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How “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” Cinematographer Eric Steelberg Brought Slimer & the Firehouse Back to Life

Daron James, THE CREDITS

April 1, 2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has a visual style reminiscent of the iconic 1984 film, a palette cinematographer Eric Steelberg (Ahsoka, Hawkeye) intentionally crafted for this story that sees characters new and old strap on a proton pack to bust a chilling demon terrorizing their city. “We wanted to capture the texture, color, and grit of the original movie so nothing seemed too new,” Steelberg tells The Credits about creating the look that artfully blends rich hues and deep blacks for a heightened, naturalistic appeal.

With Jason serving as executive producer, Kenan saw the story as a family trying to “define a home” and “ground themselves,” all while fighting an evil that turns anything into a frozen popsicle. To pull off the imagery, Steelberg referenced what was successful in Afterlife and carried it over to Frozen Empire, including shooting widescreen anamorphic using Panavision T Series lenses with Arri Alexa LF cameras. Nailing the “gritty vibe of the city” was especially key for the cinematographer, but his biggest hurdle was visually introducing new locations that had never been seen before. “There is more of the firehouse in our movie than any of the other movies, so it became a central character. Trying to learn and reinterpret the lighting and the look of the interior of the firehouse was, to be quite honest, a bit stressful,” he admits. “It’s such a beloved set piece, and people have expectations of what they want it to look like, and I had my own interpretation of that, which may or may not align with people. But I am hoping it pleases everybody.”

Even with production developing in-camera techniques, the film had its share of visual effects overseen by VFX supervisor Geoff Baumann and VFX producer Nicole Rowley. The larger tasks include the opening Ecto-1 chase sequence that sees the Spengler family race through the streets to contain a snake-like dragon, the Possessor ghost, which can bring any inanimate object to life – including a very funny pizza scene, and, of course, the horned undead monster Garraka. “There were more visual effects by a couple of magnitudes on Frozen Empire than Afterlife,” notes Steelberg. “A lot of our shoot was dedicated to figuring out workflows and previs and how to successfully shoot scenes that play into the success of visual effects. For instance, if we knew better effects could be accomplished, we would try to shoot things to allow for that. It was in our best interest to shoot in a way that gave us the highest chance of success in how they blended, looked, or felt real.” By carrying over a similar camera package from Afterlife, production was able to spend less time testing cameras and lenses and more time practicing techniques in prep that supported visual effects.

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