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Monday, 12 May 2014 05:44

Spider-Man Caught on Film

Written by  Gordon Meyer
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After shooting last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man in digital native 3D using twin RED Epics and 3D camera rigs from 3ality Technica, Director Marc Webb decided to change things up a bit.

He shot the recently released sequel using Kodak VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and Kodak VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 for principle photography and second unit exteriors with Kodak VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203. Webb hired veteran cinematographer Daniel Mindel, ASC, BSC to shoot the web slinging sequel, in part because of the look Mindel gave to the most recent two Star Trek movies.

“On The Amazing Spider-Man 2, they hired me because they wanted to go back to shooting film,” says Mindel. “Marc Webb had seen Star Trek and liked the way it looked,” Mindel said.  “Telling stories with motion pictures is really what interests me, and I like to use film as part of the emotional landscape of a story.” Like Star Trek: Into Darkness and John Carter, which Mindel also shot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was converted to 3D in post-production. 

But going back to film wasn’t the only analog technology Webb and his creative team used. Webb and his team often used physical effects rather than CGI to achieve the look he wanted.  For example, there’s a scene in which time appears to stand still for a moment as Spider-Man tries to figure out how to save a group of bystanders from the villain’s attack.  

Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong cast athletes and dancers who could hold their poses for an extended period of time as extras. “Everyone practiced for weeks, holding a pose, whether they were standing still or running or about to fall over. We built some stands to help them hold their weight, if they were in a dynamic pose. Then, in post-production, we could paint or freeze them the best we could. That was months of effort to get the illusion to work," said Sony Pictures Imageworks VFX supervisor Jerome Chen in the movie’s official production notes. 

Another memorable scene shows Peter Parker rolling up the walls of his apartment as he removes his Spider-Man costume, seemingly defying gravity.  Here, Webb took a page from two classic movies, “Royal Wedding” with Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey where the camera follows astronauts as they traverse the inside wall of a centrifuge.  Like those earlier filmmakers, Webb had his set built inside a giant drum which rotated in sync with the camera for a very realistic effect. 

With a movie as visually complex as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, digital effect are crucial and the script kept Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen and his team at Sony Imageworks on their toes. But either using solely practical effects or a blending of practical and digital effects was crucial to the feel Webb wanted. “Audiences intuitively know when they are seeing something real,” said producer Matt Tolmach. “We have tons of visual effects shots - Spider-Man does some things that no human being can do - but we wanted the world to have weight, believability, and gravitas. So wherever we could, doing it for real was a very big part of Marc's vision for Spider-Man.”

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