX Dancers – Procedurally generated geometry, particle simulations and fur were created with shaders, driven by custom attributes, and then attached to motion capture. The results were rendered with Mantra.
Gangnam Style – A combination of motion capture and cloth simulation, using Flipbook (a player in Houdini that creates a sped up render).
‘InflataSean’ – A human replica generated by processing data from full-body scans. Simulations were then applied to produce an inflation effect. The results were rendered in Mantra/Arnold.
Each video allows the artists at SBLabs to indulge in a bit of hands on training, to develop their skills in a fun way. The projects are also about self-expression – a chance for artists to exercise creativity and imagination, such as teasing their colleague Sean by turning him into a blow up doll.
Although no ground-breaking technology was used, SBLabs gives artists a chance to experiment with existing tools in innovative ways. A full reel combing each experiment can be found here.
About Saddington Baynes
Saddington Baynes is a leading creative production agency that has produced premium imagery for advertising agencies and brand clients for 25 years, working on projects as diverse as automotive, FMCG and pharma.
Saddington Baynes’ mission is to create sensational imagery that moves people and inspires brand devotion, delivering memorable experiences through emotion and engagement. The original pioneers of digital retouching in 1991 – and one of the first post production studios to harness the potential of CGI in-house – Saddington Baynes today creates award-winning visual content for the advertising industry in the UK, USA and across Europe. Innovation is a key part of this, which is why Saddington developed its Engagement Insights® service – an entirely new way to measure the emotional impact of imagery.
Growing up in Munich, Mathias Herndl, AAC, spent his school days absorbing the history of Germany. He was particularly interested in the genius known as Albert Einstein. Now a celebrated cinematographer, Herndl was excited to read the script to “Genius”, National Geographic’s series exploring the life of Einstein. He quickly discovered there was a lot more to the man than what he studied as a youth.
“I saw I knew nothing, especially in his personal life,” said Herndl. “He had great passion. He was curious and inspired by the nature that surrounded him.”
“Genius” provided Herndl the opportunity to shoot everything from beautiful expanses of nature in every season, to tender moments of affection to the brutality of the Third Reich. Herndl’s first matter at hand in prepping to shoot “Genius” was securing his camera of choice that could capture diverse set-ups beautifully: the Arri Alexa. To his surprise, the producers and executives at National Geographic readily agreed, informing him they entrusted his artistic preferences. Through the course of shooting he used the Alexa CS and mini cameras. Noting there were two distinct phases of Einstein’s life that were explored, Herndl used two different lens packages to create mild distinctions. To capture the scenes of Einstein as a young man, Herndl used the Vantage One T1 lenses. Noting the T1s are “simply built and beautiful lenses,” he liked the softer quality and rounding around the edges they created. For Einstein’s later years, Herndl used Arri master lenses for their sharp focus that offers no curving or breathing.
“Both lenses have shallow aperture and a shallow depth of field,” said Herndl. “They helped with the two time lines.”
Shooting style also offered a visual distinction. Covering Einstein’s youthful bohemian, flirtatious and rebellious behaviors, Herndl went with more kinetic, hand-held work. For the segments in the 40s and rise of the Third Reich, Herndl chose a more stationary, sharp, classic shooting style.
The lighting in “Genius” comes primarily through practical sources, Herndl did have an opportunity to be creative in its usage, particularly with dark interiors. Just as Einstein was venturing into unexplored territories with his theories, he wanted viewers to share that enthusiasm and “not be afraid of the dark.” Herndl used light flares and elements of over-exposure to create aspects of texture to a scene.
“Light draws attention. I was interested in breaking and bending the light,” said Herndl.
A sense of color shifts also helped break up the two main phases of Einstein’s life explored in “Genius.” Working with a colorist, Herndl crafted a more tonal, cayenne -based quality to Einstein’s younger years. He focused on keeping yellow in the highlights. For the period of the 40s, the color is more denaturized. Reds and purples had been introduced into symbolize a sense of danger as the Nazi occupation loomed. Herndl also captured wide-open spaces during this period to further push the factor of pressure and dread.
The task of portraying historical fact was always paramount on the set. Working against a “fair but demanding” timeline, Herndl found there was little room for second guessing shots. However, every member of the crew did always invest time in ensuring every aspect of what they were capturing, from picture vehicles to the books that were burned in Nazi fires were 100% accurate. Herndl’s focus in shooting some of the more horrific actions of the Nazi regime was to always keep the needs of the script and the character’s at the forefront.
In addition to learning much more about Einstein, Herndl also had his first experience of shooting with three cameras in “Genius.” Ron Howard, serving as a producer and director of some episodes requested the third be running at all times. Fortunately, Herndl had an experienced crew that he’d worked with previously on another shoot in Prague. He also had his wife/camera operator, Karel Fairaisl, and several A Camera and focus pullers from the US that he’s come to rely on that helped efficiently and expertly ensure smooth set ups. Ultimately, he found great benefits in the three camera set up.
“It added and extra bit of flavor you normally don’t get in a TV series, such as an actor’s hands playing with a pipe on the table,” said Herndl.
Herndl also recently shot ABC’s stunning crime series, “Motive,” starring Tommy Flanagan and Lauren Holly, as well as FOX’s sci-fi mystery series “Wayward Pines,” starring Toby Jones, Hope Davis and Shannyn Sossamon.
It took more than 70 years for DC Comics’ Wonder Woman to get her own live-action feature film, but director Patty Jenkins and Warner Bros. have finally brought the comic book hero to the big screen, just in time for summer!
Gal Gadot stars in the title role of Wonder Woman, a film that explores the superhero’s origins and follows the story of Diana, princess of the Amazons. When a pilot crashes on her home island of Themyscira and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight ‘a war to end all wars,’ discovering her full powers and true destiny in the process.
“The time is absolutely right to bring Wonder Woman to movie audiences,” says Jenkins. “Fans have been waiting a long time for this, but I believe people outside the fandom are ready for a Wonder Woman movie, too. Superheroes have played a role in many people’s lives; it’s that fantasy of ‘What would it be like if I was that powerful and that great, and I could go on that exciting journey and do heroic things?’”
Joining Jenkins behind the camera were director of photography Matthew Jensen (Chronicle, Fantastic Four, HBO’s Game of Thrones), Oscar-winning editor Martin Walsh (Chicago, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), composer Rupert Gregson-Williams (Hacksaw Ridge, The Legend of Tarzan), re-recording mixer Chris Burdon (see related article that follows) and two-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (Life of Pi, The Golden Compass).
The Vancouver and Los Angeles facilities delivered 550 VFX shots for the latest Marvel blockbuster, including key CG character sequences with Rocket and Baby Groot, large-scale destruction and spaceship crashes, environment design, and more.
Director James Gunn and VFX supervisor Chris Townsend recently tapped Deluxe’s Method Studios to handle a broad scope of work for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which continues the adventures of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket as they unravel the mystery of Peter’s true parentage.
Method VFX supervisor Nordin Rahhali explained that the company handled a few shots on the first film, building a relationship with the director and VFX supervisor. “When this film came, we were able to get in very early on as one of the primary vendors and of course had a large part of the film carved out for us,” he says.
Rahhali led a team of over 250 artists that delivered roughly 550 shots for the film, or 40 minutes of work. He noted that the work crossed several disciplines, including “a lot more character work than we’ve done in the past at Method, which was something I personally was very excited to do.”
The work included creating hero characters Rocket and Baby Groot for several key sequences, as well as large-scale destruction and spaceship crashes, full CG animation and environment design, and the movie’s final scene.
Members of the “Breaking Bad” family – including characters – found themselves reunited when Vince Gilligan/Peter Gould’s “Better Call Saul” concept was greenlit. Composer Dave Porter and music supervisor Thomas Golubic were thrilled to reteam on the prequel that follows Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) transformation into Bad’s sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. However, they knew their work was cut out for them.
“Ordinarily shows have a pilot where you can come up with the tone – we had to figure out the tone while the train was already running.”
Noting they’d have to redefine their musical mold forged over the “Breaking Bad” years, Porter and Golubic explored styles highlighting the deeply internal, human struggles examined in “Saul.” To distinguish the story’s smaller, more personal scale, Porter veered from “Bad’s” synth sounds and chose more organic instrumentation including guitar, piano and percussion. Recognizing early on that the characters would constantly evolve from one episode to the next, Porter also avoided utilizing reoccurring themes or motifs. Golubic found that, unlike the source music used in Walter White’s world of chaos and comedy, he could exercise a stylistic curiosity in his selections. Musical diversity that jumps from patriotic songs to salsa rhythms emphasizes the characters’ simmering changes. While the genres are broad and abstract, they are tied to each characters behaviors and personalities, grounding them in their reality.
Throughout season two, Porter and Golubic not emphasized the shifts that will eventually bring key characters to their “Breaking Bad” personas, but also the wildly different rates these characters, such as Jimmy and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), make their transitions. Porter has introduced classic rock guitar, Rhodes piano, vibraphones and stronger percussion, allowing the score to become slightly heavier to mirror Jimmy’s loss of frivolity and carefreeness and Mike’s more rapid decent. Season two found Golubic contributing more world music as well as synth-heavy selections in the sourced music. For example, to emphasize and attempt at success made by Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn), Golubic used a Gypsy King’s song followed by a Bollywood number, symbolizing hopefulness and yearning.
As they have in the past, the two men manage their partnership as composer/music supervisor by sharing their ideas for each section and mutually deciding which selection best moves the story forward. Because Gilligan works edits without temp music, each segment can be approached with a clean slate.
“Vince and Peter can look at the broader picture, Dave experiences the vulnerability of the moment, and I have to look ahead ad rethink,” said Golubic. Added Porter, “It’s a balancing of viewpoints. It is very helpful.”
With producers who want to hear their interpretation before sharing their own, Porter and Golubic play through different interpretations of the scene before selecting which music makes the best dance partner. If their decisions don’t resonate with the creators, they recognize they have ultimately provided a unique perspective that is valuable to the storytelling process.
“Music is the last of the creative choices,” said Porter. “Sometimes we are able to bring something they haven’t thought of yet.”
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou can’t resist “Universal Monsters”: the creatures that were brought to public attention by Universal Studios from the 20s – 50s. Involvement in the re-imaging of “The Mummy” for the award-winning makeup and hair designer – she has a Saturn, MUAH, IOMA and Gold Derby Award for hair and makeup in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (as well as a BAFTA and Oscar nominations for the same film) was therefor a no-brainer. After an upbeat meeting with the film’s director, noted producer/writer Alex Kurtzman, Yianni-Georgiou recognized the director trusted her input and was open to her suggestions. She excitedly agreed to tackle the film’s hair and makeup designs.
Variety 411 recently caught up with Yianni-Georgiou to learn about her process in creating hair and makeup for “The Mummy.” She discusses how she achieved a creative vision that blends historical accuracy with a modern, completely unique artistry.
Variety 411: What was your research period like, and what were your inspirations for designs in “The Mummy”?
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou: I researched different Ancient Egyptian dynasties and honored the Egyptian head dresses in the structure of the hair work. I also looked to the catwalks, performance artists and my daughters for inspiration which I feel helped to give Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) a young, fresh edge. The blue and gold dipped fingers were inspired by the gold finger and toe caps that were found in Tutankahmun’s tomb. There was also a chalice found there which speaks of eternal life and power, so I used the Heiroglyphics from the chalice. The tattoo designs are a grouping of Ancient Egyptian symbols which all speak of power, strength and protection. Snaked sideburns are also a symbol of protection of the Pharoahs. I was also inspired by a mummy that I saw in the British Museum who had been laid to rest with a gold plate in her mouth.
Makeup and hair stylist Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou created a layout (left) for the symbols that appeared on Ahmanet’s (Sofia Boutella) face. Each character was individually placed on her skin. Photo credit: Universal Pictures
V411: Can you talk about the process of designing individual icons that cover Ahmanet, as well as the layout that covers her body? For example, did you start with the concept that is seen in the film, or were there a number of designs that led up to what was ultimately used?
EYG: Ahmanet wears a set of tattoos when she’s alive and when she goes over to the dark side, these lift and her human qualities/lifeline drains from her skin. The symbols she wears as The Mummy are an adaptation of Ancient Sumerian text. They,were taken from The Book of the Dead and describe summoning/raising the dead. I had to re-work the language slightly to suit the screen. The design process was really fun and exciting. My first interpretation was that it would burn through her skin in a blood red color and look like raised scarification, but we found that it looked too painful and wasn’t really suitable for the films rating. I then started playing with different colors and skin tones. I felt as soon as she allies herself with Set (the God of death and destruction), she would almost loose her human-like qualities, so I made her skin a stone-like color and made the runes an inky blue/black color, as though her blood turns this shade as soon as she turns to Set. I played with different placement but wanted to keep an Egyptian quality, so I looked to Ancient Egyptian and Greek armor for inspiration for the placement of the text. Even when she is naked in the film, she looks like she’s wearing armor.
V411: How did you go about applying this makeup? Was it a temporary tattoo or did you use another product to acquire the almost hand-drawn quality of each symbol?
