Jump to content

Akeelah and the Bee


Recommended Posts

  • Premium Member

Now that the DVD has come out, I can show some examples of the visual design of the film. I basically created an arc from cold to warm, from dark to light, with variations -- the idea being that "light" was knowledge, i.e. enlightenment. You can see the cool look in the first three frames.

 

akeelah1.jpg

 

This one used a 90mm anamorphic slant-focus at T/8 to hold both people in reasonable focus:

akeelah2.jpg

 

This one used a split-diopter to help avoid racking focus back & forth between the teacher and Akeelah (focus racks breathe horribly in anamorphic):

akeelah3.jpg

 

When Akeelah reads this poem on a wall, I did a Storaro-ish trick of having a light fade up as if the sun were coming through the window:

akeelah4.jpg

 

akeelah5.jpg

 

The final spelling bee uses lens flares as often as possible:

akeelah6.jpg

 

akeelah7.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Premium Member

Hi,

 

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

 

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

 

Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Hi,

 

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

 

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

 

Phil

 

Phil,

 

Do you get 35mm to project or is it a DVD?

 

I would have flown over on easyjet to see Northfork! I have a NTSC DVD but would like to see the original!

 

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
-wait a second, would you call this "visual three-act structure?"

 

The movie has a three-act structure, but the visual plan is more of a gradual arc with a few dips, not three looks. If anything, it's more based around the four spelling bees in the movie, which we tried to make look different from each other.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

Very nice work. I saw it in theaters a couple months ago and then got the chance yesterday to see it again on DVD. I love that scene where Akeelah is reading a poem on the wall everything came together so perfectly. The lighting, the camera, the acting... absolutely beautiful. Who was that quote by? I think that it's very meaningful.

I watched the special features and saw you a few times but I was hoping to hear at least a sound bite from you or something. I don't know why there's always extensive interviews with the producers who do very little creatively or technically but we barely ever hear from the cinematographer.

The "practical" dinos in the final bee are super sweet. Not many dp's would've taken the chance of putting them in the shot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Who was that quote by?

 

It's from a book called "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson -- often misattributed to Nelson Mandela, who supposedly quoted it but even that's not verified. The director found out in post-production that Mandela might not have quoted it and removed a dialogue reference to him but you can still see his name at the bottom of the quote on the wall.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Williamson

"...is sometimes associated with an urban myth concerning Nelson Mandela's 1994 inauguration speech as president of South Africa."

 

The movie "Coach Carter" also references this quote apparently -- I don't know if they say that Mandela said it though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

 

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

 

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

 

Phil

 

You projecting it in a public cinema, if so which one? I'd definatly trek accross london to see it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
  • Premium Member

Hi,

 

Hope you'll excuse the ad, but people have asked:

 

Akeelah and the Bee will be projected from 35mm at the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford on Monday 9 October at 8pm (No ads or trailers, so get there on time). Londoners will need to take a half-hour train ride out of Liverpool Street, but we're sixty seconds walk from the station.

 

01245 606505 or boxoffice@chelmsford.gov.uk for tickets.

 

It's a 25 or 30 foot screen, I guess, and seats about 100 depending how many extra seats we put in...

 

And the projection team do actually care.

 

I can ask about Northfork, I've had requests before...

 

Edit: Argh, oh, crap, it's scope. Our screen becomes unfortunately titchy in scope.

 

Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Great movie. I like the overall tone of the scenes in Laurence Fishburne's study (how did you get the golden-ness? I seem to vaguely recall you saying balancing on 1/4 CTB or am I mistaken?) and how the spelling bee scenes strongly resembled the real thing.

 

Speaking of which, was the movie influenced by the documentary "Spellbound"? I noticed that one of the last words was "logorrhea", which was the winning word in the documentary. Also, after I watched Spellbound, I immediately thought that it would have been interesting if the Indian guy's dad was all militaristic and overbearing after he lost....lo and behold, along comes this movie. :D

 

Great work David. Nice to see good photography doesn't need to be flashy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Great movie. I like the overall tone of the scenes in Laurence Fishburne's study (how did you get the golden-ness? I seem to vaguely recall you saying balancing on 1/4 CTB or am I mistaken?) and how the spelling bee scenes strongly resembled the real thing.

 

Speaking of which, was the movie influenced by the documentary "Spellbound"? I noticed that one of the last words was "logorrhea", which was the winning word in the documentary. Also, after I watched Spellbound, I immediately thought that it would have been interesting if the Indian guy's dad was all militaristic and overbearing after he lost....lo and behold, along comes this movie. :D

 

Great work David. Nice to see good photography doesn't need to be flashy.

 

The screenplay was written a year or two before "Spellbound" was made.

