Michael Ballhaus: Layered Separation

From American Cinematographer, Sci-Fi Cowboys by David E. Williams (July 1999)

Bo Welch's sets, including Loveless's bordello-style bedroom, the grimy interiors of the Tarantula walking machine, the interior and exterior of Fat Can Candy's Saloon, and James West's railroad car, reflect the film's genre-blending tone, and were alternately fashioned with complex patterns, deep shadows, rich colors and dark-wood textures. To create separation between the actors and their surroundings, Ballhaus kept the backgrounds "light, but not so prominent that they might distract the viewer's eye from the actors and the action. Many of our scenes are set at night, and we kept those backgrounds dark; while you can see detail, it's not jumping out at you. However, the sets sometimes really soaked up all the light-- inside West's train car, for example, which had a lot of dark wood and dark green curtains-- so we had to add much more light that is apparent. We generally staged scenes so they were sidelit, which added separation and added backlight when possible."

- Michael Ballhaus, ASC

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