IndieWire reached out to the cinematographers whose films are in awards contention and among the most critically acclaimed films of the year 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 respective films.
(Films are alphabetical order by title.)
François Duhamel / Universal Pi
Dir: Sam Mendes, DoP: Roger Deakins
Format: ARRIRAW 4.5K
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini LF
Lens: Signature Primes 40mm
Deakins: We wanted the “look” of the Alexa LF with the shallow depth of field the larger sensor brings to the image as well as its higher resolution. We needed the camera to be very small and lightweight so that we could use it on the stabilizing systems necessary for us to make the long and complex camera moves the story demanded. For that reason, the Mini version of the Alexa LF was key to shooting this project. The 40mm Signature Prime lens is fast, incredibly sharp, and also very lightweight. The 40mm focal length gave us the ability to shoot a close up without distortion as well as be able to move back to a wider shot. Again, this was key for a film that is made to be one flowing, seamless shot.
Dir: James Gray, DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema
Format: 35mm film
Camera: Aaton Penelope 2 perf, ARRI Lt, and St 2 perf cameras
Lens: We had our lenses made custom. Based on the ARRI Master Primes, but with coating adjustments and custom elements. We would refer to these lenses as the “Astra’s”
Hoytema: I am in love with the feel of film. The texture adds a level of life and humanity to what often becomes quickly sterile in science fiction. Light and colors (in its many stages on the journey away from the sun) played an important role in the way the script develops: I think film reads and registers that in the most visceral and sensual way.
Dir: Tom Harper, DoP: George Steel
Format: R3D 8K
Camera: RED Monstro
Lens: Panavision G class Anamorphic and Panavision Primo 70
Steel: For starters, the sensor on the Monstro is exceptional in its ability to render skin tone and color, and you never want for resolution. Also the size factor was a big plus for us as the film was mostly set within a 8’x8’ basket!
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.
Dir: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, DoP: Trent Opaloch
Format: ARRIRAW 6.5K
Camera: ARRI Alexa 65 with IMAX modification
Lens: Panavision Ultra Panatar 1.3X anamorphics
Opaloch: The Russo shooting style prioritizes performance over any other technical filmmaking considerations. Shooting with this format gave us a seamless workflow on set that allowed for an open conversation between the directors and the actors with minimal technical interruption. We used custom designed Ultra Panatar lenses for that classic Panavision anamorphic feel. The lenses are a modified version of the original Auto Panatar lenses from the 50’s and 60’s used on films like “Ben Hur” and “Mutiny on the Bounty.” They have a beautiful balance of classic anamorphic visual character with a cleaner contrast snap. That, paired with the high resolution and cinematic quality of the Alexa 65 camera system, was perfect to capture the large canvas and colorful worlds for this film.
“A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood”
Dir: Marielle Heller, DoP: Jody Lee Lipes
Format: Alexa Super 16 Mode (1.85:1 & 1.33:1), SD Component 3 Tube Video ( PAL/NTSC) (1.33:1), Film (7266 16mm Black & White Reversal) (1.33:1)
Camera: Alexa Mini, Ikegami 79 (NTSC / PAL), Ikegami 323 (PAL), ARRI 416
Lens: ARRI Master Primes, Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm, Canon PV14X12.5BIE
Lipes: The look of the film was dictated by the 1998 season of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” We did everything possible to match the feel of the show. We used the exact SD format, camera system, and lenses when possible, and close approximations when the equipment was no longer available. We also shot on the same stage in the same studio that they shot the actual show, hired the lighting designer from the show to light our TV show set, used camera operators from the actual show, and covered the show in a way that would allow the same editorial pace/style of the original. The same philosophy applied to the archival recreations.
The non-“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” part of the film (our protagonist Lloyd’s world), needed to feel period, but distinct from the show. The high res, shallow depth of field look of today wasn’t right. Super 16 mode on the Alexa helped us create a late 90’s feel because of the low resolution (just barely HD, up-res’ed to 1080). The format’s increased depth of field and the deeper stop we shot also contributed to the period feel, in contrast to today’s shallow depth of field large format sensors.
As Fred Rogers penetrates Lloyd’s psyche, our two worlds start to blend together. Our two main formats, SD and just barely HD, were close enough that we could cut between them, and bring them together without taking the audience out of the story. We changed and mixed our distinct aspect ratios when the worlds begin to overlap, and used camera movement from the Mr Rogers show in Lloyd’s world at key moments when Fred begins to have an impact on Lloyd.
Hilary B Gayle/SMPSP
Dir: Jay Roach, DoP: Barry Ackroyd
Format: Super 35mm open gate, 2:40 aspect ratio, Arri Raw 2.8 K
Camera: ARRI Alexa mini x2
Lens: Angenieux 24-290mm T2.8 Optimo Zooms, 15-40mm, 28-76mm. Full Set Cooke S4i. 24 mm Arri shift and Tilt
Ackroyd: It was my first time working with director Jay Roach, but I knew going into this project that I had the support of producers and writer Charles Randolph. So I felt that we would make an easy transition, slipping into a style similar to “The Big Short,” which I had shot a couple of years before.
I wanted lightweight cameras, so my obvious choice was the ARRI Alexa Mini, which was great for hand holding even with the 28-76 Angenieux zoom, but mainly for what I think of as a very cinematic look.
A lot of my method, which I have developed over many years now, involves using long lenses and introducing small reactive/responsive zooms, to add emotion to a shot, so the Angénuex 12 to 1 zoom mounted in a 4ft slider, remains my favorite go to lens. That, with the COOKE S4 primes, makes a combination for all my needs on set. We always shoot with two cameras, often cross shooting dialogue or capturing wide and close shots simultaneously. I’ve always operated along with long time collaborator Josh Medak. Our aim is to allow freedom to actors and a real sense or reality.
Dir: Olivia Wilde, DoP: Jason McCormick
Camera: ARRI ALEXA MINI
Lens: PANAVISION T SERIES ANAMORPHIC
McCormick: I always try to approach any project with a feeling in mind before I figure out the tools. “Booksmart” needed to feel fresh and alive. Director Olivia Wilde and I spent a good deal of time in prep looking at stills and a selection of film clips I had put together. My goal was to narrow down what our voice would be in this collaboration. She installed a great deal of trust in me early on and her energy made me eager to find as close to a perfect fit as I could.
After going through everything from Alexa 65 to 1.78 open gate we found a spark in Panavision’s T series anamorphic lenses. They have a feeling of being present and modern, while in the same breath they carry enough character to soothe the frame. These lenses, coupled with a wonderful LUT created by our colorist Alex Bickel, allowed our other department heads to have a vision and a palette to play with as we approached principal photography. Looking back on it I can’t imagine it being filmed any other way.
Dir: Tom Hooper, DoP: Christopher Ross
Format: Digital 6.5K Arriraw
Camera: ARRI Alexa 65
Lens: Main lenses were an ARRI Prime DNA set from 28 to 150mm and a 21mm Signature Prime (18mm Tokina Vista and 12mm Prime DNA Lenses were used for selected scenes)
Ross: In our early meetings, director Tom Hooper laid out his vision for transforming “Cats” from its theatrical roots onto the big screen. Tom wanted to bring the film to life amongst the backdrop of 1930’s London…the gas-lit streets of Soho, the neon-infused wonder of Theatreland, and the smog-lined banks of the River Thames. But within this mysterious world we planned to shrink our human performers to cat scale and to examine our man-made environment from a very different perspective. As production designer Eve Stewart was constructing this oversized world on our sound stages, Tom and I embarked on a series of tests (formats and lenses) using our fledgling sets.
What became immediately apparent on viewing these tests was just how much of an impact the large format of the Alexa 65 was going to have. The image quality of the camera is unquestionably outstanding but this camera system also allowed us to shoot on very wide lenses without the distortion of linear perspective exhibited with wide lenses on smaller formats. This distortion acts as an artificial depth cue to inform the viewer that their perception of reality has been altered, the sense of scale suffers and subsequently the illusion is lost.
Additionally, like most DPs, I have a real thing for glass. The idiosyncrasies of the lenses we choose bring character and variation to our work. Coupling the resolution of the Alexa 65 with the low contrast softness of the Prime DNAs meant that our 35/45mm closeups had a beautiful, soft roundness with a gentle fall off of focus, as well as offering a deep perspective for our richly detailed sets. This was the perfect combination to bring the world of “Cats” to life.
Dir: Chinonye Chukwu, DoP: Eric Branco
Format: 2K ProRes 4444 Anamorphic
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini & Alexa SXT
Lens: Cooke Anamorphics
Branco: We were after a very naturalistic look for this film. The subject material is so complex and layered, and early on Chinonye Chukwu and I settled on a restrained look that wasn’t going to distract. I lobbied to shoot anamorphic from the start. I had just shot a pilot in a working prison in my hometown of New York City, and I felt I was always fighting to get further away from the actors in the incredibly tight spaces. I really wanted to have more room on this film, both literally and creatively. We looked at test after test and ultimately settled on Cooke Anamophics. I was familiar with them from another project (“Night Shift,” Sundance 2017), which also took place in a cramped location, and I loved the way they interpreted not only the hard vertical lines found all over the prison, but also the softer locations on the outside.
The cinematography in “Clemency” is all about creating an environment where the actors can breathe and do their best work. To this end, I really tried to keep lights off the set whenever possible. This usually meant more work for gaffer Ted Rysz and key grip Anthony Schrader. This was one of those magical shoots where everyone really was giving their all to the project, and it really, really shows.
