The Age of Innocence, (USA 1993, Martin Scorsese)
“Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence might have been subtitled The Man Who Could Not Love Women. The poet of impotence has translated Edith Wharton’s acerbic scrutiny of the suffocating codes and customs of late nineteenth-century New York into melodrama, centred on a tragic hero incapable of breaking through the social ties that bind. On the face of it, the film is a faithful adaptation of Wharton’s book, even allowing the writer herself a voice in Joanne Woodward’s narration. The minutiae of the novel’s descriptions of decor and fashion have been lovingly re-created, as the matching of image and voiceover testifies. This is a meeting not only of minds, but also of compulsions: the obsessional film-maker has found a fellow fetishist in Wharton, whose fascination with fine detail takes social realism to excess. And, of course, they are both artists who study their society with outsiders’ eyes.
Such distance as Scorsese does take on Archer is realised, characteristically, partly as a problem of vision. His film is literally an art movie in which characters are judged according to their taste and the audience is tested on how many paintings and objets d’art it can identify. The camera follows Archer’s gaze as he travels from room to room examining acquisition after acquisition. But the connoisseur’s eye that sets him apart from most of his peers is also his downfall. Archer’s approach to life and love is that of an aesthete – he would rather look than act. To him, May’s niceness is a curtain hiding her basic emptiness, but it is his own inability to see beyond surfaces that separates him from the woman he professes to love. His first sight of Ellen after his marriage is from afar as he watches her on the seashore gazing out over the ocean. He promises himself that if she turns round, he will go to meet her, but she does not move and the moment is lost. The scene of Ellen on the shore is reminiscent of an Impressionist painting, with sparkling sunlight and soft colours creating a highly romanticised vista in which the static figure of a woman acts as a kind of guarantee of order and harmony.
Scorsese seems unexpectedly at home with period drama, taking more than one cue from that other saga of social change and doomed love, The Magnificent Ambersons. As in Welles’ film, the tension between tradition and modernity is signalled by the use of irises and masking, which looks back to silent cinema while at the same time acting as harbinger of the new medium about to take the late nineteenth century by storm. The Magnificent Ambersons is melancholic, treating its characters swept up in the tide of history with sympathy and projecting a sense of loss at what is sacrificed in the name of progress. At first glance, Scorsese’s movie is less nostalgic, ending on a hopeful note which recognises that Archer’s children will achieve the happiness he denied himself. For Scorsese, as for Wharton, Archer’s final decision to walk away from love is the last nail in the coffin of the past in which he is entombed. Yet it is clear that the film-maker, more than the novelist, identifies with Archer’s desire to live in his memories rather than face reality. Scorsese’s Age of Innocence is suffused with fear of loss, most notably in its striving for period authenticity (always a lost cause) and in its obsession with faithfully reproducing the novel.”
(Cook, Pam (1994): The Age of Innocence. In: Ginette Vincendeau (ed.): Film – Literature – Heritage. London: BFI, pp. 161–164, on pp. 162–163.)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (GBR 1989, Peter Greenaway)
“Gaultier’s designs for Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover are wildly eclectic. Helen Mirren’s caged cobweb dress and the waitresses’ corsets bear the trademarks of past Gaultier collections, whilst elsewhere his reference points are a heady blend of 1960s ‘space age’ fashions, Cavalier uniforms, seventeenth-century Cardinals’ robes and modern business suits. Although the items for the leads (except Alan Howard’s clothes as ‘the lover’) are specially designed one-offs, many of the other costumes are from Gaultier’s regular ready-to-wear collection, the extras reputedly having been ‘let loose amongst his rails and told to deck themselves out in whatever they would wear to a swanky restaurant’ (Maiberger 1989: 159). Gaultier, belying Wollen’s suggestion that ‘artistic’ costume designers seem to find their inspiration from outside rather than inside mainstream cinema, includes several touches of traditional Hollywood glamour in his The Cook, the Thief costumes, particularly the long gloves, whipped hair and yards of chiffon used for Helen Mirren as Georgina. The self-conscious affiliation with an existent film tradition is further signalled by Mirren’s cape with its collar of dark, upright feathers that frame her face, a direct reference to the much copied feather cloak designed by Chanel for Delphine Seyrig in Last Year At Marienbad.8 Gaultier’s costumes for The Cook, the Thief are tightly aligned with the film’s highly formalistic narrative structure. Greenaway’s film (like many of his others) is structured around the idea of a procession: the clear separation of the interconnecting rooms (the restaurant, the kitchens, the rest room) along a horizontal axis, the evenly paced tracking shots following the action, the positioning of the characters (at table and elsewhere) in straight lines, and the division of the narrative into seven consecutive days. The insistence of this pattern is repeated on the level of costume, most notably in the co-ordination of costumes with the dominant colours of the lighting and mise-en-scène, so that clothes change colour (whilst maintaining the same design) as the characters move from room to room. Greenaway identifies the essence of the decor and the costumes as being vulgarity, commenting, ‘The people in the film are part of a swaggering society and wear clothes to identify themselves and set themselves apart’ (Bergan 1989: 29). The costumes here are characterised by their looked-at-ness; changes are motivated purely by the requirements of the overall design rather than the narrative, and thus they fulfil a star-like role, processing through the film as arbitrary signs which precede rather than follow character.
8 One such copy of Chanel’s cape is Helen Storey’s ‘Death in velvet’ dress for her 1994 collection.”
(Bruzzi, Stella (2012): Cinema and Haute Couture. Sabrina to Pretty Woman, Trop Belle Pour Toi!, Prêt-à-Porter. In: Undressing Cinema. Clothing and Identity in the Movies. Routledge, on pp. 9–10.)
Blade Runner (USA 1982, Ridley Scott)
“One of the design concepts for Blade Runner was bright neon against a drab background of buildings. As this concept involved both lighting and set construction, Cronenweth came in for the meetings. Pauli wanted to have a “harsh, murky look” with “additive architecture” that created a “sculptured appearance with a lot of texture.” Vacuum-formed pipes were applied all over the exteriors of the buildings and everything was painted in “elephant colors with pastel highlights.” Since the Director, Ridley Scott, had also had experience in art direction and camera, he had definite ideas of what he wanted. Both Pauli and Cronenweth felt that the collaboration was a good experience. As Pauli put it, “it posed opportunities” for expansion of concepts and “contributed to the visualization of the film.” For example one of the design motifs of the film was shafts of light. (See July 1982 issue American Cinematographer) According to Cronenweth, “Ridley liked the feeling of shafts of light in Citizen Kane, so we used them for the first time in the Tyrel Corporation scene. Ridley loved it but how could we justify it in other scenes? The next scene where we wanted to use this motif was in the Blade Runner’s apartment. It was decided to justify it by establishing the light sources as advertising on the side of the dirigibles floating around outside.” Thus some of the most stunning images in the film evolved from this creative process of problem solving.”
