ARRI lighting on WARHORSE
Based on Michael Morpurgo's best-selling children's novel, WARHORSE is the story of a horse named Joey and his trainer Albert, who are separated when they are both recruited to serve in the First World War. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was shot by cinematographer Janusz Kamiński at locations all over England, with a comprehensive lighting kit supplied by ARRI Lighting Rental and a camera package from ARRI Media. Gaffer Eddie Knight recently shared his experiences of working on the mammoth production, which made heavy use of ARRIMAX lighting units.
WARHORSE is the story of a horse named Joey and his trainer Albert, who are separated when they are both recruited to serve in the First World War. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was shot by cinematographer Janusz Kamiński at locations all over England, with a comprehensive lighting kit supplied by ARRI Lighting Rental and a camera package from ARRI Media.
ARRI News: Had you worked with Janusz before and did you speak with him about a general approach to the lighting?
Eddie Knight: I hadn't worked with Janusz before, but we did speak about our approach to the film. Because it was World War One, he didn't want a nice look, he wanted a low key look that was grey and bleak, with a lot of rain. But at the same time the story is about a horse, and it was a really dark horse so it had to be lit in order to stand out and be the centre of attention.
Scenes in England before the war also had to have a warmer feel, so we backlit the horse quite a few times with full orange on HMIs to make it look really rich and colorful. In general, we had to have a couple of 18K ARRIMAX units on the horse quite a lot of the time it to give it some shine and shape, because it was so dark. There were two or three horses playing Joey, so when one got tired the trainers could bring in another one.
AN: What were some of the bigger locations on this film?
EK: I suppose our biggest challenge was at Wisley, which is where we shot the World War One trenches. It was a lovely set, but the conditions were terrible, with the mud and the wet. I don't know how many miles of cable our rigging gaffer had to put in; most of the cabling had to be buried in trenches to get it out of sight. Then our distribution boxes were disguised among ammunition boxes and sandbags.
It was a great film to do, but it was a lot of work. Spielberg likes to shoot in continuity, so when we were on a hill at the farm location he'd do one shot at the top, then the next at the bottom, and then up to the top again - all day, up and down with the equipment. I've never seen a spark fall asleep with a pint of beer in his hand before, but that's what happened when we got to the pub at the end of the day!
AN: How about the battle sequences that take place at night?
EK: David Devlin, the lighting director Janusz brought over with him, really likes to use a lot of light and he came up with the idea for a massive lighting bank that we then constructed, with something like 26 Dino pods, two 250 Lightning Strikes and an 18K ARRIMAX. It went back to a dimmer operator and all the pods could flash on cue, in time with the explosions. We had two of those, 120-foot up on cranes, and then other smaller units around with ARRIMAX 18Ks and Dinos flashing. They even put in a CableCam rig with flares on; there were four huge cranes with all these wires and it took them days to rig it. Then when they let off the first flare it scared the horse and Spielberg told them not to use it again!
AN: What were the ARRIMAX 18K lights providing?
EK: The ARRIMAX units were used to bring up the general level and overall feel at night, and then there were the explosions on top of that. Of course we also used them for daylight as well; I think we had seven ARRIMAX on the truck and they came out every day, all day. We also used the ARRI MaxMover a couple of times.
AN: Would you say you've now got an established relationship with ARRI Lighting Rental?
EK: Absolutely. Obviously I've used other rental facilities but I've worked with ALR for a few years and they've been good to us - they look after us. If something needs to be fixed then we can tell them that and it will happen, so it's been good.