While shooting a 3D film, the Cinematographer needs a Stereographer – Pravin Bhatt
Master Cinematographer Pravin Bhatt speaks to Pandolin about the making of the upcoming thriller Mr.X and the difference between shooting in 2D and 3D.
Your father, Mr. Vijay Bhatt made Mr.X in 1937. And now your son is making Mr.X as well. Is there any similarity between the two films?
Not at all, the stories of both the films are very different. The only similarity is that there is an invisible man in both the films.
As a director, what were Vikram’s visual requirements for the film?
The discussions between Vikram and me were mainly about the special effects. Vikram had a particular vision and he understands Special Effects requirements very well. I am also very tech savvy. So we discussed the scenes and the requirements in detail with VFX Supervisor, K V Sanjit from Prasad VFX. Vikram also understands the limitations of what can be done by Special Effects, which is a plus point. Many directors who don’t understand the technology ask for things that may not be possible. But Vikram knew exactly what he wanted and would also advice the Special Effects team about the way in which things need to be done.
While shooting a film that is also in 3D, are there any specific guidelines that you have to keep in mind?
While shooting a 3D film, the Cinematographer needs a Stereographer who maintains the depth of field, the alignment, the exact distance you need and so on. The Director explains all this to the Stereographer. My role as Cinematographer is lighting subjects, the background etc. Then we all sit together in front of the 3D monitor and shoot accordingly. It’s a collaborative effort. Lighting wise except for few minor restrictions there is not much difference between 2D and 3D.
What was the shooting process of Mr.X like?
The invisible man is visible only in daylight i.e. sunlight, not shadows, and UV light i.e. neon blue light. So the scenes in which he had to be visible were given the sunlight effect. If it was an indoor sequence, I had to create sunlight, hard lights and hard contrast to make him visible. Wherever he is not supposed to be visible, I gave shadows so that the Special Effects team could understand that they need to make Mr.X disappear in that area. For instance, if a scene has half of Mr.X’s body in sunlight and the other half is not visible, I had to decide the shot accordingly. Many scenes have been shot against the green background and the special effects team created composite shots. Since it is 3D you can’t cheat and need proper perspective to be maintained for the right eye and left eye.
As a Cinematographer you need to work with a Stereographer during the shoot. Even after completing the shoot and once the grading is done, the Stereographer comes in again and he brings the 3D effect. The left eye and right eye have to be aligned to the point of zero otherwise your eyes will hurt while watching the film. It has to be delicately aligned. Also Vikram and the Stereographer had to discuss which portions of the story would pop out. It’s called ‘negative’ which refers to the portions that come out of the screen towards the audience. It’s the director’s choice as to which shot/ area should pop out. For instance if a gun is pointing, it could come out of the screen and points towards the audience. You need to understand the 3D format, it takes some time but you get it. Chandan Gupta who has previously done ABCD: Any Body Can Dance, was our Stereographer and has done a marvelous job at it.
Please tell us about the camera and lens pack you worked with and why?
We have used Red Epic. We had a four camera set up and have used two rigs to shoot, so each rig had two cameras one for right eye and one for left eye. Ultra Prime lenses were used throughout the film. In 3D you cannot use Zoom lens, as it is not possible to align it properly. Zoom is a magnification of the image and you’re not actually going close so there are some restrictions.
What was the overall lighting design that you adopted?
As mentioned, Mr. X is visible only in sunlight and neon blue light. For outdoor scenes we have worked with available light. For indoors, the sets were created as per our requirements. For example, in one set I had to create a skylight in the roof through which sunlight could come. We also built windows to allow sunlight to come in. There is one scene where the hero is supposed to be trapped by the police so they put mirrors all around reflecting the sunlight inside the house. It looks very interesting. That’s how we have approached the lighting requirements.
Could you tell us about the making of the underwater sequence in the song ‘Tu jo hai’?
In this song, the exterior shot of the pool was taken on location in Cape Town. We have then used a glass tank to shoot the portion when the actress goes underwater and kisses nobody. Mr. X was to be added later in the shot. It was the last thing we shot for the film. Since we used a glass tank we didn’t have to go underwater and the shot was taken from outside itself.
Was the film largely on sets or real locations?
There are some real locations. But the police commissioners’ office and some other things were sets. We placed a green backdrop against the sets and the background was added later. The backgrounds were shot separately and later put together. It is called Compositing.
What were the key challenges faced while shooting Mr. X?
Creating sunlight was a challenge. While shooting I had to keep a high contrast because if you expose sunlight the surrounding area becomes dark. Post the shoot I sat with my Colorist for a month and we had to enhance the sunlight in each frame. So these were some basic things that we had to take care of.