AJ Wedding and Leo Jamarillo talk from their AR studio about Star Wars and digital cinema
STAR WARS has always been at the forefront of technological innovation in filmmaking. Whether it's the prequels pioneering use of CGI, STAR WARS: Episode II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES being the very first feature film to be shot on digital video rather than traditional celluloid film, or the recent use of the Volume AR stage technology on Disney+ shows like The Mandalorian. Josh is joined by two very special guests -- AJ WEDDING and LEO JAMARILLIO of ORBITAL VIRTUAL STUDIOS -- to discuss how Star Wars has always pushed technology forward.
Btw, the secret project with the live deep fake of a Vulcan that they couldn't talk about at the time of recording? Maybe you've seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0U-O7f53kg
ORBITAL VIRUTAL STUDIOS Website: https://www.orbitalvs.com/
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[00:00:00] JOSH: Welcome to Trash Compactor. I'm Josh. Today we continue our coverage of the Star Wars prequels with an episode all about digital cinema and the transition away from film to digital as the dominant medium in film and TV. Maybe you knew this, maybe you didn't, but Star Wars episode two, Attack of the Clones was the first major motion picture to be shot on digital video rather than 35 millimeter film, as was the standard at the time.
and these days shooting on digital is the norm rather than the exception. And Star Wars was right at the forefront of that change. So today we're gonna be talking about the differences, both aesthetic and practical of the two mediums film and digital video and how Star Wars has always been at the forefront of change when it comes to the technology of making films right up to the ar wall technology that makes shows like the Mandalorian possible. And so I'm absolutely thrilled to be joined by two guests live from Orbital Virtual Studios Director slash visionary AJ Wedding.
[00:01:02] AJ: Hello.
[00:01:03] JOSH: And cinematographer Leo Jamarillo.
[00:01:06] LEO: Hey guys.
[00:01:08] JOSH: So first off, thanks so much for doing this, and I want to note for the listeners who, who maybe can't see that, you are talking to me directly from, Orbital Virtual Studios. So, uh, let's start off with just explain to us, what Orbital virtual is
[00:01:22] AJ: Yeah, it's, it's pretty interesting. Uh, some friends of ours were working on the Mandalorian when it was known as Project Huckleberry. It was super secret. And, um, we had heard about this new thing that they were doing, and, and there have been previous versions of this, where you have a green screen and you can put the live, you know, 3D content, uh, on, you know, the, the green screen.
Um, But this was the first time that it all kind of worked together, and as soon as I heard about it, I thought, this is the future. I mean that we're never going back. Um, so I wanted to learn everything I could about it and funny to learn that, um, it didn't really work so well for the Mandalorian and they had a lot of issues with it.
So our thought was, Hey, let's figure out what those issues were and, and how we can fix them if they're fixable and make a system. Uh, is better for filmmakers. It's easier to use and actually works, you know, really well. And so, you know, that was the, the genesis of Orbital Studios in my garage about two years ago, uh, with a little l e d wall and a camera and good friends who are all filmmakers.
And, um, here we are now and sort of our headquarters downtown. It's, uh, it's working out very well, it
[00:02:44] LEO: seems. Yeah, yeah. We actually were, um, we had a movie scheduled. He was the VFX supervisor. And I was the, uh, the dp and it was set for April, 2020. And so we had this, this scene where navy piers being blown up by a wizard and they, the, the, the protagonists very goonies, like the protagonists are driving go-karts with rocket launchers mm-hmm.
On top. And they're like firing rocket line. So it there, most of the budget of this movie would've gone to that sequence if we had to shoot it practically. So when we had lockdown we're like, Hey, when this lockdowns over in two weeks,
[00:03:28] JOSH: Right.
[00:03:29] LEO: pick back up. We have to have us firing solution for not spending the bulk of our budget in this one scene.
Um, and so that's, that was the impetus for all of this. And then that's where he went down to the rabbit trail and then I brought cameras to his garage. And then we tested and here we are. Here we are.
[00:03:49] JOSH: That's it's a classic story. It's you know, necessity's the mother of innovation and then, uh, you know, with a global pandemic to kind of, uh, hit pause and give you the time to actually follow through on all that crazy stuff. um, but, I think you really summed it up. The, um, one of the undeniable advantages of, digital technology of any kind is just making things possible in a cost effective manner.
Um, I am curious though, I just, I wanna go back for a second. You mentioned that, the AR technology that they were using, you know, at the time really experimental, , technology on season one of the Mandalorian. Um, they were encountering some, some problems. And I'm just curious, one of the things I wanted to ask you guys what are some of the things shooting on a stage like this, with, the augmented reality environment?
what are some of the things that you have to watch out for that you have to pay more attention to as a DP and as a director?
[00:04:44] AJ: Yeah. I'm glad you asked that because, uh, depending on who you ask, the answers change. And especially here because we've tried to knock down every problem that we could. Uh, you know, I mean, I think that, uh, John Favreau will say, if you asked him, they weren't trying to shoot every shot with, uh, you know, in-camera VFX final pixel, uh, they thought, Hey, if we can get some of those shots, great, it gets rid of some of our comping that we have to do in post.
Um, but, you know, seeing. Could be achievable is kind of what drove us, uh, to making this the system better. Um, I think in their case, you know, the camera had to be so far away from the wall. I think it was like 15 to 18 feet in order to not get more a, um, you're sort of limited by the, um, frame rates and the shutter angles that you can shoot, which is more of a Leo
[00:05:41] LEO: thing.
And yeah. And if like, going with his 15 to 18 foot range from the wall, um, if, you know cinematography, um, you know that if you, if you're at a table and a character sits, stands up, you know, classic, uh, Western Saloon type thing where he stands up and then, and as a camera operator, you're gonna have to. The top edge of the frame for headroom, you're gonna have to tilt up.
So if you're 15 to 18 feet from a wall and you tilt up with a 35 millimeter lens, guess what? You see the top edge of the wall really fast. So that means that when you build it, That means they have to build it in such a way where it's almost like a dome, like it covers everything. And so that, that means that the sheer size of the wall and the limited space of shooting area within that stage, it can be a detriment to your overall production, uh, and cinematography.
And it limits your lenses. So if you look at the original series, you'll see that a lot of them were like 50 millimeter, 85 millimeter, 110 millimeter lenses on closeups, and then there's the skin and light issue and reflections.
[00:06:55] AJ: Yeah. So I, I think a lot of those things are, are sort of the first things we tackled.
So like in our stages, you can get within three feet of the wall with the. Not like you ever need to get closer than that. I think you can do other shutter angles. You can, um, do frame rates. You know, we wired this wall so that you could do 120 frames a second as long as your assets can hold up to it.
Mm-hmm. I think for a and e we actually did a, a glass break scene that we shot at 96 frames a second with 72
[00:07:24] LEO: shutter. Unreal. Yeah. Yeah. With a 72 degree shutter angle, which is hard on digital. I mean, if you think about shooting a TV back in the old film days at changing the shutter angle to 1 44 or so, or uh, 1 67 depending on the TV and the maker, and it's like, yeah.
It's very similar.
[00:07:41] AJ: Yeah. I, I think that we know the limits are going away, right? If you're, if you're here at Orbital, um, a lot of the limits that you hear about at other places are just not there. I think the thing that you could really focus on as a director is what incredible opportunities you have. So, like, for instance, um, I.
Let's say we put a car in here and we don't have a techno crane, so we want to get a shot that's looking at the driver and then goes around and gets a profile of the driver, right? Um, I could put that car on a turntable and we can track the turntable to the world. So as the car moves, the world moves. Um, we actually did a project where we tracked the world to a mocap actor's hand.
So as they raised their hand, the other actor who is safely sitting on stage looks like they're being picked up by Godzilla, basically, and, and brought up into the air. Um, so there are just so many things that you can do when you start to realize that if you can move the world, you can kind of do anything.
[00:08:53] LEO: you can also control the sun and the moon and the rain. So, You can have magic hour forever or Blue Hour, which is even harder to get because no one wants to get up at three and get up to a top of a mountain ready for Blue Hour, which is nine minutes, or at, at best, you know? So,
[00:09:14] AJ: um, yeah, I think what, what was the movie, um, was the musical about LA
[00:09:20] LEO: Oh, Lala
[00:09:20] AJ: Land.
Lala Land, yeah. Yeah. And they talk about the, the dance sequence that they had, where it was Sunset, and how it took them weeks to shoot that. Yeah. Like you could literally do that in one day here. Before lunch. Yeah, before lunch. Before lunch, yeah. In fact, we did, um, history's Greatest Heists where we had Pierce Brosnan.
