In La La Land, cinematographer Linus Sandgren absorbed the adulation adventure of two showbiz strivers with the abundant amplitude of the Golden Age Hollywood musical. Aboriginal Man, which reteams Sandgren and La La Acreage administrator Damien Chazelle, presents the adverse claiming — abbreviation the allegorical attributes of mankind’s aboriginal boating to the moon to article intimate, personal, and human. To do so, Sandgren eschewed the intricate, affected continued takes of La La Acreage in favor of an immersive cinéma vérité aesthetic aggressive added by Pennebaker, Maysles and Wiseman than the antiseptic catholic admiration of Kubrick.
With Aboriginal Man now out in theaters, Sandgren talked to Filmmaker about the difficult addle of absolutely recreating Neil Armstrong and company’s celebrated sojourn.
Filmmaker: Let’s activate with Aboriginal Man’s climax, which follows Neil Armstrong’s antecedent aloof moments on the apparent of the moon. There wasn’t a lighting antecedent able abundant to accord you what you capital out of a Sun surrogate. So you asked the developer of the SoftSun light, David Pringle, to actualize a 200K-watt ball for you.
Sandgren: The 100K SoftSun that was already accessible wasn’t ablaze enough, and I didn’t appetite to use assorted 100K’s because it would’ve created crazy shadows. So I asked David if he could accomplish a brighter lamp — and he did. Our absolute Moon set was lit by that one distinct lamp, and we placed that lamp at the aforementioned acme as the sun had been during the absolute moon landing.
Filmmaker: And you alone had a brace of 200K bulbs? Were you afraid that two wouldn’t be enough?
Sandgren: Well, the aboriginal 200K ball blew up. So that was, uh, not good. (laughs) But we consistently knew that we had a additional ball we could assignment with and we did accept two 100K’s aloof in case as a backup.
Filmmaker: How continued did the aboriginal ball aftermost afore it blew?
Sandgren: It happened on the aboriginal day. We alone attempt a few shots with it. We had huge admirers alarming on it to accumulate it cool, but it blew up afterwards aloof a few hours because we had the ablaze on the accomplished time. It was a ancestor so we accepted it to be a analysis and that’s why we had aback options. So we had to put up the added 200K ball and accumulate it dimmed amid takes to accumulate it from accepting too hot. Later on (David) fabricated modifications to those lamps to accomplish them authority up bigger for the heat.
Filmmaker: How did you acreage on the appropriate adumbration for the moon’s surface? It seems like that blah beach would animation ablaze everywhere.
Sandgren: We attempt (the moon scenes) at a quarry in Atlanta and the beach in the quarry already had that blah blush like the moon. I don’t apperceive what affectionate of bedrock it was, but it was already a actual astute color. And if you were on the moon’s apparent and the sun was hitting it, it would absolutely actualize a bounce. So I accept the animation we got was actual naturalistic.
Filmmaker: The border of the moon drops off into this absolute abandoned of blackness. Were you able to actualize that aftereffect aloof by abatement off the light?
Sandgren: In the all-inclusive ambit we capital the border band to be appealing collapsed and in some admonition (at our location) it was appealing flat. But in added admonition you’d see hills in this quarry that we couldn’t get rid of. Those we had to acrylic out in post.
Filmmaker: What blur banal did you use for the 70mm IMAX cameras that attempt the moon sequences?
Sandgren: We attempt with (Kodak Vision3) 5219, which is a 500ASA Tungsten stock, and I rated it at 400. We attempt at a T5.6 stop at 30 frames per additional — so we attempt aggregate in slight apathetic motion. We activated in preproduction and ample out that with the bungee rigs the actors were using, a little bit of apathetic motion created the best astute moon walk.
Filmmaker: And for lenses for the IMAX cameras, you acclimated the aforementioned blazon of lenses that the astronauts’s still cameras active during that aboriginal moon mission?
Sandgren: It was the aforementioned archetypal of Hasselblad average architecture lenses that they acclimated on their still cameras. So the flares from the sun (in the movie) were agnate to the photos the astronauts took with their 6×6 cameras. Since the absolute blur (before the moon landing) has such an intimate, handheld look, the abstraction was that aback we got to the moon it’s the adverse adverse and we’d shoot on a crane and actualize these actual aciculate and brittle IMAX images to adverse the blow of the movie.
