The following case studies were organized for MITIC (March╚ International des Techniques et Innovations du Cin╚ma) , the technology sidebar of the Cannes Market. We are very grateful for all the help and support provided by Jerome Paillard, Edith Grant, Rex Weiner, and the rest of the MITIC team.
Peter Broderick: It is very exciting to be back in Cannes two years after what I regard as the official beginning of the digital revolution - the premieres of The Celebration and The Idiots at the Cannes Film Festival in May, 1998. While this most traditional of film festivals isn't where anyone expected a digital revolution to be launched, the appearance of these two films in competition and the subsequent international distribution has had an incredible impact on filmmakers around the world. I think of The Celebration as the Birth of A Nation of digital features. Things haven't been the same since.
Here we are two years later and you can see growing numbers of emerging and established filmmakers are making features digitally and experiencing extraordinary creative freedom.
Peter Broderick: Suzanne Fenn has a fascinating background. As an editor, she has worked with Godard and many other filmmakers. She is now based in Jamaica where she was the co-writer, editor, and 2nd unit director of Third World Cop.
Third World Cop is particularly interesting because of the potential significance of digital video in countries without film industries or the resources to create an infrastructure to support 35mm production.
Suzanne, can you tell us about Third World Cop and how it relates to its digital predecessor Dancehall Queen?
Suzanne Fenn: Chris Blackwell [head of Palm Pictures and the founder of Island Records] was interested in developing a Jamaican film industry, but there was no real audience that yet existed. He had this concept of creating $500,000 movies in digital. He already believed in digital filmmaking in 1995 and knew it would take over.
I was going to the Kingston nightclubs and experiencing the dancehall culture and someone showed me a piece of paper with this idea of a waitress who becomes a dancehall queen. The next morning, Carl Bradshaw, the biggest Jamaican movie star who also plays the godfather in Third World Cop, showed up at my door with Ed Wallace, a producer from Kingston. We started thinking about this idea and three weeks later we had a treatment. Blackwell liked it and gave us money to write a script and a year later we shot Dancehall Queen. It was directed by Don Letts a Jamaican director from London who had done a lot of Jamaican music videos and documentaries. It was a totally Jamaican movie with a Jamaican cast and it became the biggest hit in Jamaica ever. That summer Men In Black was out - which it beat because suddenly people were excited to see their own images on screen. These were images that they could identify with which were just Jamaican people with Jamaican problems in a Jamaican reality. We never expected the movie to be such a hit.
Meanwhile, Carolyn Pfeiffer, a Los Angeles producer now based in Jamaica, said "Suzanne, I have this idea about a third world cop. Why don't you write this story?" It was supposed to be based on the life of this real Jamaican star cop called Trinity... I was left with the task of writing a movie, being a woman, and knowing nothing about Jamaican cops. I ended up working with a London writer Chris Salewicz and together we researched and built the first premise for Third World Cop. We worked on the characters, but our first meeting we had with the Jamaican police gave us the chills so we decided to make it instead about an undercover cop. We asked Chris Browne to direct and then dove into the world of Jamaican cops and wove all these real stories into a script.
The digital technique came in very handy because we shot in all these Kingston ghettos which are extremely volatile. The shooting schedule was very tight. We would shoot the masters and the medium shots at the same time and move very lightly through these volatile areas. It allowed us to shoot because there is no lab in Kingston. If we had had to send film footage back to Miami, it would have been much too expensive.
Broderick: Can you explain the original idea that Chris Blackwell had about creating an indigenous film industry. How limited were the resources that were available in Jamaica and how have digital tools changed the possibilities for filmmakers? It seems that with Dancehall Queen and Third World Cop that the model has been very successful so far.
Fenn: When we started this idea, Chris Blackwell was still working with Polygram. For them, the idea of a Jamaican film industry was inconceivable. The only way we could finance a feature was to gamble and make one on a very low budget (like $500,000). When we started shooting Dancehall Queen in 1996, it was one of the first features done in digital. Everybody was looking at us and asking, "How will it be distributed and what are you going to do with it?"