EYG : The base make-up on her body was a product that I’d developed for “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It is skin-friendly and lasts the duration of a long days’ filming. I then recreated that stoney colour in a grease-based make-up for Sofia’s face. The text was sculpted and made in to pro-bondo moulds, as Alex and I wanted them to be raised, almost as though they had burned through her skin. They were applied in strips. The symbols on her face were silicone pieces which were individually placed & glued on to her skin, one by one. The development of the symbols was a bit trickier as Sofia had very sensitive skin, so I had to find a product that gave us the desired affect whilst also being skin-friendly.
V411: Noting you mentioned a long-lasting, base makeup, it seems that most of what the audience sees is practically, through makeup?
EYG Apart from the first few times you see her once she has risen, every stage of Ahmanet’s transformation was make-up. VFX hollowed out her cheeks and this can be seen until she regains full strength.
V411: What was your collaboration like with the visual effects team? Was it easy to merge the vision you created through makeup with some of the effects that are done with the various characters?
EYG I had a lovely relationship with the VFX team. We worked together very closely to help get the desired affect on some of the characters. Like the undead, for example, who came through my department to get textured, aged skins and would then have their eyes and noses taken out by VFX.
V411: Can you speak about designing a hair style for a character that has been dormant for thousands of years? How did you achieve the look you designed?
EYG: The design process was really fun; I got to play with different periods and could explore some of my favorite looks from the history books. I looked to images of Nefertiti and the sacred geometric forms in the architecture and created cages to recreate those shapes in Ahmanet’s hair when she’s a princess. I also found a beautiful wig in the Met Museum which had amazing gold decorative clasps in it, I then found a modern alternative and incorporated these into her princess hair styles. For her hairstyle as the Mummy, I wanted to keep an Egyptian quality whilst Alex wanted to have her hair down and flowing. So I snuck in a bob undercut, which allowed me to stay true to Ancient Egypt.
V411: This movie has lots of action sequences, including explosions, battle sequences, etc. Were you and your team designing a lot of bruises and wounds on your actors?
EYG All of the bruises, bites and cuts were practical applications. Vail (Jake Johnson) has a series of nicks and cuts and bites along the way, which were practically applied. As his bite gets bigger I transitioned from blood and veins which were painted on to silicone bite wounds which were then painted and reapplied every day.
V411: While a resurrected mummy rightfully steals the spotlight, you and your team had to design makeup and hair styles for all the characters in the film. Where there certain looks and color palettes you were going for? Do you mute the colors applied on the bulk of the cast knowing there will be a character that is so visually compelling – as not to compete with that character?
EYG : What is so cool and fun about this movie is that it flips between time periods. We have Ahmanet’s world in Ancient Egypt, the crusaders world and modern day, which is the world that most of our lead characters inhabit. I always like the characters I create to be somewhat rooted in reality, as I feel it makes them more relatable. Vail’s character is really cool as he is a bit of a rogue and this is reflected in the tattoos I designed for him. His character also has quite a transformation in the film which was really fun to play with and create. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) was also fun to bring to life, as I wanted his look to suggest the old-world Victorian England, so his hair style calls to that. Jenny’s (Annebelle Wallis) look is really natural which is a nice contrast and her look at the end is really ethereal and other worldly which is a play on her story line.
V411: M∙A∙C cosmetics is supporting your work on “The Mummy.” Many folks may not realize they are a go-to for makeup artists in addition to an established consumer brand. What were some of the key items you were using in this film?
EYG: The main M∙A∙C products used included their Pro Longwear Fluidline in black track, face and body foundation, Kohl Power eye pencil in feline and lip pencil in coffee an spice, Chromaline in Hi-Def cyan and black, Prep + Prime Fix Pigments in landscape green and transparent finishing powder and waterproof false lashes in black. Due to the different looks and changing environments I applied a lot of M∙A∙C Prep + Prime Fix + spray to help keep makeup fresh. We faced even more challenges as we shot underwater. These scenes are where M∙A∙C Studio Face and Body Foundation really became a hero product for this film.
V411: How did you source your team for “The Mummy?” Where there individuals with certain expertise that you knew you had to secure for this film?
EYG I always tend to have a core group of people that I bring with me on my films, and on this job I needed to have a well-balanced team that could handle the make-up, sfx and natural as well as the hair side of things which was also demanding on this job.
V411: You’ve alternated between hair and makeup design on many films. Is there a benefit to overseeing both roles, as you did in “The Mummy?”
EYG: I love doing both as I always do see the image or the look for each character as a whole, I think due to my background and training in all aspects that’s my natural trail of thought.
V411: And, speaking of hair and makeup – you’ve worked on such a wide assortment of genres, from historical films to contemporary, from dramas to action to sci-fi and thrillers. What are the qualities you look for when you choose the projects you would like to work on?
EYG: I love a fun, unusual script – and a challenge!
Franklin Peterson was a relative newbie to television editing in 2014. He’d surpassed the assistant-to- editor hurdle on indie films including “Safety Not Guaranteed” when he had the good fortune to cut director Sam Esmail’s feature debut, “Comet.” It was Peterson’s work on this film that inspired Esmail to reach out to the editor when he needed an editor to fill in during season one of his hacker-takes-over-the-world drama “Mr. Robot.”
After reading the pilot and seeing a cut, Peterson was hooked. He joined the team with the season already well in progress. Working in LA, he was given guidance and updates about the story threads being shot in NY. While the schedule was far more accelerated than a feature. Peterson found he still had ample time to apply creative editing styles to highlight Elliot Alderson’s (Rami Malek) unusual and often confused world-view.
“I loved getting time to experiment and play,” said Peterson. “Sam is open to outside-the-box ideas.”
Peterson and the “Mr. Robot” editing team had a heightened sense of creativity in season two, sparked largely in part by Esmail’s direction of each episode. Able to closely monitor the slightest detail, down to the makes of each characters phone, every scene was richly displaying the world Esmail envisioned. Despite his oversight on set, Peterson and the editing team were encouraged to continue to find the most creative way to tell the story in the edit suite, including the use of jump cuts, long to short takes, and other out-of-the-box means that would lend to exploring the personality of each character.
Unique to the experience of editing “Mr. Robot” was the ability to shuffle scenes around in an episode, sometimes even between episodes. The entire editing team would gather to sit and discuss set ups they were working on that offered mutual feedback for the unique experimentation Esmail encouraged. They also ensured, throughout their unique edits, that the characters retained a humanity, specifically Elliott, who’s unique way of seeing the world often verts against his humanity.
The unique eye tracking that comes with the extreme angles in “Mr. Robot” Peterson recalled using in “Comet”, however he was apprehensive about the extremely dark visuals in season two. Peterson credits DP Tod Campbell for carving out actors features with a handful of light, or finding the proper balance in the backlit shots.
