As Halloween rolls around, what spookier bit of technology to mark the occasion than the retro stylings of Paranormal Activity 3…
Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost – best known for the excellent Facebook flick Catfish – reveal how PA3 got its 1980s video look…
“We wanted it to look and feel like VHS and we considered shooting it on VHS,” Schulman tells Fangoria, before adding with a laugh. “But the studio wasn’t really interested in releasing a 4×3 analogue movie.”
“We tested it,” adds Joost, “but it got pretty tiring to watch after a while. Everybody’s got an HD TV in their house and movies look so great now; watching a VHS image would get pretty old fast.
So how do you fake that VHS look in a film where the cameraman occasionally appears on screen?
“We agreed on basically layering a filter on top of HD footage. But one of the eureka moments was how to deal with seeing the camera operator in the mirror, which happens in a lot of scenes. So we took a small HD lipstick camera and put it down the barrel of an old VHS camera, so when Dennis is taping himself it looks completely like a VHS camera – it’s recording to an HD chip inside,” Schulman reveals.
The story also casts one of the central characters as a video production professional to explain his advanced equipment. High-spec cameras weren’t the norm back then as they are now.
“We needed to justify him having more cameras. Now, in 2011, filming all the time is not so weird. Everybody’s doing it. In ’88, it was unusual, but this is a guy who films for a living and makes other people’s home videos better,” Joost says.
“He’s a little bit better of a filmmaker than Micah in the first movie, who was just a guy who went out and bought a camera.”
If the recording equipment had to seem retro, then the scares also had a similar feel.
“There’s a little bit of enhancement,” Joost reveals. “Not CGI really but computer post-production stuff. But by and large, everything’s practical.”
“The last scare in the movie is, I think, the most shocking. It happens really fast but it’s horrifying – and it’s completely practical,” offers Schulman.
“I’m sure most people will assume it’s some kind of computer trick but it’s not,” adds Joost.