American Cinematographer - April 2017 - 32
Top: An interior insert set of the Concho Bolo restaurant/bar is prepped for production.
Middle: The door-side interior set for the Concho Bolo stands at the ready alongside the
Dragonframe setup. Bottom: Cinematographer Aaron Wise (left) and director Eric Towner
ready the bar-side interior set of the Concho Bolo.
control the exposure time and there is even
a digital densitometer. There's also a DMX
window that functions like a lighting board;
you can fade the lights up and down, or
program fades using keyframes to certain
Towner adds, "There is so much
control and fine tuning on set through
Dragonframe that we can get the image
pretty close to what we want for the final
output. This allows us to create more visual
effects in camera and really bring the action
sequences to life."
Each stage was outfitted with a
Canon EOS 70D camera, which was often
mounted on a tripod that was hot-glued to
the floor to prevent unnecessary movement
and to maintain the desired shooting angle.
"JPEG files from the camera were captured
in Dragonframe on a tethered computer,"
Wise explains, adding that there was one
computer for every camera.
With the aid of adapters, the
cameras were fitted with a variety of
manual Nikon Nikkor prime lenses. A
polarizing filter was used in all cases to
control unwanted glare on the puppets.
With the cameras set at 200 or 400 ISO,
the lenses were often set to a wider aperture to create a more cinematic look, with
a shallow depth of field not often used in
stop-motion animation due to the challenges it presents for the animators. Wise
reports that the aperture on the production ranged from f4-f22. The cinematographer adds that Zeiss ZF.2 primes were used
"on select shots that required deep focus
- f22. These lenses are much higher resolution, especially at that stop."
Once the art, puppet, costume and
visual-effects departments have had a last
look, the camera department "launches"
the stage and closes the curtain - and left
to make the magic happen is the animator,
tasked with manipulating the puppets in
order to bring them to life, one frame at a
For the animation of the puppets,
24 frames were required to create one
second of action. "Animation was done on
'twos,'" Wise notes. "So most poses were
photographed twice for 24 fps." The
racing scenes were 18 frames per second,
allowing for a smoother moving image
while still maintaining the feel of stop-