The Pacific - Kodak

The Pacific - Kodak


Giving a truthful


look to

The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that recreates World War II from the perspective of three US Marines, Robert Leckie, Eugene

B. Sledge, and John Basilone. The script is based on the diaries and memoirs of these men, whose real-life odysseys took one or more of

them, along with the 1st Marine Division, to Okinawa, Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, New Guinea, and for the lucky ones, back home to

the US. They were chosen in part because their experiences were emblematic of the average Marine.

Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, as

well as co-executive producer Tony To and cinematographer

Remi Adefarasin, BSC, were reprising their roles on 2001’s

Band of Brothers, an award-winning miniseries that followed

WW II soldiers in the European theater. On The Pacific,

Stephen Windon, ACS shared cinematography duties with

Adefarasin; each filmed five episodes for a range of directors.

The production is thought to be the most expensive television

project ever mounted in Australia.

“When I first considered coming onto The Pacific, I

hesitated, thinking I’d done enough of World War II,” says

Adefarasin. “But when Tony spoke to me about the scope

of the production, and how it would be such a strong

statement about how bad war can be – both physically

and mentally from every point of view, I decided I had to

do it.”

The look needed to communicate truthfulness. “This

war was not a fictitious thing,” says Adefarasin. “The

images couldn’t look phony or doctored. We felt that the

archival images from Ken Burns’ documentary The War,

shot by soldiers on reversal film, had an amazing look. The

reversal stocks from the 1940s couldn’t take contrast too

well. The saturation is quite high, so everything seems

slightly exaggerated. Duplication and re-duplication

over the years added contrast and twisted the

colors somewhat. So the whole image is really quite

manipulated, and there are wonderful textures,

shapes and resonances. There’s a natural patina that

you can’t actually create by mechanical means.”

focus on film 1

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focus on film

“In our creative discussions, we emphasized that in order

for the audience to believe what was happening, we had to

be honest about how we photographed things,” says Windon.

“Every aspect, including the stunts and practical effects, were

done in a very non-theatrical way. Tony was very passionate

and knew exactly what things should look like, down to the

beads of sweat on the face of a Marine stricken with malaria.

If there was ever any doubt about believability, then we were

probably visualizing it in the wrong way.”

Exposure latitude critical

Some experiments in cross-processing and other tests were

done, but the filmmakers eventually chose a different path. “We

elected to shoot the film using tungsten-balanced stocks, but

without the 85 correction filter,” says Adefarasin. “That gave a

very slight color twist to the negative. We achieved the rest of

the effect through lighting, by overexposure or by hard, heavy

backlight, and also in the final grade.”

Adefarasin and Windon used KODAK VISION2 200T 5217

and VISION2 500T 5218 films in the 35mm format. They

framed the images for 16:9 aspect ratio using ARRI

cameras and Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses.

Sets at Melbourne City Studios, and

locations in and around New South

Wales, rural Victoria, and Port

Douglas stood in for the various

islands and jungles where battles took

place. The black-sand terraces of Iwo

Jima, for example, were recreated in a

quarry. Other scenes depicted Marines

on leave in Australia, and the family

homes of Marines back in the

States, where loved ones waited

and prayed.

In the jungles of Queensland the filmmakers were under

strict restrictions that prevented extensive light rigging or other

alterations of the jungle. The pristine wilderness there includes

poisonous snakes, jellyfish, crocodiles, and aggressive plant life

that hook and sting the skin. The restrictions led to lighting and

exposure issues for Windon, Adefarasin and their crews.

Other difficult situations included the amphibious assaults

where the filmmakers were on small landing craft in very rough

seas. “If we had shot on a digital format, we’d have been dead

after the first day of shooting,” says Adefarasin. “Imagine

floating in a tin can with vomit, salt, sand and blood flying

everywhere. There was a lot of slamming around due to violent

waves. I feel in my bones that a digital format wouldn’t have

worked mechanically. I know it would have been impossible to

cope with the contrast too.”

Windon says that film’s exposure latitude was crucial in

capturing realistic scenes under the jungle

canopy, where he filmed the episode

depicting the New Guinea campaign.

“Inside the jungle, you get huge changes in

color temperature throughout the shooting

day, as sun or cloud cover changes. Where

possible, to counteract that problem

and to smooth the differentiation

between the color temperatures, we

put about 50 6K Spacelights up in the

palm trees, with full CTB and some

Plus Green gel on them. In a dark

environment, it was amazing how

much you could lift the ambient light.

We ran these lights through a dimmer

system. With camouflage nets and

sometimes artificial rain, this worked

pretty well.”

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On the ground, Windon used some white and shiny bounce

cards here and there, and sometimes laid blue bed sheets on

the ground to reflect cooler-toned light up into the helmets and

onto the faces of the actors.

