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Don Burgess Sets the Mood in ’42’ with Tiffen

To create the appropriate feel for the film 42, which follows the story of Jackie Robinson, the first player to break through baseball’s color barrier, director Brian Helgeland called on the talents of director of photography Don Burgess, ASC. “This is a striking story. I needed to reflect the passions and excitement of the drama as it unfolded,” explains Burgess. “One way to help create the mood was through the use of filters.

1946, Jackie Robinson plays for the Montreal Royals. The scene was shot with a Tiffen Warm Soft/FX filter.

“I wanted to create a period feel to the movie on a year-by-year basis as we covered the crucial time in Robinson’s story,” Burgess continues. “For example, for the year 1945, when Jackie Robinson began to get noticed for his skill on the baseball field, I needed to produce a warm look—although not a sepia one. Later, as he made it onto the Brooklyn Dodgers team, the requirement was for a sharper, clearer and cooler image.”

Shooting with a RED EPIC camera and Carl Zeiss lens, Burgess used three filters from the Tiffen IRND series to fashion these specific visual effects. For the “look” of 1945, Burgess employed Tiffen Warm Pro-Mist filters in grades 1/4 and 1/8. He also used unbleached muslin for lighting diffusion and 1/4 or 1/8 CTO (color temperature orange) gels on the lights. For sequences depicting events in 1946, he opted for Warm Soft/FX in the same grades, bleached muslin and various strengths of CTS (color temperature straw). Finally, for images from the following year, the filter choice was 1/4 Bronze Glimmerglass, a mixture of muslins and 1/4 or 1/8 CTS.