And the idea of the show is that it's all these recreations of these heists, and as the host, they want him to look like he's there, but of course he's not gonna show up for all of these, you know, heist things. So we were able to create. Backgrounds and then some sort of foreground set pieces so that he could come in and shoot out the entire season in three days.
And I think it was like, what, 38 setups in three
[00:10:06] LEO: days? 38 setups in three. And his days were limited to six hours each day. Cuz he's, you know, Piercen, he's Pierce Bron. He can ask whatever he wants. And um, and so we would always finish every day before lunch with him. And then I would, we would pre light for the next day so that we could, it was clockwork and he would step off stage and it would, we would be in Amsterdam here in the stage.
He'd step off, go to the green room, halfway to the green room. The second ad would say, sir, they need you back. And then he comes here and now he's a airport hangar in Anaheim or in, uh, in Orange County. And then he takes off again, comes back and he's in, uh, uh, uh, what's the German airline? Um, Hanzo. Hanza.
He's in a hanzo cargo building. And then it's just, and then he comes back and then he's on top of the roof in Spain. It's crazy. It was crazy. It was like one of those
[00:11:02] AJ: things. Yeah, I, I, I think one of the things that, um, people. When they think about virtual production or in-camera vfx, which is what we call it, or um, ar, wall technology, um, it's all, we're all trying to say the same thing, but everybody kind of has different vocab.
But I think everybody points at the stages as the, as what it is, right? It's this beautiful l e d wall and a tracking system, but that's really only part of it. I think that the biggest part of it is the efficiency you create by having these tools in pre-production. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So for instance, if I have the set, uh, both the real version, you know, uh, what was gonna be actually physically built and also what's going to be in the wall, um, the production team can all use that.
The director can use it to create story. DP can light it, um, weeks in
[00:11:54] LEO: advance, weeks in advance most because we, we know the light, we know the weather, we know everything about what the setting's gonna
[00:12:00] AJ: be, and then it becomes so much more efficient, which this is already a very efficient process. But then you've got all your department heads working out of the same document and Yeah.
And as it's changing and getting better and, you know, production designer can go, oh, I don't like that red and how it looks on the wall, let's change it to turquoise, or whatever. Right. So it's, it's really a fantastic production, uh, method at more than it is
[00:12:25] LEO: a stage. Yeah. It's almost like you can teleport your entire department heads to the location and the time and look at it and go, okay, this is what it's gonna look like.
Okay, great. And they can all be
[00:12:38] AJ: on other shows at the time. Yes. And literally just like zoom in or VR their headsets in
[00:12:43] LEO: whatever. Yeah.
[00:12:45] JOSH: It's funny, like, as someone who thought that I had wrapped my head ar around a little, what this technology was capable of. just hearing you talk about it, you know, makes me realize that, haven't even really scratched the, possibilities.
One question I had for you, AJ, was just, something you've said before. Uh, but the phrase, when you can move the world, like that, I think really changes the way you conceive of the whole production process.
So many of the limitations or, restrictions that you had to contend with, like, now that you can literally move the world.
I mean, I'm just wondering, are you still constantly like, like unlearning what you have learned and being like, wait a minute, I don't have to do this. Like, I can just, why don't I, we track it to his hand and we can do this shot that I never would have conceived of.
[00:13:36] AJ: Yeah. I, I think that, uh, it's so exciting every day around here because we're constantly, you know, there have been multiple times where we were the first people to do something, and that's just,
[00:13:49] LEO: it feels pretty good too. Yeah. That's exciting.
[00:13:51] AJ: It's so fun. And to walk around and think, you know, oh, like we were just talking about today, you know, we've, we've had a couple of tests at this where it's like, Hey, you know, what if we didn't even have a set, what if you could create like a hallway kind of maze and we kind of go through it and, um, and showcase how close we can get to the wall and what that means for, um, the kind of shots that you could get.
Especially if you had to do something quick. It's like, Hey, you're making alien and you've got this big, huge elaborate set over there, but we just have this walking hallway shot. We don't really have 300 grand to build a. A set for it, can we just throw it in the wall? And so, you know, we tested that. We're about to test like a bigger version of that.
Um, so I mean, yeah, we're, we're constantly exploring the new ideas. I mean, just, just this past week. Mm-hmm. I was gonna say, yeah. Yeah, it was, it was really interesting. So, um, you know, a lot of times people talk about how long this stuff takes and, oh man, I gotta hire the director and the DP like a year in advance, cuz they gotta make lighting decisions and that's just a poor pipeline that's being used.
You know, we're we're trying to push the new virtual production pipeline, which is much shorter because you're not. Tied to all of the software that visual effects companies are used to using that are slower. Um, and so, like for instance, we, we had this shoot that changed their days on us. And so we all of a sudden had an open day, uh, where we were gonna have all this equipment that they already rented and it's just gonna sit here.
And they already paid for the crew and we're like, Hmm, what should we do? So I wrote a script. Uh, we found some assets on a Thursday. On a Thursday, uh, afternoon. I f uh, we found some assets on the marketplace that we could take the Unreal marketplace, uh, and then, you know, and made him a little bit more custom for us, uh, and shot the next day an entire short film in a galactic senate kind of environment that
[00:15:58] LEO: that's about to be bombed from space.
[00:16:00] AJ: Yeah. Yeah. You know,
[00:16:03] JOSH: Unbeliev.
[00:16:03] AJ: Just real quick and, and did some things like going up and down stairs, which, um, I haven't seen done yet in virtual.
[00:16:10] LEO: And, and we were, we had a, we are the, this, we're on the small stage right now, which is like 50 feet, uh, in diameter. And so AJ had written a, a walk and talk. Um, and we, it was funny cuz I think we hit that same aha moment where like, cuz we were like going through like the dialogue and like, wow, we're gonna run outta space on this 50 foot, you know, because we're not gonna use the, the outer edge of the 50, we'll probably be in the closer to the, the center, um, because of the proximity of to, to the wall.
So it's more like 10 or 15 feet. So it, we needed about 30 feet of walk and talk space. And, but then it, it, we were like, wait, you're gonna cut to the overs, the french overs. Rather than the, the, the, the, the, the front, front view, right. You're gonna cut to the front, the overs, uh, on the others like, and e and intercut between that for, for this walk and talk.
So we essentially could shoot the walk and talk in one direction and then change the world, like reset the world and reset them from the, from the reverse. Yeah, from the reverse. And then, and then continue it. Because then you would ha then, cuz no matter what you'd, you'd cut into it. So it was like, whoa, we just extended the, the, the walk
[00:17:31] AJ: and it was, yeah.
And like instead
[00:17:32] JOSH: oh, I see, I see what you're saying. because no matter what, you're gonna be cutting into it. So, so it doesn't matter if you're shooting it from the other side, uh, because it's
[00:17:40] AJ: right. And instead of moving all of your gear and all of your lighting and everything, we literally just turn the world around and start shooting.
[00:17:48] JOSH: That is,
[00:17:50] AJ: It's,
[00:17:50] LEO: it's really. It is, it really, once you start it, it's almost like, um, I, I don't know. You ever play super bomber, man? You know, that's how I always, I know this is sound so random, but like, once you understand the physics of bomber man, and then you're just like, oh, if I do that, it does that.
If I do, and then so this, that's what virtual production's like, and you start to understand the mechanics of it, and you're like, and then you drive home and you're like, oh, wait, that means we could do that with water. That means we could do that with a tracking shot. That means we could, whoa, we could do that.
And it, it just, it builds a, it's like, it's a, it's a very fun playground.
Very fun as a cinematographer.
[00:18:28] JOSH: No, I can imagine like, You've, opened up a new dimension, so you have to train yourself to start thinking in that dimension. But then I realized, but no, like this has opened up multiple new dimensions at the same time.
So it's sort of, it's like, yeah, I can imagine The only way to really, wrap your head around it and figure out how to utilize it, is to really immerse yourself in it and be doing it over time.
[00:18:56] AJ: Yeah. Every project we do, we, we learn something new and kind of like tying it back to sort of the Star Trek, Lucasfilm, i l m kind of thing. I mean, they, they did this as a, I mean this was a, a, an evolution obviously, but, um, you know, they did this to solve a problem. Like how do we make a Star Wars TV show on a budget and, uh, And so that was their solve.
Um, I feel like they're constantly, you know, Lucas, when he made the switch from digital or from film to digital, um, much like we've demanded from the people who make the screens and the people who make the tracking systems, he was able to demand from Sony, you know, very specific things that he wanted about the cameras.
