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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.)

Un Certain Regard

Adam

“Adam”

Courtesy of Cannes

“Adam”

Dir: Maryam Touzani, DoP: Virginie Surdej

Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Leica summicron, mainly the 50 and 75mm at T2

Surdej: We wanted a very intimate camera, breathing and fragile, to film this inner journey of Abla and Samia. Every single shot in this movie is handheld, and the camera had to be very human and always part of the relationship and intimacy between the women. Nearly the whole film takes place in one house with some of the rooms, especially Abla’s home-based business kitchen, being super tight. Alexa mini, for its lightness, size and flexibility was very convenient. It gave us all we needed for this movie. We used the Leica summicron, mainly the 50 and 75mm at T2, slightly softened with glimmer diffusion. These lenses, softened a little bit, provided a very beautiful neutral and natural rendering, for a film mainly happening in close-ups. These lenses also have a very beautiful fall-off. While staying naturalistic, we worked a lot with the production designer on wall textures, color palette and practical lighting. We tried to build a pictorial image of these women, a little bit like paintings and as most of the film is an inner journey happening in one place, I was dreaming that light would correlate with what is happening in the souls and hearts of our main characters.

"Beanpole"

“Beanpole”

courtesy of Cannes

“Beanpole”

Dir: Kantemir Balagov, DoP: Ksenia Sereda

Format: 3.2К Prores 4444 XQ, 1.85 Framing
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke s4 lenses

Sereda: Before shooting we had an extensive preproduction, including pre-shooting of the whole script with actors in chosen locations and pre-grading of main scenes. So we could choose ProRes 4444 XQ, because we were quite sure about deep contrasts, color and light decisions.

Also it is important to mention the framing. We chose the 1.85 framing, because it is the best for portraits and dynamic composition while shooting handheld. Together with Alexa Mini I could feel free to follow the actors in tight spaces with huge amplitude. Cooke s4 lenses helped to save the textures and environment of our historical period. We wanted to create a reliable atmosphere with picturesque elements.

"A Brother's Love"

“A Brother’s Love”

Courtesy of Cannes

“A Brother’s Love”

Dir: Monia Chokri, DoP: Josée Deshayes

Format: Super 16mm, 7219 Kodak
Camera: Arri 416
Lens: Cooke S4

Deshayes: From the very beginning Monia Chokri was attached to super 16. It was the perfect tool for this project, it goes with her writing. The camera was light enough to be handheld and the film gave us the latitude to film snow without worrying about clipping. We knew from her short (“Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire”) that film stock gives a ritual on set, a concentration, that we tend to loose when shooting digital.

There is a tribute to the NFB (National Film Board of Canada) of the ’60 and we also used an old Canon 11-165 that was tough to match but served our purposes. We felt very free on set, even though Monia is very precise. Her direction with actors is impressive. I felt like an actor too in a way, not a DP. I was part of the organic process.

We played with colors, you’ll see, the film is quite pop! She pushed me out of my comfort zone everyday. This film was a real intricate mixture of freedom and rigor, which is probably the best thing to keep in mind in our days.

"Bull" cinematographer Shabier Kirchner

“Bull” cinematographer Shabier Kirchner

courtesy of filmmaker

“Bull”

Dir: Annie Silverstein, DoP: Shabier Kirchner

Format: Digital, 2.35 aspect ratio 2.3K
Camera: Alexa Mini’s & Amira. Sony A7S (for a speciality shot)
Lens: Panavision Ultra Speeds & Cooke/ Angenieux Zooms// Leica R’s (speciality shot)

Kirchner: From the first conversations with Annie it was quite evident that the story very much needed to be grounded in reality. With the help of Panavision (Dallas) we tested a range of different lenses and found the Ultra Speeds to have exactly what we were looking for. I think the 40mm and 65mm were our work horse lenses, I’m completely in love with the way they feel on close ups and how they handle highlights. We normally rated the camera around 1200 ISO to tease out some of the digital noise and also to help give an extra stop as it was very important for the polarizer to live in front the lens at all times to control skin tones.

Most of the film was with a handheld camera and didn’t tend to do typical coverage of scenes as it felt too stiff for what we were trying to communicate emotionally. For the rodeo sequences we normally had three cameras on the go at once and used a speciality built “helmet camera rig” with an A7S and Leica R lenses to allow us to get safely inside the ring while bulls were bucking.

"The Climb"

“The Climb”

Cannes Film Festival

“The Climb”

Dir: Michael Covino, DoP: Zach Kuperstein

Format: Prores 4444, Log-C, 3.2K (cropped to 2:1 aspect ratio)
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: The Primes were TLS-Rehoused Cooke Speed Panchros. The zoom was a Cooke Varitol 20-100mm.

