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Editing the stunning 70mm 1:2.76 aspect ratio of THE HATEFUL EIGHT

  • December 18, 2015

Quentin Tarantino has shot all of his films on 35mm, only experimenting with digital when he guest-directed a scene in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City . The Oscar(r)-winning Pulp Fiction director's eighth full-length feature sees him revisit the Western genre after Django Unchained , which was his first collaboration with editor Fred Raskin, ACE ( Guardians of the Galaxy, Fast & Furious ).

Set in 1870s Wyoming, The Hateful Eight traps a rogue's gallery of characters in an isolated location during a snowstorm, with no certainty as to who can be trusted. Shot by Robert Richardson, ASC, and widely distributed in 70mm, the look of the film helps define the period.

Fred Raskin ACE. Photo credit Andrew Eisen.

"Shooting digitally was never going to be an option, as it would automatically add an element of phoniness to the proceedings," observes Raskin. "The warmth and the tight grain of the film stock contribute to the reality of the era. And of course, Bob Richardson's lighting and the 1:2.76 compositions combine to make this an absolutely stunning picture."

The visual style of the movie is classical Hollywood, but with that unique Tarantino imprint. Many of the director's signature shots pop up: the split-field diopter and the hard profiles of the actors talking to each other, for example.

"I think we probably held wide shots longer than ever before thanks to the 70mm format and its 1:2.76 aspect ratio," says Raskin. "When the image is that striking and well-composed, cutting away when not absolutely necessary seems somewhat criminal. The handheld shaky-cam that dominates modern Hollywood cinema is nowhere to be found here. If the camera moves, it's on a dolly. This visual style contributes to the atmosphere of tension and dread that builds up over the course of the movie."

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

The footage was sent to FotoKem in Burbank for processing. The 65mm negative arrived daily for processing, printing, transfer, and creation of dailies files. All transfers matched the film print color timing, as a custom LUT was created to emulate the 70mm print. FotoKem also restored a decommissioned 70mm Prevost flatbed from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to assist in the rare process of syncing 70mm print dailies, adding DV40 audio sync playback on the flatbed.

"Whenever I finished working with Quentin for the day, I would go over the work that we'd done and make a handful of tweaks and adjustments," explains Raskin of the workflow. "Then I would turn the sequence over to my first assistant so that the following morning, the film crew could start conforming the section we'd completed the day before. We had to keep the film crew conforming, so that when we finished a pass on the entire movie, it would only take an extra day or two before we were able to screen the work picture."

The photochemical finish, including time for negative cutting and color-timing, meant that Raskin and Tarantino had to have the cut locked before beginning to mix the film. "The upside, obviously, is that we were able to spend more time focusing on the mix," says Raskin. "The downside is that our time to cut the movie was forced to be a month shorter."

While on location in Telluride, Colorado, the production installed a 70mm projector at the Mason's Hall - one of the venues used for screenings during the Telluride Film Festival. When the footage came back from FotoKem, film assistants Paula Suhy and Michael Backauskas would sync it up.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

"At the end of every shooting day we'd head to the Mason's Hall to screen the material shot two days earlier," he relates. "Everyone from the cast and crew was invited to watch. One of our producers would announce at the beginning of every screening, 'Welcome back to the Greatest Show in Telluride!' It was a nice way for everyone to end their day.

"Back in Los Angeles while we were working on the director's cut, the editorial team would prepare a weekly screening of recently completed scenes at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) to get a sense of how it played in 70mm.

"Quentin and I would sit in the fourth row of Theater 1 at the DGA with huge grins on our faces, immersed in the grandeur of the 70mm images," recalls Raskin. "The color of the film was generally richer than that of our Avid dailies, and the detail was astonishing. Sitting that close created the greatest difference in the viewing experience between screening on the Avid and screening in a theater. If we could follow the action sitting that close, we knew the sequences hadn't been cut too quickly."

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

The shoot required certain sequences to be filmed while snow was falling. Therefore the cast (including Kurt Russell, Channing Tatum, Samuel L Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh), had to have the entire script memorized from day one. If they got snow they'd be shooting one scene, and if they didn't, they'd be shooting another.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

"Since everyone knew the script so well it gave Quentin the ability to shoot 11-minute-long takes if he wanted to, which ended up being great for the performances," says Raskin. "I was watching some terrific theater on a daily basis. This also informed some of the editing choices; there are a handful of shots in the movie that are a couple of minutes long thanks to this, and of course, the trick has been to find an appropriate and effective time to return to the coverage."

Raskin continues, "In other, digitally-shot projects, I might want to take performances from two separate takes and fuse them, but Quentin wants to keep as much of the movie as untouched, original negative as possible. Quentin is not into digital trickery. Instead the goal becomes to make the best version of the movie using the footage as it was shot, as opposed to using visual effects to 'Frankenstein' the movie together."

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

With the picture complete and in cinemas, Raskin recalls viewing it for the first time with an excited yet unsuspecting crowd. "At that point it is no longer about watching the movie, it's about seeing how the audience reacts to it," he says. "With a good crowd, it's a blast. Hearing them laugh, shout, applaud - knowing that they're with the film and enjoying it - it makes all of the hard work and the long hours worth it."