Need For Speed: Innovation, Gear and Cinematography
Pulling Back the Curtain
In a few days, all of you will be able to see what I have been discussing on the HurlBlog for over a year. March 14th is the domestic release of Need for Speed in 2D and 3D. Seven thousand screens in the US will project a film that, in my opinion, is the future of filmmaking. We used an array of sensor brushes to tell our story, not just one brush. Each brush had unique attributes and abilities that we used to paint a beautiful creation. What does this all mean? It means that the old days of making a movie with one camera manufacturer is not the wave of the future.
Being a pioneer, one who takes the trail that has not even been traveled by goats, is exhausting, difficult, exhilarating, creative and fulfilling all at the same time. On Need for Speed, like Act of Valor, we used many different camera sensors and camera formats to tell the story. Many people thought I was off my rocker taking a small untested still camera and blowing the 1080 image up onto a 60 foot screen. IMPOSSIBLE! Was it easy to mix these formats? No. Was it the right way to tell this engaging story and immerse an audience like they had never seen before? YES.
This post will give you an inside perspective on why certain creative decisions were made by director Scotty Waugh and me. It will also give you insight into how we pulled everything off. Need for Speed was shot on four different camera sensors.
Each camera delivered a unique look. It was my job to morph these into one consistent image, one that transports you into a contemporary race culture with an homage to the classic films like Bullitt and Road Warrior. I had to make it feel like one camera system, one brush but shot with four.
After extensive camera tests, the Canon C500 was selected as the A camera for Need for Speed. You can find all of our camera tests linked from the Need for Speed page.
Director Scotty Waugh wanted to do this whole movie practically, without CGI cars, planes, choppers, etc. He wanted it to be realistic. If a car went rolling off a bridge on fire, the driver did not jump out of the car in mid-air, grab hold of the light pole, grab a hot chick in mid-flight and land 300 feet below unscathed. With this directive, we were looking for a camera that delivered a very realistic look, but was beautiful, captivating, and provided an image filled with vitality, youth! Using a camera that no one had seen on the big screen felt just right for our story.
We needed a camera that could shoot 4K resolution for reframing and possible zoom ins in post to give us the feeling of a different lens. Our schedule was almost unachievable and we realized early on that this would be essential for post and for our director.
Now you say post? “I thought there was no CGI.” I hear you all saying this. There was CGI in that the style of shooting is what we call blue on blue photography, a military term held over from Act of Valor, which means you shoot yourself. When you have 32 cameras capturing one stunt event, they are bound to see each other. This is where Kevin Baillie, Atomic Fiction and Sean Cushing at Cantina Creative came in and hand painted out every camera, camera person, wire, rig and pipe ramp. You name it, they painted it out.
We needed a camera that was not 20 lbs. and 20 inches long. We needed a compact camera that we could embed into the super cars that had no back seat or passenger seat. Remember the back seat of a super car is the engine.
The job required a camera that could handle the rigorous abuse of the hard rigs mounted to cars going in excess of 180mph, flipping over, locking it up, etc.
We needed to shoot 4K at 120fps. This camera would do this at a HRAW, which we tested and loved. With all the accidents, explosions, crashes, etc., it was necessary to tell this story.
To shoot all night interiors and exteriors in the film, we chose the C500. In our camera tests, we found that the C500 saw into the night sky and had much more subtle color and shadow detail than the Alexa. We could increase the camera’s ISO to 4000 and not have much noise. This was huge to us. With our tight schedule and budget, I knew that I could light 4.5 miles of a street racing course with no condors and no huge generators. It was lit by turning off street lights, spraying them down with black hairspray because they were a little too bright and then looking at the course and saying, “let’s add some neon in that store front. Let’s add an accent light on that fire escape. Let’s add a back light down this alley on a roof.” Very minimal and they were all powered by putt putt Honda generators. No monster cable runs, just a lot of red gas cans. We lit a drive-in sequence with the bounce off of the 60 foot screen from a 2K Xenon video projector with the actors 150 feet from it. That has never been done before. This camera enables you to light how your eye sees it. You do not have to “Hollywood” the effects, with lighting gags like we have done for decades. Now this light that I described is all ready for cinematic capture.