 

I warmed up my dailies by shooting the grey scale with a light blue filter in the camera, or 1/4 Blue on the light, but for some scenes in Fishburne's study, I also used warming gels on the HMI's playing for late afternoon sunlight. And for one scene where a sunny backlight fades up during the shot, I used a 20K tungsten on a dimmer I think, with 1/2 Blue correction for a half-orange look on daylight film.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Hey David,

 

I watched Akeelah last night, beautiful film, last year's "Feel Good Movie of the Year" in my opinion :)

 

I thought your work was great. I really liked the element of backlight on the actors and the wonderful glow it gave them, kind of as a representation of them giving and recieving knowledge to and from one another.

 

I really liked the lens flares you mentioned above as well. It really gave me a feeling of being there on stage with the Bee champs.

 

Again, great work! I already expected it after knowing about your past work on Northfork and Twin Falls Idaho, but it was nice to see a very different style of lighting from your past work.

 

regards,

 

Jon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Oh, by the way David, I was curious about the Oval Office scene. Did you guys just borrow the "West Wing" set for a day

 

Yes, we borrowed the set. I went in with a tiny crew plus a few people from their show, the day after we wrapped on the main production. My main problem was that the sets were lit for T/2.8 at 500 ASA and I needed an T/4 at 320 ASA ideally, so I found myself moving lights around to try and make it brighter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

A slant or tilt-focus lens is a simplified version of a bellows lens, only that you're limited to just tilting the lens to one side. Think of it as a lens with a pivot near the rear that allows you to point the front of the lens slightly off to one side compared to the mount, a "bent" lens.

 

This causes the plane of focus to fall along a diagonal rather than flat-on to the camera. In other words, with a normal lens focused at 5' for example, everything on a plane 5' away from the lens is in focus. But when the lens is tilted to one side, now on one side, what's at five inches may be in focus and on the opposite side, what's at infinity may be in focus. So you can make something flat on to the camera fall out of focus on one side, or you can place objects on a diagonal plane receding from the camera and have all of those receding objects fall into the "tilted" plane of focus.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A slant or tilt-focus lens is a simplified version of a bellows lens, only that you're limited to just tilting the lens to one side. Think of it as a lens with a pivot near the rear that allows you to point the front of the lens slightly off to one side compared to the mount, a "bent" lens.

 

This causes the plane of focus to fall along a diagonal rather than flat-on to the camera. In other words, with a normal lens focused at 5' for example, everything on a plane 5' away from the lens is in focus. But when the lens is tilted to one side, now on one side, what's at five inches may be in focus and on the opposite side, what's at infinity may be in focus. So you can make something flat on to the camera fall out of focus on one side, or you can place objects on a diagonal plane receding from the camera and have all of those receding objects fall into the "tilted" plane of focus.

 

 

Wow! Learn something new all thye time on here! Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
A slant or tilt-focus lens is a simplified version of a bellows lens, only that you're limited to just tilting the lens to one side. Think of it as a lens with a pivot near the rear that allows you to point the front of the lens slightly off to one side compared to the mount, a "bent" lens.

 

This causes the plane of focus to fall along a diagonal rather than flat-on to the camera. In other words, with a normal lens focused at 5' for example, everything on a plane 5' away from the lens is in focus. But when the lens is tilted to one side, now on one side, what's at five inches may be in focus and on the opposite side, what's at infinity may be in focus. So you can make something flat on to the camera fall out of focus on one side, or you can place objects on a diagonal plane receding from the camera and have all of those receding objects fall into the "tilted" plane of focus.

 

Recall that you did a topic about Star Trek and Depth of field. Was this option considered to allow adjacent actors to both be in focus?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Recall that you did a topic about Star Trek and Depth of field. Was this option considered to allow adjacent actors to both be in focus?

 

If you're asking why I used a slant-focus lens rather than a split-diopter, it's just that both do some things well and do other things less well. When the focal length gets too long on a split-diopter, the split is too fuzzy to be useful, but if the shot has too much depth of field already, then the split in the filter comes into focus too much. On the other hand, tilt-focus lenses are limited to certain focal lengths, and they work best if you stop them done as well as tilt the lens. They are better when objects fall along a diagonal, whereas a split-diopter is better when it's two objects on different planes that you want to fall into focus.

 

But as for why I wanted a deep-focus effect, it's just because I wanted her reaction and his reaction to be read simultaneously without cuts or rack-focusing, etc. The scene was partly about her wondering who this man was sitting behind her back in the office and feeling that he was watching her, so having him in focus behind her made his presense more "felt", more imposing, more obvious. Sometimes, of course, it is more effective to have an out-of-focus figure behind someone, more disturbing or mysterious, but in this case, I wanted to see his reactions to her just as much as I wanted to see her reactions to him.

 

It all came from the storyboards that the director drew, because I constantly had to point out to him that something would not be in focus in the frame (a drawing has a hard time simulating soft-focus) and how we would deal with it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...