The Last Dragonslayer is a new film, premiering on Sky on Christmas Day 2016. Based on Jasper Fforde’s novels, it’s a fantasy tale in a world where magic, knights and, of course, dragons, merge to create a whimsical, modern world, where old and new collide.
Our DIT Alec Garner gives us here his firsthand impressions on working on this incredible adventure:
Shooting began in the “Dragonlands”, or Snowdonia in Wales as it’s known locally. It was a tough location to film and the rough weather certainly didn’t help. We had torrential rain, followed by clear blue skies and then a blizzard with visibility reduced to a few metres, all within a few hours. Even the mountain guides said it was unusual.
The crew with a few porters would carry up all the kit needed for the day and set up tents as storage. It would take an hour and a half walking round trip to get to where they were filming on the mountain from base. But it was a stunning location to film and we had some amazing skies that, when graded with DOP Adam Etherington, looked like a Constable painting, with rich golds, reds and blues.
The rest of the locations were around Oxfordshire, which provided some great fantasy settings with old buildings and castles. The Last Dragonslayer was shot mostly on the Alexa Mini (and the occasional A7s and GoPro’s), as the DOP wanted to be able to hand hold the camera in some tough places, and the form factor would help him to achieve this. As it is a VFX heavy film, we used ASC-CDL colour pipeline for grading the dailies and deliverables. Adam didn’t want to be too limited by CDL, so we devised a system of creating a LUT when required to get the overall colour hues as he liked and then grading with CDL on top to refine the look.
I used a combination of Resolve and Colorfront EXD to achieve this while delivering for editorial and for Dailies. Mission Digital’s Easel Dailies was also imperative, as it allowed Adam and director Jamie Stone the ability to view rushes on the fly using their iPads and compare with previously shot material. The movie was filmed at 2K, framed for 2:1. I set up another frame guide in conjunction with that to allow for HD extraction without losing any of the frames Adam intended, as Sky were undecided on how they wanted the final film delivered. The shoot had a few challenging Locations but, in the end, we slayed the dragon, tangled with a few wizards, a misbehaving biscuit tin and survived to tell the tale!