The American Society of Cinematographers

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Presidents Desk
Need for Speed
Page 2
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As with any production, stunt sequences required more cameras to cover the action. But on this production, “more” typically meant 28 to 30 cameras all rolling on a single stunt. There are no computer-generated cars in Need for Speed, no greenscreen process-car driving shots, and no CGI stunts. However, CGI was used to put the actors behind the wheel in dangerous sequences, and all of the camera rigging on the cars involved in stunts had to be painted out. “We didn’t do a stunt more than once,” recalls Hurlbut. “We would rig as many cameras as we could and cover it from numerous positions. The real CG work was painting out cameras and rigs — and occasionally us — but all the stunts and all the driving are real.”

On a major stunt, Hurlbut assigned the cameras that were to be operated to A-camera action operator Chris Moseley and A-camera/

Steadicam operator Jodi Miller, and there were typically up to 30 more in fixed positions. Second-unit cinematographer Michael “Billy Goat” Svitak was “the guy we’d send up a hill or down the road to get the bigger shots,” says Hurlbut. “He had a splinter van, and we’d deploy him to get the more remote coverage. They all did an amazing job.”

Lead actor Paul did most of his own driving stunts, after training with professional performance-driving instructor Rick Seaman at Willow Springs International Speedway. “Seaman said Aaron was a natural,” says Hurlbut, “and when our stunt coordinator, Lance Gilbert, saw Aaron’s driving, he said, ‘Okay, we’re putting him in the car!’”

Because so many scenes take place in cars, Hurlbut had specially designed windows installed that did not have a trace of tinting. “These were all very high-end cars, which meant that custom windows had to be created by hand — there are no real third-party parts for them,” he says. “We needed all the natural light we could get in the cars to really see the actor in the driver’s seat.”

Though Hurlbut did all of his camera tests with Panavision Primo lenses, budgetary considerations led the production to shoot with a mix of Canon Cinema and Cooke S4 lenses. The Canons were zooms, a 14.5-60mm T2.6, a 30-300mm T2.95-3.7 and a 15.5-47mm T2.8, and Hurlbut used three full sets of Cooke S4 primes. “I wanted a prime set with as many focal lengths as I could get,” he says. “With the three sets of S4s, we could do six cars at a time, and the variations in focal lengths were the difference between being able to do the camera position we wanted or not. When you’re in really tight quarters, sometimes a shot will work with a 21mm but not a 25mm, and if I’d had only a 25mm, I would have had to move the camera to a different position or go outside the windshield. Scott and I really wanted to keep the camera in the car.

“If I’d had to slide the camera to the side for a longer focal length, it would have taken the camera out of the actor’s eyes, and that would have meant less emotional connection,” he adds. “Just 4mm can be all the difference in the world between being right in the actor’s eyes or in a three-quarter profile. We’d embed three cameras in the car at the same time so we could get close-up, low angle and wheel-well shots all at once.”

The production recorded Canon Raw and ArriRaw to Codex S recorders. (The C500 doesn’t have a built-in recorder.) The 1DCs recorded 4K 7:1 compression motion-JPEG to Compact Flash cards.

To get the audience even closer into the action, stunt drivers were able to wear a helmet cam while driving at full speed. This was a Canon EOS 1DC mounted to the side of a helmet with a 15mm Zeiss ZE lens; counterweights were mounted on the other side of the helmet to keep a solid balance on the driver’s head.

Shooting at high ISOs meant very little lighting, even inside the cars at night. “We actually did a lot of our car-interior lighting with an iPad!” recalls Hurlbut. “The drivers use an iPad embedded in their cars to communicate and track their progress. For dash lights, we used Rosco daylight-balanced Litepads, which we greened up a little, dimmed way down and diffused slightly, adding egg crates to keep it from spilling everywhere. I just wanted to fill in the shadows a bit and allow the light from outside to key the actors.

“We were using natural light most of the time when shooting car interiors, and the result has a very real feel,” he continues. “There’s a scene early in the movie when Marshall is at a drive-in theater, and we used a 2K projector to put Bullitt on a big screen about 150 feet away from his car, and the bounce off the screen was enough to key the actors with the C500 at 4,000 ISO!

“This was a very different kind of film,” Hurlbut concludes. “Scott wanted to do as much of the action for real as we could, and he wanted the actors to react to what was really happening. So many filmmakers approach action by panning the camera around like mad and shaking it, but we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to immerse the audience in the live action.”



Digital Capture

Canon EOS, C500, 1DC; Arri Alexa Plus; GoPro Hero 3; Vision Research Phantom Flex

Canon Cinema and Cooke S4

Stereoscopic Conversion

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