How Zack Snyder Shot Army of the Dead's Zombie Action in a New Way | Snyder School | Netflix

How Zack Snyder Shot Army of the Dead's Zombie Action in a New Way | Snyder School | Netflix

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00:00
A lot of the movie, the actors lit with flashlights and I'd wear like a white shirt. I'd be like, "Point the flashlight at my shirt and you're going to light yourself," and they'd be like, "What?" And then I would have a flashlight attached to the camera that I be... We'd put a card on the ceiling and I would be bouncing off the ceiling. (ominous music) Hi guys, I'm Zack Snyder, and today we're going to talk a little bit about cinematography in my films and some of the tools I use to make the films and sort of the rules I set for myself when I'm doing it, so let's get into it. This is "Snyder School" [Woman] And Action! [Zach] Anna's going to go deep, it's right there. Boom! (church bell tolling) My Mother was a photographer, and I just have always loved images and making images since I was, you know, a wee lad. When I went to film school, I kind of was introduced to the concept of a cinematographer. So what happened with me was I got out of school
01:02
and I made a bunch of commercials and music videos and stuff. I can't remember what job, but I just decided to start shooting myself. You know, it was hard, there was a little bit of a disaster first, but in the end it kind of stuck. And then when I came to make movies, the studio at that time was like, "Look, you know, you're a first-time director. We probably feel like it'd be better if you could just focus on that and not worry about the cinematography." I was like, "That's fine." -Boom, boom. -Okay, got it. It's all pretty straightforward in the end, 'cause in the end what all of this is for me is just honing in on the things that I like to look at. You can get a DSLR, you can get a range finding camera. These are like as... They're expensive, but there's plenty of affordable and cool cameras. You have one in your pocket, every single person has one. The place where you're headed with all of this is that every single filmmaker, you're the prism that the thing goes through. So every single person could hold this camera up and everyone would take a different picture with it, and that's awesome, that's beautiful thing.
02:02
I think what happens is when you start making images you start to see how their effect on the image you make. And then that leads you toward the thing, your aesthetic, is interested in. I think it's worth going through those images and taking them apart in your mind. I do this all the time. I say like, "What do I like about this?" That leads you toward the day when you're comfortable saying like, "You know what? I think if the camera's a little bit lower and just a little bit to the left. And I think if it wasn't quite such a long lens or if we want to get close to this just move the whole thing closer." This language starts to become intuitive to the way you think 'cause you can picture how the image will change as you change the elements that go into making the picture. -(clapperboard snaps) -[Man] Mark. Whose lights are on right now? [Man] I am- [Zack] I had been down this rabbit hole for a couple of years with these Cannon Dream Lenses. The Canon Dream Lenses are these lenses built in the 60s by this Japanese film lensman maker who worked for Cannon. So they commercially,
03:04
I think they produced 20,000 lenses in the 60s total, I don't know how many survive, but they have this really kind of creamy, crazy Bokeh looking things. Anyway, they're just really- I find them really particularly cool. And so I just started shooting with my Noct lenses at first and then I started putting the Dream Lenses on this thing. So then the guys at Zero Optik, they took the Dream Lenses completely apart and rehouse them, so they could be cinema lenses. So cut to, I'm going to shoot "Army" because I'm going to shoot the entire movie wide open. There's never going to be a stop on any lens for the entire film, and I just feel like it's a rude thing to ask of a cinematographer. (Zack chuckles) It was really about just sort of taking responsibility for the experimental nature of what I wanted to do. And then if it was a complete fuck up,
04:04
then I would, it would be my fault and I'm fine with that. But I was really enjoying all the zombie makeup tests that I would shooting with this camera with just with the normal Canon Dream Lens. And so we just did a lot of shots and then a lot of low light because it's 0.95. And I was really experimented with like how much natural lighting I could do and how carefully, you know, you could control the environment. And it was really liberating. Before I met Jared, I had never shot a movie digitally. "Army" is the first movie I shot with a digital camera. I had digital cameras, like I had Leicas and I wasn't... and they made great images for me. If you think about that, "Oh, well, you shoot stills with digital camera, so I don't understand the problem." (car revving) (can clattering) The whole first eight minutes of the movie we shot it at dusk, right? And so we were basically on the ragged edge of exposure. That's when the cameras, you know, for me were where you really realized how far you could go. But the cool thing about this camera is that like you have this amazing sensor and this amazing technology that's inside of this thing.
05:08
The Monstro sensor is just at that maximum larger format size where you can really capture all the light you need, super high dynamic range and use the big lens. Any camera before this wouldn't have worked for you, you couldn't have gotten those shots. We beat a lot of the technology demons out to make the sensor and this camera with the lens, you know, the lenses are not new lenses. Those lenses are old- Yeah, these lenses were build in the 60s. [Jared] That is the excitement when you can take something that's so state-of-the-art and take this old ratchety lens and be like, "What happens when we do this?" Boom, and you push that sensor to the edge so many times during that film. I mean, you have to be pretty brave to shoot the film the way you did with shooting wide open lenses at this speed, and you've got millimeters of critical focus.
06:09
