The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Another key scene finds the adult Brown and his band sitting inside a Vietnam-era troop carrier that flies them to a military base to entertain American soldiers. While en route, the plane is attacked from the ground, causing chaos onboard. The production obtained an actual period plane that they parked on a tarmac, but it never left the ground. Goldblatt explains, “In theory, the plane is in the air, and it’s out of control as the pilot tries to take evasive action. We couldn’t afford any hydraulics, so we had to make it seem as if the plane was bouncing around. The AD would just yell at everyone onboard to cower and move right so it looked as if the plane was being buffeted!”

The scene was covered three different ways: handheld, on a Steadicam and from a Technocrane that sat on the tarmac outside the plane’s open tailgate. For the handheld shots, the grips attached a pulley to the wires on the carrier’s ceiling (normally used by paratroopers, who would clip a cable to pull their parachutes as they jumped out of the plane). Arnot could then handhold an Alexa hung from the pulley as he walked the length of the fuselage, between the two rows of passengers who sat facing one another; as he carried the camera, he could rock it and spin it up to 220 degrees in any direction.

For a shot of Brown striding to the cockpit to talk to the pilot, Arnot, who is 6'6" tall, had to wedge himself into the plane’s dashboard. The operator held the C500, mounted with a 14mm lens, above his head and used a 7" monitor placed on his lap to frame the shot. “I was just able to get the pilot’s head and part of his body on the right and Brown standing with his arm resting on the pilot’s seat,” he explains. “The camera was maybe a foot from the pilot and three feet from Brown.”

Arnot half grimaces and half laughs as he acknowledges, “It was extremely tight quarters. That’s another example of where the Canon is great. It’s so compact. We never could have achieved that shot with an Alexa body.”

“They used to fly those planes with the doors open because it was so hot,” says Goldblatt. “They flew only about 500 to 1,000 feet off the ground, which meant you could always see the landscape. In preproduction I shot aerial plates of misty, Vietnam-style landscapes — from a helicopter in Mississippi!” Weintraub adds, “We replaced the background with Stephen’s aerial plates and CG trees. We enhanced the plates by adding matte-painted mountains in the background, and huts and encampments in the clearings on the ground, tracking them into the keyed hero foreground action. We also added CG explosions and smoke, tracer fire and interactive lighting on the plates to match the CG enhancements.” Other work done at Mr. X included tiling techniques to multiply the crowds at several of the concerts.

In two instances, Goldblatt sought to include brief time-lapse sequences, one to suggest the passage of seasons and another that would chart light changing over the course of a day. “I needed something I could put in a tree in the middle of a Mississippi forest and just leave there — and that would have sufficient power to run [unattended] for up to three months,” he observes. His research led him to Harbortronics, where he liaised with Mark Roberts. The company supplied two Canon EOS 1100D Rebel T3s, each with a Canon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. “Each camera came in its own [waterproof] fiberglass housing, with a 5-watt solar panel that provided a sort of roof,” the cinematographer continues. “The cameras took hi-res JPEG stills at set intervals for three months.”

Goldblatt has effusive praise for his crew, most of whom have worked with him for decades, while noting that he enjoyed working for the first time with DIT Miller and dailies colorist Jeremy Voissem. Voissem used Frame Logic hardware and software to interpret Miller’s color decision lists and produce dailies on location. Goldblatt also collaborated once again with his longtime colorist, ASC associate Steven J. Scott, Technicolor’s vice president of theatrical imaging and supervising digital colorist.  At press time, the pair had not yet begun final grading, but Goldblatt stressed the importance of their ongoing partnership.

Goldblatt believes strongly that dailies should be projected on a large screen and that key members of the production, both above and below the line, should watch the footage together. “It creates a feeling of camaraderie and amity between everybody on the show,” he maintains. Furthermore, “if I want to make something darker or lighter, or to show Tate an alternate possibility, Jeremy can do it in 30 seconds, right then and there, and we can then continue with the dailies. I take my hat off to Robin Fisichella, because when I asked for projected dailies on this rather remote Mississippi location, she made it happen and didn’t treat me as if I was deranged!”


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

1.85:1

Digital Capture

Arri Alexa; Canon Cinema EOS C500, 1100D;

Ikegami EC-35

Angenieux Optimo; Panavision Primo;

Canon Cinema, EF


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