Originally, we thought we weren't even going to show it in theaters because theaters are so dominated by American movies. We were going to go directly to DVD or cable and bypass theaters. Then at the time of bringing out the movie, we thought we'd do one print with a big opening in a theater in Kingston. When we saw the success of the movie, we started making more prints to show it in more theaters in Canada and in the Jamaican boroughs in New York, Miami, London, etc.. Six million Jamaicans live outside of Jamaica which has a population of two million people.
When Third World Cop came out in Kingston in October 1999, it was huge. There had never been a bigger hit in Jamaica. It almost reimbursed itself from the domestic theatrical release. Because we wanted to improve the soundtrack, we postponed the international release. The problem is that Jamaicans control the bootleg industry, so right after the Toronto Film Festival in September, cassettes of the film were on sale in the Bronx for $40, $35 at the hairdresser in Miami, and in London, Africa, and everywhere. By the time the movie came out in New York in April this year all the core audience had seen the movie... By April the movie was already old news. Our lesson is that we have to bring a film out in movie theaters and on DVD and video at the same time.
Broderick: What were the opportunities to train people who worked on the films?
Fenn: In Kingston there is an organization called the Area Youth Foundation which is a performance theater group where ghetto youths from opposite, enemy communities work together and write songs and plays using their own life stories. They learn how to love each other instead of killing each other in gangs. Several of them acted in the film. Each department had some of these youths as apprentices (including grip, camera, and sound). We also used extras from each ghetto where we shot. We tried to use real people for a lot of the roles so that when we shot we were integrated in the community.
At the same time, we were very light with the digital cameras. If we had a classical film crew, and stayed too long in a ghetto, trouble would have started. Even with digital video we had a certain amount of trouble.
I trained one guy who knew nothing about the technology and now he is a full fledged assistant editor... He understood the computer like that... There is such a thirst for opportunity. With this editing technology, people can absorb it very rapidly. I think it is the same thing with these cameras. In fact, I have written another script where I used the digital technology to create the script. I'd hang out on a corner and after one hour I'd pull out a tiny Sony camera... I used the dialogue directly from the tapes and integrated it into the script. Digital cameras allow you to capture this culture which is extremely rich and has a very special texture.
Broderick: This is the perfect opportunity to bring Arturo Ripstein on stage. I am very honored that he is joining us this morning. I work with a company called Next Wave Films. We had an email dialogue with Arturo and his team, and then I had the chance to meet with him two weeks ago at the San Francisco Film Festival. He told me about his initial experience shooting digitally after having worked exclusively in film before.
Can you tell us about making your first digital feature? Why did you choose to make a digital feature, and how different it was?
Arturo Ripstein: Let's say it all started when I first began making films which was a long time ago, about 35 years ago. For the first feature I directed we had this old time Mitchell camera and to move it from one place to another we needed four strong men. This is true. I was a very young director. I was 21 years old and wished I could make certain kinds of movements in the film. I dreamed about having a camera with wings, and hoped one day I would. Eventually [film cameras] got smaller and bigger, and smaller and bigger but never provided the latitude and versatility that the digital equipment gave us on Asi Es La Vida.
I come from Mexico, a country with a depleted economy. It is very complicated now to get financing for a film. It used to be a big industry in which the output was somewhere between 80-100 films per year and now it gone down to about eight to nine films per year. This is disastrous because of complications to get financed. So finding the possibility of using this minimal digital equipment led us to the possibility of doing this movie. If you use this kind of equipment, films can be made. If you don't, things will be much more difficult. That's the genesis. First of all, it is an aesthetic option. Naturally at this point it is also an economic option.
Broderick: Let's look at a clip from your film which we will project digitally. The magical projector back there is a Barco. [Clip of Asi Es La Vida shown]
We thought this clip was a good one to show to illustrate how you integrated the idea of making the movie digitally into the movie. Could you say a little bit about how you approached that?
Ripstein: When we did the movie we decided to talk about film inside the film. This is a real story but the camera, being so winged in this case, is integrated as one of the characters and is ever present. Traditionally in films, the camera constantly observes. In this case, the camera is more or less present at given times so that's why the characters talk directly to it. We use the camera not only to provide a complete view and panorama of the story, but also to distance the audience from the story.
This film is an adaptation of a 3000 year-old myth called Medea. We wanted to integrate this myth into modern day Mexico. My screenwriter, who is my wife, and I like the story very much. Mexico has a lot of social issues around women who are abandoned resulting in matricide and suicide. It is common and we thought it would be important to talk about.
