The American Society of Cinematographers

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Tulip Fever
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      A Full Grid Cloth soft box containing 400 1K tungsten Par cans was hung over the house’s courtyard. Each Par can was either left clean or gelled with varying strengths of CTB, and each was connected to its own circuit, allowing Gilmour to dynamically control the intensity and color of ambient light based on the weather, time of day and season.

      Another key set was the tulip exchange, constructed on Pinewood’s C Stage. “We imagined it as the kind of place where fortunes are made and lives are ruined,” says Bryld. “We wanted it to be a scary and unsettling underworld. Not much daylight penetrates the inside. By lighting with practical fires and candles we created all these moving shadows and this sort of ever-changing environment.”

      Elliott adds, “There’s very little reference for these places because most of them were illegal. The [exchanges] were held in back rooms, cabins, brothels and barns. That gave us license to conjure an environment that felt like a darker part of town. We went from the brick and plaster of the residential area to rougher architecture and materials.”

      The set actually made use of an authentic 17th-century barn that the production purchased from a collector. The production crew disassembled the structure into two parts and reconstructed it in an L-shape onstage, where it was also heightened and embellished with galleries, walkways and staircases crafted from pieces of leftover timber. “It wouldn’t have been possible to get this kind of set on our budget if we had tried to build it from scratch,” Elliott muses. “And it gave us these beautiful old timbers, with all the gnarls and grain and joints and pins, and things that I wouldn’t have thought to include in my designs.”

      The prop and special-effects departments handled the on-camera flames. Off-camera, Bryld enhanced the practical flames with double-wick candles mounted in 1,000’ film cans; custom soft boxes called “fire boxes,” which were fitted with a random mix of six to nine clear and soft tungsten bulbs ranging from 60 to 275 watts; and coiled tungsten-balanced rope lights mounted to boards of various sizes, from 8” square to 4’ square. The fire-box and rope-light effects were controlled by the lighting desk, with some presets designed in prep by Gilmour and Clayton and some carried over from their last collaboration, 2015’s Victor Frankenstein.

      Depending on the shot, key light would be provided by the rope lights or fire boxes, or by bouncing Source Fours directly off the set, using the color of the walls to add a more natural hue to the light. Additional ambience was provided by Dedolight PanAura 7s, and eye light by a PanAura 5 behind an 8’x8’ Full Grid frame. An electrician or standby rigger hoisted and lowered the lamps from a pulley in the ceiling when they needed to quickly fly in and out of the set.

      Throughout the film, Bryld had to be mindful of where and how the characters used candlelight, “because real candles would have been expensive in those days, and as a source they can sometimes be too cosmetic,” he remarks. “There’s the cliché of people moving around at night with candles, but if you’re in a dark environment and the only light is a candle in your hand, then the only thing you’ll see is your hand. It would kill your night vision.”

      Low light levels in the tulip exchange forced Bryld to stop down to a T2/2.8 and push the Alexa’s ISO up to 1,250, which made the flames burn hotter in the frame. “They weren’t regular-wick candles — more like fires in cups and bowls — and they gave off an erratic flame as opposed to pretty, flattering candlelight,” the cinematographer explains. “We spent a bit of time in the DI bringing color back into the flames.”

      Tulip Fever was photographed primarily with Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic primes, with spherical Master Primes rounding out the tight and wide angles. “At the time, [the Master Anamorphics] didn’t come any longer than 100mm, which was fine because I don’t like using long lenses unless I have to,” says Bryld. “I’d rather stay on the same lens when we go from a wide shot into a close-up and just move the camera.”

      According to 1st AC Jennie Paddon, the 50mm and 40mm Master Anamorphics were the hero lenses, with the 100mm used for special close-ups. “We would also use the 50mm and the 40mm with a diopter to get us a close focus with a dramatic falloff,” she notes.

      Exterior scenes set along the canal in Amsterdam were also filmed in the U.K. The production found an old Tudor building in Kent with a 300’-long brick facade and an elevated ground floor above a wide, rolling lawn. The filmmakers built their canal on top of the lawn so that the raised footpath met the building at its ground floor.

      “It was a clever and fantastic set to photograph,” says Bryld. “Windows became doors. There were bridges and walkways. The challenge was that we [always] had to face the building because there was nothing on the other side. On top of that, we were shooting in the summer, and our set was facing south, which meant that the sun would be behind us for most of the day.”

      Clayton notes that while shooting the canal exterior, the crew “had to design shots around where the sun was.” The exterior set also limited the gaffer’s ability to supplement the natural daylight. “We had two small pavements on either side of the canal, so it wasn’t really accessible for cranes. I used pieces of poly or frames of bleached or unbleached muslin to make a little bit of fill or back edge if we could fit it in, and then a Rosco Half Soft Frost for a close-up, just to take the edge off the sun if it was coming in directly.”

      Bryld also had to limit when the camera would look toward either end of the set. “There are some visual-effects extensions, but it was something we had to be careful about, because doing that with a moving camera can get quite expensive,” he comments.

      In general, though, Bryld and Chadwick wanted the camera to be close to the drama and to move among the characters, to capture their constantly shifting viewpoints. “One of the things that attracted me to the script is that even though Cornelis marries a much younger woman, he’s not a mean person,” Bryld observes. “Everybody has his own point of view, which was important to reflect in the way we told the story.”

      Chadwick staged sweeping masters with the intention of assembling scenes from parts of longer takes, as opposed to breaking them down into pieces of traditional coverage. A-camera/Steadicam operator Paul Donachie had previously worked with Chadwick on Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and The Other Boleyn Girl, and it was the director who brought him on board Tulip Fever. “Paul and I got along really well and had similar ideas,” says Bryld. “It was good for me to have him there, because he knows how Justin works and what he’s thinking. It was a happy trio.


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