(Carmichael, Jae (1982): Lighting and Production Design. In: American Cinematographer, 63,11, pp. 1156–1161, on p. 1157.)
Blade Runner (USA 1982, Ridley Scott)
“Another technique which Douglas likes to use is the Smoke Room. He has found out by experimenting that one of the mistakes a lot of effects people make is to shoot a miniature in a clear room. Without smoke you don’t get the aerial perspective that you get in atmosphere. Even the purest of atmospheres creates an aerial perspective. Colors become less distinct; there is a blending and a softening of resolution the further and further away you get. Smoke is a microcosm. It creates the illusion of distance and can make a miniature which is 12 feet away seem much further away. So in addition to matching the smoke effects used in the live action photography, we used smoke for almost all the major city-scapes or industrial landscapes. Even the flying machines were often shot in smoke to add depth and create a sense of aerial perspective.
In addition to the Smoke Room, another technique we used to enhance the aerial perspective with a flying object which was being optically composited with a background was to systematically subtract exposure and actually start to drop the matte away as the object receded into the distance. This caused it to become contaminated by the background as it got further and further away from camera and to become less and less bright. It tended to give the feeling of going off into the smoke or haze. Otherwise if the object retains its brightness and resolution as it recedes, it tends to look like a postage stamp stuck on top of the background and doesn’t seem really to belong in the scene.”
(Dryer, David (1982): Blade Runner. Special Photographic Effects. In: American Cinematographer, 63,7, pp. 692–693, 725–732, on pp. 692–693.)
Blade Runner (USA 1982, Ridley Scott)
Jordan Cronenweth’s photography for Blade Runner with its strong shafts of light and use of backlighting immediately evokes images from classic black-and-white movies, and it is no accident that it does. As Cronenweth explains, “Ridley felt the style of photography in Citizen Kane most closely approached the look he wanted for Blade Runner. This included among other things high contrast, unusual camera angles and the use of shafts of light.”
David Dryer, one of the special effects supervisors, worked with black-and-white prints of most scenes in the film for one reason or another, and he almost wishes the film could be released in black-and-white. He thinks it seems to have even more depth and style in black-and-white. Needless to say this would not do justice to Cronenweth’s work, but it is an indication of the way in which the photographic style of the film harks back to classic movies. Like every other aspect of the film Cronenweth’s photography takes the classic conventions one step further, and not the least of his tools in doing this is the use of color or even the absence of color where it might normally be expected. “We used contrast, backlight, smoke, rain and lightning to give the film its personality and moods. The streets were depicted as terribly overcrowded, giving the audience a future time frame to relate to. We had street scenes just packed with people… like ants. So we made them look like ants – all the same. They were all the same in the sense that they were all part of the flow. It was like going in circles… like going nowhere. Photographically we kept them rather colorless.”
If the people on the streets were colorless, the New York Street set was anything but: “The character and consequently the lighting of the New York Street was achieved through the use of dozens of neon signs. We rented a number of them from One from the Heart. In order to achieve a photographic reality, the on-camera neons were often on dimmers set at a level just above where they would start to flicker. At the same time the off-camera neons were used as the primary source of light whenever possible by leaving them at their brightest level. When the existing neons weren’t sufficient for either illumination or dressing, we would simply create new ones on the spot and place them wherever we wanted. An example of this was placing letters on the side and strips on the interior of a bus that Harrison runs through in one scene. At one point we had a seven-man crew doing nothing but overseeing the neon signs. There were many more neons than there were dimmers, so we had to rob Peter to pay Paul at various times.”
Cronenweth would supplement the neons on occasion: “What you needed was some accent lighting to make the range stand out, to glisten the street if necessary and to highlight objects or people. Lighting the set was a simple matter of using backlight in conjunction with the ambient light.”
The neon lights were bright enough in one instance to enable Cronenweth to do some high speed photography: “In the sequence in which Harrison Ford is chasing Joanna Cassidy’s ‘Snake Lady,’ the script calls for her to run through the plate glass windows of a store. The art director built a storefront situation appropriate to the action, but when it came to dressing it Ridley was very unhappy with the first attempt. They tore all the dressing out and a week later presented a new interpretation, but he still hated it. Ridley himself finally had the wonderful idea of taking the neon signs off the New York Street set and placing them in the windows of the stores. What developed was something that really worked. We then photographed the chase with multiple cameras running at various frame rates – normal and above normal. We had to deal with a pulsing effect which doesn’t occur when photographing neons at normal camera speeds, but definitely occurs at higher frame rates. We lived with it by using the pulsing as an element of the chase.”
Another striking use of colored light is the scene in the toy room where Deckard encounters Pris, one of the replicants. She is made up with white make-up, and the scene is lit with rose colored light. Colored lights were also used occasionally for the light effect in the replicants’ eyes: “One of the identifying characteristics of replicants is a strange glowing quality of the eyes. To achieve this effect, we’d use a two-way mirror – 50% transmission, 50% transmission, 50% reflection – placed in front of the lens at a 45 degree angle. Then we’d project a light into the mirror so that it would be reflected into the eyes of the subject along the optical axis of the lens. Sometimes we’d use very subtle colored gels to add color to the eyes. Often we’d photograph a scene with and without this effect, for Ridley to have the option of when he’d use it.”
In discussing the photography of Blade Runner, however, Cronenweth emphasizes that technique per se is not the most important consideration. “The thing that was unique was not the equipment or the gels or the intensity or the hard or soft light. It was the concepts behind each situation telling the story. Since the film is set in the future, unusual sources of light could be used where one would not accept them in a contemporary setting. For example many umbrellas carried had fluorescent tubes incorporated in their shafts providing a light source which could create a glow in the faces of the carriers.”
In addition to using soft frontlight Cronenweth often lit faces from below. In addition to the glowing umbrella handles he made use of water or reflective surfaces to provide uplight in several scenes. The combination of warm soft uplight in the foreground with hard backlight and smoke in the background is probably the most characteristic feature of the lighting style for Blade Runner.
