London, UK – Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth
installment in writer/director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic action
franchise.  It is also the first
digital film for cinematographer John Seale, whose storied career spans more
than 30 years and such iconic titles as Mosquito Coast, Witness, Dead
Poets Society
and Rain Man. Facing inhospitable conditions, intense
action scenes and the need to accommodate a massive number of visual effects,
Seale and his crew chose to shoot principal photography with ARRI Alexa cameras
and capture on Codex Onboard
recorders, a workflow that has become popular among filmmakers for its
ruggedness, reliability and easy integration with post-production.
Codex will be demonstrating the latest workflows using its recording technology, Vaults and other gear, 13 – 17 September at IBC 2013 in Amsterdam (Hall 11.G30).

Originally, Fury
was intended to be shot near Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia.
However, several years of unusually heavy rainfall caused the desert in the
area to bloom with wildflowers making it unsuitable for the film’s wasteland
setting, and production was moved to Namibia. The coastal deserts of that
African country are among the most formidable in the world, featuring sand
dunes measuring 1000 feet high and 20 miles long.  Frequent sandstorms and intense heat required
special precautions by the camera crew.
“I’d shot plenty of
film-negative films in deserts and jungles under severe conditions, but never
digital,” notes Seale. “So I was a bit worried, but I had a fantastic crew of
people who had done that…had worked with digital cameras in jungles, deserts,
dry, heat, wet, moist, whatever.  They
were ready and put together full precaution kits of rain covers, dust covers
and even heat covers to take the heat off the cameras in the middle of the
“We were using a
lot of new gear.” Seale adds. “Everything that our crew did in pre-production
in Sydney and took to Namibia worked very, very well for the entire time.  Our time loss through equipment was minimal.”
Seale’s crew was
outfitted with six ARRI Alexas and a number of Canon 5Ds, with the latter used
in part as crash cams in action sequences. The Alexas were supported by 11
Codex Onboard recorders. The relatively large number of cameras and recorders
helped the camera crew to remain nimble. While one scene was being shot, the
next was being prepped. “We kept two kick cameras built the whole time, and two
ultra-high vehicles rigged the whole time,” recalls camera coordinator Michelle
Pizanis. “When we when drove up (to a location) we could start shooting, rather
than break down the camera at one site and rebuild it at the next.”
The original Mad
is remembered for its gritty look. Fury Road took a different
route due to the film’s heavy use of visual effects. “The DI and the post work
is so explicit; almost every shot is going to be manipulated in some way,”
Seale explains. “Our edict was ‘just shoot it.’ Continuity of light wasn’t
really a question. We knew that the film would be cut very quickly, so there
wouldn’t be time to analyze every shot. Intercutting between overcast and full
sun wasn’t going to be a problem. On this film, the end result controlled the
In order to provide
maximum image quality and flexibility for post-production manipulation, Seale
and his crew chose to operate the Alexa cameras in ARRIRAW mode. That, the
cinematographer noted, made Codex an obvious choice as only Codex recorders
were capable of reliably capturing ARRIRAW.
“The choice to go
with Codex was definite for the quality of the recording and post-production
considerations,” Seale said.  “Everyone
said Codex was the recording device that we had to have. Once again, we were a
little worried about desert heat and desert cold. It changes so much from night
to day. And during the day, we had dust storms, dust flying everywhere. We
sometimes had moisture in the air. But the Codex systems didn’t fail us. They came
straight through with flying colors and, in post, they are very happy with the
Shooting digitally
with Codex offered an advantage over shooting on film as it avoided the need to
reload cameras with film negative in the blowing winds of the desert. “There is
a certain amount of paraphernalia needed to shoot digitally,” Seale said, “but
our crew was used to that. They built special boxes to put everything in. They
had little fans. They had inlet and outlet areas to keep air circulation going.
Those boxes were complete. Cables came out and went to the camera. If we were
on the move, the boxes were bolted down so that they were out of the way and
didn’t fall off. Sometimes we sat on them to get our shot.”
RF interfaces were
used with the Alexa cameras to transmit images to a command vehicle for
monitoring by director George Miller. Miller was not only able to review shots,
he could edit material to determine what further coverage was needed.  “For George, it was a godsend,” said
Seale.  “That refined the film shooting
and made it a lot quicker than the normal procedures.”
It was that sort of
flexibility that made shooting with Alexa and Codex so appealing, added Seale.
“I was a great advocate of digital ten or 15 years ago when it started to come
in,” he says. “Film negative is a beautiful image recording process, but it’s
120 years old and you get scratches and dead flies caught in the reels.  It’s pretty archaic.
“I think the way
digital has caught on is extraordinary. Its R&D is vertical, where film
development has stopped. The ability of digital to record images coupled with
the DI, where you can change it, manipulate it, allows you do anything you
like. I know with Mad Max, it won’t look anything like a ‘good film
image’ and it won’t look anything like a ‘good digital image’…it will look like
its own image. I think that’s the wonder of it.”
About Codex Digital
Codex, who are based in London, England,
design and manufacture high-performance workflow tools for feature film,
television and commercials production. These integrated systems, designed by
film-makers for film-makers, manage digital files and images from camera
through to post production, visual effects and archiving and include tools for
color, dailies creation, archiving, review and digital asset management. Codex
continues to raise the bar for digital production by combining great
electronics and industrial design with cutting edge tools.
For more
information please visit
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