The Wachowski's Speed Racer Using Revolutionary Full Focus Cameras
by Alex Billington
August 26, 2007
For all of you out there who are doubting the upcoming Speed Racer, this is a big "I told you so!" If you were worried that The Wachowski Brothers were going to put out a boring G-rated film based on a cartoon, you're wrong. Our friends over at Collider have spent a while trying to figure out whether a rumor they heard about the cameras was true. He finally spoke with Susan Sarandon, who plays the mom, and received confirmation and some juicy details.
Let's jump right into it. Sarandon confirmed that the camera system they are using will have layered film so that both the front and back are in focus like a cartoon. Holy shit, yep that's what she just said!
They're using some high def thing that comes with guards and it's beyond anything I've ever…. I saw 10 minutes before I left, they did a special thing for me cause they're just wrapping and having a party tonight, they were still working after I left. They're doing something where they're layering film so that the front and the back are in focus like a cartoon and they're also doing two dimensional and three dimensional stuff and mixing and everything is very, very saturated with some new kind of film, so they actually have to treat the actors in some way so we can hold our own with the background. So it's every color that wasn't in The Matrix is seriously in this film.
This has been a documented thing since the first announcements about Speed Racer. The Wachowski's have said that they don't do movies unless they can achieve something great each time. It's just a matter of wrapping your head around a new idea each time they do it, because no one will imagine they can do what they're doing until they see it on the screen.
It's even hard to grasp the idea right now. Imagine the look of 2D animated cartoons with the entire frame being in-focus (like the photo below), and transpose that into live action film. Doesn't make sense does it? I'm incredibly anxious to see the first look of this and see exactly what Sarandon's talking about.
You can read the full interview with some more technical details and an on-set anecdote from Sarandon over at Collider. This confirms the idea that Speed Racer will essentially feature visuals that we've never seen on the big screen before. At this moment, I'm more excited to see this filmmaking revolution than James Cameron's Avatar and definitely more than any 3D film. Go Wachowski's!
It kinda sounds like they might be aiming for a look similar to Sin City, but probably not b/w. In my opinion depth of field usually benefits films as well as still photography because the focus is on the person or object of the most importance. If everything is focused things might look cluttered, but I'm really looking forward to see what the brothers and their team have come up with this time!
Andreas on Aug 26, 2007
Yeah, ok. Sure whatever. Avatar will blow the doors off that racer.
Jim Dorey on Aug 26, 2007
Shouldn't the Wachowski's worry about something more important for once? You know, like writing a decent script?
Ricky Roma on Aug 26, 2007
Andreas: You said "If everything is focused things might look cluttered". No, Andreas. It would just look DIFFERENT, not necessarily 'cluttered.' /// Jim Dorey: Cameron made film history with a fucking soap-opera like story around the sinking ship. HE IS NOT KNOWN PRECISELY FOR BEING A GENIUS AT TECHNICALLY REVOLUTIONIZING MOVIES like the Wachowskis are. So, just FORGET about Avatar being more advanced technically. IT JUST WON'T HAPPEN, my friend. /// Ricky Roma: You said that "the Wachowski's worry about something more important for once. You know, like writing a decent script." Oh, my. Oh, my. Yeah, the Matrix trilogy scripts ARE NOT decent writing. Yeah, right! And the "V" for Vendetta adaptation is also a piece of crap. Yeah, yeah. SURE! And you know what? Your brain looks normal, but, after your pitiful comment, now the whole Internet knows that you don't have a DECENT brain, buddy. Ha ha ha! Ricky Roma is a genius and an accurate critic, yeah! Re-write 'Speed Racer', Wachowskis! Try to raise your level to that of Ricky Roma's genius! (hahaha!) /// Lindey The boy: At least a real sound comment here. Thanks for being logical, man! (Sent by Carlos Sicilia, from Caracas, Venezuela)
Carlos Sicilia on Aug 26, 2007
Carlos: "HE IS NOT KNOWN PRECISELY FOR BEING A GENIUS AT TECHNICALLY REVOLUTIONIZING MOVIES" Have you heard about CGI?
Martin on Aug 26, 2007
Ya, because I decent script would be remembered forever right? Just got for a middle of the road script, dont' worry about revolutionizing the way the industry approaches filming. sometimes, the are ways to make a great story, without even having a great story to begin with. Also, its FUCKING speed racer. Are you kidding me? Should be great!