The other key ingredient in the photography of Blade Runner is the use of shafts of light. “The shafts of light was an idea that both Ridley and I had happened upon independently and had talked about. We shared that concept, and it became one of the major themes of the film photographically. We used it over and over again in different applications. One way we justified the constant presence of shafts of light was to invent airships floating through the night with enormously powerful beams emerging from their undersides. In the futuristic environment they bathe the city in constantly swinging lights. They were supposedly used for both advertising and crime control, much the way a prison is monitored by moving search lights. The shafts of light represent invasion of privacy by a supervising force, a form of control. You are never sure who it is; but even in the darkened seclusion of your home, unless you pull your shades down, you are going to be disturbed at one time or another.
“After many tests with various units, gaffer Dick Hart came up with the most effective light to do the job. That was a Xenon spotlight commonly used for night advertising and sports events. This concept gave us some wonderful opportunities. For example there’s a late night scene in Harrison Ford’s apartment kitchen, played with the lights out. Harrison has just had a hell of a struggle with one of the replicants. Having barely survived, he is now standing near the refrigerator which has a clear plastic door. The only light in the room is from the refrigerator. Sean Young is standing by the sink, which has a window above it. She is illuminated by a soft backlight through the window and by the last traces of light filtering across the room from the refrigerator. Occasionally one of the beams of light cuts through the sink windows and glows the room just enough to read Sean’s face.
“Naturally,” Cronenweth continues, “to get shafts of light one must have some medium, which necessitated the use of smoke. The story lent itself very well to it, in the context of a highly polluted environment. It was very interesting to work with this constant atmosphere. Smoke is wonderful photographically, but not without its problems. Its hard to control, mainly due to drafts; and a lot of people find it objectionable to work in. Beyond this, it’s important to keep the smoke level density constant, as a very subtle change in this density can result in dramatic changes in contrast. The only practical way to judge smoke density is by eye. I find that a good density is just before I lose consciousness.”
All of the sets for Blade Runner had ceilings in them, and some were built very low to enhance the feeling of containment, a motif particularly well suited to the anamorphic format. “We had to light from the floor or through the windows. There’s a lot of night photography lit through windows. The sources would vary. They could be anything including searchlights, signs, direct light, indirect light, colored light, or lightning. In Harrison Ford’s apartment, we created zones of light that illuminated automatically when one walked in at different levels – an energy saving device of the future perhaps. As the depths of the apartment were penetrated, more lights went on until finally the entire place was illuminated. This effect was mostly lost, however, in the final cut.”
Perhaps the most interesting set was Tyrell’s office. According to Cronenweth, “Tyrell’s office was one of the most exciting to work in. It was very large – approximately sixty feet long by thirty feet wide – with three huge windows along one side and structural ceiling supports rising from a shiny black marble floor. The walls were gray cement and the room was virtually colorless.
“The scene called for the room to be illuminated by sunrise. Outside the windows we had a front projection screen upon which was projected an 8 by 10 plate of the futuristic city at sunrise that Doug Trumbull had created. This enabled us to photograph the players walking in front of the lower part of the screen and gave Doug an opportunity to later create a background with movement in it for the upper portions of the screen area. We had to coordinate the color of the set to match the color of Doug’s sunrise. Sunlight was created through the use of arcs outside the windows and amber gels.
“At a certain point in the scene, Tyrell, in order to reduce the light level in the room for a test, presses a button causing enormous tinted shades to descend over the windows. The ‘shades’ were actually put in later optically; however the effect of the shades being lowered had to be created while photographing the scene. To accomplish this, Carey Griffith, the key grip, built a rig that would allow a very large sixty neutral density filter to slide down over the six arcs being used to simulate sunlight.”
The set for Tyrell’s office was also redressed to serve as two other sets. It was used for Tyrell’s bedroom, which was photographed in flickering firelight; and it was used as the Tyrell Corporation interview room, which was photographed in bright white shafts of daylight. According to Cronenweth, “It looks totally different in each situation, and yet it’s the same set. The flickering for the firelight was created by arcs through torn strips of silk and dubotine – torn strips of silk for transmission and torn strips of dubotine for shadows.””
(Lightman, Herb A.; Patterson, Richard (1982): Blade Runner. Production Design and Photography. In: American Cinematographer, 63,7, pp. 684–687, 715–725, on pp. 720–723.)
Aliens (USA, GBR 1986, James Cameron)
“As Ripley grows stronger as a character on this journey, she also moves from the safer, sterile spaces to spaces that are darker, more organic, and more dangerous. Then finally she battles through her own fears of giving birth as she descends into the dripping, organic mother Alien’s nest to kill this evil mother.
As has been pointed out many times in film criticism, her journey in Aliens is from one distinct kind of architectural space into another. In the earlier parts of the film she is in rectangular, mechanical, well-lit, sterile white spaces that are safe.
Increasingly, though, tension rises as Ripley must enter dark, rounded, organic, dripping, blackened intestine-like spaces that are controlled, occupied and ecologically transformed by the Aliens.
Finally, in the penultimate scene when she must descend into the heart of the black, dripping, living nest of the Alien mother to retrieve her own daughter-figure, she at last faces her own fears of birth, death and bodily violation.”
(D’Adamo, Amedeo (2018): Empathetic Space on Screen. Constructing Powerful Place and Setting. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, on pp. 65–66.)
Batman (USA 1989, Tim Burton)
“The characters are also colorful in Batman (1989) and, as in Annie Hall, the symbolism is reversed. The Joker wears bright and garish colors as if bad taste was an important part of villainy. Batman, of course, saves the day while wearing nothing but stylish blue-black. Batman also lives in a dark and shadowy “cave” reminiscent of the bleak mansions of Film Noir. Gotham City in Batman is a pastiche of Film Noir stereotypes similar to what might be expected in a comic book version of Blade Runner. Derelict Deco towers emerge from the fog, and the grimy streets seem perfect for breeding crime, prompting the Joker to quip “Decent people shouldn’t live here.” Batman gets things straightened out but he does it under the cover of darkness. There is no need to bring sunshine into the picture.”
(Ford, Larry (1994): Sunshine and Shadow. Lighting and Color in the Depiction of Cities in Film. In: Stuart C. Aitken and Leo E. Zonn (eds.): Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle. A Geography of Film. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp. 119–136, on p. 132.)
Out of Africa (USA 1985, Sydney Pollack)
“Out of this Africa they were embarking to film, Pollack wanted a lush and a romantic sweep that would warm the heart, without spilling over to sentimentality. What he saw there, and wanted translated on the screen, were countless variations on the shades of green and brown which the land produced. So, there was Africa, with all its natural beauty. But the light Africa offered was harsh, and if fell straight down, equatorially, casting ugly shadows on people and their faces. Therefore, aside from an hour before dusk, and an hour after it, sunlight conditions were disastrous as far as the filmmakers were concerned.
