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‘CHAPPiE’ Q&A With DoP Trent Opaloch

Posted on Mar 11, 2015 by Definition Magazine

CHAPPIE is the story of a re-programmed robot who threatens the very existence of the human race.

What was it about the ‘look’ of the RED that suited the film? 

There’s a comfort level that Neill and I have with the RED cameras since we shot District 9 on the RED One bodies. We used the RED Epics on both ‘Elysium’ and ‘CHAPPiE’. The Dragon sensor was released for public consumption right before we went into production on ‘CHAPPiE’ but unfortunately we had already run all of our test footage through the post-production pipeline and I didn’t want to gamble on it without enough testing time. I think there’s a good fit with the RED camera’s and Neill’s films. There’s an aggressive quality to the camera’s that seems to fit well with his filmmaking.

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Trent Opaloch on set behind director Neill Blomkamp and the RED Epic camera.

Any problems with the camera? Has RED now evolved quickly enough for you?

We had no real problems with the system in production or post as far as I remember. I’ve since had my EPIC upgraded to the Dragon and I’m looking forward to unleashing on the film I’m prepping now.

On-set and post-production workflow? 

DIT Richard Mueller and I would time colour reference images pulled from our days work and send these off with the drives.

Neill is known for a hand-held style – how did that influence equipment, lighting, etc?

The main thing with working with Neill is that he likes you to light the environments as opposed to individual characters with marks like you would normally do. It’s a difficult situation as a cinematographer because you give up a lot of lighting control with that approach but I think there’s a great energy that it allows for in the scene. The actors aren’t pegged down to specific marks and have a bit more freedom than they normally would. The lighting approach must be more general and flexible to work with that. So there’s trade offs for sure but that’s the deal.

Are you choosing cameras as you used to choose film stock? 

In a way I supposed yes. It also depends on how fast and light you have to move while shooting the film. Different types of films call for a different approach with different equipment and like any craft you need the right tool for the right job.

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RED and crew shooting CHAPPiE.

Lens choice?

We shot ‘CHAPPiE’ with Panavision Anamorphic lenses C, E and G series. There’s a beautiful cinematic quality to Panavision anamorphics that I love so much. It adds a human touch and takes the edge off the digital sensors. I shoot a lot of commercials in between films and bounce between Cooke sphericals and Panavision anamorphics when I can and it’s always nice to throw on a C or G series lens. There’s a romantic attachment I have to those lenses that is hard to explain. I actually get sort of tired trying to explain it to producers sometimes because they often fight the choice to go anamorphic for cost or who knows why. I sort of get to the point where I want to say “look if you can’t honestly see the difference than it’s a waste of time having this conversation” hahahahahah.

Why Sony PMW – EX3?

We shot some security footage and ENG news coverage with these cameras. I own a Sony EX-1 & we’ve used the EX-1 & EX-3’s in this way for a few movies so there’s a comfort level I guess. Plus they are cheap and great little cameras so we can get a bunch of them.

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