They were making digital cameras. Mm-hmm. But they were like 30 frames a second or 60 frame, and he was like 24. And they're like, that's hard. Yeah. Right.
[00:19:49] LEO: Sony F 900 and with the digit primes, that was the, that was I think the makeup of the episode two. Mm-hmm. But yeah, he had demanded like, yeah, he had demanded 24 frames on the, up until then they tho all those broadcast video cameras were 29 97.
Um, so the f because the frame rate mattered, you know, like we.
[00:20:11] JOSH: see, see that's really interesting. I. I can recall as a, you know, young student filmmaker, the vast majority of the things I shot in school were on video. the problem with video was always, it didn't look like film because of the frame rate. obviously there are many, many other differences, but that frame rate the 24 frames a second, versus 30 or 60 was really that like holy grail of that film look, it's just really interesting to hear, you know, George Lucas was also coming up against that same limitation and was like, no, no, you guys, it's gotta be, it's gotta be 24 p. Um, one of the things that I am curious about, I think a lot of people may not realize who aren't so into film is that, that subtle but very clear difference, even if you're not consciously aware of it. the difference between that film look of 24 frames a second that you associate with drama and with, you know, stories and feature films versus, 30 frames a second or 60 frames a second, which is a smoother motion that, should read as more quote unquote realistic, because there's more information there, but we associate it with, you know, news coverage and with things happening in the now. So when you shoot the wrong. I'm using air quotes, the wrong frame rate for the kind of project. It completely alters your perception of what it is that you're watching. And I'm just wondering, do you guys think that 24 frame versus 30 frame per second distinction is just something , completely arbitrary because of it's just what we're used to.
Or do you think there's something sort of inherent in the, the, the quality of it? I know this is a, a little sort of an esoteric question, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts about, that film look, is it, just an accident of a.
Of technology or is there like something inherent that, you know, makes it more desirable?
[00:22:10] AJ: I mean, I think it came out of animation, right? They, they realized that the, the lowest frame rate that your eye didn't notice, the, you know, the changing of the frames was 24. And so it was the most economical way to create, uh, something.
[00:22:26] JOSH: Right? Because fewer, fewer pictures that they'd have to draw.
[00:22:30] AJ: Yeah. And so I think, uh, from there it just, I think the romance of film, right? I mean, we get so used to it when someone does something different like The Hobbit,
[00:22:39] JOSH: The
[00:22:40] AJ: it's like, what are you doing? You know?
[00:22:42] LEO: Right. and also like, uh, is, I mean obviously you have 60 versus 60 frames, you know?
there is a lot of information there and you called it smooth. Um, however, At 24 or 2397, which we're at now, um, the, there's so much motion blur in between the frames that what they normally would be that crispiness crispiness, um, at the, at, you know, with 30 and even 60. And so that motion blur kind of, for me as a dp, it kind of feels like a memory.
You know, when you're watching a movie, it feels like a memory and, um, because you kind of remember things in like, In, you know, in kind of a, um, for me, I don't know, maybe I'm, I'm, I have been known to be a little nuts, so may I, I remember things in blurs, you know, I'm like, oh yeah, there's that, and then there's, there's that, and it's never been that lucid super clear, you know, image in my head of a memory.
It's always like, oh yeah, that feeling. And so the idea of of, of using more of your, your senses rather than just your eyes, but just your heart and like how you feel in, in it kind of lends itself. For me, that adds to the romanticized view of, of cinema and at, at, at 24 frames.
[00:24:03] AJ: Yeah. There's also that, just that feeling of, oh, I'm watching a story, I'm, I'm part of a story.
Mm-hmm. You know, it's like when they all, you know, the TV manufacturers started making it so that they could fix it and make it higher quality and everybody went, no. Yeah. Um, because you look at that and it looks like real life. Is it better quality? Yeah. Yeah. But it takes you out of it. It, it's like, I'm not watching a movie.
I'm not a part of a story. I'm in real life and I don't want that. I came to the movies to see a movie.
[00:24:37] LEO: Yeah. I, I, I've had full on crews that, um, we, we were, you know, we'd, we'd, uh, take over a hotel, um, very similar Tropic Thunder, and we'd like, we'd go in and rather than have those crazy parties every, all the, the d i t, the acs, we'd be going to everybody's room, like take, taking hyper smooth down and then resetting the TVs and then like going, okay, Ramada in or wherever, and you're like, we've done our, we've done our deed for the cinema world.
Let's go off. You know, and like, so that's, yeah. That's a fun.
[00:25:10] JOSH: that's very funny. I was at a doctor's office the other day and they had, the TVs on in the waiting room, and they all had that like, you know, motion smoothing on, by default outta the box. And it was just, I just had to avert my eyes it's, it's so interesting though.
and I think, both of you really, said it in different ways. it is a feeling that you, you can walk backward into an explanation for why it feels that way, but it is a feeling that it's really hard to say definitively no. Like, here's why, this feels like this and this feels like that.
which is, you know, I think one of the reasons why, Film and television is so, is so magical, because it is sort of like right on that line between the technology and the dreamlike perception of human experience. And it's sort of like where they meet.
[00:25:56] AJ: Yeah, I mean there, there's also, there is a very, I mean, there's a reason why it was really hard for people to move from film to digital. I mean, at the time that they were trying to make the move, they looked very different. And we've closed that gap, I think, quite a bit with the look, but there is still that sort of chemical, you know, uh, emulsion.
That just there, there's a, you know, and in fact, film actually works better on these l e D screens than digital does, which is kind of ironic.
[00:26:29] JOSH: Is that true?
[00:26:30] AJ: and it's
[00:26:31] LEO: a and and, and, and what's, and just, I mean, we haven't even gone into the latitude of film and how you know, I mean, that's, that's the other quality, that's what makes it feel real because you don't walk into a room and everything's contrasting within 13 stops, you know, like that's, that's, I mean, that's a, that's on a good cam, a good digital camera now.
Um, I mean, I think they're saying Venice and 35 area 35 are around, you know, 15 or 16 or whatever. But I mean, like, there's the, the infinite, it feels like an infinite number on film because you, you have the, this like, you know, Florida skies and then you have the dark undertones of, of underneath the car, and then you have everything in between, and you can still see detail in shadow, and you can still see detail in the clouds.
So that's what celluloid can do. and if that's what also feels like your eye. So that, that, that, that, remakes the, the human experience. And then couple that with 24 frames, it'd be feeling like a memory to me. Uh, it, and you we're, and you know, we're just, we're just standing on the shoulders of giants, you know, who have paved this way.
And it's like, and, and we're like, oh, this is the convention and it, and it works. It, then there's a reason why it's worked. It's stand stood the test of time for a hundred years. So it's still working. You know, you see, you know, Cohen brothers are still making things in 24 or like all, all our heroes
[00:28:00] AJ: are.
Yeah. I mean, and you still have to shoot if you're doing like, effect shots with like explosions, you still have to shoot film because digital doesn't have the latitude for it.
[00:28:09] JOSH: Really,
[00:28:10] AJ: Yeah.
I mean, unless something changed recently. But yeah. I mean, new Deal. When I used to work at New Deal Studios, we still up until, uh, I don't know, a couple years ago, we're shooting explosions with film.
Cause Yeah, you, you, you, you're gonna miss out on the detail with, with digital
[00:28:29] JOSH: Oh, that's fascinating. I actually had no idea about that.
[00:28:32] LEO: Yeah. The highlights of explosions. You, you, you have to get all that, that, that bloom, you know? It's like there's so many different, like, shades of orange and red and white in that, that you just have to capture that the edges. Otherwise it would be just up like a flash, you know? And
[00:28:48] JOSH: Right. No, that makes total sense. It just never, wow. Yeah, one other thing that struck me while you guys were talking that I just wanted to mention really quick is that, the thing that I'm constantly reading about George Lucas, whether it's from, when he was making films in the seventies or really working on advancing the technology of filmmaking in the eighties and nineties is like, it really frustrated him that he wanted to be able to do more than the technology was really capable of.
Like, the thing that, really hit home for me is that, he's editing film, literally, you know, cutting film on a movie, Viola or Steck. He already wants to be able, to do nonlinear editing. He just, he intuitively knows that it would be a lot easier if you could just move everything around and just not, be limited, by that physical medium and.
it's just striking to me that, like your studio, I think is really the realization of the dream for what filmmaking could be like, that he was constantly trying to move towards, through, through, through all of his, his company's innovative, work in digital, technology.