Dir: Todd Haynes, DoP: Ed Lachman
Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Speed Panchro’s Series 2&3, Cooke S4’s, K35’s, Older Cooke and Angenieux Zooms
Lachman: It was a contemporary and period film from the 70’s until the early 2000’s. We wanted to capture the way films looked in that period, so using older lenses helped. The film deals with and exposes the malfeasance and the corruption of the chemical industry, the government, and DuPont. I was looking for a way to help feel the images becoming toxic and contaminated in our character’s lives, in our story as it is revealed.
“Dolemite Is My Name”
Dir: Craig Brewer, DoP: Eric Steelberg
Format: Recorded RAW in 8k with some telephoto camerawork in 5k
Camera: Panavision DXL2 camera which has the RED Monstro sensor. We used the new LI2 color science.
Lens: Panavision’s Primo Artiste, H Series, Primo 70 and Primo zooms.
Steelberg: I did a bit of testing in pre-production and really liked the contrast and color rendition of the skin tones the DXL2 provided over the brand new LF. I also knew that if I ever needed to pull detail out of the shadows, the noise would be smaller and less noticeable when down-ressed to 4k over the Arri counterpart. The director and I had discussions about not wanting to be overt with a “vintage look” of the movie for a couple reasons. Craig Brewer and I felt a layer of patina over the visuals would create a barrier to the story and distance the viewer, making it seem more like a documentary versus a timeless story about doing what it takes and betting everything on oneself.
The story asked to be experienced as Rudy Ray Moore was — real life in LA wasn’t washed out and grainy but colorful and sharp. I wanted to visually express that with contrast, use hard light as much as possible, and emulate photographic style versus a simulate the technical limitations of image capture of the time. I had a great time ignoring modern LED lighting and using older incandescent lamps, many of which we would leave in frame and photograph during the scenes on their film sets. The workhorse lenses were the large format H series lenses Dan Sasaki had recently made, but when I needed a sharper image in lower light we’d switch to Artistes. The lens/camera combination was fantastic and perfectly matched for the movie.
Dir: Lulu Wang, DoP: Anna Franquesa Solano
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Master Primes
Solano: Our visual language for the film was meant to reflect the theme, which is family unity. Even though Billi is the protagonist, Lulu and I always knew we wanted to focus more on the theme and follow the family as an entity, leading us to a more omniscient approach to the storytelling. This called for a wide aspect ratio that could include in the frame as many family members as possible. All characters are hiding an important piece of information from the head of the family. That is why we wanted to create a mise-en-scène that felt staged, to emphasize the idea that these characters are just performing some version of themselves. As a result, we used composed group shots in which all the family dynamics play out in a sort of organized chaos.
We considered the option of shooting on anamorphic to be able to frame a large number of characters. But after doing some tests in Beijing, we ended up going with spherical because we wanted to have the freedom to fill the frame and not have distracting distortions or a limited depth of field that would restrict the blocking. Another key factor was the physical limitation of apartments in China, which are often very small. In the end, our decision to use master primes and Alexa Mini was as much about fulfilling our visual language as it was making it work practically on set.
“Ford v Ferrari”
Dir: James Mangold, DoP: Phedon Papamichael
Format: Large Format
Camera: ARRI Alexa LF, which had just become available at the time of out shoot
Lens: Panavision Anamorphic lenses: C-Series and T-Series – both “expanded” to cover the large format sensor — the first time this was done on any movie. Mostly shot on 40 and 50mm, but had full sets of C & T, also spherical H-Series for 2nd Unit.
Papamichael: Mangold decided that our film language should consist of more classic, traditional ways of capturing the action: no drone or aerial shots, no fancy crane or wrap-around tracking shots. We preferred to show the race through the perspective of Ken Miles (our hero driver). Hard mounted multiple cameras for CU coverage of [Christian] Bale and choreographed the action to unfold through his perspective: no vibration isolators… all the shaking camera in conjunction with the sound design helped up the intensity of the race experience.
We used lots of POV shots from the cockpit, through the windshield and the rear-view mirrors. All this helps the audience experience what it’s like to be in the mid of the race-action. It keeps you emotionally involved with the main character — and by the way, it helps our actors’ performances, since almost none of it was done on stage with a green-screen. All the actors got to go through the roller coaster-ride in out “Pod-Car,” experiencing the actual G-forces of the Ford GT 40 and Shelby Cobras taking turns on the track at 90mph. It was great to watch their reactions/performances experiencing this.
Dir: Kasi Lemmons, DoP: John Toll
Format: 6K Raw in 17:9 mode with X-OCN compression and 2.39 aspect ratio.
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Panavision Sphero Primes, Panavision Super Speed Primes
Toll: I felt the Venice camera and these lenses were the perfect tool for this film. This was a period film, set primarily in 1840’s rural Maryland and a story about Harriet Tubman, a courageous and important historical American figure. High priority was given to creating a sense of reality and immediacy for that time and place. This was partially accomplished with very creative production design, art direction, and costuming, but was supported with a highly naturalistic photographic approach.
