What's It like to Light for PTA? The 'Phantom Thread' Crew Is Here to Tell You
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Key members of the Phantom Thread crew took the audience on an incredible journey through the process of lighting the film.

Paul Thomas Anderson's 2017 film follows the peak of British couture fashion in the 1950s. It's a visually rich story with lavish backdrops, beautiful clothing, and of course a brooding Daniel Day-Lewis. It required a certain visual language and complex lighting configurations. In fact, Kubrick's Barry Lyndon was one of the visual inspirations for this film.

Crew members discussed many different aspects of the film's approach to lighting, including first camera assistant Erik L. Brown, gaffer Jonny Franklin, and cameraman Michael Bauman during a recent live stream moderated by Lux Lighting.

If you want, you can jump straight into the video. It is a treasure trove of information! After the jump we will have a look at some interesting snack bars from the stream.

Start testing early

PTA wanted his pictures in this film to have a lot of texture and vintage feel. That's why Bauman started testing different lenses and lighting configurations early on, even while working on other projects like music videos. Brown says this is a process that never ends, and it was important for a project that went on Kodak 35mm film.

They checked the tonal ranges for the footage, how lights like chandeliers and lamps lit up on the film, and how different fabrics and colors appear on the shot.

Some of these preliminary test recordings are shown during the livestream and offer a fascinating look behind the scenes. You also get an insight into all the lenses that you used for the project.

The team announces that they zoomed in on very little of the film. In some places, they used a Libra head-stabilized camera mount on a dolly that they rolled over sets, but which had to be done with old wooden floors.


Recognition: Lux lighting

Be flexible and open to happy accidents

The team is open about how difficult and crazy some of their locations were. During an early scene in the restaurant, they continued to deal with natural light in a window with "three to five exposure changes," Brown says.

They ended up with a beautiful incidence of light around Day-Lewis’s head, but it was mostly an accident. The crew tried to make sure the exposure coincided over a long afternoon so that the film's editor could put together a seamless scene. It slowed them down considerably, they said.

They had the same problems in the breakfast corner of the Woodcock house, says Bauman, where really big windows with outside light came in.

They used Luminair on an iPad as a mobile lighting control console.

Lighting & # 39; phantom thread & # 39;
Recognition: Lux lighting

Get creative to please your director

Throughout the stream, the team speaks of having to adjust their styles to meet PTA's wishes for the look of the film. You did a lot with little and natural light. In some places, the practical lighting that PTA wanted for the recordings (such as chandeliers, wall lights or fireplaces) had to be creatively expanded.

Wall lights are one example. The crew added LED strips to the light bulbs and dimmers to not only control the brightness of the lights for the crew, but also to give them an additional 20 to 30 minutes of shooting at the end of the day.

Brown called these invented light bulbs "works of art". Franklin points out that they couldn't rewire the house, so this was an alternative solution to bring extra light into the rooms.

Lighting & # 39; phantom thread & # 39;
Recognition: Lux lighting

PTA also shoots from low angles, so they didn't always have a lot of space to block light sources.

For example, the crew had tall windows, sconces, and a fairly low chandelier as an internship in one of Woodcock's studio spaces where he has an important piece of clothing on a dress form. Actors had to be able to move freely in the room. So the crew expanded these lights with some manipulated lights on the ceiling.

"Thank god the ceilings were high in this place," Bauman says of the room.

They sometimes used smoke to spread it. This made sense for both the location and the period. The visitors to the fashion house would have smoked, right?


Recognition: Focus functions

Be sure to go through the entire stream to learn more about what it's like to work with PTA and Day-Lewis, and in another way, the crew has come up with new solutions for beautiful lighting configurations.

What's next? Enjoy more PTA

Do you know the director's nine trademarks? What about the four basic elements of his directorial style? And here are forty-four films that PTA recommends, so get started!

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