It, like, it always, blows my mind, like, non-linear editing. today we just, call it editing, is like, you know, the avid was the edit droid that his, company pioneered. And everyone was like, what are you doing? Like, what are you spending all this money on for this thing that like no one is gonna use?
And it's just really striking. To me, like what you described earlier, how you guys are on a stage and, Before lunch, you're shooting an Amsterdam and then you break for lunch and that you come back to the stage and you're on the other side of the world and you're in control of the lighting and the everything, and it's just all, it's all right there and you can do exactly what you want.
Like that's what he wanted 30, 40 years ago. And you guys are doing it.
[00:30:30] AJ: I mean, he, he's certainly one of my biggest heroes. I think, uh, before this, this started, we were talking about the movie Tucker, A Man in his Dream. And one of the sort of themes in that movie is, you know, businesses hate innovation because it costs money and you're not helping sell units, you know? Uh, and I think that the, the film industry for the longest time didn't want innovation.
You know, the innovation was the art and. He wanted innovation. I mean, the film industry as it exists today is because of him. You know, all of these editing tools that we've had our hands on, uh, you know, at a young age to be able to play with, um, digital cinema, I mean digital from a camera all the way through the projector is because of him.
And, um, the ab the ability to distribute a movie across 3000 screens at a push of a button instead of 3000 answer prints. Hmm. That are, you know, how much a piece, you know, a hundred, 110,000 a piece. You know, it's just, it's changed everything. And I, I think that we owe it to him to continue to innovate. We owe it to the industry to figure out how to make every tool we have better and better for filmmakers specifically, not just, um, You know, better technology.
You know, one of the things we always talk about with this stuff is there is absolutely an art to it that, uh, people like Leo, um, very few people really understand and, and there's a lot of misinformation out there that, um, sends you in the wrong direction. Which is unfortunate. And those are the kinds of things that we try to fight because we know how valuable this, this tool set can be for filmmakers, and we don't want people getting the wrong idea or using it improperly and having a bad experience.
Which unfortunately, there have been several of those recently and we're, we're sort of fighting back by saying, Hey, ours isn't like that.
[00:32:43] LEO: Right. Not at our stage. I mean, and that's the, that's the thing is like as, as one of the, the DP here, um, helping develop it with aj, um, and I come from the industry. I'm not, I'm not a gamer.
I'm not an, uh, video engineer. I am, I am a, a union cinematographer living in Los Angeles, working in Hollywood. And so I know what the tolerance is of what directors and creatives need. So when he asked me to help him out and like help, like shoot and do tests and like we, and create a, a workflow and a list of what to do and not do and how we can make the not do.
Into a do and make it better than, you know. I was intrigued and so fast forward to now, and I'll bring in a new director and I'll shoot the project here with them. And what's really fascinating is the freedom that I give the director, the creatives, the actors, um, by like, and using Orbital as a backdrop and setting it up so that all this is in place.
Do, do, do, do, do you know it's all in place. And then, then the director's there and all they have to do is worry about. The performances with their actors. That's it. And, and so what I get to experience is the punctuated, uh, creativity that is, that leaps off the page with these performances. And I've seen the evolution of it in f in like in real time.
And it's really, as a filmmaker at my, at my very core, not just, you know, a dp, I'm just a, I, I love movies, but to watch it, that evolution happen and go, wow. Because now they have the freedom. To express and they have the safety to express and the repeatability that the rainstorms gonna go from this side to this side.
And she can, and on a queue, like look into a candle and blow it out at the right moment. You know, those are things that you couldn't control. And because of the weather control and all that, it's like, it, it frees them up to have almost close to perfection of what they had envisioned without limitations.
And that is a Pandora's box that you give to a director and he's like, whoa, I can do anything. And, and, and, and he, and he can or she can and it's wonderful. And then they just, they might drive home, like thinking of all the other things they could do. So that's, that's why it's a box. It's, that's cuz it's a bad thing.
It's just, it opens up everything.
[00:35:11] JOSH: yeah, I mean, you know, first off, I just wanna say like, you're really, you're energizing me creatively. I'm getting very excited, just by having this conversation with you.
[00:35:21] LEO: I've been telling you about it for a while. I've been
[00:35:24] JOSH: I know, I know, I know,
[00:35:26] LEO: gotta come down. Blow your, yeah. I.
[00:35:29] JOSH: Life is, is busy these days. but certainly you haven't, I really do appreciate the, uh, the window that you've given me into, into what you guys are doing there. The, um, what is interesting, and I wanna be clear that, this is not a negative criticism from my end.
Like, I'm like really fascinated, watching the technology, what it's capable of and the evolution of it. And you know, once you have the awareness that the technology is being used, like, I feel like, you know, you alluded to, some, I guess, pitfalls that like you have to watch out for.
I was reading, um, one of the dps on the Mandalorian was talking about the luminance issues and how when they shoot something that's supposed to be outside, like they go outside on the back lot so they get, the proper luminance. and I was wondering if you could explain that a little for listeners who may not understand exactly, why that is.
[00:36:21] AJ: Yeah, I know Leo will have something to say on this too, because we heard that same thing and decided to put it to a test because, you know, every time we hear something they say, oh, you can't do this, you can't do that.
Those are the first things that we want to do. So, uh, we actually made a, a project with Sony where, um, the, I, the idea specifically was, came out of that was, oh, well we can't do bright daytime outside. All right, let's shoot something in the middle of a desert with a flaming, crashed airplane and see, and see what happens.
Um, and I think that, part of it really comes down to. you have, you have these people that are controlling this wall, right? They come from visual effects or they come from, gaming or even, you know, tech driven kinds of companies. And then you've got the cinematographer, uh, who comes from, you know, understanding light and, and how to shape things.
And they don't know this technology. So they're listening to those people that are, you know, running the wall. And unfortunately, some of the. Advice I think that is being given is incorrect. So, one of those big things is that you need to have a full, like l e d ceiling capping the stage and that you use that as a light.
Um, it is a really low quality light to try to use. I think it's, it's good for reflections for something like The Mandalorian or a car commercial. Mm-hmm. But having room above you to light properly gives you the capability to do those things that, like you're saying, that DP said he couldn't do. Uh, and we've heard of multiple occasions where.
Dps who have a ceiling, A L E D ceiling, are ripping out parts of it to put lights in. Um, for that same reason, they have to shape the light and create what they're trying to create. But go ahead, Leo. Cause you shot the, the Sony project,
[00:38:16] LEO: the Shape. Oh, yeah, yeah. And that, that was one of the other things is like Yeah, the, the, the idea of, um, it doesn't feel like it's outside, you know, like that, that was the misnomer that a lot of us, uh, were given.
And so I know Sony felt that way and they were like, Hey, we, we want to see it done. So they, they, they brought their Venice two over, I think it hadn't been released yet, and we were one of the first to test it on a virtual wall. and it worked really well because what you, what you do is you, like, you, you think about it like this.
Remember those, those 14 or 15, layers of, uh, of latitude I talked about earlier? And then if you get the asset. In that frame, like obviously anything above that is waste, right? And it would be like if you went outside and you shot and you overexposed the sky, but you got everything else. So what you do is now you're like, now you think with what you control the earth with, now you're like, okay, let me get my highlights in these top two, three areas.
And then you can dial in the wall for the sky for that. And you're like, okay, maybe this very, very top one will let that go. Like to simulate the over-exposure in, in and outside. And then you can dial in the rest of the asset, um, and, and, and, and go all the way down to your lower levels. And then so that replicate. Your latitude. So then now you light the foreground in those in such a way, because think about like the latitude is locked in, in, in the wall. Then you light your foreground to match that, but then you, but then you, but you put highlights and you put other things within your character that's in the foreground at those top levels.
And then you put, um, the, at the lower levels of, of the mark who was our, our, one of our, our characters. And I, we, we'll send you the, the video so you can attach it if you'd like. Um, we, we have a finished cut of it and, uh, and, and then you, you put him in the, in, in and you light him the same way. So you're lighting both the asset and him in the same way that you would light outside.
Um, and you're trying to put them in the same levels. And he's like a microcosm of the background in as far as light is concerned. And so now if you're, if you're pegging the, the, the, the digital camera at its highest levels and its lowest levels, and you're, and you have this scene with the shadows, the drop shadows of the airplane are at one o'clock, then psychology takes over and it's like, oh, they're outside. They're outside. And this is, and this is very believable. And then, and then when people watched it, I know that the, all the people from Tokyo were in the, were in the back there. They were flipping out. They couldn't believe that this was on a stage. They were looking at the monitor. Looking at their camera that was capturing what was into the monitor, then looking at the stage right in front of their camera, and they're like, whoa.
