On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters are joined by Craig Barron. Barron is creative director at Magnopus, and previously worked as a matte painter at ILM and co-founder and visual effects supervisor at Matte World Digital. Barron won a VFX Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and was also nominated for a VFX Oscar for Batman Returns.
They talk about his amazing career and his work in Zodiac, Casino, Empire Strikes Back, Batman Returns, and so much more, what those original days of matte painting in the optical era were like, and how the transition to digital happened. Matte World Digital’s work on Zodiac, amongst other films, was also discussed in a previous episode.
This episode is sponsored by ActionVFX Black Friday sale. It begins November 25th at 8 PM EST and will end on December 3rd at 11:59 PM EST. All VFX elements in the library will be 55% off the first 24 hours, & 50% off the remaining days of the sale. All Annual Subscription Plans (Individual & Studio Plans) purchased during the sale will receive 2x the amount of monthly elements. Learn more here.
Chapters: 00:00:00 – Intro 00:04:30 – David Fincher and DVD extras 00:05:35 – Craig’s career 00:08:16 – Ray Harryhausen and influences 00:12:08 – Matte paintings in Empire Strikes Back 00:18:13 – Physical correct vs artistic direction 00:32:07 – Matte paintings in Batman Returns 00:34:12 – Casino and the first radiosity render 00:43:37 – 3D projections in Zodiac 00:55:02 – Blade Runner VR 00:59:48 – The Criterion Collection and history 01:07:05 – Patreon, Twitch Subs and YouTube members credits
On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters dive deep into the visual effects in David Fincher films. We take an especially close look at Digital Domain‘s work for Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Chapters: 00:00:00 – Intro 00:04:20 – Zodiac and the rise of invisible VFX 00:09:09 – The rise of D2 and Foundry‘s Nuke 00:18:31 – David Fincher’s methods and Zodiac‘s murder scenes 00:30:03 – Environments by DD and Matte World 00:43:41 – The VFX of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 00:57:27 – The VFX of The Social Network 01:03:15 – The VFX of Mindhunter 01:09:51 – Wrap up 01:12:45 – Patreon, YouTube members and Twitch Subs Credits
Made in between Seven and Fight Club, David Fincher’s edge-of-your-seat thriller The Game remains arguably his most underappreciated film, bolstered by an exceptional star performance by Michael Douglas.
Despite his large mansion and intimidating bank balance, multimillionaire Nicholas Van Orton is haunted by the childhood memory of his father’s suicide. On the day he reaches the same age his father was when he died, Nicholas receives an unconventional birthday present from his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn): an invitation to play a mysterious “game”, the aim and rules of which are kept secret. As the game unfolds, Nicholas suddenly finds himself in a fight for his life, assisted by the enigmatic Christine (Deborah KaraUnger, Crash) but unsure of where to turn and who to trust.
Presented in a director-approved remaster available for the first time in the UK, the twisty mysteries of Fincher’s pulse-pounding paranoiac puzzle are explored in an exciting array of new and archive bonus features.
