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.
(Films are in alphabetical order by title.)
“Alice and the Mayor”
Dir: Nicolas Pariser, DoP: Sébastien Buchmann
Format: 35 mm – 3perfs, KODAK (5219, 5207) neg scanned in 4K in 1.85 aspect ratio
Camera: Arricam Studio et Arricam Lite
Lens: Panavision Primos Lenses
Buchmann: The director Nicolas wanted to get back to film after two films in digital. This is the the fifth feature we have worked on together and it’s true that my intimate preference goes to film whatever the subject is. Besides, the action takes place in a lot of offices, meeting rooms with white walls and work lights; the cinematography had to stay very simple and realistic according to the director wishes. I thought it would help to achieve a characteristic image thanks to the argentic rendition. At last Nicolas doesn’t shoot a lot. The shooting script is known and he doesn’t shoot a lot of takes either. I compared, before prep, 3-perfs and 2-perfs, showed the tests to Nicolas and the producer and they both agreed (thank you Mr producer ) that 3-perfs was our way to go!
courtesy of filmmaker
“And Then We Danced”
Dir: Levan Akin, DoP: Lisabi Fridell
Format: 3.2K proress XQ
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Primes 18-85mm Zeiss super speed uncoated + ff vintage zoom, cook 40-400mm
Fridell: Me and the director, Levan Akin, wanted a documentary feel with a sense of life throughout every scene. We created a shooting environment with a full room lightning where all angles were available and the camera was able to move almost 360° during takes. This gave a sense of real life to the scenes and the film. 98 percent of this film was shot hand held which was a natural choice for us. We wanted to shoot scenes in one take and I wanted to be able to move freely, catching every angle and sense of the scene in one take. When working with a hand held camera it’s important to work with a well-balanced camera to be able to move as freely as possible. My Georgian camera crew built the perfect hand held camera rig, with the light weight lenses and the small camera.
That said I probably would have chosen the same lenses if only for aesthetic reasons as well. I think they are inspiring to work with, smooth, soft and lively. We did our last camera test with filters and f-stop the day before we started shooting, I found a warm black promist 1/8 filter that I ended up using for the whole project combined with an open f- stop1.3. The combination gave a warm soft glow and a very special ambience. It became the film’s universe.
I brought the zoom along to make the imagery more interesting and to be able to change the perspective, tele shots with zoom, to bring extra life into the film. The gear I chose made me feel free and inspired during the whole shooting.
“Blow it to Bits”
Dir/DoP: Lech Kowalski
Format: XAVC L 1920×1080 – 2K PAlL 422 10bit at 50Mb
Camera: About 500 hours of footage on one Sony PXW – X70 XD Cam.
Lens: I used the zoom lens built into the camera.
Kowalski: The camera is a work horse but takes time to learn to control. Focus is an issue and takes time to learn to handle shooting a doc. Image quality is amazing in such a small package. The camera is discrete and most importantly this camera allowed me to work very close to people without intimidating them. This was key to the way the film feels. We did tests at Mikros in Paris before shooting and learned how to prep the settings. I am a visual person as well as director and wanted a realistic but colorful feel rather than the dreary monotone images, the norm for many films – I wanted a look that’s between S16 and something contemporary. An important aspect is sound. It was recorded with Sanken and Schoeps MS mics. The added weight was absorbed by the size of this small camera. Recorded on Nagra too. Sound is a key element in making the film as human and vibrant as it turned out. And lots of time spent color grading and audio mix.
Dir/DoP: Quentin Dupieux
Format: 4K Sony
Camera: Sony FS7 ii
Lens: Vantage ONE T1
Dupieux: I love the FS7 because it has a very exciting shape/feel; when you hold it, it feels like a 16mm camera and not like a computer. This is more important than its technical specs to me. Then, I decided to use the T1 lenses for that ‘dreamy-blury-creamy’ feeling you get when you open wide. It was funny & almost experimental to combine this small documentary camera with high-end star wars lenses.
