Magazine article American Cinematographer

Second-Unit Style

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Second-Unit Style

Article excerpt

"I have to give a shout-out to the second unit," says American Gods co-cinematographer Darran Tieman, ISC. "[Director] Chris Byrne and [cinematographer] Marc Laliberté Eke and their team did so much beautiful work that punctuates what we were doing on the larger scenes. Its like eye candy for the audience."

One of the great things about the second unit's job was that they had the benefit of being able to see a moderately cut-together version of the scenes to which they'd be adding, and then - pulling from the vast library of crazy things we've all seen on YouTube and elsewhere - they could brainstorm something suitably outrageous. They were very successful at it.

"We were all in the same building, so we'd be having conversations on a daily basis," Tieman adds. "Chris Byrne is such a proactive person. He would come to stage and say, Tm thinking of doing this' or 'I'm thinking of doing that,' and he would bring storyboards. It was a true collaboration. People were always encouraging each other to do their best, and neither unit was ever short of ideas."

Marc Laliberté Else: Visual ideas come from everywhere nowadays. I keep a digital file folder on my computer, and whenever I come across anything I like, I take screen grabs so I have them. I used to rip out magazine pages and scan them, but now I'll take a picture on my iPhone and load it into the folder with a label. I'll have anamorphic looks, atmospheric looks, pop looks. Having that reference was really useful for me; I could go back and say, 'What about this?' with a whole Rolodex of things on my laptop that I could look through.

I find it's a lot easier with directors to be able to show a photograph [that represents] what I'm thinking of doing rather than trying to describe things like focus, or how an anamorphic lens doesn't resolve as well in the comers compared to the middle. You can talk to people until you are blue in the face, but when you show them one photograph, they get it.

American Gods was kind of a linear progression for Darran Tieman and [fellow first-unit cinematographers] Aaron Morton [NZCS] and Jo Willems [ASC, SBC], whereas the second unit was jumping from episode to episode. There were a lot of different looks and a lot of different ideas going on. …

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