The high exposure index and flexibility of the Sony Venice camera helped enormously in maintaining a sense of naturalism appropriate to this historical period. None of the interior practical lighting fixtures were electrified. Candles and open flame lanterns for the interiors, and actual flame torches for the exteriors were the primary sources for practical sources of light.
Also, much of the story takes place at night in rural environments; forests, rivers, etc. These sequences required seeing a great deal of landscape in single shots. The high exposure index of the Venice camera allowed lighting night exterior landscapes with a minimal amount of lighting fixtures. This helped a great deal in expanding the scope of the night exterior work and for keeping it feeling natural. For day exteriors, we seldom, if ever, used artificial lighting. The combination of high exposure index (2500) and high dynamic range of the Venice camera often meant we we’re able to extend the length of our shooting day. We were often shooting day exterior sequences until it actually became too dark to see.
“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.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Dir: Alma Har’el, DoP: Natasha Braier
Format: ARRI Alexa ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: XTal Express anamorphic lenses made by Joe Dunton, rented from Panavision
Natasha Braier: The Xtal Express are my favorite anamorphic lenses. They have a very soft and painterly quality that was perfect for “Honey Boy,” as we wanted to create a special time-space which was the time-space of memory and dreams. We tested a wide range of anamorphic and spherical lenses but ended up deciding on the Xtals, which I also used in “Neon Demon” and “Gloria Bell.” There are only a few sets of these lenses in the world, made by Joe Dunton with old Cooke S2 and S3 and a Japanese glass front element. There is something unique about them, they feel very organic which helps to counteract the digital image, which is always too clean for my taste. They not only help to achieve a more “filmic,” look but it’s somehow a more romantic look, with the ooke bouquet and the soft fall off. It was giving us exactly that texture of memory, nostalgia, and sometimes idealization and dream that we wanted for Otis’s revisiting of his childhood.
Dir: Lorene Scafaria, DoP: Todd Banhazl
Format: 8k, 7k, 6k, 5k, and 4k Large Format Digital
Camera: Panavision DXL2
Lens: The majority of the film was shot using de-tuned Panaspeed lenses and a detuned 11:1 Zoom. We also used E Series Anamorphics for the scene where Usher enters the club.
Banhazl: The look of “Hustlers” straddles the line between bold and poppy glamour and something more gritty, messy, and emotional. We tested many large format cameras and found that, for example, while the Alexa 65 was gorgeous, we couldn’t stop the image from looking epic and huge, which was only one half of our aesthetic. The DXL2 was the perfect camera for this film because we were able to modulate resolution depending on the emotional weight of the scene. We shot a lot of the club scenes in 8k so the woman looked powerful and larger than life, and we would switch to 5k or 4k on longer lenses for scenes where we wanted to feel the pressure baring down on our characters. We used E series Anamorphics for the scene where Usher enters the club. We wanted that scene to look like a late 2000’s music video… the height of excess before it all comes crashing down.
The idea of “control” was one of our guiding visual principals. Our characters are moving so quickly and making major decisions that will change the course of their lives, and we wanted the camera to move at the pace of these wild decisions. We hid a lot of zooms into fast dolly moves so as an audience you are being hurled through the story. The feeling that this decision led to another, led to that, led to this, and before you know it, it’s too late to turn back. The large format helped us immerse the audience in the world of late 2000’s New York City while keeping our feet firmly planted in the shifting emotional experience of our characters.
“The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao” AKA “Invisible Life”
Dir: Karim Aïnouz, DoP: Hélène Louvart
Format: We shot in 3.2 ARRIRAW
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Lomo anamorphic lenses
Louvart: 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.
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.
Dir: Martin Scorsese, DoP: Rodrigo Prieto
Format: 35 mm Film (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219) 3 Perf, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. 8k REDCODE RAW. 5:1 Cropping the sensor by 82.5% to match the focal lengths on the film cameras. 1.85:1
Cameras: Arricam ST and LT for sections shot on film. RED Helium for sections shot on digital — with two IR-capable Alexa Mini as witness cameras for VFX.
Lens: Cooke Panchro/i Classics Lenses and Zeiss High Speed lenses
Prieto: One of the themes of “The Irishman” is the passage of time and its emotional toll on the characters. We wanted to represent the past as seen through Frank Sheeran’s memory. To visually convey this recollection, we emulated the look of still photography emulsions popular in past decades, such as colorful Kodachrome for the 50’s and Ektachrome for the 60’s. After Hoffa’s death, we shifted the look to a low color saturation and high contrast feel that suggests the loss of meaning in Sheeran’s life. The memory we all have of old photography is not digital, so shooting on film negative was the natural choice. But the de-aging VFX developed by ILM to make our actors look younger than their actual age required us to capture those scenes on digital cameras. The camera that best reproduced the way our LUT’s looked on film was the RED Helium, so we used it for the scenes that had de-aging VFX. We created a rig we called the “Three Headed Monster” that included two Alexa Minis as witness cameras attached to the main camera.
