The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents October 2016 Return to Table of Contents
President’sDesk
Westworld
StudentPerspectives
Meridian
Page 2
ASC Close-Up

      Meridian was meticulously designed around storyboard images created by Clark, and primarily features carefully composed shots with little or no camera movement, a technique designed to “convey the kind of emotional impact I wanted, in order to more empathetically engage the viewer with the narrative,” Clark says. In addition to Förderer, Clark points to the work of editor David Sconyers and production designer Mari Lappalainen as being key to ensuring that his visual agenda went according to plan. Clark also makes special mention of composer Alex Kovacs, “whose excellent original score further amplifies the emotional resonance of the images — along with Dolby sound designer Erik Foreman, at Dolby who did the final sound mix using Dolby Atmos.” Clark also compliments the work of producer Malcolm Duncan, “who efficiently managed the production process.”

      The movie essentially centers around three sequences. The first features a meeting at police headquarters between Mack and Jake, as the former tells the latter about the disappearances. This scene is the most evident example of “the impactful film-noir feel that we wanted,” Förderer notes. And as it immediately followed the opening archival footage, “I thought [the Leicas] might result in too harsh a contrast,” he says, “so I brought up the idea of using Panchros for the office scene to [provide] a smoother transition from older glass to newer glass, and to digital cameras [shooting] 60 fps and high dynamic range.”

      The second sequence involves Jake’s car ride to the scene of the disappearances, during which the sunny California weather inexplicably transitions to a threatening storm front as Jake suddenly sees the woman in the rearview mirror of his vintage 1947 Ford. The vehicle, shot with the Weapon on a greenscreen stage, was flanked by Digital Sputnik DS 6 and Arri SkyPanel S60 LED units — one of each on either side of the car. A DS 1 fixture was placed in front of the car to serve as an eyelight for Scott. Kino Flo 4’ four-banks fitted with green lamps were aimed at the greenscreens from above and below.

      The SkyPanel and DS 6 units were operated through a dimmer board, allowing the filmmakers to create a sunlight effect with the SkyPanels and then dim them to an overcast look on cue, and to provide a variety of lighting effects with the Digital Sputniks as the weather radically changes. “The Sputniks started off as a sun backlight and then they faded off,” Förderer relates. “And then, later in the sequence, they flashed at a very cool temperature to mimic lightning flashes. We were able to use the same fixtures; we didn’t need special-effects lighting instruments. That makes things efficient and keeps the footprint small on set.”

      Levesque had her reflection shot in close-up under low light for several takes, in what Taylor calls a “double-greenscreen shot. It’s an interesting shot because we are looking at the rearview mirror, and in it we see the mystery woman as well as the rear window of the car, [behind which] is a greenscreen. And because the rearview mirror does not fill the frame, we are looking out [the front window as well], onto another greenscreen. One of the things we discovered was that the mirror soaked up a lot of light — a [full] stop — so even though the two greenscreens were an exact match, we had to beef up the screen behind the car to ensure that the two greenscreens were recorded at the same level. After that, Markus lit the actress cleverly with a variety of sources, mostly through the windows, and then he had a [small custom LED eye light] stuck to the backseat, which brought just enough fill light into her face.”

      In the third sequence — the movie’s climax — Mack enters the cave in which he has reason to believe his colleague may be located. Once inside, he sees strange images of himself, the mystery woman and the chilling fate of all four missing people. Shot on a dark, smoke-infused stage with the F65, portions of the sequence were lit exclusively through a single stained-glass window, creating eerie shafts of light. Förderer explains that the light through the window was produced with 4K xenon units, and represented the only significant shots where he did not rely primarily on LEDs. “I realized in a test that we had to use traditional xenon fixtures to get the most parallel beams shining through the window,” he says.

      “The [cave set] is really a black box,” Förderer continues. “With high dynamic range you get so much more detail, and because there is always some light bouncing off the actor, you have to create a really deep black background. I used extreme backlight [with Arri M18s] so that I could stop down and underexpose the black duvetyne as much as possible. [We also used] as little smoke as possible to protect our blacks. You always have to be way more precise with lighting and exposure with higher dynamic range.”

      “I’m a big believer in high resolution and enhanced depth of field,” Clark concludes. “That helps with decisions regarding image composition, and what is needed to better facilitate an immediate emotional impact that creates a sense of allure, mystery or seduction. When the images organically relate to each other, the more options you have when expanding dynamic range and color palette. These things just add to the possibilities in creating images for the maximum storytelling impact. To me, the film must always be visually driven.” 


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

TECHNICAL SPECS

1.78:1

Digital Capture

Sony CineAlta F65, Red Weapon 6K

Leica Summilux-C, Cooke Speed Panchro


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