Pic of the Day – Cap hanging from a C-Stand on the set of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

With T-minus two days remaining before Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame hits theaters, here’s a behind the scenes shot from one of the Infinity Saga’s first entries – 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

Pics from a Creative Cow story on the film’s visual effects.

Check out more Pics of the Day.

The Shot Behind the Shot – Glass (2019)

I missed the final chapter of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy in theaters, but as of yesterday Glass is now out on home media. Here’s a before-and-after VFX shot from the film, which – like Shyamalan’s previous two efforts The Visit and Split – was self-funded by the director.

Check out more in the Shot Behind the Shot series.

Frame by Frame – Guava Island (2019)

Year2019
Decade2010s
CinematographerChristian Sprenger (imdb) (official site)
DirectorHiro Murai
Aspect Ratio1.33
DistributorAmazon
GenreMusical
CamerasArri Alexa LF
Format  Digital

Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.

Opening Credits
Wide Shots
Close-Ups
Montage
Lens Flare
Symmetry

The Movie
A musician on a tropical island (Deni, played by Donald Glover) runs afoul of the local despot when the former’s celebratory musical festival threatens the productivity of the latter’s silk factory. Shot with intentionally minimal publicity last year in Cuba, the short film (its runtime is a brisk 55 minutes including interludes from Glover’s musical alter ego Childish Gambino) combines many of the talents behind the FX show Atlanta. Among them is cinematographer Christian Sprenger, who pulls off the magic trick of making the Alexa LF look like vintage 16mm film.
Guava Island is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Check out some behind the scenes pics of the shoot on Sprenger’s Instagram feed.  Continue Reading ›

“The Person You Put Up There Ain’t the Person That Comes Back”: Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer on Pet Sematary

The filmmaking tandem of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (the team behind Starry Eyes) talk about their new version of Pet Sematary in my latest piece for Filmmaker Magazine.

Here’s Kölsch on how the filmmakers began working together decades ago as teenagers on Long Island:

Kölsch: We’re from the same area and knew people in common, so we’d see each other at parties or on the basketball court. As far as working together, we were both already writing on our own [before we became friends]. I had just written a script for a screenwriting class when I ran into Dennis at a mutual friend’s house. Our friend was like “Dennis, you write scripts? Kevin wrote a script too.” I lived around the corner, so we walked over to my house and I showed Dennis some stuff. From there we started showing each other our work and giving each other feedback.

We decided that while our other friends were getting together and drinking on Friday nights, we’d try to be productive. So we’d get together, bring our word processors, get some beers and play some music to make it fun. We’d work on pages of our scripts and at the end of the night we’d show each other and give feedback. That turned into helping each other—like if one of us got stuck on a scene, he’d turn to the other and say “I’ve got a problem.” So slowly we started contributing to each other’s scripts and eventually it was like “Why aren’t we just writing these together?”

And here’s Widmyer on the decision for “Jud” actor John Lithgow to not attempt the Maine accent used by Fred Gwynne in the original film:

Widmyer: That was an ongoing back-and-forth with John. At first he was up for it, but then he read the book and saw that our interpretation in the script was different. In the book King leans more into the folksiness of Jud and the locality of him. He’s like the quintessential Maine character. But [the accent] is kind of a no-win situation. If you nail it, you’re going to sound like Fred Gwynne, and if you don’t nail it, then you don’t sound like Fred Gwynne, who did a pretty good job with it.

John actually knew Fred. They’d been in a play together and he’d always joke that Fred was the only actor that was ever taller than him, because Fred was 6’5″ and John is 6’4″. He has a lot of respect for Fred Gwynne and so he purposefully didn’t watch the first film. We talked about it a lot and John tried the accent in the read-through and we all thought it was great, but in the end we left the decision up to John. He decided to go his own way and we were actually really happy that he did.

“The Weather Doesn’t Care What Your Budget Is”: Colorist Doug Delaney on Captain Marvel

Check out my interview with Captain Marvel colorist Doug Delaney for Filmmaker Magazine. Here’s an excerpt of Delaney talking about the abundance of deliverables required for a tentpole Marvel Cinematic Universe release.

Filmmaker: How different are all those deliverables from version to version?

