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Cannes Cinematography Survey: Here’s the Cameras and Lenses Used to Shoot 54 Films

The world’s best cinematographers talk about how they created the look of the highly anticipated features about to premiere at Cannes.

Waad al-Kateab filming “For Sama”

Waad al-Kateab

IndieWire reached out to the cinematographers whose feature films are premiering at the Cannes Film Festival to find out which cameras and lenses they used and, more importantly, why these were the right tools to create the visual language of their films.

Page 1: Competition (Palme d’Or Contenders)
Page 2: Out of Competition & Special Screenings
Page 3: Un Certain Regard & Critics’ Week
Page 4: Directors’ Fortnight

(Films are in alphabetical order by title.)


“Atlantics” cinematographer Claire Mathon

courtesy of filmmaker


Dir: Mati Diop, DoP: Claire Mathon

Format: Digital, 1.66 aspect ratio, post production was done in 2K
Camera: Red Epic 5K and Panasonic Varicam35 4K
Lens: Angenieux 45/120 and 25/250, and Zeiss lenses T1.3

Mathon: We chose the Red Epic to shoot daytime, to give romance to images that were captured in a documentary way, and to enhance the sun-drenched sets. We wanted to make a film that was visually arresting but remained very grounded in reality

We chose Varicam at night for its great sensitivity that allowed us to visibly film neighborhoods of Dakar almost plunged into darkness. The texture is a bit matte, and the rendering of flares and shine, especially on the skin, work with the fantastical dimension of the film while still capturing the soul of the Senegalese capital. We wanted the viewer to feel the dust, humidity and the ocean spray.

“Atlantics” is a movie of ghosts. The work on the materials, the elements (setting sun, ocean, etc.) and the ability to capture black skin in the night was very important.

The lightness of the chosen tools allowed me to shoot the film either on my shoulder with an easyrig (mostly) or on foot with a very long focal length, in a documentary approach: I could turn fast, catch things on the fly, and improvise in the moment.

"Bacurau" DP Pedro Sotero and director Kleber Mendonça

“Bacurau” DP Pedro Sotero and director Kleber Mendonça

Nicolau Saldanha


Dir: Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, DoP: Pedro Sotero

Format: 3.4K Open Gate Arriraw
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavison Anamorphic C and E series, Angenieux 11:1 Panavision rear-mounted anamorphic zoom.

Sotero: Since the beginning of my conversations with [directors] Juliano and Kleber about the look of “Bacurau,” we all agreed that the film should have a classic widescreen image and a set of Panavision C Series Anamorphic lenses seemed to be the perfect match to the image we desired to achieve. The idea of shooting a near future Brazilian western, shot in very rough isolated locations, with the lenses that shot 70’s and 80’s classics like “Raiders of Lost Ark,” “Deliverance” and “The Thing,” but with a modern 4:3 open gate digital sensor of a very compact and reliable camera as the Alexa mini, seemed to be the best way to go for the film.

The film is set in the Sertão, a drought stricken region in the Northeast of Brazil, which is well known for its role in important chapters in Brazilian history (War of Canudos, the Cangaço), literature and cinema (“Antonio das Mortes,” by Glauber Rocha, “Central Station” by Walter Salles and many others. It’s also a region known for it’s strong people, very harsh sunlight and a dry, gray and hostile landscape. We decided to put a twist on this classic Brazilian imaginary for the look of “Bacurau,” incorporating a less known, greener and livelier landscape that is the region’s raining season, but completely respecting it’s arid and rough inherent nature.

Shooting in very extreme locations and light conditions of the Brazilian Sertão, day and night for 8 weeks, it was important to count on the extra latitude and color space that arriraw provides, to keep the rich skin tones, strong high lights and dense skies of the region.

"The Dead Don't Die"

“The Dead Don’t Die”

courtesy of Cannes

“The Dead Don’t Die”

Dir: Jim Jarmusch, DoP: Frederick Elmes

Format: ProRes 4.4K
Camera: Arri Alexa LF
Lens: DNA prime lens set, Angenieux EZ Zoom lens and 28-76mm zoom with extender

Elmes: Taking advantage of the camera’s larger image size, using wider focal length lenses and shallow depth of field, we kept the camera close to our characters to help us feel we were there with them, experiencing the world going haywire. This also emphasized the frightful looks of our ghouls when they appeared on screen. I also wanted to take advantage of the mismatched qualities inherent in the DNA lenses. Each has a unique quality — some are less contrasty, some not quite so sharp at the edges — which when combined with some simple diffusion netting and special ‘flair’ filters we built, added an unpredictable element to our visual style. I enhanced the growing sense of unease in the story by mixing multiple light sources and shooting many night scenes during daylight hours.