It's like that, uh, the Jackie Chan meme, you know, that, you know that I'm talking. He is like, oh, you know, like, how, what's, how's this possible? You know? And um, that was a riot. That was so much fun. And then it was just like, okay, we gotta check that off. Let's, let's do something else.
[00:41:34] AJ: Yeah. I think, I think there's also, um, I've heard this a lot that, um, well, you know, the l e d wall's not punchy enough to give you like some direct light.
Well, don't use it as a light. Yeah. I mean, that, that's the thing that we tell everybody, like stop using it as a light. Um, it's, it's a really, you know, they, they have this thing called c r i, it was a color reproduction index. I think now there's a. It's SSI now, but uh, we used to call it c r i and the c r i of the sun, which is a perfect light.
With a perfect color spectrum is at a hundred, right? And so all the lights on your set, you want to be as close to a hundred as possible. Some of the newer lights that we're using, like this one there, uh, you know, it's a C R I of about 85 or 90, and that's pretty good. The c r i of an l e d wall is 13, so don't tell me you're gonna get good, uh, skin tones from something that has so many gaps in the color spectrum.
Um, so, you know, I, I think the other thing is, you know, that that camera sensor is, is being pointed at a light and we're trying to trick the sensor into thinking it's not a light. You shouldn't use it as one.
[00:42:49] LEO: Right? I mean, I, I, we've heard of methodologies. I mean, we, we, like my friends are on some of the major shows that you know of.
Um, but uh, they, they've been told things that are like, oh, you know what? If you have a character standing there and you need more fill light on them, then like, right where that's, you can see here where this Oh, is, imagine that as a big square of white and like emitting light. And they're like, and so to a tech, like a, a game engine designer or somebody who's not in, who doesn't have a color meter, they, um, they might think, oh, there's more light.
Right? But it's not color. It's not, and that's why, and it's, and so even though you, you put a big block of light on the wall, how are you supposed to flag that? Like, how are you supposed to cut it and shape it? And like, if you want to do a Charlie bar across the eyes, or if you wanna like do a teaser or a fade or something, how are you supposed to do that?
If it's like, A cove of light that's, you know, six feet feet tall and on top of that, you know, like, like the color that it hit touches the skin. I don't think it's any accident that Mandalorian wears a helmet, you know, like, because the, the reflective nature of that is, it works great, but, you know, I know that there's other sequences where they show skin, but like for the most part, he's in that metallic outfit and it's like, oh, okay.
Or stormtroopers, you know, you know, there's no skin. I mean, there is skin, but it's, it's harder. It gets muddy. Yeah. Not very often.
[00:44:21] AJ: Yeah. I think the other thing too is, um, if you're in a big l e d cove and you're using the ceiling and the walls as light, um, the, the camera sensor can make rounding errors on the colors.
So colors are measured in nanometers and, uh, I know of examples from big shows where they'll walk in a cast and they're wearing say, yellow outfits. And you look in, you look at them and you see that they're wearing yellow outfits and you look in the camera and they're orange. And it's because if the color is not being presented properly with the full spectrum of light on it, then the camera's not seeing that full spectrum and rounding in a different direction.
And, um, that's, you know, another reason why you really have to have real lights. Um, and you know, it's kind of like anything, right? I mean, if you go outside and you shoot a walk and talk down the street, you're still gonna light it. You're not just gonna say, oh, well this is the light that would be in this universe.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You put the sun in a certain spot and behind you and bounce, you know, whatever you're gonna it, you always have to craft and shape it for the
[00:45:32] LEO: story.
Yeah. And I think to, uh, uh, I know you're gonna say something. Let me throw in one thing here. Um, uh, my gaffer hunter and I, we, we often, like, we look at a scene and go, this, the, the first thing we think of, like, when AJ throws up the asset for the first time, he's like, Hey, we, this is the next project that's gonna be shot here.
Let's take a look at it. So we look at it and we go, oh, it's a jungle sequence. All right, so if we were gonna do this for real in the jungle, what would it look like? Like what, like we'd have, you know, crane here, a condor there. We'd have like a 40 by 40 fly swatter above, so that to, to, to soften the, the direct sunlight.
But we'd still push dapple through. So we start thinking about what we do in the real world and then, and then go from there. And it's, so you're, you're like, and you're always like thinking. Like in the, like in the real world, like how to replicate that light. What is that dapple gonna look like in the jungle?
Like, how do we create movement of the trees? So you're still as a filmmaker doing all those things, but you're using real light to do it as you would in, in the field. It's just you have this optical illusion as your backdrop to help you get most of the way there.
[00:46:50] JOSH: Totally. Yeah. I mean, just seems like what you're saying is I feel like what, you know, is always. At the end of the day, the answer is you still have to light it the way you would light anything else? Um, something that's made me think of, it's not ex, it's not exactly what you're talking about, the space shots in Rogue One, for example, look so good.
And, I was trying to figure out why until somebody pointed out it's because they're blowing out the highlights, like on the spaceships, because, when the sun is your primary light source and there's no, you know, medium to really filter, it's this, it's this harsh sunlight.
It's like if you look at, video of like, the International Space Station or the space shuttle or something, it's like, the lights are really light. They're really blown out. so if you're imagining, well if I was actually trying to shoot this. you know, giant fuck off star destroyer.
What, how would I be shooting it? And it's like, well, you would probably, be blowing out some highlights because it's, it's, it's so bright.
[00:47:45] LEO: Call me up a
[00:47:46] AJ: hammerhead Corvette. That's my
[00:47:47] LEO: favorite scene. I'm glad you said that. Cause you feel it. You feel that, oh gosh. You feel that moment.
[00:47:55] JOSH: no, yeah. The last like, third of that, movie is like perfection. So good. Um,
[00:48:02] LEO: or, or the last, uh, 20 minutes of episode three, but we'll talk about that later.
[00:48:06] AJ: Wasn't that, uh, what's the guy's name? The guy who just did, and, or,
[00:48:09] JOSH: uh, Tony Gilroy.
[00:48:11] AJ: Tony Gilroy. Yeah. So Tony Gilroy, I think is, was the reason for that last sort of 20 minutes of the movie, um, which is, yeah, like you said, the best parts.
[00:48:20] JOSH: Yeah, it's so good. Um, I guess I just have a question, well, I have two questions. the digital cinema that was on display for, for episode two, attack of the clones, and then also episode three, which is only 2005. It was only three years later.
So, so we're still talking about the very, uh, beginnings of the, the modern age of, digital image acquisition here. can you see the limitations of the technology then versus how, how it would look now? I guess what I'm asking is what would a film. Shot digitally in 2002 or 2005.
what are the tells and the giveaways in terms of the quality of the image and what has been, you know, quote unquote solved since then?
[00:49:04] LEO: I mean for like, I mean latitude, I, I've mentioned it several times, but the I, I've shot on the F 900 I. There's a fan film that was sanctioned that we did, called Forced Alliance, and it was shot on the exact same lenses, if I remember correctly, that was used on episode three, I think that, yeah, episode three.
Um, so they're called, they're basically the Digi Primes, the Sony Digi Primes. And they had, they were, um, they're, you know, they were good, I guess for, for the time, uh, F 900, the workflow on that thing was clunky at best. The batteries would go fast, and then they tried to, you know, change the body and then they added the genesis later, and then the genesis was like a tank and it, it was whatever.
It didn't, it didn't, but Sony had been there all along. And so, The latitude of digital cinema now, it's hard to distinguish sometimes if, if something's shut on film or something is digital. Unless you go to the set.
[00:50:08] AJ: go to the set. Yeah. Yeah. Because, because really the, the, I think the greatest probably thing that's been solved is the sensitivity of the sensor. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you need so much less light now, to create the same looks. Right. I was on, um, we were on, uh, the sh the show Justified City Prime Evil, um, which is coming out I think this summer.
and there was a chance that, they were going to get, uh, Quintin Tarantino to direct an episode, and because they knew that he was gonna want to shoot film, they had to put in. a lot more spaces for lighting. Um, just in case he was, so, we had all these extra rigs that were necessary if he wanted to shoot film, of course it didn't happen.
So all that rigging was done for nothing, but, um, but yeah, I think that's a big
[00:50:54] LEO: one. Yeah. media size is like huge now. Like we, you know, with eight K cameras, six K cameras, they, they can, they can hold it. The, the F 900 at the time was, was that 10 80? I think it was 10 80. That was a 10 80 p. Yeah.
