UNDERSTANDING THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF EEGA
Eega, being the biggest blockbuster in Telugu Cinema, has created a new wave in using VFX as a part of the film. This is the first Indian film to use computer-generated imagery for nearly 90 minutes of its length; the film had 2,234 live-action animation shots in which 1,970 shots were approved by Rajamouli. Probably no Telugu film has used VFX in such a huge runtime before Baahubali. But when the film was released, the audience thought that the magic was entirely created by Rajamouli and the VFX artists. In fact, that might be true. But there is an unseen creative effort put in by the cinematographer Senthil Kumar to achieve the vision of the director. He has created a new perspective in movie watching experience in Telugu Cinema, probably Indian Cinema.
1. The Perspective:
The audience will watch the film from camera’s point of view. Sometimes the audience can be deeply involved in the film through cinematic techniques. Cinematic technique means the methods and practices we use to add additional layers of meaning and emotional context to shots and scenes in addition to their objective content. The lens is one of the prime tools in achieving these means. Together with selecting the frame, it is also the area of cinematography in which the director is most heavily involved.
Eega has breathtaking, larger than life images where most of us thought those were VFX. We were unknowingly taken into the world of the housefly. The audience has watched most of the second half in a different perspective. The housefly is a very tiny creature and its eyes are made up of compound eyes. It can see through extreme wider range than a human eye, where everything seems larger in size. By the time housefly was born, the entire perspective of the film changes into extreme wider frames with large subjects in the foreground. It’s like we were watching the fly from a closer distance. In order to achieve this perspective, Senthil has shot the visuals from extremely low angles and in wider focal lengths using special lenses.
2. Lensing – Macro Photography:
Lensing is nothing but the choice of using the lens with different focal lengths for a particular shot. Each focal length can uniquely affect the audience viewpoint. This defines the final perspective in which the audience is going to watch the film on the screen.
Eega was shot using Arriflex 435 Xtreme with Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses on 35mm film format. The lenses mentioned above are not capable of shooting from ultra-low angles. So Senthil has used probe lenses which are the tubular lens which offers superior optics and light transmission for ultra-high resolution, while the system’s unique periscope attachment lets operators shoot from an ultra-low perspective. These are available in interchangeable Straight, 45° and 90° Periscope attachments. These lenses are the reason for the larger than life images in the second half. The subject in the foreground looks very large compared to the background which seems to be far away.
It is very difficult to shoot with these lenses because they need high-intensity lighting to get acceptable shots as the aperture range is T6.3 to T32 (T-stop). So Cinematographer has to use lights in huge number to shoot with these lenses which in turn increase the budget of the film.
3. Compensating VFX:
In general, subjects are shot against a green screen and the backgrounds are added later in the VFX post-production. But in case of Eega, it’s the opposite. Backgrounds were shot first and the necessary visual effects were added in the foreground later. Before the shoot, a storyboard was made and a 2D or 3D pre-visualised animated footage was generated. The cinematographer should follow this previz and shoot accordingly for compensating VFX in the post-production. After the filming of each scene was completed, the editing and re-recording procedures were done with simple greyscale animation. It is not easy for a cameraman to move the camera just by visualising an imaginary subject. Each angle and movement of the camera should be very precise. It is Senthil Kumar’s technical excellence which has bought a fly like feel for an audience and involved them in the story of the film.