American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 82

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Isidore Mankofsky, ASC on The Muppet Movie

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fter its broadcast debut in September 1976, the television series The Muppet Show became an international hit, leading to the release of the 1979 live-action musical feature The Muppet Movie. The Muppets’ first big-screen foray was shot by ASC member Isidore Mankofsky, who provided a detailed account of his strategies in the July 1979 issue of AC. What follows are excerpts illuminating aspects of Mankofsky’s approach. “For screen format we tested 1.85 and Panavision anamorphic. Panavision would have caused fewer framing problems, but the format proved too large and overpowering for the Muppet figures. Equipment considerations and the need for a dependable video-monitoring system also helped turn us to 1.85. “Image size was best from a medium close-up to a fairly wide shot. Fabric flaws became very obvious and distortion was a problem in extreme close-ups. We Isidore Mankofsky, ASC takes a meter reading with tested shooting from above, below Kermit the Frog and his nephew, Robin, on the set of and a little above eye level. The Muppet Movie (1979). Looking down on the Muppets proved to be too condescending, and the rather small size of the figures made it necessary to set many nets to made shooting from below out of the balance the lighting. Once again the question. The best camera height was a problem of filming Muppets and people little above eye level. Generally, the at the same time had to be solved; in Muppets took to the big screen with many instances they had to be lighted only a few changes in normal lensseparately. image size considerations. When we “The opening scene of the film is filmed Muppets and people together, we a shot of Kermit sitting on a log in the used a slightly longer lens and kept the swamp, strumming a banjo and singing. Muppets slightly forward of the people. [It] was originally scheduled to be shot This made the Muppets look their best. on location in Georgia, but that proved “Tests showed that directional too impractical … so special effects built soft light, hard kickers, or side light with a submersible container in which Jim enough fill light to penetrate the shadHenson was encased, with his arms ows worked well. The vivid, multicolsticking up through a log and an oxygen ored Muppet fabrics caused some supply fed in to him. There was one problems. Very light Miss Piggy, midinstance where he spent more than range Kermit, and quite dark Gonzo three hours underwater, trapped inside

A

this container. His only contact with the outside world was his little monitor, which gave him a visual account of Kermit’s performance. “For this sequence an entire swamp was built in the lake on the backlot of Studio Center in Hollywood, and about 40 cypress trees were cut down and flown in from Georgia. We started with the camera mounted on a 40' extension on a Titan crane and dissolved from an aerial shot made in Florida as we pulled in and zoomed from 25mm to 500mm, finally picking up Kermit in close-up. The most difficult part of it was that we had to get the crane out over the water without rippling the surface or giving away the fact that there were grips trying to steady the camera move. It was one of the most remarkable crane moves I’ve ever seen anyone perform. “One of the great occupational hazards … was the abundance of holes that had to be cut or dug in the set to give our Muppet operators a place to work. It’s ironical that after I’d spent a lot of time warning people to watch out for the holes, the first to fall into one was me. “From the photographic standpoint, probably the most difficult sequence in The Muppet Movie was the finale, which involved 265 Muppets. We had to start on an extremely tight shot of Kermit so that we wouldn’t give away the gag, and pull back to the far end of the set to reveal the entire group of Muppets, and, in doing so, miss all the people who were standing there holding their hands in the air. There were about 200 people, some holding two Muppets, and we had to take the scene quite a number of times in order to avoid picking up all those people who were standing there in a hole in the floor. It wasn’t easy.”

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December 2011

American Cinematographer



American Cinematographer - December 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - December 2011

American Cinematographer - December 2011
Contents
Editor’s Note
President's Desk
Short Takes: OK Go’s “Muppet Show Theme Song”
Production Slate: Melancholia • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Stepping into the Shadows
Through a Child’s Eyes
Silent Splendor
It’s Time to Raise the Curtain
Filmmakers’ Forum: David Stump, ASC
New Products & Services
International Marketplace
Classified Ads
Ad Index
2011 AC Index
In Memoriam: Andrew Laszlo, ASC
ASC Membership Roster
Clubhouse News
ASC Close-Up: Luciano Tovoli, ASC, AIC
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - American Cinematographer - December 2011
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 1
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 2
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 4
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 5
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 6
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 7
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Editor’s Note
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 9
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - President's Desk
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 11
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Short Takes: OK Go’s “Muppet Show Theme Song”
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 13
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 14
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 15
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 16
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 17
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Production Slate: Melancholia • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 19
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 20
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 21
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 22
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 23
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 24
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 25
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 26
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 27
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 28
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 29
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 30
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 31
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 32
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 33
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 34
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 35
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Stepping into the Shadows
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 37
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 38
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 39
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 40
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 41
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 42
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 43
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 44
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 45
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 46
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 47
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 48
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 49
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 50
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 51
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 52
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 53
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Through a Child’s Eyes
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 55
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 56
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 57
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 58
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 59
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 60
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 61
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 62
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 63
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 64
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 65
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 66
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 67
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Silent Splendor
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 69
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 70
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 71
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 72
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 73
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 74
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 75
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 76
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 77
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - It’s Time to Raise the Curtain
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 79
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 80
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 81
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 82
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 83
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 84
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 85
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 86
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 87
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 88
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 89
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 90
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 91
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 92
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 93
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Filmmakers’ Forum: David Stump, ASC
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 95
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 96
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 97
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 98
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 99
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - New Products & Services
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 101
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 102
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 103
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - International Marketplace
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Classified Ads
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Ad Index
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 2011 AC Index
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 108
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 109
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 110
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 111
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 112
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 113
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - In Memoriam: Andrew Laszlo, ASC
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 115
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - ASC Membership Roster
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 117
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Clubhouse News
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - 119
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - ASC Close-Up: Luciano Tovoli, ASC, AIC
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - December 2011 - Cover4
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