Kuperstein: We chose the Alexa Mini for its smaller, lighter form factor, given that we would be doing extremely long takes. I wanted to be sure our Steadicam operator, Brendan Poutier, could sustain the shot for 10 minutes take after take, and that we could easily transition the camera from one type of support to another during the shot. It also gave us the flexibility to build the camera in many different configurations. We chose the Cooke Speed Panchros because they’re similarly lightweight, but also because they were in the classic vein of the old French films Mike referenced during prep. From the get go, we were trying to create a film that came from the French New Wave and these lenses, which were popular from the 1920s to the 1960s complimented that nicely. After doing some brief tests, we discovered that Speed Panchros and our Varitol Zoom were vignetting, but it was a soft vignette that we decided to embrace, and it made some of our pans across a room, more interesting as a reveal.

When we talked about aspect ratio, we settled on 2:1 because we realized that a large portion of the film would be two-shots of Mike and Kyle and it seemed like the symmetry of two side-by-side square frames would help that. As we went on, I became accustomed to it and really enjoyed splitting the difference between more familiar aspect ratios.

"The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao" cinematographer Hélène Louvart

“The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao” cinematographer Hélène Louvart

PEDRO MACHADO

“The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao”

Dir: Karim Aïnouz, DoP: Hélène Louvart

Format: We shot in 3.2 ARRIRAW. We chose to shoot ARRIRAW to get the best result for the highlights, to get as much as possible the details through the windows. We liked to frame the characters in back light, in front of the windows, with the feeling of the tropical sun in Rio. We looked for a picture that was slightly underexposed, to get that effect, and we knew with ARRIRAW we could get the best range for the exposure, if we wanted to change our look during the grading.
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Lomo anamorphic lenses.

Louvart: We shot with the Lomo anamorphic lenses to keep some flare and some softness in the skin tones. We were looking for a picture that was not totally clean, more “organic,” and colorful. It was the same research for the wardrobe and the furniture. Some color in the light, and a saturated picture. To link with the story, to link with the energy of the characters, and to keep as much as possible a joyful feeling for the film.

"Liberte"

“Liberte”

Román Yñán

“Liberte”

Dir: Albert Serra, DoP: Artur Tort

Format: 2K
Camera: Canon C300 Mark ii (crop mode)
Lens: Canon 11-138 (S16)

Artur Tort: The scenes and situations of the film were almost entirely improvised, usually in a very chaotic way, and most of them were shot at night, using a helium balloon as the main light source. The actors moved quite freely around the set (a real forest). Anytime, anywhere, something could happen that could be worth capturing. That’s why we shot with three cameras, each with a single operator. We had to move very fast, without planning much ahead, so I wanted to use a very light equipment, easy and fast to operate, that could work well under low light situations at the same time. The C300 Mark ii satisfied all these needs and has a fairly good color science. In addition, in order to give the image a more organic look and use wide-range 16mm zooms, I used a recording mode that crops the sensor from 4K to 2K.

"Nina Wu"

“Nina Wu”

Courtesy of Cannes

“Nina Wu”

Dir: Midi Z, DoP: J. E. Zinke

Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI ALEXA Mini
Lens: ARRI/Zeiss Master Primes

Zinke: Depending on the nature of the project, I normally do a lot of testing and also vary quite a lot, especially regarding choices of lenses! But with a film like “Nina Wu” (and many others in this respect), where you simply don’t have the budgetary means and resources to do so, I tend to come back to a trusted combination of an Alexa Camera and Master Primes. Many cinematographers think of those lenses as maybe too technical or pristine, a bit “boring” even. But I always feel that, especially with smaller, more challenging productions, I want to choose equipment that gives me full technical reliability and versatility over the range of the different creative challenges we will have to face as filmmakers.

A lot of the look and character of a film (actually most of it) comes from the choice of locations, the way you frame your images, the lighting, the way you move the camera, and even much more so from the actors’ performances, and the overall artistic expression, the director’s and filmmakers’ vision. If all these elements come together in the right way, I believe it really isn’t all that important which camera or lens you are using!

Nina’s story is furthermore told on quite a few different levels, both emotionally for the character, but also formally and in terms of locations and psychological layers. Midi Z and myself spent quite a bit of time discussing whether or not and how to differentiate these different layers technically. But we ultimately decided to, at least in terms of the general visual toolset, to rather tie it all into a coherent picture instead, in order to be able to transcend between these different elements more seamlessly. Something we felt was more true to the actual emotional state of the character of Nina herself, and would also make it a bit more challenging for audiences to navigate through her story! We chose to use more subtle shifts in the color palette, compositions, camera movement, lighting, etc. to place hints and clues instead.

