The American Society of Cinematographers

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The Bourne Ultimatum
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DVD Playback
Points East
Post Focus

The house-to-house chase also has Bourne jump from a rooftop into a window 12' below. He smashes through wooden shutters into a kitchen, and the chase continues through the apartment. This, too, was covered numerous ways, and Moriarty was particularly pleased with the subjective angle captured by Damon’s stunt double, who really made the jump with an Arri 235 strapped to his body. “I don’t know how it’s going to be cut together, but that shot really gives you the reality of someone taking that leap,” he says. 

For the action inside the building, Moriarty had to make the best of certain limitations. “We couldn’t bring in big units — you can’t even get cars near that area,” he says. “The largest lights we could use were 4Ks. Since all the buildings are in close proximity, we could put some of these units in windows of other buildings and make it look like the kind of direct, intense sunlight they have there. It was restrictive, but it worked well.” Inside the apartment, the crew built a rig into the ceiling (upside-down track, essentially) that could guide an operator following an actor from room to room, around corners, into another room and across to the next building.  

One of the shots Moriarty is most pleased with made use of a very low-tech rig. When Bourne runs across a roof and into a doorway leading to a walkway to the roof of the next building, it was important to be able to let Damon run at full speed with a camera staying ahead of him. “Obviously, you can’t have an operator running backwards as fast as a man running forward,” says Moriarty. “There was really no room for tracks in the doorway, plus you would’ve seen them in the shot. So instead, we rigged a two-wheel upright trolley, modified it with scaffolding poles and strapped an operator into it; we had three grips pulling it backward while Matt was running forward for about 50 meters. I’m quite proud of that shot and hope it’s in the film. Sometimes the simplest rigs work the best.” 

Gaffer John “Biggles” Higgins recalls that things got a little heated during the Morocco shoot. “There are good lighting people in Morocco who are very efficient, friendly and extremely helpful, but we were shooting during Ramadan, which wasn’t the best time to be in the area. During Ramadan Muslims don’t eat or drink during sunlight hours, and smokers aren’t supposed to smoke, either. Some fights broke out in the crowds around us when it was 3 in the afternoon and people hadn’t had a drink of water since 5 in the morning. There was no threat to the crew, but we kept police with us when we worked.” 

Of course, any country offers its own challenges to a production intent on shooting big action sequences in crowded locations. Higgins cites a scene set in London’s Waterloo Station, where Bourne has arranged to meet a reporter who might have valuable information. Their meeting is cut short when a mob of agents swarms the pair. “Waterloo is one of the busiest stations in England, maybe all of Europe,” says Higgins. “So many people pass through there each day that we just couldn’t have any cables running through.” Wood adds, “We could only shoot between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and it was midwinter, so the sun was down by 3:30. At first I thought we could float lots of lighting balloons, but they forbade me to do it. So a few weeks before we were scheduled to shoot there, I went in at 4 p.m. and took some stills and light readings, and I discovered that even when the sun was down, the [practicals] in the station gave me a T2.8, and I knew we could work with that if we had to.” This was mainly achieved by adding small bulbs to the station’s existing lights. “Everything had to be run on batteries, so all I had were two Image 80 Kino Flo packs on shopping carts and two smaller HMIs with Chimeras. I used those four lights to pick up various things in the shot. Sometimes I didn’t use them at all, and sometimes I’d string all four of them behind the camera just to provide a little ambience.” 

Sometimes Wood found himself shooting in one country while one of the gaffers was prepping a location in another. He was in London while German gaffer Ronnie Schwarz was preparing a large space in Berlin (standing in for Moscow) for the opening scene of the movie. “It’s a huge scene,” says Wood. “It picks up where Bourne Supremacy left off, with Bourne wounded in Moscow, looking for a drugstore, and getting into an altercation with the police. We made snow and lit enormous areas of Berlin; people from other productions were calling up asking when we’d be finished, because we had every 18K in Germany! We also had HMIs, Maxi-Brutes and Dinos. I like to mix cold and warm color temperatures and often gel lights to make them blend with sodium or mercury-vapor streetlights.” 

Schwarz suggested to Wood that they use Google Earth to work out their lighting plan for the sequence. “We could both sit at our computers and zoom in to satellite pictures of the streets and discuss exactly where we could put lights,” says Wood. “I’d say, ‘See where that red car is parked? Put a Condor two meters up from that.’ And Ronny would say, ‘We can’t get a permit that close to the other street, but we can do it three meters the other way.’ We could zoom in on areas and see every alley and every building in perfect detail.” 

Higgins was the gaffer on most of the stage work, which was filmed at Pinewood and Shepperton studios, and he used the Light by Numbers system to control all the instruments on set. “We had all the lights on dimmers, and with Light by Numbers we could go from day to night onstage in less than five minutes,” he says. “You can control everything with a PDA. It’s a fantastic tool.” Wood notes that he has encountered resistance to Light by Numbers from some gaffers in the U.K. and the U.S., and he thinks this is unfortunate. “I would love to bring Light by Numbers to the States, but some people in the business are reactionary and old-fashioned,” he says. “In some ways the film industry is like a dinosaur — way behind other industries in terms of technology.” 

Light by Numbers was effective for all the stage work, he continues, particularly for the office, where the rogue agents led by Strathairn are headquartered. Full of desks, computers and people, portions of the space were surrounded by a TransLite of the Manhattan skyline. Depending on the time of day, the set was lit with rigs above, units outside and practicals inside. “With Light by Numbers, we could control all those lights from one spot,” says Higgins. “If Oliver wanted a little more light through one of the windows or a little less from a desk lamp, he could have it almost instantly.” 

Bourne Ultimatum climaxes with an elaborate car chase in the streets of New York, and many shots in this sequence were captured using a Go-Mobile, a picture-vehicle rig that was used on Bourne Supremacy, Dukes of Hazzard (see AC Web exclusive, Oct. ’05: and other features. “The Go-Mobile is an ingenious thing, and we used it in three configurations,” says Meglic, who shot the second-unit work in New York. “For some shots we used the pod from the Go-Mobile on the RDV [remote drive vehicle], which diverts the basic car controls from the driver’s seat to the top of the vehicle, where the stunt driver sits. For other shots we attached the picture car to the Go-Mobile structure, and in the third configuration the front part of the car was removed, including the windshield, and the cameras got close to Matt in different positions — shooting through the steering wheel, for example. We didn’t drive it faster than 50 mph because it was the streets of New York, but it’s got a 500-horsepower engine and can go faster. With it we could position a Technocrane that could get any kind of angle on Matt driving and go out toward another car in the chase. It enabled us to get a near-miss with another car coming just a couple of inches from the camera.”

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