Royal rumble

Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah join this kaiju melee directed by Michael Dougherty and shot by Lawrence Sher, ASC.

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Unit photography by Daniel C. McFadden & Wallace Michael Chrouch. All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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At top, the eponymous Titan asserts his dominance inGodzilla: King of the Monsters. This article first appeared in AC June 2019. Some images are additional or alternate.

He’s back, he’s angry, & he’s got company.

In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, human actions trigger the reappearance of the titular “Tirã,” who was last seen returning to lớn the sea after saving San Francisteo. But other legendary monsters also have sầu been roused — the insect-like Mothra, the pteranodon Rodan, and the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah — each of whom is devastatingly powerful. As these behemoths vie for supremacy, the human world becomes collateral damage.

The Monarch organization, which has long tracked the beasts, hopes to contain the threat. Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has developed technology khổng lồ communicate with — & potentially control — the Titans. While she seeks a peaceful resolution, her ex-husbvà, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), has personal reasons for a more hawkish approach. First, though, he must rescue Emma and their teenage daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) from a shady group with its own agendomain authority.


Director Michael Dougherty describes himself as a lifelong fan of the franchise, & he relished the opportunity khổng lồ make what he calls his “dream Godzilla movie.” Though King of the Monsters continues the story from 2014’s Godzilla — directed by Gareth Edwards và shot by Seamus McGarvey, ASC, BSC (AC June ’14) — Dougherty strove sầu khổng lồ give sầu audiences something different. “We had to lớn up our game,” says Dougherty, who co-wrote the script with Zach Shields. “One of the rules of sequels is lớn go a bit bigger and bolder with each chapter. Thankfully we have sầu four giant monsters, so it was easy to lớn go bigger.”

King of the Monsters marks the first collaboration between Dougherty and cinematographer Lawrence Sher, ASC. Sher came lớn the project following his directorial debut, the feature comedy Father Figures. “That was an incredible experience that I enjoyed immensely,” Sher says. “Directing made me feel inspired again to lớn shoot — and khổng lồ shoot something challenging & different then I had done before.”

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Cinematographer Lawrence Sher, ASC (left) and director Michael Dougherty confer at a monitor.

Specifically, Sher was looking khổng lồ dive sầu into blockbuster action after having built a cinematography résumé that was dominated by comedies such as The Hangover và its two sequels. He knew that making the transition might take some convincing, but working in his favor was the additional photography he did on the năm trước Godzilla. “That was a good experience, and it dipped my feet inlớn that world,” Sher reflects. “Perhaps it also allowed Mary Parent khổng lồ see that I could shoot this movie. Most cinematographers believe sầu they can bởi any genre, but on a big sci-fi action movie, it’s tricky to lớn get people to lớn take a chance on someone who hasn’t shot one before & isn’t the obvious choice.”

Sher quickly won over Dougherty. “He came in with a look book of frames from films — some sci-fi, some not — that he felt captured what this movie could look lượt thích,” the director recalls. “I had already collected some of the same ones. It was one of those eerie moments of synchroniđô thị, when you feel a connection right away. We spoke the same visual language, & I knew we would see eye lớn eye.”

Blade Runner (AC June ’82) was a prominent reference. “That’s a gorgeous science-fiction film, never surpassed in terms of aesthetics,” the director says. Alien (AC Aug. ’79) was also an influence, as were its sequels Aliens and Alien3 (AC Dec. ’92). “There is a moody và grounded chất lượng in those films that we wanted to bring bachồng,” Dougherty continues. “Those filmmakers weren’t afraid of shadows and grain. I miss the atmospherics và texture of those films. As we start khổng lồ embrace digital, I worry the image is getting too clean và perfect all the time, which takes away from the tension you can build with darkness và shadow & splashes of light.”


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King Ghidorah stares down the Argo, a super-sized stealth bomber. Several vendors collaborated on the kiến thiết of the creatures, who are supposed khổng lồ measure as high as 400' tall. Among muốn the vendors was special-effects house Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. — headed by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. — whose artists designed Rodan in clay, which thrilled Dougherty. “Their first stab was a beautiful, huge, sculpted Rodan maquette that took me baông chồng to being a kid reading Cinefex và Fangoria & seeing pictures of designers poring over beautiful clay sculpts,” the director says. While the monsters that appear onscreen are entirely digital creations, their movements benefited from motion-capture references that lent an organic unique based on actual real-world physics.