Night aerial work was an important feature for us to open this movie up. It’s what we call “Expansive Intimacy.” We turned to Space Cam to engineer a whole new system to take the C500 and use its sensor sensitivity to shoot chopper to Cessna at night with just the bounce of the street lights off the pavement, which lit the Cessna flying at 500 feet over Macon, Georgia.
Our director wanted to use a storytelling device to the full extent of our camera inventory. That device was the crash cam. We built a C500 version and a 1DC version so that we could lay eight to ten crash boxes on a road in the hopes that our awesome stunt team would blast them. This was part of the immersive nature that Scotty wanted the audience to experience.
I turned to my team of trailblazers and asked them to design a system from the ground up that would turn this lightweight plastic camera with an incredible sensor into a functioning movie making machine. My Elite Team was headed by Key 1st AC Darin Necessary, who is a major gear head. He can build, weld, screw and cut anything as well as any master craftsman. Additionally, he is an amazing focus puller. After all the designs were put on the table, we turned to Element Technica to build the support system. This meant keeping all the support to the size of the camera. If the support meant it would be the size and the weight of the Alexa, then it was not going to work. We settled on seven pieces to complete the brick and mortar.
We took all the C500’s unique attributes, size and sensor sensitivity and moved forward with choosing it for all the scenes where it delivered the look that Scott Waugh wanted.
WHERE DID WE USE IT:
All car interiors so reframing was possible at 4K resolution, the best skin tone vitality with Canon Color Space, youth.
All hard rigs that were not going to get rolled over, burned up or dropped off of a bridge.
All night exteriors and interiors. We took advantage of the ability of the Canon camera to see in the dark.
All crash cams were designed and built by Geo Film Group. These were rock solid and quick to adjust, expose and focus for extreme impact.
The Arri Alexa
This camera was my “get out of jail free card,” so to speak. It was my latitude hero, my high speed in miles per hour not in frames per second, the day exterior warrior.
The Alexa is an amazing camera. It has 14 stops of latitude and very good color. The way that we had to make the race sequences required me to be in pit row where all the interior and exterior rigged cars were located. Scotty and my key 1st AC Darin Necessary would be shooting with the ultimate arm, Bandito Saleen Car or the Porsche with a rear post without exposure supervision. I trusted Darin, the wave form and the latitude of the Alexa to save the day if anything was over or under exposed.
The comfort zone of this camera is so ingrained in all assistants, operators and DPs that when it came to all of our day exterior work, I knew that our amazing Aerial Cinematographer David Nowell would feel more comfortable with the Alexa as well.
Arri has a complete system that has been vetted, so this was plug and play.
The high-speed camera car platforms were the Alexa playground.
A first driver perspective is what the EA Need for Speed video game is all about. Scotty’s first and foremost storytelling objective was to crack this first person driver in 4K. All the other players were way too heavy to mount to a stunt driver’s head. We knew we needed the resolution to reframe, to zoom in and possibly stabilize. The only answer was the Canon 1DC, weighing in just under 9 lbs once everything was put on there. This became our audience immersion device to sit all of you in the driver seat at 180mph.
A camera capable of showing the skill, grace and the world of driving a race from the perspective of a racer was necessary. Many have used the old device of the car’s POV, which is easy. To put the audience in the driver seat, where they can touch the steering wheel, where they can see the speedometer read 234 mph was good storytelling and paid homage to the video game. We had done this with Act of Valor with our first person shooter perspective and wanted to give the audience the thrill again, but in a different environment.
A camera that could be sacrificed was necessary to continue to immerse the audience in new unique ways just like the video game does, where these crashes are coming right at you, punching you in the face. The 1DC was our go to 4K internal recording device. We would line them up for 70 yards and tell the stunt personnel to have at them.
