Though DP Karl Walter Lindenlaub, ASC, got the call at the last minute to shoot The Haunting, the offer was almost irresistible. Based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House, which was made into a classically spooky black-and-white movie in 1963, the new film once again brings together a group of characters to plumb the mysteries of a haunted house. "This was intriguing for me, because it was low-key photography, which is something I wanted to do after what I'd done lately," says Lindenlaub, whose last few films include such hefty productions as The Jackal, Red Corner, and, biggest of all, Independence Day. "It was in town, that was nice, too--only three weeks in England. It's all set in a mansion house, and contains only a few characters; it sounded like a nice little movie to give people the shivers. Then they showed me the sets, and I was in shock."
Constructed inside the Long Beach (or Spruce Goose) Dome, the major sets for Hill House had been designed by Eugenio Zanetti (What Dreams May Come, Restoration) with his customary eye for scale and ornate detail. "They were about five times bigger than I ever would have imagined," says Lindenlaub. "The great hall was at least 120' (37m) long; for me, it felt like a football field." That wasn't all: In the interest of reality, "they tried to connect as much as they could from room to room, instead of splitting each set up into different stages. Suddenly you're looking at a couple hundred feet you've got to light."
At that point, the sets were more or less built. Directed by Jan De Bont, and starring Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Bruce Dern, and Marian Seldes, The Haunting has come down the pipeline very quickly for a Hollywood film. Production began in November and wrapped in April, and is being pushed through post for a July 23 release from DreamWorks SKG. But the reason Lindenlaub had so little prep time on the project was that he replaced the original cinematographer. By the time he came aboard, there was limited room to accommodate his suggestions.
When the DP and gaffer Dino Parks arrived at the dome, what they were faced with was a structure containing the mansion's massive great hall with an entryway at one end and a grand staircase leading to a mezzanine at the other; connecting sets included a dining room and octagon-shaped red parlor, as well as a curving, chandeliered corridor. To one side was a greenhouse about the size of the great hall. What wasn't evident was any place to put lighting. "You can't rig anything from the ceiling of the dome," says the DP, "so you basically have only two options: rig right from the sets, which we didn't have the ability to do in many places, or erect your own superstructure." As it happened, a superstructure was planned for the set, but it had been designed primarily for art department use--for hanging chandeliers, and that sort of thing.
"When we came on, the towers were up, but the structure itself was still being fabricated by West Coast Scenic," says Parks. "They built a special 3' box truss for guys to walk on that became the superstructure, but we found that it wasn't sufficient to hold the weight we were planning to put on it. So they retrofitted with these suspension-type arcs above the two load-bearing beams. For the last week before we went in, there were crews working around the clock, welding from cranes to beef this thing up." Adds Lindenlaub, "It looked like a huge rock and roll grid. Our rigging grip, 'G' Dhiensuwana, has done a lot of big shows, so he made some good suggestions for extra support."
What eventually hung over the great hall, at a height of greater than 50' (15m), were 44 Production Lights 6k space lights, divided into circuits for day and night looks. But that was only for ambiance. Also attached to the superstructure were four manlift pods which could drop into each corner of the set. Each pod held a lamp operator, two Mole-Richardson 20ks for broad backlight, and a 10k for highlighting on the set. "The pods were rigged so the bottom could actually clear the ceiling of the set, which was 45' (14m) high," says Parks. Areas of the set that couldn't be reached by the pods--the stairs, for instance, or near the fireplace--were filled in with 10ks on trusses and a 20k on a tower.
Lindenlaub says that De Bont, a former cinematographer, relies on camera movement for a constant energy level. "The more you move the camera, especially in anamorphic, the more you need to have lights hanging. You can't hide them on the floor, at least for the wide shots, so you have to hang them from the ceiling, whether you like it or not." Says Parks, "Our approach was to put large lights in as many positions as we could to have choices of backlight." De Bont also pushed to shoot up to 20 setups a day, and he doesn't like to wait: "I'd rather have it hanging there," says the DP, "because if you do it on the day, it takes an enormous amount of time." As access to the trusswas difficult, space was allotted on the show's 700 dimmer channels for every hanging instrument. Lights on dimmers also helped the shoot run at a steady clip.
