LONDON — Codex (www.codexdigital.com) reports that its recording and workflow technologies were used on the production to post pipeline for 20th Century Fox’s latest superhero film, X-Men: Days Of Future Past. The gear enabled the filmmakers to deploy a variety of Arri Alexa cameras, shooting both native 3D and 2D using Arri Raw, and to maximize image quality on-set and during post production.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was directed by Bryan Singer, with cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel ASC. Boasting a stellar cast, that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Evan Peters, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry, this latest chapter in the Marvel saga sees the X-Men characters joining forces with their younger selves to change the past in order to save the future.
Singer and Sigel, who also worked together on X-Men and X-Men 2, had used other digital cameras on previous 3D native productions, but elected to shoot X-Men: Days Of Future Past in native 3D using Arri Alexa M and Alexa XT cameras supported by the Codex/Arri Raw workflow.
“I like the look of Alexa,” says Sigel. “It’s a kind of softer look (to other digital cameras), with more half tones, more variations of color, and it was a better look for this project. I was able to get wardrobe to give me a lot of saturated colours on background extras in oranges and yellows and reds — very intense colors that were easier to isolate, grab onto and actually desaturate later.”
Sigel adds, “By the time we started X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Arri had come out with Alexa M. I was able to use them with TS5 3D rigs from 3ality and Codex Onboard S Recorders. The 3D rigs are pretty solid, but what’s evolving are the cameras and lenses that are available for them. The options are expanding, and the Alexa M is certainly a step in that direction. We also had some 2D stuff, and for that we were able to use the Alexa XT and record the Arri Raw right onto the in-camera Codex XR drives, and that was very liberating.”
The second unit cinematography, under the auspices of DP Larry Blanford, shot at more remote locations, using Alexa XTs and a Codex Vault system to view images during the shoot and to back-up the files during transport.
During production on X-Men: Days Of Future Past, the different Arri cameras output Log C images, and these were given an initial grade by DIT Julie Garceau. The grades and the footage were then passed to Company 3, which maintained a truck near the set and later completed the final DI grade. Company 3 ingested the footage to a SAN, and processed it. The truck included a projector for screening. Dailies colourist Adrian DeLude finessed the on-set colour and the footage in 3D with Sigel and stereographer John Harper in attendance.
Although Singer did not look at 3D on-set, preferring to focus on performance, Sigel usually watched a 3D image during playback. With this in mind, Gervais commented that the goal was to make shooting native 3D as easy as possible.
“In terms of creative latitude, the choice is simple. ArriRaw is uncompressed — every subtle detail is preserved,” Gervais notes. “It lets the DP and director make the choice about what details are important to the image in DI, rather than letting an algorithm decide for them. It's particularly important for scenes where you have extremes of contrast — day exteriors with harsh sunlight.”