Iron Island: an Explosive Drama

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by Sebastián Amoroso the 14/03/2019
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Afonso Poyart, General and Art director of series Iron Island, talks about the production process behind one of Globo’s most ambitious productions to date.

New series Iron Island (12x60’), produced by Globo, showcases the tense day-to-day routine of an oil platform.
 
Written by Max Mallmann and Adriana Lunardi, under the supervision of Mauro Wilson, with the general and artistic direction of Alfonso Poyart, and directed by Roberta Richard and Guga Sander, Iron Island is one of Globo’s biggest bets and a second season already in production. 
 
Talking to ttv, Alfonso Poyart, General and Art Director of the series, explains some of the details behind the production process. 
 
Alfonso Poyart, General and Art Director of Iron Island
 
How would you define Iron Island
 
It’s a story with drama and action that takes place in the world of oil and gas, inside an oil platform, and tells the story of the people there who have this double life, one on land and one at sea. If I could define Iron Island I would say it’s an environment about to explode at any minute. Same as the platform is a volatile place, which can go up in flames thanks to a simple spark, the personalities of our characters are also explosive. Everyone there is living life to the limit. It’s an explosive environment, tense…
 
What were the biggest challenges when shooting? 
 
The biggest challenge in creating Iron Island was trying to bring this world to life. Being able to access an oil platform is extremely complex; it’s an industry that’s inaccessible for any type of filming, so we built a rig inside Globo Studios. It was a 2,000 m2 surface that included a heliport. We also shot in a platform that was inside a shipyard for a week and then we complemented those scenes in several other places, an inactive oil refinery, ships, etc.
 
How was creating an environment “about to explode” both in the platform and the continent? 
 
I wanted to create a very energetic, very strong tone for the show. We have a documentary aesthetic for shooting. We used contrasts, light contrasts, very dark elements front and center and a lot of light in the background, with a very intense camerawork and heavy editing. My idea was to create that atmosphere and that feeling in the place and in the people, which also impacted how the actors did every scene. 
 
It was all very intense, with a lot of strength and movement. ‘Iron Island’ is pure energy, just as oil is energy. These people take that kind of energy to their lives and to every moment of their relationships.
 
How was working alongside the tech department? 
 
The tech team at Globo Studios worked closely with us on the whole special and visual effects end. We had gimbals, hydraulic catapults, and gas accumulators; in short, we used everything that was available to create physically impactful scenes. We had top-of-the-line technology at the service of the series.
 
How was shooting those scenes that were mostly created with the help of computer graphics? 
 
The digital element, in postproduction, was also very important. It was the unit that created a digital version of our platform, a very detailed replica with the ability to take very close shots, which we used for establishment shots, wide scenes some closer shots. We used them heavily on action sequences, climbing, 3D helicopters, explosions, water effects, and climate effects. It was very intense and fruitful.
 
Which digital and non-digital techniques were used to recreate the oil platform? 
 
I worked a lot with previews and animatics to be able to communicate every shot to the cast and crew. We had a shot with an underwater robot, which was done entirely in 3D. We also had an intense preview of the entire sequence to be able to get to the final execution. 
 
In addition, the work with digital effects was very intense, with green and blue screens, chroma key. Our platform is surrounded by this big blue background and every scene shot there requires a big composition work to create the background. We worked with hand held cameras almost all the time, and there was also an intense tracking work, a lot of camera matching and rotoscope, because sometimes it was impossible to make the perfect chroma key.
 
What kind of lenses and cameras were used? 
 
We used a group of 4K cameras, with high quality lenses and high transparency. It was very positive. The cameras with native 4K sensors have huge latitude, and great quality. Therefore, we film everything in 4K. We always film with a lens setup in 1.3, open diaphragm all the time to create a very short focus sensation, which is one of the unique elements of the show. In more dynamic scenes we used smaller cameras, which we call Companion cameras, but without sacrificing quality. In these cases, we use an external 4K camcorder. We also used many cameras to shoot in super slow motion and cranes with high-speed sensors.
 
How does the film experience contribute to TV and vice versa? 
 
My work in films helped me learn, it formed me; it was where I learned to deal with a film set, to take advantage of my time there in the best possible way. I learned how to work with actors, with post-production units, with the tech crew... I developed all this working on films and took that to the series. They are three very dynamic projects, with their own kinetic energy, which I also brought to the series. ‘Iron Island’ is, without a doubt, an evolution of my work. 
 
It’s my most perfected work so far, where I could put into practice everything I wanted, both from a technical storytelling point of view. And it was a very pleasant experience to work with Globo. I think my time in the United States was an interesting experience working on extremely professional sets. There I could have some confirmation about how I believed that some things were done, and I discovered how to do others correctly.
 
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