Subtle changes

Camera movement in the more intense sequences was often

handheld to communicate the frenetic, uncontrolled feeling

of battle. “Another big advantage of shooting film cameras is

the ability to change frame rates and shutter settings,” says

Windon. “I only shot 24 frames per second when there was

dialog. The rest of the time, I would make subtle changes in

frame rate – sometimes 21 or 22 fps, or even 27 or 28 fps,

occasionally combined with a 90- or 45-degree shutter,

depending on what felt right for the shot. That creates a

heightened intensity or a lovely staccato as a mortar goes off,

or enhances something as simple as the turn of a head or the

blink of an eye.”

Windon and Adefarasin often used the fastest film stocks

even in bright sunlight. “I’ve always liked the latitude of

the 5218, even when there is a bright, white beach or a hot

sky in the frame,” says Windon. “I love the way it captures

information. You don’t lose it. It’s a wonderful stock for

overexposure. That latitude was also great in the jungle,

capturing so much detail in the darker areas.”

The 5218 also helped when we chose to shoot with a very

deep T-stop, like T16,” he adds. “In scenes depicting the Iwo

Jima assault, we felt that a very deep focus would have more

impact and intensity, and less theatricality – in a way, the

opposite of a shallow depth of field, anamorphic look, which

has one plane of focus. All the layers were sharp from eight

inches from the film plane right through to a distant mountain.”

About 1.2 million feet of exposed negative was processed

at Cinevex/Deluxe in Melbourne. The telecine transfer was

handled at Digital Pictures in Melbourne on an HD Spirit

DataCine, resulting in 4:4:4 HDCAM SR files. Dailies colorist

Neil Wood used a da Vinci 2K Color Enhancement System

to set a one-light look based on digital stills taken on the set

1 Joe Mazzello as Eugene Sledge in a scene from the film.

2 Jon Seda in his role as John Basilone. (Photos by David James/HBO)

and manipulated by the cinematographers. A full 2K digital

intermediate is being created for future distribution options.

focus focus on on film film 3

The negative was occasionally rescanned at 2K or even 4K

resolution on ARRI or Spirit scanners, if the dailies grade wasn’t

adequate. At RIOT in Santa Monica, California, about 15 days of

final color correction was devoted to each episode. Steve Porter

did the final color timing with post-production supervisor Todd


“Our goal was to make it realistic, without a period feel,

and to portray battles on each of the islands as uniquely

as possible,” explains London. “We didn’t want to play the

landscape as oversaturated, as that didn’t feel right. Remi

and Stephen didn’t want each frame to be too perfect, so we

intentionally left in a few oddities to help with the realistic


“We agreed early on that Kodak film was the right medium,”

says London. “We had talked about shooting with Genesis or

RED cameras in the very early stages, but in discussions with

the cinematographers, visual effects and post people, we didn’t

see any advantage to going that route. The visual effects people

prefer higher image quality for their work. Film allowed us to

add additional camera shake later, with more negative area

to work with. Night photography was enhanced by shooting

film, and shooting in bright sun on the ocean in HD would have

resulted in a look that was too modern . We also had concerns

about shooting HD cameras in jungles, rain, dust, dirt and heat.”

Adefarasin says that film is simply better at depicting human

beings. “At the moment, digital can’t handle humanity,” he says.

“Faces don’t look good. Emotions don’t look good. It all looks

too crisp and clean, but it doesn’t actually look like something

I see with my two eyes. It looks like a confection to me,

something that’s phony and artificial.”

“On top of that, I don’t think digital formats can handle the

contrast range,” he says. “When you come to post, and you

want to twist the images one way or another, you can do that

with film because there is so much range. On a raw and epic

film like The Pacific, so many violent things happen in front of

the lens: explosions, water, blood, impacts, and the contrast of

light and shade. Film can handle it all.”

Adefarasin and Windon both express admiration and

gratitude to their crews, who faced the difficulties with skill and

persistence. “Every episode was so big and so different that

it was like making 10 one-hour feature films,” says Windon.

There are incredible variations in looks. In addition to being

with these Marines on the front lines, there are the highs and

lows of what happened to their loved ones back home, who

depended on only the occasional letter for news. It was very

interesting and engaging from an emotional point of view to

even photograph. Every written word in the screenplays was

powerful, strong and thought-provoking.”

The Pacific is slated to air on HBO in 2010

Key Data at a glance

Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks

Co-executive producer Tony To

Cinematographers Remi Adefarasin, BSC

Stephen Windon, ACS

Cameras ARRI cameras and Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses

Formats 35mm format framed for 16:9 aspect ratio

Film stock KODAK VISION2 200T 5217 and

KODAK VISION2 500T 5218*

Image transfer Digital Pictures, Melbourne

Colorist Neil Wood

* KODAK VISION2 500T 5218 has been superseded by the new and improved


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