As for lenses, I did not want a modern feel, so I picked the Cooke Panchro Classics, supplemented by Zeiss High Speeds. We chose spherical lenses and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio because the main character approaches his task of “painting houses” (meaning killing people) in a methodical, practical way. It seemed to us that old glass, but without heavy distortion or fancy flares, would be appropriate to represent Sheeran’s perspective.
Dir: Taika Waititi, DoP: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Format: 3.4K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa SXT
Lens: HAWK V-LITE 1.3x anamorphic, Vantage One T1 spherical
Malaimare: I’m always attracted to new tools or new ways of using certain tools. I really wanted to shoot 1.85 anamorphic with 1.3x lenses for a while, but each time I tried it didn’t feel right for the project. We did extensive camera tests for “Jojo” to determine what aspect ratio might work for our story and when we settled on 1.85 I knew that “Jojo” would be the right story to tell in anamorphic 1.85. You can use 2x anamorphic and crop to 1.85 but I feel that you lose one of the most interesting imperfection that anamorphic can offer — the falloff around the edges. The Hawk V-Lite 1.3x allowed us to keep all the benefits of anamorphic (velvety skin tones, interesting falloff, flares and very pleasant bokeh) with minimal cropping to 1.85. The Vantage T1 spherical lenses were a great companion to anamorphic and they allowed us to shoot two scenes using only candles and a petrol lamp as key lights.
Dir: Todd Phillips , DoP: Lawrence Sher
Format: 1.85 aspect ratio. 6.5K sensor (cropped for 1.85 at 95% crop so 5.8K). The film was finished in 4K for the DCP
Cameras: 2 ARRI Alexa 65 bodies (90 percent of the movie), 1 ARRI LF Body (for steadicam), ARRI Minis (for inside the prop cameras in Murray Franklin)
Lens: We used a mixture of large format lenses including ARRI DNA, Leica, Nikk, and Canon glass. We shot almost exclusively on prime lenses from 28mm to 350mm. For a few special scenes, we used the 70-200mm CP2, 150-600mm Canon, and 12-1 Angeniuex zoom.
Sher: Our objective was to find glass that covered the large format sensor of the ARRI 65, but also were vintage to the era we were recreating — from the ’70s and early ’80s. We didn’t want lenses that were too sharp or too perfect. Even the inconsistencies between lenses and manufacturers were by design to keep the movie feeling handmade and imperfect and hopefully more real.
Knowing that at its core the movie is an intimate character study of a man’s descent into madness and chaos, we knew that much of the movie would be done in closeups, so shooting large format allowed us to get closeup but still maintain the intimacy of having the camera close to Joaquin which has a subtle psychological effect on the audience without having to be on wider lenses. The shallower depth of field of those focal lengths provides a natural three dimensional effect separating him from his background and environment but with a field of view that still allows us to see the world.
Dir: Destin Daniel Cretton, DoP: Brett Pawlak
Format: 8K with a 6K extraction RED Monster Vista Vision sensor, w/ LICOLOR2
Camera: Panavision DXL2
Lens: Panavision Artistes / Panavision H-Series
Pawlak: This approach for Destin and I, in telling this important true story, was to focus on the people we were portraying in the film. From a visual perspective, I wanted to put emphasis on supporting that as naturally as possible within the aesthetic of the film. Shooting on the Vista Vision sensor and Large Format lenses allowed us stay close to the characters. The “portrait” nature of large-format photography enabled us to encapsulate the actors performances intimately, as well as take advantage of the wider field of view when in claustrophobic spaces, to retain some depth and texture of the sets, whether in close ups or wides.
Also, pairing such a high-resolution sensor with the de-tuned/older Panavision glass was the perfect complement to each other in maintaining sharpness with lens characteristics that are unique to Panavision glass. Native 1600 ISO, and sensitivity of the sensor allowed me to be more broad and subtle with my lighting. The LICOLOR2, developed by my post house, really solidified the “look” on set, which seamlessly went through the post workflow, and actually ended up being very close to the Final Color.