“The art of it all fits, but there were always massive wide shots and plenty of extra coverage to work with,” recalled Peterson.
Sound design enhanced a major storyline reveal in the opener’s double episode. Peterson worked with sound team to underscore Elliott’s movements with rolling door and clinking of metal sounds, creating an off-balance sensation for the viewer while avoiding obvious reveals.
Most important in the unusual editing process was ensuring they responded to the needs and emotions of their characters. In a scene highlighting FBI agent Dominique DiPierro’s (Grace Gummer) loneliness and heartbreak, Peterson felt it was best to let her expressions linger without cutting into the scene.
LONDON, UK – With the release of its Statue project, London-based creative studio Saddington Baynes has created a frozen moment of a Muay Thai battle, utilising full-body 3D photo scans created in partnership with body-scanning experts FBFX.
Saddington Baynes is well-known for pushing the boundaries of technical innovation in the creative industry, establishing its R&D arm SBLabs to showcase this in-house ability. For Statue, SBLabs used advanced procedural displacement techniques, complex shaders and dynamic particle simulations to deliver a fierce fighting showcase. The results are already sweeping up accolades across the creative community, including a Platinum in the Creativity International Media & Interactive Design Awards.
James Digby-Jones, Executive Creative Director at Saddington Baynes, comments: “We wanted to create a project to showcase our expertise working with complex simulations and highly detailed 3D talent, while also demonstrating our imaginative storycraft and VFX capabilities. The Statue project quickly picked up a Platinum award and we’ve entered it into others. It’s a great piece that shows off a variety of high level skills, applicable to multiple market sectors.”
Statue – Behind the Scenes from Saddington Baynes
Scanning and capture
To achieve unparalleled detail required meticulous planning. SBLabs blocked out early concepts in Cinema 4D to explore strong poses and the choreography and to direct the camera path.
SBLabs then approached SFX costume and 3D scanning specialists FBFX, who captured key moments of the Muay Thai battle in live action, as one at a time the combatants jumped and punched and kicked, all the while being captured as high resolution point clouds and image maps from multiple cameras. Besides being martial arts enthusiasts, both models were actually part of the Saddington Baynes team – a Production Assistant and a CG artist!
Andrew White, Creative Director at Saddington Baynes, comments: “FBFX helped us build separate scan captures in ZBrush with seamless results. They were a huge asset, delivering exactly what we needed in line with our vision”
Alongside these scanned models, Statue also features complex Houdini simulations. The models land blows on each other, cracking open igneous husks to reveal the searing heat below. SBLabs ran a series of customised fragmentation and tessellation processes on the geometry with look development performed in Mantra.
Andrew White, Creative Director at Saddington Baynes, comments: “We found that by outputting some custom aov passes we could create a hot metal look inside Nuke. By using holdout mattes and base beauty elements, this gave us a great way to time and control the intensity of the heat effect.”
Based out of London, Saddington Baynes has a long history of technical innovation. Besides being the original pioneers of digital retouching in 1991, Saddington Baynes were also one of the first production studios to harness the potential of CGI in-house. More recently, the team developed an Engagement Insights® service – the world-first use of neuroscience techniques to measure emotional impact of imagery. Recent commissions include Honda’s pan-European ‘Real View Test Drive’ campaign.
About Saddington Baynes
Saddington Baynes is a leading creative production agency that has produced premium imagery for advertising agencies and brand clients for 25 years.
Saddington Baynes’ mission is to create sensational imagery that inspires brand devotion, with a focus on emotional reactions and engagement. To achieve this, Saddington Baynes developed its Engagement Insights® service – an entirely new way to measure the emotional impact of imagery, using neuroscience techniques.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels like the logical next step in Guy Ritchie’s career – after all, who better to direct a modern reimagining of King Arthur than British film royalty? Ritchie has spent years moulding rough and rugged England into whip-smart stories of sleazy charm, and Ancient Albion feels like home turf.
Ritchie has driven a bolt of trademark energy through King Arthur’s folklore, the murky grasslands and staunch stone castles fizzling with the director’s verve. This is mythological Britain filtered through modern-day cinematic technique – not to mention some truly exceptional VFX, delivered under the watchful eye of VFX Production Supervisor Gavin Round (sadly not of the round table).
Boasting a decade of experience in visual effects, Round has worked on numerous blockbusters, chalking up visual feasts such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Edge of Tomorrow. He teamed with Ritchie on King Arthur to breathe new life into the classic tale of swords, sovereigns and sorcery, corralling the project’s global VFX teams around a singular vision with support from cineSync.
“I came onto King Arthur in 2014, working with VFX Producer Alex Bicknell and VFX Supervisor Nick Davis, who I’d worked with on Edge of Tomorrow,” he explains. “Thanks to that experience, we had an established, effective workflow in place for meeting with vendors, viewing material, and of course, using cineSync. In other words, we could hit the ground running on King Arthur.”
Vendors of the round table
cineSync was key to making King Arthur’s VFX a reality, given the nine separate vendors involved in the process. Framestore stood as the lead vendor, operating out of both its London and Montreal studios. Contributions also came in from MPC’s Montreal team, Method Studios in LA and Vancouver, Scanline in Vancouver, and many more, totaling nine different studios.
Round was in the thick of the battle on King Arthur from pre to post, helping to establish Ritchie’s new kingdom of myth and magic across all studios involved.
“My duties involved managing vendors, making sure the shots came in on time and that the vendors had everything they need,” recalls Round. “cineSync enabled us to review the material constantly, so we were always aware of the status of any given shot. We could see it in real-time to discuss with the vendors.”
cineSync played a large role in creation of King Arthur’s many mythical creatures, such as a nine-foot CG villain, whose creation was split between VFX vendors Framestore and MPC.
“It was a delicate process, as we had to maintain continuity between the two vendors, who were essentially building different parts of the same being,” explains Round. “We needed to constantly review and check the material back-to-back to ensure everything transitioned correctly, no matter which vendor it came from. This is the exact kind of situation where cineSync is so useful – it saves a lot on travel!”
cineSync was used almost every day in post on King Arthur, particularly towards the end of the project. “We relied on cineSync heavily during the backend of the post schedule, at which point we were ramping up and getting most of our shots through,” says Round. “We used cineSync with all the vendors involved – we knew we could rely on it.”
The sword and the cineSync
cineSync proved to be a powerful tool throughout the filmmaking process – and one that, unlike Excalibur, anyone could wield: the entire King Arthur production team fell in love with the simplicity of cineSync – in particular, VFX Supervisor Nick Davis, who would make sure every VFX shot was reviewed, analyzed, and improved by all vendors.