Lindsey The boy on Aug 26, 2007
"Ya, because a decent script would be remembered forever right?" Er, yes. Why the hell do you think films like Taxi Driver, Lawrence of Arabia, Vertigo and Once Upon a Time in America are remembered? It's becuase the directors had excellent material to work with. What, you really think people are going to remember a film because the whole frame was in focus? What, are you ten-years-old or something? Stop being an idiot. "Oh, my. Yeah, the Matrix trilogy scripts ARE NOT decent writing. Yeah, right! And the “V" for Vendetta adaptation is also a piece of crap." All of those scripts are poorly constructed, feature clumsy dialogue and are overbearingly pretentious. The only people who find them profound or intellectually stimulating are half-wits like yourself.
Ricky Roma on Aug 26, 2007
Remember, that MOST film frames are completely in focus. This isn't something new that no one has seen before, this is how MOST brightly lit scenes look like in movies. Unless the directory is trying to use depth of field to highlight something, or the it's dark and the camera needs a wider aperture to capture the scene; the entire picture should be in focus. Go take a disposable $5 camera outside and take a picture of your friend from 10 ft away. When you get the picture back both your friend and the background should be in focus...
Alan on Aug 27, 2007
My concern is that everything will come out looking like it was shot blue screen... Those concerned with the script could note that they haven't won much for screen writing but the bullet-time effect the matrix pioneered on a whole new scale definitely brought something new to the fight scenes which were not so much influenced by but delivered by Hong Kong fight choreographers.
Derek on Aug 27, 2007
Ummmm.... Didn't David Attenbrough use a camera lense in one of his many astounding nature series, which could focus on a foreground object like an ant and David narrating in the background, and it was all in perfect focus?
Justin on Aug 27, 2007
Justin: having an actual camera lens that focuses on two different planes is not physically possible, so I'm guessing he didn't. Maybe it was another film-splicing effort?
Dan on Aug 27, 2007
Technically there can still (will) be OOF portions in the image. This depends on the set aperture, focal length of the lens and the spacing of the respective focal planes. You could set it up for some strange mid range blur as well.
Henna on Aug 27, 2007
Script alone does not merit a good viewing. Hence, the flood of reality shows on TV lately. A screening of Citizen Kane is in order here. Bland script, weak dialogue, lame plot. The cinematography techniques and methods in the film are the reason why it has dominated film lists and has garnered such a well-respected name in the industry. It is a movie that implies hours and hours of dialogue and/or narration simply through camera position and movement. Granted, many films today use a limited range of techniques to try to sell a movie (digital sets, CG, bullet-time, cel shading, etc.) but nevertheless all the new schticks that people come up with in film will eventually be used to create a masterpiece. Do not dampen the genius of innovation, no matter how frivolous it seems.
Tye on Aug 27, 2007
This should make for great visuals on-screen. It's about time something big comes. Something revolutionary or along the lines. I'm all for moving forward with technology to enhance movies. And I'm definitely down with going to check out Speed Racer. I mean come on, my unoffical name to my car is Mach 5.
Sinzen on Aug 27, 2007
Dan & Justin: a lens that focuses on two different planes exists, it is called a split field diopter. Much like bifocals, it has two different cuts of glass, with a blended space in between. You can see it in the pool table scene of The Color of Money, Attenborough's nature docs, and more recently in the Departed, when Damon is on the balcony making a phone call while his girlfriend is still in focus in the kitchen.
Pat on Aug 27, 2007
Hopefully the Wachowskis will remember that the reason the "all in focus" idea works in cartoons is because of the total control of the color scheme. Notice that the characters in that speed racer still are the only things that are not monochrome. They are also more detailed then the rest of the frame. I am excited about Speed Racer, it will give the wachowskis a chance to not just remake the matrix like they did in V for Vendetta.
john on Aug 27, 2007
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane "The most innovative technical aspect of Citizen Kane is the extended use of deep focus. In nearly every scene in the film, the foreground, background and everything in between are all in sharp focus. This was done by renowned cinematographer Gregg Toland through his experimentation with lenses and lighting."
Been There on Aug 27, 2007
Plurals are not spelled with apostrophes. "Wachowski's" should be "Wachowskis."
