It was impossible to light the onboard racing shots, and the latitude of the small HD cameras was restricting, but Dod Mantle made great efforts to hold exposure in the skies by using NDs and graduated filters. He notes, “I made a pact with Ron that I was never, ever going to put the focus of these small lenses anywhere near infinity, because when you put it out into normal-range cinematography, the image falls apart. They can’t compete with ArriRaw, but I could use them as macros with foreground elements to justify the close focus, and the soft falloff is like a painting.”
Though lighting options were limited on location, it was necessary to calculate sun positions for each corner of each racetrack and then match them when it came to the studio shoot. Dod Mantle explains, “We shot every single race against greenscreen, replicating all the moves through the bends with the actors sitting in cars, so I had to know exactly where the sun was supposed to be at every moment of every race to get the lighting right.”
For the two most dramatic races of the season, the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring (where Lauda had his accident) and the final showdown at the Fuji Speedway in Japan, rain was a critical factor. “I wanted to make Fuji look like Dante’s Inferno, foreboding and apocalyptic,” says Dod Mantle. “It was vital for the audience to understand how difficult it was for the drivers to see anything. They could only tell where the bends were by the posts on the side of the road.” Johnson recalls, “There was discussion on one of the recces about whether we’d need enormous rain cranes for all the Fuji racing shots, because the cars would travel hundreds of meters in a shot, and we needed rain on them throughout. Anthony and I looked at each other and at the same moment realized we just needed to wet down the track, because the cars would throw up enough rain to get all the interaction in-camera, and then visual effects would be able to give the broad strokes of the rain in the atmosphere, in the distance and in the foreground. Working with Anthony so closely allowed us to function as just another tool in his repertoire, helping him to achieve his vision as efficiently as possible.”
Dod Mantle was keen to refine the film’s look even as it was being made, so he turned to Erhard Giesen of German post facility Farbkult to develop and supervise the on-set workflow. “I have worked with Erhard since Antichrist [AC Nov. ’09],” he notes. Giesen brought in Cinepostproduction of Berlin, Germany, to assist with the process. (See second sidebar.) “We basically had a 2K cinema on wheels following us around for the entire shoot,” says the cinematographer, referring to Cinepost’s 3D Cinema Trailer. “After long days on set, I would sit with the grader and, with the limited tools we had, force the material into the zone I envisaged. I wanted everyone to understand that this was the film we were making, and I worked deliberately to push the material as far as I could from any sad, desaturated, typical ’70s look, which I had no intention of simulating!”
In preparation for the final grade, the editorial team at Company 3 London used the EDL from the offline edit to go through all the original material that was to be used in the film and transcoded everything into 10-bit DPX 2K anamorphic, according to Patrick Malone, director of digital film services at the facility. They used a combination of tools — Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve (on Mac), Scratch Lab and Adobe After Effects — because no single tool proved ideal for handling all of the many original file formats. Then, using Autodesk Smoke, one of Company 3’s conforming artists built the online project based on the offline’s EDL, resulting in a complete timeline for the show in 10-bit DPX 2K anamorphic.
Dod Mantle worked with colorist Adam Glasman on the final grade, which was done on the Resolve (on Linux). “It was a big job, and you never have enough time for the grade,” says Dod Mantle. “Like the whole production, the grade was a labyrinth.
“Cinematographers fret about losing control in situations like that, but I’ve never had more control over a grade in my life,” he continues. “You have to make it clear at the outset that you’re responsible, and that you will run it. There are hundreds of people helping you, but it’s still the cinematographer, together with the director, who ultimately defines how a film should look.”
During the timing, little bits of movement were added to Indiecam shots that could not be panned or tilted on set. “I was trying to visualize the personalities of the cars themselves, and from the beginning I intended to add up to 250 extra camera moves to those locked-off frames during the grade,” says Dod Mantle. Grain manipulation was another major task, easing the transitions between archival and contemporary footage. “I also did a lot of defocusing, with massive focus falloff on the edges, and focused irregularly or illogically in the frame to take the eye where I wanted it to go,” says Dod Mantle.
Howard sat in on two timing sessions in London and subsequently checked in from Company 3 in Santa Monica. “We streamed the 2K data from my session in London to an identical suite in Santa Monica in real time,” says Glasman. “The theaters are calibrated to exactly match, so Ron Howard was seeing exactly the same images we were seeing at the same time.”
Once the grading was complete, 10-bit DPX 2K anamorphic files were rendered for the filmout and the DCDM version for the DCP. Scratch Lab was used to do transcoding and panning-and-scanning to create the 1920x1080 HD master. The filmout, done on an Arrilaser 2 to Fujifilm Eterna-RDI 4511, was calibrated for release on Kodak Vision 2383. Deluxe Laboratories in London made the answer print.
“Throughout this entire project, Ron was extremely open-minded, embracing and excited, and that was thrilling to me,” concludes Dod Mantle. “When you have a collaborator like that, you can come forward with even bonkers ideas, and that’s a very constructive and artistic atmosphere to work in. It helped the heart of Rush to grow, and it helped us find solutions.”