“The Square” Brims with Talent On and Off Screen

“The Square” cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel. Courtesy Plattform Produktion.

by Meagan Keane

posted on 02-09-2018

Darkly funny and also absurd, The Square is a scathing satire that invites viewers to challenge their ideas of society in an increasingly uncertain world. As the latest film from acclaimed Swedish Director and Editor Ruben Östlund and starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, and Dominic West, The Square is also one of the most praised international films of 2017. After winning the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, the film went on to win Best Foreign Language Film awards at the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Chicago Film Critics Association, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, and was recently nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

“Each scene is like a small contained movie that tells you so much about society and people in general,” says Vincent Larsson, the film’s Post Production Supervisor. “Ruben likes to film many different takes to coax the best performances out of his actors and bring his vision to life. But that makes editing the film together that much more complex for the editing team.”

“The Square” cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel. Courtesy Plattform Produktion.

The director and his crew spent 70 days shooting The Square, delivering up to four hours of material each day. Every scene was edited together using half a dozen takes and up to 15 active video tracks. Making the edit even trickier, Ruben was working on a tight schedule to meet the Cannes submission deadline.

To complete the film on time without compromising his vision, Ruben made two decisions to make editing faster and easier. First, he brought on veteran Danish editor and previous collaborator Jacob Schulsinger as his co-editor. Second, he started editing the movie on Adobe Premiere Pro CC while he was still shooting.

Ruben Östlunds editorial suite at Plattform Produktion in Gothenburg. Photo by Vincent Larsson

For the editing team, one of the greatest advantages of Adobe Premiere Pro CC is its flexibility. “As an editor, I want to work with technologies that will help me focus on telling the story,” says Jacob. “I want to be able to play with the cut and experiment with different variations, but still execute it quickly enough that I can move on if it isn’t working. With Premiere Pro, I can drag footage or sound effects into the timeline and not have to worry about converting it first or using the right format.”

While Jacob looks for tools that will not get in the way of the creative process, he also acknowledges that taking advantage of new editing technologies can expand the creative possibilities. Special effects are no longer just used in science fiction or action spectacles. For The Square, Jacob used Adobe Premiere Pro to change backgrounds, switch out paintings in a frame, or make subtle changes to speed and timing to fine-tune an actor’s performance.

“The Square” cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel. Courtesy Plattform Produktion.

The editing team also used some Adobe After Effects CC for stabilization, but primarily relied upon Premiere Pro for effects, including compositing, masking, and motion blur. While outside production houses handled more elaborate special effects, the editing team accomplished about 40% of these changes in house using Premiere Pro.

Throughout post-production, the Adobe workflow centered on Premiere Pro and integrated Adobe Creative Cloud apps improved speeds and helped prepare The Square for its Cannes debut. Integration with Adobe Media Encoder CC allowed the team to perfectly transcode footage for offline workflows. With the Lumetri Color panel in Premiere Pro, the team finished color grading in time for the Cannes submission deadline.

“The Square” cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel. Courtesy Plattform Produktion.

“There are few technologies that could meet our technical and speed requirements, but Adobe Premiere Pro CC handled everything very well,” says Vincent. “We tried out the beta version of Team Projects, and know it will be a huge time saver, especially for movie like this one where we had people working on it from so many different locations—even on set.”

Having found great success in the film festival circuit, The Square is now connecting with more audiences in theaters around the world. “I think of the job of an editor as arranging the footage in such a way that you create feelings in your viewers,” says Jacob. “One of the best ways is to simply play with the edit. If I had a project where I wanted to experiment, be creative, and still be fast, I think that Adobe Premiere Pro CC would be an ideal choice.”

We wish the team the best of luck at the Academy Awards in March 2018.

Topics: Creativity

Products: After Effects, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud