Peter Menzies Jr: Depth in Night Exteriors

From American Cinematographer, A Few Bad Men by Jay Holben (July 1999)

"We had to find a way to show depth of the location without the classic 'moonlight' source. We had guys put out cable stretching several hundred yards away form the main set in all directions, and we'd put lamps out there-- nine lights, Dinos and single Mole Pars. Then we would put different gels on them, depending on where they fell into frame and the type of color contrast Peter wanted to see. Finally we would add a lyaer of smoke between the lamps and the set-- that worked very well and created amazing depth."

-Rafael Sanchez, Gaffer for Menzies on The General's Daughter

"Peter is a master at using smoke. Because we were doing a lot of night shooting in wide-open spaces, the light obviously only travels so far. Beyond that it all just goes to black, which can make for a very boring frame, but Peter had this incredible system of smoke machines and miles of plastic pipes running all around with little tine holes. He would send smoke down them, and it would slowly leak out over a wide area, creating a very moody mist off in the distance."

- Simon West, Director of The General's Daughter

"I was using the fog as separation to reduce contrast in the background, and to add depth. With stray sources placed way off in the distance, once the smoke got between them and the camera, it created this whole atmosphere that extended the set far beyond the foreground. The special effects team had these smoke tubes made out of visqueen [a material similar to that used for garbage bags]. They were about a foot in diameter, and the crew would lay them all over the place. They'd put one little smoker between every couple of hundred yards, so we could run a mile of smoke very easily. If we wanted more smoke, we could just cut more holes in the tubes, and if we wanted less smoke, we could just patch them up. It was great for the rough terrain as well; because the tubes were flexible, we could just run them out anywhere. We used them a lot around the water edges in Savannah and around Brenner's houseboat, which is the setting for a major gun battle at the beginning of the film."

- Peter Menzies Jr, ASC

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