May 26, 2014

Darren Aronofsky Guides You Through the Production of 'Black Swan' in This New Making-Of Doc

When Darren Aronofsky gave the cinematic world his very cerebral feature film, Pi (1998), it was an introduction into his career-long examination of the balance between light and dark, beauty and ugliness, and living and suffering. One of his projects that truly encapsulates this balance is Black Swan, a film that overtly and purposefully teeters between simplicity and baroqueness. If you want to dive into the tormented world of Aronofsky, take a look at Niko Tavernise's Metamorphosis, a beautifully shot, very intimate documentary that takes you behind the scenes of the production, as well as interviews with the director, DP, screenwriter, and many more.

One of the themes Aronofsky does so well in his films, like Requiem for a Dream, is this idea of change -- of a striking, dark to light and back again metamorphosis, and Black Swan is the film in which the director was really able to spread his wings and explore this. Centered around a production of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, Black Swan, according to the director, drew inspiration from Dostoyevsky's novella The Double for the motif of the doppelgänger, which plays a pivotal role in the film.

In Tavernise's Metamorphosis below, you'll learn all about the project, from its hectic 42-day schedule to how talented DP Matthew Libatique shot certain scenes, including the one with the underwater POV shot with Natalie Portman's character, Nina, in the bathtub. This is a great resource if you're looking to see how professional filmmakers work on a film every day, or if you want to become more of an expert on Aronofsky's artistic and cinematic sensibilities -- and who doesn't want that?

In fact, one of my takeaways from the series, which you can find about 5 minutes into the 2nd video (Chapter 2), is that as a director you must learn how to be flexible and work with what and who you have. Aronofsky says that having ideas for a film is good, but until an actor "tries it on," it doesn't really mean anything. You have to allow there to be collaboration and a free flow of ideas, because you can't "force what they're doing into a mold." Sometimes, you can't be too rigid about your vision, because if you've got something that doesn't fit, deviating from your original plan might be better than having the product of something that was forced into a space that doesn't feel natural.

Note: a password has been added to these videos. Watch while you still can! The password is "blackswan."

https://vimeo.com/95659638

https://vimeo.com/95659637

If you're wanting a little bit more, Tavernise also released extended interviews from his documentary, as well as almost 25 more minutes of behind the scenes footage. Check them out below:

https://vimeo.com/95659639

https://vimeo.com/95660457

What are your thoughts on Darren Aronofsky and his team's work on Black Swan? What are your takeaways from Niko Tavernise's Metamorphosis? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

[via  Niko TaverniseMentorless]

Your Comment

49 Comments

Great insight, thanks.
But...what on earth is this overdose of shallow depth of field in this featurette?!
It's like eating too much chocolate cake. Make one feel queazy, then later vomit.
Also pretty amateurish.
A child is a sweet shop of depth of field held the 5D.

May 26, 2014 at 6:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ivan noel

Such a stupid comment regarding an informative video.

May 26, 2014 at 7:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+1
Additionally, this doc isn't "new", as it was released on the Bluray years ago.

May 26, 2014 at 7:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Correction: I see the updated docs. My fault on that :-p

May 26, 2014 at 7:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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obviously either you know nothing about photography, or you are, as most amateurs, in love with completely excessive shallow depth of field. The camera work is amongst the worst I have seen in any professional video.

May 27, 2014 at 7:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ivan noel

Take a chill pill and check your ego, buddy. You don't actually get life-points for being obnoxious anonymously over the interwebs.

May 27, 2014 at 8:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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lol.
The only obnoxiousness in this is the one you personally feel for someone criticising this ever-present and insistent amateurish extreme depth of field that we see ad nausea since the 5D came out (and for an Aronofsky 'making of', which is where it hurts).
That, and the above comment 'stupid'.
One should be able to take a professional criticism on poor camera work, in such an important 'making of' (that I enjoyed!). My God, any film director does, all the time. And this excess of DOF is something more than one has commented on.
Ego? ...mmm isn't that when people talk about their own work?
'Anonymous' ... :-) that's my real professional and family name.
A little silly, really.

Back to the actual post (that I enjoyed), and away from people's hurt egos, apart from the usual self-congratulatory style of it, tediously typical of these featurettes, I thought it was well-made and thorough. Which is why I thought it real pity about that camera work - a comment well placed here in a blog about camera people, surely.

May 27, 2014 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ivan noel

Relax man, if its the "wost camera work youve ever seen", you need to look harder.

May 27, 2014 at 11:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+2 Stupid comment ! Très bon documentaire.

May 27, 2014 at 1:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jeff D

What dumb effin comment. It's a making of video, not one of your superior masterpieces (which I'm sure you're just about to link to pretty soon)

Relax, will ya?

