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Sundance 2018: Here Are the Cameras Used to Shoot This Year’s Documentaries

Nonfiction filmmakers talk about creating the look of their films and how unique production demands dictated their equipment choices.

Kevin Kerslake shooting Joan Jett for "Bad Reputation"

Kevin Kerslake shooting Joan Jett for “Bad Reputation”

Ryan Kane Fitzgerald

Category: World Cinema Documentary Competition

“Anote’s Ark”

A film still from <i>Anote's Ark</i> by Matthieu Rytz, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Matthieu Rytz. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Anote’s Ark”

Eye Steel Film

Dir: Matthieu Rytz
Camera: Sony A7S
Lens: Only prime lenses: Zeiss loxia 28mm, Zeiss loxia 35mm, Zeiss loxia 85mm

Ritz: “As a photographer, I only use prime lenses, so in a way I am very happy with this choice as it gave a very nice cinematographic look to the movie. I think that the direction of photography is good and I am glad with it. But, on the other hand, if I had used zoom lenses I would have made a much better coverage of every scene that would have helped the editor. But regardless some difficulties using prime lenses, I think I would have used the same gear if I had to start again.”

“The Cleaners”

"The Cleaners"

“The Cleaners”

Sundance

Dir: Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck
Camera: The main camera was the Sony XDCAM PXW-FS7 Camcorder. The second camera was Sony a7s II (Alpha 7S II).
Lens: We had the Canon L-Series photo zooms throughout the whole range (wide-tele) with us. We added a couple Zeiss classic primes to the set for interviews and to be more flexible when it came to low light shooting.

Block/Riesewieck: “For us the combination of the Sony FS7 and the smaller A7SII was the perfect fit for maneuvering through a mix of investigative shoots as well as controlled shooting environments like the empty office spaces or the green screen studios all over the world. We also opted for cameras that were capable of dealing with a vast variety of low light situations. Manila for example was mostly lenses at nighttime. We aimed for a feel that would remind the audience of a Gotham City or Blade Runner kind of city. Grimy, shadowy, dark.”

“Genesis 2.0”

"Genesis 2.0"

“Genesis 2.0”

Sundance

Dir: Christian Frei, Maxim Arbugaev
Camera: Sony FS700 (Islands) Sony F 55 (labs)
Lens: Canon and Sony photo-lenses (Islands)

Arbugaev: “The biggest challenge was to carry the needed amount of equipment on our backs. We lived on constant move, following the hunters from place to place searching for tusks. We had to walk 15-20 km per day for almost two months. There is a special natural light in the Arctic; most of the time the sky is overcast, which creates an effect of diffuse light. The landscape is simplistic, and there is not much color. This contributed to the almost-monochromatic look.

The most difficult scene was actually filmed on iPhone. One night, while my assistant and I were sleeping in a tent, a polar bear with two cubs came to our camp. I woke up from the sound of a polar bear breathing into my ear through the tent. I took my iPhone and stretched out my hand from the tent and started to film them with my iPhone. I couldn’t see what I was filming actually. Later I checked the video file and found that the huge polar bear was staying just one meter away from the phone. This shot ended up in the film.”

“Matangi / MAYA / M.I.A.”

Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam appears in <i>MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.</i> by Steve Loveridge, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Steve Loveridge. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Matangi / MAYA / M.I.A.”

Sundance

Dir: Steve Loveridge
Camera: C-300 for the contemporary shoots. Many mixed formats for the archival, lots of mini-DV.
Lens: too many to count…

Loveridge: “Even though the film covers 20+ years, Maya still looks young and it’s hard to tell in some footage when she’s 20 and when she’s 40, and so it was important for the contemporary shoots to look significantly different to the archive, but still be intimate and hand-held. C300 has a lovely, soapy, not-too-digital feel and just suited her.”

“Of Fathers and Sons”

Talal Derki with his subjects in "Of Fathers and Sons"

Talal Derki with his subjects in “Of Fathers and Sons”

Talal Derki

Dir: Talal Derki
Camera: Canon C300 and some small Sony Camcorders
Lens: Canon

Derki: “We picked the Canon C300 because it is a professional camera [that’s] also very user-friendly and easy to handle in a team of only two people. The dynamic range is great. It works well in difficult light conditions and has a high-quality codec. It was the perfect tool for shooting under these difficult circumstances in Syria.”

