Discussing The 3D In Prometheus With Cinematographer Darius Wolski

Prometheus is a wonderfully designed film and its lighting is definitely very striking. Very few films this year are going to offer you such a lavish visual experience.

So we at Bleeding Cool were particularly keen to speak to the film’s production designer, Arthur Max, and cinematographer, Darius Wolski.

Patrick Dane was our man in the field with Wolski, meeting up with him in London last week. The following comes from the portions of their conversation that tackled the film’s 3D.

You might want to fact check some of these assertions, but I’ve left Wolski’s comments verbatim. This is his version of how 3D works, and his history of modern 3D film.

Take it away, Wolski.

I was just thrown into 3D by circumstance. The first [3D] movie I did was Alice in Wonderland… we did a lot of testing with physical 3D and then we ended up digitising it later in post. This was a very early stage and the only movie that had been shot in 3D was Avatar and it had taken James [Cameron] four years to do it.

And to be honest, the system was still completely in the research mode, a trial and error thing. 70% of Avatar was animation. I looked at his system, and it was interesting but it wasn’t really worked out. So we gave up.

And then I did Pirates 4. Just to make it something more exciting, Rob Marshall came up to me and said “Let’s shoot in 3D” and I said “That’s going to cost a lot of money.” “You can do it” and then we just figured it out. It was the first movie that was shot physically in 3D.

Ridley called me and I met him in Los Angeles for an hour and he says “What is it? What about this 3D?” so I told him all the pros and cons and what you should be careful about, what you shouldn’t do, what you should do.

You start dealing with all these technical people that actually haven’t done a movie themselves but they have all the knowledge about 3D, this theoretical knowledge, but they have never done a film. So I just had to absorb from them but also just get rid of certain information that was not necessary. So I was helpful to Ridley saying “Okay this matters and this doesn’t matter.”

You have to have a stereographer because you have to have someone. What happened was that, thanks to Pirates, one of my assistants who was really bright and it was time for him to move up and I said to him “You learn this because I want some one I can trust to be in charge of the whole thing”. He is the guy who didn’t come from the background of technical and theoretical geniuses, he was just an experienced filmmaker. So I brought him in and he did tremendous work to figure everything out.

His name is James Goldman. From what ever he knew, he just expanded his knowledge and called every body. He called the people who did the dance movie Pina, which was really beautiful. He was always behind us and so we could shoot the film the way we wanted but he was always watching us. Progressively we got braver and braver with 3D. Because at the beginning you are too afraid. You are afraid it’s going to be too jarring. But we got more confident and kept pushing it further and further.

On an epic film like this 3D just enhances it. When you get into intimate scenes, I mean it’s still 3D you just try to play it a little bit soft. You make it a little bit easier. And there are maybe three shots we did with super long lenses in 2D, then we dimensionalised [them in post]. One was the close up on the eye in the mirror.

And did any of the armchair 3D experts out there comment on these converted shots having “bad 3D”, compared to the natively shot remainder of the film? No. Of course not. They didn’t even realise what they were looking at.

I’m getting used to the fact that almost nobody knows anything much about 3D, but everybody is still prepared to wade in and fight over it. Wolski was right to acknowledge that there are a lot of experts out there, who understand the nature of stereography very well. I think it’s terrible waste that they are being so widely ignored.

We want to thank Mr. Wolski for taking the time to talk to us. He certainly knows how to light a scene, and Prometheus often looks quite dazzling as a result. You can check it out in UK cinemas now and in US cinemas from Friday.

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