To build a helmet camera that could keep the stunt driver safe as well as deliver the goods was tasked to my mad scientist 1st AC Darin Necessary again. He used carbon fiber technology to develop the ultimate helmet camera that is so user friendly and adjustable for your creation. Using a parallax strategy to deliver the feeling of looking through the driver’s eyes while he is drifting, spinning 360s and going at speeds no one has done before with a helmet cam on, we turned to Zeiss and their lightweight 15mm ZE prime at t2.8. Yes, in NASCAR and Formula One, you have those amazing angles, but they would never hold up on a 60 foot screen.
When we needed to line up ten 1DCs in the line of stunt drivers, we turned to Geo Film Group to design and build 1DC crash cams. This had never been done before. They designed a hybrid box, an aluminum structure surrounding a heavy duty Pelican Case back. A steel membrane goes around it. This enabled us to have very quick access to change lenses, focus and exposure. It was our go to tool.
GoPro Hero 3
We needed a camera that could take the abuse of car tonnage landing on it, tolerate being lit on fire and flung off of bridges to a 150 foot death fall. One camera came to mind and that was the GoPro Hero 3.
Using the Hero 3 at 2.7K resolution and pro tunes to increase image quality was paramount in our filmmaking process.
Think about unique angles that have never been seen before. Think about your cutting style and how these will increase the immersive experience.
That two seconds of brilliance is all that we are looking for and knowing that they will seamlessly cut together was one of my many missions. This will take a whole other post workflow blog post to describe. Stay tuned.
We needed to be stealth; we needed to be quick and nimble; we needed to not involve the grip rigging department; we needed to do it all ourselves. Camera department rules.
This required my team to quickly understand the GoPro rigging systems and how to deploy them with accuracy. My 1st AC Derek Edwards was tasked with these responsibilities and knocked it out. Check out some of his angles.
All of the GoPro accessories can be purchased at Best Buy. Nothing was custom or fabricated in any way.
We needed to keep it simple and quick. For a more in depth look into how and why, check out last week’s blog post on the Hero 3.
“Pulling back the curtain time”
Now here is a special treat for all of you. Since the Super Bowl Need for Speed spot with its detailed camera and lens breakdown got such a positive overwhelming response, I wanted to go into much more detail on why and how I used these formats.
Ratchet down the hatches because here are the two trailers broken down shot by shot for your viewing and educational pleasure. I feel The Need, The Need for Speeeeeeeddddddddd!!!!!!
Great read Shane! Thanks for sharing this and the video breakdowns are awesome. I look forward to watching the film later this week :-)
Israr, glad that you enjoyed them and thank you for your kind words and support of our blog
Israr, awesome, thank you so much for your support and kind words, love to hear what you think of it
Shane, Muchas gracias por compartir esta valiosa información, me siento muy pero muy contento por este maravilloso blog,
Muchas Gracias …. :D
I think you just out Bay’ed Michael Bay, and did it for less! What was the death toll for cars and cost for their demise?
Why not use your mojo and do what Novo did to the go pros and have them do a mod on the canon C500, just lens, sensor board and a titanium cage? Just a thought.
Laurence Zankowski, ha ha, Michael Bay is an amazing action director, I have learned so much from that man. But thanks for that. I like that idea, just the sensor. YEAH BABY!!!!
Laurence Zankowski, ha ha, would love that. 2 C500’s, 2 1-DC’s and 8 Go Pro’s were sacrificed for the art of immersive photography.
Shane, did you use the dolly zoom on in the shot inside the green tunnel, it sure looks like it.
Dominik, that was the camera on the Filmotechnic Russian arm going 60mph and zooming from 60mm to a 14.5mm on the Canon wide zoom
Dominik, that is us on the Filmotechinc Russian arm car going 80mph on the C500 with the 14.5 to 60mm zoom, we are all the way zoomed in then snap zoom out.