Bionicast on Aug 27, 2007
It's wierd that it's the Wachowskis now, not the Wachowski Brothers (you know, the sex change and all), but I think I understand where the best scenes from Bound come from now... I could be wrong. Exciting to see them still pushing the boundaries in each film. And of course I'm talking about the scene where they shoot Joe Pantoliano and he bleeds all into the white paint covering the floor, not the ultra hot lesbian sex scene...
ppc management on Aug 27, 2007
Perhaps 'spelled' is spelt as 'spelt'- but then again I don't know how they spell it in American English.
onyx on Aug 27, 2007
"Wachowskis'" Bionicast. Not "Wachowskis". "Wachowskis" would imply that there are multiple but they don't own anything. An apostrophe after the "S" means that there are more than one and they own something. Don't be a random punctuation Nazi if you don't know how it works.
grandma on Aug 27, 2007
This could really be lame actually. Though you don't need a split diopter or anything all that fancy to get a lot of tings in focus. You just need to shoot at the right f-stop from the proper distance. The issue might be that to shoot in low light you have to use a wide open f-stop that would produce a shallow depth of field and make it hard to have everything in focus. Our eyes naturally can't focus on up close and far away at the same time, try it, so when everything is in focus it can, in fact, look like a blue screen or cgi. One of the big advances in cgi looking real was blurring the background. Could be the coolest thing since cocoa puffs or another load of Wachoski beige cream of wheat. If the Wachowski bros actually do ever have a deep or vaguely original thought, be careful that you don't drink the Kool-aid at the premiere party.
Photoneophyte on Aug 27, 2007
You have to remember that Gregg Toland and Orson Welles (apostrophe needed? heh), as mentioned above, shot mutiple shots then had them edited together to create impossible depths of field. These shots in Citizen Kane would not be able to be created otherwise.
john on Aug 27, 2007
Are you all foreign?
gaylard on Aug 28, 2007
Grandma, maybe you should read the entire article and focus on the context of which I was speaking rather than acting like a child and calling people names. I wasn't referring to the possessive form per say. Did you notice the last line of this article, "Go Wachowski's!"? That doesn't need an apostrophe at the end because we're not referring in that sentence to any possession by said Brothers. It should read, "Go Wachowskis!" That error is repeated elsewhere in the article. Now, if you're speaking of the headline, then yes, it should be "Wachowskis'".
Bionicast on Aug 29, 2007
That's per se. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_se 🙂
Jim Dorey on Aug 29, 2007
Clarification for everyone: 1. You CANNOT make a good story from a bad script through technical innovation, so let's hope the script is good. 2. The entire fram can be EASILY brought into focus by using a wide angle lens and using a lot of light with a small aperture. 3. Most video cameras always have the whole frame in focus due to the small size of their sensors. This is a major factor in why professional movies look different than amateur ones. Most people think this is uglier than shallow depth of field and it is generally avoided. As others have mentioned, blue screens, when done improperly have this same effect. It looks bad. I am sure there is much more to this new camera system than what miss sarandon is able to explain. They must be doing something more. All parts of a frame being in focus is neither new nor cool. 4. Toland did NOT "splice together" different elements of film to achieve this look throughout the movie. Nearly all the deep focus cinematography is through wide angle lenses, which the director was quite fond of, as they let the viewer choose what to focus their attention on.
Jared on Aug 29, 2007
I would like to know what is so "revolutionary" about the full focus cameras that they're using. This type of focus technique was used on, in fact invented for, Citizen Kane. What's revolutionary about something from 1939?
Monkey Butz on Aug 30, 2007
What is clearly apparent to me, is that everyone commenting here is working with 2% of the required information and context from which this Susan Sarrandon based suggestion came. Obviously, nobody actually understands if we are talking about an aesthetic concept, technological advance or new process. There is no silver bullet from which to make childish overarching critiques on the Wachowski's intent. Movies are an amalgamation of story, performance, cinematography, production design and visual effects. Every film is a dice roll. To make a movie, is a very very difficult endeavor, good OR mediocre. Have the people here sound as if the closest they've ever come to trying to make a real movie is NIL. Don't even open your mouths and cast negative dispersions about any film maker whom at least has the courage to try. Go back to your bedroom in your parents home and masturbate to pictures on the internet like you do 3 times a day already.
John Christopher on Aug 31, 2007
BTW The discussion about Citizen Kane is relevant and refreshing because it indicates that a certain few folks here understand more of the fundamental historical precedents from which all current film makers look back upon. Many film makers try to invoke these past explorations in their efforts to create new narrative structures, vehicles and understand why and how modernize the tools they use to do so. And...I think it's not HALF the folks here are pimple faced cynics lacking ANY film making experience or knowledge what so ever, perhaps it's 90%. If any of you bad vibed losers have any skills, show us the money. I think it's cool for people to get excited, write and dream about the possibilities. Life's too short.