[00:51:08] JOSH: they shot, they shot attack of the clones at 10 80 p.
[00:51:11] LEO: It's so nuts. Wow. I didn't even think, I haven't even thought about that. So,
[00:51:16] JOSH: crazy. Which is absolutely crazy. Yeah,
[00:51:19] AJ: I think the other. The other thing about those that film episode two, also episode one and three, is that everybody assumes, because we were talking about digital, everything's moving to digital, that everything you saw on screen was digital, and there are so many physical models Mm.
That were used. Yeah. That we know several of the model makers and, um, you know, they're indistinguishable from the cgs. It's, I mean, they look really good, especially for that time. Yeah. So I think that's,
[00:51:53] JOSH: No.
[00:51:55] AJ: I think people don't realize also that, you know, model making still has a place in cinema.
Because even with Mandalorian, so one of the reasons I ever found out what they were doing on Mandalorian was because a friend of ours was, Creating miniatures of some of the set pieces because they didn't have time to create everything digitally. They wanted to scan miniatures. And so, you know, miniatures are huge for virtual production as well.
[00:52:23] JOSH: Uh, well that's really interesting, especially because, yeah, you can create a physical miniature and then scan it and then using your technology you can, you know, I guess in the old days or in, uh, the days of the Star Wars prequels that we're talking about, like 20 years ago, you would, shoot.
your actors in front of a green screen and compli them in. But you know, now you can literally have , the miniature environment surround them, So it's sort of, it's sort of the best of all worlds there,
[00:52:51] LEO: Actually, I'll give you one more, Josh, with a miniature. What you're doing is you're replicating real life, right? Like, like let's say do a cityscape, right? Like London in, in the Jack the Ripper time period, right? Um, and now you have it in, in a miniature. So that means that you have to, uh, with, with optics, you have to change the circles of confusion and the depth of field to match what that miniature is, right?
So that means that you know, a certain, a 2.8, you have this much in real life, but at 2.8 in a miniature world, you're like, you're like, right, right, right in here, right? This little tiny little thi like space. So you put that on the optics on a miniature set in front of an l e d wall. That means you can play the miniatures much closer to the wall and the light from that wall, even though it's crs, you know, not the best, but the overall ambience of hook.
Yeah, it's still interactive. Let's, so, so you have Jack Skelton, like on a broom. I'm mixing everything up right now. Jack Skelton on a broom with Harry Potter punching each other. Like, and, and you'll, they'll, they'll be affected onto the miniature roofs, you know, as they, like, they fly across. So like, you start thinking in so many different levels with, with the, with this technology and it's, it's really fun.
And now, now you can drop the, the depth of field. So it's like micrometers, you know, and, and then it just, it, it looks
[00:54:20] AJ: right in the background. Well, yeah, and like shooting miniatures, like we, we did with Fon Davis, we did some spaceship tests, right. Where, you know, instead of having to do, you know, your blue screen comping and, and trying to figure out what that match move would be in space, you can literally just shoot it with space
[00:54:38] JOSH: Right,
[00:54:39] AJ: and actually have the move track.
Um, you know, so it's, it's pretty. It just opens up so
[00:54:46] LEO: many doors. Yeah. I mean, you know, you know the name Fon Davis, right? Josh? Or, I don't, yeah. Yeah. So he, he was here and it was just fun watching him. Like we were, we were both like moving around. I'm like, geeking out cuz it's freaking Fon Davis standing in front of me, um, with one of his models that he made and we're, he's like, wait, so that means you can just move the, the space?
And he's like, yeah, we can move the space and then it can reflect this way. And then, and then he's like, whoa, so this is the shot and he's got this little camera and he's moving around. He's like, oh, that looks good already. And that's what we hear so much is, oh, that looks good already. And then, you know, obviously we'd like to augment it with lighting, but to make it perfect.
But yeah. Yeah, there it is.
[00:55:28] JOSH: Another question I had, just in terms of the differences in the mediums, you know, something that I think a lot of directors, a lot of, of chil find desirable is that quality of film grain that is, something that just occurred naturally and organically when shooting on film because, like you were saying, aj it's emulsion, it's, chemicals having a chemical reaction and it just sort of, does what it does.
And that's, and that's, the look. But how, I guess subconsciously when you're seeing a purely clean digital image, for some it's without that kind of mitigation of like film grain between you and, the perfectly replicated image, like, I'm just wondering, do you encounter?
people who miss Film Grain or who say to hell with Film Grain, or is that something that ever factors
[00:56:19] LEO: Just put
[00:56:19] AJ: it in a post now. Yeah.
[00:56:22] JOSH: Yeah.
You just gotta slap it on. Yeah.
[00:56:24] LEO: Oh, you, and you can, you can change how big or how thick it is. I mean, I, I w um, I was doing prep for a potential job and we, this same thing came up. It was a 1970s, TV show. and so we were exp experimenting with Kodachrome looks and like what Kodachrome really would've done if we shot it right now, if it still existed.
Kodachrome 64. Not, not the, the lower speed one, like the 15 or the 20 And, and then it was good. And then Aiden Stanford at Arsenal is like, well, let's throw some grain on it. And he's like, oh, that's, that's too much grain. That wouldn't be on Kodachrome. And then, and then you start dialing it back.
I'm like, yeah, there it is. Right there. That's, and then, then you lift it up a little bit. I'm like, cuz the, the grain added, like, it, it would feel like a little lower and just because of the, the natural thing of grain. And then you just add a little lift and then you're just like, oh. That's pretty per, and I shoot a lot of film.
I mean, my Instagram's, I mean, fistful of film. I used to, I shoot all kinds of film cameras still. but it, it looks great. Like he said, you just slap it on and then you can adjust the, the, the temperament of it.
[00:57:33] AJ: Yeah, I mean, you can also just shoot film. I mean we, uh, the show Westworld, I think that it's season finale over at Nance Studios and they shot film on the l e d wall.
so I mean
[00:57:46] JOSH: that's true. yeah, you could just shoot film on the l e D stage.
[00:57:50] AJ: Yeah. And, and film actually is more forgiving in so many ways. it's actually way easier to, to work with because it has a global shutter. You know, I think, uh, first man, our friend Ian Hunter, uh, was a visual effects supervisor on the show.
First Man, the movie First Man. Um, and won an Oscar for it. And that was that, that was using a big l e d wall, which it was before we had really fine pixel pitch, so it was a, you know, three millimeter pixel pitch. So the camera had to be fairly far away, but because they were shooting film, the fall off on the lenses was such that, you didn't see the mo.
You know, you don't really get more, I don't think, with film. Yeah. So, uh, that was, you know, and they just shot film and they, they didn't even think twice about it. It wasn't like, well, what, what do we have to do with the shutter angle and what, nothing like you just, it's film. Just shoot
[00:58:41] LEO: it. Yeah. Because it's, it's overall a softer look.
And, um, and that's why a lot celebrities had a lot of pushback in the early aughts when Red came out and then the Alexas and all, and everyone started making digital cameras and they immediately went from looking pretty good for your age to holy crap, look at those lines. and so then, then, then, you know, we have to do all kinds of things to the lenses to soften that up, you know, filtration and, and nose grease and, and all these, all these tricks.
But, yeah, like the, because it's so much harsher and then you take that. Not harsher, but detailed, I think is a better term. And then you took that into, you know, the, the digital world. And you know, you have to, you have to, that is a factor, you know, that's, that's definitely a factor over film.
[00:59:30] AJ: So though now we have, uh, live deep fake technology and, uh, yeah, in touching, that
[00:59:36] JOSH: Yeah, I
w I was reading an article about that. That's, that's, that's wild. That's, that's, that's
really, it's really
[00:59:43] LEO: on us?
[00:59:44] JOSH: I don't
[00:59:45] AJ: when does this come out?
[00:59:46] LEO: Wait, wait, wait, wait. So, yeah. Yeah. When does this come out? Nothing. Nothing, Josh. We're just destroying the world. But any anyhow.
[00:59:57] JOSH: uh, um, no, I'm sorry. It wasn't something I've read. It was, uh, it was a podcast that was talking about what goes on with digital de aging and like, you know, nips
here and there. yeah.
[01:00:10] LEO: I think what AJ was, well hopefully this will come out in a different, in a time where we can talk about it, but
[01:00:16] JOSH: no, yeah, I mean, this isn't actually, this isn't gonna come out until the end of May.
[01:00:20] AJ: Okay. So we can talk about it. Yeah, no. So we, we actually just, um, shot a project where one of the pieces of technology being used was a live deep fake. So, um, you know, one, one of the things, if you look at, say Mandalorian season, two, where Luke shows up. and it, it kind of works.
