'You Can't Put a Light Anywhere!' Deakins on the Challenges of Lighting '1917'
Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins managed to turn 1917 into a technological marvel of cinematography. This exclusive video gives you a glimpse into how they did it.
Naturally, if Roger Deakins is working on a project, you know the cinematography is going to be top-notch. However, combine his legendary raw talent with Sam Mendes' idea to shoot a "real-time" WWI epic in what appears to be a single take, and you've got a recipe for something truly exceptional—and nearly impossible to pull off.
Making a film appear as though it was captured in one continuous shot is a gargantuan undertaking that requires superb choreography, camera movement, and editing. Each of those elements come with their own set of challenges, however, one piece that seems especially difficult to control and customize, especially when shooting outdoors on location, is lighting.
To commemorate 1917's official digital release today, we're pleased to bring you this exclusive video, courtesy of Universal, in which we get to take a quick look at how Mendes and Deakins managed to orchestrate such intricate and complex cinematography.
Considering all of the variables Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of their crew had to juggle, from camera movement to blocking to lighting to shooting outdoors, it's no wonder why 1917 won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.
Deciding to give the audience a 360-degree view of the set was a decision that impacted 1917's production, namely the lighting, in a big way. As Deakins mentions in the video, natural light had to be used when shooting outdoors because there was no way to hide stationary units. For the same reason, all lights used during indoor scenes had to be practical and blend in with the set design. Large flares were hoisted up on cranes to illuminate the night sky during the scene shot among the ruins of the French town.
This, of course, required an incredible amount of planning and meticulous coordination across all departments. Every cast and crew member had to be absolutely in-sync in order to achieve the precision it takes to choreograph simultaneous camera movement, character blocking, and special effects that need to appear continuous and unbroken after the final edit.
1917 truly is a marvel of modern filmmaking, not only for its technological feats but for its machine-like precision—a compliment to the incredible team that put all of the pieces together