The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents February 2011 Return to Table of Contents
Green Hornet
Page 2
Hornet 3D
John Seale, ASC, ACS
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up

Reid’s father preferred to tackle crime and corruption with the power of the press, but the Green Hornet quickly realizes how persuasive a turbo-charged supercar and a little kung fu can be. When he tells Kato (Jay Chou), “You’re a human Swiss Army knife,” he’s not just talking about all the high-tech weapons Kato engineers — he’s also referring to Kato’s calm, ninja-like physical prowess. To illustrate this ability, Schwartzman and Gondry came up with “Kato Vision.” Schwartzman explains, “It’s Kato’s point of view. In the middle of a fight, he can look at five different bad guys at once and focus on each of them.” Kato Vision shots were captured at 500 fps with a Vision Research Phantom HD “because that’s the only high-speed digital camera that can take anamorphic lenses,” Schwartzman notes. A Source Four Leko was focused on each of the villains as the frame jumped from weapon to weapon and then back to Kato as he prepared to disarm his attackers.  

During night-exterior fights, Gondry wanted the ability to go from 24 fps to 500 fps without having to wait for an extensive relight, but “shooting 500-ASA film at a T3.5 requires something like 42 footcandles, and shooting with the Phantom at 100 ASA at T2.8 requires something closer to 3,300 footcandles,” says Schwartzman. He and gaffer Frank Dorowsky lit their locations — which included a six-block stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard — to go from 40 footcandles to 3,000 footcandles at the push of a button. “We had lights all over the place,” Schwartzman recalls. “If there was a billboard lighting itself for a 24-fps shot, we’d have to add a Dino to see that same billboard when we cranked the Phantom up to 500 fps. We augmented streetlights with focusable 6K LRX Lights, which we rigged right over the lamp head. I had a couple of 650-watt Redheads washing up a building at 24 fps, and at 500 fps I needed four 10Ks to get the same look. If we were using a Bebee Night Light 
at 24 fps, I’d just use one of its [6K] lamps, but when we went to 500 fps, I’d turn on the other 14! It was a lot of work, but the studio supported it because they wanted Michel to be completely free to create.” 

For fights in the Sentinel bullpen, Gondry never exceeded 120 fps. (He also never ramped the camera on set.) Schwartzman switched the Image 80s from two tubes for 24 fps to eight tubes for 120 fps, programming the window-oriented Maxi-Brutes and Skypans through a dimmer board. 

When the Green Hornet starts to get the better of the criminal underworld, Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) decides it’s time to squash the superhero once and for all. This leads to a particularly memorable montage that shows the order to kill the Green Hornet being passed around the underworld. The sequence begins when two of Chudnofsky’s henchmen exit a bar. One heads to a massage parlor in Hollywood to spread the word, while the other rounds up a posse elsewhere. Whenever two or three characters share the frame and then go their separate ways, the screen seamlessly divides, with each new frame following the character until he meets another character in another location, and then the screen splits again, and so on, following the characters until the 2.40:1 frame is divided into 16 separate panels.  

Gondry likens the sequence to a tree with 16 branches. “You go to the end of the first branch and then come back to the trunk, and then you go to the second branch and then come back where the second branch meets the first branch, and then you go to the third branch. We follow the first bad guy, he talks to the first person, and then the camera continues, but first we have an assistant mark the feet of the Steadicam operator [Chris Haarhoff] when he stops for the shot. We mark his position and memorize the frame on the video return, and all the other characters don’t move. We follow the main character going to talk to the next character, and it’s the same thing — when he talks to him we mark Chris’ heel. The other guy he’s talking to stays still, and then we talk to the third one, and then we talk to the fourth one, and then that person goes away. Then we come back to the last juncture with the third guy. Chris puts his heel to the mark and we match the frame as best we can, and then the other actor, who was standing frozen, resumes his action, and now we follow him until he reaches the end of his branch. When he’s done, we stop the camera and come back one more juncture.” And so on. 

Using a video camera, Gondry spent the first night on location rehearsing the sequence with Haarhoff and 2nd-unit cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister, ASC. On the second night, each of the vignettes was shot in 1.33:1 with a PanArri 435 and a 27mm T1.9 Primo spherical lens. “Even if we didn’t use everything we shot, it would’ve been almost impossible to fit that many ’Scope frames into one,” Collister muses. Gondry arranged the frames and tightened up any visible jump cuts in post. 

After principal photography wrapped, Sony informed the filmmakers that Green Hornet would be converted to 3-D in post. “If you were to make a list of all the things not to do when shooting in 2-D for conversion to 3-D, you’d find we did them all,” Schwartzman notes wryly. “For starters, you don’t want anything that’s difficult to rotoscope, and when we shot the film we encouraged lens flares and debris and smoke. If I’d known we were going 3-D, I would have shot this movie flat [spherical] with wider lenses because those kinds of shots dimensionalize easier.” 

Although Schwartzman’s schedule kept him from participating in the stereoscopic-conversion process (see sidebar on page 30), he did have the opportunity to do two days of reshoots in native 3-D. This work was done with two Red One M-X cameras, Zeiss Ultra Primes and a 3ality TS-2 stereo rig. The Green Hornet will be released in 2-D as well as 3-D, which means the post team pulled one eye from the 3-D footage for the 2-D version. “Normally, that would match [the look of the 2-D footage] pretty well, but we shot 3-D digitally, whereas the rest of the movie, apart from the Phantom material, was shot on film,” notes Schwartzman says. “But I was actually less concerned about getting digital cameras to match film than I was about getting the field of view of a flat lens to match that of an anamorphic lens. [Colorist] Stefan Sonnenfeld at Company 3 did a great job of adding a little noise to the clean digital image to make it feel a bit more like film.”



35mm and Digital Capture

Panaflex Platinum, Millenium XL; PanArri 435; Vision Research Phantom HD; Red-One M-X

Panavision G-Series, Primo; Zeiss Ultra Prime

Kodak Vision2 Expression 500T 5229, Vision3 200T 5213

Digital Intermediate

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