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October / 2001

An Interview with Daniel Vincelette csc
Shooting Poor Super Man in Multivision 235

“I was quite interested in finding out what a two-perf system would do. My only reservation concerned post-production.”

by Don Angus

It started with a simple e-mail, as a few of our feature stories have done.

Montreal DOP Daniel Vincelette csc messaged that he would be in Winnipeg July 8 to Aug. 4th shooting author Brad Fraser’s film directorial debut, Poor Super Man, which he adapted from his stage play of the same title.

So far, so good. Then Vincelette added that the feature, produced by Original Pictures of Winnipeg and Reel Time Films of Edmonton, would be shot, for the first time in Canada, in Multivision 235. “It’s an Australian process,” he continued, “similar to the old Techniscope, in which we shoot with modified 35mm cameras running at the rate of two perforations per frame instead of the usual four.

“That permits a not-too-rich Canadian production to originate on 35mm film instead of having to shoot Super 16 or HD video. Film and development costs are cut by half, and the post-production costs should be similar to either of those two other formats.”

Hmm, more please.
It took a while for the CSC News and Vincelette to catch up with each other for a telephone chat about Poor Super Man, but in the meantime a quick search on the Internet turned up some details on Multivision 235.

According to website, “Multivision 235 (2.35:1) is a revisitation of the 1960s and ’70s Techniscope system. In that 20-year period, some 400 films were shot using this great format. Some titles that may be remembered include Alfie, The Ipcress File, A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, American Graffiti, and THX 1138. Now with the modern advantages of exceptional film emulsions and sharper lenses, Multivision 235 offers the filmmaker large cost savings with screen quality of 35mm and for only a budget approaching Super 16mm.

“Multivision 235 is a 35mm, two-perforation pull-down process and uses exactly half the linear footage of the conventional four-perforation system. The release print costs are identical to either a standard 35mm, four-perf production or a released 35mm print taken from a blow-up Interneg which originated from a Super 16mm original.”

The Australian company goes on to explain that “Multivision 235 has a natural Cinemascope aspect ratio, but does not employ anamorphic lenses. It uses standard spherical lenses, giving the advantage of twice the depth of field and twice the lens speed, which results in a lighting-level requirement of around one-quarter of standard anamorphic. Filmmakers can utilize a large range of ultra wide-angle, ultra telephoto and ultra speed lenses, not available when using anamorphic lenses.”

Vincelette said it was one of the producers, Ken Mead of Reel Time Films, who decided to shoot in Multivision 235. The association between Reel Time and producer Kim Todd of Original Pictures made it possible to put together the $1.3-million budget to shoot Poor Super Man.

‘Where it gets more complicated
is the actual neg cutting’

“The budget was not big, but they didn’t want to shoot on digital Beta or Super 16mm because they thought this movie deserved a better quality picture. They preferred to shoot on 35mm in an affordable way. Mead read about Multivision and got in contact with the people in Australia, and he decided it was a good idea to do it this way. When I was hired to do the picture, we went through the process of discussing it all over again and decided it made a lot of sense and offered lots of freedom.

“I had never experienced it before, although I had read about it and I knew about the format called Techniscope. I was quite interested in finding out what a two-perf system would do. My only reservation concerned post-production.”

Post-production was being done at the time of writing, with tape editing on an Avid suite in Winnipeg.

“An Edmonton lab did our film processing; that was straightforward,” Vincelette said. “Whether you shoot one-perf, two-perf or 16-perf, you just put the film roll through the soup. We used standard 35mm film, except that the 1,000-foot roll would last 20 minutes instead of 10. We shot 90 per cent of the feature with Kodak Vision 5277, 320 ASA, low-contrast film stock, except for a few outside night sequences where we used ’84, the new Kodak Expression, 500 ASA, low-contrast stock. It looked great actually.

“Then we had a post-production facility in Edmonton transferring all the film to video. That part of the process was different because of time-code procedures. Because we were shooting in only two-perf, the spacing for future cutting purposes was very small between images. They couldn’t do any corrections. They had to run the rolls without stop to make the transfer. We only had one-light dailies from beginning to end; they’d start running the neg roll and then go all the way to end. If they stopped, they had to restart it again. We screened the rushes on Beta.

