May 30, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: Phillipe Rousselot the man behind the lense

“Sherlock Holmes” will premiere on cinema screens on Christmas day. If you were born and raised on this planet, you know all about the English detective and his faithful sidekick Watson. The characters were born in the fertile imagination of Sir Arthur Colon Doyle, who wrote the first of his many stories about Holmes and Watson in 1887.

“Sherlock Holmes” premiered on cinema screens as an eight minute, black and white film in 1908. Popular radio and television series, and some 20 other Sherlock Holmes movies have followed in it’s wake. The latest iteration marks the first collaboration for English-born director Guy Richie and cinematographer Phillipe Rousselot, ASC, AFC, who was born, raised and launched his career in France.

Rousselot is a veteran cinematographer, who earned an Oscar for “A River Runs Through It,” and other nominations for “Hope and Glory” and “Henry and June.” One of the interesting puzzles he had to solve was how to film big, night exterior scenes on the streets of London, Manchester and Liverpool. Today’s electric lights have a distinctly different aura than the gas lamps that lit the nights 100-plus years ago.

Rousselot suggested shooting night exterior sequences during daylight hours, and darkening the sky and environment during post production.

“I pushed the film a bit , so it recorded more details in the shadows and highlights the way the human eye sees them at night,” Rousselot says. “In addition to darkening the sky during post production, we made the sun darker to make it look like the moon, and played with colors and tones of clouds and sunlight reflecting on the river.”

He makes it sound simple, but it is like listening to Rembrandt explain how he created a work of art. It’s an innate talent that every cinematographer sees and executes differently.

Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie

About Bob Fisher

Bob Fisher was born and raised in Brooklyn. He earned a journalism degree from Long Island University, and began his career as a cub reporter at the New York Herald Tribune. Fisher was drafted into the U.S. Army in mid-1958. He served for two years as a journalist at an army base in Anniston, Alabama.That experience gave him a different view of the world. Several weeks before he was scheduled to complete his military obligation, Fisher answered an ad for a six-month job in Los Angeles writing a book based on interviews with members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Fisher had no idea what cinematographers did. The attraction was getting to see Los Angeles. Fisher estimates that he has subsequently written between 3,000 and 4,000 magazine articles about cinematographers and other narrative and documentary filmmakers. He is one of seven living honorary members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Four of the others are astronauts.

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