Team had to rethink 'everything' for 'Hugo'

Martin Scorsese and his crew mulled the idea of shooting “Hugo” in 2D and converting it, but decided it needed to be shot in 3D — though they quickly discovered the process required them to rethink “everything” about filmmaking, the helmer said.

The learning curve was steep since they had no prior 3D experience.

Scorsese told Variety, “My goal here was to try to tell the story with this added element of depth, to use depth as narrative because most people see in depth.”

“None of us had done 3D before,” said “Hugo” production designer Dante Ferretti, who has now worked on eight films with Scorsese. He found their latest effort especially challenging because of the sheer detail required by 3D, which, he quickly realized, cries out for meaningful detail to fill the depth it creates in front of the camera.

“It’s very important to put a lot of stuff in that space,” Ferretti said.

Much of “Hugo” — set in the 1930s — takes place at Paris’ Gare de Montparnasse train station and inside its clock tower, various parts of which Ferretti constructed on massive sets at several London-area soundstages.

“We did tests and realized we had to add details to the clocks, machinery, gears and pipes because for 3D to work well, you always have to have many objects before you,” Ferretti added.

The creative approach on “Hugo” was almost the polar opposite to that of “Immortals,” the subject of this column two weeks ago. That Tarsem Singh-helmed, vfx-intense saga relied largely on greenscreen technology for its backgrounds and was shot in 2D and converted to 3D; in comparison, “Hugo” was shot stereoscopically and used huge, elaborate physical sets, with vfx supervisor Rob Legato adding only the background extensions.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson was both “excited” and “daunted” by the prospect of his first 3D shoot, which also happened to be his first digitally shot feature. He used Arri Alexa cameras paired on a Pace rig.

The early considerations of shooting in 2D and doing a conversion were on the table “for reasons of economics,” according to Richardson, “but Marty always wanted to shoot on 3D … and there’s no question that if you’re taking 3D seriously, capturing it that way is vital.”

Sorsese looks forward to further technical advances.

“You’re talking more than 3D, you’re talking holograms,” said the helmer. “That’s where it’s going, ultimately … It doesn’t have to be science fiction. You can do ‘Hamlet’ in hologram.”

Bookings & Signings

Re-recording mixers Greg P. Russell and Scott Millan have been tapped to work on “Skyfall,” the 23rd James Bond film, at the new Technicolor post-production sound facility on the Paramount lot, where they were recently joined by fellow re-recording mixer Anna Behlmer.

Sandra Marsh & Associates booked production designers John Myhre on February’s Oscars ceremony, Jim Clay on Mike Newell’s “Great Expectations” and Yohei Taneda on Keanu Reeves’ “Man of Tai-Chi”; producers Iain Smith on George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Bennett Walsh on M. Night Shyamalan’s “1000 A.E.”; editors Nancy Richardson on Jonathan Levine’s “Warm Bodies” and Dany Cooper on Wayne Blair’s “The Sapphires”; vfx supervisor Bruce Steinheimer on Ben Affleck’s “Argo”; and stunt coordinator Melissa Stubbs on Fox’s “Alcatraz.” Marsh signings: d.p.’s Jason Lehel (“Gaia”) and Steve Lawes (“Strikeback”); and production designers Ben Procter (“Ender’s Game”) and Keith Brian Burns (“Abduction”).

Dattner Dispoto signed costume designer Nadine Haders (“John From Cincinnati”) and booked d.p. Bojan Bazelli on Gore Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger.”

ITalent booked editors Crispin Struthers on David O. Russell’s “The Silver Linings Playbook” and Susan Littenberg on Daryl Wein’s “Lola Versus”; and d.p. Marco Fargnoli on Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital.”

Innovative Artists signed costume designer Kathleen Felix (“Dexter’). Agency booked d.p. Eric Edwards on Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Lovelace” and John Thomas on Showtime’s “The Big C”; editor Michael Ruscio on HBO’s “True Blood”; and production designers Anthony Medina on Lifetime movie “Killing Mr. Wright” and Lauren Crasco on USA pilot “On We Go.”

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