Delaney: Because the suit color and the amount of detail in the glow and all these things are so important, that has to be maintained throughout all the different deliverables and across all the different light levels and color spaces and Nit values. So when you move into EDR or HDR, while you want to leverage the ability [of that technology], the big challenge is making all these versions feel the same. You don’t want to say, “Now we’re in HDR, let’s make everything bright and super crazy.” You want it to feel like the same movie [regardless of the viewing platform].

With a movie of this scale, you’re finishing the film literally weeks before it’s released. That release is international and standard projection, plus Dolby Vision projection, plus stereo 3D in various forms, plus IMAX. It’s a huge amount of work. The compression of time on these kinds of films is quite intense and it really is impossible to do without collaborative workflows. I had a second colorist helping me and two additional people helping on rotoscopingand tracking and doing the 3D stereo grade. Some of those people were also helping with the IMAX version plus additional help on the home video version, because they’re releasing online very close to the [theatrical] release date of the film.

And here’s Delaney on how he got his start in the industry as a “scanning and recording” technician in the late 1990s:

Filmmaker: Looking over your credits, you started in the late 1990s as a “scanning and recording” technician. What was that job?

Delaney: That was my entrance into the field, which was before digital intermediates even existed. Back then, [for shots incorporating visual effects] you had to scan the camera original negative on a scanner and digitize it. The visual effect would be executed, then you’d have to record that digital file back onto a piece of negative film and process it at the lab. That’s how I started in color timing, because in those days the scanners, which were essentially like digital cameras jury rigged on an old optical printer, couldn’t capture the full dynamic range of film. So you had to do the exposure at the point of scan and try to accurately reproduce the director of photography’s intent, so that when it went to the visual effects artist it was already in a pretty good place. Then when you recorded that digital file back out you would compare your recorded out version against the original version and try to get them as close as possible to each other so the round trip was seamless and the audience hopefully couldn’t tell the difference.

I started doing that as a technician and then got into supervising that role. Around 2002 or 2003 I was supervising that process on the Matrix [sequels] and we decided that [instead of just scanning in the scenes needed for VFX], we’d beta test this whole digitaliIntermediate thing since there were entire sequences in those movies that were visual effects. That’s how I officially got into doing DIs.

Filmmaker: How much different was the DI process in those early days?

Delaney: It was very bulky and difficult. Now we’re doing it on our laptops. (laughs) Back in those days that was certainly not the case. It would take 15 seconds a frame to scan a 2K piece of negative. Imagine doing that for the whole movie. In those days, (recording back out to film) would take you 20-something hours per reel. A typical movie is maybe six or seven reels. If you got to the end and there was an issue, you had to start all over again. It was a painful process for sure. I’m grateful for the experience and discipline I learned from it, but I don’t miss it.

Pic of the Day – On the set of the original Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary behind the scenes

(Above) Actor Brad Greenquist in the makeup chair for his role as rotting corpse/guardian angel Victor Pascow in the original Pet Sematary (1989). A remake from Starry Eyes directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch arrives this week.

Both films are based on Stephen King’s 1983 novel, which was inspired by a similarly misspelled graveyard for neighborhood pets located near a house that King rented in 1978 while teaching at the University of Maine.

The Shot Behind the Shot: Larry Cohen’s The Stuff (1985)

Behind the scenes of The Stuff

(Above) Behind the scenes of a practical effect from The Stuff (1985), a sci-fi/horror satire about a deadly dessert written, directed and produced by the late great Larry Cohen. Cohen passed away Saturday at the age of 77. Though he never quite received the plaudits of George Romero, Cohen also specialized in B-movies laced with social commentary. Here’s Cohen on the subtext of The Stuff, from an interview with Diabolique Magazine.

Diabolique: Some of your films from the ‘70s and ‘80s reflect New York as a corrupt, dangerous place. Were there any notable events that occurred in the city back then that had an impact on you?

Cohen: It wasn’t just New York. Things were going on all over the country and the world that I wanted to try and deal with in my films.  Take The Stuff, which was about products being sold on the market that kill people. There are still so many products like that being sold today. In those days you still had cigarettes being advertised on television. Nowadays it’s not cigarettes, but it’s medication that’ll probably kill you just as fast.  As a matter of fact, every time they advertise a different pill of some kind they have a disclaimer afterward telling you all the side effects — like death. So, The Stuff was an allegory for consumerism in America and the fact that big corporations will sell you anything to get your money, even if it’ll kill you.

Continue Reading ›