By Scott Lehane
Below the Line has learned that the Thomson Viper camera is being used to shoot a major feature film. The movie is Collateral, the 2004 DreamWorks thriller directed by Michael Mann and starring Tom Cruise. The cinematographer is Dion Beebe, ASC.
Collateral is the second feature shot using Viper. It follows on the heels of Red Riding Hood, a horror film with a lesser known cast directed by Randal Kleiser and lensed by David Stump, which shot earlier this year using Viper mostly in its HDStream mode (Below the Line, Sept., 2003)
For Collateral, the Viper cameras were extensively modified by Burbank-based rental house Plus8digital. “We changed the body; we changed the mounting configurations; we changed the way accessories are mounted to it. We’re actually adding a fiber-optic interface to it of our own design,” reports Plus8digital president Marker Karahadian. “[The producers] had an interest in the Viper and we remanufactured it to their specifications.”
Viper’s body, based on Thomson’s broadcast cameras, “is too small,” adds Karahadian. “You really need enough real estate on a camera body to hang your accessories. It doesn’t make a difference how high-quality a picture you put out. If you can’t ergonomically put it in situations where you’re going to get the right shot, you’re wasting your time.”
Collateral originally started out shooting with “Panavised” Sony F-900s in addition to 35mm film. Then the production suddenly switched to Viper.
The film has had a history of such abrupt changes. Originally, in 2001 it was to be directed by Mimi Leder. When she backed out, Janusz Kaminski, ASC was attached to direct after he finished his cinematography work on Catch Me If You Can, but Kaminski eventually dropped out of the project as well. The film is also on its second cinematographer. The first, Paul Cameron, pulled out earlier this year.
For storage, the film is using Sony’s SRW tape, a 4:4:4 HD storage format with a 3:1 compression. And storage can pose a major problem with Viper, which can churn out as much as 2.2 Gbps in its full FilmStream mode.
“We’re extremely positive about the SRW tape machine,” reports Karahadian. “Everybody does not need uncompressed. But most people should be thinking in terms of 4:4:4 instead of using 4:2:2 for feature work. We see the SRW being a real key to the future of 4:4:4 feature production. It’s infinitely more practical to have hard media, physical media.” Karahadian added that the company has rented SRW equipment to George Lucas for production of the next Star Wars film.
For short-form work, however, the company also offers the new S.two uncompressed HD field disk recorder. In fact, Plus8 recently acquired the first two recorders off the production line. S.twos come with either 18- or 36-minute removable “D.MAG” magazines and offer a variety of I/O options, including gigabit ethernet, fibre channel and HD-SDI.
“The S.two is going to be extremely popular in short form and commercial work,” says Karahadian. “And for sequences where portability is important the S.two is battery operated. The digital recorder will be key, but it won’t be what you’re going to [store forever] in the salt mine when the show is done. A piece of magnetic media like tape will go in there.”
Postproduction for Collateral is being done at Hollywood-based Laser Pacific.
By Scott Lehane