IndieWire reached out to the filmmakers with films premiering at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival to ask which cameras and lenses they used and, more importantly, why they were the right ones for their movies.
A few trends emerged. Once again, ARRI’s digital cameras reign supreme as the choice of international auteurs and their cinematographers. Meanwhile, 13 cinematograhers shot on celluloid, including eight of the 21 competition films gunning for the Palme d’Or: “Ash is the Purest White,” “Shoplifters,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Lazzaro Felice,” “Sorry Angel,” “Leto,” “Knife + Heart” and “Ayka.”
A handful of films relied on smaller, less expensive cameras that fit their budgets and circumstances, including two documentaries that used outdated DVCAM and HDV formats when they began as one-person shoots many years ago. Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who is still banned from making films in his home country, used Canon 5d mark and Sony a7s, while Terry Gilliam mixed in a little GoPro footage with his more traditional cinema cameras (using Vittorio Storaro’s one-of-a-kind handmade lenses from ‘Apocalypse Now’) while shooting “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”
(Answers have been edited for length and clarity)
Dir: Jafar Panahi
DP: Amin Jafari
Format: 4k H264
Camera: Canon 5d mark 4, Sony a7s mark ll
Lens: Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2
Jafari: Sony A7s series is very good for low light (mostly used at night) in low budget movies. We used small equipment because of the scenes in the car and the limited budget we had.
Dir: Stéphane Brizé
DP: Eric Dumont
Format: 3.2K, PRORES 4444 HQ for the days, ARRIRAW for the nights
Camera: ARRI Alexa mini
Lens: Sigma Cine Prime Zooms (18-35mm T2, 50-100mm T2), Sigma Cine Primes (14,20, 24, 50, 85mm, T1.5), Zeiss Compact zoom (70-200mm T2.9)
Dumont: The choice of the camera and lenses were driven by the director’s vision of the whole movie: handheld camera, “plan séquence” [a long take that constitutes an entire scene], and no makeup for actors. Reality at its best. For “At War,” Stéphane Brizé wanted to shoot the film in long-sequence shots that would last 30 to 40 minutes. Alexa Mini seemed the obvious choice for me. It’s lightweight and easy to operate on the go. I chose the Sigma Ciné lenses, and most especially the 50/100mm T2 zoom — which I used for most of the film — because to me, they were the fastest, softest, most compact zooms and gave a smooth sharpness to the picture.
I rated the camera mostly at 1600 ISO, even by daylight, because I wanted to add grain and texture in this ultra-realistic setup. We were at the border between documentary and fiction, acting and reality, so this helped me to go more into the fiction. This texture and grain helped me to have a softer and deeper image while using zoom lenses.
I had to light every set at every angle, 360-degree cover, to fit the sequence shot format, using only indirect light to give a very natural and realistic feel.
Courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival
Dir: Sergey Dvortsevoy
DP: Jolanta Dylewska
Format: IAR: 1.78:1; Super 16 mm Film, Kodak Vision 3 7219+7207; Fuji 500 D 8692, RAWFILES
Camera: Aaton LTR Super 16 + Blackmagic Pocket Cinema
Lens: Carl Zeiss Distagon 16 +25 mm/1:1.2
Dylewska: My motto during the shooting was the hyperrealism of the image, and my dream was that winter, snow and chill would correlate (as in Shakespeare) with what is happening in the soul and heart of the main character. The heroes of our film — the Kyrgyz gastarbeiters — resembled to me the background figures from Dutch paintings: a little invisible, always in the shade, a bit out of focus, covered with grain. I managed to create pictorial texture of the image by pushing both the Super 16mm film stock and the BPC sensor. The old, worn-out Zeiss lenses gave us a softer look as compared to the latest generation of primes. I hope that this will help to generate a deeper relation between the viewers and the characters of our film.
And the light? When shooting exteriors, our lamp was the sun covered with a thick layer of clouds. The interior lighting was based on practicals. We worked with non-professional actors, and with actors with no previous film experience. We were shooting one-take scenes and one-take sequences. The technology behind the filmmaking could not intimidate our actors.
David Lee/Focus Features
Dir: Spike Lee
DP: Chayse Irvin
Format: Kodak 35mm Film
Camera: Panavision XL2, Arricam LT, Aaton Penelope
Lens: Panavision PVintage Lenses
Irvin: It wasn’t really that I chose these tools, they chose us. I experimented with many ideas in pre-production, video, 16mm, 35mm, Ektachrome, anamorphic lenses, spherical lenses, modern lenses, vintage lenses. Then I viewed the footage naked, free of an obstructed view about a format or practice. I was really hypnotized by the 35mm images, and additionally when it was flashed with a Panaflasher 3. Somehow it felt fresh to me, it challenged me. Kodak had just opened a new Lab in NYC and I interpreted all these signs as the film telling us this is what it needed to be. It’s a very Wu Wei approach to filmmaking, but I never want the images to feel contrived and symbolic, to avoid that I have to let it all grow from within the process.
The choice to shoot film became a freeing process to me. Free not in the sense of free from constraints, but the opposite, being subject to the hardness and the laws around shooting film that don’t exist in filmmaking much anymore. We as a crew of all artists all knew our feeling of freedom, of creation and control in our craft, reaches its pinnacle when we have stopped doing anything voluntarily and instead do everything necessary. Film created this sense of necessity, and it made us all stronger and more determined. The excitement and enthusiasm it gave us really inspired this Spike Lee Joint.
ARCHIMEDE S.r.l. - LE PACTE S.a.s
Dir: Matteo Garrone
DP: Nicolaj Bruel
Format: 3.4 K ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke SF Anamorphics
Bruel: Arri Alexa cameras are, in my opinion, the best option there is, if you have to shoot digital. It has the best reproduction of skin tones, which is very important. I believe the human eye is extremely advanced when it comes to reading another human being’s reactions. Skin has so many colors and tones that other digital cameras, up until now, have had difficulty reproducing in a satisfying way.
In this case, the choice of lenses came from the desire to get a good balance between softness and contrast. I’m generally not so fond of the otherwise quite hip soft ’70s look with lots of flares and blue streaks. I guess it depends on the movie, but in this case, this was not what we were after. I like the 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the way the anamorphic lenses have a shallower depth of field. I feel it helps me bring the actors forward in frame, making them stand out from the background. The Cooke SF Anamorphics holds a nice contrast, while they still look soft enough on skin. It was important to keep a lot of darkness in “Dogman,” but at the same time we wanted to show the somewhat rough locations around Naples in a respectful way. That, and the fact that the first note I got from Matteo was that he saw the film as a kind of a modern western, made me quite sure that the anamorphic format was what we should go for. It was not an easy choice, actually. “Dogman” had a relatively small budget and I knew that much of the film Matteo would operate handheld himself. The 65 mm macro, which we both learned to love, is a beast, but luckily Matteo is super strong… and handsome and clever ;0)”
“Girls of the Sun”
Dir: Eva Husson
DP: Mattias Troelstrup
Format: 2.8K ProRes
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic
Troelstrup: “In a earlier stage, the director Eva Husson and I chose to shoot 2.39:1 — we both wanted a more cinematic feel rather than going documentary on this film. We tested this format from all of our stills from our scout. This film was mostly about faces and feelings, therefore we chose the Alexa Mini with Cooke Anamorphic lenses. I find the Alexa a great choice for skin tones and highlights. I tend not to shoot with soft filters, and the Cooke lenses have a great soft feeling to skin tones. We worked with a Lut created with my colorist Lionel Kopp and DIT. The look of the film was created from stills from our scout, where we explored how the light behaved in each locations. We did not have a great lighting budget, so we went to a flea market to come up with ideas to light the set. The night scenes were especially tricky, because who would turn on a light in a war zone where the enemy would spot you?
© Teresa Isasi
Dir: Asghar Farhadi
DP: José Luis Alcaine
Format: 16 x 9
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4
Alcaine: If you shoot on 2.35:1, it’s problematic — and in the end, many screens can’t accommodate the whole picture; you lose the edges. We chose to shoot 16 x 9, which offers the same quality without the problems. The Alexa Mini is small and light. Almost all of Asghar’s scenes are shot handheld, and with another camera this becomes very tiring. The Cooke S4 lens offers a beautiful quality for the actors’ skin. Digital provides almost too much detail. The Cooke S4 is much subtler and softer for capturing the skin tones.
Dir: Alice Rohrwacher
DP: Hélène Louvart
Format: Super 16 mm, 1.85:1
Camera: Arri 416 /super 16mm
Lens: Ultra Prime Zeiss (35mm lenses)
Louvart: For the director, Alice, she used to shoot in Super 16mm. It’s something very important for her; the 16mm’s feeling is the right answer for her visual world. Not totally perfect, grainy sometimes, slightly out of focus sometimes, but gives a deep feeling of something “organic.” And we are still surprised with the “16mm feeling” because we can’t control it 100 percent. We used the 416 Arri camera because the eyepiece is bright and very precise. And these sort of lenses get the best resolution, especially for the wide shots.
courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival
Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov
DP: Vladislav Opeliants
Format: ARRIRAW, 16mm Film
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini. For the colored fragments we used a 16mm Eclair camera.
Lens: Hawk Anamorphic and Angénieux lenses with the 16mm Eclair
Opeliants: All my latest films were shot with the Alexa Mini. As we have a black & white film, it was very important for us to have the whole spectrum from white to black. I also made the choice towards Alexa Mini as I had a lot of handheld camera and the camera moving together with the actors. For me it was really important that the camera is light. I also think the Alexa Mini has an ideal matrix for a perfect color correction. Our 16mm camera and lenses dated back to 1973. We used an old camera to ensure that the image corresponds to that era and that we could get as close as possible to the image of that time. We used 16mm Kodak film, of course.
Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda
DP: Kondo Ryuto
Format: 35mm Film, 3 perf
Camera: ArriCam ST
Lens: Leica Summicron-C prime lenses
Ryuto: I knew that director Kore-eda loves shooting with 35mm film, but for this film I also thought that 35mm film was the best choice because the texture of the surface and the color that a grain of the stock (EK5219) gives was the best suited to the film. My senior Japanese cinematographer said about 35mm film: “The color captured in 35mm film is the color which is in our memory.” By using the power of 35mm film, I tried to capture every moment of this family living in a corner of modern Tokyo.
Courtesy of A24
Dir: David Robert Mitchell
DP: Michael Gioulakis
Format: ProRes XQ, 2.35 aspect ratio
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4
“The Wild Pear Tree”
Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
DP: Gökhan Tiryaki
Format: Redraw 6K 3.1 compress, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Second camera: DJI 4K DNG RAW MF 4:3 Sensor, 2.39:1 aspect ratio
Camera: Red Weapon 6K and DJI Osmo handle zenmuse X5R camera 4K
Lens: Zeiss master prime spherical set for Red camera. Olympus MF 4/3 lances for DJI camera.
Tiryaki: Digital cameras have similar range to each other. Our priority is to have a big sensor [and] considering red color data on shades of skin. RED is very good for shades of skin, and we are satisfied from its bigger sensor (larger than super 35). I think that, in general, the mode of the movie is independent from camera and it is related to light and frame. We used the DJI osmo handle instead of Steadicam, because our director requested practical solutions for long takes.
Desert Highway Pictures
Dir: A.B Shawky
DP: Federico Cesca
Format: ProRes 4444, Log-c, 2K
Camera: ARRI Alexa Classic Pro
Lens: Master Primes
Cesca: “Yomeddine” is probably the hardest film I’ve shot, and it was only my third feature. We were working with animals, and children, and the cast was in its majority made of non-actors. In many ways, it felt like a documentary. All of the film was shot on location, with a rather minimal lighting package and minimal crew, so I needed a camera that could keep up with the pace and the conditions as an extension of my shoulder. So I knew I would need a very reliable camera — and I don’t mean just not overheating, or breaking down due to dust or other environment circumstance. I mean also a sensor that would give me the best latitude and most natural color rendering. So the Alexa was my first choice. Perhaps if I were to shoot it today, I would go for the Amira or even the Mini, but Arri’s sensor is still the one that I believe delivers the most natural-looking images. I paired it with Master Primes because we got a deal on those and I really liked them, although I would generally go for softer, old lenses to give the image a gentler quality. I used Glimmerglass diffusion to counter the extreme sharpness of the lenses. Ultimately, I hope the resulting image feels honest and direct and helps the audience feel the emotion and texture of that rich and complex world in which our heroes’ journey take place.
Next Page: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and Cannes Special Screenings