Movie: “The Suzuki Family’s Lie”

- One family's laughter & tears, told European style / Shooting in dark, tight spaces with the VARICAM LT -

Masato NAKAO (Cinematographer) / Shingo ISHIKAWA(DIT)

Masato NAKAO (Cinematographer)
Shingo ISHIKAWA(DIT)small>
“The Suzuki Family’s Lie” is the sixth production of the Shochiku Broadcasting Original Movie Production Project, featuring works by auteur creators and actors, and will premier at Shinjuku Piccadilly and Cine Switch Ginza on November 16.
The Shochiku Broadcasting Original Movie Production Project was created to support auteur directors, screenwriters, and up-and-coming talented actors. Past films include Shuichi OKITA’s “Go See The Fall” and Ryosuke HASHIGUCHI’s “Three Stories of Love” among others. The sixth, and Katsumi NOJIRI’s directorial debut, “The Suzuki Family’s Lie”, was based on the director’s own life. NOJIRI was the assistant director on “Three Stories of Love”, “Fune wo Amu”, “Setoutsumi”, “Terumae Romae”, and other films.

“The Suzuki Family’s Lie” is a story about how the family deals with the suicide of the eldest son, who was a social recluse. The cast includes veteran actors such as Ittoku KISHIBE, Hideko HARA, Ryo KASE, Kayoko KISHIMOTO, and Nao OMORI. The up-and-coming actress, Mai KIRYU, was chosen out of 400 hopefuls after participating in a workshop.
We spoke with cinematographer Masato NAKAO and DIT Shingo ISHIKAWA.
NAKAO has a long career spanning theatrical movies, V-Cinema and TV dramas, and he also has experience shooting with film cameras. ISHIKAWA has many years’ experience on the technical side of movie production as a DIT, editor and assistant director. Both have worked on many movies where NOJIRI was the assistant director – i.e., “Team NOJIRI.” NAKAKO has also worked on NOJIRI’s V-Cine project. They shot on location for about a month, from March 13 to April 8. About 80% of the story was shot in the “Suzuki Family’s” house. The main camera was the VARICAM LT and the secondary cameras were the VARICAM 35 and the DC-GH5S.
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Main Cam: VARICAM LT, 2nd Cam: VARICAM 35 & DC-GH5S

NAKAO: Due to budgetary limitations, I only had the VARICAM LT in mind from the start. The deciding factor was its dual native ISO capability. We were shooting in dark, narrow spaces, so I went with a base of ISO5000 to start. I did also consider the VARICAM 35, but there were a lot of scenes where we had to shoot in tight spaces in the house, so we used the LT as our main camera and the VARICAM 35 in other areas. We bought the DC-GH5S prior to shooting. It produces a similar color, so we used it for the car scenes, which is an even tighter space.
There’s a rhythmic gymnastics scene in a gymnasium, so we turned off all the mercury lamps, borrowed three 6K lights and set them up outside the gym. That reduces nearly no flare, so it was good we had an ISO5000 camera. For the important scene where the family lies to the mother for the first time, rather than doing numerous takes, I wanted to get a genuine reaction, so we went with the VARICAM 35 for the B camera.

Immediate checking with the director with proxy SD card images

NAKAO: The hardest scene in the movie was one where several actors were sitting in a circle and we had to shoot the scene using a circular track. We shot each actor’s dialogue in order, and I wanted to point the camera downwards, but then you could see the track. The VARICAM LT allows you to see the images on the control panel while you’re shooting, so that came in handy for the scenes with a dolly. The image appears on the control panel on the body, and I checked the panel while shooting so the timing was perfect. You can detach the exterior module, including the control panel, so the body is smaller, and I appreciated the flexibility this feature afforded. You can record H.264 proxy images on the SD card, which was useful when you had to look at an image right away on set.

A European Look

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Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 18.34.32
NAKAO: Above all, I wanted a soft look, so I went with the Leica SUMMICRON. The appeal of this lens is its bokeh, and it produces a unique atmosphere, unlike other lenses. It creates a nice texture; it was a better match than I had imagined. I used a Black Satin 2 filter, which is the second thinnest filter. The Satin is useful for softening highlights and reducing the overall contrast.

ISHIKAWA: We went with a European vibe for the movie’s overall look. The theme is suicide, so it couldn’t be too light, but there are several funny scenes. We discussed things with the producer and went with a look similar to “Juno” (2007, Fox Searchlight), which is an American movie but the coloring is European in feel. We tested cameras from other brands, but the VARICAM came closest to the European look I was after. We used the Clouseau 54.CUBE from’s 35 Free LUTs as our base to create something original. For the actual Suzuki house, we had Mai KIRYU come in for the test scenes. Mr. KITAYAMA, a colorist from Imagica, handled the LUT using DaVinci Resolve. It created too soft an image when projected onto a large screen, so we darkened the darks and leaned toward the y-axis overall. We stayed with that LUT from start to finish, so we didn’t need to do much grading on set. Even with the final grading, we didn’t have to change much in the scenes shot with the LUT on the monitor. I’m pleased that we achieved a unified look when comparing the look on set and the final. I’m glad we created the same in all.

4K recording, 2K editing, and trimming with DaVinci to DCP size

ISHIKAWA: We recorded 4K 4:2:2 AVC-Intra. We downloaded this to a MAC and created 2K ProRes4444 with DaVinci, which became the master. We trimmed it to DCP size, 1998 x 1124. We had many takes and left the camera running, so we had lots of footage. For a normal 2-hour movie, you’ll have 6-8 hours of footage, but this time we had 24 hours (laughs), and the 2TB and 4TB HDDs we’d gotten weren’t enough, so I had to go buy more myself.

Adding grain to create a real film look

ISHIKAWA: To give the movie a real film look, we added grain. We used ISO2500 for the interiors. For exterior shots you don’t notice the noise as much, so we didn’t bother with noise reduction. We used DaVinci noise reduction for high speeds. In addition, we used a plug-in called FilmConvert to add 35mm film grain to get the look we were after.

Leaving it to the imagination

ISHIKAWA: There are a lot of full-sized sensor cameras, but as the trend moves towards high-definition, there is less scope for the imagination. Is HD really necessary when telling stories about people in cities and family dramas? I added grain to the images to encourage the audience to imagine what can’t be seen. The director also liked the look this created.

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