The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents November 2015 Return to Table of Contents
PresidentsDesk
Steve Jobs
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Steadicam Sidebar
Meadowland
ASC Close-Up

The long runs and relatively low light levels proved a challenge for Irwin’s focus pulling as well. “There were a couple of times when I was essentially pulling focus blind,” he notes. “We shot in a lot of narrow practical corridors and doorways. There are only so many people that can physically fit through a space at a time, including Geoff on his rig and a dolly grip guiding him so he wouldn't bang into things. So a lot of times, I would have to go back further and pull focus with timing and intuition. When we were shooting with the Alexa, I worked with a monitor and the CineTape to finesse the cadence and rhythm to know right when I was at 2 feet 10 inches or 2 feet 9 inches [from] the actor. Otherwise, I was pulling by eye — along with timing and rhythm when I couldn’t see the actors — while shooting film. Remember, too, that the camera never stopped moving in order to [suggest] Jobs’ constantly racing mind. That was the level we had to operate at!”

Act one — which Küchler describes as “very grainy 16mm” — depicts the lead-up to the 1984 unveiling of the original Macintosh computer, an event considered to be the culmination of Jobs’ initial tenure at Apple. The sequence was shot at the Flint Center, a large auditorium located on the De Anza College campus, near Apple’s present-day headquarters. Much of the action takes place in corridors, dressing rooms, stairwells, elevators and meeting rooms.

“We used LiteGear xFlo ballasts to retrofit the period fluorescent fixtures,” Levine recalls. “This allowed us to use our ETC Eos Titanium lighting-control desk to set the desired levels. We also added Mac Tech LED tubes to increase the punch in some of the units higher up in the rafters.” Levine used Vectorworks Spotlight 2015 to create a CAD lighting plot for each venue.

“We augmented with Kino Flo 2-foot 4-bank and 15-inch 4-bank fluorescent fixtures, BarFly 100s and 200s, homemade LEDs made from LiteGear parts, and Par20 and Par46 incandescent fixtures painted to match the colors of the sets,” Levine says. “The fixtures were controlled by RatPac 10-channel 1.2K dimmers hidden in plain sight on set and wrapped in white to pass as ductwork. We also hid small, hybrid LiteRibbon cards between computer monitors and keyboards, and [used] Tensor practical lamps and urban-vapor gel on Par cans to tint the walls behind the actors.”

To highlight a key moment between Jobs and Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Levine hung 8' Kino Flo 5,500K 4-bank fixtures with Double CTB gels. “We also had three [Philips] Vari-Lite VL1100s hung on pipes along with some Super Trouper follow spotlights that were already in place at the venue,” Levine adds. “Finally, we replicated press photographers’ camera flashes with Studio Force LEDs. The flash effect increased exponentially in the subsequent two acts.”

Act two sees Jobs presenting the Next Computer in 1988, after he has been ousted from the company he founded. “Act two is like one of those Jacobean revenge dramas,” observes Boyle. “It’s set at [the War Memorial] Opera House, an ornate Beaux Arts theater. To capture the luscious golds and reds of this section, we used the liquidity of 35mm and warm, seductive tungsten bulbs.”

According to Levine, the Opera House was “the most beautiful but also most difficult location, thanks to the repertory shows and world premieres that were occurring while we were rigging, shooting and de-rigging. We were incredibly lucky to [have access to] existing lighting positions that weren’t already being utilized by the ballet, as well as the amazing cooperation and guidance of master electricians Maria Mendoza and John Boatwright, who work for the [Opera House].

“We couldn’t reach to focus on stage, so we hung our [DMX-controlled Vari-Lites] again,” Levine continues. “We had to light the entire lobby, backstage, 500 feet of hallways and corridors, an elevator, multiple stairwells, the entire downstairs café, and a makeup room complete with dimmable fluorescents and 20 makeup tables. The setup would have been impossible without incredible rigging by John Lacy and his crew, networking of the house ETC lighting-control system with ours by DMX tech Stacey Cobalt, adept control by lighting-console programmer Stephanie Parry, and the Opera House staff.”

Act three is set in 1998 at Davies Symphony Hall, and follows a reinstated Jobs preparing to introduce the iMac computer, which would ultimately restore Apple to prominence in the industry. “Act three is about launching the future, and it propels us into the sleek world of the Alexa,” notes Boyle. “It’s a world of precision and infinite possibility, [emphasized by] the crisper, more neutral colors of LEDs.”

“Lighting-wise, Davies was very much about the architecture and a cascade of flashes that really were an event in themselves,” says Levine. “[Assistant chief lighting technician] Sophie Shellenberger augmented the computers using LiteGear ribbon and controllers tied into the lighting console. The house lighting covered most of the architecture, and a combination of Chroma-Q Studio Force D XT 12s and Lightning Strikes 250Ks spread throughout all three tiers of the hall gave us our flashes.

“Jim Jacobs, DSH’s tech director, had an incredibly detailed plan of the venue already drafted in Vectorworks, so plotting was quite simple, and our proposal was easily overlaid on his, [which made it easier] for him to approve our plan,” continues Levine. “Everything came together quite quickly thanks to Dropbox and to meetings with Jacobs, Lacy, Cobalt and Parry. Davies also had two Gladiator III 3K Xenon spotlights that saved us a ton of work.”

Because each act features a projected product presentation, Küchler also gave consideration to the onstage projection formats. “We did 1984 with a pair of 4:3 screens,” he says. “For 1988 we switched to 16:9 projection, and 1998 was in 2.35 to look the most advanced and cinematic. It’s not quite based on period accuracy, but we did it to enhance the camera formats. We also added Tiffen White Pro-Mist filters to the front of the projectors to get a little more light bleed.”

The eras divide neatly into the different camera formats, but the script occasionally prompted the filmmakers to break those rules. As an example, Küchler shot a flashback to appear during the 1998 sequence that depicted a moment set before 1984, and this was shot with the Alexa rather than Super 16. “We used uncoated Cooke Panchro primes on the Alexa to get more flared highlights and knock down the sharpness, but we didn’t want to go too far in jumping radically between the formats because we felt that would become too pretentious,” says the cinematographer.

Although Steadicam was the primary camera platform, the filmmakers also deployed dollies, Technocranes, a Hydrascope arm, and even a drone (for a shot in the Opera House). “We hired a Hot Gears Remote Systems MR-14 Octocopter drone for a huge crowd scene,” reveals Irwin. “It was a continuous shot going from the top balcony, over the full audience, past the chandeliers and the orchestra pit, and finally into a medium close-up of Jobs preparing onstage.”

 

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