Cooke 5/i and ARRI Alexas on Scorcese/Richardson 3D “Cabret”

Here’s a sneak preview of an article in our upcoming issue 35 of FDTimes, by Gregor Tavenner, First Camera Assistant on “Hugo Cabret.”

There are a lot of firsts being made on “Hugo Cabret.”

1. First major motion picture shot with Cooke 5/i Prime Lenses.

2. First 3D movie for Martin Scorcese and Bob Richardson, ASC.

3. First major 3D movie shot with ARRI Alexas.

4. First major movie really using /i Technology (metadata) and Transvideo CineMonitorHD  3D View /i monitors.

The film is an adaptation of the children’s story “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” about a 12-year-old orphan living in a train station in 1930s Paris who tries to solve the mystery of a broken robot.

In the beginning, Martin Scorcese said to Robert Richardson, “I want to shoot this movie in 3D.” And Bob turns around and says, “How am I going to shoot in 3D with a beamsplitter that cuts out 1 stop of light..and take my ASA 400 film stock down to effectively 200?” Enter ARRI Alexa, with a sensitivity of 800 ASA. Next challenge: dealing with these huge sets in Shepperton, and he really needed lenses that would open to T1.4.  With a PL mount. So we looked at what was out there.

We heard about the new Cooke 5/i lenses. I was lucky to see the first set in the US—at Clairmont Camera. And we looked at them and they were absolutely gorgeous. They had a beautiful feeling. And the more I looked at them, the more I loved them. I ended up looking at 3 sets. What I saw was incredible consistency in those 3 sets. We tested other fast lenses, but loved the Cooke Look.

I shouldn’t say this, but…there is such a thing as a Cooke Look. You may laugh, some people may laugh, but we as connoisseurs have nailed down so many different flavors and curves in wine, and if you’re a connoisseur of the image, and lenses, you can do the same thing. For me as a focus puller, I enjoy that. I wouldn’t call it a gentleness—that would be a Speed Panchro—I don’t know how to put it—what we’re getting on screen and on the video monitors is not so much on or off in terms of focus. I wouldn’t say more depth of field because that would be wrong—but the way the forward and backward drifts on and off is so attractive.

The Alexa is incredible. They started talks long ago, and they chose us for one of the first batch. The first 7 went to Vince Pace, and they were delivered as promised on time.

We’re using Pace 3D rigs. Larry McConkey was employed early on to co-design a Steadicam rig for the Alexas. Larry helped them take it to a higher level. They’ve made 3 or 4 of them now, and they’re going onto other shows.

Illuminated focus scales. Funny enough, that was such a low thing on my list when I first read it, I thought, “nice idea, but I’ll never use this.” But, guess what. This was a perfect application for it. You’ve got 2 of these cameras in that 3D rig. Because as I pull focus on the Preston FI+Z, every take, I look at the lens barrel. And make sure the Preston is on. No matter how dependable it is, I still check the lens directly to be sure. And you’ve got two lenses, so it’s even more important to be sure they’re matching. And third, if you had a mini lens light inside the rig, that would be an added risk of reflection off the beam splitter. And I’d have to have two lens lights—even worse. No matter how much you shield them. So these Cooke 5/i illuminated focus scales eliminate all the risk and let me see focus perfectly. A perfect idea. Absolutely brilliant.

Bob Richardson operates the A camera. The 3D is mostly in the setup of the shot, more than the execution. He has his own monitor close by, so he can immediately get feedback on what he’s doing. What’s very useful is the Pace system plugged into the Cooke /i data port. The Pace system has the ability to record all the metadata for every frame of every shot. Which it does. It links I/O data convergence, readouts, what’s where, and stores it.

The Alexas don’t have LDS or /i data contacts built into their PL mount yet. Maybe in the next model, later this year. But right now it’s a big plus to be able to plug the /i connector into the 5/i lens and extract all the data, and display  it. The Transvideo monitors plug right into /i connectors—so I get a full readout of all the lens data on screen. It’s beautiful.

Post. It’s a new world. There is no post house. We’re doing it. Pace is doing it. It’s incredible. We built our own screening room, our own file room, we have coloring, our own grader on staff,  so Bob can go in every day and grade his footage. And Marty can do stereo corrections right there. He can see finished product. And I tell you, it’s really beautiful. It makes a lot of sense.

Gregor Tavenner lives in New York when he’s not on location. His credits include: “Kill Bill,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Shutter Island,” “The Aviator,” “Nixon,”  “Michael Clayton.”

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