TWO-DISC LIMITED DELUXE EDITION CONTENTS
Limited to only 3,000 units
Deluxe packaging including a 200-page hardback book housed in a rigid slipcase, illustrated with newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley
200-page book exclusive to this edition includes a newly-commissioned full-length monograph by Bilge Ebiri, and selected archive materials, including an American Cinematographer article from 1997, a 2004 interview with Harris Savides by Alexander Ballinger, and the chapter on the film from Dark Eye: The Films of David Fincher by James Swallow
Arrow Academy Blu-ray including new bonus features and UK home video premiere of director-approved 2K restoration
Universal Special Edition DVD featuring archive extras with cast and crew
DISC ONE – BLU-RAY
2K restoration from the original negative by The Criterion Collection supervised and approved by director David Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
Original 5.1 & 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Isolated Music & Effects track
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
New audio commentary by critic and programmer Nick Pinkerton
Fool’s Week: Developing The Game, a newly filmed interview with co-writer John Brancato
Men On The Chessboard: The Hidden Pleasures of The Game, a new visual essay by critic Neil Young
Archive promotional interview with star Michael Douglas from 1997
Alternatively-framed 4:3 version prepared for home video (SD only), with new introduction discussing Fincher’s use of the Super 35 shooting format
DISC TWO – DVD
Standard definition DVD (PAL) presentation
5.1 Dolby Digital audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with director David Fincher, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Harris Savides, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug
Behind The Scenes featurettes – Dog Chase, The Taxi, Christine’s House, The Fall (with optional commentary by Fincher, Douglas, Savides, Beecroft and Haug)
On Location featurettes – Exterior Parking Lot: Blue Screen Shot, Exterior Fioli Mansion: Father’s Death, Interior CRS Lobby and Offices, Interior Fioli Mansion: Vandalism, Exterior Mexican Cemetary (with optional commentary by Fincher, Savides, Beecroft and Haug)
Theatrical Trailer (with optional commentary by Fincher)
Teaser trailer CGI test footage (with optional commentary by designer/animator Richard Baily)
Caustic, nihilistic and controversial, Fight Club successfully adapted Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressive fiction novel, it’s a credit to screenwriter Jim Uhl’s excellent adaptation that the voice of the original novel is heard so clearly, and at the same time the film proved to be an enormous success. Though much credit is also due to the excellent sound and editing: so much in this film depends on hitting exactly the right tone.
Based on a reader suggestion, I decided to take a look at the various home video versions of Fight Club that are available.
Filming Fight Club
Fight club was photographed by Jeff Cronenweth, a then hot and upcoming Cinematographer who until that point hadn’t shot a major feature, but did have the advantage of being Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s son. Fincher has worked with both father and son on a number of projects culminating in ‘Alien 3’. Subsequently Jeff did camera work on a number of Fincher’s other features including ‘Se7en’ and ‘The Game’.
The film was shot using the Super35 format, and framed at 2.35:1. Daylight scenes were shot on Kodak EXR 100T and Vision 250D film, while the majority of night scenes were shot on ‘faster’, grainier Vision 500T.
Selected night scenes from the film were 5% flashed at the laboratory, which boosts contrast and enhances detail in the darker parts of the frame. Additionally a handful of release prints were treated with the Technicolor’s ENR silver retention process (bleach bypass) at the 80 IR level.
Shooting in Super35 at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 provides considerable latitude for re-framing during the editing process, which David Fincher may have developed a taste for when working on the various home video editions of Se7en.
Se7en is a dark crime-horror fantasy, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, directed by David Fincher with cinematography by Darius Khondji. The film was a success both commercially and critically. However due to the complexity of the photographic process, it is difficult to be certain that any of the home-video releases reflect the image seen in first run showings. This article will examine the various video releases of Se7en, and explain the process by which they came about, and attempt to pick the best amongst them.
Se7en Through The Lens
During production careful consideration was put into developing the film’s ‘look’ by both the art department and the Cinematographer.
Super 35 cameras were used, which allowed the use of faster and wider ‘spherical’ lenses with shallower depth of field than comparable anamorphic lenses
The use of Super 35 also allowed some flexibility in re-framing shots in post production, since the film was intended to be projected in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio
On set smoke was used to reduce contrast and provide atmosphere to scenes
For some scenes the negative was ‘flashed’ using a Panaflasher to further reduce contrast, and bring out shadow detail
The film was pushed one stop (under-exposed and over-developed) to increase density and saturation
A Deluxe ‘Color Contrast Enhancement’ or ‘CCE’ bleach-bypass process was used for first run prints, increasing contrast, effectively crushing blacks
The CCE process was deemed too expensive for the majority of first and second-run prints, which were then struck from an inter-positive that had itself been bleach-bypassed, which approximated the effect of the CCE process. This meant that there would be differences between the first-run showings of the film, and subsequent runs