“He likes to do cineSync sessions because he can pull up a shot, make marks on it, draw on it and tell the artists exactly where he wants a creature to walk,” says Round. “We did it for the big shots and small shots alike – whatever we were working on, cineSync ensured that the sequence ended up looking much better on screen.”
For Round, King Arthur revolved around the power of cineSync, ensuring that every shot was delivered to the ultimate satisfaction of all involved: “cineSync was completely intertwined in our day-to-day workflow. It was a brilliant overall tool and made my life much simpler.”
Or, as the British would put it: Bob’s your uncle!
Set in Texas in the 19th and 20th centuries, “The Son” follows the McCollough family through 150 years of history, highlighting Eli McCollough’s (Pierse Brosnan) climb from boyhood to reigning oil tycoon. Noting the importance the score would have ushering the story through multiple decades and several culture clashes, showrunner Kevin Murphy wanted a unique sound that veered from typical the Western motifs. Composer Nathan Barr’s work fit that bill.
Barr, recommended by “The Son” writer/producer Brian McGreevy who worked with the composer on “Hemlock Grove”, has showcased his unique style on series ranging from “Tru Blood” to “The Americans.” During his early conversations with Murphy and “The Son” producers, Barr proposed a unique blend of instrumentation that would highlight the characters’ emotional journey as well as outline the raw quality of DP George Steel’s cinematography. An avid instrument collector since childhood, Barr incorporated pieces he’s collected throughout his global travels, including a guitariphone (a fretless zither played with buttons) and a nyckelharpa (a traditional Swedish instrument dating back to the Vikings).
“It is as if a hurdy-gurdy and a violin had a child,” said Barr. “It creates a beautiful, open sound.”
Barr also played traditional instruments in unique ways to modify the sound. For example, he played prepared piano, where objects are attached to the piano strings to modify and sound, and he played the higher strings on an upright base, sourcing a range more akin to a cello than the lower notes the instrument is known for. These elements were blended with music played on standard string instruments and music modified with plug- ins to achieve specific qualities.
Themes do play an important role in the score of “The Son”, namingly the series’ high octane main title track. Barr used this selection as a musical definition of Eli, a piece of music that resurfaces throughout the episodes that defines the main character’s growth and developmental arc. Male vocals also play an important role in defining character growth. Although Barr performed the bulk of the instrumentation himself, he hired male vocalists for specific selections of the score, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons who’s featured in a song in the final episode, and vocalist Frank Fairfield. The song is so crucial to the scene, Fairfield actually appears on camera singing.
“Music is such a key to this process,” said Barr. “Kevin really likes to lean on the score and sound effects.”
During the spotting process in the edit suite, Barr would join members of the sound department to access music’s role with the sound design and effects. The nature of gun play, the pattering of horse hooves and other environmental elements required a leveled balance ensuring the sound design and the score complimented each other. Silence also plays an important role in the series, where the actors’ dialogue and emotional performances take center stage. Always focused on highlighting character arcs and storylines, Barr’s score ushers between twenty to thirty minutes of action per episode, from subtle cues to bombastic melodies.
Diane Lederman flipped between production designer on indie films to set decorating others, including Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” for many years. When time permitted, she also worked as a set decorator on television series and specials, including “Phil Spector”, for which she earned a Prime Time Emmy nomination. Over the past five years, her work as a production designer has been seen in television series including “The Leftovers” and “The Americans.” Her most recent production design credit is for the drama series “13 Reasons Why.”
Variety 411 recently caught up with Lederman to get some insights on her work for the Netflix original series.
Variety 411: Creator Brian Yorkey is fairly new to the production world. What was it about his project, “13 Reasons Why,” that attracted you?
Diane Lederman: It’s a rare opportunity to work on a project that has a social responsibility and moral compass. This story tackles sensitive topics; cyber bullying, teen suicide, sexual harassment, acquaintance rape, issues which need to be brought into the public eye. I believe the show will have a far reaching and positive impact. When I read the first 2 scripts, which were beautifully written, I knew right away I wanted to work on the series. I immediately envisioned what the show should look like. Brian is a wonderfully talented writer and I was thrilled to be part of his first production venture outside the theater.
V411: I believe the script bounces around in time slightly. Were there ways you organized the needs of the production design to accommodate the changes, or were they rather minor?
DL: Lighting changes are the main cue for time shifts; warm for the past and cool for the present. It was important to choose a color palette that worked for both lighting set ups. We camera tested all the proposed color choices to make sure they would support this concept.
I believe a controlled color palette is integral to good production design. As done for every project, much thought was put into choosing the color palette for this show. Blue, a color often used by the impressionist painters to depict moodiness and emotion, was the predominant color for the series. Shades of blue were the defining colors for both Liberty High and everything Clay-related. Purple, a color associated with mystery and femininity was Hannah’s defining color. The Crestmont colors were inspired by a mid century palette, to reinforce the reality of a vintage movie theater supposedly built in the early sixties.
V411: Were you using practical locations or was a lot of the work done on stages?
DL: The series is shot in Northern California, chosen for its majestic landscape, evocative rolling fog, and quaint towns which dot the coast, so yes, much of the shooting was done on location. However, the stringent demands of shooting a series dictated the need for recreating some of the locations we loved as film sets. Our makeshift sound stage was born from a one hundred thousand square foot warehouse on Mare Island, a former Naval Base in the North Bay. Our school set was the main event. Built on a twenty thousand square foot deck, the set consisted of the main hallways and lockers, classrooms, and the administration offices. Most of the teenage bedrooms were also built on stage.
The high school is an aggregate of a practical location, a stage set, and a derelict recreation facility near the warehouse where we built our sets. Analy High in Sebastapol became the core of our Liberty High but because access would be limited once the school year started, we needed to build as much of the school on our stage as possible. The Liberty High campus, the cafeteria and some classrooms were shot on location. The hallways, administration offices, and many of the key classrooms (exact duplicates of existing locations) were built on stage. The administration offices are completely original.
In some ways it is more challenging to duplicate existing locations, especially when they are seen back to back. I think we built very convincing copies, the sets in the latter episodes are indistinguishable from their location originals, which were used in the first two episodes. To create the school gym we completely renovated an existing gym structure, stripped, repainted and finished the floors, added the bleachers, painted the walls, added all the banners and dressing, which truly created a sense of history for our fictional school.
V411: For the practical locations, what were you looking for specifically that would aid in telling the story?
DL: We wanted the town, Liberty High, and all the locations to feel like they were anywhere, small town USA. Places that everyone could identify with and recognize as familiar would support the subjective quality of the storytelling. Additionally, the idea that Hannah’s story, what happened to her could happen to anyone, anywhere, even in a charming small town at an all American High School, was important.
V411: What were some other modification to practical locations your team handled?
