Jules O’Loughlin ACS ASC used the low-light capabilities of the VariCam LT and EVA1 for a number of complicated stunt sequences for Angel Has Fallen (2019), the third instalment in the Fallen film franchise. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh this storyline follows US Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) as he races against time to clear his name after being framed for an assassination attack on US President, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman).
O’Loughlin was approached to shoot the film following his work on The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Waugh was clear from the first meeting with the DP that he wanted to reboot the franchise with a film that focussed as much on its dramatic aspects as it did on high-octane action sequences.
Location and stage work were done in London and Sofia doubling for Washington and Virginia, and included stints at Pinewood Studios, Longcross Studios, Virginia Water and Nu Boyana in Sofia.
A number of different cameras were used on Angel Has Fallen, with the main workhorses being Alexa Minis. As many of the major action sequences in the film were shot at night, O’Loughlin needed a camera system conducive to the low-light environments and the complicated stunts that were being executed. He ran several tests using different cameras in their forest location, and ended up opting for the VariCam LT due to its native 5000 ISO setting.
“The camera really digs into shadow areas, and was perfectly suited to the way in which we wanted these night sequences to look,” he says. “We also used an EVA1 maximising on its size, strapping it to the side of our hero vehicles for the chase scenes.”
Describing one of the scenes that he used the VariCam LT he says; “There was a large night scene where Agent Banning is on the run and steals a truck. We did some testing in pre-production, and decided that we wanted it to look totally realistic and without the use of studio lights. We overhauled the truck’s interior dash lights, its headlights and its marker lights as well as the police vehicle lights. I wanted to use the added sensitivity of the VariCam but not have vehicle lights blown out. We wanted to see detail in the vehicles as well as the light play on the side of the truck”.
O’Loughlin adds, “The Varicam’s sensitivity also meant that the sky had detail in it – it picked up London’s city lights illuminating the night sky. It was a tricky manipulation of exposure, and in the end the sequence is shot with very few movie lights”.
Using a number of different cameras on a project like this can sometimes cause picture matching differences in post-production. This wasn’t O’Loughlin’s experience when matching the low-light VariCam LT shots with those from the ARRI Alexa Mini. He found that they could be matched well, in creating the desired result.