The Alexa’s color space gave me the assurance I would have enough “stretch” in the image to do what I needed later and the information to complete the visual effects seamlessly. The LF Camera’s large sensor provided the “stretch” necessary to capture the range of exposure and contrast I wanted to work with on this movie. And the Alexa color space gave me the assurance I would have the control necessary in post production to seamlessly complete the visual effects.

Frankie Ira Sachs Rui Poças

“Frankie” director Ira Sachs and DP Rui Poças

André Príncie / SBS Productions


Dir: Ira Sachs, DoP: Rui Poças AIP

Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW; 1.66:1 aspect ratio
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4; Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm

Poças: The choice of the camera and lenses were driven by the vision we wanted for the whole movie: A natural feel like the one we could get in some 70’s and 80’s French color movies. Also we wanted a versatile lightweight camera that was easy to operate. I rated the camera at 800 ISO as it seemed the best choice for the average light conditions and the kind of image we were looking for.

The Cooke lenses have a great soft felling and for that reason we chose the Cooke S4, which are subtle for capturing the skin tones. According to the specific cinematic approach developed with Ira Sachs in the preparation, we framed “Frankie” in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio using mostly the 35mm and the 50mm lenses, which we felt conveyed the kind of approach we wanted for the audience. The camera follows the action at a “human distance” but doesn’t obey any desire to get closer or change the point of view. The characters actions simply take place in front of us and it is not up to the camera to point out any detail or dramatically underline a given situation.

I chose the Alexa sensor because we knew that it would give us a full range in latitude and true color. Also, one of our ideas in making this film was to create images in the most pure and natural way possible in both lighting and composition. This movie was Ira Sachs’ first feature in digital and Arri Alexa was the best choice for the job.

"A Hidden Life" cinematographer Joerg Widmer

“A Hidden Life” cinematographer Joerg Widmer

Reiner Bajo

“A Hidden Life”

Dir: Terrence Malick, DoP: Jörg Widmer

Format & Camera: RED Epic Dragon 6K, we switched to RED Epic-W Helium 7K for the winter scenes, always 2 camera bodies, one equipped with Skintone Highlight, the second with Low Light. OLPF [Optical Low Pass Filters], all shot in RAW
Lens: We used the ARRI Masterprimes 12mm as main lens, 16mm as our long lens and sometimes the Ultraprime 8R

Widmer: The director Terrence Malick wanted us to be explorers, able to shoot like a documentary crew, mostly with natural light. We were always looking for backlight, for which we needed lightweight cameras with lenses, which could take a lot of contrast without flaring and with a huge range of latitude. The actors should be able to move quite freely and keep their energy. We prepared the cameras in a setup, which allowed us to change from steadicam to slider or handheld in less than a minute. The takes could last from 4 to 40 minutes without a break. In interiors, we switched to the low light camera to capture as much as possible of the dark interiors in the rural homes, stables and prison cells. The RED IPP2 pipeline allowed us in postproduction to preserve the details in the bright skies and windows as well as in the dark parts of locations and faces, which was surprising considering the fact that there was hardly any artificial lighting for most of the movie.

"Les Misérables" director Ladj Ly

“Les Misérables” director Ladj Ly

“Les Misérables”

Dir: Ladj Ly, DoP: Juilien Poupard

Format: 3.2K Arriraw
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Zoom angenieux optimo (15-40/28-76/45-120)

Ladj Ly: We were looking for a device that would make the film look like a documentary, to be attentive to all possible situations and improvisation. We were looking for a human point of view, as if the camera could be a film character. For this we chose a lightweight camera and zoom.

"Matthias and Maxime"

“Matthias and Maxime”

Shayne Laverdiere

“Matthias and Maxime”

Dir: Xavier Dolan, DoP: André Turpin

Format: Kodak 5219 and 5213 Super35 mm, Kodak 500 T 5219 65mm, Kodak 7219 500T (super 8)
Camera: Arricam LT, Arri 765 for one sequence, Arri Alexa Mini for one drone shot and one underwater shot
Lens: Master Primes, Angénieux lightweight zooms, Arri large format lenses from the eighties.

Turpin: I primarily use Master Primes for their sharpness and speed. Xavier also wanted to do fast, quirky, and nervous zoom movements for the handheld work to accentuate the spontaneity and chaotic feel of the frenzied overlapping dialogue between the boys. For that, my camera operator Yves Bélanger (who happens to be a wonderful cinematographer) and I (I operated the occasional 2nd camera), used the Angénieux lightweight 28-76 zooms.

When he was not acting, Xavier would operate the remote controls himself and surprise and destabilize us with quick in and out zooms. We also used the 65mm format for a climactic love scene to have it emerge from the rest of the film. Very satisfying of course.

