It’s several years since HDR was a hot topic of discussion in the motion picture industry. However, to be able to experience it when it comes to everyday images is still difficult. But now there might be an answer to this dilemma. A new theater system: Dolby Cinema, developed by Dolby Laboratories in America, is the answer. The number of Hollywood movies by major studios that support Dolby Cinema is increasing rapidly, and many of this year’s American Academy Award winners were set up for Dolby Cinema.
Dolby Cinema finally made its debut in the Japanese motion picture industry this May. In “Hikinige”, the second movie directed by Japan’s distinguished actor, Yutaka MIZUTANI(he wrote the script for the first time), is the first Japanese movie to be made for Dolby Cinema.
There are only 2 screens where Dolby Cinema is available in Japan (T Joy Hakata, MOVIX Saitama), but the reaction from people who have experienced it is spreading, and there are plans for 2 more screens within the year. It is being awaited with great anticipation in the motion picture industry.
What is Dolby Cinema, which has taken the spotlight among the world movie industry and movie creators? What is it about Dolby Cinema that’s so attractive to them?
It is possible to edit Dolby Atmos sound in Japan at this time, but we don’t have the specialized facilities in Japan to handle the adjustments or mastering of Dolby Vision for a movie’s HDR images. HOTSHOT went to Hollywood in America to observe the HDR mastering on Japan’s first movie equipped for Dolby Cinema. Along with our interview with Yutaka MIZUTANI, the director of “Hikinige”, we take a closer look at HDR images and the latest sound system, and we also investigate the appeal of Dolby Cinema, which was created and optimized for watching movies indoors.
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Interview with Yutaka MIZUTANI
the Director of “Hikinige”
As a director, what are your thoughts on the differences between working on your previous movie and this recent one?
The last 24 minutes of my first production, “TAP- THE LAST SHOW”, was a performance, and the entire movie was about moving towards that ending. We had an ensemble cast reaching toward that goal, and we had to paint a picture of everyone along the way. But this time, we start with the hit-and-run, and we had to tell each person’s story from that point onwards. In that sense, it is a movie that tells the story of different types of people.
What would you like to express in movie?
It all comes down to people. “We often hear, “Society was to blame” or “That’s how things were then…” but everything happens because of people, and you can’t leave people out of the equation. In depicting people, this will serve as reflection of our society and write our history. This is why we end up focusing on people.
What is the relationship between the director and the screenwriter?
When I’m working (on the script), images pop into my mind. Of course, this includes the way people move, what the characters will say – I paint a mental picture of what’s going to happen. When I go to write it all down, it becomes so wordy. The story you can tell with images moves so quickly, but words take up a lot of space. And when you are in the position of director, the theme (of the scene) might be the same, but the angle from which you approach it changes naturally. That’s what makes it interesting.
Your stage directions (explaining the scenario) are different from other directors. You provide the characters’ back stories.
Well, it comes down to the actors. When they are reading the script, there is a reason “why” behind the words they speak. Now that I think about it, that could be why I do it. For the actors, it helps them with their performance. But as the director, when I am on set and I try to express these thoughts, other things crop up, like maybe this picture is better. Although something might be written in the script, when you’re actually on set, you might get the sense that it’s not working at all. For example, they might be speaking the lines, but maybe it’s better not to say that just now.
The biggest difference between being an actor and a director
First, as an actor, I wouldn’t sit down with the entire crew to discuss the imagery for the movie. In addition, I discuss my ideas for all the imagery in great detail with the Director of Photography, which is something I wouldn’t do as an actor. And this is something I have really come to feel, but a director needs to create a movie’s “imagery and direction.” That’s my part, but the crew is the one who dose in fact. So, it becomes incredibly important the direction that imagery is taking.
In the end, I’ve been extremely moved by the results I’ve seen based on my instructions. Things went well beyond what I could have imagined. That was huge. That’s why (during production), I was so moved by many things. And I became aware of the areas where preparation was extremely important. Because I come in after the actors have prepared their scenes. Of course as I spend the whole day watching them work, seeing them from the point of view of the director, I think they have a tough job. The number one thing that made me realize that I enjoy being a director is that I can have a say about every aspect of the process. Everyone has a certain job; there are times when you shouldn’t say anything about certain aspects (of the movie production), or you’re not supposed to overstep your bounds. But the director has no such limitations. And that was really good for me.
Did you learn anything from “AIBOU” in terms of suspense?
“No, nothing at all. There are probably many experiences I’ve had in my career that I have drawn on, but if you start to place value on those things and become tied to them, you are limiting yourself to those experiences alone. First, I tried to free myself from all of that when writing the screenplay. I start from a place where I can’t even imagine myself, from a position where I am thinking like someone else. (The influence of past productions) might come naturally, but I didn’t consciously draw on those experiences.”