Dir: David Michôd, DoP: Adam Arkapaw
Camera: ARRI Alexa 65
Lenses: Panavision Ultra 70
Arkapaw: Director David Michôd and I have similar tastes in film and we wanted to make the epic gangster movie version of this story. When Hal becomes King he is an opinionated young man with a good sense of what his reign will be characterized by. However, he is quickly thrust into a problematic centuries-old dynamic when he is surrounded by older, well versed, powerful people offering advice that runs against his intentions. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily use the Alexa 65 format for numerous applications, in this case as we began filming, I really loved how the large format and slight anamorphic squeeze allowed us to have a very wide field of view, whilst still having the intimate characteristics of standard to long lenses. For instance, with a 65mm lens I could get a very wide shot (roughly the equivalent of a 24mm in 35mm format terms) in a small room incorporating many of the film’s characters, whilst still having the depth of the space feel compacted, and for that reason cramped, claustrophobic and uncomfortable. It gave the optical feeling that Hal constantly has all these people in his personal space and looking down on him. He can’t escape it and it’s overwhelming for him.
Although I knew we would use handheld for parts of the battle sequence, I didn’t want to break the large format imperial aesthetic we had going, so I just decided to go for it and get amongst it with the Arri 65. It was still probably more comfortable than the stunt guys in armor in the Hungarian summer heat.
The film has a very austere classic cinematographic heart, and I kept in mind the wisdom “just because you can be stylish doesn’t mean you have style.” We wanted to write the images in a way that every movement meant something very specific to that moment, and in doing so, to patiently build the aesthetic block by block to make our bridge a big, strong, beautiful bridge.
Dir: Rian Johnson, DoP: Steve Yedlin
Format: ARRIRAW 2880×1620
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Master Primes and Panavision Primo Zooms (PCZ 19-90mm, and PZW 15-40mm)
Yedlin: Prevalent superstitions notwithstanding, we are truly post-format these days, meaning our primary leverage point for designing a photographic look (the rendering of tones and colors) is the color pipeline, not the selection of camera. So, with the artistry of visual authorship decoupled from the camera format, selection of that format becomes technical/operational rather than artistic: so I chose the Alexa Mini for its excellent colorimetric reliability, its low noise, its sensor size that could be covered by the lenses I wanted to use, its ability to go up to 200 frames per second without having to change our framing area (i.e. “window in”), and the fact that I have a color pipeline already designed for it and didn’t need to start from scratch. Since I know I’ll sculpt the color/tonal rendition to my vision no matter which camera I select, I’m free to choose the camera type that is the pragmatic best choice for getting our shots.
At times we needed to shoot at extremely wide apertures in order to shoot deep into the dusk hour or to use the natural steely winter window light at our beautiful mansion location, and the Master Primes can open to impressively wide apertures without the image falling apart. At other times, we needed to use zoom lenses, as zooming was a substantial part of Rian’s design approach, which included complex evolving shots that were often compound moves: dollying/panning/zooming as we weave our way through the intricate dance of this densely populated ensemble cast. So, we used the PCZ and PZW for their versatility: well balanced combination of image quality, max aperture, and focal length range.
courtesy of filmmaker
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
Dir: Joe Talbot, DoP: Adam Newport-Berra
Format: ProRes 4444 2.8k
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini, along with some Phantom 4k Flex footage for the opening montage of the film.
Lens: Zeiss Master Primes with an Optimo 12:1 zoom
Newport-Berra: We really wanted the film to feel warm and nostalgic, but at the same time oddly modern. The approach always felt like it needed to be simple, honest, and photographic. We shot a 1.66 aspect ratio which embraced the verticality of the city and made for very intimate portraiture. Using the ARRI Alexa with Zeiss Master Primes combined with some subtle diffusion and an excellent LUT from my longtime collaborator Damien Van Der Cruyssen at The Mill, we aimed to create a very singular look that harkens a warmer, nostalgic past while still feeling fresh and new.
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: Noah Baumbach, DoP: Robbie Ryan
Format: 35MM Film (Kodak)
Camera: Arricam ST
Lens: Panavision Primo Prime Lenses
Ryan: Noah is a big celluloid fan, so 35mm was the obvious choice for “Marriage Story.” There was lots of portraiture and the 35mm dealt with skin tones and blacks beautifully. Also, Primo lenses are a fantastic combination with 35mm, in my opinion. Light-wise, we shot a lot with LiteMat LEDs, which really helped with continuity of light when we were filming in offices 20 stories up and we lost the daylight.
Gabor Kotschy, Courtesy of A24
Dir: Ari Aster, DoP: Pawel Pogorzelski
Format: 5K Monstro sensor 2:1, 8K Monstro sensor 2:1
Lens: Primo 35 lenses detuned, Artiste 70mm lenses
Pogorzelski: We tested 35mm film, Alexa, LF, and DXL2 and after viewing the results on the big screen we opted for The DXL2. The DXL2 had something special when brought to the edge of overexposure. There was a fairy tale quality to it and it kept information in the highlights. We wanted to have a special moment when our group arrived at Harga, so we decided to shoot with the Large Format sensor and crop into 5K for the scenes before they get to Harga and then go to 8K with the large format lenses to make Harga even more magical. Panavision was very instrumental in making this vision happen for us.
