DP Jess Hall, BSC, on How the Flashbandit Helped Capture Exactly the Right Look
Ghost in the Shell is one of the year’s most visually ambitious films, translating the well-loved and highly influential manga series and subsequent anime adaptations into a feature film starring Scarlett Johansson in the central role of a cyborg counter-terrorism operative known as the Major. Cinematographer Jess Hall, BSC, took his role in the franchise seriously, crafting a specific 28-color palette based on the original source material as well as his own studies of Hong Kong.
Hall shot with the ARRI Alexa 65, using a wide range of colored LED fixtures to help emphasize the desired palette, with vendors including ARRI, Outsight (Creamsource), Digital Sputnik and others in the mix. But Hall recalls one scene where a Creamsource Doppio+ light — perfectly synchronized using Outsight’s Flashbandit, which allows flash effects to be controlled across multiple Doppio+ fixtures in a daisy-chain configuration — was the only way to get the look he wanted. In a statement released by Outsight, Hall explains.
The interactive light in the film’s gunfight sequences feature the Creamsource Doppios in a very specific way; to successfully simulate the muzzle flash of the weapons. However, for one scene — the Major’s capture in Kuze’s lair — I wanted to use the Doppios as the only light source. I was seeking to create a very unique and dramatic effect with the scene’s only illumination seeming to originate from one source, the stun batons used in the fight. This presented some significant technical challenges. I overcame these by using the Doppios combined with the Outsight Flashbandit to sync the lights precisely to the Alexa 65’s frame rate, therefore avoiding torn frames. Using these instruments, I could also be incredibly precise with both the intensity and the duration of the flashes. While I had an arsenal of lights from five LED lighting manufacturers, the synced Creamsource Doppio+ was the only instrument that could guarantee me the exact look I was after for the stun baton scene to get as much interactive light as possible without fear of torn frames. Synced at 24 and 48 fps, the Doppio+ covered almost the entire camera frame with one exposure, with three instruments synced from one angle and three from another angle.
Ghost in the Shell will be available for streaming beginning July 7, and arrives on DVD and Blu-ray July 25.
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