On the climactic fight scene
That was a night scene, so we waited until dark to shoot it, but Mr. Aida, the Director of Photography, and I went through it in detail beforehand. We collaborated on the imagery, and I talked about each scene, but when the explanation was over, I thought it would be about 10 scenes or something like that. And when Mr. Aida shot it, it ended up being about 70 (laughs). He said he told the crew, “Hey! We’re going to shoot them all today!” (laughs) But I didn’t even realize then. Mr. Aida said, “We’re going at a speed of 4 scenes!” but that would take about 7-8 hours, and even if things were to go smoothly, the shoot would have to go until the afternoon of the following day. But in the middle of all that, I went with it, asking what was next, how much time would it take, and repeatedly saying, “If Mr. Aida says it’s OK, then it’s OK” (laughs). From that point, it was more the Director of Photography’s job and the crew’s job than mine. But we did finish before the morning. It took until the next morning, but it was amazing.
Shooting in the dark with a small-scale camera (EVA1)
I’ve always been a real fan of action. Even though I was the one making it, I was so shocked (when I saw the images). Under those conditions, with those intense movements, with that subtle lighting hitting them and not hitting them, that camera enabled us to shoot that fine light. And it really shows. It’s amazing. And it’s a powerful, slightly frightening scene. When I think about all those things, I wonder how to capture those movements, but if you just go with the flow (of things on set), I believe things generally work out. And when it’s completed, I’m surprised. It felt so realistic.
How did you feel upon seeing the Dolby Cinema version?
It’s a 2-hour movie, and during that time I felt totally immersed in it, as if I were really there. Usually when I’m watching a movie, I am a little bit more detached and objective. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I am aware of being objective while I’m watching, but (in the case of Dolby Cinema) I really felt like I was there. This is something you can’t understand until you compare these 2 side by side (the normal theater version vs Dolby Cinema version). As far as HDR images go – I first got the feeling when Mr. AIDA, the Director of Photography, showed them to me – I felt that HDR would heighten the whole experience and excitement of being part of that world while watching a movie for 2 hours. How amazing that this will one day be taken for granted that it’s part of the movie-going experience! I think that it (Dolby Cinema) will have even more of an effect in documentary-like scenes. The result will be that – before you realize it – you’ll feel like there’s no obvious demarcation between the world you live in and the world of the movie.
True surround sound with Dolby Atmos
It depends on the world of that movie. In one sense, people who are going to see the movie to enjoy the music might find it a little lacking, but this one starts with real life, focusing on each person’s life, and if you depend on music to tell their stories…well, I didn’t want the music to affect the audience’s opinions of each person. Instead, it was more important to focus on the sounds from daily life. Of course this is a movie, so I did have specific music in mind, and I had music composed for the movie. (With Dolby Atmos) I thought the sounds would transport you directly into the life of the movie.
Black in Dolby Cinema
This is something that Mr. AIDA said, but this was the first time that he’d ever felt like he had been forced to close his eyes while watching a movie. That’s what it felt like. Usually, somewhere there is a bit of light, and you can see. But when everything goes dark, it is like your eyes are closed. So according to the movie, you find yourself in a position where it’s like your eyes are closed, and it was the first time he experienced anything like that. When you close your eyes, you’re inside yourself; but even when you open them, you feel like you’re inside of yourself. It might be like that. For me, too, I felt like I was going deeper and deeper into the movie. I’d never experienced anything like it.
What are some ways in which shooting has changed over the years?
In the beginning we used film, and compared to those days, things have changed so much: performance has improved as well as the quality of the pictures. They are doing research on how to deal with seeing “too much,” or how to make something look more realistic rather than artificial. If you take a look at things now, you will see that we are now capable of depicting a world that doesn’t look like a made-up world. In other words, in the past (the images) made you feel as though you were watching events happening in another world. You had to transport your feelings into the scene, but now it’s as though you are actually in that scene and it creates the feeling that you are physically there in that world. From here on in, it’s going to be a question of how to take advantage of those feelings and those worlds.
Failures are on you, success is thanks to team effort
This is something I realized after becoming a director, but in the end it’s your name on the final product and you are responsible – I understand that – but the question is what is your responsibility. What I realized after directing is that the director is responsible for communicating and discussing his vision and the direction the movie will take with the entire crew. It’s the director’s job to create the direction of the movie. And everyone else works towards this goal. But if it’s a mistake, the responsibility ultimately lies with the director. Let’s say it all goes well and you create a great product. Well, within that success, there are all different kinds of successes. Putting aside the issue of whether or not anyone goes to see the movie, as a product, there’s the question of whether would you personally consider it a success. In that case, I just communicated the direction I wanted to go (as the director), and the crew were the ones to execute this vision. There are techniques and emotions, and upon witnessing people using their craftsmanship to move towards our goal, I realized that everyone was working towards the end product. Its success belongs to everyone who worked on the product. Therefore the people who worked on it feel joy in their success, they feel like they did a great job. But if it’s a failure, there’s no mistaking that it’s the director’s responsibility. But success is thanks to the efforts of everyone involved. We can say we all succeeded together. We do our best with that goal in mind. Though I do wish we all had the same ideas about what direction the movie should take (laughs).