“Matthias and Maxime” has a different aesthetic if you compare it to Dolan’s previous work. It’s more natural, fresh, and simple, not as lit, flashy, colorful or contrasting.

Oh Mercy!

“Oh Mercy!”

courtesy of Cannes

“Oh Mercy!”

Dir: Arnaud Desplechin, DoP: Irina Lubtchansky

Format: 1.85, digital.
Camera: Red Monstro, 6K, color IPP2
Lens: Panavision Primo lenses 70MM with Panavision primo ZOOM (25/275)

Desplechin: As soon as I finished the script, I started shooting in scope, which I loved so much. I knew I was going to film the deprived people and the splendor, the emphasis of 2.39 did not fit the film I wanted to do. One of my biggest influences on this film was Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man.” So I came back to the format 1.85, more modest and conventional.

We shot the film in six weeks, so quickly, with four players, and the inhabitants of Roubaix, this ruined city … 1.85 in 4K, we did not like the ratio of the focal (VS Scope 2.39). We tried the 6K and 8K on Red Monstro with its new sensor. I wanted to get a lot of reality in the camera, this is a more realistic movie romance. We realized that the distance between the camera and the actors was better suited for 6K, less close, less intrusive than 8K. In 8K, I realized, with the camera on my shoulder , I was stuck under the nose of the actors! And it was not possible for me.

We were able to enjoy the wide latitude in shadows of the Monstro camera, a very soft noise rise and good color rendering. The camera is very sensitive and has allowed us to work with a little more depth of field and be more comfortable with this large sensor in wide shots. Primo 70mm were technically suited to this large sensor. They seduced us with their rendering and weight, resolution fineness (fuzzy fine), and smooth in contrast. So we could have a sharp image, but not too hard. They go very well together with the Primo lenses.

"Pain and Glory"

“Pain and Glory”

Cannes Film Festival

“Pain and Glory”

Dir: Pedro Almodovar, DoP: José Luis Alcaine

Format: 3.4K ARRIRAW
Lens: COOKE S4

Alcaine: I choose the Cooke S4 lenses because, for Pedro and me, these were the best color natural skin rendering of all the lenses we tried. Another thing we considered was wanting to have as much depth of field as possible, as I think that if you have a good depth of field on the screen there will be a lot more of information and the audience can chose where to look and in a certain way be more part of the film. The tendency of the current cinematography is to have a point of focus through the use of the 1.3, 2., or 2.8 [iris] diaphragm throughout the film. This tendency was created in the 90’s for the TV ads, and is employed now by a large number of cinematographers. And with this technique the moviegoers are not involved in the stories shown on the screen. They remain cold and no emotion arrives to them. So, after talking with Pedro who was absolutely O.K. with this, I choose to go, on the contrary, on a very high [iris] diaphragm, from 11 to 22, whenever possible. And by the way, with these diaphragms, the colors have a corporeality unattainable at others openings. The colors became rich, bright, and in a certain way enhanced like if they had relief in themselves.

Even if I have a lot of light on the set, I tried always to have a natural, and credible light, all along the movie. Anyway we finished the shooting one week earlier than the scheduled time. My light came from the art of painters like Rembrandt, Velasquez, Vermeer, Hooper, etc… I.E. at the home cave, Eduardo, the young worker, has the light of some Francis Bacon paintings, (he was like a kind of God for Salvador).

"Portrait of a Lady on Fire"

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

courtesy of Cannes

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Dir: Céline Sciamma, DoP: Claire Mathon

Format: Digital, 1:85 aspect ratio, post-production was done in 4K
Camera: Red Monstro 7K
Lens: Leica Thalia

Mathon: The choice of shooting format was discussed at a very early stage. Tests combining a 35mm/Leica Summilux and a Red Monstro/Leica Thalia gave an analogue reference for the grading of the digital images and made us choose the Red Monstro for the personification and presence that emerged from the first faces filmed. Even though Celine Sciamma’s film relates to the memory of a love story that took place in the 18th century, we did not want to highlight this dimension but, on the contrary, invent our own 18th century (“our 2018th century”) with a contemporary echo.

The precision and very rich colors give a pictorial dimension to the film. The rendering of the skin tones was essential in my work on this film full of faces and portraits. Inspired in particular by Corot’s intimate portraits, I sought both softness and a slightly satiny, unrealistic rendering while remaining natural and very vibrant.