Been loving these posts and that trailer breakdown is another invaluable addition, and really aligns with your takeaways from the tests: C500 for skintones and to capture color information in night footage, Alexa for daylight exteriors and highlight retention, 1DC for tight spots, and the GoPros as sacrificial offerings :)
This series of posts has been seriously amazing. You’re the only DP at your level sharing so openly and we owe you big time.
Bummer the movie’s not getting great reviews, but all the reviews I’ve seen say it’s visually stunning and innovative but lacks in story and character. Same thing with T4.. Looked so good but you can’t fix a flawed story. Oh well. I’m sure it will make tons of money, either way :)
Nathan Lee Bush, we all knew that the story was thin, but if I laugh my ass off I knew it did not matter. You laugh, you are thrilled and you are immersed. Sounds like a good movie to me. RIGHT? I am glad you liked all of them, yes I am giving you all the keys to the castle.
Indeed. Yeah, I will definitely be seeing the movie to decide for myself, in any case! And it’s my tiny way to give back for this endless info you’ve shared.
Nathan Lee Bush, thank you
Nathan Lee Bush, you are very welcome and thank you for all you wonderful words. The HurlBlog give you the keys to the castle and we will continue to bring it. Thanks for the support. 250 million is not bad, even with the bad reviews. HA HA
Awesome blog post shane! Thanks so much for all the information you share with all of us. Makes me wanna go shoot something!
chris vanderschaaf, ha ha, you are very welcome and thank you for those kind words.
chris vanderschaaf, ha ha, you are very welcome,and thank you for you kind words, go out there and do it. Yeah BABY!!!!!!
Awesome breakdown Shane, thanks so much for sharing! As a fledgling DP I can’t tell you how valuable it is for us to have so much information about how you make the magic you do.
It was pretty cool to see how much C500 made it in there too, although not too surprising when I recall how much you say you like the rendering of skin – gotta keep the talent looking their best!
I can’t wait to spend a couple of hours this weekend taking in what I’m sure will be an impressive film.
Jim Weise, thank you so much for all of your support and kind words. Yes I think the C500 performed very well
Jim Weise, thank you so much for you wonderful words and support. The C500 at 2K is what I am shooting now blows away 4K, the little things you learn after you have shot a movie, only when you are able to stand back and look at your work do you understand. Now on Fathers and Daughter it will be 2K only from now on with the C500.
It says on IMDB that the Blackmagic Cinema Camera was used, is that true and in which scenes is it used?
Birk, no that is incorrect, I only tested it
Birk, No it was just tested and not used.
Hello Shane! From your perspective how different or similar footage from 1D C and C500 is? Just image wise which one is more cinematic, would you consider taking the whole feature with? (let’s say if no slow mo would not be needed).
…the whole feature with *1D C*? (sorry for missing that)
Kamil, I would shoot a feature on the 1DC in a heart beat, but learning what I did on Need for Speed I will never shoot 4K with the C500 again. 2K only it looks much more cinematic and not so sharp, so much I had to do to the image to get it where I wanted it.
Simply Amazing! The trailer breakdowns alone is a master class in cinema photography.
Thanks for sharing all you do and congratulations on a job we’ll done sir!
Your teams effort and Scotty’s direction makes this one of the must see films of the year. Especially for a diehard “Bullet” fan.
Willy B!, that is so kind. Much appreciated. I thought this would be huge for people to get inside my mind. Glad you enjoyed it. I think Scotty knocked it out, the film is so much fun
Willy B!, I thought you all would love these. No one does these breakdowns and in the coming months we are unleashing great BTS on how we did it all. Thanks for all you kind words
Hi shane hope you’re fine?
I’m definintive go watch this movie.”…
,…i see on canon side is very resistent against ir pollution…these days of digital cine sensors are great in lowlight,but in the same time they clip in highlights often ,… I know the alexa is probably the most DR film feel like cam at the moment. Less than filmnegative in the highlights,but better in the lowlight…what do you think about the sony f-65 compared to the alexa in terms of DR latitude and IR pollution? And are you realy done with filmnegative?
