1917 Flare Scene + Capturing Isolation

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  • #215116

      Hi Roger,

      Just want to preface this post by saying I admire your work and whole-heartedly thank you for all you’ve done for the industry. I am only 16, yet I have embarked on a journey of filmmaking with a heavy focus on cinematography, with you as one of my idols, and I think it is so cool you have set up a forum where people can ask you all sorts of questions!

      I understand that you might receive this comment frequently, and you may hear people saying, “you probably hear this a lot,” and here I am, adding to that repetition. But I truly mean it.

      Now heres my question for you –

      I’m a big history enthusiast, and I’ve always had the dream of creating an authentically Australian WW1/2 film, akin to “Gallipoli” (1981, Mel Gibson). In my short film, I’d like to incorporate a scene similar to the one in 1917 where the flare illuminates the battlefield. How did you achieve those looming, ominous rolling shadows? Did you simply light up a flare, or was there a more intricate setup? Is there a cost-effective/DIY way to achieve this effect?

      Another question (I apologize for the lengthy post!): How would you recommend capturing the sense of homesickness and the confinement of the battlefield through the camera lens? Would close-ups with a shallow depth of field be the most effective approach, or should I predominantly use long shots to convey isolation, similar to the way you portrayed the cityscape in “Blade Runner”?

      I’m looking forward to your response.



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    • #215148
      Roger Deakins

        The flares were real and our effects supervisor had them specially made to last exactly 26 seconds, which was the length of time it took them to cross the frame. They were mounted on wires and computer controlled. We could have just shot them into the air but the results  would have been quite random given the wind and other variables, so we opted for control and a wire rig. The set was designed from a model and we used small LED bulbs as stand ins for the flares. From that we could see how the shadows would play out on the full size set.

        Isolation? Close shots with a shallow depth of field could work very well. You could take a look at ‘Come and See’ to get a sense of how that might work.


          Hey Roger,

          Thanks a lot for your helpful insights, and I’ll definitely check out “Come and See.”

          I appreciate your time and knowledge!

          Best, Nathan

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