After three months of shooting in the Czech Republic,
the production returned to California to shoot the Downey sets
and other interiors. These included Dracula's imposing laboratory,
which was built inside the one space that could contain it: the
Spruce Goose hangar at the old Howard Hughes aircraft plant in
Playa Vista. "Since it wasn't a real soundstage," Daviau
explains, "we wound up with a lot of rock 'n' roll trusses.
While we were in Prague, the set was rigged. If the trusses ended
up being too high for some shots, we worked off Condors."
As Dracula's minions (small helmeted creatures known as Dwergers)
give life to his offspring using the electrical lab equipment commandeered
from Dr. Frankenstein, the count finally faces Van Helsing in the
castle's rafters. What follows soon after is one of Daviau's favorite
scenes, in which Dracula is rudely introduced to Van Helsing's
silver dagger in the castle's basement. Fear not, though, for this
does not mark the end of the movie.
Meanwhile, Anna Valerious has found her way into a circular room,
at whose center is the glass container with the hypodermic cure
for her brother's werewolf tendencies. "The camera operator,
Paul Babin, and the dolly grip, Richard Carden, worked really hard
on the timing of a move around the glass container," Daviau
recalls. "The camera moves so that faces are magnified through
the container, and then slides over to show the faces normally.
It's one of the film's nicest shots and neatest pieces of blocking."
In early March, AC sat down with the cinematographer in
the near darkness of one of EFilm's DI color-correction screening
rooms, where he and colorist Steven Scott were timing reels three,
four and six (stored in towering RAID arrays) for a test screening
the following week. This wasn't a final timing session; completed
effects shot were being added daily, and Daviau and Scott were
doing mostly broad brushstrokes in order to finish - at the end
of the day, the film would move on to the dubbing stage. The movie
itself was a mixture of completed visual effects and rough works
in progress; composites weren't blended, wires still needed to
be removed and some digital bats were but shaded wireframes. Other
shots were missing completely, but this unfinished version was
what the test audience would see.
Nevertheless, Daviau managed to find some time to finesse certain
shots. "With the DI, we can darken the floors," he pointed
out. "We have an actor in backlight, but the floor is brighter
because the backlight is hitting the floor too. We can darken the
floor one-half to two-thirds of a stop and leave the actor alone.
Suddenly, the scene is moodier, by virtue of something we couldn't
do via the mechanics of flagging, silking and netting on set. We
still struggled to do what we could on set, though, because we
wanted the director and producers and everyone else to see what
my intentions were from the get-go. I didn't want to tell them,
'Six months from now, you're going to love this.' We tried to put
as much as we could into the actual negative, and I think that's
helped us to speed the DI along."
Scott was able to apply Power Windows and mattes to certain objects
or areas of the frame, track them with keyframe animation if they
moved within the shot, alter contrast and color and even adjust
degrees of diffusion. On one night exterior shot of Beckinsale,
Daviau wanted to tone down the luminance of her edgelight. Scott
called up the highlight mask of the image, which changed to black
with white dots representing the brightest points of the edgelight
on the actress. The image looked like a celestial backdrop with
the "stars" in the vague shape of Beckinsale's face and
long hair. Scott then proceeded to dial down the highlights, taking
the brighter edge, so to speak, off the edgelight.
"One of the joys of the DI process is that you can have control
of contrast, which you do not have in the lab other than overall
photochemical processes," says Daviau. "Here, we can
control the contrast from shot to shot."
For a close-up of Dr. Frankenstein's long-suffering assistant,
Igor (Kevin O'Connor), in the next reel, Daviau asked Scott to
apply slight digital diffusion to the actor's face so the shot
wouldn't betray his extensive makeup work. Clicking on the middle
of Igor's face, Scott then dragged the pointer to form an irregular
oval matte, much in the way one would apply a radial blur to an
area using Photoshop. He dialed in a bit of diffusion and animated
the matte to follow the movement of Igor's head during the shot.
As the duo worked through the film, Daviau was able to compare
the 1K Barco digital projection with film projection of the Arrilaser
2K filmout checks. (The film was scanned in at 4K resolution.) "We
get two things by doing that," he says. "We get a full
2K of resolution output and not the resolution limitation of the
digital projector, and the blacks will be film blacks. The resulting
look is richer. By flipping back and forth, you can really see
how gray the blacks are in the digital world. Everything has been
keyed for standard [Kodak] Vision 2383 print stock. I don't think
we're going to need Premier [print stock], because we don't need
the extra contrast or more saturation. I'm tending to make the
picture a little less saturated."
The mention of "less saturation" as we view the movie's
ending brings us to, oddly enough, the beginning of the film -
specifically, the first 10 minutes, when angry villagers march
toward a hilltop windmill to confront Frankenstein and his monster.
That sequence has the least saturation possible before subtly transitioning
into color. Inspired by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC's work on The
Man Who Wasn't There (AC June '02), Daviau shot the sequence
with 5218 but had Deluxe print the dailies on Eastman High Contrast
Panchromatic 5369, a stock primarily used for silhouette and traveling
mattes. After EFilm scanned the film, the color was drained digitally
and then filmed out onto the color print stock, creating a neutral
black-and-white sequence on color film.
"What this means is if you want a black-and-white shot or
sequence in a color film, it's no problem," Daviau declares. "The
process was so perfectly controlled that the result was just stunning.
The opening sequence is part of our homage to Universal horror
films of the Thirties."