Broderick: How did shooting digitally change the way that you worked with your actors?
Ripstein: I made films before this one all shot on 35mm celluloid. Of course the cost is enormous. The responsibility of having your film delivered on schedule and within the budget is fundamental in a country with not a lot of means. You have to have your budget done seriously, and you can not go over it because you will get into a lot trouble.
For the last few films I made on film, we had rehearsed very precisely in order not to go over three to four takes because we were allotted a certain amount of film and could not get more. Shooting, developing, and printing 1,000ft. reel of 35mm costs about $1,200, so we had to be very careful. Now with a digital camera you can get an hour of tape for $13, and since you don't have to pay for processing that is all it costs. Shooting on film I knew that the fourth or fifth [take] would be all right and that was it. Shooting digitally we could double that to about ten or twelve takes.
The relationship with the actors and the camera changed completely. The actors started to lose sight of the camera because it is a very small piece of equipment. They started to do things completely different. When you repeat and repeat scenes endlessly, the actors start to take their masks off.
We shot the rehearsals because I have seen many times the best performances left in the rehearsals. We shot everything and there was absolutely no problem or difficulty doing that. We could have all the material we needed. If there was one take that we didn't like, we just rolled it back and shot it over again. The versatility and the possibilities are endless.
Broderick: Let's look at 35mm clip. The audience will see how terrific the transfer from video to 35mm was. Can you say anything about how satisfied you were with how the print ended up looking?
Ripstein: We always knew that it was going to be transferred to 35mm film. At this point in time this is necessary if you are shooting digitally. Eventually you will not need to transfer to celluloid.
Because we planned to transfer to 35mm film, we were careful with the framing and the atmosphere that we wanted to convey. We controlled the image directly in the editing with the Avid. Afterwards, the transfer was made at the laboratory in Paris called GTC.
As you know it is not a standardized procedure like when you take photographs and send them to be developed. You can do that in Japan, Mexico, or Peru and they are all going through the same process. In the case of transferring tape to film, it has not been standardized yet. Every laboratory has its own technique and they invent their own means to do it. You have a whole range from the high-end digital Sony laboratories in the United States, which is tremendously expensive, to the laboratories in the rest of the world, but they are not standardized. We made tests with three labs and decided to go to Paris because the look we got from their tests was very good. The cameraman was there to check exactly how the transfer went.
We knew what we wanted to achieve. When we saw the actual transfer, the looks were fantastic. It's got a raw beauty that has not a lot to do with film. When we were shooting in Mexico, the first thing everybody asked was "Does it look like a movie?" That was very disturbing because if we had wanted it to look like a movie, we would have shot with a Panavision or another 35mm camera. In this case, we didn't want it to look like a movie. Shooting digitally, we transformed it from a photographer's medium to a director's medium. Basically, the cameraman used to take three hours to light a set and then you have twenty minutes to shoot your entire scene with actors and everything. The cameraman was in control of the whole set. Now it is different - the director is in control.
It doesn't need to look like a movie. It is not intended to be a movie. It is not intended to be television. It is not a hybrid. It is not a combination of the two. It has its own natural position. We wanted this raw beauty, this immediate point of nearness to two characters that video can give. At this point, digital video is very young. I think that the storytelling with it will be very raw, very immediate, very in the streets, very documentary-like with all its variances. But this will change very soon because the control of the images will happen very quickly. Now it is still in the first stage and the results are usually surprising... In our case, the surprise was pleasant and the results were exactly what we wanted. [35mm clip shown]
Ripstein: It is exhilarating to work like this. It is not only the discovery of a new medium with new possibilities, but as I said before it will be the difference between making a movie or not making it at all. So it 's like being in front of doors that are opening, full of possibilities. I do not know at this point if I will go back to making 35mm films. I am not very dogmatic claiming that I will never touch film again. But for the time being, given the results, I am seriously thinking of only going this way.
We of course had a minimal crew and very small cameras. We did not shoot in high definition or anything like that. We shot with a Sony DSR-500, which is a professional camera, a few levels higher than a consumer camera. For the second unit, we used the Sony PD-100, which is a very small camera.
