American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 72

Post Focus

I

Going Big
By Noah Kadner

It's another sleepless night for Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) as she
wanders through her home at the orphanage. Hearing a noise
outside, she peeks out the balcony window to see a 25' giant (Mark
Rylance) creeping through the streets. Their eyes meet and he
absconds with her to his cottage in Giant Country. Not the monster
he initially appears to be, however, the self-proclaimed Big Friendly
Giant shows Sophie the ways of dream catching - chasing down
flitting balls of light for delivery to the slumbering populace. Sophie
takes to calling her new friend "BFG," and the two team up with the
queen of England (Penelope Wilton) to rid the world of the giant's
much-larger and decidedly nasty brethren.
Adapted from Roald Dahl's popular 1982 children's book of
the same name, The BFG marks the latest collaboration between
director Steven Spielberg and director of photography Janusz Kaminski, whose partnership dates back to 1993's Schindler's List. The BFG
is the first feature the duo shot entirely digitally - with Arri Alexa
cameras and Panavision Primo lenses.
Considering the story's massive characters and fantastical
settings, the filmmakers realized early on that extensive motion
capture and virtual cinematography would be critical techniques for
bringing the story to life. Weta Digital handled all of the film's visual
effects, creating a powerful array of tools that enabled Spielberg and
72

August 2016

Kaminski to bring their traditional filmmaking skills into the virtual
world.
Joe Letteri, Weta's senior visual-effects supervisor, explains
the methodology: "We got very excited when Mark Rylance was
cast as BFG, because he's such a great theater actor. We asked, 'Can
we take this idea of [a theatrical performance] and combine it with
motion capture?' So we came up with 'moody mo-cap,' which
includes props and cinematic lighting to give Mark something to
work off of - just like a stage production. The difference was that
Steven and Janusz were right there with him and the other actors.
It gave us a great way to bring all the live-action elements of filmmaking together with performance capture and visual effects.
"For the motion capture, we use highly calibrated monochrome cameras with ring lights around them," Letteri continues.
"Your stage becomes a volume and each camera triangulates a
portion of that volume. The actors wear a head rig with a boom arm
holding a small HD camera that captures their facial performances.
We've written a lot of our own proprietary tools for that [process].
"We always wanted Mark and Ruby to be able to act
together," he adds, "but because [we were working with] two very
different scales, we had to do both halves of the performance separately. We'd build 'giant' sets on the mo-cap stage with all the props
scaled down to human size, so Mark could [interact with] everything. Then we would go through it again for Sophie's size - with
Mark up on risers or a camera feeding his image onto a screen we

American Cinematographer

The BFG image courtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co. and Disney Enterprises.

Motion capture, live-action sets and virtual cinematography were all brought to bear for the story of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a young orphan,
who befriends the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) in the feature adaptation of Roald Dahl's book The BFG.



American Cinematographer - August 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 9
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 10
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 11
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 12
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 14
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 15
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 21
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 22
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 23
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 24
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 25
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 26
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 27
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 28
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 29
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 30
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 31
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 33
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 34
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 35
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 36
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 37
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 38
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 39
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 40
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 41
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 42
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 43
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 44
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 45
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 46
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 47
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 48
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 49
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 50
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 51
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 52
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 53
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 54
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 55
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 58
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 70
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 71
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 72
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 73
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 74
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 76
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 77
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 78
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 84
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 85
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover4
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