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The filmmakers also carried forward visual elements from the previousGodzilla. “We liked how created a universe that felt real and kept the movie on ground level as much as possible,” Sher notes. “We wanted lớn carry on that tradition và make the audience feel it’s participating in the movie, and khổng lồ convey how unbelievable it would be khổng lồ live sầu in a world with these monsters. We also wanted khổng lồ introduce more dynamic color, and we found inspiration in science-fiction movies of the 1970s, ’80s và ’90s that had a very real & dirty look. We had atmosphere in nearly every set.”

Despite Dougherty’s concerns regarding overly crisp images, the filmmakers opted to shoot digitally. They consideredArri’s Alexa XTStudio camera, but Sher believed the greater resolution of the large-format Alexa 65 system would better serve the big-scale, effects-heavy movie, which was destined for IMAX screens. The producers agreed.

In keeping with the lastGodzilla— as well asKong: Skull Island, which exists in the same onscreen universe and shot by Larry Fong, ASC — the production elected to work primarily with anamorphic lenses, though the filmmakers recognized that certain visual-effects shots would benefit from being shot with spherical lenses. “Mike & I love the anamorphic look inAlienandCthua trận Encounters of the Third Kind<AC Jan.’78>, and we wanted the feel of dirty imperfections,” Sher explains. “We would go spherical khổng lồ use more of the sensor for visual-effects shots that we knew we would have lớn reposition, or extkết thúc at the top or bottom, and to lớn have a little less anamorphic distortion. The Alexa 65 gave us more image resolution, and when we went spherical it gave us even more image chất lượng.”

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Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa.

The lens package includedPanavisionC Series, E Series, G Series và T Series anamorphic primes, as well as a 150mm anamorphic Macro Auto Panatar. For certain long-lens shots the crew also carriedNikon Nikkor300mm & 400milimet spherical primes with rear anamorphic adapters; once or twice, Sher estimates, the 300mm was also paired with a 1.4x extender. “We stuông xã mostly with primes for 90 lớn 95 percent of the movie,” Sher notes. “Philosophically, we were trying to be close lớn the actors to lớn keep an intimate and ‘immediate’ relationship. The C 60milimet became a much-used lens for us because it had a close-focus of 19 inches, which made it useful for extreme close-ups và handheld .” He adds that the C Series 40milimet was another workhorse lens.

The crew always ran two cameras — A camera was operated by Christopher TJ McGuire, và B was operated by Thomas Lappin — with a third camera added approximately a quarter of the time; Panavision ATZ 70-200milimet (T3.5) và ALZ10 42-425milimet (T4.5) anamorphic zooms came into lớn play on C camera for select day exteriors. For spherical shooting, the crew used a set of Panavision Primo 70s ranging from 14milimet to lớn 80milimet. In all cases, the filmmakers framed for a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Sher would often shoot at T2.8, và to lớn arrive sầu at that in big night exteriors, he would sometimes raise the camera’s exposure index lớn 1,600 or 2,000, as in a sequence in which monsters clash at Boston’s Fenway Park. The production built a replica of part of the stadium’s famous “Green Monster” left-field wall và surrounded it with bluescreen, then re-created the rest of the environment with plates and CGI set extensions.

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For one of the movie’s outsized action scenes, the production built a partial replica of Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” left-field wall.

“When we knew we needed more depth of field for the creatures, we would bump up to lớn T4 or T5.6,” Sher adds. “We didn’t want a lot of mushiness in the background — in the large format, that can make it feel strained. What might otherwise look out of focus & beautiful at T1.4 or T2 might make the creatures look less real because of their kích cỡ & proximity khổng lồ the lens.”

For Steadicam moves in cthất bại quarters — such as those in an Osprey military-aircraft interior phối và a submarine interior phối — the filmmakers would sometimes switch toArri’s Alexa Mini camera. “We also had various security-camera and body-camera shots, for which we usedSony a7 camerasand actual police body cameras,” adds DIT Nicholas Kay. “They all shoot 30 fps, so we had lớn convert the footage.”

Principal photography spanned June to lớn late September 2017 and took place in and around Atlanta, Ga., with sets constructed atBlackhall Studiosand at an OFS Optics warehouse facility that has been retrofitted for production.

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Most scenes required a tremendous amount of interactive light khổng lồ suggest the atomic bioluminescence of the Titans, each of which emits its own distinguishing palette: blue for Godzilla, red for Rodan, yellow for King Ghidorah, và a set of pastel yellow and xanh for Mothra. The colors were CG-animated as part of the creatures, but also needed to play on the live-action human characters and the physical environments.


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