Filmmaker: That intimate, abstract point-of-view is additionally acclimated central the assorted spacecraft. Best of that was attempt on Super 16mm?
Sandgren: The Gemini mission and the Apollo mission interiors are all Super 16 circumscribed to 2.40 and it’s all 500 ASA.
Filmmaker: What were the challenges of lighting the autogenous of that little metal cockpit of the Gemini?
Sandgren: We went for realism. We didn’t accept any added ablaze sources (inside the capsule) added than practicals. We capital to accept the key motivated by the sunlight advancing in through the window so we chic article like a 5K Par accoutrement assimilate a scissor lift that we could move all about (the soundstage). We attempt those scenes with a huge horseshoe-shaped arrangement of LED screens that was 60 anxiety continued and 35 anxiety tall. The images on those screens would accord off ablaze as able-bodied and simulate the bounced ablaze that would’ve appear from Earth. We capital to do aggregate in the blur as about as possible. There’s no greenscreen, alike in the amplitude scenes. Aggregate you see alfresco (of the spacecraft) is an angel on an LED awning (shot about on the soundstage).
Filmmaker: Aback Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) aboriginal begins training, he’s beggared into this multi-axis accoutrement that spins him about and basically makes all the astronauts canyon out. Did that apparatus absolutely work?
Sandgren: Our assembly artist Nathan Crowley and our appropriate furnishings administrator J.D. Schwalm absolutely had that congenital out of metal. So yes, it works. In the added angles area it’s spinning faster, we acclimated a stuntman. But for the tighter shots, we had the camera army to it and Ryan was absolutely in there.
Filmmaker: Did you accept any problems with the blur camera actuality addled about aback it was chic to the machine?
Sandgren: No. We never had any problems with the blur — not alike scratches or ablaze leaks or anything, for the absolute shoot. That multi-axis arena was attempt on two-perf 35mm. We acclimated 35mm advance candy (for scenes in the NASA environment) and 35mm cull candy for scenes at Neil’s home.
Filmmaker: Acquaint me added about cutting Neil’s calm life, which takes abode in this aberrant quasi-suburb amidst by the families of added astronauts-in-training.
Sandgren: We acclimated atramentous as a allegory for afterlife and anxiety so in the home we generally approved to accept a lot of atramentous — not aloof dark, but black. We approved to acquaint the adventure with the camera in a way that you would accept what was activity on in the arena alike after the dialogue. For example, there’s a arena at the kitchen table (where Armstrong explains to his two sons that he adeptness not survive his mission to the moon) and we visually disconnected Armstrong from the blow of the accumulation — his ancestors is affected calm and he is afar by this adding wall. Because we capital the adeptness to move the camera aback for a added attempt like that to accurate confinement or loneliness, we congenital the set so that the openings of doors and things accumbent to acquiesce us to shoot at a ambit into the kitchen or into a bedroom.
Filmmaker: You mentioned that your ambition was to do as abundant about in camera as possible. To that end, the credits account a archetypal unit.
Sandgren: We congenital not alone models but additionally some abounding calibration (replicas). There’s a attempt area the Saturn 5 campaign through the sun and creates a sun blaze — that’s like a 14-foot, actual abundant and beautifully congenital model. Aback the LM (Lunar Module) and the CSM (Command/Service Module) are separating, that was done with all-encompassing capsules put on gimbals so that we could circuit and circle them. The close-ups of the Gemini abridged advancing with the Agena additionally acclimated all-encompassing models.
There were a lot of challenges with actuality in Atlanta and aggravating to simulate the moon and amplitude travel. We capital to acquaint the adventure actual realistically and naturalistically and to do so we had to appear up with all these tricks to accomplish aggregate attending as accurate as possible. We didn’t appetite to aloof await on VFX in postproduction and greenscreen and there wasn’t one distinct acknowledgment for how to do that. It appropriate altered solutions for altered situations. It was a addle — a actual complicated puzzle.
Matt Mulcahey works as a DIT in the Midwest. He additionally writes about blur on his blog Deep Fried Movies.
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