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Serra describes Shyamalan as a director who is extremely concerned with emotions, particularly when it comes to motivating camera moves. "If you are supposed to do a tracking shot," Serra explains, "the cue for the move would never simply be the fact that somebody moves or follows somebody. We moved to reflect or catch a change of emotion.
"For example, there is a scene in a train car where David Dunne is joined by a girl who talks with him its a long shot that lasts maybe four minutes. Instead of cutting from one character to the other, the camera moves and masks one of them. Unbreakable was filmed in anamorphic widescreen [2.35:1], so half the screen is always blocked by one train seat and only one character is visible at a time. Then the camera moves and you see the other actor, according to the lines and emotions. While we were shooting, this all had to be precisely timed; if we missed a moment, we had to start again. It was a subtle movement, no more than two feet from side to side, with the camera mounted on a Lenny Arm [II Plus], which allowed us to use a normal focal-length lens about three feet from the actors."
Although the passenger-car set was lit by 65-watt fluorescent overheads running the length of the train, most of the lighting came through the windows. "We used low-angle 10Ks through diffusion as key sources aimed through the windows," Litecky says. Blondes diffused through 216 frames were at times substituted for the 10Ks and were electronically flickered to produce the effect of passing trains.
Like the department-store set, the backyard of the Dunne home was another practical location, built from scratch at a city park. The yard featured a porch, rear façade, and an in-ground, tarp-covered pool. In one scene, David is thrown into this pool and nearly drowns; Serra originally wanted to light the sequence with a single practical, an exterior backyard light perched under the eaves of the roof. Litecky recalls, "We had a hard architectural light shining down on the pool, but it wasnt quite right, so we ended up using a Blonde as the source. The fill light was a Tweenie at ground level, diffused through a 4-by-4 216 frame. For some shots where David gets tangled up in the pool cover, an underwater camera was used. It was handheld, and the shot is from beneath him, looking up. You can see the practical on the back of the house, but we supplemented it to bring out the bubbles and movement. We took a couple of Pars and bashed them down at the pool not to light his face, but just to see the desperate, swirling movement as he tries to escape."
Serra adds, "That was a very important scene, and we played with just that light [as a source]; its very harsh, and its interesting what you can see and not see from being just under the water level.
"Another very interesting location was a bank that we transformed into a train station [see lighting diagram on page 44]," the cinematographer continues. "It was a wonderful old building with very high ceilings. Night wanted a nighttime shot that would reveal [the interior] from ceiling to floor, which was quite difficult to light. However, there were holes in the ornamented, cement ceiling [which the bank had used for sodium-vapor lights pointed down at the marble floor], so we replaced the [sodium-vapor lights] with 1.2K tungsten Molepars, which provided much of the light for that scene."
The Molepars were also pointed straight down and bounced off the white floor, providing soft, generalized fill. Additional smaller lights were bounced into the floor for tighter shots as needed. "We put 10Ks on the upper level," Litecky adds, "skimming the edges of the pillars. We used two-tube Kino Flos to backlight a Plexiglas wall and two four-tube Kino Flos to light an area near some stairs. A back hallway was lit with 2900°K Kino Flo tubes placed in existing fixtures. In one area that wasnt lit by the bounced Pars, we used two [4K tungsten] Aurasofts on low stands pointed up at the ceiling to mimic Par light bouncing off the marble floor."
Serra says this type of lighting was "exactly what Night needed to produce the cathedral-like impression he was after. Also, quite unusually for me, I put in a little smoke, just a little atmosphere, so you feel those lights. That was it - we used very little fill except [on] close-ups, and that would just be a Redhead or Blonde [bounced into 4-by-8 beadboard or off the floor. Bounced 2Ks also were used to light frosted Plexiglas windows along a false wall.]" If one of the ceiling Par beams happened to interfere with a close-up, that particular unit was simply turned off. An old-fashioned clock at one end of the station was lit from the inside by dimmer-controlled 100-watt household bulbs.
"The general mood of the train station is very contrasty because it shows a dramatic moment when David makes important decisions," Serra notes. "It became one of my favorite [scenes] in the film."
A train crash leads to a significant scene at a hospital, where accident victims are being treated. This was a real emergency room in a real hospital that had recently been shut down. One of the first shots shows a bleeding victim in the foreground and David sitting on a gurney talking to a doctor in the background. "That was very simply lit," Serra explains. "We just used fluorescents above them for the foreground and the background; there were no reflectors or muslins." The existing emergency room drop-ceiling lighting consisted of four-tube fluorescent fixtures. The crew replaced the standard tubes with color-corrected Chroma 50s, and one of these corrected four-tube fixtures provided Williss key light. The body in the foreground was lit by a four-tube daylight Kino Flo, deployed as a high backlight pointing toward the camera.
The next scene incorporates a 360-degree Steadicam shot as David exits a hospital elevator into a hallway, where hes met by a flock of reporters. The fluorescent tubes in the elevator were replaced with Chroma 50s, but the crew discovered that the tubes in the hallway ceiling fixtures were nonstandard, and that the available color-corrected tubes wouldnt fit. Instead of replacing the tubes, the crew simply gelled them with Full Minus Green.
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