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Eric Steelberg, ASC spills the ectoplasm on Frozen Empire, the new Ghostbusters film hitting theatres in March


March 04, 2024

“Without a doubt, the biggest creative challenge was filming this movie on stages and sets in London, trying to make it look like New York,” begins Steelberg. “We knew it was time to bring the Ghostbusters back to their hometown, but the scale and scope of the movie required production to look elsewhere for principal photography, with a smaller second unit handling exteriors in New York.” Blending those two places, matching the light and feel an ocean apart, was something that he had never attempted before.

“I wanted to carry over the visual sensibility of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, so it felt like that story continued, but also set it apart and embraced everything that is great about New York City. We went from a very western horizontal frame [used for the Oklahoma setting of Afterlife] to a place turned 90°, with everything vertical.

“I looked to the first two Ghostbusters films, from 1984 and 1989, to remind myself of compositions that worked well in an anamorphic format. The density of the city made for exciting opportunities in our Ecto-1 car chase that we just didn’t have previously.”

Afterlife’s warmer colour palette, which made perfect sense for summer on the plains, needed to feel more like the ‘hot sun and cool skylight’ you would find in urban canyons...

He retained the same ARRI ALEXA LF and Panavision T Series anamorphic package from Afterlife to maintain that visual recipe. Steelberg made lens tests at Panavision UK to show Kenan why he preferred the format.

“He didn’t take much convincing. And it was a great way for us to start our creative process and learn one another’s aesthetic preferences. Afterlife was the first film where I used that combination, and I continued it on [Marvel’s] Hawkeye. Honestly, there’s something about the combination that just says ‘cinema’. Frozen Empire is a movie that’s tailor-made for a big audience and meant to be seen theatrically – and large format anamorphic, with ARRI’s fantastic sensor and Panavision’s exceptional glass… I just can’t think of a better match for the way I shoot and see!”

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