Reflections on the Taxi Rides: Sherlock Director of Photography, Steve Lawes, & Mary Jo Watts Interview 2/15
This audio clip is edited from the original interview for the sake of time and clarity. Also I apologize for the distant moan of the train whistle in there. 😉Steve Lawes: We wanted to shoot all the taxi stuff for real and there’s a lot of taxi stuff.
Mary Jo Watts: There’s a lot of taxi stuff.
Steve Lawes: There’s a lot of taxi stuff. So one of the ways that we did it was by using more than one camera at a time so that we could get different angles. We also used the Canon 5D Mark II camera on certain shots because we could just put it in places that we couldn’t put the other camera. I was very keen on shooting reflections. I don’t really like shooting car stuff because it’s a pain in the arse. You know if you’re going to do it, you really want to get the feel that you’re really there. You can, you know, using back projection and CGI, you can get some very good car stuff, but you have to go a long way to get it to be believable.
One of the big things is reflections, you know, you have to shoot reflection plates. You have to CGI them on. Getting reflection plates is quite difficult because obviously you want to see the actors. You don’t want to see the camera, so there’s a very fine line from getting the angle right where you can see a reflection, but that doesn’t show the camera. Because normally what you would do in this situation is you would just put a black cloth up behind the camera, if the camera was reflected, and then it gets rid of the camera’s reflection, and then you just see them, but that’s all you do- is you see them. You see nothing in front of them. It basically loses that dynamic of it being in a moving vehicle. I mean yes, you get the stuff moving in the background, but you don’t get this stuff moving in the foreground. This time of the evening when we were shooting, it was getting into, sort of, dusk. Rather than this reflection burning out…it’s almost like a silver plate. You know you really get this interesting reflection on it.
Ah, of course we did it once. Paul [McGuigan] loved it, so we did it for the rest of the show. We really wanted to feel like this was kind of like Victoriana, and this was London, but in the 20th [sic] century, and bring it up-to-date. In order to do that you need to see it. You need to feel it. You need to get that environment. And that’s one way to do it.
omg I LOVE THIS. I usually get annoyed when directors shoot car scenes because they always look really fake and static to me, and they tend to be very limited in the kinds of angles you get.
But the taxi scenes in Sherlock are some of my favorites on the whole show. They are *gorgeous* and incredibly dynamic and look nothing like most car scenes. I’ve long been intensely curious how they managed them.
In fact, I’d love to know more — is there any behind-the-scenes footage showing camera and lighting placement, etc.? Or might there be in the future?
IN the pilot they used rear projection. Benedict and Martin sat in a sawed off taxi— the back of a cab in the studio.
Compare that to Steve’s results with Benedict and Martin sitting in the actual taxi riding through London on a low loader :
I think that gif shows better than anything else I can think of why I love Steve’s judgement. The pilot cab scenes are just plain cheesy in comparison. I believe they’re in a cab in the series. Perhaps because they ARE!
The following image is NOT from setlock— it’s for another film but it’s a London taxi on a similar rig:
the difference is like night and day.
thank you for the pic of the rig! I was having trouble picturing how Lawes was getting those results. it must be so much more money and work and trouble, but scenes like these are why I
watcham endlessly obsessed with this show.