“You get values from David Watkin that are uniquely his own,” Pollack says in admiration of the man who gave his love story a soft shimmer and a glow. Without using smoke or gimmicks, “he makes a set look like it’s not lit. He’s a real painter. He has the ability to make real magic in the most unconventional manner, and often the simplest. It’s one thing to use 156 lights, but it’s another thing to watch a man hang one light, walk away from it. and have it look gorgeous!”
At least three quarters of Out of Africa is shot on the Agfa 320 (and some of it is on the Kodak 5247, but not very much) which is much better than the 5294. With the Agfa, you’ve got three octaves back on top of the scale. It’s almost impossible to overexpose. It retains highlights, and it’s a much softer stock than Kodak. You get 18 different greens, and 20 more half tones. In hard sunlight, where you’re practically under the equator, the sunlight looks absolutely ravishingly beautiful. Speed is not the most important thing about a film stock. What’s most important is how it looks. And you can’t find that out by testing a film stock. It takes a film to try a stock, which is why I get fed up about Kodak changing their stocks all the time. The 5247 is still a very good stock, and I know exactly what it’ll do.”
You’d expect that, using both the Agfa 320 and the Kodak 5247 (with its slower ASA), Watkin would employ the fast film for nights and interiors, and keep the slower stock for day exteriors. Guess again. Watkin did the unexpected, doing the exact opposite: he used the Agfa for exteriors and the Kodak for nights and interiors.
“In theory, the 5247 is too ASA and the Agfa is 320 ASA, but Kodak has raised its ASA to 135, and Agfa looks best in full exposure, so you’re going to use it at 200, not 320. So, the two stocks are not that far apart in speed – one stop – and I’d rather shoot at 4 than at 5.6. Agfa is much less grainy than the 5294, by the way, and a lot more people are using it (Chris Menges, for example, on The Mission). “There’s increased contrast, and it’s still a softer film,” agrees Sydney Pollack. “You’re recording the contrast of what is already overcontrasty. What we did was to spread the soft light.”
The Agfa 320, however, did not seem to suit the director in low light levels, or in the shade. “We couldn’t get real blacks in the interiors, and to get real blacks, we used the Kodak 5247.”
Watkin also likes depth of field, and seeing a chance of being deprived of it is what prompted him to convince Pollack against going anamorphic. “And he was right,” Pollack concurs. “With 1:85, we have a lot more depth, and the country side looks rich and full, with all its colors and its own personality,” Oddly enough, the preceeding year in Kenya was a drought year, but during the year the filmmakers visited it, it was wet and unusually bright in its greens, not yellow. “But it has a golden aura about it, which makes it romantic,” says Watkin. Even the interiors, Pollack wanted bathed in a similar orange to golden glow, because “Number one, it’s accurate. Number two, it’s more romantic. And I hate blue.” This meant that oil and kerosene lamps, as well as candles and fires, had to be recruited to do the job.
For Out of Africa’s own fire scenes, David Watkin used a sheet of brass, which he hammered a little, and had a whole lot of small lights reflecting off it a mixed orange flow of glow. He contends that aside from using a small light here or there to reinforce their darker skin tones, he made absolutely no other lighting compensations in filming black and white actors together in the same frame. (“I did Mahogany,” he whispers, “and in that case I did nothing at all. You have to be careful not to underexpose it. You mustn’t have a thin negative.”)”
(Hachem, Samir (1986): Lights, Camera, Emulsions for Out of Africa. In: American Cinematographer, 67,2, pp. 66–72, on pp. 67–72.)
Out of Africa (USA 1985, Sydney Pollack)
“Pollack wanted to shoot anamorphically for a wide screen effect, but Watkin convinced him he would never get the sharpness or depth that could be obtained with spherical lenses. The proof is on the screen: the plains of Kenya shimmer with heat and distance, lush and colorful in spite of the glaring equatorial light which bakes the grasslands pitilessly. Three Arriflex cameras were used, all fitted with a complement of Zeiss superspeed lenses.
Agfa 320 stock was used for the exteriors and Eastman 5247 was the choice for interiors. There is a seeming paradox here: the 320 negative, with its ASA rating of 320, is one of the highest speed films available, being highly favored for its ability to register good images in situations where lighting is almost nil. The 5247 is a film of moderate speed at ASA 100. Watkins’ rationale is that the Agfa looks its best at full exposure, so he rates it at ASA 200 instead of 320. Kodak has raised the 47 to ASA 135. There is, therefore, only one stop difference separating the two films when so rated. The fine grain of the 320, its softness coupled with increased contrast, and a wide exposure latitude were factors which influenced Watkin in favoring the 320 for exterior work. The ability of the 5247 to yield perfect blacks made it ideal for the interiors.
A characteristic warm, golden glow lends a romantic aura to the exterior scenes. A kinship to this effect was achieved in the interiors, in which the warmth of firelight, oil lamp light, and even electrical lighting was utilized to carry through the mood of a story of love. For day interiors, Watkin lighted from outside, simulating the direct rays of the sun with HMIs with fill light provided by white card reflectors.
A sheet of hammered brass reflecting numerous small lights was used to simulate the warm glow of firelight.
To maintain the feminine point of view from which the story is told, as well as to carry a sense of non-contemporary timelessness in depicting the land, there is a minimum of crane work and an avoidance of obvious technical intrusions. The male principals, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer, are depicted as they would be seen by the leading woman/author, (Meryl Streep) and the vastness of Kenya is shown as it is described by the countess. There are no concessions to the land as scenery for the tourist, no travel brochure prettiness. The beauty and majesty of the land are brought out naturally, as part of the storytelling, rather than as a travelogue attached to a story film.”
(Turner, George (1986): Out of Africa. David Watkin. In: American Cinematographer, 67,4, pp. 84–86, on pp. 85–86.)
“Eastman Color LC Print Film 5380/7380
By S. J. Powell, C. Didier, B. Gagny, K. J. Carl, J. W. Erwin, and I. A. Halman
Eastman Color LC Print Film 5380/7380 has been designed for use in applications where a lower-contrast image is desired, such as for prints used for direct television transmission or video transfer. The new film replaces all formats of Eastman LC Color Print Film 5738/7738. Film 5380/7380 is fully compatible in Process ECP-2A and features the same improved dye stability and reduced process sensitivity as Eastman Color Print Film 5384/7384. The sensitometric characteristics, image structure, color rendition, and performance of the new film are described.
When color television broadcasting began in the mid-1950’s, prerecorded material for prime-time entertainment was available from only one source, the established motion-picture film industry. It was recognized at the outset, however, that theatrical films could not be broadcast over television without significant picture quality loss. This is primarily because the television signal cannot transmit the range of gray-scale values that are needed in a theatrical print to create an acceptable theater screen image.