“Where it gets more complicated is the actual neg cutting. The space between the frames is much tighter, so the neg cutting is touchier. It is a special process with an A and B roll where you have to keep a couple of frames more than the ones you are going to use so that you don’t get any glue artifacts on your actual neg. All the space between the two perfs is occupied by the actual picture. The line there is very thin.”

Vincelette said negative cutting was scheduled for November, and he did not know whether it would be done in Canada, Los Angeles, Chicago or Australia.

Multivision 235 provided the main Moviecam camera and a spare body. The movement of the camera was modified to run more slowly as it pulled down the film at two perfs per frame through a special 35mm gate. The camera operates at the normal 24 frames per second, the DOP confirmed, and the exposure time is the same as a regular 35mm camera. “The camera we had was in great shape and was very quiet.”

Multivision “gives you exposure from perf to perf on the vertical side,” the cinematographer explained. “On the horizontal part, you expose even over the space normally left clear for the soundtrack, which is similar to Super 35mm. This system is like Super 16mm or Super 35mm in that you have to go through an optical blow-up, or a digital blow-up if you have the money. You have to blow it up to a 35mm Interneg. At some point you need to get up to a four-perf format.”

ROLLING: DOP Daniel Vincelette csc operates the Multivision camera as 1st AC Bryan Sanders pulls focus. In the background, from left, are grips Ron Hodgson and Jeff Van Ryssel. Photo: Ken Mead

‘I don’t think the layman would
be able to tell the difference’

He said tests that came back from Australia looked good when projected. “I don’t think the layman would be able to tell the difference between that and film shot on regular 35mm. It’s a bit grainier, but not that much. It’s very subtle.

“Regular lenses can be used with Multivision and can be shot as if we were shooting regular 35mm film, same light, same lenses. The only difference is that because of the surface of the neg that you expose, you have a little more depth of field than in normal 35mm; it’s somewhere between 16mm and 35mm. The normal lenses in Multivision seem a bit longer than they would be in a normal 35mm shot. This can be considered a plus, a little more depth of field. We shot with Ultra Primes from Zeiss; they worked great We had a package of six lenses — 14mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 80mm and 135mm. We used a zoom twice.

“There was no difference in lighting,” Vincelette said. “We had something that would resemble a normal lighting package for a Canadian movie, not big budget. The only difference was that I overexposed a bit — from 1/3 to ½ stop — because I wanted a thicker neg. When you overexpose, your negative is thicker because more light hits it. This gives better control on the blacks and also will help with contrast; every time you go through an optical stage you gain a bit of contrast. It worked out pretty well.”

Vincelette said he and director Brad Fraser wanted “to create a special universe for the main character in the movie, a painter. With graphic set designs and colours by production designer Craig Sandals, we created a funky studio that looked like it was inspired by the Superman comic books. Brad and I wanted to be as daring as we could within the limitations of the budget and the 22 days we had to shoot the movie.

FRAMED: DOP Daniel Vincelette csc (right) frames a shot for the feature Poor Super Man. From the left are actors Paul Stafford and Vincent Corazza, with sound recordist Leon Johnson in the background. Photo: Ken Mead

“We used a lot of Rosco colour gels on the lights — a bit on the camera — to create colour schemes, mostly coloured backgrounds or coloured atmosphere with the lights. We tried to find a way with the lighting to convey the different stages that the characters go through in the story. We divided the movie into three different seasons, one being colder, the second being warmer, and the last being more muted tones like fall.

“Sometimes we used light in a theatrical way, changing the background, changing colours in the foreground as the actors moved around from one part of the set to another, to convey emotion or to convey change of states that were happening with them. We decided that type of lighting was good for what we wanted to say and good to illustrate the fact that this painter was the main character in the story. We were trying to be visually creative without being overly painterly.

“We used a lot of tungsten lighting, from Peppers to 5Ks, because most of the shooting was interior and lit from the inside. A couple of times at some locations we used a couple of 18K HMIs that would provide outside light coming into a room, but then I’d filter the light at the windows so that inside we could continue to use tungsten.”

Vincelette did his own operating. His Winnipeg crew included 1st A/C Bryan Sanders, 2nd Shawna Townley and gaffer Michael Drabot. Before Poor Super Man, the DOP shot the Canadian feature The Tunnel in Montreal. This month he was shooting a French-language feature called Le Marais in regular-frame, three-perf 35mm.

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