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HomeGearMiranda Shoots Viper for Fincher

Miranda Shoots Viper for Fincher

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Filmmakers who are thinking of shooting with a Thomson Grass Valley Viper in Filmstream mode will want to pay close attention to how director David Fincher does it. As he tackles his second feature film with Viper (after shooting numerous commercial spots with the camera), he’s certainly had more experience with the Filmstream workflow than any other filmmaker.And long before Fincher’s upcoming suspense film Zodiac is released, cinematographer Claudio Miranda is already hard at work shooting Fincher’s next feature film—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, scheduled for a 2008 release.Miranda is shooting the screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic short story of man who lives his life in reverse. The shoot is taking place in New Orleans with four Vipers rented from The Camera House in LA. He faces a hefty 150-day shoot that will take him into August.He reported that conditions in New Orleans are getting back to normal, at least as far as shooting is concerned. “Sometimes you go around and you see the waterline on the buildings,” says Miranda. “That’s what you see in terms of what’s reminiscent of what happened here. Sometimes your cell phone doesn’t work. They’re still working out the bugs in those kinds of things. But other than that, it seems fine.”Miranda has worked with Fincher on numerous high-profile commercials, including some of Fincher’s pioneering Viper spots, like the Heineken Super Bowl spot “Beer Run,” which features Brad Pitt; Xelebri’s European spot “‘Beauty for Sale”; and the 2004 Nike football spot “Gamebreakers.” He also shot three weeks of reshoots for Zodiac.For their current project, Pitt is playing Benjamin Button, and as he gets younger through the movie (and consequentially shorter), the shots will require extensive head and face replacement effects.”The head replacement is what makes it effects heavy, but for everything else, we’re trying to shoot it real-for-real as much as we can,” says Miranda. “So we’re shooting in the French Quarter of New Orleans, in all these beautiful, interesting locations.”Miranda reports that he and Fincher had a chance to test the head replacement effects techniques earlier this year on an Orville Redenbacher spot, which resurrects the deceased popcorn company founder in CG.The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is being shot in Viper’s Filmstream mode and recorded direct-to-disk as data on S.two digital film recorders, or DFRs, with much the same workflow as Zodiac.In terms of look management, Miranda says that he finds many of the on-set color systems on the market these days “unwieldy” and he prefers to work with reference stills.”I’ve tried a million of them. And it’s always a real pain in the ass,” he said. “I find it easier to do a rough look in Photoshop.”He explained that with Adobe Photoshop, he can take in DPX files, and export TIFF files to Apple’s Aperture (which is designed for still photography) for more advanced look manipulation.While it doesn’t produce standard LUTs that can be passed down the postproduction chain to a colorist, “it provides a simple way to convey looks.””I’m able to take a little memory stick home at night, and I set looks, and get looks from David, and we seem to be on an even keel,” said Miranda.However, the Filmstream output has a heavy green bias due to oversampling in the greens. There are two options for correcting the green, either digitally with an LUT or optically with a magenta filter on the lens.”I made my own LUT with a slight magenta,” says Miranda, “but I also use a magenta filter on the camera, and I find a slight advantage in doing that, because exterior-wise when you’re dealing with high contrast, the Viper is very green-sensitive, and green on the Viper is the first to clip. You suppress that by putting magenta in, so you’re actually getting more range in your highlights… [outside…] if you look at the scope.”Miranda also confirmed the rumor that they seriously considered shooting the film with Dalsa’s Origin, but that, “they had some issues and weren’t quite ready in time for us.”

Written by Scott Lehane

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