This dilemma was addressed, at least for produced-for-television programs, by joint action of the SMPTE Color Committee and the Television Engineering Committee. Their efforts resulted in a report1 published in the May, 1964, issue of the Journal of the SMPTE and in the November, 1964, issue of the BKSTS Journal.
The report concludes that it is desirable to limit the density range of the color print material to be transmitted, and emphasizes that “…the most important, practical, and effective way to control the density range of the color print is in the staging and photography rather than in the final printing.” In other words, when filming for television, the gray-scale scene content should be designed with appropriate lighting and staging to achieve a motion-picture print having a range of density values that the television can reproduce.
For a fully lighted day interior scene, a lighting ratio of 2:1 was recommended. It was also recommended that a reference white and reference black be included in each scene where the maximum and minimum reflectances of fully illuminated materials that were to be reproduced with good detail were 60% for whites and 3% for blacks. Although these recommendations have been used successfully over the years to produce a variety of programs for television, they are not always possible, or desirable, to obtain – for a number of reasons.
First, the need for realism has driven the television producer on location, where lighting ratios cannot be held to 2:1, and the reflectivity of the whitest object in the scene cannot be held below 60%. Second, because of multiple-market requirements for many film productions, cinematographers must generally light and stage their material so that a theater screen optimum print can be made from the production negative.
Consequently, much of the print material used for television transmission has a density range exceeding that recommended in the committee’s report. This is also true of the many theatrical movies that are either videotaped or transmitted directly through a telecine chain. That is, the range of densities on these prints is too broad even for the most modern telecines to handle.
This problem was taken into consideration in Europe, particularly by the BBC, prior to the start of color broadcasting in Great Britain. At a meeting of the BKSTS in October, 1967, B. J. Davies of Kodak Ltd. described the problem2 and introduced a new Eastman Color Print Film, Type 5744, developed to minimize it. That film was designed with reduced upper-scale contrast compared to the normal theatrical print film in use at that time. This reduced-contrast film has had several names and type numbers over the years, as a result of process modifications, with the most recent version called 5738/7738.
The 5380/7380 film makes available the advantages of new print film technology in this reduced-contrast product. The 5380/7380 film differs from 5738/7738 film primarily in that it is process-compatible with 5384/7384 film in Process ECP-2A. The product is based on the emulsion technology of 5384 film, and as a result, has the same reduced process sensitivity and greatly improved dark-keeping dye stability as 5384 film.
The transfer characteristics of all these low-contrast print films was a carefully chosen compromise among several considerations. The contrast needed to be as low as possible to provide good performance on the telecine, yet high enough to provide a projectable image usable for screen evaluation. Additionally, the film needed enough color saturation to keep the chroma gain at a fairly low level.
Early considerations of the density ranges for motion-picture films intended for television transmission resulted in the approval (in July, 1972) and the publication (in September, 1972) of SMPTE Recommended Practice RP46.3 Briefly summarized, the document stated that the density corresponding to television white level should be 0.3 to 0.4, and that “…dark or black areas in which faithful reproduction of detail may not be essential may have densities in the order of 2.5.”
More recently, BBC engineers, as members of an EBU working group, defined the “Preferred Luminance Characteristics for Films for Television Presentation.” The preferred luminance characteristic (with density ranges), as defined in this report, is given in Fig. 1.
As indicated, the acceptable telecine density range is from approximately 0.2 to 2.5, similar to what was recommended in RP46. Also, as noted by the BBC engineers in their report, one important aspect of the preferred curve is that it provides that prints made for television will also give good results when projected on a conventional optical projector. This has been considered of practical importance because prints for television transmission are usually assessed in this way.
Figure 2 shows a print-through curve of Eastman Color Negative Film 5247 onto print film 5380. This product was designed to fit the characteristics of the preferred luminance curve and, as shown, fits well within the limits shown. A print-through curve of film 5247 onto 5384 film is included as a further basis of comparison, showing the reduced contrast of the 5380 film.
Film 5380 is useful in many applications where a lower-contrast image is desired. These include prints for direct television transmission, such as television syndication films, and prints used for transfers to videotape. The lower contrast of 5380 film has other applications as well, such as the print duplication process. This is discussed in detail in the section entitled, “Special Applications.”
To provide the print-through characteristics described earlier, 5380 film has approximately 15% lower upper-scale contrast than 5384 film (Fig. 3). The product has the same relative speed balance as 5384 film, so that the same approximate printer-trim settings can be used.
Film 5380/7380 features dye stability similar to that of 5384/7384 film, which is a significant improvement in dark-keeping dye stability in both the cyan and yellow layers compared to 5738/7738 film. The improved cyan and yellow dark-keeping stability is a result of the substitution of more stable cyan and yellow dye-forming couplers. These are the same couplers present in color print film 5384/7384.
The test procedure Kodak uses to predict color dye stability4 under standardized dark-keeping conditions consists of incubating processed sensitometric strips at several elevated temperatures at a constant 40% relative humidity. Density measurements of each dye layer are then conducted at specified intervals. The actual data from the accelerated tests at elevated temperatures is used to generate a series of curves of each dye layer (Fig. 4). The solid lines show the actual density losses at elevated temperatures from an original density of 1.0.
Using actual accelerated test data, the Arrhenius equation is used to predict dye stability at temperatures of 24°C and lower. This equation is:
where k is a rate constant, A is the frequency factor, Ea is the activation energy of the reaction, R is the universal gas constant, and T is the absolute temperature (°K).
The Arrhenius equation describes the rate of a chemical reaction (in this case, the destruction of a dye) as a function of temperature. By integrating both sides of the equation, the logarithm of the rate of dye fade will produce a straight line when plotted against the reciprocal of the absolute temperature. This analysis allows the prediction of stability curves for each dye layer under room-temperature keeping conditions (24°C), as shown by the dotted lines in Fig. 4.
In addition to dye stability predictions at room-temperature keeping conditions, the Arrhenius equation can also be used to predict long-term dye changes that can be expected with low-temperature dark storage. Figure 51 shows the predictions for storage of color print film 5380/7380 at room temperature (24°C), typical storage vault temperature (15°C), refrigerator temperature (7°C), and freezer temperatures of -8°C and -18°C. This plot is given on a linear scale for the dye showing the most change, which, in the case of 5380/7380 film, is the yellow dye.
The improved cyan and yellow dark-keeping dye stability results in a dramatic improvement in overall print dark-keeping dye stability for 5380 film, relative to that for 5738 film and similar to that of color print film 5384. Further, storage at lower temperatures, such as 15°C and lower, should increase the useful life of the film by a factor of approximately five times or more.