Greets from switzerland, zurich
Joshua Zollet, I am never done with film negative. I will be over in your neck of the woods in the summer shooting a movie for Dreamworks on film and C500 for all the night work. I find that what I did with Act of Valor was a beautiful blend of 35mm and 5D, this film will be the same film and C500 at 2K not 4K. Done with that 4K shit. The alexa holds those highlights very nice, I do agree, but the loss in color detail and vitality is what I cannot live without. I have tested the F65 against both the C500 and the Alexa. F65 has major IR issues, Alexa has IR issues after 1.2, the Canon has none
again thx for your knowledge!
May I ask:
What would you think about using a Canon C300 (three-hundred – so only HD) as a B-Cam to a Canon C500 (in 2K-mode) – when budget is (very) tight.
Both using “primes”.
Any chance to “match the (cinematic) looks” of both cams (for the “big screen”)- or better forget it?
Thx for your advice!
Joshua Zollet, I will be showing tests with the F65 and the C500 together with the IR pollution so that you can see for yourself. Done with film negative, on the verge. What I am getting out of the C500 in 2K I am loving it so much. Feels exactly like Kodak film stock.
I noticed that you rated the Alexa at ISO 320, which would limit your highlights a bit more more than the native ISO 800, but the C500 was pretty much kept at ISO 850 – probably for raw and C-log capture. What was the reasoning behind rating the Alexa at 320? Were you concerned about holding shadows? It seems like you would have been more concerned about holding highlights with those outdoor shots and a white car.
Stuart, yes it made it look more filmic and we did tests and I was fine with losing a half of a stop in the highlights. I feel that the camera is too noisy at 800 ISO.
Stuart, I hate the quality of the Alexa at 800, to much range, to flat and very noisy. That is why I went with the 320 ISO setting.
I love you Shane. Thank you so much.
SFR, awwww shucks, thank you for your support
SFR, thank you so much for your kind words and support.
Thanks for the writeup, I really enjoy the info you provide on this blog. Were there any issues with rolling shutter that needed to be fixed in post? Seems like there’d be a lot of ‘jello’ to deal with, considering all the high-speed action that wasn’t shot on the alexa’s global shutter.
Chuck, The rolling shutter was very minimal, saw it the most on the Hero 3 shots. The Alexa has the same shutter as the C500 which is not global. We were pleasantly surprised that the C500 responded just like the Alexa in the rolling shutter department.
Shit, I thought I read the alexa was global…anyways, thanks for the reply!
The Reflex Arri Alexa that weight 15 lbs more is global, but not the Plus
Chuck, not much. The cameras performed amazingly well I thought.
In the intro of the 2nd trailer-just for a nano second I thought they were going to give away a Canon camera.LOL.I think this movie will do for the Canon C500 as other earlier movies like District 9 and The Book Of Eli did for the RED.
But this is so cool that you list the selection of lens that were used for the scenes in the Need For Speed. Question though,I noticed that you said that 4k rez was important for zooming in. So can I use a wide angle lens while shooting a wide shot in a 2 person dialogue scene and then possibly in post zoom in on the actors for close-ups?
Elisha, I agree, I used it to reframe and grab a closer shot if necessary. You can zoom in about 40% if you are delivering at 2K, which is a big deal and helped us huge on the film
Elisha HA HA, I hope so. If you are rendering your movie in 2K you can zoom in about 40% on a 4K image. We did it a lot, re framing with the stunts that went unexpectedly.
Thanks for the really detailed write up Shane. Just saw the film last night, so its really great to look at this post side by side with the actual shots. Loved the long slow zooms into ECU’s in the cars.
Paul Gustafson, I am so glad you liked it. You are very welcome. I thought those zooms were a great way to get into Aaron’s racing head, his concentration, him being able to see every turn, every downshift, every excelleration
It always make’s me laugh, when games are turned into movies. As an editor and VFX artist whom worked on Need For Speed for five years. It looked to me, like every trailer that we created, cut all put together. And, I’m getting really sick of people saying that VFX are bad or not needed. Is that why 47 out of 50 top grossing movies of all time all had VFX in them… Just saying….VFX are there to help not to replace.