“For the Money”
Dir: Alejo Moguillansky, DoP: Inés Duacastella
Format: 4k XAVC Sony
Camera: Sony AR7II
Lens: Nikon Nikkor Ais Lenses (adapte to Sony with Metabones) 24mm f2.8, 35mm f2. 8, 50mm f1.4, 85mm f1. 4
Moguillansky & Duacastella: When selecting the tools we focused on the advantages of light equipment and flexibility, on one hand, but the main interest we had was regarding the aspect ratio. This 2.35:1 appeared for us in the moment we realized we had to frame a stage in a theatre. Most of the film happens during perfomances and rehearsals of the piece “Por el dinero,” played by the troupe of artists leading the film. So we found the 2.35:1 aspect ratio a good way to frame the stage from the audience point of view, avoiding this wide spaces in the top and bottom of the frame.
Having said that, it’s quite funny that after that starting point we never did a single shot of the stage from the point of view of the audience in the whole film. We shot the stage from almost everywhere: a high angle point of view, or from the drop scene, or even from the main stage framing the audience in front of us. But we never shoot the stage from the regular point of view of the audience. But we knew the 2.35:1 aspect had that stage idea for us. So somehow, it’s like everything became a stage for us and the whole world turned into a theatre performance being played for our film. In the end, when we shot in the Colombia seaside in La Guajira, we realized that 2.35:1 was the only ratio for this film to shoot the sea and its wideness. Even the sea was a stage of a theatre for us, and we were the only audience there. We were the only privileged spectator of that show.
“Give Me Liberty”
Dir: Kirill Mikhanovsky, DoP: Wyatt Garfield
Format: 3.2K ProRes & 16mm
Camera: Alexa Mini and Krasnogorsk K3
Lens: Zeiss Super Speeds
Garfield: “Give Me Liberty” was all about capturing lively and authentic energy in front of the camera. We wanted to shoot on 16mm because it is a lively, reactive medium: The grain is wild and the image never rests.
We ended up needing to find a digital solution, and the small size of the Alexa Mini was great for squeezing inside our main location: the transit van. Digital can feel very static, so we paired our Alexa with Super Speeds, which have a simple look that is still very reactive to light with some flaring and veiling that keep the image active. We added some thin netting to make edges flare and fragment a little more, and added heavy film grain in post to keep the image restless. We followed most action on the 25mm, widening to 18mm when the scenes became more hyperactive and narrowing to 50mm/85mm for portraits and perspective. We shot a few fragmentary sequences of Vic’s subconscious on 16mm with Kirill’s personal K-3, which bring some additional liveliness. Once we chose our camera and lenses, we let go of a lot of control and invited much chance and chaos into the process. I think it’s a beautiful film, but beauty was not something we were applying; it was something we were allowing to happen in front of the camera.
Dir: Lav Diaz, DoP: Daniel Uy
Camera: GH5S Panasonic Camera
Lens: 18mm-50mm zoom lens Panasonic, 70mm-100mm zoom lens Panasonic
Uy: Lav Diaz is an artist who captures the spirit of his truth. He is a filmmaker working on a modest production budget with a minimum number of production staff and technical crew. He is not about the frills. He is about the substance. As such the concern of all his collaborators is to capture the essence of the narrative at its purest. The portability of the camera and lenses lends much to this intent. The use of lenses is always in consideration of the depth of field to fully capture the actors’ movements given the freedom Lav gives his actors in interpreting their characters. The camera we used is friendly to black and white cinematography. With minimal lighting and the use of available lights, the play of lights and shadows pushed Lav’s vision to a cinematic reality that magnifies his narrative, his philosophy, his art. His film is his statement and that is his cinema.
Dir: Robert Eggers, DoP: Jarin Blaschke
Format: 35mm Black and White (Double-X 5222) 1.19:1 Aspect ratio. Essentially the anamorphic gate with spherical lenses.
Camera: Panaflex Millenium XL2
Lens: Bausch and Lomb original Baltars set, optically re-spaced for a spinning mirror camera. 35mm, 58mm, 85mm Sasaki-made Petzval lenses. 50mm Pathé-Goerz Triplet
Custom short-pass, orthochromatic-emulating filter from Schneider.
