Beyond The Frame: 2001: A Space Odyssey

At MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, director Stanley Kubrick (behind the “Panavized” 65mm Mitchell camera) and his production team set up a shot on actor Keir Dullea while filming the surreal finale to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC (in black jacket, above) used an unusual tool to help him balance his lighting and arrive at the correct exposure: A Polaroid instant camera loaded with ASA 200 black-and-white film (because color film available at the time was not as consistent). With it, Unsworth would photograph each new setup and use the monochrome image as a reference to adjust his light and exposure according. The cinematographer found this to be a very accurate and rapid method, and was working with the toe end of the latitude scale much of the time, shooting in a mixture of soft bounce light and hard practical fixtures. Some 10,000 Polaroid images were taken during the lengthy production of the picture. Unsworth was honored with a BAFTA Award for his exceptional camerawork.

2001: A Space Odyssey was selected as one of the ASC 100 Milestone Films in Cinematography of the 20th Century.


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