Pawel Edelman


Highlights: “Pianist” and upcoming pics “Oliver,” “All the King’s Men”
Laurels: Oscar and ASC noms for “The Pianist” (2003)
Tool kit: On “Ray” Edelman used ARRICAM cameras, and recorded images on Kodak Vision 2 5218 (500 speed) and Kodak Vision 5274 (200 speed) color films. FotoKem, in Burbank, did front-end processing, and D.I. postproduction was done at LaserPacific in Hollywood.

“Ray” is the first feature film shot in the United States by Pawel Edelman, a member of the Polish Society of Cinematographers. The film chronicles the lifelong journey of the legendary rhythm and blues singer-composer Ray Charles, played by Jamie Foxx under the direction of Taylor Hackford.

“I’ve heard songs sung by Ray Charles since I was a boy,” says Edelman, who earned an Oscar nomination for his work on Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist.”

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For “Ray,” Hackford told Edelman that he wanted visually to punctuate the passage of time with colors, tones and textures representing different periods. Edelman also shot a test using a photochemical bleach bypass process to render a moody, period look. They decided that a digital intermediate process would give them the flexibility needed to fine-tune the look.

“During the earliest scenes, when Ray Charles is a boy, we emphasized natural light, including the sun,” he says. “The colors are richer and warmer. As the story develops, we used more artificial light motivated by practical sources with subtly different colors. The camerawork also becomes more dynamic with more handheld shots later in the story.”

“Ray” was primarily produced at locations and on stages in New Orleans, and the rest in Los Angeles. Edelman filmed most scenes with three cameras to keep pace with an ambitious shot list on an unforgiving schedule. He used one camera to record a wide-angle master shot and kept the other two focused on the action from medium and close-in perspectives.

“It was impossible to totally control lighting while we were covering scenes with multiple cameras at different angles,” Edelman explains. “But I knew that we would be able to make those adjustments with digital intermediate technology in post-production.”

They also integrated period stock footage from news and documentaries with the live-action film and emulated the photochemical bleach bypass look.

Charles died in Los Angeles on June 10, 2004, less than five months before “Ray” was released.