The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents February 2014 Return to Table of Contents
The Monuments Men
Page 2
Page 3
Dean Cundey, ASC
Edurado Serra, ASC, AFC
Richard Rawlings Jr., ASC
Presidents Desk
Filmmakers Forum
ASC Close-Up

Papamichael says he was able to maintain a T4 even for night work with the Hawk lenses thanks to the Alexa’s sensitivity. For day exteriors shot on film, he would stop down “to T5.6 or T8 max,” he says. The softer quality of the Hawks made lens filtration largely unnecessary, although Papamichael did use Tiffen Glimmerglass when shooting close-ups of Cate Blanchett, who portrays French museum curator Claire Simone. The crew also had an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm spherical zoom on hand for long-lens shots. Visual-effects supervisor Angus Bickerton captured the Hawk anamorphic-lens characteristics during prep and added them to the spherical-shot footage in post for consistency.

Papamichael’s key crew included longtime gaffer Rafael Sanchez, whom he brought over from the States, Berlin-based gaffer Bjoern Susen, and U.K. gaffer Perry Evans; key grip Glenn König; A-camera 1st AC Luc Pallet; B-camera operator Berto Lecluyse; B-camera 1st AC Lars Richter; and Steadicam operators Alessandro Brambilla, Joerg Widmer and Scott Sakamoto. “We usually ran just one camera, but we’d run two for performance during longer dialogue scenes because George doesn’t like to repeat things a lot,” Papamichael notes. “Most of the time we did one or two takes, so everybody had to be ready for Take One to be technically perfect. It kept everyone on his or her toes.”

Papamichael operated the main camera, a role he assumes only on certain projects. “Both George and Alexander Payne like to keep it a little more intimate around camera,” he says. “It enables us to have more streamlined communication. They don’t sit away from set in a tent or any kind of video village. Playback occurs only on rare occasions. Because George was also acting in this film [portraying Frank Stokes, who convenes the Monuments Men], it was nice to have me right there at the camera. It helped the whole feedback process.”

The production used QTake HD for video assist. A look-up table Papamichael created with Berkowitz was fed to the cinematographer’s 17" HD OLED monitor, from which he lit and operated. “The LUT had a higher contrast setting, with deep blacks,” says Papamichael. Clooney and Heslov, meanwhile, shared a 17" TVLogic LCD monitor, and Berkowitz had a 24" OLED, from which Papamichael got feedback regarding focus and lighting. Papamichael notes that Clooney typically did not check his screen when appearing in a scene, leaving it instead to the cinematographer and Heslov to confirm whether a take was good.

Several scenes were shot in burned and abandoned mines that offered no source of illumination. For those, Papamichael relied mostly on period practicals fitted with stronger bulbs, including work lights, military-issue flashlights and lanterns the actors held. These were sometimes augmented with what Sanchez calls the “Fish Light,” small Chimeras fitted with

three 250-watt Soft White ECA Photofloods bulbs and an egg-crate grid, or 500-watt Jem Balls, which were used handheld and moved in sync with the actors. The crew also carried white cards so the actors could bounce their practicals into them. “They all became pretty good at lighting themselves,” Papamichael observes. For large mine caverns shot onstage at Babelsberg, a general low-key ambience was created with Nine-light Maxi-Brutes bouncing off several 12'x12' UltraBounces flown overhead.

A night sequence showing Claire racing on her bicycle in pursuit of Nazis leaving Paris with a train full of stolen art was more involved, but still, Papamichael strove to keep things simple. “My big night-exterior lighting setups usually have one large source, and then I use whatever practicals are in the shot,” he says. “Typically, we’d strategically place streetlamps provided by the art department and augment them with small sources to create individual pools of light. I have a very naturalistic approach. I don’t fill a lot. I let things fall off and always make sure there are dark areas in the frame so that even if something is front lit, there’s still good contrast.”

Claire’s pursuit of the train was filmed in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel neighborhood, and the single large source behind Blanchett was an Arri T12 gelled with ? CTO high up on a Condor. Practical streetlamps were each fitted with a 150-watt bulb and an additional outside bulb, and shop and restaurant windows projected a row of three 650-watt Fresnels with ? White diffusion, an Ianiro 800-watt Redhead, and a couple of 1Ks behind Light Grid. The Alexa was shooting at a T2.8, “which I allowed myself to open up to when using the Master Primes,” says Papamichael.

For other night work, Papamichael would usually use 20K Fresnels, Nine-light Maxi-Brutes or Dinos because, as he says, “This is a period piece, and I don’t really use blue moonlight. Any urban situation I play warm, usually going with big tungsten units.”

For film work, Papamichael used Kodak Vision3 500T 5219 rated normally. The negative was processed at Arri Film & TV Services in Berlin. “I wasn’t concerned about using the higher-speed stock because I wanted to feel some grain,” says the cinematographer. “I think that conveys that older period look, and we planned to add grain to the digital footage in post.”

 Papamichael and Berkowitz did preliminary grades of the digital material on set at the DIT station, which was equipped with DaVinci Resolve. At the end of each day, Berkowitz sent DPX files to Arri as reference for dailies colorist Steffen Paul.

“Arri created our Blu-ray dailies off the ArriRaw based on our color-corrected LUT, and they also matched our film footage to single-frame stills I shot with the Alexa whenever we shot film, applying our LUT as a reference,” recalls Papamichael.

The cinematographer notes that Clooney “doesn’t like a lot of fancy camerawork. Most of the moves in this film are traditional dolly moves. The camera never moves in a way that ‘makes a statement.’ Moves are almost always motivated by the actors’ movements. We often used a 4-foot slider for short moves like push-ins.”

Because of the production’s financing, the final grade was performed in London at Technicolor’s Soho facility by U.S. colorist Skip Kimball, who used DaVinci Resolve 10. Papamichael crossed the pond for the process and says his goal was to ensure “good saturation with solid blacks, while also maintaining natural-feeling skin tones. I wanted to achieve and maintain that painterly quality we set out to achieve without being too aggressive with the contrast. I was after subtle but rich tonality.”

The picture was edited by Stephen Mirrione on an Avid system, while conforming was done on Autodesk Smoke. The negative was scanned at 4K on a Northlight, and an Arrilaser was used for the 4K filmout. “I had to match the geometry between the flat and anamorphic, and then I applied a film grain to the Alexa footage to match the 35mm,” Kimball explains. Trying to give the film scenes the same level of shadow detail that the Alexa raw material had in the low end was perhaps the biggest challenge, he adds. 

Papamichael was excited to work on such a large canvas after doing a completely different kind of project for Payne. “It was fascinating going from Nebraska, which is basically two characters in a car and a very stark landscape, to a World War II story loaded with movie stars and classical Hollywood lighting. That’s what cinematographers love about the job: It’s different every time!”


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