“The Oslo Diaries”

“The Oslo Diaries” directors Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan

“The Oslo Diaries” directors Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan

Saar Yaacov

Dir: Mor Loushy, Daniel Sivan
Camera: Arri Amira
Lens: Arri Alura 30”-80”mm

Loushy/Sivan: “Filming ‘The Oslo Diaries,’ we conducted interviews with the original participants of the secret negotiations in Israel, Palestine, U.S.A, Jordan, France, and the U.K. Despite the different locations, we aspired to create a similar look that would convey an intimate confession-booth atmosphere — one that contradicts the ‘formal’ interviews with politicians, in which they are usually flooded with soft light and filmed in the safety of their office. We wanted to create a reflective environment in which we could feel their wrinkles and imperfections — bringing out their humanity and sorrow for the peace that was lost, and giving them a chance to reflect without presenting a shiny, glossy performance. The Arri Amira gave us this exact cinematic look we were looking for.”

“Our New President”

A film still from <i>Our New President</i> by Maxim Pozdorovkin, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Our New President”

Sundance

Dir: Maxim Pozdorovkin
Camera: The film is mostly archival, but there was some additional footage shot on cell phones and a Panasonic lx100.

Pozdorovkin: “Each chapter and each sequence in the film had its own organizing principle. This film involved a lot of play with the visual vocabulary and rhetoric of Russian television news. The film is a distillation of propaganda, and therefore we would frequently use techniques borrowed from factual TV but use them in subversive ways.”

“A Polar Year”

Asser Boassen appears in <i>A Polar Year</i> by Samuel Collardey, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“A Polar Year”

Sundance

Dir: Samuel Collardey
Camera: I mostly used an ARRI Alexa mini. I also used a drone DJI. To shoot the Northern Lights, I used a Sony Alpha 7 camera on 40000 ISO.
Lens: Zeiss GO lenses

Collardey: “The shooting took place in Greenland, during the winter. Sometimes, it was – 22°C (-8 °F). The crew was very small; we were only six people on the set, so I didn’t use a lot of equipment and it had to be small and light. So I decided to use a small camera and small lenses.”

“Shirkers”

"Shirkers"

“Shirkers”

Sundance

Dir: Sandi Tan
Camera: Sony FS7 for the contemporary footage (2015-2017), Arri-something for the 16mm shot in 1992, and some Super8 cameras
Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm, Canon EF 70-200mm, Canon EF 16-35mm

Tan: “The FS, as handled by my diminutive yet formidable DP Iris Ng (best known for “Stories We Tell”), was small enough that Iris could carry it on her shoulder for the verite shots and then, because Iris is tiny enough, she could hide behind it during the refreshingly frank interviews with my best fiends. She could make herself and her camera invisible while said fiends and I argued and embarrassed ourselves.”

“This Is Home”

Behind the scenes of "This Is Home"

Behind the scenes of “This Is Home”

Gidalya Pictures

Dir: Alexandra Shiva
Camera: Canon EOS C300 EF
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f4 zoom, Canon 17-120 Cine-Servo T.2.95 zoom, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 Version II zoom, Canon 24-70mm f2.8 Version II zoom

Shiva: “In choosing a camera, we had to keep in mind that the families had just arrived in the US from traumatic circumstances, had left friends and family members behind, and were now in a place where they didn’t speak the language and had few options. Therefore, it was a priority for us to be as unobtrusive as possible and sensitive to our impact upon them as a film crew, and yet still capture intimate and beautiful images. We wanted a low-profile camera package that was both versatile and compact, that had wide latitude and dynamic range, and a rich color palette. We aimed to render the beauty, charisma, and vibrancy of these families, which shone through despite the difficulties they faced.”

“Westwood”

"Westwood" Director Lorna Tucker

“Westwood” Director Lorna Tucker

James Moriarty

Dir: Lorna Tucker
Camera: Arri Alexa and Arri Amira
Lens: Cooke and Angenieux

Tucker: “I wanted to make sure the film would hold up on a cinema screen, and also give a more film aesthetic. Let’s face it: Who wants to be shot in HD over the age of 20?”

“A Woman Captured”

"A Woman Captured"

“A Woman Captured”

Sundance

Dir: Bernadett Tuza-Ritter
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Sigma 24-70mm, f2.8

Tuza-Ritter: “I shot in an environment where it was very important for me to have small and compact tools. It was also important for my protagonist not to feel exposed and intimidated by a camera that was recording her in a vulnerable situation.

I wish I could have used other lenses, but I had no budget for that. But I had a very conscious and unusual visual concept, and I think and hope that that and the work of the colorist, Ádám Vándor, made up for the lack of professional equipment. I mainly use close-ups to portray captivity, so that part of the film is intimate, but after the escape I change the visual style.”

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