ROMAN HOLIDAY

When you’ve spent the best part of a year in concentrated production, shooting one of the most hotly-anticipated movies ever, what better way to wind down than by shooting another movie with one of the world’s biggest comedy stars?

 



MAKING ZOOLANDER 2


After completing the cinematography on JJ Abrams’ $200m production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Walt Disney Studios, Dan Mindel ASC BSC says he had no hesitation in heading to Italy to frame Zoolander 2, Paramount Picture’s $50m sequel to Zoolander (2001), co-written by, directed by, and starring Ben Stiller.


Having been so dedicated to Star Wars, the idea of shooting comedy out of Cinecitta Studios was a gift,” recalls Mindel. “I had never worked with an actor/director before, and the chance to work with Ben in this role was a key attraction. Zoolander 2 also allowed me to shoot digital, and to pair-up the ARRI ALEXA with a particular set of lenses. Although I have shot many commercials digitally, and tested digital cameras ad nauseam for movies, I am a film dude and have never done a digital picture before. The fact that it was to be shot in Rome was an attraction too. The city is spectacular and I love the cuisine. As it turned out, we were there at the same time as Alexander Witt was shooting second unit on 007 SPECTRE. So what’s not to like?”

Packed with a parade of real-life celebrities and fashionistas, Zoolander 2 stars Stiller as Derek Zoolander, with Owen Wilson as his hapless sidekick Hansel McDonald, as the pair are recruited by Interpol to investigate the systematic assassination of “the world's most beautiful people”.

Mindel says, “Everyday there was a different superstar celeb on-set. With the locals and tourists clamouring to get a closer look, it made things all the more interesting.” The glitterati performing cameo roles include Sting, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Lewis Hamilton, Katy Perry and Willie Nelson, to name just a few.

Pre-production started in February 2015, with principal photography taking place from April to July of 2015 in Rome. Mindel elected to capture the comedic caper on ARRI ALEXA XTs fitted with some of the same Panavision Retro C-series Anamorphic lenses that he had used on Star Wars, prepped at Panavision in Los Angeles, with supplementary ATZ zooms and Primos provided by Panavision in London.



“For me, shooting spherical is more about TV formats,” he says. “I like 2.40:1 Anamorphic because of the inherent idiosyncratic looks that the elements in those lenses give you, which is more about the movies. Those C-series lenses though are pretty sharp, so I used some Tiffen Black Velvet diffusion, which I ended up really liking, to soften-up the image a bit.”

Along with the filmic framing of the movie, Mindel was also keen to harness a celluloid-style of workflow to ensure colour consistency from set into post production.

“I don’t use a DIT on-set and never go in the tent, as I am not a fan of that system,” he explains. “I prefer to have the DIT keep an eye on the waveform and alert us as to when we’re over or under as we shoot. I also much prefer to review my work by doing properly graded rushes, to my taste, every morning. This avoids the director and everyone downstream viewing uncoloured, one-light rushes with the wrong look.

“So I asked Deluxe’s colouring facility, Company 3 (CO3), who I had gotten to know through Star Wars, to manage the data wrangling and oversee the colour workflow. This gave me the freedom to explore the parameters of the camera, to learn about the threshold of where to go exposure and ISO-wise, and discover how to use the properties of the digital image and anamorphic glass to emulate film grain.”

Shooting with ALEXA XT and harnessing Codex ARRIRAW recording, around 30 Codex Capture Drives were regularly recycled between the set and CO3’s near-set dailies facility in Rome. CO3 managed the integrated dailies and DI under the supervision of senior DI colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld, with senior dailies specialist Jonathan Smiles in Rome.

During production, Main Data Manager Brando Bartoleschi, co-operating with Additional Data Manager Giacomo Rebuzzi, were responsible for guarding the exposure on-set. Every day, they made dual safety copies of the rushes, before the drives were sent to CO3 in Rome.




Of his overall experience shooting his first digital movie Mindel says, “What I took away, and I’m only speaking for me, is that you don’t have to be so precise with digital as you do with film, when you have to pay acute attention to detail as it’s so easy to screw it up. Digital is a different tool. There's so much forgiveness in the digital universe, and you don’t necessarily have to watch or take readings incrementally of every set-up, camera move and actor’s step. You can easily slip into a lazy way of working as a DP. It would be very simple to say I would never use film again, but I am not done yet with exploring and learning how emulsion works, and I am not ready to hand over my light meter just yet. But, this was a short and sweet production, and overall it was a great learning experience for me. I am totally happy with the results and it proved a huge success all round.”

There the Codex ARRIRAW files were ingested into CO3’s EC3 on-location dailies system, via the Codex Capture Drive Dock, and the footage was then tagged and QC’ed. Every evening, dailies colourist Gino Panaro liaised remotely with Mindel about the colour requirements, and the following morning Mindel personally supervised the dailies grade. The colour-corrected deliverables were then made for editorial, along with verified LTO-tape archive copies of the ARRIRAW files.

“It all ran very smoothly,” says Mindel. “I have used ARRI equipment my whole professional life, and their pedigree in cinema is undeniable. Overall, there’s no denying that the ALEXA is the only camera system out there to use. The camera team find the XT easy to work with – from the lenses to the in-built Codex ARRIRAW workflow. Also, I am wary of failure of equipment on-set on these sorts of movies, where time is money, but the reliability was great, and the pictures looked exactly the way I wanted them from production to the DI.”



“THE CAMERA TEAM FIND THE XT EASY TO WORK WITH – FROM THE LENSES TO THE IN-BUILT CODEX ARRIRAW WORKFLOW”



Mindel’s crew included long-time collaborators in the forms of gaffer Chris Prampin, focus puller/first AC Serge Nofield, and A-camera operator Philippe Carr-Forster. The rest of the camera, lighting and grip crew were, “pure Italian, many of whom I have worked with before on Mission: Impossible III (2006),” he enthuses. “I love their creative and professional sensibilities in bringing pizzazz to the images, and anyone who can talk about food, wine and football is good with me.”

Speaking about his lighting strategy, Mindel comments, “I lit this movie just as I would a celluloid production, using traditional fixtures to create beauty lighting in a slick cinematic way, plus a bit of pop and fizz. It was great to work in Italy with the culture and the elegance of the Italian grips. For a rock ‘n’ roll fashion catwalk scene Chris built a huge rig using vast quantities of motorised robotic lighting from PRG in Germany, worked by a board operator, which was a lot of fun.”

Regarding night shoots he observes, “One of the key stories with digital has been the prowess of the cameras to work in low or minimal light at night. I know you can get an image and, for a scene at The Pantheon, we had to shoot available light, as we could not take lighting equipment in there. But, I have never been convinced that street lighting is a good way of lighting at night. You have to work with it to give the pictures soul, and I ended up lighting virtually everything we did at night.”


Of his overall experience shooting his first digital movie Mindel says, “What I took away, and I’m only speaking for me, is that you don’t have to be so precise with digital as you do with film, when you have to pay acute attention to detail as it’s so easy to screw it up. Digital is a different tool. There's so much forgiveness in the digital universe, and you don’t necessarily have to watch or take readings incrementally of every set-up, camera move and actor’s step. You can easily slip into a lazy way of working as a DP. It would be very simple to say I would never use film again, but I am not done yet with exploring and learning how emulsion works, and I am not ready to hand over my light meter just yet. But, this was a short and sweet production, and overall it was a great learning experience for me. I am totally happy with the results and it proved a huge success all round.” 


Images courtesy Paramount Pictures





 
This site uses cookies. Learn More.