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The Indian extras on the set of Gandhi


Using Roscoe scrim to diffuse the light in Gandhi
Billy Williams Film-maker
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One of the things which we... proved to be a great asset to me was that just before we started the picture, Rosco, who make various colour gels and diffusion materials, had... had brought out a new reflective material called Rosco Scrim. And it was silver with lots of little holes perforated in it, it was made of a kind of plastic material. And it gave you a lovely soft reflected light. And I thought well, I'm going to have a lot of sunlight in India, harsh sunlight and I... I really don't like using lamps to fill in if I can do it with something softer. So if I do use the lamps I try and defuse them as much as possible or bounce them off a white reflective material. But this new material, Roscoe scrim, seemed to offer another opportunity. So I got some frames made up 12ft square and I had two of these which you could mount on stands and take up to, you know, whatever height you wanted. And they provided the most amazing fill light, I could have one each side of the camera and I could fill in a crowd of 100 or two, it was just marvellous. And it was soft, it was shadow-less. And it was really the answer to shooting vast scenes without resorting to lights. And of course it made us much quicker; we didn't always have to use the generator. In fact the only time I used the brutes was to come... put lights through windows or on one scene where we were under a lot of trees and... and I couldn't get the reflected light in, so it was a great time saver. The only trouble is that the material is rather fragile and we finished up having to back it with some muslin so that it... it gave it a bit more strength. But it was... it was great and it's still used to this day, but that was the first time that it was used, you know, on a big reflector. The other thing we needed was a tracking vehicle and there was no such thing in India, we couldn't find a tracking vehicle. So we eventually found, from the French Embassy a little Citroën that they didn't want anymore and we had the top cut off and we finished up with a... just... just a platform which we reinforced, and that... that was our tracking vehicle when... whenever we had to do tracking shots on the road. And of course with that soft suspension it was... it was ideal.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 2 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008