The film was shot in three weeks. It would have taken more than twice that amount of time to shoot on film. The relationship between myself, the machine, the actors, and all of the rest of the team was very immediate and intimate. Working in that intimacy gives you the possibility of getting results that are very far-fetched. To put it into words, the less of an economic risk, the more of an artistic risk.
Broderick: I was just interested in your feeling about visual style working in digital. I was very impressed by the 35mm print of your film - the richness of the colors and the particular look you achieved. How did going digital enter into your thinking? Having this experience of shooting digitally, how do you think it will affect your next projects?
Ripstein: In terms of the next projects, we were already doing a short film for Spanish television working digitally in black and white. I will see the results when it is transferred to film later on?
The approach to making this short of course is trial and error. Trial and error is very simple to do because all you need is your very small camera and you can start to shoot in the places you will use. The wonder of this is that you don't need to send it to a laboratory and get it back, because what you see is what you get... The fantastic thing is that you see it immediately. If changes need be made they can be done immediately and that reduces the possibilities of making mistakes. It is wonderful, it is very liberating.
Broderick: When you were at the San Francisco Film Festival last year a filmmaker told me that you said "When filmmakers get older, they either die or go to video" Is that an accurate quote?
Ripstein: Let's take the word video off and say they either die or go to digital.
Broderick: I know you have to race off to more interviews. I would like thank you very much. We are very much looking forward to seeing your next digital features.
Broderick: I would like to bring up the team that made The King Is Alive - the director and co-writer Kristian Levring, and the producers Vibeke Windeløv and Patricia Kruijer.
I have been following The King Is Alive story from afar, and it was exciting to see it at Cannes. I think it is an amazing film. I would like to ask Kristian to say a little about its evolution. It is your first digital feature and it's also a Dogme feature. Kristian is one of the four Dogme brothers.
Kristian Levring: The film was made in Africa. It is one of the four original Dogme films. It took quite some time to get it financed and made.
Shooting in digital was a big surprise to me because I come from commercials which is all about control of the film. I think it was a complete shock for me to work in digital because of the freedom. We shot most scenes with four cameras which gave the editing and shooting an incredible freedom. All in all, it was a great experience.
Broderick: The camera you used was a Sony PD-100 [PAL]. It is a very small, inexpensive camera. We have one in the audience which is being held up for everyone to see. It's successor camera, the PD-150 has just come out.
Vibeke, I wanted to get your perspective. In terms of digital, what was your experience before working with The King Is Alive and what is your view of shooting digitally?
Vibeke Windel»v: Breaking The Waves, was shot on 35mm, and we then spent a hell of a lot of money making it look like it was done on video. I was very happy when we finally started shooting digitally. We did The Idiots on digital, and then The King Is Alive, and Dancer In The Dark. My experience is that it is terrific for the director and the actors but that it is a nightmare for post-production.
Levring: That is not true.
Broderick: Kristian, what was your perspective on deciding to make the film digitally, and how was the experience different from what you expected?
Levring: With such a new way of shooting, the registering [logging of the footage] can be a big problem. It is something that you have to pay a lot of attention to. When you shoot on digital you tend to shoot a lot. We shot 150-160 hours of material. We shot 3-4 cameras most of the time. If you are not registering your footage then there is a big problem in post-production. [Clip is shown of The King Is Alive where an actor is walking through the desert out of breath and exhausted.]
Levring: I was actually able to shoot about 10 hours on this scene. I was able to run the actor (Bruce Davison) completely down so he was exhausted. It is very hard when you walk in the desert. I think he was walking for 5-6 hours without stopping... The cameraman and soundman were completely exhausted. At the end, I got that kind of exhaustion. Of course you could have done the same thing on film but it would have been different. And we were shooting wide shots, close-ups, everything at the same time. Four shots of the desert. It just gave some kind of energy that was much different from what it would have been if I had made it on film under normal circumstances.
Broderick: Altogether you shot for 36 days. Did you have a rehearsal period before that?
Levring: Yes we did. I think we had a month of rehearsals which was very important. Then while we were shooting, I did improvisations which we actually shot. Those improvisations where used to re-find the characters whenever we felt they were slipping away from us.
Broderick: You were not only doing things you are not supposed to do on digital, [shooting wide exteriors in the harshest of desert light] but it was also a Dogme movie. You weren't able to do lighting, color correction, or timing?
Levring: The Dogme rules are very specific on this. You are not allowed to put filters on the camera. We worked very much with the white balance on the camera which the Dogme rules don't talk about.
Broderick: Aside from white balance, do you have any confessions to make today of Dogme rules you violated?
Levring: I have loads of confessions. I think that the hard thing when you shoot Dogme is to push yourself as far as possible. I find that the hardest thing about it is not being allowed to have personal taste. That is a very complicated rule because when you decide to make a close-up, that is personal taste. The way you decide to frame a scene or what you decide to put in the frame is only about personal taste. I had a lot of problems with that rule.
Broderick: From the actors standpoint how different was the experience of working digitally? I assume most of them had never been in a digital movie or a Dogme production.
Levring: That was quite extraordinary. It took them a few days to get used to it.
... I didn't want them to be aware of the camera. I wanted them to forget the camera. Many actors, especially American actors, are used to acting for the camera... When you shoot with multiple cameras, actors can't really focus on one, so after two or three days they forgot about the cameras, which is really one of the fantastic things about shooting with many cameras. At the beginning, they got quite schizophrenic about where they should look. I just said don't worry about that, do the scene and worry about your character. It was actually something I hadn't really realized before and they loved it. The level of concentration working eight hours everyday without stopping was getting closer to the type of concentration you get on stage. I had quite a few stage actors on the film who really, really loved working this way. Even Jennifer [Jason Leigh] who hasn't done that much stage acting was completely crazy about it.
Broderick: I had the chance to talk to your director of photography [Jens Schlosser] the other night; he said that this was his first digital feature that he had shot which is pretty amazing given the results. Could you say a little bit about the tests you did ahead of time to understand what images you would end up with when you transferred to 35mm.
Levring: We did quite a few tests to find out how it really works. For me, it was really important to get to know the media and to know what it is doing to my pictures. I did a lot of tests at my home just walking around looking at it. We realized that if you slightly overexpose it when you can, the image gained something that I can not really explain.
Broderick: When you were thinking about the visual style, knowing you had the Dogme limitations or the Dogme framework depending on how you look at it, how did you talk about the visual look that you wanted to create?
Levring: I thought it was important that one of the Dogme films was a visual film. It was one thing we all talked about - that the four original Dogme films should all be different. It is one of the rules that you're not allowed to make a genre film, which is a very hard rule as well. The problem is that Dogme becomes a genre with a certain style and something is lost.
I did not want too much of a handheld feeling to the film. We also talked a lot about framing. If you shoot with three or four cameras, you can not control the framing the same way you can normally. So we talked a hell of a lot about what kind of framing I like and what frames I don't like. This again is a problem of personal taste.
Broderick: How much of the time were you shooting yourself?
Levring: When we did big acting scenes, I didn't shoot myself because you can't concentrate on them. I know Lars can do it but I haven't got that talent. But scenes like this one [desert clip just shown] I shot myself. I was shooting 10-20% of the time. [Audience looks at more clips on film and video]
Broderick: Can you talk about the contrast between the exteriors and what you were doing with the performances inside?
Levring: If you do a purely landscape film, I am not sure digital video is the right medium. But if the face of your characters is the landscape which you choose to explore, then I think that digital is absolutely marvelous. In most of the scenes in The King Is Alive, there are many more close-ups than wide shots. I was quite surprised that we were able to get as much out of the landscape as we were. [Clip shown]
Broderick: What you are watching now is the spectacular 35mm transfer that was done at Hokus Bogus, which also did the transfer for Dancer In The Dark that we will be seeing later. These are two of the best transfers I have ever seen.
Levring: The work that was done on the film was amazing. Transferring the video to film was very hard. I didn't even believe that you could get those kind of results which is a big credit to Hokus Bogus. [Clip shown]
Broderick: Based on your experience making The King Is Alive, do you think that your next project will be digital and what things will you do differently?
Levring: I will do my next project on digital. The traditional way of filming on 35mm has lost experimenting, which was a big part of filmmaking in the '20s and '30s when every film made was a new experiment pushing technique forward. Digital production is now where there is the most space for experimenting.
