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SWAMP THING RETURNS

Codex goes behind the scenes with DIT Andy Bader on bringing DC's latest comic book hero to the small screen.

 



SWAMP THING



Swamp Thing is a fictional superhero from the comic books published by DC Comics. A humanoid plant and elemental creature, created by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, the Swamp Thing has had several humanoid and monster incarnations in various different storylines over the years. The Swamp Thing character first appeared in House of Secrets back in 1971 in a stand-alone horror story set in the early 20th century. Swamp Thing then returned in a solo series set in the contemporary world of the general known DC universe. The character is a swamp monster that resembles an anthropomorphic mound of vegetable matter that fights to protect his swamp home, the environment in general, and humanity from various supernatural and terrorist threats.

The character found perhaps its greatest popularity during the 1970s and early 1990s. Outside of an extensive comic book history, the Swamp Thing has inspired two theatrical films, a live-action television series, and a five-part animated series, among other media. IGN ranked Swamp Thing number 28th in the "Top 100 Comic Book Heroes" list.

Swamp Thing appeared in his first live adaptation in the 1982 film. Dick Durock portrayed Swamp Thing while Ray Wise played Alec Holland. Durock rose again from the swamp in the sequel film The Return of Swamp Thing along with playing the role of Alec Holland. Durock reprised the role once again in the 1990 television series. The new Swamp Thing is being produced by James Wan. Wan previously produced the feature films of The Conjuring Universe. In this new incarnation, Swamp Thing will be played by Derek Mears with Andy Bean playing his human form Alec Holland. The new television series currently in production will launch on the new video-on-demand service operated by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Networks.

Codex had a chance to go behind the scenes on the new series with DIT Andy Bader, to gain a deeper understanding of the workflow utilised for this project and working with the new ARRI ALEXA LF camera.

Cinematographer Pedro Luque (Jacob’s Ladder, Extinction) shot the pilot and set the shows look. DP’s Fernando Argüelles and Nate Goodman have been alternating the rest of the season adding their own personal treatments to each episode.

The DP’s have all been using the ARRI ALEXA LF camera and shooting in a 2.2:1 aspect ratio with Panavision T-series anamorphic lenses. Capturing in 4.5K Open Gate mode (4448 x 3096) in Apple ProRes 4444 to 1TB Codex SXR Capture Drives. Colour correcting direct from the live Log C legal range image through a LUT provided by the show’s colourist and post facility. Andy used Pomfort LiveGrade Pro to set looks and to save the CDLs that were shuttled along the camera footage to the near-set dailies team provided by Sim Digital to process and transcode the editorial footage.

Andy handled the data management at his own DIT cart. Preferring to handle the data management directly allows Andy to have access to the archives in case any captured footage needs to be checked, reviewed or regraded. This also allowed the camera department utility to be free to help the entire department and not just running back and forth to the camera truck all the time. Using a Codex SXR Capture Drive Dock connected to a 2018 Macbook Pro with an Apple TB3 to TB2 adapter, Andy made clones of the ProRes material and verified each Capture Drive, copied properly to the external shuttle drives provided by production. Andy has assembled his own custom DIT cart over the years, fully equipped for almost any set-up, with OLED monitors and waveform and vectorscopes. The Codex SXR Capture Drives and the Capture Drive Dock for this show were provided through Panavision Atlanta with the rest of the camera package.



Shooting a healthy mix of stage and practical locations, the cart and setup that Andy designed allowed him to move seamlessly between the varied locations used for the show. "The production art department, led by production designer Bill Davis and art director Jason Bistarkey, did an incredible job of creating the swamp on Stage 10 at Screen Gems in Wilmington, NC." The entire stage is a huge water tank with moveable land masses to create different "areas" within the swamp environment. Most of the swamp is just a few feet deep but there is a section in the middle that is deeper for more demanding water work. Several regular sets have been built on the other stages as Stage 10 is dedicated to the swamp scenes. Production also made use of a few visually interesting locations around the town of Wilmington, North Carolina. Shooting at a quirky little artist's retreat, which looked great in context to the shoot but was actually rather demanding both physically and logistically for the production. The show has also shot some of the larger-scale boat work on nearby Greenfield Lake. Andy had to have his DIT cart positioned out on the lake, on a barge, which was “a first and only slightly nerve-wracking.” To keep it simple, Andy made use of Codex Device Manager to easily mount the SXR Capture Drives and to erase and format them once finally archived. Andy used Pomfort's Offload Manager to transfer and verify the footage presented by the Codex Device Manager. Andy also used Ben Hagen's Parashoot software to "format" the other media used on the shoot.

Monitoring HD on set with a pair of Sony PVM-A250 25" OLED monitors and routing the SDI signal through a Blackmagic Ultrastudio, Andy uses Scopebox software to make sure exposure was correct and that nothing was clipping or crushing in the blacks. When required, Andy would ride the iris as much as necessary but this was only required on special occasions as Swamp Thing wasn't really a “day exterior show” with the sun going in and out of the clouds but was more of a controlled set environment. Most shots were set at a fixed T-stop and usually the lighting and atmosphere were kept at a consistent level between set-ups. That said, Andy had to pull iris for all three DPs when necessary.



I LOVE WORKING WITH MULTIPLE DP’S ON THE SHOW. IT KEEPS THINGS FRESH AND INTERESTING


Pedro Luque, the pilot’s cinematographer came to the show with a film emulation LUT provided by a colourist that he worked with in the past. That one LUT was used throughout the show as the base look. Using Pomfort LiveGrade Pro, Andy performed primary only CDL colour corrections on the Log C images, shading these CDLS through the show LUT and saving these looks per shot for the dailies colourist. Andy would use Davinci Resolve at times to regrade CDLs on previously shot footage.

“I love working with multiple DP’s on the show. It keeps things fresh and interesting. Fernando and Nate have different styles of lighting (both artistically and technically) and I have had to approach colouring for them differently. Fernando goes with his gut and his eye, whereas Nate lights with a meter. With Nate, I make sure to give him exactly what he expects when he leaves the set and arrives at the monitor, and then we colour from there; with Fernando, I've gotten to know him well enough where I can go ahead and start giving him what he wants as he's lighting, with just a tweak here and there after the fact. I like being kept on my toes, and it's nice to be a touchstone to keep the look consistent.” Swamp Thing has also had a guest DP (Peter B. Kowalski) who came into shoot episode 107, and I was actually surprised to see how much we had the look of the show dialled in from the levels and contrast to the atmosphere levels, colour, etc. It felt great to be able to let him light and compose shots without having to worry too much about matching shots.”

Swamp Thing will arrive on the DC Universe streaming service on May 31, 2019. Filming is currently underway. Watch behind the scenes:




Original Network: DC Universe
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson
Production Company: Warner Bros. Television
Camera Rentals provided by: Panavision Atlanta






Codex related product and workflows




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