"Oleg"

“Oleg”

Directors Fortnight

“Oleg”

Dir: Juris Kursietis, DoP: Bogumił Godfrejów

Format: 3.4K Open Gate ArriRaw, 4:3 Aspect Ratio
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Vintage COOKE SPEED PANCHRO. The hole movie was shot on one lens – 18mm SERIES III. I needed to rehouse it in short notice and only one company was able to make it in such short time – I found one in Lublin, Poland.

Godfrejów: I believe in magic and some coincidence during the search for visual language. The first movie I did with Juris I proposed we shoot on the Alexa Studio and one zoom. The results were good and we tried to follow a similar philosophy. We found old COOKE SIII 18mm (Kubrick’s favorite on “A Clockwork Orange”) a spiritual partner, companion to our lonely protagonist. This lens was broken, just core of glass was laying in trash bin in one of rental company I had worked decade ago. I asked them if I could take it. So the lens has passed a long way though annihilation like our protagonist, through rebuilding to finding itself place.

The Rolleiflex style of our Alexa Mini build made it possible to have the perspective of an underdog, a victim rising from his knees, stepping up and fighting against all odds.

"On a Magical Night" cinematographer Rémy Chevrin

“On a Magical Night” cinematographer Rémy Chevrin

“On a Magical Night”

Dir: Christophe Honore, DoP: Rémy Chevrin
Format: 35 mm
Camera: Arrival studio
Lens: Leica summilux and optimistic Angenieux 15-40 and 28-76

Chevrin: Because the texture of the skin is especially perfect for close up with the skin tones
BECAUSE WE HAVE ALWAYS SHOT ON 35 mm together for 20 years
Because of the quality of the color space of the KODAK 5219
Because of the grain and the life on the screen
Because of the holy moment of the shooting time
Because it gives you a perfect depth of field
Because I like the sound of the camera.

"Papicha" Cinematographer Léo Lefèvre

“Papicha” cinematographer Léo Lefèvre

“Papicha”

Dir: Mounia Meddour, DoP: Léo Lefèvre

Format: 2K – Arri Log C – Pro Res 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Leica / Leitz Samciné set (Summilux)

Lefèvre: Because we shot 99 percent of the movie handled, on locations, the Arri Alexa Mini was the perfect tool for “Papicha.” Combined with compact and high-speed lenses (Summilux T1.4), we wanted to be as close as possible to the main character under any circumstances (inside a car, in the middle of a crowded market, on a dance floor in a nightclub…).

During pre-production we thought about shooting anamorphic, but the budget was very tight and I felt that shooting wide-open with vintage close-focus lenses would give us the softness and the freedom that Mounia wanted. The director and I wanted to get a visual feel of the skins (of their texture, depth and character). Also, we wanted to mix strong colors typical from the 90’s with the dramatic political context in Algeria at this period. The sensor of the Arri Alexa gave us what we expected to get: a strong movie, colorful, high contrast with an organic feeling.

"Port Authority"

“Port Authority”

Courtesy of filmmaker

“Port Authority”

Dir: Danielle Lessovitz, DoP: Jomo Fray

Format: 3.2K Prores XQ
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Modified set of Leica Summicrons

Fray: We tested countless lenses but the set we ended up going with was a customized set of Leica Summicron-C primes with highly modified coatings from Camera Division, made in partnership with Duclos Lenses, called Classic-Crons. We wanted an image in conflict. The Leicas were the perfect choice for us because they had an inherent sense of tension in the glass itself. The glass elements were modern and pristine, but stripping the coatings back and modifying the glass gave the image a particularly raw/delicate feeling. I wanted the visual language to match the subjective reality of our protagonists—to match the delicacy and tenuous nature of a first great love. We wanted the image to feel like wind hitting new skin, a pain but also a healing borne of newly exposing oneself. To create that we were interested in finding ways to be as raw and vulnerable with every aspect of the visual language as we could—imbuing that tension into every aspect of the photographic process (be that through the lenses, the lighting, the color, or the camera movement).

Summer of Changsha

“Summer of Changsha”

Courtesy of Cannes

“Summer of Changsha”

Dir: Zu Feng, DoP: Jeffrey Chu

Format: 3.2K Pro Res 4444XQ, Aspect Ratio was 1.85:1
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4, Zeiss Super Speed MKII and Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm

Chu: One of the first thing that the director, Zu Feng, and I discussed was about the aspect ratio. We chose 1.85:1 because it is close to our natural field of view as the most conventional format. The goal was not to draw attention on the form itself. Since we were shooting on real locations, the compact Alexa Mini and Cooke S4 provided us the flexibility to work in small spaces. For a few night exterior scenes, we shot with available light and balanced with minimal fill on the actors; in order to keep the background surrounding, we shot wide open with the Zeiss super speed MKII, which did a good job to hold the quality of image. Both main characters are attracted to each other in the story due to the guilt they had to live with after they lost their love ones. I decided to use Cooke lenses to bring out the subtleties and soft rendition of their faces. We shot the film in August which is the hottest season in Changsha. The lens characterized the humidity and emotion of both characters very well.

