The American Society of Cinematographers

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Shooting wide-open and close to the actors with the 35mm created a beauty look. “There’s no depth of field whatsoever,” Bélanger notes. In a scene in which Davis and Phil meet at a restaurant shortly after Julia’s passing, the dark wooden chairs and white tablecloths behind Phil are so out of focus that the sequence seems to take his musings about the human heart beyond the physical world.

The cinematographer used NDs throughout the shoot to facilitate Vallée’s desired T1.3-T2.5 range, but there were exceptions to these apertures. “I found it disturbing when we had two actors in a medium shot and one was not in focus, so sometimes I went up to T2.8 or T4 to have them both sharp,” Bélanger says. He adds that he also usually employed polarizing filters to “control the contrast, since the Alexa is so fast and sensitive. I even used polarizers for night interiors. I didn’t use them with cars, because some car windows already have a polarizing film and it creates a weird look. And some windows on new houses have a gel that, combined with the polarizer, creates a rainbow effect.”

Bélanger also employed an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm (T2.8) zoom for a slow-motion shot, taken from a distance, in which Davis walks on a busy New York sidewalk while wearing headphones and listening to classic rock; the surrounding pedestrians appear to walk backwards while Davis moves forward. The sequence harks back to Bélanger’s music-video days. With the Alexa on a tripod — a rare use of sticks on the production — and shooting at 120 fps, the director had Gyllenhaal walk backwards against the flow, and the footage was reversed in post.

Although movie lights were rarely employed, gaffer Jason Velez and his electrical team showed up at locations a day or two in advance to put all the practicals on DMX dimmers that were wirelessly controlled via the Luminair iPad app. Velez had not previously used the system, so he reached out to somebody who had: Montreal gaffer Eames Gagnon, who worked with Bélanger on Brooklyn.

Velez’s crew built a wireless local network with the Ethernet signal transferred into DMX via an Enttec Open DMX Ethernet (ODE) box. Once the signal was translated, an RC4 RF transmitter could communicate with palm-sized transceivers located at dimmers all around the location. “I could roam around with an iPad and tweak practicals and any lights we had hidden,” says the New York-based Velez.

In crafting Davis’ modern, open-concept house, Paino built an extension onto the front of an existing home in the Long Island, New York, town of Roslyn. The interior’s focal point is the kitchen’s center island and range hood. For a night scene in which Davis first brings Karen to his home, the island’s light-gray granite countertop was illuminated from underneath by LiteGear’s soft VHO Pro LED 60-X1 Hybrid LiteRibbon, which allowed the crew to switch between cool and warm bulbs. The range hood held eight recessed 12-volt, 20-watt halogen bi-pin bulbs pointing directly down and wired into a dimmer system; the counter surface provided ideal reflection. 

As Bélanger picked up various shots, Velez performed live dimming of the halogen bulbs, lowering levels in wide shots where they would be in frame and otherwise overexposed, and raising them for close-ups. “Everywhere Naomi moved as she roamed around the island and had her exchange with Jake, she looked phenomenal,” Velez recalls. The room also had several cool-white practicals, including the original house’s overhead recessed lights, which the crew used occasionally. Four 1K nook lights provided accent outside in the garden.  

To maintain consistency with the natural light that came through the house’s large windows in day scenes, Bélanger requested that Paino find a house oriented in a direction that would provide mostly indirect light. Similarly, day interiors in Davis’ office — shot on an upper floor of a Manhattan office tower — placed characters in front of large windows with no additional lighting.

“Jean-Marc shoots fast, and it was rare that I’d have natural light changing completely during a scene,” Bélanger says. If the natural light did change, the cinematographer would manipulate the camera’s ISO in order to preserve his T-stop. “I exposed in the middle of the curve to keep details on the raw image. The character in the foreground is underexposed, the window is overexposed, and in the color grading both extremes were brought back to a more decent exposure,” he explains. Bélanger generally maintained an 800 ISO, “and if the sun came out I would go to 160,” he says.

For a scene in which Davis jams with a drumming Chris in Karen’s garage, evening caught up to the crew, and they were losing light. The space already had a couple of color-balanced fluorescent practicals, and the crew created an additional soft sunlight with a couple of Arri M18 HMIs gelled with 1⁄4 CTO, bounced off beadboard and aimed through the garage’s window. 

The biggest lighting setup was for a night exterior involving a water tower near Karen’s house — a scene which, in the film’s final cut, is quite “short and subtle,” Bélanger notes. Vallée loved the visual when he first saw the location and wrote it into the script as “Chris’ lookout.” It was up-lit by four Arri T12 10K Fresnels that were dimmed low, along with five Source Four fixtures.

A high-angle POV was shot from the tower’s upper level as Chris peers through binoculars to spy on his mother when Davis first visits her. Additionally, Bélanger shot an over-the-shoulder cheat from a ladder with the boy on a lower level of the tower. Laughing, Velez recalls the extent of Bélanger’s efforts: “Yves was ready to shoot over Judah’s shoulder as he looked at the house 400 feet away, and he just said, ‘Oh, damn,’ handed his camera to his assistant and ran down the 12-step ladder toward the house. There was one little sconce inside the house — a practical with a socket dimmer — and he ran up to it, dimmed it down 20 percent, ran all the way back and up the ladder and said, ‘Okay, we’re ready!’ He wanted to just do it himself and get it perfect.”

When Davis and Karen visit her pot dealer at a Coney Island warehouse, they are treated to the sight of an abandoned carousel hidden behind a curtain. Prepping this scene required a member of the electrical crew to spend four days wiring the 300-plus sockets that held 25-watt G16.5 clear candelabra globe bulbs under the carousel’s canopy. True to the filmmakers’ less-is-more mantra, Bélanger ended up turning off many of those circuits, especially for close-ups, to add contrast. Additionally, the back of the canvas that covered the merry-go-round was lit with a warm glow from a pair of dimmed-down blondes.

Davis puts the restored carousel back to use at Coney Island, but the functioning ride was actually shot with the actors in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, requiring visual-effects supervisor Marc Côté of Montreal’s Fake Digital Entertainment to perform some significant magic. “We filmed the carousel first so we knew what shots we had and what plates we needed, and then we shot the plates at Coney Island,” Vallée explains. “We didn’t put greenscreen around the carousel, and we shot everything handheld, and then [Côté’s crew] rotoscoped it and composited it with all the other plates. It’s a visual-effects tour de force.”


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