DL: Most of the major locations were completely modified. Though we planned early on to build Liberty High halls and classrooms on our stage, due to time constraints it was necessary to shoot the first 2 episodes completely at the practical location. We stripped the hallways, repainted the lockers and customized all the wall dressing, bulletin boards, glass cases, and laid down the giant Liberty High floor medallion. We also added many wall and door plugs to areas within the existing halls altering the geography to better suit our stage build. The facade was painted, and the entire campus was landscaped and rebranded with Liberty High logos and murals.
Monet’s, The Crestmont Movie Theater and Baker’s Pharmacy were complete original creations. The town of Vallejo lays across a small bridge, just a stone’s throw from Mare Island. We took over several store fronts on it’s now vacant but once grand main street to create our town. We added trees, shrubs, and lots of planted flowers to the streets, awnings to store fronts, an outdoor cafe and a few murals, rendering a more charming and picturesque village. One of my favorite additions is the mural Hannah and Clay sit in front of; our version of “Starry Night” reworked to include the Crestmont marquis. Monet’s, The Crestmont Movie Theater, and the Baker’s Pharmacy all started as vacant stores, completely transformed into the versions seen in the show. These transformations were extraordinary. The before and after photos are very telling as to the amount of work that went into bringing these locations to life.
V411: Were there any environments that were particularly challenging to nail down for this series?
Finding the high school was very difficult, a daunting task as the school is almost as important a character in the story as any of the living breathing humans. The creative team all had preconceived notions of what Liberty High should like like, we all were invoking memories of our own high school past. I scouted upwards of thirty schools before finding our winner; Analy High in Sebastopol. Offering a fantastic facade, a great main hallway, sizable cafeteria, charming campus, a newly laid athletic field, and so much more. Our dreams were answered. Monet’s and the Crestmont were challenging to find as well, which is why we decided to create them within empty store fronts.
V411: I noticed you have a background as a set decoratorWhat were you looking for in your set decorator, and what was your collaborative process like with the set decorator, specifically in creating an environment that brings young characters to life?
Because of my background as a Set Decorator, decorating for me is admittedly not an easy job. I look for someone who has a similar aesthetic, style, and inspirations. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with great talent and most of the decorators I work with are now my close friends.
Whether the script calls for a contemporary teenage bedroom or Eisenhower’s 1950’s Oval Office, my set design always starts with significant research. These days, the amount of research available on the Internet is infinite and a most valuable tool. We looked at real teenage bedrooms, as well as fictional ones, current music posters, high schoolers’ Facebook, Instagram, and other social media pages, and spoke with young adults to get inside their heads. Visiting so many high schools while scouting locations afforded me a wide reaching insider’s view of what life as a high school student is like. I took a lot of pictures, which provided great source material and inspiration for dressing the halls and classrooms.
V411: How involved were the producers/directors of the show in the creative decision process? Did you have a lot of freedom and flexibility, or did they have specific ideas that you worked to support?
DL: Our group was a very collaborative one and we made creative decisions together. In addition to reviewing all the research, color renderings were created for all the major sets, whether built on stage or created on location, so that everyone would understand exactly what my proposed set design would look like and afford the opportunity to make changes or additions. Brian Yorkey was intimately involved in choosing the music posters that lined Clay’s bedroom walls. Tom McCarthy and I worked extensively together on the floor plans for Monet’s, to provide the best angles for shooting the scenes there. It was truly a joy to work with and learn from these two incredibly talented artists.
V411: You have been very busy in film and television. What keeps you so involved in both mediums?
DL: Working on a television series is very different then working on a feature film; they require somewhat different attention and a use of different skill sets. Both mediums require huge amounts of prep work creating sets, however on feature films I’m able to spend much more time on the shooting sets, crafting what the camera sees while the sets are being shot. Working on a television series does not allow for this as I am always scouting and prepping the next episode. Research and design are paramount here; the vision has to be clearly communicated to your crew and you need a crew you can rely on to carry out that vision. .
I try to choose projects that inspire creativity, furnish new challenges, and excite me in some way. It’s very personal.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, made history last year when they announced it would be the first feature film captured with the ground-breaking WEAPON camera using an 8K RED DRAGON VV sensor.
The video takes us behind the scenes with director James Gunn and director of photography Henry Braham, BSC as they discuss their vision for the movie and the experience they wanted to give viewers. Their desire to display a larger-than-life adventure that is punctuated with intimate human moments made the compact form factor and large sensor size of the WEAPON 8K VV the perfect camera to capture the immersive experience they desired.
The camera’s ability to adapt to various rigs and handheld scenarios coupled with its ultra-high image quality led Braham to compliment the capabilities of WEAPON 8K VV, “It’s a large format camera, and yet it’s tiny. And that’s its brilliance.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now showing in theaters worldwide.
About RED Digital Cinema
RED Digital Cinema is a leading manufacturer of professional digital cameras and accessories. In 2006, RED began a revolution with the 4K RED ONE digital cinema camera. By 2008, RED released the DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) system that allowed the same camera to be used on features like the “The Hobbit” trilogy and “The Martian”, Emmy-winning shows like “House of Cards”, and magazine covers such as “Vogue” and “Harper’s Bazaar”. The cameras of RED’s DSMC2 line – RED RAVEN™, SCARLET-W, RED EPIC-W, and WEAPON – combine compact and lightweight design, modularity, superior image quality, and cutting edge performance – including up to 8K resolution. Find additional information at RED.com.
One could say Jeff Russo is a bit of a maestro when it comes to scoring films and TV series. In the last twelve months alone, his work was been heard supporting “The Night Of”,“American Gothic”, “Channel Zero”, “Power”, “Lucifer”, “Bull” and “Legion.” He also has two Emmy noms for “Best Score” to his name – one for each season of “Fargo” – and he’s scored the third season that will begin airing April 19th. In fact, it was his work on “Fargo” that opened uncharted territory for him: scoring games.
“What Remains of Edith Finch”, from developer Giant Sparrow, was initially set to be published by Sony. While looking for someone to score the game, members of the Sony music department were enamored with the sense of place Russo captured in his score for the first season of “Fargo” and reached out to him. Although he’d never scored a game before, Russo was attracted to the narrative of “What Remains of Edith Finch” and became attached. He remained on board for two and a half years, as the project was sold from Sony to Annapurna Interactive. While a bulk of that extensive time delay was due to the property’s sale, there were many natural periods of down time that were the result of the project’s development. This proved to be one of the key differences between scoring games and film or television that Russo had to adapt to.
“It was an easier schedule, but that time also made it harder,” said Russo. “Sometimes you’d have three months between (sections). It was important to go back, to listen, to tie the score together.”
The game follows Edith Finch, a twenty-something college graduate who returns to the Washington state based Finch residence after over ten years. Alone in the house as an adult, she begins to explore the rooms she was banned from as a child, insistent on unlocking the mysterious deaths of Finch family members. The first thing Russo did was develop a theme for Edith, which he could then build upon through the course of the game.
“As she goes from room to room, she is immersed in memory,” said Russo. “I experimented with the aspects of life (each room presented): swings, a camping trip, a wedding, and pulled from the vignettes of story.”
Russo used a full orchestra to compose the score, something generally reserved for bigger budget games but something he, and the developers, was confident would best serve the story. He incorporated a wealth of woodwind sounds to build upon the melancholy tone along with horns and strings. Synthetic sounds are also fully utilized throughout the game to help define unique aspects of the story. Russo also created a sense of maturity in the music, helping bridge the experience of the player as they travel through the generations and see Edith’s personal development through the course of the game.
While Russo found building a score around the narration and emotional journey similar to techniques used in film and television, he did have to accommodate for user interaction. As a player enters a room, they are free to look around. To keep the score flowing during these areas of player involvement, Russo had to build in musical loops.
“The greatest challenge with this was to figure out where (to loop the score) in the chord passage that would make it feel like a continuation, not a repeat,” said Russo.
Throughout the development process, Russo had a great amount of creative freedom to hone the score, meeting with the producers periodically to discuss sections, expectations and progress. When the entire process was nearly completed, Russo first reviewed the score with a Quicktime version of the game before testing it with and implementation of the game. The final version of “What Remains of Edith Finch” will be available on the PS4 and PC platforms April 25, 2017.
To learn more about “What Remains of Edith Finch”, click here.
Photogrammetry seems like a fabricated word, however it is a very important tool, used by the likes of scientists and geologists. In simple terms, it is the means of making measurements from photographs, where exact positions of surface points are recovered. Some uses of photogrammetry include the satellite tracking of tectonic motions, research of the migration patterns of swimming fish and the flight patterns of birds and insects.
During the Association of Film Commissioners International’s Global Production and Finance Conference, which was held April 6-8th 2017 in Burbank, Founder and CEO of Cognition Brian Pope suggested a new use for photogrammetry. His proposal is one that would benefit film commissioners across the globe. Before exploring this notion, let’s first understand Pope’s connection to photogrammetry.
Photogrammetry is a tool frequently used at Cognition. A hybrid production company, Cognition is a leader in emerging production and post-production services including virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D scanning. The company, through the use of photogrammetry, has made it possible to create 3D models of virtually any location or environment in precise and intricate detail.
Pope has applied Cognition’s use of photogrammetry to the non-profit organization The Arc/k Project. The Arc/k Project has been building digital archives of cultural treasures around the globe. In addition to perishable artifacts kept within the confines of a museum, photogrammetry has aided in preserving massive location-based sights that are dealing with the effects of natural decay, vandalism and climate change. Pope has also refined a process of crowd sourcing photos of locations. Sifting through thousands of images on the internet, Pope, along with The Arc/k Project team members, has been involved in creating 3D replicas of sites devastated by natural disasters and war, such as Syria’s Palmyra Castle, which was recently damaged by ISIS.
Recently, Pope discovered a way the technology he’s refined with The Arc/k Project and Cognition could assist film commissioners in the marketing of locations. Building detailed 3D models of sites deep in the forest, high in mountain chasms or historic buildings could allow a film maker to virtually explore the terrain, observing if camera cranes and equipment would logistically work within the confines. The program also provides a full range of seasonal effects on the terrain, giving decision makers a clear understanding of year-round looks and how they might affect a shoot. It also allows for quick navigation to other sites and alternatives, saving time and money for everyone involved.
Pope has successfully used the technology with the British Columbia Film Commission. During the AFCI panel, he presented images of an antique train that, due to a number of factors, had been shuttered from rail road tracks. The use of the photogrammetry process helped increase interest in using the locomotive. The renewed desire to film the train had multiple effects: in addition to bringing production to BC, it helped revive the struggling 2141 Collective, a non-profit involved in the conservation and engineering of the train.
“Our work provides a value added opportunity for film commissions to market locations that may be seasonally sensitive and to provide visual effect assets that can enhance a location’s attractiveness,” says Pope in a recent press release. “It can even allow a film commission to market in a way that enables productions to plan shoots from a distance and in virtual reality. Film commissions can expand their inventory of available production sites.”
Animals scream from 90 acres of land. Bombers fly overhead. A piano’s music drifts through a basement chasm. These elements are crucial to the story of “The Zookeeper’s Wife”, yet they occur primarily off-screen: that is, the viewer never sees them. Crafting authentic and accurate sounds for these cues fell to the capable hands of supervising sound editor Becky Sullivan, re-recording mixers Terry Porter and Anna Behlmer and the members of the film’s sound department.
A period drama based on the factual account of the Warsaw Zoological Garden owners Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) who successfully rescued Jewish citizens by smuggeling them through an underground system on their property in WWII Poland, the sound team’s approach began with research. They had to authentically portray the sounds of nature, warfare, ghetto and domestic life through a six year period. A WWII history buff, Sullivan turned to her personal library of sound recordings to match the fighter plans, gun fire and other battle elements. The list of zoo sounds that open the story proved more challenging to nail down.
“We had to show the love for these animals,” said Sullivan. “They had to sound authentic but not get cartoony. We had to create a personality for them.”
To audibly define Adam, a baby camel that frequently trailed Antonina, a wealth of camel sounds were recorded. After testing levels of chattering, they opted for small moments of vocals. This course of spot testing sound also helped balance the gentle purring of Antonia’s lion cubs.
When Antonina saves a suffocating baby elephant, Sullivan used recordings of a baby sea lion whose breathing patterns and squeaks worked best for the injured mammal. The team then thoughtfully built the off-screen elephants’ backdrop sonically. This included highlighting the heavy footsteps of the anxious father’s charging and the distraught mother’s eager trumpeting.
For the scenes that depict the refugees in the Zabinski’s basement, Sullivan and her team were looking for ways to dictate space, sell the danger and extend the sense of dread. Working with foley artists, they captured the sound of creaks on different types of wood. Adding these sounds to the track, the re-recording mixers worked with reverb and delay to differentiate distance and pressure of individuals on the upper floor. Porter applied these techniques as well as compression to the piano’s music to dictate its expansion in the basement space. In addition to creating location-based sounds, the team ensured sounds corresponded to actors’ reactions and visual nuances.
“Niki (Caro, the film’s director) did a great job of shooting directional cues,” said Behlmer. “If something drew our attention, we watched the action and figured out how to orchestrate it.”