"Sibyl" Cinematographer Simon Beaufils

“Sibyl” cinematographer Simon Beaufils


Dir: Justine Triet, DoP: Simon Beaufils

Format: ArriRaw 3,4k Full Frame aspect ratio 2.39
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Hawk Anamorphic V and V+ lenses

Beaufils: Justine Triet and I wanted “Sibyl” to go further in “mise en scène,” play with cinema’s codes, rules, try sophisticated shots to enhance scenes, and at the same time to be really discrete, not showy. I felt the 2.39 was the good ratio for this. I like to shoot in anamorphic, especially with a video camera, to have a softer texture. Hawk V lenses are a bit heavy, especially when you go on the top of a vulcano!! But with Alexa, it was a really good combination, to have subtle nuances on skins, nice vivid colors, without being too sharp. I went into low light many times to be a bit grainy, even in daylight situations. I like the feeling of Alexa’s grain, when you are a little bit too low. Skins texture, landscapes, become suddenly more organics.

"Sorry We Missed You" Cinematographer Robbie Ryan and director Ken Loach

“Sorry We Missed You” cinematographer Robbie Ryan and director Ken Loach

“Sorry We Missed You”

Dir: Ken Loach, DoP: Robbie Ryan

Format: We shot on Arri 16mm
Camera: Arri416 16mm
Lens: We used mainly Arri ultra 16 primes mixed with masterprimes

Ryan: Well Ken always likes to shoot on film as it best visualises the story he wants to tell. We usually shoot 35mm 4perf, but we couldn’t afford that route this time due to the Kodak stock prices going up sadly! So we decided to shoot 16mm, which suited the story as we were shooting in a delivery van quite a bit, so the smaller size of the camera made it easier to work in the more confined spaces. 16mm is a fantastic format because it has an inherent organic filmic feel to it… a very honest format for a very honest filmmaker.

"The Traitor"

“The Traitor”

Cannes Film Festival

“The Traitor”

Dir: Marco Bellocchio, DoP: Vladan Radovic

Format: Open Gate 3.4K ARRIRAW
Camera: 2 ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Master Prime Lenses ARRI and Zoom FUJINON ZK 25/300

Radovic: The Master Prime lenses combined with the Arri Alexa sensitivity have given me the opportunity to work with the darkness while deciding whether to add details or not in the deepest shadows. Being that the character portrayed is full of contradictions I have chosen to use my cinematography to follow his changes.

"The Whistlers" cinematographer Tudor Mircea

“The Whistlers” cinematographer Tudor Mircea

Vlad Cioplea

“The Whistlers”

Dir: Corneliu Porumboiu, DoP: Tudor Mircea

Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K Open Gate
Cameras: Arri Alexa SXT, Sony A7SII
Lens: Zeiss Master Anamorphic

Mircea: We did a lot of scouting of our locations and research into movies and artists that inspired us. The landscapes in La Gomera inspired us to go for the anamorphic format. We choose Arri Alexa for the wide latitude that allowed us to explore different looks, and for the simple way of working with this camera. After testing we decided to tell the story using Zeiss Master Anamorphic lenses for the cinematic look, high contrast, high speed, the nice focus fall-off and distortion-free image. It is also a beautiful format for portraiture.

The challenge was to find our own visual language, having in mind Edward Hopper, Hitchcock movies and film noir. We also placed a great deal importance on our set, especially the color. The production designer, art director and costume designer worked together closely to find the right colors for our story.

I used a different camera for the surveillance cameras in the movie, to give a different texture to the picture while making use of the high sensitivity that small Sony camera is offers.

"The Wild Goose Lake"

“The Wild Goose Lake”

Cannes Film Festival

“The Wild Goose Lake”

Dir: Diao Yinan, DoP: Dong Jinsong

Format:8K FF 1.89:1
Camera: RED Monstro 8K VV
Lens: Cooke s7i Prime Lenses Focal Length: 32mm 40mm 50mm 75mm 100mm

Jinsong: The humid and stuffy summer nights, sound and silence, turnings of life, souls with temperature…All the abstract text should be presented by images, but how? 80 percent of the scenes were shot at night, and they have different spaces and atmospheres. How should we deal with the overall atmosphere to engrave the details? How can we ensure that the camera could breakthrough the restrictions from the narrow space and accomplish the director’s mise-en-scene? And how do we consider the poetic expression? How can we use the heavy machinery to achieve a smart and fluid impression?

Based on the above ideas, I chose the full-frame camera and the Cooke lenses to present an “immersive feeling” of viewing. We kept a high color saturation with rich levels so that the black details in the dark part of frame have been well retained.

Young Ahmed

“Young Ahmed”

courtesy of Cannes

“Young Ahmed”

Dir: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne

Format: 4K, 1.85
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Série ZEISS T2.1

Dardennes: We chose this camera and lens for its maneuverability when it is mounted on the shoulder.

Next Page: Out of Competition/Special Screenings

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