Despite all the aforementioned wattage, the key lights for the great hall scenes had to come from the windows. Outside the set, eight Condors were rigged with 30-light Raybeams, which the gaffer says "gives the most punch in one placement, so is the instrument of choice for sunlight." Augmenting the Raybeams were 12-light Maxi Brutes underhung on the Condors for greater spread through the 11'-tall-by-6'-wide (6x2m) windows. The film's anamorphic format required stopping down the lens to f4, but the sunlight keys were calculated for apertures of f5.6 or 8. Narrow spot beams were used because of the distance between the lights and the action, which could be as wide as 100' (30m).
"For daytime, I used the windows as strong sources, but not too hard, because I knew we had to shoot exteriors in England and I didn't expect to get that much sun," says Lindenlaub. "But getting the daylight flooding the rooms from the windows was very important to me, because I don't think you can sit for two hours in the darkness, psychologically speaking." The cinematographer's overall design scheme was one of progressive moodiness and muting of color. "We start in daytime in the house, and it's light and friendly. As the story progresses, we have to suspend reality, because the house has supernatural powers. The lighting becomes darker and more monochrome."
For night scenes, moonlight was used in similar fashion to sunlight. The Raybeams were replaced with LTM 18k HMI fresnels, corrected with 3/4 CTO. An exception was outside a large stair landing window with an inlaid pattern in the glass; here, a Mole-Richardson 24k fresnel served both day and night duty, the former for a clear beam through the breakup, and the latter with half-blue. Practicals on the set included numerous PAR specials on the architecture's satyrs, minotaurs, griffins, and other mythological creatures; Chimera 2k Lightbanks in four 18'-high (5m) draperied alcoves; and chandeliers equipped with ETC Source Fours.
But at a certain point towards the end, the lights go out. "There is a moment when all the doors lock, and they're completely imprisoned," says Lindenlaub. "The practicals turn themselves off just as the doors close, and from then on it's basically blue moonlight. We used smoke very carefully in the day scenes, and I brought it back at the end because of the shafts of monochrome lighting. It's motivated by a big explosion of bones and dust from the fireplace."
De Bont's version of The Haunting makes much greater use of visual effects than the 1963 film, which depended largely on sounds and suggestive camerawork for its scary impact. "CGI opens an enormous number of possibilities you didn't have 30 years ago," says Lindenlaub, who names 1961's The Innocents as a bigger influence on this movie. "We tried to do both--the old-fashioned, you don't know what's lurking behind the corner but we don't show you, you just hear it or feel it, and then also manifestations of the spirit of the house." The effects scenes, supervised by Phil Tippett, were shot with two VistaVision cameras, one on Steadicam, fully integrated along with the standard 35mm camera into the first unit. "I was surprised that they wanted to do it this way," says the DP. "For a while, everybody was saying you don't need a higher resolution anymore, but now it seems like they prefer a better negative to work from again. We shot whole scenes with VistaVision and actors; it wasn't like the traditional cemen ting of the camera into one position to shoot a plate." For the VistaVision shots, Lindenlaub added a half-stop to a full stop to compensate for the relatively high-contrast lenses.
Even with ghostly effects, however, the DP took a decidedly naturalistic approach. "The script and the set were emphasizing the dark side so much that it didn't need to be exaggerated through lighting," he says. "If you want the audience to believe that a group ofpeople in the here and now can enter such a situation, you have to photograph it in a natural way." The use of color is also sparing. "There were a lot of deep reds and browns in the sets," Lindenlaub says, "and if you added colored light, it would look artificial--it would turn into a very expensive Roger Corman movie." Rosco half-CTS was put on the windows to gel the sunlight, with quarter-CTS on the backlight for day scenes. Quarter-straw had also been placed on the front- and sidelights, but in dailies it was discovered that the actors' skin tones had gone too red. Nobody was quite prepared for how sensitive to warmth the new Kodak Vision 5279 print stock was.
"It was really tricky to balance the new Kodak film stocks," says Lindenlaub. "They changed the high-speed negative stocks in the last two years, and now they've changed the print stocks as well, which has added a lot of contrast to the end product. You have to light on a higher key light level and fill light level. This was a low-key movie with dark sets, and I would have liked to have a bit more latitude in the shadows; it was quite a change from the formulas I've used over the years to judge what will register, what will just be visible, and what will drop into blackness."