July 15, 2014 at 5:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite filmmakers, Pi is my favorite film and is what inspired me to make my own films. As soon as I saw this article my eyes lit up! Thanks for sharing this doc with us. Get a good look at what makes Darren's films so special.

May 27, 2014 at 1:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dominic Drummond

I believe the shallow depth of field is a result of shooting situations where there is not much light, thus requiring a more open aperture, and voila, there's your shallow depth of field.

May 27, 2014 at 1:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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that's odd, I shot a feature 95% at night, on DSLR, and didn't suffer that insufferable and constant extreme depth of field, and incessant re-focusing. If the actual film is not like that, no reason for this to be so. Unfortunately, I think the filmmaker just thought it looked very 'pro'.
But I understand this (very enjoyable) blog has mostly amateur or semi-pro DSLR camera users, who still have not gotten over the gift of a super 35 sensor.

May 27, 2014 at 7:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ivan noel

Not to tit pick, but it was shot on a 5D....a camera with a full frame sensor (close to 65mm) and known to be prone to shallow DOP (overly shallow in my preference for most uses) unless you stop down the lens a lot. Its harder to get deeper DOP on a 5d than super35 no matter your level of expertise, especially while maintaining decent exposure in low light. Its BTS, its about the content/

May 27, 2014 at 11:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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That's why I like to shoot documentary stuff on 2/3" inch broadcast cameras. A 5D was never a good camera for documentaries in my opinion, and all the pros knew it.

I read about a documentary production recently that was made for German television, which they shot on S35 sensor cameras (not even as large as the 5D sensor!) - the cameraman said they had to argue a lot until they were allowed to make the film with these cameras. The producers and they people at the tv station said they had to shoot with 2/3" because "you cannot shoot a documentary properly with an S35 sensor". They actually had to prove they were able to do it right and get everything focussed properly before they were allowed to shoot it that way.

So much about handheld documentaries shot on full frame sensors, handheld and without a focus puller. Because who needs proper focus and a steady camera, when you can have artsy, shaky, blurry footage! ;)

May 30, 2014 at 10:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Yeah um...Fox, HBO and CBS/Showtime all have docu series from 5D sources. Especially Vice and a ton of reality shows (as B or A cam at times). That's a completely inaccurate statement.

June 1, 2014 at 8:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Like it or not, every video medium is moving to S35. Even many news crews are shooting on S35 cameras now. And during the last Super Bowl I noticed a RED Dragon and several S35 style cameras post-game.

I think S35 is the best size sensor for video/film and for photography. With recent cameras, the high ISO is so good that it's rarely hard to achieve a DOF fitting of the subject.

The argument about shallow DOF being overused and "amateur" is so old that we're actually seeing a tend toward bigger sensors and film formats again.

If you think you "know better" then show us, don't whine about it on the Internet.

February 27, 2016 at 1:32AM, Edited February 27, 1:34AM

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Where's the link to this film that was shot on available light at night with a DSLR? Which DSLR?

May 28, 2014 at 1:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Does it include the part where he steals all the plot from Perfect Blue and then says it was not even an inspiration? Which happened just two months after Satoshi Kon (director of PB) died of pancreatic cancer, aged 46.
http://badassdigest.com/2010/12/14/borders-line-is-black-swan-the-perfec...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbN2sWFOfe4
http://www.flixist.com/monday-movie-trivia-aronofsky-bought-perfect-blue...

May 27, 2014 at 3:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Honestly I don't think Black Swan is ripping off Perfect Blue, there are influences of it in there but I think it's an unconscious influence. Besides Aronofsky owns the rights to Perfect Blue, so even it was true it wouldn't really matter.

May 27, 2014 at 4:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert

He bought the rights and he can do a remake if he wants. But when asked about it, he would have to say it's a remake.

In this case it's not a remake, but the influence is obvious. It's everywhere. And he can't claim "unconscious influence" after having bought the rights.

May 27, 2014 at 8:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I'm with you Sam. When I saw black swan I thought, "wow, this is perfect blue, but not as good'. Then my friend called me and said the same thing when he saw it. I'm sure there are legal issues floating around with admitting influences but I don't care as I don't think film should be an interrogation. What I'm really sad about is that there are going to be no more Satoshi Kon films. That is worth lamenting.

May 27, 2014 at 9:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

For the record, I don't think Perfect Blue is better than Black Swan. But the influence should be acknowledged, and not doing so, under the sad circumstances of the time, was a very, very nasty move.

May 28, 2014 at 3:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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And of course the worst part is: no more Satoshi Kon films.

May 28, 2014 at 3:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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What I don't get is how you go from that to Noah. Sorry, let me rephrase that, how could you make the fantasy epic of Noah into such bland generic Hollywood turd?

