The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Guardians of the Galaxy
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Emmy Awards
Presidents Desk
ASC Close-Up

A street on Longcross Studios’ back lot was dressed as the frontier outpost and dolloped with pools of yellow fluid. Davis initially planned to light the street with soft boxes hung from cranes, but the British summer brought high winds, so instead the cinematographer opted for two 70' sections of truss, each suspended 35' high by cranes, one at each end of the street. On each truss, 30 weatherproof housings were mounted perpendicular to the truss at 4' intervals; each housing was fitted with two daylight fluorescent tubes gelled with 728 Steel Green.

At street level, Davis says, “there were a lot of open storefronts, so I used a lot of practical lights. I wanted the street to light itself from practical fixtures — a lot of tubes on the walls and small tungsten fixtures.” The street ran along the side of a soundstage, atop which the crew installed a 200' walkway where they could position Nine-light Maxi-Brutes fitted with CP60 spot bulbs; dimmed to a low level of light — just enough to register — the globes were aimed straight down to pick out particular areas of the set.

The Boot of Exitar bar serves as Knowhere’s main hub of activity. “We built 2-by-2 TekTile LED panels into the entrance [of the bar],” says Smith. “The art department dressed them with grills to make a semicircle of light. Inside, there were a number of fluorescents and Par cans behind grills to make it bright and vibrant.”

Davis adds, “Charlie built these wonderful light casings into the set. They were made of metal so they could cope with the heat from the lights — we used Par 64 bulbs in them. We also used a Martin Mac Aura RGB LED. I generally don’t like RGB LEDs; I’m not particularly keen on the wavelength of the colors. I’d rather use a tungsten lamp and gel it, but I was limited with what I could place in the structure, and the LED fixtures didn’t generate much heat.”

Smoke and haze typically permeated the sets, providing a level of diffusion in the air — without the need for diffusion filters on the lenses — so that the colorful worlds were more believable and less cartoony. “The challenge with shooting multiple cameras in those situations is balancing the cameras, because the amount of smoke [varies] between the subject and each camera,” Davis explains. “In post you try to balance through contrast, to deepen the blacks on the cameras that are farther away and thus have more smoke between them and the subject.”

Davis viewed projected sync rushes from the edit rooms at Shepperton. He says he was careful not to get bogged down in on-set image tweaking. “For example,” he says, “I had one particular CDL that covered the whole of the Kyln sequence. Because I come from a film background, I prefer to have a print-emulation LUT. With digital cinematography, it is very easy to get lured into spending all your time in a little black tent.”

The final digital grade was conducted in 2K at Technicolor in Los Angeles. Davis had his hands full shooting Age of Ultron, but he would stop at Technicolor U.K. after wrapping for the day for a transatlantic session with colorist and ASC associate member Steven J. Scott. The cinematographer notes, “Though most of the color is in the photography and the design, we selected particular colors to push in the DI. What I didn’t want to do was take color collectively and saturate it, because I think that is a very naïve approach, a sledgehammer approach, to color. We took a particular color, keyed that color to separate it, and then we’d push that color up. That may have been done with two or three colors in each shot, so there was a lot of work done in the color timing.”   



Digital Capture

Arri Alexa XT

Panavision Primo (spherical), JDC Cooke Xtal Express

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