Filmmaker’s Ang Lee latest feature Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has been the subject of multiple discussions, about its blend of visual formats, but the use of light in the movie is a new angle that deserves to come to… spotlight.
The first major motion picture release to have been captured in 120 frames-per-second 3D at 4K resolution and in High Dynamic Range, Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”, was, at NAB 2016, used as the starting point for a discussion centered on Lee’s vision for cinema and the creative opportunities for the future of filmmaking. The discussion continued at IBC 2016, with multiple references about and around the theme.
As we mentioned here at PVC before, “the discussion is not exactly new, but it really seems to take new directions, as people become aware of the new choices available through the use of the technology. Suddenly it is more than just a matter of speed, it’s all about creative choices. Shooting at 120 fps unlocks the ability for fine control in post over ‘the look’ of the material because the camera’s shutter angle is no longer ‘baked in’ to the rushes. This same synthetic shuttering technique can tailor the look for all deliverables up to and including the maximum of 120 fps.”
Now Cineo adds more information to this discussion, through a case study published. Cineo Lighting LLC produces some of the highest quality lighting systems available for the motion picture, television and photography industries. Utilizing the latest developments in the field of phosphorescence and exploiting the unique properties of single wavelength photon sources, the principal partners at Cineo have developed an array of lighting devices that have captured the interest of professional image makers worldwide. Beginning with the TruColor lighting line in 2012, the company continues to focus on innovations that push the boundaries of illumination technology.
According to Cineo Lighting, “when Gaffer Jarred Waldron was tasked with providing lighting for ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’, a film based on the award-winning book about the realities of war as seen through a 19-year-old Iraqi war-veteran’s eyes, both he and cinematographer John Toll, ASC trusted the HS digital soft source from Cineo Lighting, a leader in the production of lighting systems available for the motion picture, television and photography industries.”
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” follows Billy Lynn, a young man on a victory tour after a traumatic battle in Iraq. His company’s tour culminates in Billy Lynn being a centerpiece for the Dallas Cowboys pregame and halftime shows. Much of the movie focuses on the realities of war versus America’s perception of our war heroes. Waldron used upwards of 200 Cineo HS digital soft sources throughout the shoot, in order to have light enough for filming at 120 fps high-speed.
“We shot the film at 120 frames per second, which meant we needed at least 2.5 times the amount of light we would normally need on a picture,” explains Waldron. “Director Ang Lee also liked to keep all eight actors in focus at the same time, so we found ourselves shooting up to a 22 f-stop. That would require another four to five stops of light. Finally, we also had to balance our kelvin temp to the stadium lights in the dome. All of these challenges required a very bright source that could get to 6000K, point straight down and still be photographed in the long concourses of the stadium and locker rooms.”
So, besides the need for extra light, there was also a need for extra light again, due to the small apertures used for depth of field. This is something that would hardly be possible before, but the new generation of cameras and lighting have really created new options in creative terms. In fact, in pure technical terms, the 120 fps used for Ang Lee’s film is not the fastest filmmakers can achieve with what one could call “of the shelf” equipment. You don’t need to go for specialized cameras to achieve speeds as 300 fps: the RED Epic does that.
While it is fantastic to imagine what can be achieved shooting at such high-speeds, one always has to consider the lighting, because shooting at, for example, a frame rate of 1000fps requires something like 5.25 times more light than at 24 or 25 fps. Let there be light. Plenty of it!
For Waldron and Lee that meant choosing the right gear from what was available. They went for the Cineo Lighting HS system, which easily met their needs on set. It provides twice the output of a 2K incandescent soft light with an extended CRI over 95. Generating a 160-degree beam spread, the HS manages to still only use less than 500 watts of AC power.
“Having a much more efficient power consumption to light output ratio in a dimmable source that can operate in the higher kelvin range is incredibly useful,” says Waldron. “Overall the HS allows us to work much quicker and more efficiently.”
The HS’ Remote Phosphor Technology (RPT) eliminates the color-accuracy limitations that are more inherent in most LED fixtures. The HS’ independent phosphor panels emit high-quality light when excited by the high-frequency wavelengths from blue LEDs. This is a stark contrast to most LED fixtures that rely on LEDs as the source of illumination. The interchangeable phosphor panels allow users to achieve a variety of color temperatures with a single fixture.
The lamp head of the HS weighs in at 12lbs., with the total dimensions being 12in. x 21in. x 3.8in. The output range is 2700-6500K. This combination proved to be one of the most beneficial features for Waldron: “It’s light weight and brightness are a great combination. Also, I can use it for flashes or lightning due to the quick reaction of the light.”
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” stars Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin and Chris Tucker. The movie was shot by two-time ACADEMY AWARD winning cinematographer John Toll, ASC and was directed by two-time ACADEMY AWARD winner Ang Lee. It will be in theaters November 11.