Dye stability data1 on Eastman color films is updated periodically. Before using this data to determine the proper storage conditions for processed films, check to make sure that you have the latest information.
Reduced Process Sensitivity
The emulsion technology incorporated in 5380 film is the same as that used in color print film 5384. As discussed in the December, 1982, issue of the SMPTE Journal,5 this technology results in the blue-sensitive layer being much less sensitive to process deviations. The slight contrast changes that occur are similar for all three layers in the new film.
Consequently, 5380 film has less contrast and/or speed mismatch with process variations than previous color print films. This change will significantly reduce the contrast variation from laboratory to laboratory and also within any given laboratory on a day-to-day basis.
Film 5380 has a conventional color print film structure (Fig. 6). The film has a protective gel overcoat containing matte and lubricants to facilitate film transport, handling, and printing properties. The green-, red-, and blue- sensitive layers have interlayers between them to help prevent color contamination that could adversely affect picture quality. Red- and green-absorbing dyes are also present in the film to reduce light scattering throughout the layers, thus increasing the sharpness of the dye images.
Because of its lower contrast, 5380 film can be coated with less gelatin in the film, resulting in thinner emulsion layers (Fig. 6). This results in lower swell of the film during processing and impacts drying conditions preferred for the product. This is discussed in more detail below.
Basic Film Characteristics
The granularity and sharpness of 5380 film are similar to those of color print film 5384. Data on granularity, resolving power, and sharpness is given in Tables 1 and 2 and Fig. 7, respectively.
Spectral Dye Density
The spectral dye density of 5380 film is shown in Fig. 8. The curves are the same as those for 5384 film, since the same couplers are used. The curves for 5380 film are slightly different from those for color print film 5738 because of the change to couplers with greater dye stability.
As indicated previously, 5380 film is approximately 15% lower in upper-scale contrast than 5384 film. The product is similar in upper-scale contrast to 5738 film, with slightly lower toe contrast.
The spectral sensitivity of 5380 film is given in Fig. 9. This sensitivity is similar to that of 5384 film, with the blue sensitivity peak shifted 30 to 40 nanometers in the longer-wavelength direction compared to 5738 film.
Because the same spectral sensitizers and couplers are used, 5380 film has color reproduction similar to that of 5384 film, although colors are slightly less saturated in 5380 film because of its lower upper-scale contrast. There are some slight color differences between 5380 and 5738 film as a result of the spectral sensitivity difference between these products. A plot of some of these differences is given in Fig. 10.
Printing recommendations are unchanged for 5380 film. The Kodak Wratten Gelatin Filter No. 2B is the recommended printing filter. Also, it has been Kodak’s experience from trade testing of the product that the same scene-to-scene timing may be used with 5380 film as with 5384 film. This facilitates the interchange of these products within a given laboratory.
Laboratory Aim Densities
The laboratory aim densities (LAD) (that is, the status A densities) for 5380 film are the same as those for 5384 film. The aim densities are: red, 1.08; green, 1.04; and blue, 1.03. This yields a gray having 1.0 visual density (1.0 FND [equivalent neutral density]) for a xenon-arc projection light source.
Kodak Safelight Filter No. 8 (dark yellow) is recommended for 5380 film, as well as for 5384 film. A sodium vapor lamp with Kodak Wratten Gelatin Filters No. 23A and 53 plus neutral density filters can also be used.
Sound-Track Exposure/Print Densities
Because of its lower contrast, slight differences in sound-track quality may be noted with 5380 film compared to 5384 film if an optical sound-track is used on the product. Figure 11 shows a sound-track curve of 5380 film versus 5384 film. Under the same exposure conditions, for example, an infrared density of 1.3 on 5384 film would give a density of 1.15 on 5380 film. This results in roughly a 1-dB loss in both signal-to-noise ratio and high-frequency response. If the same sound negative were used to print 5380 film as was used for 5384 film, this type of difference would be expected for 5380 film.
If desired, however, sound negative densities and print densities may be changed to offset some of these differences. Figure 12 shows curves of optimum print density versus sound negative density for both 5380 and 5384 film coatings. Cross-modulation tests should be performed to determine the optimum conditions for each laboratory’s specific equipment.
Film 5380/7380 is fully compatible in Process ECP-2A, and no additional process changes are required. Because of its lower contrast, 5380 film has a slightly lower usage of color developer chemicals than 5384 film. No changes are anticipated in replenishment rate and/or developer replenisher concentrations. If large quantities of the film are processed (i.e., greater than 70% of the product mix), slight adjustments may have to be made in developer replenisher Kodak Color Developing Agent CD-2 and pH levels to maintain normal tank concentrations. These changes are less than 0.2 g/L CD-2 and 0.05 pH units.
As a result of its thinner structure, 5380 film has approximately 25% less wet load than does 5384 film. This is illustrated in a comparison of the emulsion swell profiles between 5380 and 5384 film (Fig. 13). If drying conditions are acceptable for 5384 film, they should be acceptable for 5380 film also. Slight adjustments may have to be made to provide proper film curl, however, particularly if large quantities of 5380 film are processed.
“Utilizing the emulsion technologies of 5384/7384 film, this new film is designed for Process ECP-2A and features the improved dark-keeping dye stability and reduced sensitivity to process variations associated with 5384/7384 film.”
Special Applications – Print-to-Print
In some international market areas, primarily because of import restrictions, making copies of imported prints is done using Eastman Color Internegative Film 5272/7272 as the intermediate. Although many techniques are used in the duplicating process, the resultant prints are normally very high in contrast compared to normal, direct prints. Film 5380/7380 offers a unique possibility for this type of application, if it is used as both the imported master print and the release stock. Using the LAD system for placement, the following shows a successful method for print-to-print duplication:
Although the maximum density on the final print is somewhat lower, and the picture qualities are degraded relative to a direct print on 5384 film, the resulting contrast of the described method is much improved over the contrast seen using conventional print films.
Film 5380/7380 is excellent for use in applications where a lower-contrast image is desired. It can be used for prints intended for direct television transmission, such as television syndication films, or for prints intended for video transfer, as well as for other special applications.
Utilizing the emulsion technologies of 5384/7384 film, this new film is designed for Process ECP-2A and features the improved dark-keeping dye stability and reduced sensitivity to process variations associated with 5384/7384 film. Film 5380/7380 offers the motion-picture and television industry one more option in their efforts to provide the highest quality motion pictures for display in theaters and homes.
1 J. M. Warner, “Considerations in Color Film Production for Color Television: A Committee Report.” J. SMPTE, 73:411-415, 1964.
