The director of photography (DP) of Percy Jackson and the Olympians revealed that the scene with Ares on the beach was originally supposed to be at night.
Warning - The rest of the article contains spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode 8
The Disney+ series, starring Walker Scobell, just aired its finale, bringing its first season to a conclusion.
The episode contained all the big scenes from the book audiences had been dying to see: Ares fighting Percy on the beach, a visit to Mount Olympus, and Luke’s big betrayal. The lead hero even got to finally meet his father, Poseidon, God of the Seas.
Percy Jackson DP on Ares and Mount Olympus
While speaking exclusively to The Direct’s Russ Milheim, Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ cinematographer Pierre Gill addressed the show’s eventful season finale and how that big Ares scene could have been different.
Diving into how the big showdown between Percy and Ares came to be, Gill was proud to say that he felt their work on the scene in The Volume was "successful" and needed "almost no touch up:"
"The fight with Ares on the beach, which I think, was successful. That was also with The Volume—all of it with almost no touch-up. When I say touchup, it's a big deal. Because if you achieve The Volume without touch-up, that's what you're trying to do... It's part of the reality to do these Volumes, [where] we're trying to be real. And I say real because I call it natural with style, of course, because I tried to keep the show very naturalistic, but with elegance, and with style."
One of the first steps to designing the look of the fight was figuring out how exactly the stormy sky set as the backdrop was going to look:
"So what we've done with the [Industrial Light & Magic] team again, I told them, okay, I want to see 25 different skies... Then I said, 'I want a big storm on the coast because I want the ocean to be brighter. And I want the coast to be darker. So, the sky behind him has to be gray, and the ocean has to be bright. So then I'll be able to... make it more realistic and more fun and a bit more dramatic and looking pretty good.' And well, it's a very good-looking shot, I think. And then we build a lighthouse."
The filmmaker shared how the "scene was supposed to be at night," but he convinced producers to change it up so it would work better in The Volume:
"And... at the beginning, this scene was supposed to be at night. And I was telling the producer, let's not do that. Because on The Volume, to do night, it's very difficult because the black level doesn't really work great. So it collapsed. So they agreed to bring it back to, you know, 'Okay, let's go day. No, not day, let's go dusk. But let's go too late because there's a sweet spot where The Volume is super happy. And it looks really, really good.' So these are all things you know that you have to build as you go."
Another big moment came when Percy Jackson finally got to travel to Mount Olympus, where he met Toby Stephens’ Poseidon and the late Lance Reddick’s Zeus.
"That was a big challenge," Gill noted while adding that one thing the creatives wanted to achieve was establishing a massive sense of scope:
“That was a big challenge. The scene at Olympus [used] The Volume. And I hope people are happy and they're happy with the look. It was a huge task to do that. First of all, what I've tried to achieve is to make sure with Jet Wilkinson, the director, that when [Percy] comes in, we feel the scope. So, there are two things about this. Let's feel it's big and it's scope-y. So, we [purposely made] sure there's a few shots of Percy as small as we can with the biggest Mount Olympus possible.”
He reiterated how they "kept it character-driven" and tried to avoid camera trickery to make the Gods seem any bigger than they are:
"And then it's character-driven, which is part of the show. This is what we try to do all the time. We kept it character-driven and not over the top. So, meeting the Gods, both of them were never a low wide angle shot making him look really big like this, you know, it was like a normal, very important shot of a person talking to a person. And that was like the core of it...So every time, you just make sure that when you get to those moments, your camera moves in the right place or you choose the good lenses. And again, that's why I should anamorphic to be very close to these characters."
"When you choose the right lens," explained Gill, "you see their eyes, and if you see their eyes, you stay with them:"
"And I think something I'm proud of when I look at the show on my big TV or even on an iPhone, it has scope, and you're close to the actors and you're close to the characters. And to be close to them, I make sure we choose the right lens... Because when you choose the right lens, you see their eyes, and if you see their eyes, you stay with them. And that's what I did all the time... Sometimes the directors are like, 'Are you okay? Are you happy with this take here?' I'm like, 'No, I'm not. I'm not satisfied.' 'Why?' 'I don't feel the eyes'... But this is critical because this is where it takes life…"
The filmmaker also talked about how they created the Lotus Casino in Episode 6, which did not utilize The Volume as many other set pieces did.
Instead, they used "a new empty building" and "built from scratch" to “"create a bigger space:"
"The most important thing was for me to create a bigger space than we really had. So the casino was built from scratch, completely from scratch, into a new empty building that was nothing. So we got in there. And we, the production designer, Dan Hennah, put huge carpets brought tables. And then to create the biggest place as possible, because it's very costly, of course, we decided to use a place that has a lot of windows, and I put gels, colors in all those windows, opaque colors."
Gill also "covered" the building so that they "could shoot anytime [they wanted]:"
"So outside the building, I covered it, so we could shoot anytime we want, and the sun was not affecting us... It was a huge setup, like about 500 [or] 600 lights there for sure. More than that, probably. So, I tried to work in zones. So what I created is like I tried to, 'Okay, you're gonna come in, it's going to be more like pinkish and magenta, they're gonna go inside, and it's gonna get more turquoise and yellow.' So, I try to go by zones. I create zones of colors. So, you at least you follow them as a journey… And you don't realize that they're actually pretty close to exactly where they were on the previous piece of dialogue to make it bigger."
What Is Next For Percy Jackson?
Assuming Season 2 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is greenlit, fans should expect to see a lot of water when the show returns —given the title of the second book, The Sea of Monsters.
Needless to say, there will almost certainly be even more work on The Volume for that story.
This will undoubtedly excite Cinematographer Pierre Gills, who recently spoke in great length about his experience using the revolutionary technology.
Of course, there will also be plenty more opportunities for Percy to come toe-to-toe with the Gods themselves.
Ares has a grudge to maintain, Poseidon has a troublesome son who will want his attention, and Zeus will have his eye on Camp Half-Blood due to some meddling with Thalia’s tree.
Fingers crossed the wait for more episodes won't be too long!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is now streaming on Disney+.