Another Kodak product, the PreView system (see "PreViewing apparitions," page 75), marketed by Panavision, helped to compensate. With the system's digital camera and software that simulates film stocks and other cinematographer's tools, Lindenlaub could print out a previsualized image of a scene before exposing any footage. Though the system has any number of potential uses, on The Haunting, Lindenlaub primarily relied on it as a record of looks. "Especially on this movie, I had to relight the same directions on the same sets over and over again," he says.
This was a valuable aid not only in the great hall, but in the series of hallways built on another soundstage, at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, which also contained the mansion bedrooms. "I don't think any cameraman likes hallways, because they take an enormous amount of rigging and preparation for something that doesn't usually look that great," says Lindenlaub. "You have to replicate lighting schemes over and over again to get a uniform look down the hall. And this film has a lot of movement from A to B, with people being chased from one room to the next."
But the aggravation of the Hill House hallways paled in comparison to the 100'-long by 40'-wide (30x12m) greenhouse set. "When I walked into the dome and looked at that set, I said, 'This is it,' " Lindenlaub recalls. " 'This is the one set that I really have no clue how to light.' " Set far to the side of the dome structure, the greenhouse was tucked under the curved wall in a manner that precluded the construction of a superstructure. Since the entire set was often visible in shots, "The greenhouse itself wouldn't allow for any lamps to be hung from it, and on one end, where you assume your biggest source would be from the outside, is the Batcave, which Warner Bros. leaves there in case they want to shoot another Batman movie."
"We really found ourselves boxed into a corner by that set, which we treated almost as if it were an exterior," Parks says. "One end of it was actually within 20' (6m) of the edge of the dome. So what we did was get the biggest lighting truck available, the Bebee Nightsun array of fifteen 6ks, and backed it into the corner next to the Batcave. We could only get it about 50' (15m) away, which was just barely enough. We got it to a height of about 55 or 60' (17-18m) before we ran into the ceiling of the dome, which wasn't much, because the greenhouse was 48' (15m) tall." Off to the side and at the other end, three Condors, each equipped with a 12k and 6k PAR, threw light through the ceiling and walls of the set. Also onstage was a more mobile Condor loaded with two 18ks for filling in holes where needed. Adding ambiance to the greenhouse were three Lights Up! helium balloons rigged with 4ks. "I can't thank my rigging gaffer, Brian Lukas, enough," notes Parks.
The glass walls of the greenhouse were painted over in white to obscure the outside, but the finish was presented as cracked and peeling, and the set had an overall translucence. A 40'-tall (12m) white backing was placed around roughly 3/4 of the greenhouse, but Lindenlaub says, "I don't think you can just paint glass panels white and then backlight them, and get a feel for daylight. That tends to look very one-dimensional. It always looks better if you have a second illuminated backing behind it, just to give it more depth. Since there was no space here for a backing, a rigging grip hung some big silks as well as he could, and we frontlit that with tungsten. That meant we had to gel all the HMIs down to tungsten." Adds Parks, "There were spaces we had to take the backing further back so the main light could shoot over it, and there we hid Maxi Brutes down low to uplight it." For night scenes, a black backing replaced the white, and the color was adjusted accordingly. "I could never extend incandescent sour ces inside, there was no rigging for it," says the cinematographer. "Basically it's moonlight, and then we mixed in some garden lights outside the glass. The colors mixed into each other and the glass panels, giving the space quite a painterly feel."
Despite his initial panic when faced with it, Lindenlaub says, "By the time we got to the greenhouse, we had already been through so many tricky days that it was just another big set. Big is not normally that difficult if you have enough time to plan it. You just use bigger sources. Sometimes small sets are trickier because you don't have the space to put the lights far enough away. But in this case, the size was a challenge, because we had to get them all ready quickly, and at the same time." And, he adds, worrying doesn't help: "You can only light everything shot by shot, so you try to put as much as you can in place. If you try to anticipate every problem you're going to run into on a 90- or 100-day shoot, you'll go crazy and won't sleep a second. It comes to a point where you say, 'I did everything I could,' and hope to be fit tomorrow to come up with some good ideas and get through it."