Tony, VFX’s I love and without the ability to paint out my 32 cameras in every stunt spectacular we would have not been able to immerse the audience in the way we did. I lean on the practical experience because I love what the natural light does and how it flows across the car and into it. If we had done green screen on stage with motion bases, etc. it would have added about 8 million to the budget and 15 more days of principal, which we did not have so practical was the only option. Thanks for sharing and I get your frustration. I embrace VFX’s, they have saved my ass so many times I cannot count.
Shane, just got back from the movie theater and I have to say- FANTASTIC JOB MAN! Massive kudos to you and the whole team; it was definitely the best movie-going experience I’ve had in a long time! I think the experience is due in no small part to the practical car effects and stunts- really brought me into the movie. And the zoom outs while speeding forward added just the right amount of disorientation during the “speed” parts.
I noticed some horizontal lens flares occasionally- did you shoot a bit of the film anamorphic? Or were those done with something like a streak filter?
Looking forward to the write up in next months American Cinematographer!
ps, loved the ‘Act of Valor’ cameo, haha
Alex H Liu, thank you so much for those wonderful words and support. I am so glad you liked it. No anamorphic, that is the Ang 17-80 zoom and the Cooke primes. AC did a nice write up on it, look forward to your thoughts on that.
Shane you made me laugh when you wrote your done with the 4k shit! the industry is shoving it down prosumer markets throat as if we need it to make our films visually stunning. It’s bs, aside from the huge storage and workflow constraints when working with smaller budgets. So to hear that from you, ha! I’m gonna quote you on that!!
Nachem, Quote away, I am done with 4K period!!!!!! I am on 2K right now loving it, much more color depth, the blow out looks more filmic, too much resolution makes it look fake.
To be honest Shane, since Need For Speed project started, my DoP skills have gradually stepped up! What you are doing is awesome! And the blog idea was top notch! You got followers.
Thank you for your kind words and I am glad I could help. The blog was all my beautiful visionary wife of 25 years. I will tell her your praise.
Excellent read and I really appreciate the lens breakdown of the trailer. It’s a great way to get insight in how you work and we can all learn a lot from it. Thanks for taking the time!
You bet. Thank you for you kind words and support. I thought this would be the perfect way to see how I like to lens projects. It’s so important. Glad you liked it.
Great to see the GoPro finally put to use in a feature film – I use four cams to capture action from pov’s that always wov – especially on sport bikes! Action Hero Productions from Gene Avakyan on Vimeo.
That sounds very cool. I love them. They are so disposable, small and get my creative juices flowing on doing shots no one has ever seen before.
Yesterday, myself and the family finally took in Need for Speed. Truly engaging from the beginning. You feel the high octane power and want to see more right off the bat. One particular scene really got my heart pumping. I usually see these scenes coming however I was fooled as the filming was perfectly executed. I won’t ruin it for people who haven’t seen the movie except mention “stopped for gas.” Loved the colors, the camera work, and the story – YOU and the team ROCKED it! I was watching the movie looking for various colors associated with the various cameras/lenses but usually I was drawn right back into the movie as it was so magnetic. Here’s some interesting links.
China’s top movie!
Ron, I loved that sequence as well, so fun to shoot. Thanks for your comments and sharing the articles
Ron, thank you so much for sharing these comments and I will pass on your praise to my amazing team. I agree they brought their A game on this baby!!!!
Boa tarde Shane, admiro o trabalho perfeito que vocês fazem, muito bom mesmo, tenho vontade de aprender mas falta oportunidade pelo meu grau de escolaridade, parabéns continue nos emocionando com suas belas imagens, um abraço e sucesso!!
Shane, in the picture of the C500 mounted on the interior of the black and red car, on the windshield with the suction cups, where can I find something like that? Thanks!!
You can find a kit made by Matthews at B&H – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/751518-REG/Matthews_415169_Master_Mount_System_Car.html. They also sell just individual suction cups.