Features, Post-Production Equipment

Lights Don’t Lie

Choosing the right lighting solutions helped the makers of Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool get the correct flicker effect necessary for the story telling

By Vinita Bhatia

Rotolight, a British LED lighting manufacturer, said its lighting has been used in the BAFTA-nominated Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. The movie, starring Annette Bening (American Beauty; The Women; The Search) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot; Fantastic Four; 6 Days), follows the romance between a Hollywood leading lady and a young actor.
Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the film was directed by Paul McGuigan (Wicker Park; Lucky Number Slevin; Victor Frankenstein), with Urszula Pontikos (Humans; Glue; Second Coming) as director of photography (DOP) and Stefan Lange (Casino Royale; Mission Impossible; Batman) as VFX cinematographer, consulting on all things VFX. As standard, Lange carries with him a small inventory of equipment, including a set of three Rotolight NEO 2 on-camera LEDs, which were used during filming.
“These lights are something that I would never be without. They are versatile, powerful and with the convenience of being battery powered, they are portable and easy to use,” said Lange. “I have also always been a fan of the Anova PRO with its built-in suite of special effects, CineSFX.”

The Anova PRO was used in the cinema scene where Gloria Grahame (Bening) and Peter Turner (Bell) watch the 1979 sci-fi thriller Alien.

THE FLICKER EFFECT
The Anova PRO was used in the cinema scene within the film — where Gloria Grahame (Bening) and Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) watch the 1979 sci-fi thriller Alien. The director wanted to project the film’s flicker onto the faces of the audience and the Anova PRO allowed them to do so.
“There was quite an elaborate set-up in a cinema location, which captured the ambience of a movie theatre beautifully, but rather too beautifully. That all important story-telling flicker effect was not very strong. The director and DOP wanted more close-up shots in the scene, which led to a discussion about needing more flicker.
“Using the CineSFX feature on the Anova PRO, we just flicked a switch and had the effect we needed. There were no additional cables needed, no time wasted, just an instant solution with an easily adjustable dial to help us get the correct, subtle effect. The light is fast to modify, quick to move and powerful enough to light a substantial area, even with full white diffusion. For me, one of the main benefits of using the Rotolight LEDs has always been their portability and convenience, and this was clearly demonstrated on-set with this scene,” explains Lange.

AN INTERESTING ADDITION
Director Paul McGuigan was keen to use traditional visual effect methods that were contemporary with the period of the film and the lead character’s earlier career. In later scenes, like the live action exterior shots and car driving scenes, the product team used a rear projection technique instead of blue/green screen process work.
“The Rotolight NEOs were an interesting addition to supplement the lighting package. The ability to select SFX modes helped give the lighting a more ‘dynamic’ feel. So, for instance, in driving scenes where DOP Urszula Pontikos had moving lamps, we used NEOs as some of the static lights using the flicker effect in the SFX suite to help create that scene-changing effect. We also found the Designer Fade feature particularly useful to fade up from zero output to 100% and back again to zero. It allowed a handheld lamp to be moved and create a shifting shadow — but with a source that came from nowhere, and simply went away again. It created a seamless effect and makes the light very nice to work with.”
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool also stars Julie Walters (Calendar Girls; Mamma Mia!; Paddington) and Vanessa Redgrave (Call the Midwife; Letters to Juliet; Atonement) and is based on the memoir of the same name by Turner.

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