I think it wrong to say that you would do everything on digital or any other format. You have to choose your medium in regard to which project you are doing. Some films are incredibly suited to be done digitally and others are not.
Windel»v: Don't you think that the freedom you get by shooting on digital is so great that sometimes it is really hard to make the decision to go back and shot on 35mm?
Levring: Yes, I really think it depends on what you are doing. I think if you are doing a really stylized film then film is still best. But if you're doing a character driven piece, I do feel digital would be better.
When shooting digital, you still need to build up the concentration on the set to make a difference between when you are shooting and when you are not shooting. It is very important that the actors feel "now we are shooting" to get the drive and the energy out of them. If you are just shooting constantly, it is a danger that you won't get that.
Windel»v: We are doing so many things right now in Denmark on digital, that I was wondering if we will end up with a generation of digital actors. The actors won't be as affected by turning on and off lights and all those things that disturb their concentration so much. Once they get used to shooting digitally, they can actually concentrate on their acting and won't have to think about the lights.
Levring: I know when Jennifer Jason Leigh did her next movie on film, she said it was so hard to do a normal film after doing a Dogme film. So what you say is right. It took her a week to get back to doing what she has been doing normally.
[Kristian Levring and Patricia Kruijer leave the stage. Vibeke Windel»v remains on stage and is joined by Peter Hjorth.]
Broderick: I'd like to introduce Peter Hjorth, who has an official title but I like to call him the technical guru of Dancer In the Dark. [He sits on stage next to Vibeke Windel»v, who also produced Dancer In the Dark.] Peter previously worked on The Celebration. When I asked him why they chose to use the tiny one chip Sony PC-7 camera to shoot The Celebration, he said, "we thought it would be the most fun" which is a great answer.
Although Dancer In the Dark was shot entirely digitally, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who had seen the film and insisted that part of it must have been shot on 35mm film. Can you tell us how it was shot?
Peter Hjorth: Dancer In the Dark is a musical with normal scenes and musical scenes. It was shot with two different technical concepts. The main section of the film, which consists of nonmusical scenes, was shot with one camera handheld by Lars himself, sometimes supplemented with a second camera. It was an amazing thing that he operated camera and directed at the same time. We had Robby MŞller as the director of photography for the whole project. He had the double relation of working with Lars as a director and also with Lars as an operator. For the musical scenes we used a special system. We used one hundred Sony PD-100 cameras, and a few larger DVCAM cameras. There was a major technical set-up for all of the musical scenes.
Broderick: I had a funny conversation with Peter Aalb╩k Jensen [head of Zentropa which produced Dancer In the Dark] about the one hundred cameras. He asked Lars "Couldn't we just use 80?" and Lars replied, "No, it has to be one hundred".
Windel»v: I think if he could have used 1000 he would have used 1000. I think the symbol was very important. I remember being asked "Don't you think we need to have 110 in case one of them breaks down?" And I said "No we don't need to have 110 as long as we have a concept, I don't give a damn if there is only 92 working." I don't think Lars would have had it that way.
Broderick: First we will look at 2 minutes of the video master of the train scene. Then we are going to look at the whole train scene on 35mm scope. [clips shown] How was the train scene done in terms of the cameras, and what things were done to transform the look of the sky?
Windel»v: I want to explain a little about the day when we shot this sequence. It is one thing to have to cover one camera if the rain is coming; if you suddenly have 100 it is really a nightmare. This was the first 100 camera scene that we shot, and it was all new to us. If we had known what we were doing, it would have taken us five times as long. At the end we were breaking down all the time, and it was incredible we managed.
Broderick: Peter, could you discuss the concept for placing the cameras and also how they would be used to create the scene?
Hjorth: There were several major technical challenges. One was getting 100 cameras out there and mounted, and another was to control what they were doing. Another major challenge was shooting in cinemascope, which is not very video-like, so we worked with anamorphic lenses for all of the cameras. Just to focus the cameras was a complicated procedure that involved a test chart and so on. To have technical control of what we were doing, we put a cable on each camera; this sent video back to a control car so we could modify the lighting where we viewed the pictures. We sent timecode out to all the cameras and we had a remote start/stop for the system. We obviously had a lot of communication systems so the guys in the field could communicate with the head of the camera department, and the rest of the crew with the control room.
