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Claudio Miranda on Shooting 'Oblivion' with the Sony F65 & How They Created a Gorgeous In-Camera Effect

Photo © David James, Universal PicturesLast month cinematographer Claudio Miranda, ASC, took home the Academy’s top prize for cinematography for his work on Ang Lee’s Life of PiHis forthcoming feature, Oblivion, will be the first major motion picture shot with the Sony F65, and he recently talked with Jon Fauer of Film and Digital Times Magazine about his experiences with the camera, as well as some of the interesting techniques that the production used in place of shooting with a blue screen. Check out the trailer and a special behind-the-scenes video for Oblivion below:


According to Miranda, the decision to shoot with the F65 was born out of both a technical and an aesthetic need. It was known from the beginning that the film would be shot in 4k in order to create a more immersive experience, especially for the scenes shot on location in Iceland. Even though they were unable to completely finish in 4K due to the fact that it would have added significant costs and well over a month to post-production (especially since it was such an effect-intensive film), shooting in 4k and down-rezzing helped the team maintain the clinical level of detail in the final image that the project called for. When asked about his experiences with the F65 and how he would compare it to other digital cinema cameras, Miranda had this to say:

It’s a little cleaner. It’s very resolute and it has a huge color gamut. There’s a huge dynamic range. It holds well in the highlights. It gives you a great base for being malleable. For Oblivion, the look of this movie was F65.

The Oblivion team also used some incredibly unique techniques in regards to the production design. Check out this awesome behind-the-scenes video which explains the process:

Here again is Miranda to fill us in on the details of shooting with live projection:

For Oblivion, we had a 500 foot wide by 42 foot tall screen with 21 projectors. This gave us real-time 15K motion picture front projection. We sent a second unit to the top of a volcano in Hawaii for two or three weeks and they shot cloud formations from this high vantage point. We took all that footage and stitched the 3 cameras together and created this 15K image that would play live. Behind the actors was a real environment. The actors loved being in it.

What blows me away even more than the fact that these seemingly crazy special-effects shots were done entirely in-camera is the fact that nearly all of the lighting for these Sky Tower scenes came directly from the projection light bouncing off of the muslin projection surface. Maybe it’s just the cinematographer in me saying, “Wait a minute, you can’t do that with so little light,” but it’s fascinating to see the insane possibilities of these new, high sensitivity chips coupled with fast lenses (Miranda used Master Primes at a 1.4/2 split). Interestingly enough, the cloud background plates were shot on the RED EPIC, but Miranda felt that the mechanical shutter of the F65 actually helped sell the effect better than any electronic shutter camera, even at 180 degrees.

Also, be sure to check out the rest of Film and Digital Times interview with Miranda.

What do you guys think? Do you think the F65 will start gaining traction in Hollywood? What about using front-projection in place of traditional blue screen compositing? Is that something that will change the way these special-effects driven films are made, or is the technique only applicable to this film? Let us know in the comments.

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  • SydneyBlue120d on 04.1.13 @ 4:50AM

    I really hope to see Claudio Miranda credited as DP of the future Nolan and/or Pfister movies :P

    • SydneyBlue120d on 04.1.13 @ 5:07AM

      Sorry for my mistake: Jess Hall has already been chosen as DP for Transcendence.

  • The set: beautiful and a fantastic approach!
    The movie: uninteresting like hell, but hey, it`s just another Hollywood flick…

  • Really great behind the scenes video – very impressive way of working

  • Practical FX ftw!
    Great to see that they’re using projection techniques that have been around since the start of cinema instead of painstaking blue/green screening.

  • Frank Apollonio on 04.1.13 @ 8:56AM

    Actually After Earth was the first film the Sony F65 was used. I worked on it

  • Wonderful. I’m a big fan so far. I would suspect that this would transfer to a better home viewing experience. Green/blue screen is generally easily spotted in my living room.

  • Isn’t this the same technology that was used in old films when anybody got into a car? It always looks really fake then, so what’s the difference that makes this look so natural? Just the increase in resolution?

    • I think it was poor camera movement on the background that made driving scenes so unrealistic in the old films with the projection background technique.

  • I would hardly say that projecting images onto screens as backgrounds is groundbreaking or whatever, surely Hollywood has been doing that since the days of early Bond driving sequences etc.

    Lighting the set off of the projection spill also sounds like a work around – the key word in that sentence being spill. I think more credit should go to the focus puller if he/she is working at 1.4/2 ;)))

    • If the camera is sensitive enough than it is no longer spill, but a main and usable source of light.

    • I was going to say the same thing. It feels new because nobody uses it because of green/blue screen. I think this way is better. Like the actors said in the video…it helps them being able to see what’s in front of them. Now I would like to see someone do that on a lower budget.

      • I don’t think budget is an issue with this technique. It’s a matter of story, really…

        • I think it would costs an immense amount more to rent 21 15k motion picture projectors and send a second team to shoot with multiple cameras for two weeks on a volcano than to put up the same size green/blue screen and pay artists to key something in.

          • But you still need to have the footage, right? So the Volcano team has to go there, no matter what… the tons of money saved in post (reflections & spill) by doing it all in-camera will more than likely make up for the cost of the projectors.

          • I agree with Richard. And I don’t think you can replicate the same result with greenscreen . And it helps the actors.

  • The problem I see with working with front projection screens like this, is battling the light spill kicking back on the screen from your principal and practical lights used on the set. Any light that hits the screen other than the intended projection, will reduce the contrast and sharpness of the projected image.

  • The front projection used in 2001 is still highly effective to this day, I’m glad they are using it again.

  • This technique is very similar to what is done with HDR light probes to composite CG characters and props into a film only this time they are doing it in real life. I really like this take and hope to see more of it because now there is so much CG the actors and practical props are starting to look out of place to me like cardboard cutouts placed in front of a painting pretending to react to look at something that isn’t there. Even the best actors struggle with green screen because their eyes physically have nothing to lock and focus on.

  • I, too, believe this is a very good way to give actors a feel for the environment. There is little reason to believe that green/blue screen is the only effective way to create an environment in a movie. I expect to see some studios create this type of set with 15k screen projection setups for different types of productions in future.

  • That arm holding the camera in the B&W photo at the top looks like The Alien.

  • the f65 is a beautiful camera. it base image is so clean its spooky. fx community very keen on it. may yet be shortly superseded by other global shutter cams but with the 8k upgrade may hang on a little while.

  • Long live film.

  • AFAIK Oblivion and After Earth were both shot on F65, some other upcoming films too.

  • Wow, amazing real world effects!

    I’m talking Zach Alexander’s moustache, but the skybox is cool too.

  • If production space is an issue, I’m definitely feeling that front projection is a good idea. But I feel like you lose quality and depth using that method, I mean we’re talking about a single camera that has to capture and replicate a realistic color space using only the information from another camera. It seems like there will be too much loss. I’m surprised they didn’t have a bigger space and just light the blue screen farther from set, I’m sure they had the budget to do that. It’s usually an aesthetic I can well imagine, and it definitely looks like it could help actors immerse themselves in the context of the film better.

  • I am never a big fan of blue/green screen work and so I find this amazing
    I mean I admire the green screen artists in post production who can actually make it look convincing, but as a cameraman I always like to capture everything directly through the lens :)

    It’s just a personal preference, maybe it is just because I am not good at post production so I don’t have as much fun working with green screens even when someone else does the keying and stuff. When I film something on green screen I am never really happy with it and the end result never feels quite 100% right.

  • I’m very excited about using front screen projection used with modern pro digital cinema cameras.