Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Behind the Scenes with RED
COW Library : RED Digital Cinema : Tim Wilson : Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Behind the Scenes with RED
For those of us in the world of production, behind the scenes features are often as engaging as the features themselves, if not moreso.
Of course, it's hard to beat Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for engagement, eager anticipation for which likely began somewhere midway through your first viewing of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film in 2014.
(Although you may have forgotten that the sequel was actually announced before the first one even opened, and that this is arriving 2 months ahead of its original schedule!)
Curiosity on the production front certainly began last year when director James Gunn announced that this was to be the first feature film captured with the RED WEAPON camera using an 8K RED DRAGON VV sensor. In this marvelous behind the scenes featurette courtesy of RED Digital Cinema, James discusses the decision to use the RED WEAPON, and how it played out with director of photography Henry Braham, BSC.
Both of them found the combination of the massive sensor and small form factor incredibly compelling, providing them the technology to capture the epic scale of the action, in a package small enough to allow them to get exceptionally close to the scenes of genuine intimacy that are this series' secret weapon. (See what we did there?)
"I had two irreconcilable things to bring together" says Henry. "One is we need a large format, 70mm movie. On the the other hand, we want a fluid, contemporary, modern movie that feels alive." The RED WEAPON might have seemed counterintuitive, he suggests. "It’s a large format camera, and yet it’s tiny. And that’s its brilliance."
MAKING THE CASE FOR RED WEAPON
James actually spoke about the decision to go with the RED WEAPON 8K VV quite early on, in January 2016, on his Facebook page.
With the announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be the first film to shoot on the RED Weapon 8K, I've received a lot of excitement from a lot of people. THANKS! However, I also get a lot of folks asking why we chose not to shoot on film, and it's assumed we aren't doing so because of the expense.
CINEMATIC AESTHETICS BEYOND FILM
I'm over film. To be honest, I was never that much of a fan. True, every movie currently on my all-time desert island list was shot on film. I know this won't be true forever, and who knows? This might be the first one shot digitally to earn its place there.
But the others aren't there because they were shot on film, or because of anything special about film vs. digital. Certainly not for any romance for the experience of watching film in theaters. They're called "flicks" because of that infernal flickering. It was not, historically, a term of endearment.
The nausea and vertigo that some people report from bad 3D? I got that from movies projected from prints under the best circumstances (which were rare). The flickering fluttered right on the edge of inducing seizures. I was often done for the day after watching a movie, because of the toll it took on my body.
Mine is an extreme case to be sure, but I also had no use for bouncing frames, the drifting focus as film wobbled past stray hairs caught in the projector, and the grimy, grainy realities of watching movies in the real world of suburban theaters and classrooms from the 60s through the blessed, couldn't-possibly-come-soon-enough-for-me end of celluloid distribution.
I prefer digital projection because I love the pictures more than the limitations of 150 year old display technology elevated to some kind of romance.
Admittedly, as James notes, early acquisition of digital pictures was far short of the best of film's aesthetic, largely for technical reasons related to limitations of dynamic range in digital cameras. But even as the obvious production advantages of digital acquisition began piling up, there was still little sense of an aesthetic imperative, the idea that filmmakers were choosing digital production because it would make their movies look better, look different, achieve things that film simply can't.
Surely part of this is because cameras hadn't seriously offered that possibility. James Gunn thinks we're there with RED WEAPON 8K VV.
So, I'm going to offer the challenge to you, my professional brothers, sisters, and other- and non-gendered siblings: watch this thing on the biggest, best screen you can get to, and let's convene to discuss: are we there yet?
Perhaps the only question we can reasonably discuss is, does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 represent a new aesthetic to YOU?
I'm not overstating James' goal, am I? If I'm framing his goal appropriately, and you DON'T feel he succeeded, my next question for you is, what would a new aesthetic even look like? Are we going to even be able to see such a thing until we get to HDR for all?
James Gunn on the set with his brother Sean, who plays Kraglin, but, as shown here, also performs the on-set role of Rocket Raccoon, whose voice in the end is provided by Bradley Cooper.
A VERY VERY SIMPLE GOAL
What jumped out at me from RED's BTS every bit as much as any technological wonder, and as much as the astounding wire work (talk about jumping out at you!), is the real heart that James touches on. I don't want to lose sight of that as we look closely at the aesthetics that RED WEAPON 8K VV enabled.
"My goal is very very simple", says James. "I want people to walk out of the theater caring more about each other than they cared about each other before they walked into that film."
He continues, "If we can make someone who goes to see Guardians of the Galaxy and they see a movie about a bunch of outcasts and people who have difficulty being loved, and maybe associate with those characters, and see something of themselves in those characters, THAT’s the only reason I make movies.
"To help us feel like we belong a little bit more.”
Look, I'm not gonna lie. I got a little choked up. I don't think this was an accident on the part of the folks who put this together. That there's an overtly emotional video, with exceptionally well-paced beats, and a heartstring-tugging score. But I not only didn't mind, I felt like it was speaking to what moved me most about the first Guardians.
That is, I enjoyed the 70s pop, I laughed a lot, I LOVED watching stuff blow up, and then MORE stuff blowing up, but what struck me more than anything else was its sincerity.
In fact, as the featurette started to roll, really even before anybody in it said much of anything, my wife walked by, saw it, and stopped me to say, "You know what I remember most from the first movie? That little bit of time we spend with Rocket Raccoon, where he talks about how he was made, where he was tortured into self-consciousness -- that was incredibly powerful. Very little time, very few words, but heartbreaking."
She made me recall that what I most took with me from the first one was the peaceful look on the face of another one of the Guardians, wrapping his arms around his friends as they found shelter in his embrace.
(I feel stupid avoiding spoilers for a billion dollar picture three years after the fact, but I wonder if perhaps life and death should be spoken of in different terms than mere plot points.)
What does this have to do with RED and cameras and film and such? To you, maybe nothing. To me, everything, because it comes down to care.
We expect [insert your favorite auteurs names here] to agonize over camera choices as aesthetic choices, because they care about A - R - T, but camera choices for comic book movies are typically trivialized as only about workflow or money.
Not that there's anything necessarily trivial about those per se, but its rare to see "comic book movies" evaluated in the same artistic terms as "serious" cinema.
I mean, if you ask me if I'm a comics guy per se, I'll tell you no, in the sense that, the last comic book I bought was a Deputy Dawg title in the summer of 1968. I have no stake in comics as source material. But give me a reason to watch your movie, and I'll watch it.
And James Gunn gives me reasons to watch his movies. I enjoyed his 2004 Dawn of the Dead screenplay, and his 2006 writer-director debut Slither is a slimy little gem.
I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy because the end of the world was played for laughs, but I loved it because the laughs were played for keeps.
From James' Facebook again, in February, after the Oscars, and even moreso the Independent Spirit Awards. There was, by some folks, a hard line thrown down that "WE" are "the real" movies, and comic book movies are, well, comic book movies.
I appreciated that James' tetchiness wasn't defensive on his own behalf -- "I've already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians" -- but he lays the line where it really belongs, at the center of what motivates every filmmaking choice. There are people "in it for the money" and those with artistic integrity in every genre, working at every budget level.
Many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films.
This much I know, as much as I know anything right now. I'm really looking forward to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. I'll be heading out the door soon after posting this, and I'm really looking forward to talking to you about it when you've had a chance to see it too.
As early numbers are rolling in, I'm not so much struck by the dollars, which at a projected 140 million of 'em amount to roughly 85% of the weekend's entire business, as the crowd reaction. Deadline reports that "GOTG2 had a higher definite recommend among audiences than its first movie, 77% to 75%, while 46% of those polled by Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak said it blew away their expectations (vs. GOTG's 32%)."
This amazes me. I would have expected people to be much less inclined to have their expectations blown away the second time, because, well, they were blown away the first time. As the most recent version of the trailer says, anybody can save the galaxy once. Just try doing it twice.
Maybe that's exactly what James has pulled off. But what I want to know even more is, has he pulled off that other thing the first time, the thing that he himself brought up in the context of RED WEAPON 8K VV:
I believe that innovations in camera and shooting technologies as well as visual and practical effects give us the ability to create a new aesthetic of film, one different from what the past has offered but equally beautiful - perhaps even more so.
Now THAT's a reason to go see a movie.
So go see it. Then let's talk about it.
Many thanks to RED for putting together and sharing this remarkable look behind the scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I'll be thrilled if the movie moves me as much as this did.
Zoe Saladana, with Henry Braham, BSC, via RED's Instagram
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!!!
RED Studios Hollywood is hosting a Master Class with Henry Braham, BSC on Sunday, June 4: three hours combining lecture, hands-on with the RED Weapon 8K, plus footage review, for only $85. The only reason I haven't signed up already is that it seems like those slots oughtta go to actual, you know, people who use cameras and such, but holy spit, that's INSANE. Details here.