[Zack] in the end, these cameras really turned out to be amazing and I've had a really great time working with them. Now, point past. -There? -Yep. Perfecto. Okay. Now back up a little bit. Yeah, but what if I'm here? (actress chuckles) You see our relationship. I do, yeah. [Zack] So I have this script, I have these words in it. I draw the scene in a wide shot, they're going to come in, sort of see the environment, sit down, maybe there'll be some objects in the foreground. There's an example. I will show you the... This is a kind of... it's probably a good scene because, you know, it's like a basic, it's a basic scene. So it's Scott and Tanaka, right? Tanaka comes in and you know, Scott's wiping his hands off, walks up, shake hands. This is literally a frame in the movie. They move over and sit down at this table. This wide shot right here through a pitcher of ice tea or something. And on the day I just went and got that, 'cause I had done this work sitting at my desk.
07:12
When you're drawing it, there's no production constraints on you when you're drawing. There is a consistency that you can have. You kind of have the same language and you're continuing to draw on that language. Now you're shooting the movie for real. It might rain, the trucks might break down. There's all these production restraints that are going to be on you. But the difference is the consistent language of the script got to the drawings and now are in your hand on the day, it tends to give you a chance to kind of remember the consistency that you had then on a day of complete pandemonium and mayhem where there's no consistency at all. I think you have to go... And then you've got to, you got to get out. (men groaning) (machine exploding) We shot the sequence in Atlantic City in an abandoned casino and we kind of mapped out the action. So the idea was that I wanted to do all the guns,
08:15
use gas guns, and not real guns 'cause I knew that the proximity to the kills were all gonna be... could be really close. You know, Ward comes out in real fire, you know, frankly it's dangerous. And so I was like, "Oh, let's see if we can do it with gas guns, and we'll build led panel with a trigger on and you have to kind of like trigger the muzzle flash, which is interactive lighting, in sync with the gunfire, which is difficult, but everyone did a great job. But that's how you get to the muzzle flash interactive lighting in the room. (gunshots firing) (zombies snarling) I'm here with Damon Caro, my long-time friend and a stunt coordinator and fight choreographer and action designer. And Damon and I met when I was working on commercials and then "Dawn of the Dead" came along and I was like, "God, I really need Damon to come along." So that was our first movie, and then the next movie we did was "300", which you can imagine had a lot more fight choreography. [Damon] We get a team, start blocking, start coming up with base choreography,
09:16
do some tests video, pick his brain, "Hey, what do you think about this?" Show him, "Is this in the ballpark?" It's kind of a physical storyboard. You know, where you have like a group of people that you can kind of work out ideas with that are really gifted athletes. Then there's kind of not a lot of things you can think of that they can't do. And it's like a dance. So they have to choreograph the dance first. And that's not a quick process. Yeah, generally not. Not when you're getting the precision and the detail. I mean, you know, that's, that's the key. So when we shoot the stunt vis, we do try and be as specific as we can to the set. So obviously the sets haven't been completed at that time. So we're going off schematics, we're going up blueprints, and then we use a very economical version of replicating it which are boxes that we, that we use and/or pads. This wall will be here, this is going to be steps, how wide is this hallway, etc., depending on what the set will actually be. [Zack] But like stunt vis is so clean and we know what we're doing and we're really prepared,
10:18
and a lot of times we just crush through it. I mean, not to say it doesn't take a long time, but it's really a testament to the amount of prep and the amount of clarity we have with those... with what we want to do. This is your boy Mikey Guzman, table nine from East Las Vegas. We got a group of, I counted at least five- [Zack] The Guzman scene is when they're recruiting Guzman. So this scene was just shamblers, no alpha's here. And then he talked about what he wanted the camera to do. You know, we obviously go over over the script and then we start doing some blocking versions. And this was pretty straightforward, because it was supposed to be basically on a phone. We knew this was going to be early in the schedule who shot that at prep. It was shot before we started filming the movie, so there was a lot of things that needed to get worked out, you know, 'cause Guzman has to like get the triple headshot lined up, right? So he has to be in a position where that one disparate zombie gets into line with the other ones, you know? And these are the kinds of things that these guys are kind of working out all day. Everything emanates from story and character.
11:20
That's what I think makes it real. It gives it texture. That's where she climbs out of. Yeah, when she's in this room. Yeah, we'll probably bring her a little closer. When we do stunt vis, like we know the action sequences in the movie and Damon and I have a lot of conversations and we talk what we want to do, what is the beginning, middle and end of the sequence. He's got great taste in action. He trusts me and I trust him. Like they'll go to the warehouse and the guy start working, 'cause you know if it works there, it will work when we do the movie. Like that's the real litmus test. It's is like we just watch it and go like, "Oh, it's cool." And then let's go film it with like real cameras and the real actors and everyone in their makeup. (intense music) (body thudding) (blows connecting) So an exercise that anyone can do is start to play with your camera. Like take pictures, get your friends, you know, in a very short amount of time on a couple other YouTube videos, you could really learn everything there is to know about depth of field and how it works and what it means and all of that. And the same thing with ISO and low light
12:20
and daylight and NDs and all that stuff that sounds complicated for a second, but you got to get out and do it and you gotta just get a camera and look through it. And don't be afraid to fuck up and make bad choices and make bad shots 'cause that's just how you learn. It's way better. Does it feel good? Yeah, it's a 100 times better. I guess that's my experience with cinematography. So hope you enjoyed it. (intense music) (zombie screeching) When you put two shots together, it's a new thing now (zombie screeching) (gunshot firing) (body thudding) (graphic's sound effect) (intense music)

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