Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," also starring Emma Stone. (Photo By: Niko Tavernise) Copyright: ©2013 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.
Cinematographer Daniel Mindel, ASC, BSC is known for lending a sense of realism to big-budget fantasy films like Mission Impossible III; Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. His latest adventure is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, in which Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) must face off against a roster of supervillains while trying to work out his adolescent angst. The cast also includes Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Campbell Scott and Sally Field.
Director Marc Webb returns to the director’s chair, fortified by the success of The Amazing Spider-Man. That film was shot native 3D, but this time around, the origination medium was Kodak 35mm anamorphic film.
“Marc realized how cumbersome it was to try and use the 3D rigs and how disconnected it made him from the process because there were so many technicians in between him and the camera,” says Mindel. “I think that pushed him into thinking about how to make the film another way. I assume that he saw the results we got on Star Trek, where we did a post 3D conversion and maintained the analog workflow of a 2D film. I think that bought him a ton of freedom in how he wanted to make the film, and I think he’s pleased with it.”
According to Mindel, Webb wanted to get back to the story’s New York City roots, while honoring the established back history and character development.
“He made a picture that captured the texture and feeling of New York,” says Mindel. “The result had the saturated color and framing of a comic book.”
The production was touted as the biggest ever in New York. Some second unit shooting was done further north, in Rochester, where there are fewer restrictions. A replica of Times Square was built at Gold Coast Studios on Long Island, and a few scenes were finished at Ironhead Studio in Los Angeles.
But shooting the bridges and skyscrapers of Manhattan and Brooklyn was a treat for Mindel. The filmmakers looked at Gordon Willis’s classic New York films, Annie Hall and Manhattan, for inspiration. The color palette in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was quite important, of course, and film played a role there as well.
“I think the rich colors that we can apply to film, often, in the digital media can feel almost can be colored in their look,” says Mindel. “I think one has to be very careful using colored light with the digital capture. Even if you can manipulate it in post, I don’t think it resonates the way it does on film. The characters Electro or the Green Goblin required, as far as I was concerned, their own sort of color palette, which we tried to bring to the sequences that they were in. Times Square is an incredibly color-saturated environment, and that allowed us to use a lot of color at night.”
Within the rich, comic-book palette, and in spite of the extensive visual effects, Mindel strives to sell the cinematic world as real and organic.
“Taking Times Square outside and being able to incorporate those real pieces brought into a CG world definitely helped sell the illusion,” he says. “We did that with interactive light and with physical tops of the set. We used CG extensions, basically, on many of our sets that we built. Green screen is used so extensively on this type of movie. The more real bits and pieces you can include in the frame, the better the CG works.”
Another important decision was Mindel’s choice of lenses. He used C, E and G Series Panavision anamorphic lenses. He often chooses older glass because the imperfections they introduce contribute to the subconscious perception of realism. He often employs a very light amount of Black Pro-Mist filtration to make the image less cold and clinical.
Film stocks on The Amazing Spider-Men included KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 and KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219. A 4K digital intermediate was done at Sony Colorworks, and Stefan Sonnenfeld was at Mindel’s side during the color correction.
Mindel says that shooting film allows him to trust his instincts. “Spider-Man 2 is a very commercial film, and we tried to give it more than a commercial movie feel,” he says. “We tried to give it the same care and attention that we would any film, but the process is so compacted by the schedule. And so, I think there’s a certain amount of rush process. But we were able to maintain the integrity of our process because the speed with which you can work with film is enormous compared to shooting the digital way. I really don’t understand where it becomes cheaper and easier to shoot HD when you have to be so precise with it. There’s a lot more freedom using film cameras where instinct and technique take over, and it allows one—even with reloading and cutting the camera—the ability to make the day in a really meaningful way.”
Mindel is currently shooting his next project, Star Wars: Episode VII, with director J.J. Abrams on Kodak film.