An interview with RAMPAGE Chief Lighting Technician Rafael E. Sánchez
Released by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, RAMPAGE, is a sci-fi monster film and loosely based on the Midway Games series of the same name. Principal photography began in April 2017 in Chicago.
Augmented reality: VER’s Enhanced Environment experts were there for the War Room scenes and our Ncam system was deployed for framing purposes in the large scale third act. Ncam was used to show, in real time, how large monster/creatures would be if they were actually on set, giving the vfx, camera crew, and director proper perspective of where the camera needed to be to capture their size.
It also was used to show the city of Chicago in the background of these plates (even though the crew was shooting in a backlot in Atlanta) allowing them to keep continuity of where in the city they were looking.
“We spent 3 weeks shooting the large end scene”, states Robert Martinez, NCam Technician at show-site. “Ncam was used so that the crew on set was seeing the pre-vis background and inserted monsters instead of the green screen and a tennis ball. In a few cases we were able to use the system to correct differences between the real world and the one created by the animators (instances where that the ‘monsters’ would need be shifted so they were no longer halfway inside buildings). This allowed everyone to see where the monsters should and would be in relation to the real world that was being captured …”
VER LED/Enhanced Environment crew: Fred Waldman – Account Executive • Todd Patience – Project Manager/LED Asst. • Luke Lewis – LED Engineer • Jared LeClaire – Media Server Operator • Stephen Hambsch – Media Server Operator (Install/Programming) VER Ncam crew: Devin Lyons – NCam operator for all prep work • Dave West – NCam operator for show • Robert Martinez – NCam Tech for show.
Rampage was directed by Brad Peyton, and stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It follows a primatologist named Davis Okoye, who must team up with George, an albino gorilla who turns into a raging creature of enormous size following a rogue experiment, in order to stop two other giant monsters. The film was released in the United States on April 13, 2018, in 2D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats.
An interview with:
Rafael E. Sánchez
An enormously successful Chief Lighting Technician and Gaffer, Rafael E. Sánchez is known for his work on over 70 top grossers, recently including, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), Passengers (2016), Jurassic World (2015), Eagle Eye (2008) and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. He was the Chief Lighting Technician on the recently released Rampage, starring Duane Johnson and Naomie Harris.
We caught up with Raffi in Hawaii, working on yet another project.
What is your specialty on set and how did you gain your “name” in the business?
I worked my way up in the grip and electrical department, doing everything I could. After working as a Key Grip for a few years I became a Gaffer in 1994. It has been a combination of good fortune and hard work. Being in the right place at the right time is essential and once you get there you have to take advantage of the opportunities and surround yourself with talented people. Everyone brings their talents to the table. I have had the good fortune to work with some great people.
How did you first work with VER and their Enhanced Environment process?
I think I first used LED panels on Passengers. It was all about relationships and working with people who deliver. We went to VER because of my relationship with Fred Waldman who I knew and trusted from past projects. He and his team at VER helped us utilize many different products to achieve the environments we wanted on that film. VER worked with us in the lighting department. We worked closely with Passenger’s Visual Effects department. My first entrance into that world went well. So for the next project whom do you call? —the folks who made you successful the last time.
Passengers was a few years ago. Has the process changed since then? The application on Rampage is similar, but the technology is always changing. It gets better and easier to use. Now it is easier for us to apply the tools. The whole process was more seamless and intuitive.
Please explain about deciding how to light the War Room and the process you went through to make it happen.
In preproduction we broke down the War Room set. There was a large video screen in the set design. So we knew right away we wanted to make the video wall our main source of light. We spoke to both visual effects and the art department to come up with with a design that accommodated LED panels. There were a few other tiny monitors on set for other small light sources. In addition to the large video wall, we had a few small panels we could move so we could bend the light around as we needed on stand. But the main source was the large video wall that displayed the theatre of operations.
Content displayed on the wall was all footage we had used during the testing. With the content we could utilize the interactive light and the color space. It was a myriad of elements. The Wall would eventually display about 30 things happening in “real time”. So we combined our test footage with stock to simulate the lighting and as long as it was in the same color space it worked. The lighting of the walls and people came off the big monitor. You feel it on all the surfaces. When visual effects put in the actual content later in post, it matched seamlessly.
Any other interesting uses of Enhanced Environments on the film?
This time it was just for the War Room. But it’s a tool in the box that we have now so we are starting to use it more in different areas, like driving for example.
Did you work with the Ncam from VER on the film too?
It is used more for camera and composition. A big element in this film was the giant monsters. Of course when you compose the frame you don’t have the monsters that will eventually be added in post. So Ncam helps you to understand how the actors work with the CG character. It allows the operators and director to actually see the virtual character within the frame while shooting.
Why do you work with VER?
VER is about relationships. Fred and his team are part of the solution process. They are the experts at what they do. When it comes to the technical aspect, I know the vision I want on the screen. Fred then can say, “This is the direction we should go.” They put it to work for us in a way we can achieve. Together we are successful. That’s exactly why you do business with people.
Anything else you want to add?
I still love this work as much as I used to. It is an exciting time in the lighting business. It has been fun to learn about and play with the new tools.
Read more about VER Enhanced Environments here: