The cinematographer had a vision to kick off the epic fight sequence in Black Adam - capture the battle in the rain to add an element of cool, without CGI. The film crew had a mission, to gain control of the rain. To make the most epic fight scene, they needed to stop water droplets in crisp, clear detail.
No Small Task
The Lead gaffer, tasked with making the idea a reality, started the search with a known lighting supplier; Photo-Sonics, where he learned of Unilux strobes and their use with Phantom high-speed cameras. Outreach quickly turned to collaboration with Unilux.
A high frame rate (960 fps) with the possibility of changing shutter angles demanded lighting with a high level of control. To add further complication, the scene was to be shot inside. On set, every bit of light had to be created.
Enter Pulsar - The World's Most Powerful Strobe
The film industry has only recently seen alternatives to a high-speed HMI Ballast, typically used to reproduce daylight. These ballasts produce a lot of heat and provide little control - not ideal for a world-class effect. With assistance from Unilux, the gaffer chose Pulsar - a high-power LED strobe with the ability to control flash rate, flash duration, and phase delay angle with scientific precision.
Creating the effect without CGI was an amazing feat that also helped the actors to deliver a believable performance. In CGI, the actors don’t have the element to interact with. To be able to do something in real-time changes the mood. It also creates the opportunity for unexpected effects such as the splash of water on the camera that becomes a gorgeous lens flare.
Quick Thinking Saves the Day
On set, the decision was made to shoot from a single camera angle and high-speed frame rate, to three camera angles, each with a varying frame rate (240, 480, 960) simultaneously. An even bigger demand for the strobes was bestowed. Unilux Product Manager, Carlos Berthet, was on-site to address the need to sync the lights to multiple cameras with some fast MacGyver-like reflexes.
The end result speaks for itself. The actors are seen in full detail surrounded by crystal clear droplets, not hidden behind streaks of rain.