In Camera 01/03
Interview with Director of Photography Wolfgang Wambach
The collaboration of Director Jan Thüring and Director of Photography Wolfgang Wambach on their first short
animation movie, Terminal: Paradies, was a resounding success; appraised at more than 100 festivals
worldwide, it went on to scoop 30 awards. Das Floss (The Raft), their second short animation movie,
relates the story of two castaways adrift at sea and starving, when a passing seagull drops a fish onto their
The Digitalisation of Das Floss.
Thüring and Wambach initially planned to use 35mm footage and classic stop-motion technique, with 3-D
animation to create sea and skies, but facing potential secondary digitalisation challenges with the
combination of the originally filmed material and the virtual 3-D elements, they reflected on a means to
digitalise the entire production procedure. DP Wambach shares his experiences with us.
Why did you choose Kodak´s DCS 760 digital camera for the principal photography?
"We tried several digital photo cameras, but Kodak´s DCS 760 was brilliant. We were able to achieve a great
depth of field as the chip is bigger than a 35mm negative and the image steadiness of the photos is perfect
because no footage is transported. Since we used digital set extensions, contrast was important and
the 760 helped us with its extremely large contrast, particularly high resolution and desaturated colours,
making it possible to match all the shots in post-production. We could also use flashlights and avoid the
keying process in blue screen shots by using a white screen, common in photography."
What lighting did you use?
"Digital photography needs a great deal of lighting. We had a special technique for separating the background
from the foreground of raft and puppets, so I had the idea of shooting with three Swiss-made Bron flashlights,
which are very exact, and two Bron generators. For each animation phase I used the checkerboard method,
shooting one picture with flashes of the puppets on the raft with a dark background and then another with
flashes on a white background, the raft remaining unlit in the foreground. Using the key light without a soft box
made it possible to perfectly imitate sunlight"
Did you use any custom-built equipment?
"I installed a switch to separate the foreground and background flashes so I had a computer station with three
computers and a TV set for video assist from which I could control everything. I also built a special gear to pull
focus on the camera, because in animation when you want to animate eight seconds, you need 200 pictures.
I took one of the motion control motors and connected it to a toothed gear wheel that moved a belt and was
connected to the focus of the lens. We made a print of the belt from plastic and put it around the lens so that
it grabbed into its own negative form and perfect rack focuses were possible frame by frame."
How did you structure your workflow?"
"We created a virtual environment in Lightwave 3-D animation software, including digital water and skies.
I had two different styles of camera movement programmed in Lightwave: the camera swimming on the virtual
waves to capture what´s happening on the raft and the second for shots on the raft comprising 90% of the
movie, where the camera moves in a documentary handheld style. It was my special wish to give the audience
the impression that they´re on the raft between our two "actors". Lightwave sent coordinates for shooting to
motion control, using interposed Kuper Control Software, so that images of the spatially fixed raft model
showed the desired raft movement. The original Kodak file acquired on set was sent as raw data, using a
special plug-in to the Compositing Department where the digitally acquired images were composed with
the rendered Lightwave files, followed by digital colour matching and recording on 35mm in 2K film for cinema
use. For recording, we used an ARRI Laser"
What advice would you give others, wishing to follow your digital path?
"My advice would be to use the right product for your needs and make lots of tests. Das Floss took
one-and-a-half years to prepare and our workflow only succeeded with the Kodak DCS 760 and Bron flashes.
Although the decision to digitalise was finally based on the effectiveness of a completely digitalised
production pipeline, the potential production tool had to produce material of a quality to meet my aesthetic
expectations as an analogue 35mm cinematographer. Only the Kodak DCS 760 did"