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TIFF 2017: Here Are the Cameras Used To Shoot 40 of This Year’s Best Films

The world's best DPs explain how they created looks for Guillermo del Toro’s “Shape of Water,” Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!,” and many more.

Lucrecia Martel and DP Rui Poças Shooting “Zama”

Lucrecia Martel and DP Rui Poças shooting “Zama”




Vikarious Productions

Dir: Lisa Langseth DP: Rob Hardy
Camera: Red Weapon 6K
Lens: Xtal Xpress Anamorphics made by Joe Dunton

Hardy: “Whilst firmly etched in reality, Lisa’s script for ‘Euphoria’ also had layered meaning and inhabited a world apart from what we would term realism. This would be my third film working with Alicia Vikander and, as always with Alicia, it would require a certain degree of honesty and intimacy.

A common theme with my photography dictates that it always has a tendency to lean towards proximity and strives for an authentic sense of geography. The photography should allow the audience to have real access to the locations, the rooms and the actors. It should keep them close to the action and allow them to really feel what it’s like to be in the story.

A combination of uber soft, artificially augmented ‘natural’ light, spiked with moments of surrealism, was designed to light the spaces we inhabited for the most part at 360 degrees. This enabled our actors to fully use the space without inhibition or restraint. Lighting the space is a method I always favour.

I have a great familiarity and fondness for the Xtal Xpress Anamorphics – the lenses were hand-made some years ago, and over time each lens has developed a distinct personality. Wether I just imagine it, or it is in fact a technical aberration I’m unsure, but every time I find a distinct working method that is dictated by this particular glass. In other words, there may be certain scenes which for emotional reasons can only be shot using the 32mm. Once you see the blocking, you just know instinctively which lens will play a key role. I also love the way in which the glass feels quite freeform at times in how it deals with the environment surrounding the actors, sometimes forcing a certain kind of framing.”

“Five Fingers for Marseilles”

On the set of "Five Fingers for Marseilles"

On the set of “Five Fingers for Marseilles”

Graham Bartholomew

Dir: Michael Matthews, DP: Shaun Harley Lee
Camera: Arri Alexa Classic
Lens: Zeiss Ultra Primes and a Angenieux 25-250 HR Zoom

Lee: “’Five Fingers for Marseilles’ is a tale of redemption that explores the repercussions of violent action, the influence of power and the questionable existence of good men. I tried to strip back my approach to two main visual themes: Darkness — as a representation of the characters’ dance with their own inner shadow — and the almost mystical influence of the Land upon which they live.

“The choice in equipment was as much a pragmatic decision as it was a creative one. I knew we’d be shooting out in the elements, on rugged terrain, far from any sort of film infrastructure with the need for daily rushes and a fast turnaround. After testing I knew the Alexa would give me the ability to explore that darkness in a way that I was comfortable with while withstanding everything the location could throw at it. I felt the Ultra Primes had a masculine edge similar in feel to the characters and land we where trying to portray.”

“The Florida Project”

“The Florida Project” DP Alexis Zabe

Will Ngo

Dir: Sean Baker, DP: Alexis Zabe
Camera: Panavision Millennium xl2, Arri ALEXA Mini, iPhone 6s Plus

Zabe: “We had a few different camera setups on ‘The Florida Project.’ The movie was planned out and visualized to shoot on 35mm film; the softness and imperfection of the mechanical/photochemical process of film was helpful in getting the emotional response we wanted — a film that looked like fruity ice cream with a sour twist. We shot most of the film on Panavision E series lenses and a Millennium xl2 camera. Shooting the old E series lenses wide open gave the film its milky, slightly nostalgic feel. But the unlit night time exteriors were harsh and contrasty on film, so an Alexa Mini was the choice to keep the ice-cream look through the night.

“Digital works very well underexposed. For one particular sequence, we wanted something that would look radically different from the 35mm film and an iPhone 6S with Moondog Lab’s anamorphic adapter did the trick. Important note: all digital sequences went through a film-out process – transferring the digital material to 35mm negative. This allowed us to retain the organic quality of celluloid throughout the entire film. We are living through privileged times, when the amount of tools available to filmmakers has never been greater. Let’s rock them all!”

“Happy End”

DP Christian Berger on his control panel on "Happy End"

DP Christian Berger on his control panel on “Happy End”

Loan Gavrilovici

Dir: Michael Haneke, DP: Christian Berger
Camera: Arri Alexa
Lens: Cooke S4i

Berger: “Since my last analog work on ‘White Ribbon’ (also from Michael Haneke) I used the Alexa and Alexa Mini on all my features. After some very frustrating digital experiences — during the ‘future is now’ years and ‘the all problem solver’ cameras — I could find my peace with digital cinematography through the Arri Alexa because of its fine cinematic look, reliable handling and a company which understood our professional needs and always stands behind you.

“I loved from the beginning on the Cooke lenses. They are as ‘sharp’ as other high end lenses, but less ‘hard,’ and they are unbeatable when dealing with glare. Another pro for the Alexa with the Cookes is that the Arri sensor reacts on the finest light-tuning in a very subtle way. In combination with my Cine Reflect Lighting System (CRLS) they work beautifully together and I can achieve images with high brilliancy and a very transparent look.”





Dir: Naomi Kawase, DP:Arata Dodo
Camera: Arri Amira, Sony A7S

Dodo: “This camera has a very wide sensor that allowed to capture light, ‘all lights.'”

