The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Transcendence
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Two key environments featuring the projections presented different challenges: an all-white lab, which is the central room in Brightwood, and Evelyn’s all-black apartment. The latter, Hall explains, “was partly a design decision [in that] it worked as a nice counterpoint to the all-white lab. However, it also has a meaning and a purpose within the story. Its darkness presents a void from within which Will reproduces elements of his and Evelyn’s shared past in the form of projections. Images from their shared consciousness, dreams and memories appear from within its darkness alongside data monitoring the activities within the facility and tracking the world at large. So, the main challenge was about how to get light into the set and a good quality of light onto the actors without polluting the many projections 
or creating reflections in the multiple panes of glass, reflective floor and ceiling — it had a low [10'], black, reflective ceiling and a highly reflective black epoxy resin floor. Balancing all the elements without destroying the mood of the space was tricky.”

The apartment set has no windows, and “its walls consist largely of back projections we created using Stewart Filmscreen 150 RP material,” says Hall. “There were 8-by-4-foot panels of glass dividing the room into various sections, and those also featured projections.

 “I realized we had to bring light in through the ceiling,” he continues. “There were projectors coming through the ceiling to project onto the glass, and there was also significant rigging to suspend the projectors above the ceiling that limited our lighting options. Chris Seagers and I collaborated to design recessed apertures in the ceiling that could accommodate lighting and resemble practical fixtures if seen on camera, and we cut various diffusion panels and attached them with Velcro so we could quickly exchange panels depending on the size of frame; we’d bring the larger, thicker panels of diffusion lower in frame for closer shots to make the light spread more and soften its quality further. It was problem solving, really — a collaboration involving Chris’ ingenious design, a lot of engineering help from key grip Ray Garcia, and thorough planning of our intended shooting angles for the respective scenes,” says Hall.

The ceiling in the all-white lab plays as a compositional element, and was built with four 120' lines of light that gaffer Cory Geryak created with Par Bars: Par cans every 11⁄2' aimed straight down from above through milk Plexiglas and Lee 129 diffusion. Tungsten sources meant consistent color temperature, but the light was a bit warm after passing through the Plexi and the 129, so Geryak used Lee ½ CTB gels to bring it back to white. Custom light boxes using Par cans and 2Ks were integrated into the ceiling design; these illuminated the various booths and cubicles where the nanotechnology experiments take place. Smaller panels also served as architectural accents, and 1K Babies were 
positioned to shoot through narrow gaps 
between the walls and the ceiling to create hot lines of overexposed light.

“The Par Bars were the most cost-effective way to rig it,” continues Geryak, a longtime collaborator of Pfister’s who had also worked with Hall on several commercials. “We needed a consistent color across the entire ceiling, and that would not have been achievable with Kino Flos. It required a lot of channels and Socapex connections to control because we wanted the ability to shut off [some lights] to give more modeling and create more contrast in closer shots, as well as the ability to create brownouts and flickers when the data center is being destroyed later in the story.”

The data center is connected to a mainframe storage room that features multiple glass shelves running the length of the space, creating a kind of infinite corridor. The edges of the glass shelves emit light, created with LiteGear LiteRibbon firing through from behind. Some were turned off, fracturing the lines in interesting ways. Semi-reflective plastic and glass elements were lit from behind with 4' Kino Flo tubes gelled with Deep Amber, “a color that echoes the original hard drives of the experimental project Will developed at the university,” says Hall.

Caster’s terminal illness is the result of a terrorist attack by Rift, an anti-technology resistance movement. A Craftsman-style bungalow in Hollywood served as Rift’s headquarters, and Hall and his crew took a simple approach to the location, which presented many equipment restrictions and a less-than-ideal sun path.

Cables were run from the house to trees on the opposite side of the garden. Using a pulley system, various textiles could be reeled over to cover the scenes, which frequently involved interior/exterior transitions. “At one point, for a long dialogue scene, we created dusk during the day by tenting with a 60-by-60-foot black silk that diffused the daylight,” says Hall. “We effectively turned harsh sunlight into soft, ambient dusk light. This was also achieved by shooting tungsten stock in daylight. I used CTS to balance the daylight units, which were predominantly lighting faces, to around 4,600K, and that kept the skin tones from becoming too blue.

“As the sun path changed throughout the day, I kept the ambient light consistent by lighting through the black silk with 18K Arrimaxes situated on the roof,” Hall continues. “The light was still quite toppy, so I added a daylight-balanced book light, two 4K Arrimaxes bounced into a 12-by-12 bleached muslin and then diffused through a 12-by-12 Light Soft Frost to sculpt the faces a little more. We added some tungsten light inside the house to add color contrast.”

Hall says that in general, his approach was to light so that Pfister could change shooting direction quickly and efficiently. An example is the schoolhouse, a derelict building in Albuquerque whose main room was about 70'x40'. “We needed to be able to create different times of day in there very quickly,” says Hall. “We had 18Ks on cherry pickers coming through windows on one side for hard daylight. We also built a scaffolding structure so we could black out quickly and shoot night scenes. We built some structure into the ceiling so we could light quickly or tear it out for wider shots, and there we used EB lights, strip lights that Cory designed, and layers of horizontal Chimeras that allowed us to quickly get a backlight anywhere in the room. It was all about being ready to move fast and change direction quickly whilst maintaining the quality of the lighting.”

Regarding exposure, Hall says, “A photochemical finish requires precision and consistency. I knew we were going to have very limited manipulation of color and contrast in post. Changes in exposure would equate to changes in contrast and saturation on the print, and I wanted shots to cut perfectly within a scene. We did print dailies, which are such a great and absolute register of what you’re doing with exposure. In testing, I developed a set of lights that I was very happy with, and then I tried to maintain that.

“There was definitely some very low-light work, but because Wally and I are not big fans of grain, we didn’t want to underexpose to the point of milky blacks and grain,” the cinematographer continues. “We found the point beyond which we felt the film stock fell apart, and we didn’t underexpose below that. But within those limits, I used under- and overexposure as a musician uses fortissimo and pianissimo, techniques to implement a desired emotion or mood. During testing, we also found exactly where we liked to put each actor’s skin tone in terms of exposure, and that was rarely at key. On interiors, we liked to work around T2.8-T4, and on exteriors, between T5.6-T11, depending on the focal length. But on darker scenes, I was often underexposing the key light by 2 stops. I overexposed some of the sets that featured a lot of white because we found they looked better that way — the whites became cleaner.”

 

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