Bad Lands

2018-04 ICG Magazine - Mindhunter 05 (Patrick Harbron)

Erik Messerschmidt and Chris Probst, ASC, also have made “smart” use of LED technology, as detailed in our cover story on Mindhunter (page 36). David Fincher, who first started using LED’s for process work on Zodiac, 11 years ago, not only customized a high-resolution RED camera for the show (dubbed the “Xenomorph”), but also devised one of the most ingenious LED-driven plate projection/interactive lighting processes for driving shots TV has ever seen. Messerschmidt’s description of Fincher’s commitment to innovation mirrors those Sundancers bending technology in the service of new ways to tell a story: “For David, the frame is sacred; what we choose to include is intrinsic to what the audience thinks is important. They are one and the same.”

David Geffner, Executive Editor
ICG Magazine

Visualizing the daring and often scary world of David Fincher requires new technologies and processes rarely attempted in series television.

Matt Hurwitz
Photos by Patrick Harbron & Merrick Morton, SMPSP
April 2018
ICG Magazine

In the season 1 finale of Netflix’s MINDHUNTER, a disturbed FBI agent, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), bursts wildly from a hospital room, as a handheld camera gives chase. The move begins as shaken as ford is, but, as it lands with the agent, who collapses in the hallway, it’s as if the camera has floated to a butter-smooth stop inches from the floor, the maneuver executed like it was on a perfectly balanced Jib arm, crane, or even Steadicam. But it’s none of those. What can viewers assume from this?

David Fincher has returned to television.

FOR THIS SERIES ABOUT A PAIR OF AGENTS WORKING IN THE FBI’S ELITE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES UNIT in 1979, and attempting to understand the mind of a serial killer, Fincher used a number of leading-edge technologies – interactive LED lighting, custom built high-resolution cameras, and, as in the shot with Agent Ford, image stabilization/smoothing in postproduction – to keep the viewer visually embedded. Fincher’s aim with MINDHUNTER, which has no graphic violence, is for viewers to “access their own attics. There’s far scarier stuff up there than anything we can fabricate,” the filmmaker insists. “I wanted people to register what’s going on in [characters’] eyes and where the gear changes are taking place. At what point do I [as the viewer] feel like, ‘OK, I’ve got an insight,’ and at what point do they feel like: ‘oh, I’m being sold something. It’s all about the nuance in how the balance of power is changing.”

Fincher’s longtime postproduction supervisor, Peter Mavromates, says he creates an “experience of omniscience,” similar to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, “where you’re in a straitjacket with your eyelids pinned open, and David’s forcing you to watch these horrible things.” In fact, the show’s unique visual process began more than a year before production started in Pittsburgh (on area locations and on stages at 31st Street Studios, a former steel mill), with the development of a unique RED camera system.

Christopher Probst, ASC – who shot MINDHUNTER’S pilot and second episode – was asked for his input on a RED prototype system, which had been designed by Jarred Land and RED’s Chief Designer Matt Tremblay according to Fincher’s specific needs. “David wanted to take all of the different exterior add-ons that create a jungle of wires, and put them inside the camera body,” Probst explains.

Fincher puts it even more directly: “It just seems insane that we’ve been bequeathed a [camera] layout [dating back to] D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin that looks like some bizarre Medusa. [The camera] should be something that people want to approach, touch, and pick up.”

In fact, the custom system built for Season 1 [Land created a 2.0 version being used in Season 2] had an RTMotion MK3.1 lens-control system, Paralinx Arrow-X wireless video, and Zaxcom wireless audio (with timecode) integrated into the RED body, with the only visible cable being to control the lens. Slating was all but eliminated, with clip-number metadata being shared wirelessly between the camera and the script supervisor, who used Filemaker software to associate takes and clips. An audio scratch track from the mixer was recorded onto the REDCODE RAW R3D files and received wirelessly.

The base camera was one of RED’s DSMC2 systems, the then-new WEAPON DRAGON, with its 6K sensor. The shell design, accommodating the added gear inside, with its angular shape and heat venting fins on top, had a “Xenomorph” appearance (à la Alien), and was dubbed as such by Land and Fincher. “When the camera arrived in Pittsburgh, they had actually engraved “Xenomorph” on the side,” Probst says.

Read the full profile:

Website version of the profile

2018-04 ICG Magazine - Mindhunter 14 (Patrick Harbron)

2018-04 ICG Magazine - Mindhunter 13 (Merrick Morton)

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Is Panic Room coming to UHD Blu-ray?

Panic Room, the only David Fincher movie not available in Blu-ray, could be having its big-time debut in the most advanced version of the format.

The Czech movies and music online shop Film Arena is listing a 2 disc UHD Blu-ray edition of Panic Room to be released on September 19, 2018.

Hopefully, with the whole set of numerous extras from the Panic Room (3 Disc DVD Special Edition), a full course in modern filmmaking and a masterpiece of DVD design and authoring by David Prior, gathered in that second BD disc.

Let’s hope for a more worldwide release confirmation soon, especially in a rapidly declining market for physical formats.

Thanks to Joe Frady.

2002 Panic Room - Poster (Intralink Film Graphic Design) a

Art of the Title: David Fincher

David Fincher: A Film Title Retrospective

August 27, 2012
Art of the Title

Interiors: The spaces in David Fincher’s films

Interiors

Interiors is an online film and architecture journal, published by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian, that analyses and diagrams films in terms of space.

 

A Pair of Artists Use Architecture to Study Film

The founders of “Interiors,” a journal dedicated to film and architecture, diagram scenes from movies such as “Fight Club,” “Psycho,” and more.

Colin Warren-Hicks
January 30, 2014
Metropolis

 

INTERIORS: David Fincher

If cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame, David Fincher is an artist who is very much concerned about all four corners of his canvas.

by INTERIORS Journal
June 3, 2013
ArchDaily

 

Panic Room (2002)

“Their positioning throughout the scene provides us with an understanding of how David Fincher uses space within the film, and in doing so, how he also maintains the architectural integrity of the film.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2012-01
Interiors

 

Se7en (1995)

“The vastness of the desert around them emphasizes the fact that the handcuffed John Doe is captured; a lack of freedom despite the free space around him.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2013-01
Interiors

 

Fight Club (1999)

“David Fincher switches from a subjective perspective onto an objective perspective after the reveal has been made.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2014-01
Interiors