Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut ASC gives us a behind the scenes look of his newest feature film Tall Girl 2, available to stream on Netflix now. We analyse the Cinefade scenes and get a brief insight into Hurlbut’s creative process of using our novel storytelling tool.
In the sequel to Tall Girl, Jodie gets cast in the starring role of her high school’s theatre performance, a great honour which comes with associated pressures and teenage moments of doubt, experienced through an ‘inside voice’. Hurlbut (Rim Of The World, Terminator Salvation, Love Hard) got in touch, as this would be the ideal project to trial the Cinefade system and experiment with several ways of portraying Jodie’s internal struggle through depth of field as a storytelling device.
Shooting on Red Gemini with Leitz Summicron-C prime lenses and Angenieux Optima zooms there are four distinct scenes in which the Cinefade effect features in the film. Watch them all below…
SETTING UP THE CINEFADE SYSTEM
Firstly, take a look at the crew prepping the Cinefade VariND on a Ronin camera rig for an exterior shot in sunlight that requires an extra ND.6 filter, on top of the 1.5 stops initial light loss of the Cinefade VariND.
The Motorised Polariser and Static Polariser are connected together with magnets and pins to form the VariND filter, which sits inside a three-stage ARRI LMB-5 matte box. The filter is connected via LBUS to power and the cPro iris rf motor. Once all lenses are mapped, the cPro hand unit is used to activate the Cinefade mode and control depth of field at constant exposure.
CINEFADE SHOT WALKTHROUGH
Watch Shane walk us through the setup for a Cinefade shot in Tall Girl 2 and explain his creative intention of using a variable depth of field.
In this scene towards the end of the movie, Jodie is finally able to turn her “inside voice” into a positive and motivating stream of consciousness. As the camera pans around her and ends on a MCU, we see a figure enter the background but it is blurry and unrecognisable until the depth of field changes and reveals her ex-boyfriend Dunkleman standing in the doorway. The Cinefade is used here to reveal a surprise, as well as to show Jodie’s attention shift from her internal conversation to an external one. Even though she doesn’t actually look around, it is clear her attention has shifted.
The iris starts at a T2 and ends up at a T11 with the foreground and the background sharp. In order to maximise the amount of the frame that is in acceptable focus, the lens is set to the hyperfocal distance. During the Cinefade transition, the focus puller slightly shifts the focus away from the foreground, towards the background in order to include more of the background in focus, while still maintaining sharps on the foreground.
CINEFADE COMBINED WITH A DOLLY-ZOOM
While Jodie and her boyfriend Dunkleman are celebrating their anniversary, she again spaces out as the inside voice takes over. Hurlbut decides to use a Dolly-Zoom effect on this occasion to compress the field of view by dollying out while zooming in at the same time. Usually the perceived depth of field changes and the background becomes more blurry during this effect (watch an earlier experimentation video here). Hurlbut uses the Cinefade to counteract the usual change in depth of field by closing down the iris while the VariND automatically increases light transmission. Thus, a consistent background blur is maintained throughout the Dolly-Zoom. Once Jodie snaps back to reality, the iris is opened up again while the Cinefade VariND keeps a constant exposure.
Watch a video from behind the scenes in video village as Hurlbut uses the cPro hand unit to transition from a T2.8 ½ to T11 during the Dolly-Zoom shot.
LIGHTING SETUP FOR CINEFADE SHOT
As mentioned earlier, the Cinefade VariND swallows 1.5 stops of light at full transmission. Furthermore, due to the nature of the effect, a high light level is required to achieve a noticeable Cinefade effect, which one could argue is at least four stops. In the following video, Hurlbut gives a quick tour, showing his lighting setup to light an indoor shot at night.
Conveniently, Jodie is brushing her teeth in a mirror, allowing for a bunch of bright mirror lights to be placed right in front of her to expose her face as the camera is shooting through the mirror. The room is lit with several light sources placed in the ceiling and there are a bunch of practical lights placed in the background to create specular highlights for that lovely bokeh. The garden is lit also to extend the view beyond the windows and create another layer of depth to help get the most out of the background blur effect.
With the set lit to T22, the Cinefade can be set to start at T11 ½ (due to the 1.5 stop initial light loss) to achieve a good exposure and end at a T1.4, which is a massive, 6.5 stop transition to highlight the moment Jodie hears her ‘inside voice’ for the first time.
CINEFADE IN COMBINATION WITH A PUSH-IN
Jodie watches her now ex-boyfriend drive off with another girl, as the camera pans around her and ends on a MCU shot. Towards the end of the move, the depth of field becomes shallow and we hear Jodie’s inside voice as her surrounding world is drowned out. The Cinefade transition happens as the camera travels towards Jodie and the focal distance is reduced, naturally reducing depth of field, which hides the change in depth of field and makes it almost imperceptible.
When her best friend Fareeda interrupts her thoughts, she is jolted back into the moment and just as suddenly, the depth of field transitions back towards deep with both the foreground and background in focus. The camera remains static and the effect is noticed much more clearly.
Find out more about the Cinefade system here and get in touch if you’d like to hire or buy a kit yourself.