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Technical workflow for post production on Collateral

As someone very interested in photography (I own a large format camera), I am very interested in the digital technology Mann employs for his movies. Collateral was of course renowned for its digital over film choice. Here is an excerpt from a tidy interview with Michael Mann on post production of Collateral. As ever, click here to see the full article.

F&V: Break down the workflow in terms of shooting.

We shot about half the movie on film, and then 20 percent with the Sony CineAlta HD camera, and the rest with the Viper FilmStream. The CineAlta has two more stops of range at the high end, so before whites clip and burn out, I’ll see details. So if I’m shooting in front of a car, I’ll see the outline of the car’s headlight with the Sony camera, but I won’t with the Viper camera. That’s the strength of the CineAlta camera.

F&V: What’s the strength of the Viper camera and how did that mesh with the workflow?

It’s got this glorious, lustrous mid-range, particularly in the records it makes of reds, yellows, oranges and blues. I love that look. Basically it’s a different chip. The Sony uses a Japanese chip while the Viper’s is made in Northern Europe, and I don’t know why but it has this totally different palette of rich Rembrandt-style colors. Maybe it’s the Dutch chip [a 9.2 million pixel frame-transfer CCD]. Go figure, but that’s the way it is. That was a big issue to us— how it looks on video— but now I’ve got to film the thing out, get a [Kodak] Vision release print and put it up on a 60-foot-wide screen. Now what’s it look like? And the heightened resolution, meaning more information, is there in the Viper, so that was really our camera of choice. Then we recorded to HDCAM-SR tape using Sony SRW-5000 machines. That was the best format available to us, and that way we could get compressed images made and then work on them and tweak them later in post. The drawback with the Viper was that you’re hooked to a bunch of recorders by these umbilical cords, so when I had to be freewheeling with the camera I’d go with the Sony camera, which uses cassettes instead.

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