2 B. J. Davies, J. BKSTS, 49:260-266, 1967.
3 SMPTE Recommended Practice RP 46-1972, “Density of Color Films and Slides for Television.”
4 C. C. Bard, G. W. Larson, H. Hammond, and C. J. Packard, Applied Photographic Engr., 6:43, 1980.
5 K. J. Carl, J. W. Erwin, S. J. Powell, F. R. Reinking, R. C. Sehlin, S. W. Spakowsky, W. A. Szafranski, and R. W. Wien, Jr., SMPTE J., 91:1163, 1982.
Presented at the Society’s 125th Technical Conference in Los Angeles (paper No. 125-57) on November 2, 1983, by Christian Didier, Kodak Pathe, Vincennes, France. The remaining authors are affiliated with Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, NY. This article was received November 7, 1983. Copyright 1984 by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, Inc.”
(Powell, Steven J.; Didier, C.; Gagny, B.; Carl, K.J.; Erwin, J.W.; Halman, I.A. (1984): Eastman Color LC Print Film 5380/7380. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, 93,3, pp. 228–234.)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (USA 1991, Nicholas Meyer)
“Narita very quickly found he was straitjacketed most by the look of the Enterprise bridge built for Star Trek V, which featured the black instrument panels its director, William Shatner, had demanded for that film. “I wanted to approach it differently in terms of lighting, but all of the existing practical lights were beyond my control. They changed the color a little bit, and some of the graphics, but structurally, it was the same. I felt that to create the shafts of light necessary to convey the submarine quality Nick wanted, we needed a certain kind of value and tonality in the background walls, which was difficult to achieve using an existing set.
“I lit as spottily as possible,” Narita continues. “I didn’t want to use too much smoke on the Enterprise, because I didn’t want it to end up looking too much like the Klingon starship. For that reason, I decided to keep the look of the Enterprise pretty clean, but with a little more contrasty lighting. To make things even more complicated, we were forced to use the Enterprise bridge to double for that of Sulu’s command, the Excelsior. In that case, we just changed the colors on the set. To save money, we also used a repainted corridor set from the Next Generation series.
Shooting aboard the Klingon vessel proved more challenging photographically than shooting on the Enterprise, primarily due to an exciting assassination sequence with a bloody, zero gravity aftermath. “I wouldn’t say we had a lot of elaborate camera movement on the Klingon ship, Narita cautions, “but we did have more cuts per scene to create tension and drama. For example, we spent three days shooting the assassination scene, and our second unit shot a lot of pickups as well.
After the mysterious unprovoked assassination on the Klingon vessel, Kirk and McCoy beam aboard to discover a scene of chaos and horror, with Klingon blood hovering weightlessly above the victims. To create the effect of weightlessness, the actors were primarily flown on wires, a technique Narita was quite familiar with in the wake of The Rocketeer “We had to remove the ceiling from the sets for many of these shots, but fortunately, most of the sets we used in this sequence were built for the film. Part of it took place in the transporter room which is a set we borrowed from The Next Generation and painted differently. For some shots when we didn’t have to see the actors entire bodies, we’d place them on a teetor-totter arrangement which looked almost like a small camera crane, then counterweighted the opposite end and moved it slight to create a floating feeling. We augmented the wire- and counterbalanced crane work with slow motion photography, which helped create the illusion of weightlessness; we shot this sequence at about 40 frames per second to slow down the actors’ body-movements just slightly.”
Unfortunately, Narita found that his suggestions on how to hide the wirework were not always heeded by the film’s production designer. “I knew that the plainer the wall, the more noticeable the wires would appear against it, so I suggested that by darkening the wall and adding pattern to it, we could create enough visual confusion that the camera might not see the wires. Sometimes they followed my suggestions and sometimes they didn’t. In any case, it’s basically a matter of having ILM remove the wires optically using computer graphics.”
In addition to maintaining the status quo with the look of the Klingon ships and the Enterprise, Narita learned that many of the actors from the TV series preferred to appear unaltered by the passage of time. Unfortunately, the crew of the Enterprise are not the same people they were when Star Trek took its maiden voyage in 1966. Meyer stepped in when necessary to smooth things out. “The actors wanted to look great,” Narita says candidly, “but I lit them in the way the story required. I was constantly concerned about their appearance, but at the same time, my belief was that if a character was lit the same way throughout the film, no matter how good his performance might be, (the lighting) might not help the actor or the picture. William Shatner felt that he looked best in certain lighting situations and sometimes I took his suggestions and other times I didn’t. I’m not sure how understanding he was, but he accepted it.”
Narita was fair in his decision to light for the drama, extending this approach to include those who wore heavy prosthetic makeup as well. “Those actors may not look too attractive, either,” he smiles. “As we went along, we tried to adjust the coloration on some of the characters slightly. Sometimes, in a warm ambient, the Klingons looked a little too red, so the makeup people had to adjust it or I’d adjust my lighting here and there. On Star Trek, I found working with the makeup was much easier than on The Rocketeer, where Lothar had to be believable as a real person. At least for this film, they didn’t have to look human.”
While he did have to contend with some existing locations and existing sets for the Klingon Bird of Prey and Enterprise interiors, Narita is quick to point out that Star Trek VI did boast some unique sets that were completely unlike anything previously seen in the film series. Foremost among these was a Klingon courtroom built on Paramount’s Hollywood lot, used expressly for the sequence in which Kirk and McCoy are tried for the murder of a Klingon leader. Overall, Narita found the sets much smaller on Star Trek than on The Rocketeer. To make the courtroom set appear larger, he created a hot spot at its center, where the accused sit beneath a brilliant light which radiates outward before falling off dramatically at the outer edges of the frame; the Klingons in the audience appear as mere silhouettes in seats, thus hinting at greater numbers beyond. To further enhance this illusion, the trial sequence will begin with a bird’s-eye view matte painting of the courtroom.
“This was the most exciting sequence in terms of both the storytelling and the visuals, so I tried to achieve more for less,” Narita explains. ‘Theoretically, we wanted to create the feeling that this arena was many stories high, but we didn’t really have any space. The courtroom set was circular, and in this instance we didn’t have to conform to any traditional style or look The center area was at ground level and measured maybe 40 feet by 40 feet; then it gradually widened as it went up to form an amphitheatre that was about 80 X 80, with lots of Klingons sitting in these angled rows of seats.
“I was able to create some fairly moody lighting in that scene,” Narita adds. “We wanted to make it as dramatic as possible. To create the strong shaft of light in the center of the courtroom above Kirk and Bones, we used an HMI malipso light aimed straight down through a piece of safety glass – just in case something were to happen to the lightbulb. The HMI was blue daylight and I didn’t try to correct it, I kept it blue. I let the set be two to three stops overexposed in the center, and everything else was lit very dimly with a warm amber 103 gel. The judge was an albino Klingon, so he had a very pale face and white hair that was almost hidden under a large black hooded cape. Nick wanted this white face only to become visible occasionally, so I aimed a little spotlight at him from above so you only see the judge’s nose and forehead when he leans forward into the light. That was the kind of thing I really enjoyed on this film.”
(Magid, Ron (1992): Star Trek VI. The Undiscovered Country. Narita Leads Enterprise Camera Crew. In: American Cinematographer, 73,1, pp. 42–50, on pp. 44–46.)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (USA 1991, Nicholas Meyer)
“It was originally designed, in my mind, a little too much like something out of Flash Gordon. I wanted to bridge the past and the present and move the series more toward the technology we’re familiar with for big blockbust science fiction films today, while remaining faithful to the science fiction that had been created for the first Star Trek TV series.”
Putting the original Star Trek crew into Next Generation settings brought Nick Meyer’s philosophy into sharp relief against that of series creator Gene Roddenberry. “Nick Meyer did not like the colors of the Next Generation sets, which he felt were too pastel, too much like a modern convenience motel,” Zimmerman recalls. “Roddenberry felt that in another three hundred years into the future from the original Star Trek series, we wouldn’t really have to be cramped in space, so the sets didn’t have to feel like submarines and they didn’t need to be so utilitarian with everything painted grey. Nick Meyer took exception to that; he felt that military life being what it is, they’ll still be using good old battleship grey four or five hundred years from now, so we went back to that with my blessing. Nick thought that even that far into the future, especially since entropy is upon us and everything we do each year costs more and more and we get less and less, spaceships will always feel like submarines in space and that’s part of what makes them interesting.”
Meanwhile, Zimmerman was attempting to deal with one of the most demanding design challenges on the film: matching original exterior footage shot in Alaska by Stephen Jaffe’s second unit to his interior/exterior Rura Penthe penal colony set. “Rura Penthe is an ice planet where you can’t survive on the surface for very long,” Zimmerman explains, “and yet Kirk and McCoy have to traverse a great deal of this ice country. Before that can occur, they have to fight an alien in a kind of icebowl – a natural depression they climb into to get out of the wind. That set more than anything, had to match the location. I went to Alaska on a survey and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the glaciers were. They’re made out of very translucent ice with a bluish cast and a great darity and purity so you can see deep into them. Trying to surface-paint our foam set to give it that kind of depth was a real challenge. We wanted to coat the set in resin, which would’ve given us a tremendous amount of believability, but we couldn’t afford it. Fortunately, with Hiro’s help, we came up with a technique that matched very well.”
Rodis calls the trial sequence “the hardest stuff to design for all of us on Star Trek VI. We went through a bunch of designs before settling on a circular Klingon courtroom.” Rodis’ concern was with the lead-in to the scene. “Originally, Nick planned to cut immediately to the camera crawling over the top of a building that contained thousands of Klingons, and as it came closer and closer, you would realize that Kirk and McCoy were in the middle of a huge problem that Spock hadn’t anticipated. Then Phill Norwood, who was doing our storyboards at the time, came up with a different idea: after Spock said his line, intimating that Kirk was OK, we would immediately cut to a very tight shot of a blown-out, overlit face, and hear voices shouting ‘Kirk! Kirk! Kirk!’ As the camera pulled back, it revealed that Kirk and Bones were alone against thousands of Klingons, leading in to the matte shot of the entire Klingon court.
“We had to immediately make the audience realize they’re not OK. The whole idea was to isolate Kirk and Bones in the middle of a very austere, oversized, architecturally clunky place. Eventually, we settled on an idea that came up in one of our meetings, that the Klingons are kind of like Romans throwing Christians to the lions. I just capitalized on that idea and carried it even further: the court was really nothing but a pit, and the camera and the Klingons were always looking down while Kirk and Bones were always looking up.”
(Magid, Ron (1992): Star Trek VI. The Undiscovered Country. Specialized Departments Add Artistic Touches. In: American Cinematographer, 73,1, pp. 66–75, on pp. 66–69.)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (USA 1991, Nicholas Meyer)
“Responsible for designing and making all of the Klingon, Vulcan and Romulan makeups was Richard Snell, a veteran since Star Trek IV. He was relieved to learn that director Nicholas Meyer was willing to give him more leeway in making the Klingons a bit more diverse and grotesque than in the earlier films.
Behind Meyer’s decision to go with more Klingon diversity is the simple fact that Star Trek VI features more Klingons than all the other films combined. “We had about eighteen different designs for all the speaking roles; then for the courtroom sequence, we had another thirty ‘A’ makeups, forty of the ‘B’ foam latex background mask-type makeups, which still required makeup artists because they blended around the eyes, and fifty over-the-head polyurethane plastic Klingon masks for the far background ones. We’d then paint and hair each of those background Klingons differently. We had a wide diversity of styles, from very sedate to wild, heavy bony plates. All told, we delivered more than three hundred Klingon pieces. On certain days, we had upwards of seventy-five to eighty makeup people working.”
Meanwhile, special effects makeup artist Ed French was busy cranking out dozens of aliens which stocked the Rura Penthe penal colony and the Khitomer peace conference, as well as the various starship bridges. But French’s most pressing assignment was to get a Yeti-like character called the Brute before cameras within three weeks of coming on the picture. “Fortunately, for those shots, it was only seen from some distance,” says French. “These shots were really to establish the landscape, which was a good thing because I wasn’t able to refine the makeup until it got back to the studio.”
The Brute makeup, worn by actor Tom Morga, consisted of five facial prosthetics – a forehead, two cheek pieces with ears built onto them, an upper nose and mouth, and a lower jaw. There was also a piece to alter the top of Morga’s head. “We used fake fur we had made at National Hair Technologies to cover Tom’s neck and the back of his head,” French recalls. “We used a lot of ventilated lace pieces for the facial hair, and some of it was actually punched in one hair at a time into the appliances. We also made two sets of upper and lower dentures for the creature, the second just a little longer and more sinister looking. It’s simple, but that’s what they did with Fredric March’s Mr. Hyde back in 1932 – as he goes along, he gets a little worse-looking.”
(Magid, Ron (1992): Star Trek VI. The Undiscovered Country. Specialized Departments Add Artistic Touches. In: American Cinematographer, 73,1, pp. 66–75, on pp. 69–71.)