Netflix’s latest production, Polar, is an upcoming film adaptation of the action noir comics series written and illustrated by Victor Santos. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, it’s based on a spec script written by Jayson Rothwell. Polar follows the story of an international hitman, Kaiser Black, who comes out of retirement to contend with a group of young hitmen.
Codex had the pleasure of catching an interview with Rany Ly, an effervescent female DIT, who gave us a thorough behind the scenes look at her work on Netflix’s latest film shot on the Panasonic VariCam Pure.
Describe working on Polar. Describe your setup and using the Panasonic VariCam Pure.
Working on Polar was a definite learning experience. Out of town, long hours, and it was my first time working with a non ARRI or RED camera. The menu system on the Panasonic VariCam Pure was different than what I’m used to and trying to decipher what it can do in the manual versus what it can do in real life was a bit of a new challenge for me. For example, in the manual it stated in Hi-Speed mode it can do 60-120fps, but what it didn’t say was that it can only do increments of the base frame rate - not like the RED or ALEXA where you can type in the frame rate. Formatting new mags and entering our cavalry was a challenge, the Pure needed a mag to be formatted in a specific way in the Codex Vault, otherwise it was unable to format in-camera.
M. Fawcett at Panasonic and Ken Rice from Sim were very helpful with the process. Since this was a Netflix production, they had specific requests, such as MD5 checksums. Offloading RAW .vrw files onto Codex mags with MD5 was very time consuming. My days were long and we also shot a lot of footage as well. I believe it was around 6 hours of footage a day and as high as 120 setups a day.
When it came to colour space, I had the amazing help of Nick Paulozza from Deluxe Toronto who helped me figure out the range and the curves. Steve Mahrar from Panasonic and Nick and I collaborated to help the colour space work better in certain conditions.
In the Pure’s menu system, having the choice to choose SDI settings between 3G and 1.5G was amazing. Also, the Panasonic engineering team were always at my disposal, with someone aiding me in nearly every time zone. They were willing to help whenever we had issues.
Being able to build a beautiful LUT in a legal space for the show was a success as well. The show LUT was beautiful, based on the Kodak D65 film look. The dual camera ISO mode was an amazing help. It saved time and it was not noisy to just bump up to 3200 base ISO. The highlights were beautiful - anything that had a little shine/ sweat on the skin tone - it just popped. The camera certainly is great for low light and creating beautiful colours.
Codex Support was also very helpful and got me the licenses to the Vault very quickly.
For my setup, each camera was a client on a wireless network. The mobile network stick was built by another DIT, Jasper Vrakking. And with this setup, I could use Pomfort Livegrade to control the CDL in the camera, offload the mag via MD5 program via Terminal, take footage and put it into DaVinci Resolve, import the CDL into the first node under the ShowLUT node, and colour and nitpick in Resolve - then export the project file for Deluxe Toronto packaged with reference stills and footage. The DP also gets a still from every setup so that he can see his looks from the day.
What has been your proudest production?
I can’t say the name, but I remember the DP saying he doesn’t usually work closely with DITs, but wanted to hire me because the camera team wanted a DIT. In the interview, he said he wouldn’t come to my tent at all – however, after he realised that I was able to live grade, 1.5 week in - we were working side-by-side.
How do you feel about managing RAW workflows?
I like working with RAW because it’s less intense during playback, it is less processor intensive compared to other formats. I use Resolve to do my grades for dailies, with the PURE, Resolve converts it the .vrw files to DPX frames. Even though it didn’t have any raw control at the time, I was really impressed by the colours and the ways I can push and pull a certain element. The only challenge I saw (working with RAW) was the MD5 offloading part.
What’s in store for you over the next few years? Do you have any projects that you can discuss?
There’s a few potential projects, but nothing is set in stone until the first day of work. However, I am lucky enough that on Polar I was able to work with a super awesome camera crew and made new friends. Friends who support my personal projects. (My personal project currently consist of training to be like Jackie Chan.)
CODEX SUPPORT WAS ALSO VERY HELPFUL AND GOT ME THE LICENSES TO THE VAULT VERY QUICKLY.
What’s your favourite thing about being a DIT?
My favourite thing about being a female DIT is that I can make as many “dirty” jokes as I want. There’s no expectations about being reserved or conservative – especially since I’m a woman. Honestly, there are no gender roles here!
Polar is expected to premiere on Netflix in 2019 and stars Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick and Matt Lucas.
Codex related product and workflows
Images courtesy of their respective owners.