"Keith Murphy was my Steadicam and A-camera operator, and he’s like a ballet dancer with the camera," Chressanthis enthuses. "He executed very long, intricate moves. We used the Steadicam whenever I wanted the camera to be with a character for more intimate traveling shots, or whenever we were going over rough terrain, crossing streets or going over curbs. Many times we made that decision at the moment of shooting – that’s why I wanted a camera I could convert in five minutes."

Chressanthis often used an LRX light, which utilizes six 12K HMIs on a 120' arm, to simulate sunlight. He describes an enormous crowd scene on the day that the Wells Fargo wagon arrives in River City, a sequence that involves an elaborate musical number. "It was almost like having a studio outside. I used the LRX to simulate sunbeams and two 18K HMIs double-headed in an 80-foot Condor for back/edgelight. That gave us a kind of magical, idealized light. We shot the arrival of the wagon after midday in strong backlight. I flashed the negative 20 to 30 percent and had quarter and half Black Frost and Pro-Mist filters on the four cameras. When I turned around to shoot the depot side, we erected large silks to diffuse light from the sun, which was low on the horizon. I used the LRX to simulate the sun in the background and had an 18K simulating sunlight on the actors. We shot until it got dark.

For a sequence set inside an ice-cream parlor, Chressanthis positioned the LRX across the street to illuminate the street and passersby, and he had two 18Ks on a Condor pushing light through the windows. "We actually shot part of that scene in a rainstorm, night for day," he says. "We had three days of work and only two days of daylight!"

A number of scenes are set in Marion’s house. Electricity in the home was a relatively new idea at the time, so people tended to show off their electric lamps and decorate them with ornate globes. Chressanthis says he switched on more practicals than he’d normally use and used them to motivate source light. Referring to portraits from the period by Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and other photographers, he says he wanted to create soft light motivated by single sources.

A scene featuring the song "Ya Got Trouble" was staged on a two-block-long stage set that included a billiard parlor. Hendrickson designed a ceiling made of red copper tinplates, which he also used on the walls. Chressanthis calls it "a den of iniquity and the center of sin in the town." The cinematographer lit the set with a brass-colored gel pack combined with 14 Minus Green. This created a copper-colored light that he pushed out the windows so passersby would see people in and around the pool hall lit that way.

When the production was shooting close to Toronto, Chressanthis watched most of the dailies early each morning in the telecine bay at Deluxe. On location he watched them on MiniDV. "Jeff would come watch the MiniDV dailies just to make sure he wasn’t being fooled by the poor quality of the VHS dailies," Chressanthis recalls. "If you look at bad transfers of your work it really messes up your head, and it can affect how you shoot the rest of the show."

After Hill’s villainy is discovered, he is brought to trial in the town gymnasium. Chressanthis used long lenses to compress the space and make Broderick stand out against the background, which was slightly out of focus. He also dimmed the skylight one stop, which warmed it, and raised the harder key coming through the windows and warmed it with 14 CTO. That gave the scene a dramatic, harder edge and allowed him to "skip-bounce" light off the floor.

Once Hill is vindicated, the boys’ band comes marching in and breaks into "76 Trombones." As they parade out of the gym, the camera cranes down and Hill comes right at the lens into a close-up. He throws an old broomstick into the air, and as the camera follows it it’s transformed into a baton, which Hill catches, revealing a street parade that extends as far as the eye can see. For this final scene, Chressanthis set aside the Panaflasher and didn’t use any filtration, creating deeply saturated colors and sharp images with Vision 250D 5246. "This visual-effects shot used a Titan crane to boom up and reveal the parade and spectators," Chressanthis says. "We had a quarter-mile of parade but only 200 spectators, so the effects artists cloned the spectator group four times to line the streets of the town."

At press time, Chressanthis had just completed the final color correction at Riot. "I used all the usual power windows and grads to further balance the relative exposure values within the frame," he details. "I kept to our plan for a slightly desaturated look that progresses to full Technicolor by the finale. However, in manipulating the color I isolated and pushed the pastels in costumes and set elements and restrained skin tones and all primaries until the very end. That has given the film a hand-colored quality that I like very much, because it supports the idyllic nature of this story."

TECHNICAL SPECS

4x3 (protected for 16x9)

Panavision cameras

Primo lenses

Kodak Vision 250D 5246, EXR 500T 5298, Vision 500T 5263

Postproduction at Deluxe Toronto and Riot


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© 2003 American Cinematographer.