Having said that, Beristain expresses sympathy for B-camera operator Craig Fikse, who helped capture these strange setups. “It was incredibly difficult for Craig, because it seemed like they were getting shots that were aimed the wrong way. It didn’t look right, and he probably felt he was not doing things properly. While we were watching dailies, I’d see Craig grabbing his head in desperation, but I’d tell him, ‘Don’t worry, you just produced three little gems!’”

Beristain’s approach to shooting the “well world” — a massive “exterior” shot entirely on a Universal soundstage — was similar to the methods he used for the interiors, but on a larger scale. The scene shows Rachel running through the forest that was the videotape’s key setting. Production designer Jim Bissell built a set that incorporated brush, dirt and real birch trees, and Beristain used a great many “windbags” to create a basic level, correcting the 20Ks with 1/2 Blue. He then toplit the set with Maxi-Brutes, which he left uncorrected, and used Xenons corrected to 4000°K to create highlights. “My strong sources were a little blue and my toplight was straight tungsten,” he says. “Then we added some steam to the set that looked like ground fog; that bounced some of the light and filled in shadow areas. The effect was like in the old days, when we would pre-flash the negative to cut down on contrast. That gave me the perfect negative for the digital intermediate (DI), where I planned to fine-tune that special look that reminds people of the first Ring.”

Beristain shot The Ring Two with the assurance that he would be able to take advantage of a DI, which was carried out by Pacific Title in Los Angeles. The cinematographer notes that he learned a valuable lesson about the DI on the 2003 feature S.W.A.T. He had worked out a look for the film that all of his collaborators had signed off on, and when the digital dailies did not reflect that look, he was not concerned, because all parties understood that he would be finalizing the look in the DI. “But then the producer wanted to leave the film looking like it did in the dailies,” recalls Beristain. “Naturally, I said, ‘Wait a minute, we did tests from the beginning and everyone loved the look.’ And he said, ‘Yes, but we don’t love it anymore.’ So I learned my lesson. From now on, if I’m going to apply something different to the look [in post], I’m going to do it at the dailies stage.” (Throughout Ring Two, he watched HD dailies struck by Complete Post.)

Even when using digital dailies, Beristain tries to print some film to check for focus and other technical concerns. He is also keenly interested in the ever-changing world of color-management systems, which allow him to communicate ideas about the final look to the dailies colorist. However, he is quick to point out that he is not a color timer. “Cinematographers can make suggestions about how to handle the primaries, the secondaries and all of that, but we still rely on the talent of the colorist,” he says. “I would love to have the colorist grade my dailies, but that’s not possible because it’s not what she does. And it would be nice if the dailies were 2K instead of HD, because HD doesn’t hold highlights well and flattens the image. But when those dailies are projected, I want them to at least approximate the look that will be finessed at Pacific Title.”

For Ring Two, Beristain considered several different color-management systems. He almost settled on Kodak’s Look Management System, which allows a cinematographer to factor in negative and print stocks and then alter a digital picture taken under a particular lighting setup so the dailies colorist can reference the altered image. “It’s a good system, and I’m using it now [on The Shaggy Dog], but at the time, only Laser Pacific could work with it, so it wouldn’t have done me any good.

“Instead,” he says with a laugh, “I set up the Gabby System.” This self-styled approach, which was managed by Jeremiah Kent, consisted of a Nikon D1 stills camera and a Sony inkjet printer. Beristain shot stills as raw files and altered them with the printer software. This allowed him to lower the saturation and crush the blacks so the files would look a little more like film and approximate the look he wanted in the dailies. He also compensated for the characteristics of the digital stills — which have less room at the high end of the exposure curve and more at the bottom — by underexposing a bit to increase the latitude. Then he would send the resultant print to Complete Post for the dailies timer to use as a reference. “The Gabby System wasn’t perfect,” he concedes, “but it worked out.”

Despite the fairly large scale of Ring Two, Beristain maintains that the film is, at its core, an intimate drama. “The story ultimately concerns a woman’s struggle to save her son. Despite all of the wonderful effects and the big sets, I approached the project as a small, intense drama.”




Arricam Studio, Lite

Cooke S4 lenses

Kodak Vision 200T 5274,
Vision2 500T 5218

Digital Intermediate by
Pacific Title

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© 2005 American Cinematographer.