Dir: Edward Norton, DoP: Dick Pope
Format: 1.85:1, 3.4k ArriRaw
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini cameras
Lens: Cooke Panchro / iClassic Prime Lenses
Pope: I shot 1.85:1 Open Gate on ARRI Alexa Mini cameras out of Panavision New York, harnessing the camera’s small size and profile for ease of movement around some of the tighter sets, along with Panavision’s bespoke cage system offering multiple fixing points enabling the cameras to be easily set-up for interior car work.
For a mid-century feel, I chose the Cooke Panchro/iClassic lenses — a modern redesign of the vintage Panchro classics, which I had used on “Mr. Turner” — mainly deploying the 27, 32, and 40mm focal lengths for the shoot. These new lenses have similar characteristics to the earlier Panchros, such as glass aberrations and focus fall-off helping to recreate the same look-and-feel as the originals, but with the advantage of modern glass and mounts for today’s modern cameras. Edward wanted the patina of old cinema but without feeling like it had a treatment and these lenses helped inform how I approached that challenge.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Dir: Quentin Tarantino, DoP: Robert Richardson
Format: 35mm Film
Lens: Anamorphic – E, C, T series
Richardson: The epic nature of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” required a look that brought back the late ’60s, yet allowed for a contemporary feel. The grace of capture on film allowed me to capture faces and locations as they should be. There is a grace to how film brings the human face alive in ways that digital has not yet achieved. Beyond that, the movement between period films recreated and the present time of the film required a textural structure that supported both black and white as well as rich saturated color. This is a film about Hollywood and the feel of the film is exactly that, Hollywood.
©El Deseo D.A. S.L.U./Photo by Manolo Pavón/Sony Pictures Classics
“Pain and Glory”
Dir: Pedro Almodovar, DoP: José Luis Alcaine
Format: 3.4K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI ALEXA ST
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. 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 okay 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. 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 a god for Salvador).
Dir: Bong Joon Ho, DoP: Kyung-pyo Hong
Format: 65mm format digital cinema camera, 6.5K Opengate, ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI ALEXA 65
Lens: Prime DNA Lens
Kyung-pyo Hong: The charm of Alexa 65 is that it showcases the look closest to an actual film while achieving an image quality of 4K or higher among the existing cameras. Director Bong Joon Ho (Hereafter “Director Bong”) had experience filming various locations in Korea with Alexa 65 and Panavision Priomo 70 Lens for “Okja.” This allowed Director Bong and me to discuss the strengths and the benefits of Alexa 65 in depth.
In April 2018, when we were at pre-production stage, the film crew and I visited Germany’s ARRI. We arranged tests for the combination of Alexa 65 and Prime DNA Lens during our stay, checking and noting the merits we would be able to expect from such combination in our work for “Parasite.”
As you’d well know, “Parasite” is a film that follows 10 main characters up close. In other words, you have to grasp the 10 character’s different “characteristics” in the frame. The characteristic I’m referring to not only includes the looks and the personality, but also the deep pathos that seeps from each character’s situation and irony. Each character’s characteristic can be expressed more dramatically through either conformity or contrast with the background. While focusing on people-oriented shots, it was also necessary to secure “an angle of view” to pay adequate attention to the texture of their backgrounds and surroundings. This wasn’t simply limited to capturing people.
To fully catch the big house, the semi-basement unit, and the secret underground place that Director Bong had created, an appropriate use of a wide lens was required. Wide lens from Prime DNA Lens group had little distortion of screen as well as a secure angle of view, so it was a very good choice. Due to these reasons, we had to carefully check the background lighting and the production design set even when we were shooting a close-up shot of a character. So for the relevant teams, it was a site where you could never rest assured.
“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.
Andre D. WagnerUniversal Pictures
“Queen & Slim”
Dir: Melina Matsoukas, DoP: Tat Radcliffe
Format: 35mm Film and some ARRIRAW
Camera: Panavision XL2 and ARRI Alexa mini
Lens: Panavision G series
Radcliffe: The beauty of celluloid is that it can deal with the subtle variations of saturated colors which we wanted to incorporate into the lighting design. Practically and logistically its hard to beat digital capture but film is wonderful at sealing the variegated subtleties of skin tone, helping to create a stylish aura around Jodie [Turner-Smith] and Daniel [Kaluuya]. Because “Queen & Slim” is essentially a road movie, we needed to shoot on location to give the actors a sense of place and so at night on the process trailer work we chose to employ digital capture to grab what little ambience there was in some of the darker country roads. Then, in the DI, using the texture and feel of what we had already shot on film we were able to blend the 2 formats pretty seamlessly. We wanted to shoot anamorphic to help add some scale and grit and the relatively fast and light weight G series were perfect for the handheld work we knew would be a big part of the gig.