Like it was pretty, pretty good, right? But not great. Um, and part of the reason is because it was a post process completely, and the actor didn't get a chance to see like what it looks like. On him as he's, as he's moving around. you're not able to affect your performance. So, you know, I shouldn't call it deep fake, it's actually called digital prosthetics.
Yeah. So the idea of it is that it still requires an actor, right? And in this case, the actor was able to see what his face looked like, what it would've been, a post process as he's acting. And so he can see, oh, if I do this, I don't, I don't look like that character. maybe I should keep my head here. And, oh, if I do that, then I look more like the guy.
So, it's a really great. thing for that. And also, you know, one of the, the biggest things that this is gonna do for people is no more nine hour makeup sessions for alien makeups. You know, if, if an actor can just walk on screen pre-calls
[01:01:44] LEO: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Makeup, pre-calls. Yeah. Yeah.
[01:01:48] JOSH: No. Well that's true
[01:01:48] LEO: know, what's what? what's crazy is this stuff that he's talking about, I mean, as I'm moving a light on our physical actor's face like this, I'm ju I'm, I mean, I'm just moving it side to side. I know your audience is mostly audio, so they can't see my hand gestures right now. Um, but if as I'm moving it side to side, I'm watching the drop shadow across his nose of the.
What is it? Prosthetic? Digital Prosthetic? Yeah. The digital prosthetic person that it's, he's, it's happening instantaneously. My camera team, my lighting team, they're all just like looking at it going, what, what are we, what, what, what's going on? So, and then I talk and like, which is really weird because the reason why we're doing this, and I talked to, to some of the, the, the people that not only is the asset easier, but because there's less physical stuff in the volume, it helps with the tracking of, of what, what's going on with the face.
And, and I was like, wow, that's a, that's like a side benefit we didn't even think about. Like, and that's the thing is like every day it's like, whoa, that really makes sense. Cuz if they were doing it in a real place, they'd have to like track, they'd have to look at all the things that it wasn't. And then isolate those and then just track the face.
But because there's nothing in this virtual stage, but we're in a physical, it looks like a physical space, but it, there's nothing physically here, and it's just like, oh, okay. There's another reason why virtual production can work really well on top of the multitude of of them. So, yeah.
[01:03:29] JOSH: no, that's really mind blowing. So, so I'm just like thinking in terms of applications for a show like the Mandalorian or like sci-fi or something like that. So you're, you're basically saying like, you know, not to mix my franchises here, but like, say, you have a guest actor who's only available for small amount of time and, you know, they're supposed to be a Vulcan, but they can't, show up, uh, for the early call, like with this, digital prosthetics.
Like you could just. Give Give them pointed ears.
[01:03:58] LEO: You're, you're so funny. Good example. Good example, Josh.
[01:04:02] AJ: I think there, there's also sort of the controversial aspect to it, right? Where, um, for, uh, rogue One they brought back, , Peter Cushing,
[01:04:12] JOSH: Peter Cushing. Yeah.
[01:04:13] AJ: right? So, you know, and in this project that we worked on, they also brought back someone who's no longer with us.
And that's another thing you can do. And it's, it's gonna be controversial, uh, in how we figure out who gets paid for that and Right. Who gets to say whether or not that's okay. Right.
[01:04:32] LEO: It's a whole, you know, that's a litany of things that, you know, I don't know. I just make it.
[01:04:42] JOSH: well, you know, it is interesting. this isn't exactly where I intended to go with this conversation, but like, there are a lot of these strange ethical issues and these like, strange, well, who's responsible for this issues, that are coming up right now with all of these, these ai, uh, chatbot technologies and, images and it's, you know, trained on the data sets of, people's work who didn't necessarily know that that was happening and stuff like that.
And, I think something we're all grappling with right now is, you know, how much is too much and when does the thing that we love stop being the thing that we love? And it's, it's, it's, it's something that's unrecognizable. Like I really do appreciate, Leo, the way that you're talking about the sort of the, the romance and the humanity of the, that's sort of inherent in these, projects.
Because at the end of the day, I think, you know, all of this technology is really in service of creating something that's, supposed to be very human. It's supposed to, you know, really hit us on a, a visceral level. And, you know, I think whether or not the technology that creates it has to like, yeah, I guess I don't really know what I'm saying except like, I don't know where the line is
[01:06:03] LEO: Yeah, I see where you're going.
[01:06:06] JOSH: like I appreci. your eye and your sensibility and like the, for lack of a a better word, the, the romance that you have for, for all of this stuff. You know, I think that that comes through in the work somehow. It's not, it's not something you can necessarily quantify.
but I feel like that, like humanness comes through on screen
[01:06:29] AJ: Yeah, the, these are just tools, right? I mean, you can give, you can give these tools to anyone and they're not gonna come up with, uh, , the same creative choices, right? in the end, you have to have a passion for your project. You have to have a vision, and you use the tools that are necessary to get the shots that you're trying to get and sell the story that you're trying to sell. I think, in the end it's still, it's still the same thing that we've been doing for years and years. It's filmmaking. Um, we talk about this a lot because people are like, oh man, you're not even gonna need the l e d walls in a year because everything's gonna be digital. The actors are gonna be digital.
It's like, look, all that is is probably true. We're probably gonna get to a point where we can do a fully digital production, right? With, mocap and whatever else. Um, there's been versions of that already. Um, but in the end, does it serve your story? And if we understand all of those tools and we use them to the best of our ability to tell the story, and that's, that's what matters.
And things like chat, G p T, you know, they're, they're great for helping out. I think with, you know, I don't, I don't think of 'em as, you know, creative tools. I think of 'em as, um, doing the busy work. I don't want to do Yeah. You know, it's like, write me a press release about and the properly formatted press release, you know, or write me some code for this thing we're trying to do and unreal.
And then they, it writes you the code and yeah, it needs a little bit of adjustment because it doesn't understand exactly what you're trying to do, but it takes away busy work and it allows you to focus on the creativity. Now, am I gonna let Mid Journey decide the designs of my characters? No, definitely not.
But can I have it spin up some things based on previous artwork of mine or, you know, to, to try to help educate people on what I'm trying to do. Sure. I mean, I think that's, it's valuable as long as it doesn't become a crutch.
[01:08:28] JOSH: Yeah, no, um, you know, it's interesting too because I think, I think as with any new technology, the, um, like the use of cgi, computer generated imagery, I think, you know, it's a really good example where. you see what's possible with it in those initial uses in the late eighties and early nineties, that ILM did of like, you know, the abyss and T2 and, and, uh, Jurassic Park obviously.
And this is, basically the cream of the crop spending as much time, as much money as they need for these few shots. and it's used very judiciously because of how labor intensive it is and how uncertain they are. And then within a few years you have projects where, well, oh, the CG can do anything, so let's just do everything in CG.
And, and, and, you start to see a lot of examples of the technology used. Poorly, where it's strengths and weaknesses are full display. And then you start to see people realize, oh, okay, well, you know, maybe we only use this for certain kinds of things.
Or maybe we just have to be, we have to put a little more thought into, when and how we use it instead of as, as you said, aj, instead of using it as a crutch where it's like, well just let it do everything and, and do its thing. And whatever it is, it is. similarly with digital cinema, like I think. There were some really interesting kind of experiments in the early odds. Like, you know, I'm thinking of, um, you know, Michael Mann in particular with, uh,
[01:09:53] AJ: Viper Film Stream or VI Miami Vice.
[01:09:56] JOSH: yeah, with, with, uh, Miami Vice and um, uh, what was that movie he, collateral? Yeah. Where, you know, he, he's really sort of leaning into the video ness of the video and like, you know, seeing what it can do
[01:10:09] LEO: He also did Public Enemies too, which was also that video. Same camera,
but it didn't
[01:10:15] JOSH: Well, that public enemy example, I think is instructive because it's a period piece, The quality of the image just feels, it, it doesn't match the content of the story. Right. Whereas for something like a collateral, you know, you sort of go with it even though it's a little like, oh, that's a little not what I'm used to seeing. But it kind of works, because you are used to seeing, poorly lit streets shot on video at night, and it creates some kind of an eerie thing.
But like, when you're shooting something that the aesthetics are sort of inseparable from the, the content, you know, like something that's a period sort of stylized movie. It, it doesn't really,
[01:10:57] LEO: Hm.
[01:10:57] JOSH: know, the artifice starts to be like front and center and you you're aware that it's a film that's shot a certain kind of way.