We shot this scene on the first day of production. We had 98 remotely operated cameras on the train and two cameras with operators next to the train. The control room was hidden inside a railroad car. It was running along the tracks as part of the actual train that we shot on. On the first day of production we shot 68 hours of material; that was just half the scene because a few days later we shot 60 cameras on the ground covering the ground angels. It was a massive start I would say.
We knew that we could use the full toolbox of post-production techniques. This is very unlike Dogme, where you have rules that state that you can't do color grading and visual effects. We were shooting in varied lighting and varying weather. We could shoot scenes with a gray sky and then put in blue skies later. I think the skies in this scene are actually matte paintings done at Hokus Bogus, which also did the transfer to film.
All the close-ups are operated cameras. Because we shot 16:9 we had a bit of leeway in the top and bottom of the image. That gave us the opportunity to use an electronic stabilizer in post-production to lock the pictures down so they look like 100 locked down cameras [used only in the musical sequences].
We have something like 400 effects shots in the movie. We had to destroy the look of the big cameras to make them look like the small cameras, so we put on this harsh video filter onto the close-ups to make them match the small cameras.
Despite the differences, it was very like Dogme in one essential way in that it was all about capturing a moment. This train sequence was all done in two takes that ended up in the film. So it was very much the central idea about capturing what's happening but done in a very controlled way or in a way we tried to control.
Windel»v: I would say that it has absolutely nothing to do with Dogme. I think that the only thing that Dancer In The Dark has to do with it was having Lars make The Idiots [a Dogme film] and operating the camera himself. By doing this Lars felt able to establish a relationship with the actors in a totally different way. Operating the camera himself was the one thing that he did take with him from The Idiots to Dancer In the Dark.
Broderick: Vibeke, when Lars first talked to you about the film was it called Taps?
Broderick: I assume he knew from the beginning that he wanted to shoot it digitally.
Broderick: When you thought about making a film on this scale digitally, how did it seem to you as the person who was going to be responsible for putting the money together and organizing the whole thing?
Windel»v: I think that if it hadn't been Lars, it would have been much harder. I did manage to raise a budget of 13 million dollars for a film to be shot digitally handheld by the director. Of course I think it was because it was Lars.
Broderick: Let's look at the clip of the train scene now on 35mm. Peter could you discuss the difference in the color saturation between the nonmusical scenes and the musical numbers which have a heightened reality in the film?
Hjorth: Lars was very definite about the look that he wanted for the main film and the look that he wanted for the musical scenes. So we did a lot of tests and shot the main film with a slightly larger camera than the PD-100. We used the Sony D30 camera. We took out some color in post-production, did some very basic color correction to the [nonmusical] scenes, desaturatating them a bit. Those scenes were transferred on the Arri laser recorder at Hokus Bogus.
The dance scenes were shot with the PD-100s and we used a lot of post-production on those. We did digital color correction and visual effects. They were transferred using CRT recorders, which Lars liked a lot because of the depth of colors you can get from them and the general feeling of depth that you get from using video cameras with a smaller imager. The main difference is that we used all the tricks of the trade in the dance scenes to make them work. To work with cinemascope, we had to build 100 anamorphic lenses with a special ratio so that they fit the CCD imager. For the main cameras, we just shot 16:9 and cropped that to scope.
Broderick: We will now look at the whole scene on 35mm. Can Edvard Friis-M»ller, the head of the camera department, hold that PD100 again? Just think that 100 of these little cameras were used to shoot the scene we have just seen projected in Cinemascope on this large screen. I think it is mind-boggling.
Vibeke, I assume that working on Dancer was a completely different experience than working on any of the other digital features you've done. For you as a producer, what were the surprises or challenges you faced?
Windel»v: Well, I don't think any of us, and that includes Peter and Edvard, had any idea how much work it was going to be to do this thing with 100 cameras. I think we had a budget of about 5 million Danish kroners (just over $600,000) for all the things connected to the 100 camera crew. The manpower required was immense. It took 13 people working night and day for 13 weeks to do these scenes. If any of you consider making 100 camera scenes, I think you should call us.
Hjorth: One of the comments Lars made to me after one of the first shoots was "Peter, remind me never to do this again. We need at least 200 cameras."