Blaschke: A critical part of Rob Eggers’ films is the full immersion of the audience in another world. He wanted a black and white movie from another time and traditional black and white film was the only way to do it. There is nothing with the same tonality and texture – this was solidly confirmed with tests against color film and digital formats. Double-X is 60 year-old technology, for better and worse. It looks perfect for what we were after, but light levels were necessarily 20 to 40 times higher than on “The Witch,” and underexposure latitude was much less forgiving. This forces harder, more “lit” looking night scenes, but that was embraced as part of our “Lighthouse” world.
I actually wanted the Double-X to behave like an even older film stock, so a filter was made to prevent all red light from reaching the film. This emulates pre-1930s orthochromatic film that couldn’t see orange or red light. Therefore, skies become much brighter and skintones become darker and more rugged/textured. This was another critical element that makes the film feel more broken-down and distant. Balancing the harshness of the film and filter were a set of Baltar lenses that were designed in the 1930s. These are the most luminous portrait lenses I’ve ever seen, and they add another glowing texture and dimension, rather than cheap gauze. For some hallucinatory sequences we used some 1870s-1900s -style optical designs.
Finally, our aspect ratio suited our boxy spaces, our vertical lighthouse and close-ups in general, which are more numerous this time around. This is a more “photographic” movie than our last together and the 5:6 ratio feels like a window or peephole into the film, echoing the theme of lenses, eyes, openings and apertures that developed. Because of this and other things, the film visually moved from the 1890s toward the 1930s, but in the end I think it created its own kind of past, its own “other” world.
Dir/DoP: Andreas Horwath
Format: Digital, 2K, Lossless CinemaDNG RAW — and 4K for the drone footage
Camera: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Lens: Voigtländer Nokton Series
Horvath: The principle idea of the film was that it was to be shot almost like a documentary. We were shooting over a period of nine months. During these nine months we had seven shooting phases of two-weeks each that involved a very small team of five people. The team was flown in while I was in North America for the whole time. I was driving from New York to Alaska, mostly accompanied by Patrycja Planik, the actress. We were not only scouting for new locations but also shooting a lot. So there is actually quite a bit in the film that just the two of us shot. The image quality of the BMPCC is absolutely comparable to a wide range of more high-end camera options, while its compact design allows for a great freedom of flexibility and spontaneity.
Dir: Shahrbanoo Sadat, DoP: Virginie Surdej
Format: Alexa Mini-S16 HD mode/ prores
Camera: Alexa mini
Lens: Super Zeiss ultra 16mm primes, zoom Canon 8-64, zoom canon 6.6-66, zoom10.6-180
Surdej: ”The Orphanage” is a historical drama set in Kabul in the 80’s, with musical Bollywood scenes. With the director Shahrbanoo Sadat we wanted to find a pictorial texture that would remind us of the films shot on film in that region in the 80’s, we had to be in Afghanistan, under a Russian influence and be able to transcend the picture into a Bollywood musical world.
We worked with a lot of non-professional actors, children and teenagers, and most of them had no previous film experience. For the “realistic” scenes Shahrbanoo shoots one take scenes, hand held long takes that can last up till the card is full, leaving her characters and life to blossom freely in the length of the take. Authenticity and realism are very important to her regarding the way she portrays her country and characters of that time. Alexa mini seemed the obvious choice for its lightweight and flexibility. Regarding the sensor and lenses, we chose to shoot in the S16-HD mode, letting us use old 16mm primes and 16mm lightweight zooms offering such a wide range of focal lens. With the help of Arri Berlin we detuned some of the lenses to get softer edges or a specific flare. All theses choices created a lower def image with a natural grain giving us a pictorial and filmic texture, getting us closer to that time. We also did a specific work on the LUT, to get closer to the way older film stock would reproduce the colors. When our main character daydreams himself into his most favorite Bollywood scenes, we kept the same set up but used it in complete different way. The camera would shoot à la Bollywood in the 80’s which is a very specific, free and playful aesthetic. We’d use the 16mm zooms in their most cheesy way, dolly movement, wider angles, a more specific work on colors on set and in the grading.
Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Format: 4K using Canon Log, cropped to 2.39
Camera: Canon C300 MK2
Lens: I used a few Canon Cinema Zoom lenses, to see how they stacked up. But I primarily relied on the Canon L series zoom lenses that I’ve used for years on my still camera. They are lightweight, fast and kept the rig really small and compact which allowed me to move quickly.
Rodriguez: The whole idea behind this experiment was to strip away everything but the bare essentials needed to make a film. When you do that, it leaves you with nothing but your creativity to get the look that you want. So the key to the equipment was to choose gear that would give me the most flexibility on set. By using a small lightweight camera and the lightest zoom lens package I could put together it let me move very quickly.
I do a lot of reframing during takes, so the zoom lenses were a no brainer. As an editor, I already know which parts of the scene I’ll want in a mid-shot and which parts I’ll want in a close-up, so I’ll zoom in and get those shots in the same take. I’ve been shooting this way since EL MARIACHI, and it allows me to do a handful to takes and walk away with a ton of coverage. We only did one or two takes of most setups in the film but watching it you’d never know that. I never could have gotten that coverage in just 14 days if I’d been using big cinema prime lenses.
If you get too much gear around you it can be like gaining 500lbs right before you run a marathon. On a larger film if I decide I want to turn around for a shot I have to wait for the trucks to move, the crew to re-rig and the set to be lit. It can take hours out of the day. But when you have such a flexible and stripped down equipment package you can move at the speed of thought, and that’s something I love about this style of shooting.
“Sick Sick Sick”
Dir: Alice Furtado, DoP: Felipe Quintelas
Format: Arri 3.2K ProRes 4444
Camera: ALEXA Mini
Lens: Arri/Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses and Arri/Fujinon Alura Zoom 45-250
Quintelas: The choice of using a set of fixed lenses, in addition to the zoom, was due to the handheld and steady cam shooting plans. For this we needed lighter lenses. Also, the Ultra Prime lenses have a similar resolution to that of Alura Zoom, which was important to capture the nuances of skin textures well. We chose to film most of the shots with a zoom instead of fixed lenses because we wanted to be close to the character and her skin, while it was simultaneously crucial for us the freedom of her body in the scene. The instability both of the frame and the focus on the closed lens contributed in this sense. We were not looking for the asepsis that a too rigid image could bring us. We started to build this image during rehearsals, but it was on the set that we figured out how to film this body and to sensitively capture the strength and beauty of its feelings and desires.
“Song Without a Name”
Dir: Melina León, DoP: Inti Briones
Format: Black and White 4K 4:3 Aspect Ratio
Camera: RED SCARLET-W MONOCHROME
Lens: Lomo lens uncoated from the ex soviet union
Briones: These are the 80s, it was only possible to see through a small window, a mixed and diffused city, where our lives were the daily bread. The rays of light do not reach the ground, because in Lima we cannot see the stars. But it is not all lost if hope exists…
The choice of our equipment responds to this premise. We want the viewer to share the experience with our protagonist Georgina, from a more intuitive place, perhaps even metaphysical, but we did not want to lose the strength of a real story.
Our greatest effort was to defend the balance between these two perspectives. That is why, we put in tension, the quality of a monochrome camera that captures a huge range of grays creating a naked image by its transparency, in relation to our uncoated lomo lenses from the ex-Soviet Union that paradoxically, dresses the imagine with a soft personality that only time can give.
We worked with the simplest version of the equipment adapting to the light of the environments and thanks to the sensitivity of 3200 native handle, it was possible to work the depth and contrasts by removing light.
We choose black and white to invoke our deepest and most affective sensations of that time. As in those days when journalistic photography not only stayed in the comfort of the record of events, but was transformed into a silent scream that contributed us becoming aware of a country that was politically obscure, but that had, at the same time, a lot of people defending life by the force of hope and resilience.