During the pre-mix and dubbing stage with editor David Coulson, Caro worked very collaboratively with the sound team, regularly discussed refocusing sound and adjusting sound effects to ensure they captured the emotional landscape she envisioned. This included finessing the layout of an explosion; from a plane’s overhead flight to the scattering of debris.
Paramount Pictures’ remake of the 1989 Japanese Manga series Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic visual effects spectacle that tries to pay homage to the anime world in live action. Directed by Rupert Sanders, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as Major — a woman whose brain is implanted in a cyborg body after a terrible crash nearly takes her life. Her new cyborg abilities make her the perfect soldier, but she yearns to learn about her past.
Ghost in the Shell was filmed primarily at Wellington, New Zealand’s Stone Street Studios, with additional shooting in Hong King and Shanghai. WETA Workshop handled the on-set, practical effects, but to fully realize the futuristic world of Ghost in the Shell and some of its fantastic cyborg creatures, the filmmakers tapped international visual effects facility Moving Picture Company as the lead VFX vendor, giving them more than 1,000 shots. The complex work required a close collaboration between the director, production VFX supervisors John Dykstra and Guillaume Rocheron, and MPC’s teams in Montreal, London and Bangalore led by VFX supervisors Arundi Asregadoo and Axel Bonami.
Smurfs: The Lost Village, Sony Pictures Animation’s reboot of the popular ‘80s cartoon The Smurfs, opens in theatres this weekend. The film stars Demi Lovato as Smurfette, Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf, Joe Manganiello as Hefty Smurf, Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf, Danny Pudi as Brainy Smurf and Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. In the story, a mysterious map prompts Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty to find a lost village, inhabited by SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez), SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper), SmurfLily (Ariel Winter) and SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts), before Gargamel does.
Director Kelly Asbury, who previously directed Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), Shrek 2 (2004) and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), signed on to direct the film in November 2013. He explained that when he was first approached to direct it, he had to a do a little research. “I didn’t know tons about the Smurfs,” he confesses. “I was not really of the age to have been brought up on The Smurfs in America, because they really didn’t come to America until around 1982, and by that time, I was already out of college. I didn’t have kids so I really wasn’t watching Saturday morning television that much.”
Rarely does a film get a second chance at theatrical distribution, especially if it failed to rake in cash the first time around. Yet cult classic “Donnie Darko” – a box office flop during its 2001 release – will once again be projected on the big screen. Sporting a brand-new 4K restoration, the film kicks off a week-long engagement at the Cinefamily Theater in Los Angeles and the Metrograph in New York on March 31st. From there, it will travel to venues around the US, including Denver, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and San Francisco. Recognizing a new generations of fans will encounter “Donnie Darko” in full-screen, cinematic glory continues to dumbfound its writer and director, Richard Kelly.
“This film was beautifully shot by Steven (Poster) and deserves to be seen on a big screen,” said Kelly. “It is hard to believe fifteen years later it is getting a wider release than the original.”
The road to the big screen for “Donnie Darko” was littered with obstacles. Then a 26-year-old USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate, Kelly only had two short film credits to his name when he sought funding for his self-penned, darkly comic mind-bending feature. Beginning and ending with a dramatic plane crashing into Donnie Darko’s (Jake Gyllenhall) room, the film weaves themes regarding self-worth, bullying, love, mental illness and angst through a heady, sci-fi mix of time travel and alternative universes. His script was often well-received during his early quests for financers, but his insistence on directing it was a funding hurdle. Once made, the film premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and had an impressive, and award-winning, festival circuit run, but fell short of cementing a distribution deal. Kelly feared “Donnie Darko” was destined to a straight to DVD fate when Flower Films, the company co-owned by Drew Barrymore who also has a minor role in the film, assisted in securing the film’s theatrical release. The stumbling block for “Donnie Darko” was the film’s unfortunate release date: October 26, 2001. The nation was still overcoming the horrors of the September 11th terrorist attacks in NYC, and a marketing a film with a pivotal plane crash was a hard sell.
Once the movie was released to VHS in 2002, however, it became profitable, earning a place on the top shelf of cult film classics. Kelly recalls its DVD transfer as “prefunctary, without a lot of oversight.” The quality of the film was never maintained for the subsequent Blue-Ray transfers that followed. In essences, what the majority of “Donnie Darko” fans have seen is nothing like the film Kelly and his DP, Steven Poster, shot. When Arrow Films, the company who acquired the rights to “Donnie Darko”, contacted Kelly in 2016 proposing a 4K conversion, the director was shocked.
“They wanted me to oversee the restoration,” said Kelly. “I talked to Steven, I wanted him to be involved.”
The shooting of “Donnie Darko” was rather unconventional for its time. It’s 35mm film format was a standard choice for the late nineties. What was unusual was the fledgling director’s instance that the film be shot in anamorphic widescreen – a stylistic choice virtual unheard of for independent films during that period. Poster recognized one potential hurdle in using anamorphic for 35mm: it typically requires a lengthy lighting set up. The “Donnie Darko” production was on a tight, 28 day schedule with no flexibility. Shooting with a Panavision Panaflex Millennium camera, Poster decided to use a high speed film stock – along with an assortment of filters – to help reduce the amount of necessary light exposure. Poster, who’s been involved in remastering some of his other projects, was excited to reconnect with Kelly and the film. But first, they had to find the master. Rarely do directors get the master: it falls into the hands of a bevvy of the financiers, producers and distributors.
“Up to 15 entities can own pieces of (a film) so who knows where they go,” said Poster.
Poster’s main hope was that the original be well archived. With a clock running on their restoration timeline, a furious search for the original negatives began. Kelly ultimately tracked them down at the Deluxe studio in London, where they benefited from appropriate archiving. The negative was scanned and the meticulous process of restoring the film began.
“We had a tremendous amount of creative control,” said Poster, who noted Arrow, like many smaller companies, wants to ensure they get everyone’s creative input when remastering or restoring a title. “I work quickly, but had plenty of time to correct the entire movie.”
For Kelly, returning to the editing suite with Poster was a unique treat. Kelly had stepped away from directing to focus on writing for the past several years. The last feature he’d directed – which also featured Poster as DP – was the 2009 release “The Box.” He found the process to be a bit of a home coming. He was particularly grateful to have Poster’s expertise in handling the restoration process.
“The tools at our disposal were a significant and wonderful gift to any artist. Steven knows how to use these tools artfully,” said Kelly. “He utilizes restrain, you don’t need to overuse them or push the color space. It was important for us to maintain perspective, a sense of naturalism and to be authentic.”
Kelly did take the liberty of enhancing some visual effects in the 4K version that he felt were never fully realized. However, his main focus when converting “Donnie Darko” to 4K was “more about the restoration process.”
“We were able to preserve what was there,” said Kelly.