Mombi's Mirrored Palace

     The Palace was very large, incredibly elegant, and incredibly expensive.  The mere description of it would make cinematographers shudder. 
 A $350,000 set surfaces made entirely of mirrors, it is Mombi’s throne room, where she backs in hundreds of reflections of herself.  Constructed of 8,224 square feet of mirror glass, the set took 60 craftsmen to build and a corps of cleaners to maintain its appearance, removing marks made by the slightest touch on the glass.  It was mirrored from wall to wall, and ceiling to floor.  But David Watkin, the movie’s cinematographer, has had his own philosophy to this ordeal.  

     “I never find anything difficult.  It can be interesting, but it can only be difficult if it’s impossible and if it’s impossible it’s difficult because you can’t do it.  Otherwise, it can be fun – but it’s not difficult.”
     He goes on to describe his solution to lighting and filming in a mirrored box.  “You would think on the face of it all those mirrors would present problems – especially with all the light.  In point of fact, some thing like that can just as easily work for you as against you.  Because it was a mirrored set – floor, ceiling, and walls – we did angle some of the mirrors so that we didn’t reflect the camera.
        We considered hiding the camera by cutting a hole in a mirror for the lens and attaching it in front of the camera so that all that was reflected was another mirror, but we didn’t have to do that.”

     Watkin then describes the lighting used in the Mirrored Palace.  “What was lovely about the lighting was that the key light I used for the set was on the ground, outside the window, aiming up at the ceiling.  Unless you were at a 45 degree angle to that light you would never see it.  It was like having an invisible light in the ceiling.  It lit the whole room and gave us a terrific advantage.  I lit practically the entire set with one Key light.”

 

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