Windel»v: In the editing process, Lars said to me a couple of times "I think one of my problems now is that once you put the musical scenes into the context of the film, you are so much involved with Selma (Bjork) that you somehow really need to have her in focus. I think that I would have liked to have had more close-ups of her." I think Peter and the assistant to the choreographer spent an enormous amount of time looking through the material. We did about ten takes of this scene and it is about a 6 1/2 minute song, so you can imagine how exhausted Bjork was after this shoot. What we said to Lars before, because we knew we should come back with this enormous amount of takes, was that he would choose one take. That is what we were going to transfer into the Avid. In this case, it was one shoot for one day with 100 cameras and the next day for the 60 cameras. Then we transferred all the other scenes so we could see 9 screens at the same time. [Editor's note: While Zentropa generated 9-picture ýmultiplexţ tapes; it is also possible to use an Avid for multi-camera viewing to more easily determine the best shots.]
Hjorth: If the shooting of this was huge, the post-production was massive because as soon as we pushed the button on 100 cameras we were shooting a factor of 100 for all the material. It all needed to be transferred, so we had a three-shift transfer team putting all the DV materials on Digital Betacam. We had these multiplex tapes that had 9 images, 9 cameras in one tape so in 10-11 tapes you could get an overview of the scene for the editing people to work with. Of course, all this material needed to be logged and the selected takes needed to be transferred into the Avid. So there was something in the region of 3,000 tapes in total in post-production.
I think the only reason we made it was that, knowing it was something close to impossible we were doing, we had very precise procedures and very precise training of the people involved. In the end one reel number had an incorrect time code but the other 2999 tapes worked. That was an amazing thing.
Broderick: You said the nonmusical numbers were shot with one or two bigger cameras. What was the concept for their visual style?
Hjorth: The film deals with the reality of the characters, and the musical scenes deal with fantasy. The film takes place in the US in the '60s. When you shoot with video and shoot exteriors, you usually get very fresh colors and a very fresh look. What Lars wanted was something a little more dull and dirty, and so that is what we worked on. We completely took out the detail enhancement of the cameras. We shot with the blacks stretched so we had a bit of leeway to do color correction. It's like two different worlds. The fact is that we used the same camera to shoot close-ups for the 100 camera scene and it looks like a different camera.
Question from the audience: On the first musical number in the factory, it seemed like some of the colors were bumped up. Is that correct?
Hjorth: Yes. When I worked with Robby MŞller on that scene, he picked out certain elements of that set that he felt enhanced the music and rhythm in the song. We worked to enhance the colors of just those elements. It was like secondary color corrections, like on the red wheel, and when the dancers moved the blue suits to enhance the movements of the dancers, and the green machine that Selma is working with is enhanced. There was a lot of little trickery put in. Robby did a lot of re-photographing the scene when we went into post-production and we did a lot of tests.
Broderick: We've run out of time and I want to thank you so much for being with us and wish you all the best in the upcoming awards presentation.
[Dancer In The Dark won the Cannes Palm d'Or and Bjork won Best Actress.]
Peter Broderick: Next Wave Films is a company that started out by providing finishing funds to filmmakers who were doing their first and second features. We came to Cannes in May, 1998, saw The Celebration and The Idiots, and realized there was a new era beginning. We put together a presentation featuring clips from different digital features that we first showed in London in August, 1998. That presentation has kept evolving and has been shown at festivals around the world.
We've also started to finance digital features through our production arm Agenda 2000. Today (May 19, 2000) we have three digital features that are just about to go into production.
It is very significant that filmmakers like Arturo Ripstein are already shooting digitally. Eric Rohmer has his first digital feature in production right now. We premiered his first digital short at Cannes last year. The pace with which things are changing is breathtaking.
Power is shifting from financiers to filmmakers. More and more filmmakers are writing scripts and making digital features within the same framework of the resources available to them. They spend years raising money or waiting for Harvey Keitel to call them back. They can go out and make a movie, and they don't need anybody's permission and they don't have to trade creative control for financing.
As you can see today we are in a new era. It is more possible than ever before for established filmmakers to keep making movies, perhaps a movie a year.
The opportunities have never been greater for emerging filmmakers to make their first and second features. We are looking forward to seeing your features. Thank you very much for coming.