[01:11:04] AJ: Yeah, all those films had the same kinda look.
That Viper film stream kinda look.
[01:11:09] LEO: Yeah,
I think, I think actually was, it might have been the F 900 for Miami Vice at least. Yeah, for Miami Vice. I think it might have been. You can double check. I don't, I don't know. But, uh, I know it was Dion Bibe who did that and uh, he also did collateral.
I think he took over, I think Paul Cameron was the original dp and then he a couple dp. Yeah. So, but yeah, I think,
yeah. And then you're also, you're also, uh, there's one more, uh, Zodiac was Viper film stream that was, uh, uh, Dave
[01:11:42] JOSH: Well see. Zodiac was really interesting because that kind of like clinical style of the film, I think, sort of, worked with the style of the image. So put that aside like, there is something that I, I'm just curious to get your guys thoughts on. So, so episode two, attack of the Clones.
First feature film shot on digital video versus, celluloid film. and then episode three obviously was, um, was also shot Digitally, we come to the sequel trilogy, and the New Spade of Disney Star Wars films. And correct me if I'm wrong, I believe all of the feature films have been shot on 35 Mill again,
[01:12:19] LEO: Yeah.
[01:12:19] JOSH: I think a part
[01:12:20] LEO: Thank you jj.
[01:12:23] JOSH: Well, yeah, well, well, so, so I think a part of that was, setting all value judgments aside, I think there was definitely an attempt to recreate this kind of aesthetic experience of the original trilogy from the seventies and eighties that was shot on film and has a certain quality about it.
Um, and I think. You know, even though there is a ton, a ton of CGI in, the new Disney movies, I think there is a concerted effort to making these new films feel more of a piece with those original films. And I'm just wondering, you know, and even to, uh, to bring up the Tarantino example that, mentioned earlier it's like there are still certain filmmakers who still wanna shoot on film despite the potential of digital to be virtually indistinguishable if you're shooting it properly.
Um, you know, was it necessary for the force awakens to be shot on 35? Like, do you think that digital is in a place where you can still get that vibe, that look and that feeling of, you know, 1980s kind of blockbuster filmmaking shot on, digital video?
Or do you think that that was sort of the way to go?
[01:13:38] LEO: Um, I mean the, I feel like the original series, the 7 19 77 70, uh, 8 79 and 81 were all on Panovision, and that was the not on in it. We haven't even gotten to the lenses, but Panavision lenses, um, and when you return to film, you can put those Panavision lenses as well onto the Panavision camera and, and, and everything.
But, um, and I know you can, you can use a Panavision lens on a digital camera, but I think the two of them together created that homage, um, to the original series. And I, I, I don't know if that was intentional or, or, or if it was just for the homage or if it was just for the purity of it or, um, but you know, it, it, it was, it, it was very satisfying as a fan and as a filmmaker and as a cinematographer, is it definitely really satisfying that they did it that way?
Um, and there's one thing that we didn't even get into, and I think we're already at a minute or an hour and 30. When you shoot on 35 millimeter film, you gotta remember something. The, a lot of 35 or a lot of film cameras, they have a video tap on it and it, it basically, the image goes through a beam splitter and then the video tap is spits out like a four 80.
Or it maybe they might have upgraded for, for JJ they must have maybe it was like a seven 20 or a 10 80 video off of a beam splitter. And so it's not very good. And so what ends up happening on a 35 set is the operator is on the I piece and it's called an I piece, not a viewfinder. Um, it's an I piece.
And then the, the DP is literally right behind the operator looking past the magazine, the thousand foot mag, and probably meter. With a spot meter. And then right behind him or her is the director who's looking down and they're all imagining what a 50 millimeter looks like as, as, uh, Daisy Ridley is walking through the frame and, and, and they're just seeing the direction of, like, I just know from my experience, like seeing the, how the magazine points and turns and like they're trying to imagine right over the mat box what it looks like.
And then right behind that the director is a production designer who's looking and they're all trying to visualize. What the frame is. The spirit of filmmaking on 35 is that you, you, you are a part of it. It's not just data that's being recorded to a, uh, a monitor and you're e everyone. Like, uh, if you've been on set lately, every, there's like 15,000 monitors everywhere and everyone knows exactly what the image is and they're, you have art departments that have screen share on their iPhone, and they're just like, they're getting the, and they're moving like knickknacks and doyles across a table and going, oh, that's the perfect positioning right there.
And it's. So much. It's a different methodology on being on 35 millimeter. And I think that might have been a conscious effort by, you know, our heroes over there, um, to, to bring that back cuz that feeling on set is completely different than digital.
[01:16:51] AJ: Yeah. And I think JJ Abrams, Chris Nolan and, and Quintin Tarantino, I think are co-owners of Kodak now, right?
Yeah, I think they are. I think part of that is to preserve that, you know, preserve not just film, but that process that you're talking about. I mean, that's, it's a very different kind of set and I, I always say to, you know, I, I sometimes teach, um, uh, film production class to actors, um, to give them more of an understanding of what um, What it's gonna be like on a set, um, you know, at my alma mater.
And so, uh, one of the things I tell them is, Hey, look, all these digital cameras are great because of all the latitude they allow you as far as you know, how long you can roll and how many takes you can do. Uh, you're not, you know, spending money, you know, it's not a thousand dollars every time you roll out of a mag.
Um, however, people who have shot film have a different sensibility of the care and quality that they put into a shot because they understand that if I do three takes of this, That's $2,000, you know? And, and I have to really make sure that I'm, I'm getting exactly what I want. And that amount of thought that goes into the blocking, you know, the camera blocking the, how we're gonna cut this together so we make sure that we're not wasting, um, makes you a better filmmaker.
Yeah, absolutely. And even when you go to digital, having had that experience, if you keep that, you know, while keeping the advantages of, Hey, we can still keep rolling because this actor is almost there and we can get 'em there. If, if we just give him one more quick note. Um, You know, then you get the advantages of that.
But also, you know, the advantages of shooting film, which is that care and, and quality that goes into your shot creation.
[01:18:48] LEO: Yeah. Because you can hear the magazine rolling on a film set, like you can, there's a little spindle on the take up side of a Panavision, which is the rear one closest to the operator, and it's got like a little, uh, like a zebra looking shape color.
So like a spiral. So when it's rolling you can see it like moving. And so if you're close enough to the camera, you can actually hear the motor and it's like going. And, uh, all that is is Money.
like turning. And it's like, and, and, and, and it's like, whoa, this is real. And so there is the elevated, an elevated awareness is ev it permeates every position on a 35 millimeter set because they can see that little spindle from a distance where there's sound or there're there.
Yeah. Yeah. It's like that or it's, or, or if it's wardrobe or, yeah.
And it's like whatever. Yeah.
[01:19:44] JOSH: you know.
[01:19:45] LEO: anyhow, he spent a lot of money on with me, so.
[01:19:50] JOSH: it's interesting too, like I have cut a few, films. I work as an editor, but I last used a Steck in 2001 and I learned a lot of, editing on, know, an actual flatbed, steck. And while I wouldn't trade the tools I have now, There is something to be said for, you know, when you wanna make a cut, you gotta really think it through because you have to physically cut that thing.
You gotta line up the the tape. And if you, if you messed up, you gotta, you gotta undo that very gingerly so, so, so that, the extra time that you're sitting there actually doing it, I think really kind of sharpens your, uh, your sensibility. I mean, I mean that's what I'm hearing from what, you're saying about shooting on a set that's shooting 35, it just seems like, you know, you really have to think it through.
Well, uh, guys, I could talk to you for hours and hours, you've been very gracious with your time and I've really enjoyed this discussion. is there anything that you, wanted to mention or say that we haven't gotten to yet?
[01:20:53] LEO: Nib, high football rules. Adam Sandler, wherever. I love you.
[01:21:06] JOSH: and AJ if, , people are curious about learning more , about Orbital virtual studios or, , seeing, , some of the work you guys have produced, where should they.
[01:21:15] AJ: So you can go to orbital vs.com. That's Victor, Sam Virtual Studios. Um, or they can follow us on Instagram, which is uh, orbital Virtual Studios.
[01:21:25] JOSH: And there will be, links to all that in the show notes. I want to thank my guests, AJ and Leo, for a really awesome conversation. And again, like I said, I could, talk to you guys for hours more, but, um,
[01:21:36] LEO: You should come to the set or
[01:21:37] JOSH: I will. I I will, I absolutely will. It's life is tricky lately, but I will absolutely, I I, especially after this conversation, I'm so, I'm like, I'm vibrating with excitement about what you guys are talking about.
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