“Hochelaga, Land of Souls”

"Hochelaga, Land of Souls"

“Hochelaga, Land of Souls”

Mar lène Gélineau Payette

Dir: François Girard, DP: Nicolas Bolduc
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini, 4:3
Lens: Hawks V-Lights

Bolduc: “The film was shot almost entirely with a roaming steadicam so I needed a flexible and lightweight camera for all situations, which the Mini provided. The Hawks V-Light were a hell of an asset for us because they open wide and have beautiful imperfections that make the edges round and soft, like the old school anamorphic lenses that I love. The lenses gave the film a distinct look and I used them to glue all the periods together aesthetically.”

“I Kill Giants”

"I Kill Giants"

“I Kill Giants”

Dir: Anders Walter, DP: Rasmus Heise
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4i

Heise: “The movie revolves around a 13-year old girl. Director Anders Walter and I wanted to tell the story from her point-of-view. This meant that the camera would be at her height or lower almost all the time. For this reason I shot most of the movie with the camera on a gimbal, hanging from an Easy-rig. So our camera choices were somewhat limited for this reason. The gimbal has weight and size restrictions. We both love the look of Alexa, so the Mini really was an easy choice. The restriction also limited our lens choices. The movie also has some CGI elements, so we didn’t want lenses with too many artifacts.

“After testing we chose the 27mm as ‘her’ lens. Almost all of Barbara’s closeups in the movie is shot with this lens. Every other character was shot with longer lenses, mostly over shoulder. This made the scenes feel very subjective. Because of the wide lens, the camera was very close to Barbara all the time. I really like that feel of being close to someone with the camera. We went for a natural look on this movie. I love to light minimalistic. I didn’t put up a single back light on this entire film. I like few sources and soft light. The story is about this fragile little person. So we didn’t want to do very imposing cinematography. I want to thank everybody on the crew. This really was a big team effort.”

“I Love You Daddy”

"I Love You, Daddy"

“I Love You, Daddy”

Dir: Louis CK, DP: Paul Koestner
Camera: Arri ST, LT
Lens: Leica Summicrons, Arri Ultra Primes, Angenieux 25-250

Koestner: “When Louie first approached me about shooting this feature, he said he wanted to do it in film, specifically B&W. I’ve had limited experience in 35mm over the years, certainly less so with B&W, so had some learning to do. As a result I went to a family I’ve known since film school, the Sheitingers over at TCS. In my mind, Erik and Oliver are the go-to folks when it comes to Arriflex film, and they seemed tickled to dust off some of their ‘classic’ equipment to handle what was at least partially an experiment in replicating a look from the past.

“Louie self-financed this venture, and while he doesn’t own a 35mm film package, he does have plenty of optics, so it made sense to use what he had. My first concern was lens speed. I’ve become quite comfortable in the world of digital photography, with its current 800 ISO paradigm. A two-stop loss (5222, presently KODAK’s only B&W negative in production, is rated 200 in tungsten light) was a renewed challenge, particularly on a small project with a tight schedule. At T2, the chosen sets (Summicrons and Ultra Primes) are Louie’s fastest, and we basically used them interchangeably, focal length being the deciding factor on any set-up. In fact a few times we rented out a couple Master Primes during practical night locations to grab one more stop. Let’s see if anybody can tell the difference.”

“Journey’s End”

“Journey’s End”

Dir: Saul Dibb, DP: Laurie Rose
Lens: Zeiss Superspeed

Rose: “The approach for ‘Journeys End’s’ was to subvert any traditional notion of a WW1 story. There’s no romance in such brutality and I wanted to adopt a realistic feel, almost verité, immersive, up-close experience. A lot of handheld by me, in very real tight space. Likewise, Zeiss Superspeed lenses are small form and very fast which meant I could use almost completely practical light on interiors. I used clusters of candles, oil lamps, and low wattage bare bulbs to light the desperate conditions below ground. I pushed the capability of camera, lenses (and my focus puller) on those dark interiors, but they all held up brilliantly, so it was very much the right tool for the job. The claustrophobia and fear can almost be tasted in the finished film.”




AccuSoft Inc.

Dir: Deniz Ergüven, DP David Chizallet
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Panavision C-series primes

Chizallet: “For ‘Kings’ it was very important for Deniz Ergüven and I to establish a kind of romantic naturalism. The story is about tragedy and sad true events during the L.A. riots and we follow several characters inside this tragic context with a touch of comedy. The combination of the C-series primes and the Alexa sensor gave us the right palette and strong contrasts we needed with a subtle touch of softness.”


"Kodachrome" DP Alan Poon

“Kodachrome” DP Alan Poon

Christos Kalohoridis

Dir: Mark Raso, DP: Alan Poon
Camera: Arricam ST, LT
Lens: Zeiss Master Primes

Poon: “Early on there was some debate about the best way to capture this story, and the merits of shooting on film vs. digital. We decided that shooting on film seemed like the most poetic choice for the story of a dying photographer who only shot on film. We wanted to create a look that was naturalistic and had a timeless quality, while also making sure our contemporary story didn’t feel overly nostalgic or sentimental. For that reason we chose the sharpest, most modern lenses possible — Zeiss Master Primes — and went with Kodak 250D (5207) and 500T (5219) film stock.

“Based on my tests the grain was never an issue, even on the big screen the tonality was so smooth and pleasing to the eye. After choosing our lenses, we naturally landed on the Arricam ST and LT bodies which were versatile and easily adaptable to every scenario we threw at them. In effect, our ability to shoot on film became this quiet commentary on the battle of analog in the digital era and paralleled our characters’ struggles in finding their way through an increasingly digital world.”

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