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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California



By James Hamilton
LONDON – If nothing else, Luminal is an odd film. With a tri-lingual script (English/Italian/Japanese), an A-list French star in Denis Lavant (les Amants du Pont Neuf, Beau Travail), a fashion photographer for a cinematographer (Mark Lebon), and no distribution deal in sight, the fact that it was shot on HD is, perhaps, the least remarkable thing about it.
HD is a growing format for productions keen to keep the budget as low as possible. And while camera hire comes in somewhere between 35mm and 16mm, some U.K.-based filmmakers agree with their U.S. peers that the savings on stock are very real.
It’s not just a format that excites production companies—facilities more used to television post are finding a new market in HD features. Luminal was graded and cut in London at The Farm’s HD facility Home, with VFX handled at Mill TV.
“HD is a format that we had worked with before for broadcast programs and been impressed with the flexibility and quality of the images. Feature films on HD are an area that we wanted to explore. Luminal was just the type of project we wanted to get involved with, requiring CG work and live action composites,” says Dave Throssell, head of Mill TV.
Directed by Andrea Vecchiato and produced by Alex Tate, Luminal is based on Isabella Santacroce’s cult Italian novel: the usual story of teenagers caught up in the excesses of chemical culture, but spiced up with a dash of sex-slavery, schizophrenia and sadism. There were also some distinctly odd effects shots for Mill TV to work on.
“When Production Designer Nick Tuft showed me his designs for a CG talking vibrator there were a few smiles around the table,” recalls Angela Hunt, VFX supervisor, “I’ve been asked for some strange CG objects in my time but this was the most bizarre yet. The idea is one of the characters, while drugged up, hallucinates that the vibrator is speaking to her.” CG elements such as the vibrator were used during the shoot, displayed on monitors or projected on to walls.
Much of the movie is set at night or in dimly lit interiors—including the car-crash finale, which was shot as a blue-screen composite. “There have been reports that HD doesn’t cope well with low light so the blue screen car interiors for the crash sequence were a bit of a concern. I wasn’t sure that HD would give us the detail at low light that we needed for pulling keys, especially with the motion blur of the live action. We did a couple of passes in telecine to get as much as possible from the footage and found that pulling the keys was a fairly painless process,” explains Hunt. The backgrounds that are seen through the windows of the car were shot with the Panasonic HD Varicam out the back of a moving car.
“We couldn’t replicate the height and angle of the blue-screen footage while the camera was mounted in the car, we couldn’t even shoot out the front of the car. All we could do was give the image a suitable speed and shake the camera around for backgrounds during the actual crash,” she continues. “Most of the backgrounds seen through the windscreen were actually shot out the back window and reversed.” Hunt worked with the offline editor to select the background plates that best integrated with the practical light falling on the foreground images and Flame Operator Katherine Granger graded the images and added highlighted areas, color correction and additional spark elements to give the impression of frenetic movement.
Throssell adds: “As an alternative to 35mm I think it’s extremely viable. It’s fast, cost-effective and when it’s projected it produces a good quality picture. It’s already a growing method of creating visual effects for feature films.”

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