(a) What project are you working on now or have just recentlycompleted?
The Fall, a BBC2 five part, show.
(b) What format was the project shot on?
We shot it on the Alexa. It was my first time using the Alexa and it did take me a little bit of time to get comfortable with it. I had been shooting on the Red cameras for so long before that, that the switch over felt odd at first. Since shooting the Fall though I’ve shot almost everything else on the Alexa.
(c) What challenges did the project present you with?
Dealing with five hours of material is always huge. Just keeping track of story can be tough. We were working eleven day fortnights too which wear you out. By the end of the job you look around and you can see that people are not working at full capacity. It’s counter productive.
More specifically, Jakob, our director, had some ideas that he wanted to try out which I hadn’t attempted before. There were two shots in the first episode which were good fun to pull off but required a certain level of planning.
The first one was a mirror shot where I was shooting Jamie Dornan’s POV of himself in the mirror. This meant operating the shot handheld while being in synch with his actions.
When he took off his balaclava the standby art director Laura Ng and my grip Glynn Harrison had to lift a piece of dark material over the lens in time with Jamie’s action.
Then I had to also photograph him with a little stills camera in the frame. So I was operating the Alexa with my right hand while Laura put a little camera in my left hand and then I had to photograph Jamie (luckily for me I’m left handed). All the time, staying in Synch with Jamie. I think most viewers just enjoy the drama of it without getting too caught up in the mechanics of it.
None of it was too tricky, but getting it all in synch and matching my grip to his on the camera etc… It just took a bit of patience.
Jakob also had a shot he wanted to include that sort of swept all through the upstairs of the Spector family house. So we built the house as a set. On most other jobs we would simply have used a location but Jakob really wanted to capture this run of scenes in one flowing, floating shot. It was I believe five scenes in one. We are lucky that Allan Cubitt writes very visually, often happy to write scenes without dialogue.
Tom McCulloch, our production designer came up with a layout on paper and we plotted our shot out on that. It became clear that the only way to make it work was to shoot with a technocrane. It had to be up on a four foot high deck so that we could drop in low enough without hitting the walls of the set. The deck also had to be forty feet long.
So it became quite a number. I don’t know what the costs were for that one shot, and I’m happier not to know. On the day Glynn really ran the show and camera operator Dave Grennan just played it beautifully. It was nerve wracking because until you do something like that, you don’t really know how well it’s going to work. It’s a horrible feeling setting up and you feel all eyes are on you as it comes together. It took, I think, about four hours to light it, rehearse it, refine it etc… But the result was beautiful and I think really helped to define the tone of the show. It’s not what you normally get in TV drama.
(d) What was the look you were going for?
Jakob had a number of different things in mind as we were prepping it. He was showing me photos with popping saturated colours and other stuff that was very drab. So it was quite mixed. The most interesting thing that came about was that he had this notion of Belfast as a dreary, wet, grey place. He asked for wet downs on all our exteriors. What he did not count on was bright sunshine but he kept the wetdowns. So the sun was bouncing off the wet ground and it actually made it look sunnier in a way because there were these huge specular highlights all of a sudden. It might not have been what he was hoping for but I think it wound up helping us to subtly define our own tone.
(e) What did you take away from the project and was there any particular camera technique/lighting effect or deign/new concept you felt engendered a more creative approach to the project?
I started using mirrors on this project. Kate McCullough was telling me about the advantages of using them. One day Carlo McDonnell, my gaffer suggested using them for hard sunlight in a tight space and I fell for the technique in a big way. I’ve never really been happy with trying to create hard sunlight effects until now. Just a little 1.2 bounced into a small mirror can really be punchy. So I did a lot of that in places like bathrooms and other tight spots.
(f) If Shooting digitally did you use any LUT's and if so could you describe them?
I tried using LUTs on this job. My DIT, Ian Marrs had a load of LUTs on his system. In prep he showed me different looks they had used on Game Of Thrones and it seemed very interesting to me. However I just found that I don’t like working that way. In the end I went back to a straight Rec 709. To me it’s like having stuff printed the same way every night in the lab. I know that if I can get the Rec 709 to look close to how I want it then I’ll be fine in the grade.
With the LUTs I kept asking Ian to remind me how contrasty it was or wasn’t. I was operating the camera at the time and scratching my head and trying to work out if I had gone for a low contrast LUT was I then allowing myself less extra room on either end of the spectrum in the grade. After a while I just thought – forget about this. I’m not technical, I don’t use waveforms or false colour or any of that stuff. As long as I can check my Log against my 709, that’s all I want. I hate the idea of the science getting in the way of the pictures and the performance. I’m not against it. Others do it brilliantly, but for me, it’s a distraction.
See the the shots discussed here https://vimeo.com/75579451