American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 74

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Darkest Days

A Tyler Straight Tube mount, fitted with a Flight Head V, was attached to a helicopter
for the film's opening shot.

cast an ugly green light across everything - a perfect reflection of the
change in mood as the miners' initial joy
and relief turns to animus after the
outside world and its accompanying
publicity start planting seeds of jealousy,
pettiness and mistrust. Arguments and
even fights break out. When the men
learn that Mario has signed his own
book deal, they feel betrayed and banish
him to an isolated area.
According to Varese, visual effects
play a critical role throughout the film,
beginning with the movie's opening
shot, an aerial view of the Atacama
Desert that swoops down and into the
mouth of the mine. Second-unit cinematographer Paulo Pérez, ADFC shot
the aerials with an Alexa XT and an
Optimo 17-80mm zoom. (The 33 executive producer José Luis Escolar served
as director of the aerial unit.) "We
attached a Tyler Straight Tube mount to
the chopper's chassis with special
clamps," relates Pérez via e-mail. "In the
front part of the mount, we installed a
Flight Head V. It was connected to a
joystick panel control inside the cabin
with a multi-pin cable, and we
controlled the iris, focus and zoom wirelessly with a BarTech."
Visual-effects supervisor Alex
74

December 2015

Henning, co-founder of Los Angelesbased visual-development company
Magnopus, supervised the digital
reconstruction of Perez's aerial photography to create an entirely new camera
move in postproduction. The descent
into the mouth of the mine was
achieved using a photo-textured CG
version of the practical location that was
enhanced with CG vehicles and set
dressing. "That entrance belonged to a
third mine located an hour's drive
away," Henning reveals in a phone
interview. (The same entrance was used
when the workers initially get trucked
into the mine.) "We digitized it and
simply placed it [where we wanted it].
The final shot was a combination of
Paulo's aerials, stills I had taken of the
mine, and original material created by
Jeff Campbell and his team at Spin
VFX in Toronto."
The actual mine collapse -
which resulted when a "mega-stone,"
twice the size of the Empire State
Building, broke free and sent hundreds
of thousands of tons of rock, dust and
debris crashing through the center of
the mine - was likewise created with a
combination of practical photography
and computer-generated imagery. The
live-action portion of the sequence was
American Cinematographer

handled by the 2nd unit, shooting inside
the Zipaquirá mine, where Pérez most
often hand-held the A camera while
Julio Flores operated the Steadicam.
When it became necessary to fit into
tight corners, Pérez swapped the Alexa
XT for a Silicon Imaging/Radiant
Images SI-2K Nano, which he paired
with Kowa JC10M C-mount lenses
(5mm, 8.5mm and 11mm), and which
recorded 2K uncompressed raw files to a
Cinedeck Extreme recorder.
"Julio and the Steadicam were on
a four-wheel motorcycle, following the
men as they fled down the road and tried
to jump onto the back of the pickup
truck," recounts Pérez. "The truck rams
into a wall and flips over, sending several
stuntmen flying backwards through the
air. The men were attached to wires, and
giant greenscreens were hung directly
onto the rock walls to get those shots."
After taking extensive measurements and hundreds of still photos,
Henning and the visual-effects crew recreated the truck as a digital model for its
flip. "Some parts of the collapse were
entirely computer-generated, [as was]
one large environment that we didn't
have any practical location for," Henning
reports. "We introduce the mine as a
character early in the film, as the men are
driving down the tunnel. The camera
pans from the men in the back of the
pickup truck, pulling out into an ultrawide shot, and tilting down to reveal a
honeycombed section of the mine that
exposes its many levels and enormous
size.
"After we'd left Colombia, Patricia
decided we needed such a shot to
communicate the incredible size of the
mine prior to the cave-in," Henning
continues. "So we created it in the
computer, using a lot of photographic
reference of our Zipaquirá location. Part
of the initial pan was done physically
with the Alexa, but even as that is
happening, we are taking over the
camera move [digitally]. The later shot of
the mega-stone crashing through that
environment is a 100-percent digital
shot."
Henning expresses great apprecia-



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - December 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 7
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 8
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 9
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 10
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 11
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 12
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 13
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 14
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 15
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 16
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 17
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 18
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 19
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 20
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 21
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 22
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 23
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 24
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 25
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 26
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 27
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 28
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 29
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 30
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 31
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 32
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 33
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 34
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 35
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 36
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 37
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 38
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 39
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 40
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 41
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 42
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 43
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 44
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 45
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American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 48
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 49
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 50
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American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 74
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American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 111
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 112
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