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SUPERMAN RETURNS

The Physics Of Flight And The Genesis Camera
Since the 1970s, when Richard Donner made Superman: The Movie, technology has advanced to levels that were merely daydreams of filmmakers in that era. With these great advances in camera and visual effects technologies, Bryan Singer believes that "we all will believe again that a man truly can fly.”

Singer and his team sought to first and foremost create the physics of the character and his universe. "Brandon and I built up our own physical laws which became the directorial palette for the flying sequences,” says Singer. "For example, how much strain does it take to catch a plane in flight or when do you leap and when do you float? What kind of hand motions does Superman use to navigate himself during flight? Thanks to endless discussions between me, Brandon, all the stunt coordinators and flying teams and to technology itself, Brandon will fly like no other Superman ever could.

"The state-of-the-art technology we used in making this film didn't even exist two years ago,” Singer says. "The progress made in the visual effects arena is just astounding. As opposed to a Super Hero like Spider-man, Superman's hair and face are exposed therefore his performance and personality are exposed even in flight.”

The filmmakers paid meticulous attention to detail to the physical shooting of Routh as well as the computer rendering, scanning and animation of the character in order to capture the reality of a man who can fly at will.

Perhaps the single most cutting edge piece of equipment used in making the film is the digital Genesis camera, a joint invention by Sony and Panavision. Superman Returns is the first feature length motion picture to be shot entirely with the Genesis camera system.

"The idea of possibly being able to use the Genesis camera came about after I had cast Brandon in the role,” recalls Singer. "We did a screen test with the intended format of Super 35mm and, for the hell of it, we shot one on 70mm. When the film from both cameras was processed, we watched the 35mm first and then clicked projectors to the 70mm. The clarity, the depth, the sheer lack of grain of the 70mm was so exquisite that shown right next to the 35mm film it looked as if we had used bad stock or something…that's how different the two formats looked.

"So I started researching ways to shoot in 70mm,” explains Singer, "but I discovered very quickly that, for a million different reasons, it would be impractical and far too limiting in terms of camera mobility and film stock.”

Around that time, Singer's longtime cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel told him that Sony and Panavision had developed the new Genesis camera. "At that time I think there was only one of them in L.A. so we shot one of Brandon's early costume tests with it,” Singer recalls. "Then we started what had to be one of the most comprehensive comparison tests ever done. Using the Genesis, we shot tests outside in soft light, warm light, night, midday, evening, morning, interiors, costumes, hair and makeup, you name it. Then just Tom and I sat in a theatre looking at all the tests and from those comparisons, we made the decision together to attempt to shoot the entire film with the Genesis system.”

It was only a matter of time before more cameras were built for use on Superman Returns. "By the time we needed them in Australia, I believe we had one or two,” says Singer. "A couple of months into shooting, we had eight or ten at our disposal.” Although both Singer and Sigel admit that the Genesis provided many technical challenges, they couldn't be happier with the end result.

"Sony and Panavision worked really hard to create a camera and camera system that emulates the curve and color space of film,” says Sigel, "so it is not significantly different from a lighting design point of view. Because the raw genesis material looks<

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