DIRECTOR Jan De Bont
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Karl Walter Lindenlaub, ASC
CHIEF LIGHTING TECHNICIAN Dino Parks
KEY GRIP Loren Corl
RIGGING GAFFER Brian Lukas
RIGGING GRIP "G" Dhiensuwana
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LIGHTING CONTROL (2)ETC Expression 2x with 3x software (8)ETC Sensor 48x2.4kW dimmer racks (23)Strand CD80 24kW dimmers (2)Strand CD80 24x12kW dimmer racks (7)Strand CD80 6x12kW dimmer racks (3)Strand CD80 24x6kW dimmer racks (18)Strand CD80 6x6kW dimmer racks (2)Strand CD80 12x2.4kW dimmer racks (2)Strand CD80 12kW standalone dimmers (16)Mole-Richardson 800A power distro (12)DADCO 600A power distro
LIGHTING RENTAL TM Motion Picture Equipment Rentals, North Hollywood, CA
Suppose you're a cinematographer and you want to know how a given shot is going to look using one of several Kodak Vision stocks. You might want to see what pushing the exposure a stop would do to the image, or how various filters would affect the walls of the set. Perhaps you want to indulge in the currently trendy bleach-bypass processing, and need to plan accordingly. What do you do--trust your instincts? Conduct a number of expensive tests?
The Eastman Kodak Company and Panavision are hoping instead that you'll rent the Kodak PreView system, introduced in 1998. Composed of a high-end digital Kodak DCS 520 camera adapted for Panavision Primo lenses, a 166MHz Pentium MMX laptop computer with PreView software, a 17" CRT monitor, and a high-resolution Kodak DS 8650 thermal printer, the PreView System is designed as a handy previsualization tool. With the digital camera, the DP captures still images of a set or location, and then selects from a range of parameters, including film stock, exposure rating, printer lights, filtration packages (both Lee and Rosco), flash processing, and push-and-pull processing.
Printouts of the result are more or less instantaneously obtainable; the system was only developed after rendering time became practical. "You don't want to have to go away for coffee for 15 minutes," says PreView designer Mitch Bogdanowicz, a Kodak senior research associate. "We have a two-megapixel image, and on the screen it takes about six or eight seconds to render."
"This is an infinitely more accurate record of what a shot's going to look like than Polaroids," says Haunting cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub. For the DPs who feel their instincts are perfectly adequate, Bogdanowicz says, "Even if a cinematographer has a lot of experience, he or she might light for a certain mood, only to have the timer take it all out. There's also telecine, where you lose all sorts of control. We're trying to give them a tool not only to previsualize, but also communicate the look to the people doing the color grading. I've seen notes on film cans--`Colors a little bit happy,' or `Make this cool.' How cool? One person's cool is someone else's neutral."
Bogdanowicz, a PhD organic chemist with years of providing computer models for new Kodak film stocks under his belt (he also designed Rosco's CalColor(TM) line), worked with project supervisor Chris DuMont and programmer Nhon Chu on the system for about two years. Data was created with smart lookup tables that enabled system algorithms to effect automatic color balancing. Processing tables were devised based on experiments with actual film.
Panavision's contribution extended to lens measurement interfacing, supervised by Mark Halliday, and providing a lens mount adaptor for the digital camera. Panavision also is in charge of marketing the PreView system. Product development director Nolan Murdoch asked for input from various DPs, including Lindenlaub, Dante Spinotti, ASC; Roy Wagner, ASC; and Stephen H. Burum, ASC, who is using the system on the upcoming film Mystery Men.
On The Haunting, Lindenlaub used PreView to share information with the director, and to keep track of his looks for various sets that needed to be shot over and over. "For a timing reference, I think it's a little too early," he says. "You have to set up standards that are compatible, but then it will be a great way to communicate." His only caveat: "It seemed a great tool to rent--but I'd rather buy it, and put it in my own computer."
Of course, if you want to use Fuji stock you're out of luck, though Panavision is providing calculations for Arriflex lenses. "I have no apologies for keeping other films out," says Bogdanowicz.