Typical set viewed from above. Most of the central area is open and covered with gauze. Large lights stand at an angle outside the windows at the bottom.

An example of a set with partial ceilings. (In the case of a set used for both interiors and exteriors, the central part of the roof can be replaced.) The opening is covered with a gauze scrim through which daylight and other lights can be beamed for diffused general illumination. Brutes outside frosted windows simulated exterior light.

Towering piles of papers fill the wall between cabinets in a government office.
An example of the partial ceiling, which gives this low-angle shot the illusion of authenticity. The lamp at the top is part of the set. Just out of sight is the gauze-covered open area that is lighted by a bank of floodlights and 5000-watt lamps.


The major problem in filming The Castle came, of course, in the lighting. Putting a stabilizer on the camera had given its total mobility, but at the same time it made traditional lighting techniques impractical. The danger lay more in casting shadows with the camera should Treu inadvertently move through a key light, but there was also the question of realism. And Treu is convinced, like a good many other young European filmmakers, that “daylight cannot be simulated by directed lighting.”
    Treu’s answer to both of these problems was to lay down a basic “coating” of light more or less evenly across the set and then add or subtract in keeping with the demands of realism. For this he employed banks of photofloods mounted about a foot apart and spreading out slightly as they moved away from the window areas. To direct the flow of light coming in from the windows, Treu used reflecting photofloods on the bright side and boosted them with five-kilowatt lamps. The windows themselves were lit from the outside with brutes diffused first through spun glass and then by spray-on frost on the glass (a trick that also helped avoid the problem of camouflaging the lamps outside). For the entire film Treu used only the following big lamps: 5 brutes, 4 du-arcs, 10 tenners, 10 seniors, 10 juniors, and a few 500-watters. The short-lived photofloods were, of course, consumed by the hundreds.
    To diffuse the lighting, frames of strong gauze were stretched across the open areas of the ceiling. Any additional shadows needed were obtained simply by resting slabs of light-weight styrofoam plastic on top of the gauze. The sets were built with ceilings to help create a tight, enclosed atmosphere inside the houses. To facilitate lighting, most of the boards were removable, with only a few feet of permanent structure left around the edges—partly to insure that the camera would not accidentally slip into the lighting area and partly to keep the light levels lower in those areas. Wherever levels would logically be higher, as for example around the windows, Treu simply took away part of the border to allow more of the general lighting to splash over. In normally darker areas, such as between the windows, a piece of heavy cardboard provided sufficient shadow (see diagram). rd has a small gap in it. Not all of the work was as simple as this description make it seem. The villagers’ inn, for example, was complicated by a low, very visible ceiling that kept upper lighting limited to the areas just behind the cross beams, and by constant action that made it difficult to employ floor lamps. Here Treu’s only option was to keep shifting the ceiling boards from sequence to sequence. The same set at night was quite another story. The only visible lighting came from three naked bulbs hung around the room, so Treu simply took advantage of the beams and dark ceilings to boost the bulbs with pairs of 5,000 watt skypans set directly over them.
    Outside shooting was uncomplicated, thanks to uniformly overcast days and a snow cover that gave back as much light as the sky. This greatly facilitated day- and dusk-for-night shooting by making artificial fill light unnecessary. Continuous indoor to outdoor (or vice versa) sequences, made possible by the fact that some of the sets were real buildings, were dealt with either by bouncing daylight arcs off white paper to diffuse the light inside the houses or by lighting directly with blue-filtered skypans. In situations that called for something closer to snow-reflected light, an LCT-11 or a light-green filter was placed on a brute or daylight carbon.
    The fruit of all these labors was both the stunning cinematography of The Castle and the refining of camera and lighting techniques. Treu has not been selfish about his innovations, and some of these ideas—particularly the gyrocamera—have already been picked up by other Europeans. Recognition has also come in higher forms. For his work on The Castle, his fifth feature film, Wolfgang Treu was awarded the Deutsche Filmpreis in Gold (the West German “Oscar”) for cinematography.


Copyright © 1969, 2004  William Dyckes