Critics Week

"Heroes Don’t Die" Paul Guilhaume

“Heroes Don’t Die” DoP Paul Guilhaume

Adrien SELBERT

“Heroes Don’t Die”

Dir: Aude Léa Rapin, DoP: Paul Guilhaume

Format: 3.2K Prores 4444 for days and 2.8K Arriraw for nights
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Panavision’s C-Series 2X anamorphics. Mainly the 40mm.

Guilhaume: Director Aude Léa Rapin and I wanted to add a sense of magic within a documentary style grammar so we talked about a vintage anamorphic scope very early during the preparation process as a way to avoid crude realism. Since it had to be almost 100% handheld and shot with a small crew I needed the camera to be light so to me it had to be the Alexa mini since I love Arri’s color science.

We chose Panavision’s C-series because in addition of being extremely light they produce a fantastic image. They are poetic and versatile: We were able to create contrasted imagery for day exteriors but to make the movie look slightly softer in interiors with pleasant flares when shooting toward a window for example. For exterior scenes we often kept a consistent depth of field by varying T-stops depending to the scale, let’s say a T8 for a close-up, 5.6 for close shots, 4 for medium close shots… We only wanted the backgrounds to be slightly distorted in order to keep a connection with realism.

"Land Of Ashes" Cinematographer Francisca Saéz Agurto

“Land Of Ashes” cinematographer Francisca Saéz Agurto

“Land Of Ashes”

Dir: Sofía Quirós Ubeda, DoP: Francisca Saéz Agurto

Format: ProRes 4444, 3.2k
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Len: Zeiss Superspeed T1.3

Agurto: “Land of Ashes” is an independent fiction film shot in the Costa Rican Caribbean with non-actors. We met Smachleen, the protagonist, four years ago filming the short film “Selva”, this was the seed of “Land of Ashes,” and from there we worked with Sofia on the atmosphere and look of the film.

From the beginning we looked for a naturalistic style, we did not want to work in a spectacular way so as not to alter the emotional state of our actresses/actors, this is why we sought to work with equipment that was small but that ensured the quality of the image and color in less controlled situations of light. This is why I decided to work with the Alexa mini, which rigged in the right way allowed us to work comfortably in small sets and also to be prepared to improvise if we needed it.

Regarding the lenses, I decided to work with the Zeiss Super Speed t 1.3, I think that they give a softness and texture to the image that I like a lot and that, I felt, was appropriate for this story, we did not want a sharp image, but quite the opposite, we wanted an image that could be honest with the context and story we were telling.

As for the camera movements, we decided to work with handheld on the everyday moments, close, intimate, we wanted it to have a breath, that was fluid but human, with errors, startles. And on the other hand, the magical situations in which the character is submerged, we worked with the scale, giving priority to the landscape and generating frames that were visually pregnant, and that also reaffirmed in some way the process that the character was living.

"Our Mothers" Cinematographer Virginie Surdej

“Our Mothers” cinematographer Virginie Surdej

courtesy of filmmaker

“Our Mothers”

Dir: Cesar Diaz, DoP: Virginie Surdej
Format: 3.2 K Prores4444
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Super Baltars

Surdej: As the present film deals with the inside journey of Ernesto, searching for the remains of his father while working in a foundation that tries to locate and exhume bodies of the missing people from the civil war, the film is a constant dialogue with the memory and the past.

When we prepped the movie, we watched many pictures taken during the civil war of Guatemala. We wanted for the film to get close to the feeling of these photos that constitute a testimony of the past and they gave us initially the wish to shoot on 16mm film, for the organicity, the grain and the ability for a film to carry memory. But for production and facility reasons, it was impossible to shoot on that kind of film. We then tried to find in the digital world a way to identify a texture and organicity that would bring us closer to the past, while the film is happening in 2013. We tested a lot of old glasses and decided to shoot with the super baltars. These lenses really take off a digital feeling, they flare in a beautiful way and offer a very smooth contrast. They also provide a beautiful bokeh, a bit swirley when quite open and are unsharp on the edges. Their weakness makes them organic and pictorial and we found in them the glass for our story. I love the Arri Aalexa sensor for its ability to render highlights and the texture of its sensor when pushed a little bit gives you an organic feel, some kind of grain. We had a lot of different camera setups and configurations and we chose the Alexa mini for that reason. We worked with a LUT that would reproduce the colors and contrast a bit in a way older film stock would do. All this brought us closer to our initial wish and ended up being a good choice and setup for this story that happens between the present and the past.

Next Page: Directors’ Fortnight

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