May 27, 2014 at 3:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

The bigger the budget, the more the studio has say and the studios always play it safe (give me the same but different).

I like Aranofski, but he should stay away from big budget studio movies.

May 27, 2014 at 11:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hobbs

At some point, he has to think about his future and earn some money. He has done so many good and idealistic movies - let him earn some cash once in while, would you? ;)

May 30, 2014 at 10:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Great post!

May 27, 2014 at 5:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Aung

Loved the BTS content. Little too shallow DOP for my preference for BTS content but cant judge w/o knowing the conditions of the shoot. Thought it was really strange to "thank Canon for making my camera" at the end of a professional making of\BTS. Dont think Ive ever seen a "thanks Kodak for making my film stock, or "thanks panvision for making my lenses" but shrug. Just something funny I noticed, but doesnt take away from the great insight these give to the production.

May 27, 2014 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This was shot at a time when the Canon 5D was a really new thing and everyone was extremely excited about it. Before the 5D there were no affordable cameras that you could shoot a professional video with. It also explains the shallow depth of field - you were not able to do that before the Canon 5D unless you had an insanely expensive film camera.

May 30, 2014 at 10:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Chill the F%## out people, it.s simply a behind the scenes doc, not a freaking full feature length documentary trying to win awards. It was just a guy with a DSLR and probably a 50mm L 1.2 walking around the set trying to be cool and seeing what he could captured.

May 27, 2014 at 1:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel

Black Swan had a really small budget, they certainly did not spend one Cent on this making of video. It was probably shot by an intern or some friend of the director who had just bought a Canon 5D and was really excited about it.

May 30, 2014 at 10:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Come ON !!! On s'en calice de la profondeur de champs! On s'en calice de l'équipement qu'il utilise !
C'est très intéressant d'assister à la création de ce film et de voir comment il réalise avec son équipe.
Le reste, on s'en calice !

May 27, 2014 at 1:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Yan K

Passwords?

May 27, 2014 at 1:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cant see...passwords??

May 27, 2014 at 3:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tabish

this was quite obviuosly a one camera bts that was made on the fly and not made to be taken into some serious account. i thought it was informative and also made it feel like u were on set. BTS is suppose to be informal IMO.

May 27, 2014 at 3:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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biagio

All these videos are password protected. Anyone else having that problem?

May 27, 2014 at 4:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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passwords?

May 27, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Emmanuil

pass: blackswan

May 27, 2014 at 5:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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flmguy

Any chance of second video resurfacing?

May 27, 2014 at 7:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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brawk

A fascinating insight into the making if a really interesting film. Shot on s16. And people are bitching about the shallow depth of field? It's sad. And it's not important either. But these comments have become an entertaining sideshow in their own right.

On a side note, you can now shoot on s16 for a ridiculously small amount. Worth it for that eerie focus that falls on a set when there's celluloid in the camera.

May 28, 2014 at 6:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Wait, nobody was complaining about the actual movies depth of field (shot on S16), they were complaining about this behind the scenes video shallow depth of field - and this was certainly not shot on S16, but on a Canon 5D

May 30, 2014 at 10:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

"It’s sad. And it’s not important either."

Well, it is important if it is distracting. When a documentary has too shallow depth of field and the focus is mostly in the wrong places and pumping back and forth, it distracts from the actual message and makes it hard to watch. So no, it is NOT not important!

May 30, 2014 at 10:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Damn.. chapter two got removed... anyone get a chance to up it anywhere? That's the part I was most looking forward to as well

May 29, 2014 at 5:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Reggie

Does anybody know what is Darren doing with that kind of lens he holds? Is that a normal Canon L lens or a special tool to figure out framing? Is he deciding how to frame the scene at the moment or is he just looking through that lens to see how the result could possibly be?
ps: thanks for posting this beautiful contents

June 26, 2014 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daisy

That would be a 'Director's Viewfinder' - Google it for more info but yes, basically it allows the user to look through a zoom lens (adjustable to any focal length as with a normal zoom) with an in-built matte in the shape and dimensions of the film's aspect ratio, to see approximately what the shot would look like from any given angle.

July 6, 2014 at 8:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alex

Man, I could watch videos like this all day long! Takes me back to the days I was working on sets. Maybe time to make a change again!!! Thanks for posting.

July 15, 2014 at 7:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ron

Beautiful insides into the art of Film making. Seeing the people, the work and the passion that goes into making it. Very rare to get a glimpse of the sketch book from the production designer and the thought process behind it. Thank you very much for sharing! :)

July 17, 2014 at 8:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Henric

Excellent BTS interviews - very insightful and informative. Thanks for posting!

September 5, 2014 at 7:17AM, Edited September 5, 7:17AM

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Sean Breathnach
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