John Christopher on Aug 31, 2007
"The Wachowski's have said that they don't do movies unless they can achieve something great each time." That's funny. If they started with great scripts then maybe this would make sense. Wouldn't they be able to achieve a fully in focus frame by leaving the lens wide open? A wide open lens takes everything into focus, eliminating defocused depth of field. I don't understand why this is such a big deal.
Mcbain on Sep 14, 2007
THe deal I want to mention, especially after seeing Cronenbergs superb Eastern Chronicles today, is that no matter what, most every decent theatre projection here in san francisco still suffers from some area going out of focus...today it happened to be the very center of the screen instead of the lower third, or both left and right. THe boys have still not been able to nail this problem, and one of the reasons the center was out of focius today is a shortage of manpower...as theatres are always cutting staffs. It's a real pleasure to watch front projection at home with a sanyo PLVZ4 projector at about 76 inches, especially with more recent DVD transfers, like the 2006 Blade Runner that had better sharpness. Closeups looked every bit as good as my HD source DVD's. My other thought, is when every scene in a movie is real sharp on the faces, it must feel like a miracle to the director...shooting in lower light situations, etc. When you watch Once Upon A Time in The West, the crucial shot of Claudia Cardinale near the end is just way out of focus...and you just have to deal with it. Hey...I'd like to see a big closup with this new Wachowski techology, just to see if the tip of a nose real close up is as in focus as those ears.....
andre on Sep 14, 2007
McBain, you mean closed. Keeping the iris wide open makes shollower depth of field. Making the Iris (aperture) smaller increases the depth of field, but it needs way more light.
jared on Sep 29, 2007
I think that deep focus might be interesting, but don't think of it as just making it look good because you had full control over color scheme; you can do other things, like "painting with light" that throws the audience's attention where you want it. For instance, to separate a character from the background, you could wash the background's colors out by blasting it with flat lighting while sculpting the edge details on the foreground with a strong key, as well has hitting the back of the actor or object with intense spot backlighting. Now, you can have every aspect of the scene in perfect focus, but the lighting design defines where your audience is looking. Don Carlson DP/stopmotion animator Pram Maven Films
Pram Maven on Oct 6, 2007
I look forward to watching this movie, the whole camera trick will be something, though a bit expose when I heard they will be making a movie about speed racer, but anyways I can't wait.
D.W. on Dec 15, 2007
maybe they are using this camera to add the flicker?
your mother on Feb 28, 2008
Any computer animated film has all the deep focus it wants. Then of course gnerated objects are defocussed to make the scenes more believable to our way of seeing. Since we know most of the impressive stuff in Speed Racer will be generated, you have to wonder if this is some hype to grab our collars back into the theatres instead of waiting for a nice HD or Blu-Ray to project on our 100 inch screens at home. Speaking of focus, MIchael Bay's entertaining Transformers was using a remarkably picky focus on scenes, where two people side by side but just barely out of focus from each other would be selectably focussed on when they had dialogue. It looks a little strange, as you cannot decide for yourself where to look. That's pretty hairy follow focus. You can see in this huge film some scenes where they just completely missed the focus, as when the two stars encounter bumble bee after their fight with the mini bot. (At night by the fence) They look up at him and are completely out of focus. I'd hate to be Bay in the editing room looking at that scene, but you can tell he likes to shoot available and doesn't mind pushing film. Pushing and getting grain in evening shots adds a texture and a false sense of sharpness, as there is the detail of the grain to focus on. He also likes his actors to have saturated skin tones. As an observation, when the two stars finally meet up with all the robots in the alley, Bumble Bee shows that he still has the funky camero skin on him as opposed to the new camero he picked up in the tunnel. I really liked Transformers...it was fresh, funny, stunning to look at, and bounced around from scenes and stayed wild throughout. Those bot somersaults while firing into the ground in the end set piece were very hip. Transformers should have won best visual effects over golden compass...easily.
andre on Feb 28, 2008
The latest trailers were even worse than the International Trailers. I mean they're exciting at the first viewing but then second time around they're already boring. Not like the first "Matrix" trailer, it was exciting but got more exciting each time you watched it. Also, the dialogue is so cheesey, however being that it's targeting 12 year olds, perhaps that's okay, but then you have the phoney martial arts, and all makes me wonder what kind of message they're trying to send to our children?! Overall, I'll wait for the DVD. There will be more exciting things to do than be stuck in a theatre watching a colorful car racing movie.
shopie opie on Mar 14, 2008
Oh, and whatever happened to "DreamScapesAxis" the SCI FI blockbuster movie that the Wachowski's, according to Internet Rumor, were supposed to be developing ?
shopie opie on Mar 14, 2008
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