Magazine article American Cinematographer

Post Focus

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Post Focus

Article excerpt

Mega Playground

Aids Sibling

by Jim Hemphill

When director Matt Farnsworth and cinematographer Aaron Medick decided to shoot the independent feature Sibling on high-definition video using the Thomson Grass Valley Viper camera, they began working with digital-imaging technician (DIT) Dave Satin at Mega Playground very early on to set the looks they had in mind-they had to convey multiple time periods on a modest budget and with a tight shooting schedule.

Sibling follows a brother and sister, Marcus (played as a child by Spencer List and as an adult by Walter Masterson) and Audrey (Dana DeVestem as a child and Diane Foster as an adult), who are separated after their parents' brutal murder and raised in very different circumstances; Audrey is adopted by a loving couple, whereas Marcus is raised in a horrific orphanage and becomes a violent psychopath determined to inflict pain on anyone who gets close to him, including his sister. "The story takes place over many years, from 1980 to the present," says Medick. "Achieving the looks we had in mind was a challenge because we didn't have a lot of money, and I only had two weeks of prep."

The filmmakers' key visual references were the features Domino, shot by Dan Mindel (AC Nov. '05); Munich, shot by Janusz Kaminski (AC Feb. '06); and Zodiac, shot by Harris Savides, ASC (AC April '07). Satin, whose recent credits include Miami Vice (AC Aug. '06), immediately recognized the script's visual potential.

"Being that it's a horror movie, it presented a wonderful opportunity to stylize the images," he says. He and Medick set to work devising a series of look-up tables (LUTs) that would achieve the desired looks.

In addition to referencing films during prep, Medick clipped stills out of American Cinematographerand brought them to Satin as reference guides, taking pages from coverage of The Prestige (Nov. '06), Tsota (March '06) and All the King's Men (Oct. '06). "Aaron was my dream client in that he was enormously well prepared," says Satin. "He had written descriptions as well as photos; he was very specific. With all of that visual research, it was easy for me to create what he wanted."

Satin and Medick came up with 15 LUTs that the cinematographer felt would work under Sibling's lighting conditions. "There were multiple versions of what looked like a bleachbypass process, multiple versions of a cross-processed effect, and then normal tungsten and daylight LUTs with different levels of black," says Medick. In addition to basic day and night looks, "there were some seriously aggressive day-for-night looks," adds Satin.

The filmmakers repeatedly referenced Mindel's work on Domino. "There was a lot of material that Aaron wanted to look bleach-bypassed and cross-processed," says Satin. Farnsworth adds, "Our really crushed blacks were also similar to Domino. It was highcontrast, and we had to pour a lot of light into the scene to shoot it, but it was gorgeous. Some of the preprogrammed looks were even named after Domino, like 'Domino 1' and 'Domino Night.'"

Using other movies as starting points for discussion enabled Medick and Satin to work quickly, creating their LUTs under the available lighting conditions at Plus 8/Panavision in New York, where the production rented its Viper package. "We did all the work in a checkout room," recalls Satin. "I do it with [lridas'] SpeedGrade OnSet and a Cine-tal monitor, and it's an extremely interactive process. I ask the client, 'Do you like this or that? Do you want it darker or redder?' and so on. It only took about five hours during Aaron's checkout day, and he was good to go." Medick adds, "We did all the LUTs either in a tungsten atmosphere with a chart, or we went to the back door at Panavision, opened it, and shot the Manhattan skyline. We set our black levels as close to the stills from the magazines as we could and otherwise went into it blind."

On set, the footage was captured to 4:4:4 log space on HDCam SR tape, and the filmmakers saw the LUTs applied in real time on a Cinemage monitor from Cine-tal. …

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