Rifa-lites with eggcrates became a standard soft source above practical sets like Charles’ New York apartment, while Kino Flos were used for cooler toplight in locations such as offices and airports. To achieve contrast and separation, says Bauman, “we built a lot of reflections into the set. We’d put some low Kinos on the floor to create highlights off polished wood or the piano, to get definition and separate people from the background. Stephen Altman gave us a lot of dark walls because we were striving to take light off the walls as much as possible and build contrast in that way.”

The filmmakers maintained the toplight scheme even on the rare stage set, such as the recording studio. “We put some small Kino Flos on the music stands to augment the guys in the band from below, and then hung a very long top source over their heads,” says Bauman. The film’s many club locations, which were all found in New Orleans, were similarly reliant on toplight and reflective walls, but more color and more elaborate practicals, including table lamps and large on-camera hanging sources equipped with space lights, were used in these sequences.

Source light from windows also played a role in several sequences. “In one scene, Ray is playing the piano at the back of his house, and he’s strung out on drugs,” says Bauman. “He’s just lit through a window, and Pawel achieved separation of foreground and background by playing with silhouettes and reflective surfaces.” Edelman is strongly committed to naturalistic lighting, but as Ray progresses, it purposefully takes on a more “artificial” look. “You must understand what the main source of light is in a scene, and you have to try to create a natural look with that main source,” says Edelman. “It’s very simple.”

In the flashbacks, some of which take place in a shack with no electricity, this philosophy was especially ascendant. “Those are primarily daylight scenes, which meant our light sources were windows,” he says. A case in point is the sequence in which young Ray, who has recently gone blind, is trying to find his way around the house using his other senses while his mother silently watches. “We just surrounded the house with 12K Pars and 18K HMI Fresnels,” says Bauman. “It was all bounced light, two bounces for every window. Everything was very natural; we never put additional key lights inside.” Edelman’s inclination to use large, soft sources often enables him to eschew diffusion. “If I want a softer image, I light it more softly rather than put a filter on the lens,” he says. “And if you’re doing a DI, you can make it softer later.”

Later in Charles’ life, the film switches to more closed spaces that don’t feature windows, and as his drug addiction takes over, the lighting style becomes colder and harsher, with a noticeable greenish pall in some scenes. Edelman lit the scenes with uncorrected fluorescents, but mainly achieved the look by working with Bogdanowicz in the digital suite. “We increased the contrast and brought out and enhanced the green-blues of the lights Pawel used,” says Bogdanowicz. “The drug scenes are supposed to have a very unpleasant feel.” The look reaches its peak in scenes of Charles in rehab, where he chose to go cold turkey and experienced days of painful withdrawal and hallucinations. To achieve disorienting POV shots in these sequences, Foxx wore an Arri 2-C in a body-mount harness from Doggicam.

Even as Charles’ private life takes Ray into a more frenetic, uncomfortable style, the concert scenes, featuring such classic performances as “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Unchain My Heart,” provide a consistently upbeat, theatrical contrast to the dramatic scenes. For these performances, shot in New Orleans’ Orpheum and Saenger theaters, veteran TV lighting designer Bill Klages was hired to create a theatrical rig. Klages, who had worked with Hackford on the Chuck Berry film and had also lit Charles many, many times, felt no compunction about using modern instruments, even though the scenes are meant to be taking place in the 1950s and ’60s. “We used Source Four Lekos and Xenon follow spots,” Klages says of his lighting plan. “The Source Fours look like the Lekos of the period, and the follow spots would have been carbon arcs, not Xenon, but who’s going to dispute that? Of course, the moving lights didn’t move; they were just easier to use.”

Bauman says Edelman was a little taken aback by the amount of color in the theatrical fixtures, although this approach wound up providing a “great contrast” with the rest of the movie. But in an early scene set in a large club, where Charles is shown basically improvising “What’d I Say” with his backup singers, Edelman restricted the use of color. “Because of the location, we had to hang lights that I could focus remotely, so I hung a bunch of MAC 2000s,” says the gaffer. “I had more of a blue tone set in them, but Pawel didn’t go for it, so we stripped the color out.”

Edelman chose Bauman, as well as key grip Jim Kwiatkowski and first AC A. Anthony Cappello, after they were recommended by Janusz Kaminski, ASC, a friend and fellow Pole. “It was my first film in America, so I didn’t know any crew members,” says Edelman. “My first step was to call Janusz.” Says Hackford, “These people didn’t know Pawel, and I’m telling you, in a very short amount of time, they would have died for him. He engenders that kind of respect.”

Hackford actually met Edelman in 2000, when he was looking for a cinematographer to shoot Proof of Life. The director had been very impressed with Edelman’s work on Wajda’s Pan Tadeusz, but the cinematographer was “unable to jump immediately on my film,” so he hired another accomplished Pole, Slawomir Idziak, PSC. “For some reason, I’ve worked with five Polish cinematographers in my career.” [The others are ASC members Adam Holender, Adam Greenberg and Andrzej Bartkowiak.] “A lot of spectacular photographers have come from that film school in Lödz. I’ve found them to be a wonderful combination of the aesthetic and the practical.”

With a second degree in film theory and history from Lödz University and a background in teaching the subject, Edelman has a particularly strong grounding in the artistic side of filmmaking. Yet even with 20 features and numerous accolades under his belt, he sums up what he does very simply: “You have to have a good eye, and you have to think quickly to find the right tools. There’s a different tool each time, and you have to make it work. How else to describe it, I don’t really know.”



Arricam Studio, Lite; Arri 2-C
Cooke S4 lenses

Kodak Vision2 500T 5218

Digital Intermediate by

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© 2004 American Cinematographer.