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The Revenant is an amazing experience


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#1 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 December 2015 - 02:51 AM

Now before I begin my breakdown of the Revenant, I must first state for the record, I'm not a fan of digital cinema what so ever. Honestly, the only reason I took the time out to see The Revenant is because I really like Inarritu's films and Lubezki is flat-out amazing.

The Revenant is a very simple revenge film. It doesn't really have a recognizable script as such. It's mostly based on what the characters are going through physically. There are huge gaping holes in the story, stuff that you say to yourself... hmm, really? There are around 30 pages of dialog in the 2+ hour movie, pushing it towards that envelope of what you're seeing on screen is the only thing that matters. With all of that said however, the film as a whole is very well made. As a filmmaker, I can enjoy all the good things and because it's so well made, most people can ignore the bad things. What the Reverent does show is Inarritu's desire to make "visual" entertainment and how Lubezki never ceases to amaze me.

What the filmmakers went out to achieve is something that only nature documentary filmmakers ever get to do. It looked like a very tedious production, chipping away at scenes very slowly. Capturing a moment here, a moment there and doing it all again the next day. You can see this on screen very clearly because the story covers quite a bit of time and they don't want to dwell on each day, so they're in one location for one scene and another location for another scene. This filmmaking method worked great and it came across very well on screen.

Of course, when you're out in the middle of nowhere, you can't send rushes for printing film, so the filmmakers resorted to shooting digitally. Inarritu and Lubezki are both pretty "film" savvy and there is a little bit of 65mm film in this movie, though it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb. About half of the movie is shot with the new Alexa Mini and the other half is shot with the new Alexa 65. You can tell the Alexa 65 was used on the master wides, the detail in the 4k presentation was extraordinary. The movie looks very cinematic, they clearly used a lower shutter angle during the action scenes, which played very nicely and the horrible digital looking motion blur so common with digital movies, wasn't really present.

As some people know, Lubezki didn't light anything. In fact, even the interiors which were clearly a set, were only lit with candles and daylight. It was a great stylistic choice and it works very well in this film. The moment they hit snow, the snow works as a bounce card and all of a sudden, there is no reason for lighting at all. There are a lot of trick shots in the film, most of which were created afterwards in VFX. In fact, the film has A LOT of VFX shots in it. Partially due to compositing wild animals and partially due to Inarritu's use of "single shots" throughout the piece. It's a cool visual trick of taking multiple shots and joining them together in post. It works for this movie like it did for Birdman, though in Birdman the transition points were covered up more. I didn't mind the VFX much because they didn't effect the actors, most of them were background and/or fill-in. It's not like the actors were on a green screen sound stage, they were there on location, but maybe something wasn't right, so they'd fix it.

Lubezki's choice of wide angle lenses for the film was something I was quite concerned about. The trailer makes it seem like the whole film is distorted and wide, but it isn't. In fact, his decision worked really well with the beautiful locations. I can't imagine using long lenses, it wouldn't work for this film at all. Their decision making process payed off very nicely and I was more engrossed in the film then the technical aspects anyway, which is a good sign! On a side note; I'm a little bit peeved because I really wanted Richardson to win the Oscar for Hateful Eight, but Lubezki has DONE IT AGAIN! He's picking great projects and doing a fantastic job!

So... digital. Well... the movie did look very flat. There were very little dynamics in the black's, they simply hovered around grey with no latitude, no deep black. That might have been the projector because even during the credits, I noticed the black was not actually black. The highlights were clean and not crisp, which is excellent. There were many shots with direct sunlight and none of them clipped... though they could have been fixed up in post. The night/dark material with camp fires, the actual fires were white, not red or orange. I'm not sure if that was the filmmakers intention or simply over exposure which led to color drop off. It was amazing to see the actors pupils wide open in those night scenes, that was REALLY cool. The interior candle light scenes had the same issues, the candles were all white, which is pretty common for candles anyway. The interiors did have the motion blur that I so dislike, but it wasn't TOO bad... those scenes were quick and it didn't detract.

In the end The Revenant is an extremely well-made film and very entertaining. All of the other technical aspects from the music to the editing (pacing) was just perfect. There were a few moments where I judged the editing too quickly and realized they setup something for down the road. In fact, I'd say the "filmmaking" is generally very clever and if you blink for a moment, you'll miss a little detail that will be brought up later. I can see how some people could get stuck on the plot holes, but every film has them. I call it "ohh well, not everyone is perfect" problems because in reality, it's nearly impossible to do everything perfectly. One has to steal from paul to pay peter and sometimes that means, things are purposely overlooked. The Revenant does however, feel very cut-down, making me wonder if those plot holes were shot, but simply pulled out to make the pacing better.

DiCaprio and Hardy were flat-out amazing, they'll both get oscar nods for sure. In fact, I'd say Hardy (who had the far easier job) was actually better then DiCaprio because he was such a vicious evil son of a bitch and had more dialog. For all of DiCaprio's dragging in the mud, naked in the freezing cold and getting raped by a bear... he doesn't have a lot of "acting" to do. He was just beat up the whole film and I don't know of the Academy would consider that "acting". Never the less, he is the character and did a fantastic job. I truly hope both guys get the oscars because they deserved it.

Over-all, I really enjoyed The Revenant. I'm extremely picky and this film worked on every level from its magnificent cinematography to it's fantastic cast, music and editing. I really hope everyone gets to see this on the big screen because it's worth it. Reminds me a lot of Gravity, not a lot of story, but boy was it flat-out well made and fun to watch!
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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 15 December 2015 - 07:11 PM

I saw it yesterday in DolbyVision system, which is some sort of 4K laser projection. Lubezki was there for a Q&A after. They even showed a test after the film to show what a huge difference it does to the blacks and the contrast. The blacks were inky, pitch black. Great presentation and this is certainly the future for exhibition.


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#3 Timothy Spencer

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Posted 15 December 2015 - 11:40 PM

Hi Tyler,

Thanks for your critic of The Revenant , I am looking forward to it . There are a couple of things in your critic that need clarification. Most of the crew was Canadian and from either Calgary or Vancouver and returned most nights to their homes or hotels in calgary.  The only helicopter on  the production was often used as a wind machine . While most of The Revenant was shot in Alberta , a small sequence was shot on the west coast in british Columbia and when the snow disappeared the production finished up in Argentina . Thanks for your posts and I look forward to reading more.

 

Tim


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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 12:07 AM

Hey Tim,

Alejandro said in a recent interview that they flew the crew in and out of the location via helicopter. So IDK, I was just following his lead. Sorry about the confusion! Thanks for the clarification.

If you worked on the film, I'd love to learn more about the production.
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#5 Timothy Spencer

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 12:25 AM

I have a lot of friends who worked on the show and every story you will hear about how tough is was are probably true. For what was basically a one camera production it is stunning . I look forward to your opinion of Star Wars.

 

Regards, Tim


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#6 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 01:40 AM

Hi Tyler

 

Yes thanks for the write up sir.. interesting.. did they really not use any lights.. even for interior sets.. that would be amazing on such a big budget shoot.. .

 

Thanks


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#7 Manu Delpech

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 03:23 AM

From Creative Planet Networks article:

 

"Of course, the absence of movie lights doesn’t mean there wasn’t “lighting.” Lubezki worked with key grip Ray Garcia on some rather elaborate setups to shape, diffuse and cut the light. “For day interiors, we would generally shoot near windows,” Garcia says. “I would build shadows and try to [diffuse] direct light without affecting ambience. We would usually throw thick diffusion on any openings in ceilings or walls. Once we placed diffusion on a ceiling or a wall, we treated it like an aperture and we could let more or less light in as needed.”

Day exterior work was generally staged with the sun as a backlight. Garcia would then control any light that would bounce back onto actors’ faces, flying grid cloth rags of about 20’ x 40’ in trees to act as negative fill and take away the shadow of the camera and crew. Then he’d follow along next to the camera with cards to direct light back onto actors’ faces. “I aged and painted all the cards to resemble the environment,” he explains. “We never wanted just white or the look of unbleached muslin for the bounce. It had to look completely natural.”

 

Chivo also used some lightbulbs to enhance a campfire scene: "One of the aspects of the production getting attention is the fact that it was shot almost entirely in natural light. Lubezki added some light bulbs to enhance a campfire, but he notes, “Even then, I kept dimming them and dimming them. If you’re shooting at [EI] 1280 or 1600 and wide open, you don’t need that. The real firelight and flicker is wonderful for the scene."


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#8 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 03:48 AM

wow even so.. its quite amazing isnt it.. no actual film lighting.. not even a kino Diva.. Im surprised because sometimes you would need to light scenes just for scheduling reasons.. maintaining the look for close up,s etc.. if you lose the light from the wide.. 

Well I guess they had the luxury to just packup when they wanted to..   


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#9 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 04:35 AM

There have been may films shot on motion picture film, that don't use much or any artificial lighting.

One that comes off the top of my head is The 13th Warrior, shot by Peter Menzies Jr. Heck, even Panic Room only used practicals in most of the film. I believe there was very little artificial light used in Barry Lyndon as well.
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#10 Giray Izcan

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 11:49 AM

The Tree of Life has pretty much no lighting.


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 12:18 PM

I think it is a mistake to think that "Barry Lyndon" did not use artificial lighting -- many day interior scenes were lit by putting tracing paper over the windows and blasting them with nine-lights.  I can pull many shots from the movie that were lit with electrical lights.


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#12 Manu Delpech

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 04:30 PM

Read the AC article and Chivo initially wanted it to be a film/digital hybrid shoot, shooting everything but dusk and night on film, but they had problems with X-rays (surprised me) at airports and labs, so they shipped back the film equipment to Panavision and got the Alexa 65. No film footage made it in the final cut, it's explicitly said in the article. 

 

Chivo also estimates that 13 % ( :D ) of the film was shot with the Alexa 65. 


Edited by Manu Delpech, 18 December 2015 - 04:30 PM.

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#13 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 08:21 PM

Yeah well I think there're alot of films where it becomes some myth that no lights were used.. when it actually means not much lighting was used,shot on location,or lit in a very natural way..  e.g. Malick,Ken Loach  films 

 

Not saying Revenant used any lights..  .. just that often its a myth.. 


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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 09:01 PM

Want to see a movie where no lights were used?  Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood.

 

R,


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#15 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 02:00 AM

But I wonder whats the point.. Im all for naturalist,motivated lighting..  but to just mandate no lighting at all from the get go.. not even a small kino diva for a close up.. seems a bit odd to me.. unless its purely as an exercise or you dont have any budget..  I mean would you shoot a whole film from inside a wardrobe through the key hole.. or just cut out a keyhole matt and put it infront of the lens..  


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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 02:21 AM

Well, I mean they did "light" a lot of the film, it was just done with practicals. Some would call that "lighting" but I call that not-lighting because the light source is physically in the shot.
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#17 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 02:46 AM

Yeah I would agree with you.. practicals that haven't been changed in anyway I would also say is "unlit" in that no actual film light instrument is used.. not even the smaller LED unit.. although I guess you could say moving a lamp 1 ft towards an actor is lighting .. for a multi million dollar shoot I,d still think it was a bit odd.. I mean some tiny amount of soft fill or key or an HMI through a window can help a shot without making it look false or unnatural .. thats the art of lighting right.. the audience have no idea its actually lit. ..  or keeping lighting continuity .. I mean its not wrong,and they did decide to shoot that way.. I just thinks its odd .. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 19 December 2015 - 02:48 AM.

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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 01:37 PM

Gotta have those lights, bright sunny day in South Africa, but the DP still wants his giant lights. :)

 

R,

 

 

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#19 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 01:46 PM

Well, I mean they did "light" a lot of the film, it was just done with practicals. Some would call that "lighting" but I call that not-lighting because the light source is physically in the shot.

 

It's still lighting.  What does it matter if the source used to light the scene is in the shot or not?...


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#20 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 December 2015 - 01:55 PM

It's still lighting.  What does it matter if the source used to light the scene is in the shot or not?...


In my opinion, "lighting" is from an artificial light source.

I don't consider fire an artificial light source since it's kind of a natural occurrence, kinda like our sun.
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