The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents April 2017 Return to Table of Contents
President’sDesk
ChicagoJustice
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The Path
Hux
ASC Close-Up

For on-set color, Wiegand’s approach was simple: a Rec 709 curve, output to monitors with a clear warning to onlookers. “I put stickers on the monitors that say, ‘For framing and focus,’” Wiegand explains. “So if anyone comes up to me and is like, ‘The lipstick looks like it’s a little different shade on the monitor,’ I point to that sticker and say, ‘Everybody relax.’”

Digital loader Drew Fulton backed up all footage to a pair of 4TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual external archival drives. Samsung 850 Pro SSD shuttle drives went out twice daily along with camera reports to the production office on the Universal lot in Chicago. Assistant editors at the nearby Wolf Films editing facility performed a rough color timing to create dailies. JPEG still frames were then pulled from those dailies and sent to Wiegand for review.

Wiegand estimates that the production was an even 50-50 split between location and set work, with the latter largely done on a single stage at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. The sets for the show’s courtrooms, state’s attorney’s office, and investigators’ bullpen all lived there.

Similar to the original Law & Order, Chicago Justice’s camerawork helps delineate the domains of the investigators and the prosecutors; the show favors handheld for the former, and sticks, Steadicam and cranes for the latter.

“There’s always one sentence that Dick Wolf says to me at the beginning of a show that sums up what he’s looking for,” Wiegand offers. “During prep for Chicago Justice it was, ‘When we’re in the courtroom, I want to feel like we’re in a cathedral to justice.’ We want the camera moves to feel solid and stately, like you’re in a place where big decisions are being made.”

That stylistic solemnity came in part from a 22’ Technocrane provided by Chicago’s Kinetic Remote Systems and controlled on set by Mark Woods. “I worked with Mark on Chicago Fire, and I learned really quickly that if you get that guy together with a good camera operator and a good dolly grip, you can do anything on that Technocrane — and you can do it really fast,” Wiegand enthuses. The crane often lived behind the jury box, where it could extend all the way to the middle of the courtroom to capture the attorneys interrogating witnesses or presenting to jurors.

The courtroom — always shot as a daytime setting — was keyed through a trio of large windows by three 10K tungsten Molebeams and two Arri T12s through 250 Half White Diffusion. Quasar Science LED tubes fitted inside 4’ 2Bank Kino Flo housings provided fill on the side of the courtroom opposite the windows. “The Quasar LED bulbs are punchier than the Kino bulbs,” Wiegand explains, “and because they’re dimmable they become infinitely more useful than a [fluorescent] that’s either full speed or half speed.”

A 2K Mighty-Mole bounced into the set provided additional fill. To further illuminate the defense team’s table, a MacTech Artist Series 400 bi-color LED unit with Half Grid Diffusion hung from an opening in the set’s ceiling. When moving in for close-ups, Kino Flo Celeb 201s were added to the mix for eye lights.

“When we shot in that courtroom, we liked to light it so that we could do these cool big camera moves,” says Wiegand. “We typically lit so we could shoot from two or three directions.”

Chandeliers, wall sconces and other practicals also peppered the set, which Wiegand says was both a blessing and a curse: “They provided some really cool highlights and helped define the location, but it was always a fight.” Laughing, she adds, “You’d be setting up a shot, and before you knew it you’d have a chandelier in it, a couple sconces and some desk lamps. Suddenly it’s like, ‘Are we shooting in a courtroom or a lamp store?’”

For the respective bullpens of the investigators and litigators, Wiegand wanted the lighting to help underscore the dichotomy between the spaces. In the litigators’ office, the overhead fluorescents hang in a structured pattern, evenly spaced and uniform in color temperature. The investigators’ bullpen, in contrast, is a mishmash of random colors and bulb placement amid the clutter of old Rolodexes and landline phones. “The state’s attorneys are in first class and the investigators are in coach,” Wiegand explains. “In coach you get the cheap light bulbs, and when a light dies the person who replaces it just sticks in whatever was on sale. So in one corner the light might be blue and in another corner it might be kind of green.”

Both spaces were lit with similar units. Arri T12s with 250 Half White Diffusion were pushed in through windows and were sometimes supplemented with Cinelease Quantum120 LED units. For tighter coverage, Kino Flo Celeb 401s served as keys and Celeb 401Qs provided fill.

A short cart push to another soundstage at Cinespace took the crew to Molly’s — a bar location used by all four Chicago shows. There, firefighters, cops, doctors and lawyers mingle after punching the clock.

Molly’s began life on the first season of Chicago Fire when the show’s firefighters purchased the bar. Originally a practical location was used, but after the bar and the neighborhood tired of the production’s consistent presence, Molly’s was re-created on stage — right down to the Christmas lights that adorn the watering hole’s ceiling. “Chicago Med actually got in trouble last year because they started turning those Christmas lights off,” Wiegand says, laughing. “Dick Wolf said, ‘Why aren’t the lights on in Molly’s? I can’t tell it’s Molly’s without those twinkle lights.’”

Those “twinkle lights” provided a bit of overall ambience, as did the LiteGear LiteRibbon placed around the bar. The crew keyed the set with Mac Tech Artist Series 400s adorned with a 60-degree egg crate. Inside the egg crate, 216 White Diffusion was used; Full Grid was used on the outside. Kino Flo Celeb 401s were employed for fill.

For location work, Digital Sputniks and Mole-Richardson Tener LEDs became the hero lights. “They blew my mind over and over again,” says Wiegand. “There is so much flexibility built into them, and they draw such a small amount of power.”

Wiegand first saw Digital Sputnik’s new line of modular LED lights onscreen in The Neon Demon, shot by Natasha Braier, ADF (AC July ’16). She then visited Digital Sputnik’s showroom in Sherman Oaks to see the units in person, and she ultimately selected the DS 1, DS 3 and DS 6 for use on Chicago Justice.

“The Sputniks were always with us everywhere we went,” Wiegand says. “And we always had a Sputnik sitting right off set with a battery mounted on it so if we didn’t want to run cable or we needed something really fast, a single person could fly that sucker in on a stand, and it was ready to go and had a lot of punch to it.”

Using his 12.9” iPad Pro, gaffer Ronald Dragosh controlled the Digital Sputniks via the company’s app, which allowed him to adjust the intensity and color. “Ronald had the biggest iPad you’ve ever seen,” jokes Wiegand. “His iPad could be a coffee table. He would sit there with that giant thing and be like a conductor with all the lights.”

 

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