June 21, 2024

Bringing 3 Body Problem to life: DP Jonathan Freeman, ASC

Jonathan Freeman, ASC faced a unique challenge on Netflix’s sci-fi series 3 Body Problem. The books, written by Cixin Liu, are extremely intellectually dense novels. Translating them into visually compelling television seemed like a daunting task. Show creators DB Weiss and David Benioff had worked with Jonathan previously on Game of Thrones, and they leaned into filmmaking that was motivated by impactful storytelling rather than just “cool shots.” A key reveal moment in particular was achieved simply by pushing in on a photo of one of the characters in the first episode, revealing how the stories were interconnected.

Together, they decided on the look of the show and chose three distinct visual styles for 1960s China, modern London, and the virtual world of a videogame. The 2:3:5 aspect ratio and ARRI ALFA lenses helped differentiate these environments. The lenses were prototypes that Greig Fraser was developing on The Batman. “They had exactly all that beautiful bokeh that you would expect, but the center was optically pure,” says Jonathan. “They also had these chromatic aberrations to them. These distorted, stretchy little bits in the edges of the frame just looked funky and kind of otherworldly. I just like the idea that it could be interpreted as sort of an alien’s point of view.”

Filming the virtual world within a limited physical space required innovation. Jonathan’s “low-res volume” stage concept used a massive wall of SkyPanels and strategically placed lighting to create a realistic, immersive environment for actors. “Each (panel) was almost like a pixel, so we created an array of 110 feet by 45 wide wrapped around 180 degrees.” says Jonathan. “It was a very complex system, but overall the intent was to recreate these live environments the way you might be able to do in a regular volume. Then, there was the lighting on top, similar to the skylight, where we programmed animated lights to recreate sunrise, sunset, dusk, and dawn. It was quite complicated, but we were able to use a real space and transition in camera. It took a lot of minds to put it together, but I thought it was really successful.”

Find Jonathan Freeman: http://freemandp.com/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

March 8, 2023

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2023 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya for our fourth annual Oscar nominations special. With a focus on cinematography, they discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Here’s a rundown of some of the nominations discussed in this episode, as well as great films that were not nominated this awards season. Listen to our interviews with the nominated DPs as well as other films of note!

Tár, Florian Hoffmeister
Mandy Walker, nominated for Elvis, the first woman to win an ASC Award
All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend, who won a BAFTA
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Larkin Seiple who was not nominated
Roger Deakins, Empire of Light
Darius Khondji, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Greig Fraser, who won last year for Dune and also shot The Batman
Women nominated for best cinematography but have never won: Rachel Morrison, Ari Wegner
Banshees of Inisherin, Ben Davis
Babylon, Linus Sandgren
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Nope

Find Jenelle Riley on Instagram and Twitter: @jenelleriley

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 13, 2022

Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS on Dune, using digital technology, working with director Denis Villeneuve and director Kathryn Bigelow

Director of photography Greig Fraser says that cinematographers always strive to create images with dimension, so that audiences are able to experience almost feeling and touching what they are seeing. Film has always had the dimensional and realistic feel that filmmakers appreciate, such as grain and color. But with today’s advances in digital filmmaking technology, Greig understands and embraces using the tools that are appropriate to the project he’s working on, and the technology just keeps improving. For Greig, no matter what he’s shooting or how technical it can be, what draws him to every film project is the characters in the movie.

On Dune, Greig and director Denis Villeneuve tested on film and also on digital, but they didn’t like either look that much. They decided to take a hybrid approach: the film was shot on digital, then output to film, and then back out to digital, which gave it the look they wanted. Villeneuve was a huge fan of Dune the novel, and had a clear vision of what his version of the Dune story should be. He extensively storyboarded the film in pre-production, and they did not reference the previous Dune movie at all. During the shoot, Greig and the VFX supervisor Paul Lambert championed getting the lighting exactly correct with the blue or green screen background so that the shots and perspective would look the most realistic and there would be very little adjustments needed in post production.

Greig also talks about using the iPhone 13 ProMax to shoot a demo film with director Kathryn Bigelow. The phone has several camera options that make it cinematic, and he finds that phones are getting better and better to shoot with.

Greig’s next film is The Batman which will be released in March.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram @greigfraser_dp
Twitter: @GreigFraser_dp

You can see Dune in theaters now, on Blu-ray, or soon returning to HBOMax.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep154/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Assemble: Assemble has amazing production management software. Use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

Sponsored by Arri: https://www.arri.com/en

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

August 2, 2020

Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS on The Mandalorian, Lion, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 85: Greig Fraser

World-renowned director of photography Greig Fraser grew up in Australia, working as a still photographer before he moved into cinematography, shooting shorts, TV shows and films for several Australian directors. Greig’s most recently completed project is The Mandalorian, which recently earned him an Emmy nomination. At first, Greig felt incredibly nervous about working on the frontline development for The Mandalorian because of the massive amount of technology involved. His usual approach as a DP has been naturalistic lighting, in a real setting, rather than an entirely manufactured environment on a soundstage. The Mandalorian brought together gaming technology and set design, which could only be done with the support of ILM and Lucasfilm. The Star Wars series used 3D digital environments built with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine gaming technology that was capable of interacting with the cameras and was projected on huge LED screens for very realistic backgrounds on the soundstage. Greig was not a Star Wars newbie- prior to The Mandalorian, he was the cinematographer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As a fan of Star Wars, Greig felt some trepidation at first about shooting Rogue One, because he was worried about losing that passion in the day-to-day while on set. Greig met with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards and loved his early film Monsters, so he was convinced to take the job. Grieg also discusses his work on the 2016 film, Lion, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. Greig was extremely excited to shoot Lion- he and fellow Australian director Garth Davis had worked together a number of times. As a photographer, Greig had traveled and shot in India, and he loved being able to return to India and Melbourne to shoot such a great story. For Lion, Greig and Garth Davis wanted to be very respectful of Indian culture, and be careful of their choices not to oversensationalize images of poverty. Greig shot many of the railway scenes in the film at the level of a small child to capture the character Saroo’s feelings of loss and helplessness.

Grieg Fraser is the cinematographer of two hugely anticipated films coming soon: Dune with director Denis Villeneuve and The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram @greigfraser_dp

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep85/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz