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Eric Steelberg ASC

Up In The Air

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50 days across 5 cities.

 

Hey Eric,

 

I went home to St. Louis for Thanksgiving where the “Up in the Air” shoot is still a hot topic at the dinner table.

 

“And the fake snow looked so real…”

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Just saw it -- outstanding work, all around! Very honest photography perfectly timed to the emotions of the scene without looking too stylized. Natural yet rich, poetic.

 

Anna Kendrick's pale face must have been tough to time in the D.I. suite...

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Thanks David. You know that means a lot and I'm pleased you saw the precise intent of my work.

 

I just got back from Plus Camerimage where it also got a very good reception.

 

Pale face, yes. I think dealing with pale women has been the most challenging thing I've dealt with in my career so far and I know it's been made more difficult by the DI. She had very pale skin similar to Ellen in JUNO and posed very similar challenges for rendering it accurately yet nicely.

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Thanks David. You know that means a lot and I'm pleased you saw the precise intent of my work.

 

I just got back from Plus Camerimage where it also got a very good reception.

 

Pale face, yes. I think dealing with pale women has been the most challenging thing I've dealt with in my career so far and I know it's been made more difficult by the DI. She had very pale skin similar to Ellen in JUNO and posed very similar challenges for rendering it accurately yet nicely.

 

I know that it's hard when pale faces are in cold light because essentially they have zero color saturation to them, so it's hard in the D.I. to take the face any direction without the skin looking painted.

 

Was the colder color cast in some of the offices done in timing alone, or by shooting tungsten stock with no 85? Or with half-correction, like an 81EF?

 

What's the focal length range and speed of the compact zoom?

 

Did you use any diffusion filtration now and then? There were just a couple of shots where I thought I saw a bit of a Classic Soft pattern in the out-of-focus points of light. Otherwise, it looked clean.

 

How did you handle the mix color temps of the airports, particularly the nasty metal halide spots that some of them had? It looked very controlled to me.

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Whoa. What an awesome film Eric. You shot my two favorite films this year. Loved the look of both. Congrads. What type of set ups did you do for interior plane scenes?

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About the faces in the DI, yeah. I was generally pleased but there a couple shots that got the painted look. We just ran out of time in the DI and had to prioritize fixes.

 

You may have seen a slightly cyan print because the office stuff was shot very close to temperature. I balanced to 5600 but all the bulbs we replaced (about 750) were something like 58 or 6000. These had the lowest green index of any of the brands we could find. We were limited in choice because they were these U shaped tubes which are uncommon in color correct versions. Took a lot of research to find the right ones. All those scenes were recorded on 5205.

 

Compact zoom...favorite lens in existence, a 19-90 2.8 It lived on the A camera for the whole movie so almost every shot in the film is through that lens. Also used the same one on the film I just finished. Even left it on for the handheld work.

 

Classic Soft was used sparingly but yes it was used. I used it occasionally on the ladies in a 1/2 strength, but also used it in all the airplane interiors where I saw windows. I wanted the window edges to be kind of soft and creamy without blooming so there I used a #1. The last place I used it was on George walking at camera through the door of the airport in the very end, again to blur the hard edges of the doors and windows against the hot exterior, again a #1. Once I used a 1/8 WPM and that was for a scene where George and Vera wake up after a night out in Miami.

 

Airports. Ah, the airports. Very difficult. I was unable to replace or correct bulbs in any of them. For the day scenes that meant finding locations near the largest windows to make use of as much daylight as possible with the plan of removing the color cast from the backgrounds in the DI (if need be) Where that approach was not possible, I'd balance our units (of which we had very few due to airport power restrictions) to the existing airport lighting. Unfortunately using natural light from windows was tricky as it dictated scheduling around the sun, provided there was sun in the winter and spring! And yes, I got screwed a couple times by weather and had to wing it....modifying shots, focal lengths, etc. I asked that we make as many airport scenes take place during the day a possible for this reason by explaining we'd get the most production value when it did work out. So they trusted me and I rolled the dice and got pretty lucky.

 

Regarding the airplane interiors...we shot in a mockup (the only set on the entire film) that was brought out to St Louis from LA and also had a 757 that American flew into St Louis for us to stick in a hangar and shoot. Both were big lighting setups.

 

The mockup was 60' long and on each side had a 20x60 grid with white muslin on the ground between the grid and exterior of the set. Above the set were 40 2k skypans, 20 facing each side, bouncing down into the grids. This was primarily to white out the windows when we looked out. To get the exposure inside I used 2 18k fresnels on each side pushing through the grid (gelled with full cto since we were shooting on 5219) and these were augmented with a T12 and a 10K...again, on either side. Needless to say the set got very hot.

My approach comes from never really having seen airplane interiors in films that I like. They always look so fake to me and the reason why is that on a real plane, the light always comes from outside except when on the ground (for the most part). So that's what I did. I had a 2x4 and a 4x4 Kino inside the set for wrap as needed.

 

The 757 was quite an ordeal and the reason we shot it as well as the mockup is that Clooney's character takes a lot of flights and Jason had a big problem with every shot in the airplane looking the same. Furthermore, a real airplane interior would have detail and scale unseen in a mockup unless tremendous amounts of money are spent. So it flew into St Louis and we put it in one of American's maintenance hangars there. On either side we had 2 12x20 1/4 grids on scissor lifts, each with 2 18ks behind them.. and then 4 more 18s on the ground to moved as needed. At the front on either side were 40x60 grids. So at any one time we had 16 18ks burning and that barely gave me what I needed inside the plane, shooting the 5205 at a 2.8 One of the restrictions of the real plane was that the temperature on the exterior of the aircraft, particularly the lexan windows, be monitored and not allowed to get too high less they be structurally compromised. So while we were shooting a maintenance person was checking them. We also had to be careful not to get any equipment close and in a position so that if something happened (fell over) it wouldn't hit the aircraft. All very tense. To top it all off, nothing inside could be moved or manipulated to get the camera where we needed so we often shot from a slider laid across the aisle or across armrests. The bazooka also came in handy. The shots in the real plane are short but were worth it. The first scene of George in a plane is the real one. You can also notice a light/sun gag after the flight attendant passes which was accomplished with a 4k par on the end of a lenny arm on a western dolly.

 

I've included a couple shots from my phone of the 757 setup. Lots of juice. By the way, the photos are not of the final configuration...this is initial power-up to see what we were getting inside. Things were moved in a bit.

 

IMG_0615.JPG

 

IMG_0617.JPG

 

IMG_0619.JPG

 

IMG_0622.JPG

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Congrats to Jason and the actors of UP IN THE AIR on the 6 Golden Globe nominations!

 

Also very proud of everyone on 500 DAYS OF SUMMER which also got nominated for Best Picture, Comedy/Musical.

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Congrats to Jason and the actors of UP IN THE AIR on the 6 Golden Globe nominations!

 

Also very proud of everyone on 500 DAYS OF SUMMER which also got nominated for Best Picture, Comedy/Musical.

 

Congrats to you, Eric. Two Golden Globe nominated films in the same year? That's some Robert Elswit-type acheivement you got there. :D

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Hey Eric--Congratulations on the great year it seems like you're having! Quick question: "Up in the Air" came up at work today and someone mentioned what a nightmare it must have been for sound during the airport scenes. Can you go into detail about what shooting for extended periods in busy airports was like? I'd love some insight. Thanks!

 

Christine

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Loved the film, Eric. Great decisions in exercising the restraint this kind of film benefits from. Jason is quickly turning into one of my favorite directors out there.

 

Good to see you working with Zoran. I had a chance to work with him a few years ago.

Hope you enjoy the holidays, what's next?

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Loved the trailer, really looking forward to watching this. 500 Days was also one of my favourite films of the year. Thanks for all the detailed info and keep up the excellent work.

Edited by Marcus Joseph

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Christine - There is one line of ADR in the whole film. Everything is production sound and yes, it was very difficult for our mixer. Took a lot of planning with gate schedules and facility management for announcements to get it done.

 

What kind of detail would you like? Logistical? Technical? It was overall very, very difficult despite airport cooperation. The non-secure side was more favorable than that of the secured area past TSA. There, crew and background actors were limited to specific numbers and only minimal equipment allowed. Everything had to be accounted for and all crew required escorts. You can imagine how that would slow us down, though we planned for it. American Airlines was our marketing partner and they served all the airports we shot at so they were indispensable interfacing with the airports and helping us achieve our scenes.

 

Bill - Thanks. He's great. I've been was fortunate to have him on this and (500) Days of Summer. An artist with the knob.

I have no idea what's next, currently reading scripts with my fingers crossed for something I respond to.

 

Thanks Marcus!

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very pleased to see Jason get the Globe for screenplay.

 

If anyone is interested, Film Independent will be doing an evening on Feb 3rd called The Creative Collaboration, part of the director's close-up series. Jason, myself, the editor, and composer will be participating in a discussion moderated by John August. Should be a good time.

 

More info available here:

http://www.filmindependent.org/content/dir...loseup-schedule

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Hi Eric, nice work - i saw this last week projected digitally on my school's 2K projector, it looked great, very clean like you said you were going for - I'm amazed at the scope of the film, so many offices and so many depature lounges and places. Offices and white wall appartments (if I'm remembering Clooney's appartment correctly?) can easily look so bland, yet never did, appropriate for the character but also approrpriatley dramatic.

 

It would be cool to see it of a print for comparison, the ditial print did look very good - to the point I forgot, the wedding party did look a little clippy, maybe the projector couldn't handle the contrast?

 

I particularly enjoyed the party scene the characters gate-crash, beautifuly shot and directed with lots of energy.

 

Cheers,

Andy

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The wedding scene was shot on HD which is why the lights were clipping. Very perceptive. I was a choice made so that the scenes could be shot in single takes, making the actors and background talent feel like they were at a real wedding by not having to cut.

 

I've been happier with the digital screenings of the film as the cleanliness of digital suits the look of the film better than the film prints which for distribution can shift in color and get muddy.

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Funny, you should mention film prints, Eric. I had a chance to see this, in 35mm, and it had one of the biggest color biases to green I have ever seen in the theatre, easily a full F-stop too much green!

 

I guess you should be flattered, though. The larger number of prints they churn out, the more color deviance they consider "acceptable" no doubt.

 

 

Having had an opportunity to see pieces of the latest "Twilight" both on 35mm and 2K DLP, theatre hopping of course, I still think that the film prints can look better, especially in terms of dynamic range. Of course, I guess it helps if you have a choice of three different film prints to choose from! I think one of the Twilights was too cold too.

 

It's unusual to see any film printed towards the green or blue side, because the labs generally try to aim towards making 35mm prints on the warm side and denser rather than thinner than the neutral grey target.

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The wedding scene was shot on HD which is why the lights were clipping. Very perceptive. I was a choice made so that the scenes could be shot in single takes, making the actors and background talent feel like they were at a real wedding by not having to cut.

 

I've been happier with the digital screenings of the film as the cleanliness of digital suits the look of the film better than the film prints which for distribution can shift in color and get muddy.

 

Ah okay, very interesting - I suppose sometimes you just have to choose the technology for the art!

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The movie opened last week in Germany and I went to one of the first screenings. The trailer looked amazing and I couldn't wait to watch the whole thing. Unfortunately the projection at the cinema had a very poor quality but I enjoyed everything nonetheless! I have to say that Jason Reitman is not just a great director but also a very gifted writer!

 

The whole movie looked great but especially the shot where George Clooney sits alone in his hotelroom at night drinking a glass of whisky (I think it was after he went to Chicago and found out that Alex has a husband and a family) got me on my knees. It looked absolutely stunning!! Great work!!

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