“To Live to Sing”
Dir: Johnny Ma, DoP: Matthias Delvaux
Format: 3.2K Prores
Camera: Arri Mini, Arri Alexa XT
Lens: Angenieux 30-80, Angenieux 24-290, Ultra Primes
Delvaux: This film is about an local opera troupe whose theater is about to be demolished. The actors in this film are actual opera performers who have similar life experience, and have never acted in a feature before. Before shooting, me and director Johnny Ma spent a lot of time with the troupe, which led to a mutual trust and understanding. They are a great, lively and surprising bunch. For filming them I wanted to be as fast and flexible as possible without limiting them in their performance and movement. So I chose to mainly use handheld operating with compact zoom, visually it also added to the liveliness true to their character. For most of the scenes I shot handheld with the Mini at my chest height to compensate for a height difference between me and the performers. I tend to shoot a lot with Angenieux compact zooms, they give me enough speed and flexibility to capture the best performances of the actors, allowing to zoom during shots and no need to change lenses.
Lighting had to be flexible too, I used a mix of practicals and natural light to create an open space for the actors. In this film modern realism often gets intertwined with certain fantasy elements, for this we often referred to classic Chinese opera and martial arts, Bollywood and music videos, while preserving an overall raw and lively vibe that is true to the people of the opera troupe.
Michele K Short
Dir: Babak Anvari, DoP: Kit Fraser
Format: 3.8K ProRes 4444 XQ
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Leica Summilux-C
Fraser: Director Babak Anvari and I felt that a handheld camera was right for this film from the beginning. We wanted to be able to follow the characters in a very free manner, but maintain a rougher edge to the motion than a dolly or Steadicam would have given us. It was important that the camera and lens package was lightweight, but that we didn’t compromise on image quality and had the ability of RAW recording for a number of VFX sequences. We also needed to be able to shoot in very low-light situations, as much of the script involves mobile phones and we were keen to use the real light from the phones to illuminate the characters. We planned to shoot most of the film with wide lenses too and we wanted to place the characters at the edges of frames without feeling the usual distortions associated with these focal lengths. We tested the Alexa Mini, Panavision DXL2, and the Sony Venice along with many different brands of lenses and projected the results. We ultimately decided that pairing the Alexa Mini with the Leica Summilux-C’s fulfilled every need. However, this combination (along with every other digital format and modern-day lens we tested) still felt too clean and sharp for a film that was based on a novella called The Visible Filth! To add a final layer of texture, we rated the camera at 1600iso and added a pushed-35mm grain effect in the DI with our excellent colorist, Matt Watson at SHED.
Dir: Benoît Forgeard, DoP: Thomas Favel
Format: 3.2K Prores 4444 and ARRIRAW for exterior scenes at night and SFX
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Vintage
Favel: Because we haven’t invented an intelligent camera yet. The film promotes robotics success and asks itself about the human place among the machines.
It was difficult for me in terms of images as the directors’ mantra is to mix genres. I had to keep a distance between social realism (a young rapper in a suburban pavilion) and comedy. We were between “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” by Chantal Akerman & Judd Apatows’ “The 40 Year-Old Virgin.”
It is also an anticipation film in a way though the contemporary. A little bit ahead of its time. We searched for a digital picture, very modern and somehow soft in its own way. The idea was to feel it could really happen today. The Alexa is for me the camera for a discreet image. Probably the most used nowadays. Our eye is very used to its picture, more than 35 millimeters which can sometimes feel foreign, undefined and too grainy. The idea to shoot in an analogical system appeared to us because of this softness we were loooking for. The Alexa in the end was the perfect match between being modern and the nostalgia of the analogical past.
Benoît Forgeard was inspired by the American comedy. He wanted to get rid of the despair of the social film, while using them. The first reference he gave me was Adam McKays’ “Step Brothers.” He wanted a picture not too shiny, a soft winter picture as in “Groundhog Day” by Harold Ramis. Even when sunny, everything had to be soft. We thought the sly would be cloudy but we had snow.
At the beginning of the film, the image is sad and dull somehow. I was thinking about Hammershoi (the Danish painter), those Scandinavian lights, with very little saturated colors. It had to be atmospherical, with a non contrast aspect, with visible fumes. I also used filters to reinforce the vintage aspect of the pavilion.