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How They Shot the Spectacular War Rig Chase in George Miller’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

How They Shot the Spectacular War Rig Chase in George Miller's 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

“Fury Road” was a reinvigorating adventure for veteran cinematographer John Seale, who came out of retirement to collaborate once again with George Miller. Only this was no “Lorenzo’s Oil,” the last film he shot for Miller.

With usual “Mad Max” DP Dean Semler out of the picture, Seale stepped out of his comfort zone to tackle the reboot, which turned out to be the best action film in years — and in what is still the best post-apocalyptic franchise.

“The whole film is basically a chase [in the desert landscape of West Africa with 75 vehicles], but was originally envisioned as a 3D shoot and they were building their own stereoscopic cameras,” recalled the Oscar-winning Seale (“The English Patient”). “But then George changed his mind after I signed on. I was able to trim the 3D rig down because our 2D cameras are much smaller and lighter and it became more versatile for George.”

Still, it was Seale’s first digital experience, and despite all of Miller’s meticulous planning after being in pre-production for 10 years, they had to revise the camera placement during the spectacular chase in the War Rig helmed by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa.

“For 20-percent of it we were hanging on platforms at 80 kilometers an hour through the desert, rocking around and doing it the old way, which still works,” said the 73-year-old Seale. “We knew what we had to do and the actors were comfortable shooting it in sequence to keep the psychological rhythm going.”

Miller’s mandate was to center the frame at all times, because he was going to cut fast and wanted the appearance of seamless, continuous action, with the viewer never confused. He even manipulated frames to help achieve this effect. But Miller likes to shoot with one camera and Seale prefers multiple cameras to give the editor more choices.

“One camera can slow you down as far as editing’s concerned,” he added. “One camera, one angle. About six weeks in, they decided to add multiple cameras. When he did get to post, much as George thought he didn’t need those cameras, he realized the benefit.”

Yet they couldn’t have shot it without a particularly mobile and lightweight setup: Alexas and Canon 5Ds (as crash cams for action) along with the Edge Arm crane for total immersion, allowing them to get right in there much more kinetically, like being in the middle of a video game.

“The whole thing was unrolling and unraveling by the day, ” Seale explained, “because this mobile Edge camera equipment made the movie. I was watching the dailies and it was amazing stuff [with 300 stunts]. And George’s post would be fierce to the image. Grain it up, contrast it, really make it gritty.”

But Seale had no worries because these were two masters in total control of their craft, proving that old school still works supported by a few new digital tools and tricks.

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