Monday, 16 January 2012

Photography - part 2

Here's another of our day-for-night shots, from rough sketch to final shot:

One of the important locations in The Last Belle is 'Ripov's' bar, where our main character Rosie sits and waits for her dream date to turn up. When we were developing the script I couldn't get a clear image in my mind of what the bar would look like from the outside, and how we could get it to stand out from the surrounding row of shops and restaurants of a typical London street. Then one day I was wandering through town when I spotted a pub situated between two intersecting streets, with its door placed in the corner. I grabbed a camera, took some reference photos, and this became the basis of Ripov's exterior.

Here's a rough sketch of the bar exterior. We were trying to find
a low angle that would allow Rosie's tottering high heels to pass
by close to the camera.

Producer Rebecca Neville also contributed some artwork early
on in the production. Here she's drawing up a rough layout,
 enlarged  from the previous sketch so that more detail can be added.  

The final layout, with its details, was reduced in size on a photocopier
to a standard 16 field so that the character animation did not have to be
drawn huge. I painted the final background in daytime colours,
except for the dark blue night sky.

With the background artwork complete, Mark Naisbitt created
a series of mattes with which cameraman John Leatherbarrow
could control the lighting of different areas. Here are the exterior lamps...

These are the bar windows. For continuity, these mattes would
be exposed onto the film using the same pink gel we used to
tint the interior bar scenes.

These are the upstairs windows...

...In the case of these windows, rather than colouring them with
camera gels I used yellow marker pen on paper, rendered with
a diffuse orange pencil graduation, all of which was placed behind
the matte and backlit.

And finally, the matte for the neon sign above the door. Yellow,
red and green gels were placed behind the matte to create the
different coloured neon.

When all this artwork was ready, and the character cels complete, John shot a series of tests. These would test the overall exposure of the background itself, the degree of blue cast we would use for the night-time effect, and the individual exposures for each of the mattes used to burn in the neon and other lights, as well as any other effects such as diffusion. When we had settled on the lighting effects and exposures, John would do the actual shoot, running the film through the camera for each element, and then rewinding and starting at frame one again to burn in the next element. In the case of this shot, he would also have to re-run all the character cels with each pass so that the character would block out the areas of the matte that it was passing in front of (if you don't do this the lights will shine through the character making her look transparent).

Here's the final composite image after all the lighting runs.
(For this shot the upstairs window matte has not been used.)

 Rosie steps past the camera...

...and adjusts herself, ready for her big date.

I tip my hat to John and his amazing patience in building up our shots in this way. (And, as if the job isn't hard enough already, most camera rooms are usually situated in the depths of a basement, sealed from all natural light, and sealed from the rest of the human race too: one mis-timed interruption could ruin a shot.) Glamorous, or sociable, it isn't. But the end results can be magic.

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