Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Lie to Me and OB-1s

Lie to Me stars Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a lie detection specialist who determines the truth by interpreting body language and psychology. To depict these small tics and “microexpressions,” the show takes advantage of the ARRIFLEX D-21’s full sensor and shallow depth of field for these extreme close-ups.

Lie to Me shoots with two to three cameras at a time and on Sidell’s set, the DP chooses to work without a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). “Coming from a film background, I was really drawn to the D-21 because I didn’t feel that I needed to have an on-set DIT. I have the creative freedom to take a film approach to working in a digital environment and have control of the image. It became a no-brainer to use this camera system,” he says.
The show’s multi-racial cast presents a spectrum of skin tones, often with actors of contrasting tones in scenes together. Sidell’s deft visual style allows this diversity to be showcased -- an ability that he partly credits to the D-21’s handling of skin tones and the lenses that are used. “I have found that the flesh tones are much more pleasing on the D-21 compared to other cameras. They feel really beautiful to me. They are softer and have a much closer look to film. The other cameras truly have more of a video feel. We light different actors and different skin tones in different ways, but I don’t have a problem where one person ‘jumps out’ and the other person disappears, or one person is lit too harshly, the other not. The D-21 isn’t particular to one or the other, it actually picks out those proper skin tones,” explains Sidell.

Besides the D-21’s versatility in rendering skin tones, the cinematographer has been impressed with its capability in shooting night scenes and dealing with under exposure. “My gaffer and I have been very surprised with this system. We know it has an ASA 200 rating, but I go back and forth from 200 to 400 ASA all the time based on how I want to control the overall lighting balance and depth of field. We did some night work in our first episode shooting with the D-21 and I lit the front of a building two and half stops under key. I rated it at 400. I looked at dailies and the building was almost too bright at two-and-a-half stops under. I realized I can light much more under than I expected and have the confidence to know that I still have plenty of latitude in the under exposure. I’ve been doing some of the night scenes now where the key is two stops or two-and-half-stops under exposed and it looks amazing. The grain was still fine -- it held the color and information in the shadows. The blacks held and it was pretty amazing.”

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