The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents February 2015 Return to Table of Contents
Presidents Desk
Q and A with Bradford Young
Page 2
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Sundance 2015
ASC Close-Up

The diverse texture of New York is very much part of the look. I presume that’s why you chose widescreen and went with wider lenses: to give more emphasis to characters in their environment.

Young: That perspective came out of necessity, because we shot with [Arri/Zeiss] Master Anamorphics when they were in their prototype stage. We only had three focal lengths — 35mm, 50mm and 75mm — and we basically shot the whole film on the 50mm, so a close-up felt as wide and as expansive as a wide shot. The look came out of what could be considered a deficit, but it turned out to be really great. It helps strike that balance between decaying space and decaying humanity.

How did shooting anamorphic affect your lighting?

Young: Not much. That’s the beauty of those lenses coupled with the Alexa: we’re now able to work at very low light levels. Every shot is wide open [T1.9] — thanks to Stanley Fernandez Jr., the most amazing focus puller. I like toplight, so my mind’s always thinking that I’m not going to see the ceiling anyway. That helps me be flexible with anamorphic. I love to let production designers do whatever they want in the frame and not have to worry about hiding a light stand.

Walk me through your lighting package.

Young: We used tons of fluorescents, so we went back to good ol’ Kino Flos. We loved mixing Cool White with Daylight [tubes]. When we did strike bigger heads, we leaned toward HMIs on this one. The only time we used tungsten was for big night exteriors, when we just needed a little bit of difference.

Why fluorescents?

Young: That moment in time was when things were making that transition from being a very incandescent world, a neon sort of world, to this world of fluorescents. We associated the vibration of fluorescent lights with strange, decayed spaces, whereas we’d look at tungsten as being [representative of] elegance.

That dichotomy is expressed in the couple’s elegant Westchester house versus everything else.

Young: Exactly. That house was all about tungsten incandescent lighting being in places of a certain class. On the other end, you go to the apartment that belongs to Julian [Elyes Gabel], the driver of Abel’s hijacked truck, and we used a lot more fluorescents or no lights at all. We were trying to create that visual dichotomy, where we allowed class and the economic situation of that space to dictate how we lit it.

What was your biggest lighting setup?

Young: The wide shot where you see Abel’s wife shoot the deer. You see the deer in the frame and Abel responding to the shot. We had 20Ks for backlights to light the atmosphere, and a bunch of 2Ks bouncing off our grip and electric trucks to add bounce to the right of frame, but a lot were knocked down to half or even a quarter of their intensity. Then we had another big soft bounce above the camera. We augmented the headlights of the car with Par cans and the taillights with Kinos gelled red.

All the action sequences feel very real — the foot race on the train tracks, the shootout on the bridge, the car chase. How did you avoid making those segments seem like sequences from a typical action film?

Young: That’s why they hired me, right? To keep it a little bit more clumsy! [Laughs.] I was sort of out of my element. But as nervous as I was, it lent itself to that dichotomy I was talking about. Here’s a film that’s so precisely composed, where we were trying to have these meticulous frames; then, when you have these action sequences, they just get rough and tumble.

Tell me about the color grade.

Young: It was fairly easy. We had a couple of weeks to do it. I collaborated with Joe Gawler on Pariah and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, so for us, there’s an unspoken thing. The film fell into place nicely, and Joe has his way of working his gestures into the film. It’s always very collaborative.

This has been a big year for you. Do you expect these films, like your work with Ava, will change your life in immeasurable amounts?

Young: Hard to say. I just want to keep shooting so I can become a better cinematographer. I try to pick projects that speak to me and try to work with directors who have something to say. It’s always nice to be led to battle by people who know what they’re doing and have a really strong voice. I just like helping out, you know? For me, it’s as basic as that.


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Selma

2.40:1

Digital Capture

Arri Alexa XT, Vision Research Phantom Flex4K

Vantage Film Hawk V-Lite, C-Series; Angenieux

A Most Violent Year

2.40:1

Digital Capture

Arri Alexa XT, Studio

Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic, Angenieux


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