Cinematographer Chris Ross Talks About MISFITS
As I said I would in my previous Misfits article, I did some research to find out more about Misfits cinematography and found out that Chris Ross, the TV show DP, was a guest speaker at the Kodak Cinematography Masterclass back in November 2010, where he talked about his career and consequently about Misfits.
Below are six highlights from the Masterclass, in no particular order:
- When he read the first Misfits script, Ross wasn’t entirely convinced that it was any good. [He] thaught it was really funny and really dark, but [he] feared the Skins factor. A year after, Misfits became, along with London to Brighton, the first feature he shot, his favorite job because of the freedom he got on it.
- Misfits is all handheld and shot on the RED Camera:
The benefits of the RED are that you can shoot high-speed with the same camera then raised the chip and shoot a 100 fps which is really good for Misfits because there’s a lot of actions. But the RED has some image issues too so I went for uncoated Zeiss super speeds to give a soft focus look, Ross explained.
My principal issue with HD cameras -and this is much more of an issue with the older generation than the newest senses- is that the level of processing makes the image sharper; and I’ll do anything I can to take that away. The difference between Misfits and Hotel Babylon for instance is a lens choice or a filter choice.
The methodology to Misfits was that the characters should feel as if they’re unpolished diamonds so the image should feel like it’s an unpolished diamond.
- The two rules Ross always stands by are: never showing the shadow of a light source on a wall and never showing the shadow of a cast member. As a consequence, Ross is a big fan of soft lights and top lights, particularly convenient for multi-camera shoots (as in Misfits).
- When working on Misfits visual, Ross and director Tom Green used Francis Bacon self-portrait tryptics and The Screaming Pope as inspirations to define Simon’s technique to become invisible.
- For the lighting, Ross put fluorescent tubes everywhere on the set, using Fight Club as a reference, and particularly a shot on Tyler Durden where a fluorescent tube lies on the floor for no particular reason. Ross figured there’s no rational sense to it, and if they can do it, then we can do it too. So we put a lot of fluorescent tubes everywhere, on a lot of the sets and it worked like a charm.
- From a photographic perspective, Ross likes to root everything either in the drama of the scene or in the emotions of the characters. Just because it’s a night scene doesn’t mean it has to be dark and moody, but if the scene is dark and moody, even if it’s a day scene, we should make it dark and moody. It’s all about creating an atmosphere that feels quite natural. I like to manipulate the audience in a natural kind-of a way.
Green showed Ross pictures of the Australian photographer Bill Henson to use as a reference for the Night Club Scene in Season 2, Episode 2.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I always love it when cinematographers or directors talk about the references they used to create a universe. There are more of them on the full masterclass that you can watch here.