As for the picture’s third visual layer, Hackford explains: “Ray told me his mother was the most important person in his life, and that he still spoke to her every day of his life, even though she died when he was 14. The third element of the film is these flashes of her in his head, where she is both the supportive mother and the strict mother who is telling him he’s doing wrong.” A style for these brief, hallucinatory passages was difficult to achieve and was actually finalized during postproduction. “We were experimenting and trying to find a look that would be a bit different, but still fit the rest of the movie,” says Edelman. Adds Bogdanowicz, “We tried something that was a little more desaturated, then we tried something that was more sepia-toned, and that wasn’t quite right. We ended up going for a very blown-out look.”

The DI process started on a Northlight scanner. According to Bogdanowicz, the team then “worked at 2K resolution on a Spectre Virtual Datacine, used a Pogle color corrector, and then went out on the Lightning II laser recorder.” As for the archival footage, “a restoration department went through it and cleaned it up before I even got into color timing it,” she says. “It wasn’t in horrible shape at the outset, but it was kind of dirty, and they had to get rid of some scratches. We tried to match it to the palette of the film as best we could, but of course, the grain structure is a bit different. The restoration team tried to get it to a point where it wouldn’t jump out of the movie.”

When shooting got underway, another piece of the filmmakers’ cinematographic scheme emerged. According to Edelman, “We both thought the style of the movie should evolve — that we should go from static and simple visuals to something more dynamic in terms of camera movement, light and color. Our story covers the 1930s to the 1960s, and each [decade] has a slightly different style; the change is gradual.”

In the early years of Charles’ career, smooth dolly and crane shots are emphasized. Later, Edelman says, “We started to use handheld cameras, more cuts in the scenes, harder light and colored light. It reflects Ray’s growing success, but also his personal problems with drugs.” Notes Hackford, “When his mother was alive, Ray was very secure, so we decided the camerawork would be rooted and steady in the flashbacks. But once Ray gets on that bus, the camera never really stops moving.”

The production’s Arri camera package included two Arricam Studios and one Arricam Lite, all of which were often employed simultaneously. “We were using two or three cameras all the time — the camera operators called it ‘three-camera hell,’” says Edelman. “During the concert scenes, we used five to seven cameras, including Steadicam. Taylor wanted to have more angles, more coverage, more material. After we finished the movie, I asked him if he thinks it’s better to have three pictures that don’t look perfect instead of one that looks great, and he said he would prefer to have three and have more material in the editing room. And of course, I have to respect that philosophy.”

“I started my career shooting with one camera,” says Hackford, whose first feature was 1980’s The Idolmaker, and whose credits include the concert documentary Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll and (as producer) La Bamba. “But I then discovered that no matter how much money you have, you’re always under the gun, and shooting with two cameras affords you much better coverage and [assists with] editing matched action. Some directors shoot opposing action, but I don’t like to do that; I use two cameras on the same axis and have them at different focal lengths.”

The director adds that with an abbreviated schedule such as Ray’s — 65-70 shooting days — using multiple cameras is vital. But Edelman says, “Sometimes it’s easier to just move the camera from A to B position than to try to pack two cameras in the same space and light it. To shoot with wide lenses and long lenses [for close-ups] at the same time is tough.” The cinematographer used Cooke S4 prime lenses, varying focal lengths between 18mm and 20mm on wide shots and 150mm to 180mm on close-ups. “There were no strict rules,” he says. “Right now, I’m shooting Oliver Twist with Roman Polanski, and we’re using just two lenses, a 21mm and 27mm. But with Taylor, because we were using multiple cameras, we were using a lot of different lenses.” For concert scenes, additional cameras were equipped with Cooke 18-100mm T3 and 25-200mm T3.7 zoom lenses.

Edelman, who was trained at the Lödz Film School in Poland, says he is not an operator by nature. “My feeling is that organizing the space and light in front of the camera is the most important work I can do,” he maintains. “Choosing the camera position is, of course, extremely important, but most important are the light and atmosphere of the scene. I sometimes find operating the camera very enjoyable, but when I’m making a project where I don’t have much time, it isn’t easy to sit at the camera, because you have to be in two or three places at the same time, physically and mentally, in order to think about the next shot in addition to the one you’re shooting.”

On Ray, the ability to think ahead was crucial. “We were hurrying like hell,” says Edelman. “There were more than 100 locations in the script and more than 120 scenes. We were shooting two scenes a day, and often more than one location a day.”

Most of those locations were anything but spacious. As a result, the most commonly used lighting fixtures were Kino Flos and Lowel Rifa-lites, compact units that could be squeezed into tight spaces. “There were a lot of motivated practicals, too,” says gaffer Michael Bauman. “We were shooting on 5218, so we could utilize low light levels. Pawel wasn’t afraid to shoot at T2.5 or T2.8, so you’re talking 10 footcandles to get an exposure.”

There was, however, one unique technical consideration when it came to lighting: the sunglasses Charles always wore. “Jamie played all of Ray’s mannerisms, which included moving his head around a lot, and that translated into two mirrors on a face swinging all over the place,” explains Bauman. “The key was to find an angle for the light sources that wouldn’t reflect off the sunglasses, and toplight was the answer,” says Edelman. “Toplight also works well in multiple-camera situations, so Ray features a lot of toplight. There were no other choices; we had to make it work.”

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© 2004 American Cinematographer.