The American Society of Cinematographers

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Django Unchained
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Presidents Desk
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In one scene, the Brittle Brothers and a posse of torch-wielding bandits ride across the countryside in pursuit of Django and Schultz. Richardson’s crew used four 15-light Bebee Night Lights and three 40'x40' truss frames with 24 DMX-controlled open-bottom space lights each to light the action. Gelfab Full Blue Silent Grid Cloth was hung beneath the trusses to cool the toplight. “Most of the time, we were told in advance if the shot would involve the Primo zoom,” Kincaid recalls. “Sometimes we’d start with doubles in all the lights or three globes in each of the space lights, and when the zoom came, we’d snap on all six globes in each of the 24 space lights, pull the doubles out, and Bob would push the film.”

Night interiors were keyed with a mix of flame sources. “Back then, practicals were candles, kerosene lamps and whale-oil lamps,” says Klassen. The filmmakers used candles and period-correct fixtures that ran on propane. “We drafted the special-effects department to help us,” says Kincaid. “They had propane running into 3-foot and 4-foot flame bars. In a small room, we’d use three 4-foot bars in front of big muslin bounces and just let the flames do the flickering.”

Gas fixtures feature more prominently in the Candieland mansion and the exclusive Cleopatra Club, where the practicals were augmented with dimmable 650-watt peanut bulbs. “There’s a subtle difference between the feel of gas lamps and electrical ones, but we never used [our lights] to key the scene,” says Kincaid.

Paper lanterns holding 300-watt household bulbs dimmed 33-66 percent were also used for augmentation. For large night interiors, Kincaid’s crew built walls of these household bulbs, using as many as 200, behind frames of bleached muslin. “We like a dimmed-down, crushed bulb that emits a really gentle light, so rather than use something like a Photoflood, we’ll use large panels of household bulbs and crank them way down on the dimmer to create a big, soft glow,” notes the gaffer.

Richardson also tapped a soft book light, a 12-light Maxi-Brute or Nine-light Mini bounced off unbleached muslin and back through bleached muslin, using 8'x12' or 12'x20' frames, depending on the size of the room. “We usually had the lights backed off far enough that they were easy to control, but we weren’t afraid to put the grips to work!” says Kincaid. “They put up lots of solid floppies and 20-by-4-foot bottomers and toppers.”

When working with softer light, Richardson favored the Primo primes over the E-Series anamorphics. “A Primo is so truthful in its translation of what’s in front of it,” says Tavenner. “With the older anamorphic lenses, you can throw all that light at a scene and they will soften it. Bob’s lighting is so soft that he benefits from the Primos’ ability to capture all that resolution and detail.”

When Richardson wanted to soften a shot, he’d ask Tavenner to glue a stocking across the rear element of the lens. This was done mostly for scenes set in the South to reduce overall contrast and add a slight bloom to the highlights. “That reflects the nature of the light down south, which is kind of humid, a little glowing,” Tavenner notes. The stockings varied in their styles and patterns, “but [the effect] mostly depended on how it was stretched and matched to the different focal lengths,” says Tavenner. “Over the years, all these nets have gotten mixed up in my kit, so I just grab a stocking and judge the quality by eye.”

Deluxe Laboratories and its subsidiary EFilm in Hollywood handled the production’s post workflow, processing the negative, creating film and digital dailies, and facilitating the DI. Colorist Yvan Lucas supervised all of the timing; ASC associate Adam Clark timed the film dailies, which were viewed by Tarantino, cast and crew; and Benny Estrada timed the digital dailies, which were generated from 2K scans of the negative and screened by Richardson and editorial using eVue, part of EFilm’s CinemaScan system.

Richardson notes that Tarantino initially wanted to try a photochemical finish, but ultimately conceded to the realities of digital distribution. “He wants to get this film in as many theaters as possible,” Richardson comments. Even so, he continues, “my work with Yvan essentially duplicated what we would have done in the lab. We worked in points. Of course, there are more variables in the digital space, so we can work with quarter points, but the concept remains the same.”

Deluxe’s proprietary Adjustable Contrast Enhancement silver-retention process was applied to the Western portion of the story in the print dailies, and the team applied a digital approximation of that look to the CinemaScan dailies and to the final grade. “Through testing, we ended up at a near 50-percent application of ACE, which Deluxe numbered 152,” says Richardson. “The creative intention was to create a desaturated look with deeper blacks. When Django and Shultz travel to the South, ACE was dropped, and the result was an apparent increase in chroma. In the digital realm, Yvan added 15-percent desaturation and an increase in contrast to mimic the look of ACE, but there is no way to fully replicate the chemical properties of the process digitally.

“The film was vastly more beautiful, in my opinion,” adds Richardson. “Soon, unfortunately, this process will be more and more difficult to see due to the rise of digital cinema and the slow burnout of the companies that produce film stock.”

Most of the work in the final grade involved evening out the densities between shots, however. Richardson explains, “Quentin prefers to start at the beginning of a scene and work his way through it, even if one angle might be repeated at the end of the scene. So, let’s say you have a 15-page scene to be filmed over a number of days. The weather is never going to be consistent, so there will be mismatches. I tend to want to shoot the actors backlit, knowing that if it gets overcast, backlight looks more like overcast weather than frontal light. But sometimes it didn’t serve Quentin best to shoot that way. But that’s okay. He’s not there to make a beautiful-looking picture; he’s there to make a great movie, and that’s what I signed on for. Always have, always will.”


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

2.40:1

Anamorphic 35mm

Panaflex Millenium XL-2

Panavision Primo, E-Series

Kodak Vision3 500T 5219, 200D 5213

Digital Intermediate


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