Casey La Scala's high tech apocalypse: The Remaining

Who knew that the end of the world would be so high tech? I have a revelation that this story isn't going to end well, but the hardware and software are going to make it look great.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

I spoke with The Remaining's writer and director Casey La Scala (Grind, Donnie Darko) about his upcoming movie that opens in theaters on September 5th across the country. I've heard others, and Casey himself, describe the movie as a faith-based horror movie. The movie certainly lives up to that description when you realize that the story (written by La Scala) describes characters caught up in what's known as The Tribulation. The Tribulation, for those of you who don't know, is a part of the book of Revelation that describes a time after the so-called Rapture (a word that never appears in the New Testament, by the way) where chaos, abuse, and torment are on the menu.

The Remaining earned a PG-13 rating for destruction and violence, so be aware that this is not a feel good movie. The messages are strong and I wouldn't expect it to go well at the end. I've read Revelation and I can tell you that it won't be pleasant if even a few of the prophecies come to pass.

That's the movie's story, but what about the technology behind it all?

Casey and I discussed that at some length and I can tell from the bits that I've seen, you'll be impressed with his choices and his crew's work.

First, he and his Director of Photography (DP) chose the ALEXA camera for the bulk of the movie. He chose it for its quality, its versatility in any kind of light (bright daylight to very low lighting conditions at night), and its feature-rich, yet easy to use interface. 

The ALEXA is a favorite among cinematographers, competing very well with the Red camera lineup. 

The user interface and form factor of the ALEXA HD is familiar and comfortable to anyone with experience with broadcast and/or 35mm film camera. The menus and controls are clearly marked and designed for intuitive use. Commonly used controls are available on the Operators side of the camera while the Assistant's side offers a deeper yet easily-navigated menu interface with a large LCD display panel.

The workflow is effortless with the ability to record ProRes directly on SxS memory cards. A 32GB card can hold 15 (4444) or 20 (422) minutes of 1920x1080 HD video and the cards can be hot-swapped in the camera and loaded directly into a Final Cut Pro or latest Avid Media Composer system for immediate editing. Uncompressed HD (4:4:4 or 4:2:2) is also available directly out of the camera in 1920x1080.

The ALEXA HD is equipped with the same 16:9 super 35mm CMOS sensor found in the rest of the ALEXA lineup. The ALEXA sensor exhibits high sensitivity, wide exposure and low noise. The ALEXA camera produces it’s own unique and distinctive film-like organic look. It reproduces beautiful and flattering skin tones. The Super-35 ALEV III CMOS sensor has a 800 ISO base sensitivity and 14 stops of Dynamic Range.

  • 1920x1080 ProRes recording 
  • Super-35 ALEV III CMOS sensor
  • 800 ISO base sensitivity
  • 14 stops of dynamic range
  • Classic Arri ALEXA functionality and build quality

The ALEXA camera family is also modular, which ARRI calls 'open' architecture. Everything on the camera is removable and replaceable as a module, including the control panels, and even the storage system. This means that if a new, improved storage system or new storage form factor supplants the SxS, then a new module and storage can easily replace the old one without replacing the entire camera.

Casey's other reason for selecting the ALEXA is that it gives that "big" feeling that surpasses most digitally recorded movies. That feeling of bigness is due to the ALEXA having the same frame size as the old 35mm film cinema cameras and the image quality gives you the feel of film without the expense.

I asked Casey about the use of "Lo-Fi" cameras in the movie because I saw several scenes where the actors used iPhones and other small consumer video cameras to record what was going on around them. He told me that those scenes are sort of an optical illusion perpetrated by him and his crew. The Lo-Fi scenes are actually shot on Sony commercial digital video cameras and not the low-end consumer devices that you see in the movie. You can certainly see a difference in quality, but not so much that it compromises or distracts from what's going on.

For post production, Casey's team used an Avid system for quick turnaround, 'daily' viewing and rapid editing. Avid software and hardware is sophisticated and advanced without the associated high price tag. For example, Avid's Pro Tools version 11 is $699.00. It has become the gold standard for cinematographers and music video directors alike.

After speaking with Casey and listening to his committed vision for the movie, his Christian perspective, his passion for the story, his excellent technical choices for cameras and software, and his crew of professionals who just came off the Iron Man 3 shoot, I'm convinced that this will be the best of the recent appearance of faith-based films. If great source material and all of the other ingredients can't make a superb film, I'm not sure what can.

It was a pleasure speaking to Casey. I'm impressed with his calm, but passionate demeanor and his absolute commitment to his craft and to his Maker. I can't wait to see the whole movie.

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