Sunday, 22 January 2012

Photography - part 3

As I mentioned in part one of these recent posts on Photography, I got the idea to colour-code each of the locations featured in The Last Belle from watching old silent movies - in fact, I remember the idea dropping into my head while watching Broken Blossoms (made in 1919 by D.W. Griffith) where the black and white photography had been tinted afterwards so that the interior of a fire-lit shack was tinted a warm orange/red colour, while the exterior night scenes were tinted with blue. As there is a lot of cross-cutting between locations in The Last Belle I figured that slightly tinting each location would help distinguish exactly where we are within a fraction of a second of the cut, meaning we could concentrate on what the characters were doing rather than continually having to establish where we are geographically.

Most of this work was done by John Leatherbarrow in-camera as he shot the film, either by gelling the lights and/or the lens itself. After all the footage was shot and edited we both sat down with Paul Dean, a terrific grading artist at Deluxe Soho, and made final tweaks and adjustments to the colours.

All the footage set in the Underground tunnels was tinted
green. I had noticed in all of Roy Naisbitt's reference photos of
the Underground that the fluorescent lights created a green'ish
cast on the film, so we replicated this - it also lent a slightly
nauseous feeling to the sequence which seemed appropriate as
Wally is fuelled by too much beer at this point in the story.

More green'ish tinting in the Underground. As with the previous
picture, John could isolate areas with mattes to control the lighting.
In this frame the area beyond the top of the escalator has been lit up to
help highlight Wally as he tumbles down the steps. In the previous
photo the headlights of the train have been burnt in separately.

The sequences set in the bar where Rosie sits waiting were tinted
with a pink cast. To help create an 'evening' feeling I was keen to
have a lot of neon lighting in the scenes. Mark Naisbitt created the
mattes for the neon, which John then backlit and burnt into the negative.

The bar clock features quite heavily in the story. John created
another lovely neon glow around the clock face for these shots.
Although it's perfectly possible to create diffuse lighting effects
like this digitally, for me there is nothing quite like shining real
light through a real lens onto real film emulsion...

For this shot of the 'London Eye' I asked John to create the
effect of the wheel being lit from below, as if the structure is so
big that the light at the bottom can't quite reach to the top. None
of these effects exist in the artwork itself, but were all created with
mattes and lighting.

More multipule exposure camera effects: the rain, rain splashes,
and subtle reflection of the cityscape in the glass were all built
up one exposure at a time, so that you 'feel' them there without the
effects distracting too much attention away from the character. 

One of the things I like most about working with John is that for all his technical knowledge what he's most interested in is the 'feel' you are after. After discussing a sequence for some time he would often just cut to the chase and ask me, "What exactly do you want to feel in this shot?" Once we had established that, then he was free to develop things at a technical level, and work his magic in the depths of the dark, dungeon-like camera room.


  1. Hi, I would like to know more of what you said about the rain, rain splashes that you used one exposure at a time, can you elaborate more of the technique?. thank you very much.

    1. Hi Anonymous - the rain effects were 'burnt in' to the film negative at a different time to the character and background artwork, using different exposures. That gives them a semi-transparent quality as all the FX levels are showing through each other - a 'ghost' effect. If I recall correctly, I think once John had shot the character cels over the background he rewound the neg & shot the drips (painted blue-white and shot on black), & rewound more times to shoot the dripping rain (possibly twice to give different levels of depth & diffusion) & then finally faintly exposed in a painted relection of the city outside to create a sense of the surface of the glass. One mistake on any of those exposures on the neg & the whole shoot would have to be restarted! John has nerves of steel! Hope this helps...