The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents September 2012 Return to Table of Contents
Bourne Legacy
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Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Gilroy points to Bradley’s contributions to these sequences as a prime example of the underappreciated art of second-unit work. “Dan Bradley was crucial,” the director says. “We sat down together about 10 months before we started shooting. I explained that I wanted a motivated relationship with him, unlike some experiences he might have had where he went in as a hired gun. I wanted to do it shoulder to shoulder. I told him the bad news was that he wouldn’t have his own show to run, but the good news was that we would have extended time to plan it together, and I would give him credit for it. He laid the whole thing out for us. I had never [directed] action before this, and the complexity — the engineering that goes into building those unique rigs — is amazing. Pulling off something like [the motorcycle chase] is an interesting combination of physics and imagination. Working with Dan was highly educational.”

Gilroy adds that the chase takes place in “four chapters” throughout Manila, exploding out of the San Andrés slums and eventually concluding in the massive transportation center known as the MRT Metro Manila Station. Shooting in a location that Gilroy compares to “the chaos of Times Square” essentially required the filmmakers to “work in the real world and blend our people into it.”

Most of the chase was done practically, with only a handful of digital enhancements, such as face replacements for stuntmen. Renner and Weisz did much of the riding and some of the stunts for the sequence, so the filmmakers used long lenses when they could to show the actors’ faces. Hughen adds, “Dan wanted to keep the camera moving, so even the crash cameras and the Canon 5Ds that we used were attached to vehicles or mounted on the hoods of cars and trucks. Sometimes the operators were asked to pan onto the action at the last second — that element of surprise fit well with the Bourne style.”

Hughen also notes that the Go Mobile system was “our workhorse on the second unit. With a 15-foot Technocrane and Libra head mounted on its back, we were able to run through traffic, sometimes up to 50 miles per hour. Standing by were three handheld cameras and the camera bike for each shot we were involved with.” The second unit typically ran five operated cameras and, frequently, two or three more rigged cameras, including Eyemos and Canon 5Ds planted in strategic locations for fights and crashes.

Elswit emphasizes that despite the traditional filmmaking tools on the project, two particularly modern conveniences helped the filmmakers put Legacy together. The first was Universal’s decision to allow them to put their dailies onto iPads. The cinematographer concedes that the move remains “somewhat controversial, since everyone prefers [secure online] systems. But we were traveling so much that we needed access to the whole movie, which I had on two iPads. I carried them with me everywhere, and they were an important reference not just for the story’s themes, but also for matching back and forth as we went from one location to another. That was really useful.”

The other convenience was the digital intermediate, a process the filmmakers were still finessing when they spoke with AC. “The big problem with this much material [taking place] outdoors is matching it all — time of day, weather, color,” says Elswit. “The chase sequence is about 10 minutes in the movie, but it was shot over four weeks. Some shots were done in shade, some were in the morning, some were in the afternoon, and so on. The DI can help you pull all of that together.

“I also needed alpha channels to pull apart the composites,” the cinematographer continues. “It can be really tricky trying to connect ambient light coming through windows with plates that were shot a few weeks later at a real location. Without a DI, it wouldn’t be possible to marry those values together so that they look like they exist in the same world. When I color-time a project with a guy as talented as [Stefan Sonnenfeld], I can have mattes, take the background out of the window, and play with it all a bit. I have more control and more freedom.”



4-perf Super 35mm and Digital Capture

Panaflex Millennium XL, Arri 235, Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Eyemo

Panavision Primo, Compact Zoom ; Angenieux

Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, 500T 5219

Digital Intermediate

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