Return to Table of Contents
The Hulk page 2page 3
28 Days Laterpage 2page 3
DVDpage 2page 3
American Cinematographer Magazine
Page 2

The Hulk began shooting in March 2002 at Universal Studios. After several weeks, the production moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area, filming at sites in and around Berkeley - including the Lawrence Berkeley nuclear laboratories, the decommissioned naval base at Treasure Island and the precariously steep streets of San Francisco. The filmmakers then shot extensive night exteriors in the sequoia forests of Porterville and spent several weeks in the southern deserts of Utah and California before returning to the studio.

From the outset, Lee and Elmes strove to create a unique visual language for the film. Sometimes both sides of a conversation are onscreen simultaneously, or the end of one scene overlaps with the next - which mimics the structure of a comic-book page. "We designed the photography with that idea in mind, creating the shots to play off each other," Elmes says. "That technique has been further realized by Ang and his editor, and it's a new direction that's an effective storytelling approach for this movie. It's a way to overlap scenes, to create coverage of a scene where, traditionally, you would cut back and forth. Right from the start, we talked about how to tell more story given the number of minutes we had, so the film would be dense in that regard."

These multiple-image com-positions were created by Lee and editor Tim Squyres and then finished at Industrial Light & Magic, under the supervision of Dennis Muren, ASC. "It's very difficult to control the color timing on these shots, because it's a complex multi-screen effect that you have to do before you actually time the main body of the scene," Elmes points out. "As a result, it may be a bit off by the time these shots are all put together. We started with an idea of what the scenes should look like before ILM began compositing the elements - which called for a lot of wedge tests and selecting color and density values early on - and made final adjustments in the answer-printing. Some will inevitably have to be redone after we get into timing the main scenes, but we're keeping our fingers crossed."

In addition to the emotional tenor Elmes was trying to plan and control, however, the mercurial nature of the Hulk - both as a character and as a CG effect - was a major variable. As the cinematographer explains, "We had many discussions before shooting, such as, 'If the Hulk were standing in this set, wouldn't his head and shoulders be pressed against the ceiling? How do we make allowance for that in the composition? We know how tall he's supposed to be, so should we make the ceiling a couple of inches taller so he can stand up, or should he be crouched?' Making allowances for his size in a practical sense was difficult, as we also had to make it comfortable for our performers to interact with a character that wasn't there. Our goal was to treat the Hulk as another actor in the scene, to make the character's interaction seamless with regard to the camera movement and the lighting."

Adding to this dilemma was the fact that the Hulk changes in size and color throughout the film as he reflects Banner's disposition and internal chemistry. "Each scene was a consideration in terms of his size," Elmes says. "We had to take it shot by shot, and Ang spent a lot of time with the animators to be sure that the Hulk's performance was in sync with what we'd set up in the photographed scene."

The lighting of the CG Hulk was another critical issue, one that placed Elmes in close collaboration with Muren. "Dennis really involved me in the process, which was great," Elmes says. "It all starts with the ILM team recording the lighting of the plate photography on set. For instance, we had a night scene set in a darkened lab, and the Hulk was supposed to blast in from a hallway and break down a wall, allowing light to spill into the room. We then watch him walk across the room, panning with him until he exits the shot. Well, we set the lighting for that scene by walking a maquette of the Hulk through the space and then photographing it for reference, creating a record for ILM to show how he interacted with the light. I also supplied them with gel colors and samples of different textures of light. For instance, I used an eggcrate grid in the ceiling for a number of the lab scenes, and Dennis was very interested in that because it projected a pattern on everything below. We photographed that pattern so the effects team could then apply it to the Hulk in those scenes, making the lighting more interactive on him. ILM sent me updates of their work on an Internet conduit so we could discuss it. Most of the time they were spot-on."

In July 2002, some six months into production, AC visited Elmes on Stage 12 at Universal. The filmmakers were working within the claustrophobic confines of a Hulk-resistant containment chamber designed to imprison Banner (played by Eric Bana) and allow scientists, including Dr. Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), to study his unique physiology. The Spartan, low-ceilinged space, surfaced with faux concrete and titanium, offered Elmes a lighting dilemma. His Libra Head-mounted Arri 535 camera simulated the prone Banner's POV, silently twisting and spinning in low-angle mode (with operator Dan Gold and assistant Trevor Loomis at the controls) as the character awakens from a post-Hulk stupor and slowly focuses on Ross' hopeful face.

While this set was barely big enough for the cast and crew to work in, it was actually the smallest of a series of continuous spaces created by production designer Heinrichs, opening out into a cavernous industrial laboratory that took up most of Stage 12. In essence, this was a perfect example of Elmes' other key conundrum on The Hulk: balancing intimate drama with monstrous setpieces. "I've never shot a big studio film like this before," he noted between takes. "It's disconcerting at times, trying to figure out how the studio works and how to do your work within it."

In tackling these huge spaces, Elmes was aided by chief lighting technician Jim Tynes, who has worked closely with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, ASC on such complex productions as Gangs of New York, Air Force One and Bram Stoker's Dracula, and key grip Gary Dagg, whose credits include Hart's War, The Anniversary Party and Starship Troopers. "Having them on the show allowed me to concentrate on the photography instead of trying to get up to speed on how to work at a complex studio," says Elmes.

"The producers wanted Fred to have all the support possible," says Tynes, "so the camera, grip and electrical departments were all made up of people who had done $100-million movies. The hourly cost of dealing with really big sets and the machinery of a large movie is expensive, so the decision-making process is a burden, whether you've done it before or not. Having this kind of crew in place offered Fred a level of comfort."

After Elmes and Tynes designed their approach to the massive military set on Stage 12, the work fell to a team led by rigging gaffer Frank Dorowsky (Men in Black, Spider-Man 2). "All Frank does are big rigs," Tynes notes with respect. "With big sets like this, we often just say, 'Okay, space lights on 8-foot centers should do it.' But Frank walked into this set and found that because of its strange nooks and crannies and the spacing of things, the standard formula didn't work. I was off shooting elsewhere, but he had the experience to solve problems on his own, which helped us stay on schedule. He was a lifesaver."

Page 2



© 2003 American Cinematographer.