The American Society of Cinematographers

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Tulip Fever
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      “In many of the exteriors we had lots of extras and we wanted to create the sense of a very dense world,” the cinematographer continues. “We could [use the Steadicam to] weave amongst the crowds without having to lay track, and it allowed us to move from room to room and up and down the stairs in the Sandvoort House.”

      When the camera wasn’t on the Steadicam, it was frequently on either a Chapman/Leonard PeeWee or J.L. Fisher Model 10 dolly with a jib arm. Working as B-camera operator, Bryld employed a technique developed while shooting the Netflix series House of Cards (AC Feb. ’13), jibbing instead of tilting and tracking instead of panning. “It puts a lot of pressure on the dolly grip,” says Bryld. “On this film we did some quite involved moves with the B camera, and dolly grip James Sams was basically our operator.”

      The final grade was handled by Technicolor’s MPC London, where colorist Jean-Clément Soret worked with the native 2.8K ArriRaw files on a FilmLight Baselight system. Soret, MPC’s global creative director of color grading, had worked previously with Chadwick, and he met Bryld just before production commenced on Tulip Fever. “Eigil liked the LUT he used on set, and wanted to build on top of that [in post],” says Soret, who used the dailies as a reference to guide his work when Bryld was unavailable to sit in on a session. Soret was offered the dailies CDL at the start of the two-week grade, “but I would rather not have anything more than just the LUT,” he says. “I prefer to start from a blank canvas.”

      Bryld and Soret communicated frequently during principal photography, and they came to the shared conclusion that, from an aesthetic standpoint, color was a luxury in 17th-century Holland. “Wealthy people had colorful clothes and the tulips were colorful, but that was about it,” says Soret. “Eigil’s LUT drained away saturation levels over a certain threshold, which gave us a good color space to work with when we wanted to emphasize things like wardrobe and, of course, the tulips.”

      According to Soret, the grade was fairly simple in terms of matching density and saturation. However, Bryld’s strong, directional approach to lighting meant deep shadows throughout much of the film. The cinematographer recalls, “One of the first questions Jean-Clément and I asked ourselves was, ‘Should we preserve the soft tonality in the shadows, or should we make the image harder and more contrasty to bring out highlights?’” They observed in many 17th-century Dutch paintings the presence of fine details and textures in the shadows, and therefore opted to re-create that look in their own work. “Jean-Clément did a fantastic job of building subtle elements with power windows, as opposed to just doing an overall correction,” Bryld continues.

      “This is something you can do when you are painting, but when you are lighting, you don’t have that degree of precision,” Soret observes. No film grain or digital filtration was added to the picture, other than “the odd sharpening sometimes to help focus within the image, or a little blurring of the edges,” says the colorist.

      “Simplicity is our style,” Bryld muses. “If you want to create a complex image, you have to start with a simple premise.”




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