Lighting Club #10 – Stranger Things

Hullo everybody !

Don’t know about you but at The Lighting Club we are fan of the uʍop ǝpᴉsdu universe ! And we guess you noticed that The Stranger Things season 3 is now on Netflix ! Thus it makes sense to talk about Stranger Things lighting/vfx isn’t ?

Let’s join Dustin, Lucas, Mike and Eleven in their new adventure and thus let’s ask questions to Christophe Archinet, which is senior lighting TD at RodeoFX. To talk a bit more about RodeoFX, it is a Montreal/Quebec/Munich/Los Angeles studio based. They are around 600 artists and they worked on shows such as Dumbo, MIB III, Detective Pikachu, Aquaman… To talk more about Chris, he worked in different companies such as Mikros, MPC or Framestore on a lot of feature film such as Cinderella, X-men Days of future past, King Arthur, or more recently VFX Oscar award winner Blade Runner. Now he is currently working at RodeoFX and his latest project was Stranger Things third season. We are glad enough to share his feeling about it with you.

If you missed the Stranger Things hype, you can have a look at the third season trailer which is really nice !

Hullo Chris ! Thanks for answering our questions ! You are senior lighting TD for a while, tell us a bit more about you.

I’m what we in the industry call a Lighting Artist. Responsible at the shot finishing level, ensuring the aesthetic quality and credibility of images produced in CG, which will be embedded in real backgrounds. My early experience was a mix between traditional 2D Animation productions and expertise in Photography. Which later led me to specialize in CG Lighting and matte painting. It is interesting to see how the productions have evolved in recent years. Engineers create great software, and it’s our turn to become engineers to drive these new tools. When using a rendering engine like Arnold, the impressive photorealism by default forces us to reconsider our role: we then become a “technician” of the image. The one who took the place of the artist is : Arnold ! – who is able to produce outstanding images, realistic and coherent, almost by itself. Therefore, you have to deal with it. And in this industry, sometimes, not often, you can work on some shows where a creative part is requested, and you can even make artistic proposals. And the project “Stranger Things 3” is one of them.

You worked at RodeoFX as senior lighting TD on Stranger Things season 3. What Stranger Things represent for you ?

I thank RodeoFx for trusting me for this production. Working on a such cult TV show was like a dream. Actually this is a world that has rocked my childhood, filmmakers Matt and Ross Duffer, borrowing their references to the American SF culture of the 80s, as well as H.P. Lovecraft horror stories for example, in these conditions I felt familiar.

We all have seen that second season had much more budget accorded to the VFX/Post production with a huge VFX ending-sequence and a lot of creatures all along the episodes. Did you feel this budget is once again more important for the third season ? The intro sequence has awesome VFX !!

Regarding visual effects, I think this is a ground-breaking TV show production. I have reviewed some of the creature shots of season 2, I think we will all agree that we have passed a big step regarding finishing and quality. Considering quantity of shots, we are much more on a long feature movie scale. It reminded me the big shows we had to deal with at Framestore.

What was the main challenge for RodeoFX lighting department on this show ? And for you ?

The studio is one of the historical jewels of the VFX industry in Quebec, I have seen that it possesses many talents and experts at all levels. So the production was in very good hands. For the lighting department, the challenge was the quantity of shots and the final quality that was monitored by the Duffer brothers. Then, regarding graphic aspects, it was necessary to keep a balance, to stay in the mood of the 80’s, to match the “Stranger Things” spirit – and not to look too beautiful, not too Star Wars of the new century.

Could you tell us more about a specific shot/sequence you worked on ?

A short sequence that I particularly like. I was lucky to be in charge of the LightRig creation of the epilogue of the serie, the very end that announces the next season. A more intimate, darker atmosphere, with a central character of this story, rather repulsive. So regarding colors and atmosphere, I had the opportunity to have a real fun. It was the time to remember my cinematographic references.

The trailers seems to show a funfair sequence with a lot of different colors/lights, did you worked on this sequence ? Tell us more about it !

Indeed, the sequence demanding the most commitments was the final confrontation with the big “ShadowMonster”. Everything in a very colorful environment with many fx all around, that was a real challenge. It was an extremely interesting sequence at the lighting level. The mood was very baroque with blue and red very saturated. And on top of that, FX with pyrotechnic effects that added other colors, which caused very contrasting and expressionist ambiance. The scene ends in a certain visual chaos, with an atmosphere that was built over the course of the sequence. It was challenging to be able to improvise and propose passes of atmosphere that our friends compositors could integrate with talent.

No spoil but what do you think about this season compare to the previous ?

This is the first week, and so far I have watched only 4 episodes. At each project, I try to keep a minimum of surprise to not learn too much about the scenario. I devote myself only to my sequences. I love this series since the very first episode, and I think Season 3 is in the very right tone. Somewhere the Duffer brothers have attracted interest and success for this series, based on references to the forerunners of SF in cinema, from 20 or 30 years ago. A time when everything was invented in this area. Today, this tribute and these codes are there, but they seem finally to fade to become their own style, a cult object in itself, which can go still very far.

Thanks Chris for you share and welcome in the Lighting Club ! Anything to add ?

One last thing, Do serious work, but do not take yourself too seriously. 😉 Thank you !

We hope you all have appreciates this uʍop ǝpᴉsdn article ! And if you didn’t finished the third season already let’s go ! See you really soon for the next article but for now you can go back chill under the sun, think about nothing and eat ice cream all day long ! 🙂




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