Rousselot credits second-unit director of photography Jonathan Taylor for his “wonderful work” on visual-effects and insert shots. A big part of Taylor’s job involved multiplying a single actor, Deep Roy, to create the countless Oompa Loompas in the film; this involved multiple motion-control passes to reproduce the same movements again and again. (See sidebar on page 44.) When matching principal photography, Taylor used Light by Numbers to call up the dimming settings of the initial shot.
The Light by Numbers system met its greatest challenge in a sequence in which a large, seahorse-shaped galley barrels down a cavernous tube lined with portholes. The galley was shot on a greenscreen stage, and the illusion of portholes moving past it was created by rapidly cross-fading a series of Mac 2000 fixtures (1,200-watt HMIs) across the boat. Each porthole whizzing by was represented by a series of lights. These fast and complex lighting changes were recorded onto the system and then recalled when Taylor came in to shoot second unit without the principal actors.
The “TV Room” set is a model of lighting simplicity and elegance. In collaboration with the art department, the light sources were incorporated into the set, creating a room that literally lit itself. The room is made of two intersecting domes topped by concentric circles of light. In one half of the room, Higgins’ crew installed rings of 2K Blondes shining through diffusion for two of the ceiling circles, and four Six-light Maxi-Brutes above the central tube, where a child can engage in a Wonkish form of “virtual reality.” Four Nine-light Maxis were dressed by the art department to provide white in-frame practicals. The second half of the room has only two Maxi-Brutes above its elevator center. The white walls of the room reflect the strong, soft, circular sources above. Rousselot used a similar scheme for another set, the “Nut Room,” which features nutcracking squirrels who are lit from above by space lights. “When we did coverage, we brought some units onto the floor, but they were minimal,” recalls Higgins. “I’ve worked with Philippe on three films, and his requirements might be complicated in that he wants as much control of the lighting as possible, but his approach is always very simple.”
Higgins adds that Rousselot sometimes used a Chinese lantern hung on a modified Fisher sound boom to provide a soft source directly above an actor. When the staging required it, the cinematographer would operate the boom himself. “Philippe is a ball of energy,” notes Higgins. Alluding to Rousselot’s recent passion for playing classical music, the gaffer adds with a chuckle, “I think every set should come equipped with a grand piano so Philippe can play some Brahms when he has a free moment.”
The “Inventing Room” set also featured some built-in practical sources: 24 Mac 2000s were built into several of the zany candy-making machines that fill the space. Often used in rock ’n’ roll venues, the Mac 2000 incorporates a rotatable head, built-in color wheels, and a host of programmable gobo patterns. The computer-controlled sources gave the fanciful machines a throbbing, colorful glow. Another two dozen Mac 2000s were positioned above and on the floor to augment the lighting effects reflected on metal ducts.
Rousselot photographed Charlie with a Panavision package: Panaflex Millennium XLs and Platinums and Arri 435s. He used Primo lenses, rarely using a zoom, and used a Frasier lens for macro work. He shot everything but greenscreen material on Kodak Vision2 500T 5218, which he rated at ISO 400; greenscreen material was filmed on Vision2 200T 5217. Working with 5218 allowed the cinematographer to set his stop at a comfortable T3-T3.5. “I find 5218 very versatile,” notes Rousselot. “Of course, I had to take into account that we were going to do a digital intermediate [DI], so I played with it. As is true of other sensitive stocks, 5218’s grain has a slight defect, which is that it sometimes has problems in uniformity. You can get waves of density in the image that you notice in the highlights. In the all-white TV Room, that created a little problem when we went to the DI. We spoke to Kodak, and apparently there’s not much they can do about it. But you have to put the problem in perspective: we did some fine-tuning in the DI, but even if we hadn’t done that, I doubt anyone would have noticed.”
Charlie represents a direction that may be surprising to those familiar with Rousselot’s pioneering work on subtle, dark interiors in films such as Queen Margot, a lighting reference for some European cinematographers to this day. For his part, Rousselot confesses that he went through moments of intense self-doubt as he fashioned Charlie’s bright world. “At one point, I was in a panicked state about the overall treatment because it wasn’t tied to any convention,” says the cinematographer, who viewed high-definition digital dailies during most of the shoot. “It was very scary, and I had never done anything like it: no diffusion, gaudy colors, very bright lighting, and more comedy-style coverage. It was very hard for me, and at one point I said to the editor, ‘Look, you have to tell me what you honestly think of the images. Are they ugly?’ That’s when we asked colorist Peter Doyle [The Lord of the Rings] to come in and grade select scenes; we had an assortment of shots scanned, then we graded them, output them to film, and considered grading options. That reassured me. Also, I had the impression I wasn’t respecting the brief we started with, which was a much darker, more contrasty image, but as a film evolves, its ambience evolves, and you have to follow the film. You can’t always be anchored to your starting point.”
Although working with Doyle assuaged Rousselot’s concern, the cinematographer notes emphatically, “We have to refute the notion that you can do anything you want [during a shoot] and then fix it in a DI, because that’s utterly false. If you don’t make beautiful images to begin with, you won’t have beautiful images at the end, DI or not. I’m not just trying to maintain the dignity of the cinematographer when I say this. The unfortunate truth is, if you do an ugly shot it will always be ugly, whether you saturate it, desaturate it or change its colors. With a DI, you can eliminate constraining elements and improve elements in the image, but the initial image always remains. Ugliness is eternal.” With a laugh, he adds, “And beauty is fleeting.”
Panaflex Millennium XL, Platinum;
Kodak Vision2 500T 5218,
Vision2 200T 5217
Printed on Kodak Vision 2383