KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
As initial planning went underway for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, director Matthew Vaughn and cinematographer George Richmond, BSC wanted to echo the memorable rectilinear visual style and sense of magnitude the duo crafted for 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. Both films lovingly toy with the tropes of the James Bond secret agent genre. The Golden Circle takes the quintessentially British protagonists to North America to team up with its American counterparts who are endowed with similarly exaggerated “Bond-like” traits. The action is precisely choreographed and overly stylish, which somehow modulates the violence.
It was very much in Matthew’s mind, even before we had the actual script, that the American side of this story was going to be bigger and better, at least in the minds of the American characters,” says Richmond. “ Bigger planes, bigger sets, bigger infrastructure. We scaled up, beginning with the art department, where Darren Gilford brought that American flavour.”
Vaughn’s predilection for vanishing lines converging at the centre of the frame, especially in wide shots, factored in with the design and the photography. This time around, the images generally have greater contrast and more saturated colours, in tune with the “more of everything” aesthetic.
“It was the look that to all eyes seemed somewhat more filmic,” says Richmond. “The word cinematic was used. It has the feel of movies that Matthew responds to, and myself as well. You chase the aberrations. You chase the integral flares, and the filmic bokeh, the banding on the edges of the frame, the distortion in the upright, the slight softening of the highlights and stretching of the background. All of these elements we decided to keep consistent with the first movie, in order to stay in the same world.”
The lenses were Hawk V-Lite and V-Series anamorphics, with the 35mm focal length as the workhorse, and 50, 75, and 100 mm getting plenty of use. The main camera was an ARRI ALEXA Studio with Codex Onboard Recorders capturing in ARRIRAW format.
“With these wonderful, big sets and all that very good information in the background, we tended not to use long lenses so much,” says Richmond. “There is a sequence at the end where Matthew decided to use telephoto lenses just for a small section, and it’s quite interesting how that mix of style just popped out those few lines of dialogue between Eggsey and Charlie.”
Prior to becoming a director of photography, Richmond was a top operator working closely with the best directors of photography, including Janusz Kaminski, Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, Dion Beebe and Rodrigo Prieto. That experience informs his thinking today.
“When you’re an operator, you are thinking with the camera only, how you’re going to help tell the story, cut your way through a scene and maintain eye-lines,” he says. “When you start seeing things through a cinematographer’s eyes, that is still very heavily on your mind, but you start seeing lighting angles, too. I’m realising that in the past I may have put cinematographers into difficulties in terms of lighting. But the story is still paramount, and the ability to edit your way around a scene, to make it interesting and visual while telling the story correctly, is there. But I’m seeing the light at the same time. I see it very early on when we’re deciding the camera positions. It just sort of happens automatically - you see it like a map in your head, so to speak.”
Richmond surrounds himself with some of the industry’s best crew, including Mitch Dubin as camera operator, John ‘Biggles’ Higgins as the gaffer and David Appleby as key grip. He also depends on DIT Josh Callis-Smith and DI colourist Rob Pizzey to help achieve his vision. The DI was done at Goldcrest. “Rob has an incredibly keen eye for colour matching,” says Richmond. “And Josh has been with me for six major projects, including the first Kingsman.”
Callis-Smith says that Richmond’s approach is very colour-oriented. “He likes his dailies to look as close as possible to how he wants the final outcome to look,” says the DIT. “So, after we’ve worked from a live image, we generally bring them into Resolve and work with the raw negative on set. He calls that his mini-DI.”
The procedure allowed Richmond to do more than just primary grading using CDL during the shoot. Therefore, the pipeline had to be designed to carry secondary colour correction from lab to offline, VFX, and the DI. The grade for each shot was converted to
a 3D LUT that carried through and resulted in perfect consistency between offline, previews, and the final DI.
Pizzey, nominally a DI colourist, plays a key role from the start in LUT design, which was also used in the first film as a starting point, and with the workflow design.
“THE EQUIPMENT IS GETTING FASTER, AND COMPANIES LIKE CODEX UNDERSTAND MORE AND MORE ABOUT THE REQUIREMENTS ON-SET”
“Golden Circle is a rich, slick-looking film,” says Pizzey. “Having worked closely with George on a number of projects, the DI is always relatively easy. We make sure the contrast is good, and that each frame stands out on its own. I just enhance what he has shot with subtle shapes and keys.”
Pizzey also says that the HDR grade, which takes full advantage of the rich ARRIRAW files captured by Codex, is an exciting development. “We are delivering both DolbyVision theatrical, 2D and 3D, and HDR 10 for domestic delivery, on top of the usual 2D and 3D deliveries,” he says. “The HDR grade gives the colourist an additional palette to play with. On Golden Circle, we could justify sensitively opening up the contrast ratio, as we had the dynamic range to work with. Using a controlled approach, the results can be stunning.”
Callis-Smith says that creating the workflow pipeline has become a bit easier.
“The equipment is getting faster, and companies like Codex understand more and more about the requirements on-set,” he says. “Cameras, software, and everything stand together and are becoming more intuitive. A few years ago, you were trying to make things work, and forcing solutions to problems. Now, they’re more or less answered. Things are actually starting to work as you would like them to, rather than having to find a way of making them work.
“The great thing about working with George is that his work is creative,” says Callis-Smith. “He wants to use every aspect of the camera and sensor that we’re on. He has the right level of technical knowledge to get the most potential. And after seven films, we understand each other. That’s a big help.”
Codex related product and workflows
Images courtesy of their respective owners.