One of the most graphic digital movie of our times, Frank Millers Sin City, directed by Robert Rodriguez, has had a great impact in Movie Making. This is a theatrical adaptation of the comic series. The whole movie is shot on a green screen, with three point lighting(more on this later), and is in black & white for most parts, and some scenes have color elements in them. In this post we attempt to create a similar graphic look.
A bit more about the movie first. This experimental movie has an all-star cast, including Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson etc. was shot against a green screen and inserted into digitally created settings in 3D with a black-and-white conversion, with some touches of color added for dramatic effect.. It may seem like a gimmick at first, but it kind of sends the viewer into a sort of parallel universe, so this unconventional method works perfectly. Really, if you haven't watched the movie....please do just to see how they executed it.(if you like movies like kill bill, pulp fiction....you will love this one)
Also, the place where we actually learnt how it was all done is this Making of the Movie book. In this book you'll find some great photography of the actors and scenes from the movie, the 3 point lighting, the sets, what part was real and what part was fake(digitally added later). We actually used the movie and the book as reference to figure out how it was all done. This book will just expand your knowledge in special effects, so for sure...you can't miss this.
Ok, lets see how we did this for our stills.
When watching the movie, one of the most interesting parts were the rains. It was a blend of digital rain, and wet actors with soaked clothes and water dripping from hair. It gave such a nice illusion in the movie. Unfortunately, we couldn't go all the way wetting the clothes as they were rented by the stylist. But we came close. The digital background were provided by a 3D artist friend (see more on 3D backgrounds here) and we shot our images on a dark gray background instead of a green screen.
The angles in which we shot in were matched later in the software. We had pre planned the shots before, as in what will be in the background. For the above image, there was backlight from the jeep behind the model. So, to give that illusion, we lit the model with a bare strobe from behind. Also, the reflection and water drops on the floor are real. We extracted it from the metal sheet on which the model was sitting. The rain obviously is digital.
In the above image, the back light is coming from behind and the right side from the cinema hoarding....so, guess where the bare strobe was placed. The main light is a small beauty dish with a diffuser on it, for all shots. Here we have slight hint of color throughout the image. But in the image below, it is pure black and white with only the guitar and amp in color. Yes, the movie has a character called 'the yellow bast@#$' who was like a patch of yellow in the whole black and white scenery. They show you how they did that in the book. Our approach is simple selective desaturation. Learn more about it here.
In this last shot, instead of using a digitally rendered background, we used an image of the sky. You can actually shoot the scenes seperately and the model seperately if you don't have access to digital backgrounds. The lighting concept remains the same. To give that effect of the sky light, we lit the model from behind with a bare strobe.