In Broadcast - May 2020 - 32

32

www.inbroadcast.com | Vol: 10 - Issue 5 | May 2020

InStudio

Cooke Optics helps update
Dark Crystal for Netflix
Cooke lenses provide DoP Erik Wilson and Director Louis Leterrier with a way to
acknowledge the original movie while updating the look to 4K...

W

hen it came time to return to
the world of Thra and reimagine
the Dark Crystal movie for a whole
new generation on Netflix, Cooke
anamorphic lenses were chosen. The
result was a look for the show that
transformed the puppets and, in the
words of cinematographer Erik Wilson,
made them "more majestic".
The original Dark Crystal, a darkthemed fantasy that took the puppetry
skills that the Jim Henson Company
and writ them large on the big screen.
It was ambitious, it was spectacular,
and it has firmly lodged itself as a
childhood memory in the minds of an
entire generation of filmmakers.
The series was pitched to streaming
giant Netflix as an animated series, the
reasoning being that it would not want
to spend the amount of money that a
full puppet-based production would
need. To Henson's surprise, however,
that was absolutely what it did want
and so a 10-part prequel series, Dark
Crystal: The Age of Resistance, was
given the green light.
Shooting started in November 2017
in a converted warehouse at Langley
Studios in Slough to the west of
London, with Louis Leterrier directing
and Erik Wilson shooting.
"I always knew it wasn't going to
be a small thing, but I still came to
the project completely unprepared
for the scale of it and was in awe of
the aspirations for it," said Wilson.
"I always imagined that the puppets
would be hiding behind a table and
we would be filming them with a static
camera, but that couldn't have been
any further from the truth. Every
single shot is moving. We did one lock

off shot in the whole series and it
never even made it into the final cut."
Anamorphic Extraction
Leterrier had made a successful
proof of concept using a RED DRAGON
and asked RED Digital Cinema to
design a 1:1 ratio square extraction
mode (4320 x 4320) from which to
extract (de-squeeze) the anamorphic
image created by Cooke Anamorphic/i
prime lenses. Dark Crystal: Age of
Resistance was shot using five of the
specially modified RED DRAGON 4K at
2.2:1 with a Kipper Tie Gold Diffusion
OLPF. "Everything becomes a bit sharp
with 4K and the filter helped with
that," said Wilson.
Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses were
chosen for the production for a
number of reasons. First, the set
was an unusual one. The warehouse
ceiling was already fairly low, and
with a 4ft rostrum in place to allow
the puppeteers to move around the

DoP Erik Wilson (Pictures: Kevin Baker, Netflix)

different scenes (all exteriors were
also shot inside), the shooting space
became even narrower.
"Lenses where you blur the image
so you can shoot off the set or
puppeteers' heads without actually
registering what they are, are ideal
- hence, anamorphic is your friend,"
explained Wilson. "A lot of lenses
wouldn't fit the part because they're
designed for a slightly smaller sensor,
but going through all the different
lenses that I liked I realised the Cooke
lenses would actually fill this square
we need to record on. We did some
tests and they were great. I really like
the Cooke Anamorphic/i's; they have
personality, they have charm, and they
also are technically very, very good."
A lot of testing was done on the
initial set up to get the right mix of
equipment for a look that would work
well for the puppets' skin and makeup, as well as the lighting. Because

Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance (Netflix)

the shoot was to be done in blocks,
everything was lit by colour-changing
LEDs running through a desk. That
meant the set could be built and lit
perfectly at the construction stage
and packed safely away before being
brought out quickly and precisely for
the shoot months later.
The Cookes worked perfectly in
these slightly unusual conditions.
"It's the look I like; they feel warm,
gentle and rounded, and they worked
wonders with that sensor," said Wilson.
"Looking at the spherical tests versus
the anamorphic, with the Cookes the
puppets seems more majestic; you got
transported into their world to a much
greater degree."
Demanding Production
It was a long shoot, all in all lasting
180 days, which made it a demanding
period for Wilson and the team he
namechecks as doing amazing work
throughout: Gaffer, Andy Lowe; Key
Grip, Ronan Murphy; and Focus Pullers
Iwan Prys Reynolds and Jon Garwes. In
fact, the shoot was long enough that
the go-to lenses that the team used
changed as they went along, starting
with the 40mm and 75mm and ending
up on the 50mm and 100mm.
"The Cooke Anamorphic/i set has
a large range of focal lengths and we
used all of them, but a lot of the close
ups using the 75mm and the 100mm
were very popular," Wilson said. "The
image quality and the consistency
from the wider to the longer lenses
was great. We were happy to use all
of them and they've been designed
for a modern production: the frontal
elements are the same size, the focus
and the iris ring are in the same place
- all the mechanical things are in
place and it doesn't take any time to
change a lens which is vital due to time
pressure."
The end result is a highly engaging
return to the world of Thra. "I got sent
the episodes before the grade and I sat
down to watch one, watched another,
and then I got completely hooked and
binged the rest," said Wilson. "I forgot
that I was meant to be watching it and
analysing it."
He added: "You get into the politics
and you get into the characters and
you forget that they're puppets."


http://www.inbroadcast.com http://www.cookeoptics.com http://www.cookeoptics.com http://www.cookeoptics.com http://www.cookeoptics.com http://www.cookeoptics.com

In Broadcast - May 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of In Broadcast - May 2020

Contents
In Broadcast - May 2020 - Intro
In Broadcast - May 2020 - Cover1
In Broadcast - May 2020 - Cover2
In Broadcast - May 2020 - Contents
In Broadcast - May 2020 - 4
In Broadcast - May 2020 - 5
In Broadcast - May 2020 - 6
In Broadcast - May 2020 - 7
In Broadcast - May 2020 - 8
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In Broadcast - May 2020 - 32
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In Broadcast - May 2020 - Cover3
In Broadcast - May 2020 - Cover4
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