Dir: Scott Z. Burns, DoP: Eigil Bryld
Format: 2.8 Arriraw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Master primes and uncoated ultra primes
Bryld: Our story, on paper, is somewhat complicated. Many names, various locations around the world, and it covers a number of years with a bunch of flashback sequences. So to keep the audience on track, we choose to treat the flashbacks and present day distinctly different. Part of this was lens choice. Present day was shot with master primes, and for the flashbacks we used uncoated ultra primes that pick up flare very easily and has less color saturation. This helped us make the flashbacks disorientating, almost broken images. The present day is more matter of fact, clean, and vibrant to help give attention to subtle nuances and creating tension.
Dir: Clint Eastwood, DoP: Yves Bélanger
Format: 3.2K ARRIRAW anamorphic
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini XT
Lens: Primo Anamorphic C and T Series
Bélanger: Short prep and a relatively short shoot (34 days) and fast delivery (end of shoot August and ready for opening for December 13, 2019), so we needed an easy and fast work flow on the set and for post-production. Anamorphic is a must in all Mr. Eastwood’s movies. Finally, the Alexa with anamorphic lenses makes everything look real, but also nice.
Dir: Dexter Fletcher, DoP: George Richmond
Format: 2.8K ARRI RAW for the Anamorphic and 3.2K Open Gate for the Spherical (VFX Elements)
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini’s and Alexa SXT
Lens: The main Lens Package comprised of Panavision G Series Anamorphic Primes, E Series Anamorphic Primes and the AWZ and ATZ Anamorphic Zooms. A set of Primo Classic Spherical lenses were used for some of the VFX capture.
Richmond: Having to capture the story set over a few decades while telling the journey of a humble beginning to a swirling world of fame, success, and excess, director Dexter Fletcher and I felt that shooting on digital and using anamorphic lenses, we would be able to control the range of looks required with the lighting and compositions to give the visual signature we were after for the different sections of the film. Once you know how the format/lenses will react to the light and the compositions, for example, shooting in low key environments or looking at the lights to get them to flare, shooting with saturated color, creating silhouettes, or using a de-tuned 50mm that will only focus in the center of the lens, we can start to use these tools to visually enhance the story being told.
I love the way the G Series look, they seem to match some of my photographic sensibilities, so I find it easy to enjoy the way they enhance the image. The versatility of the Alexa Mini, coupled with the size and weight of the G-Series opened up many possibilities for moving the camera which was essential for us, especially the “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting” sequence, where the camera was always moving and experiencing the world Elton was moving through.
First and foremost we are storytellers, so it’s important for me to the have tools that offer the widest range of possibilities that can enhance your decisions while never getting in the way of your final goal.
Dir: Benedict Andrews, DoP: Rachel Morrison
Format: 35mm Film
Camera: Panavision Millenium XL2
Lens: Panavision C Series Anamorphic lenses with a smattering PV Z and SP Primes, which Sasaki de-tuned to match the C series.
Morrison: Everything about the story of “Seberg” begged to be captured on celluloid. We were recreating the glory days of old Hollywood while at the same time referencing the physiological paranoia films of the ’70s. Shooting analog just felt right. There is an inherently humanistic quality to film which complimented the narrative because it is a deeply emotional character piece. I find the beauty in celluloid is that its slightly unpredictable, imperfect, which feels more like life to me. Also the grain is constantly in motion and that kinetic energy resonates with vitality.
The C-Series anamorphic further echo these instincts because each lens is optically unique and they are full of imperfections (which of course, to me, make them perfect). They tend to go quite soft toward the outsides of the frame which focuses ones eye to the subject and aids in the extreme subjectivity of the cinematography when we were with Jean, but also the lenses defract light which create little glints in the foreground at times which helped convey the feeling of being watched, photographed, invaded…
“The Two Popes”
Dir: Fernando Meirelles, DoP: César Charlone
Format: 8K and 4K Red
Camera: Red Helium
Lens: Angenieux 35 mm zooms, Zeiss 16 mm zooms
Charlone: We wanted a documentary look for some parts so the 16mm handheld was perfect. The 35mm for more stable parts played well letting us reframe easily to give the actors liberty on set.
We had a very important part in the Sistine Chapel. So we looked for inspiration on lighting and color in the afrescos (Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, Pinturicchio) and especially Michelangelo. So for that we front lit, a kind of “flat lightning” from filmic point of view. But we worked hard with the art department and after in post to achieve the palette.
Dir: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, DoP: Darius Khondji
Format: 35mm Film, 4 perfs
Camera: Arri LT and ST full gate Anamorphic
Lens: Panavision C series
Khondji: This was the format we chose after doing tests. The directors and I wanted to shoot on film and it was the best format, as long as we were able to use long lenses. We shot almost the whole film in very long lenses, not only C, but E lenses up to 360mm. We wanted to be close to the faces of the actors and follow Adam Sandler as if we observing him.
Dir: Trey Edward Shults, DoP: Drew Daniels
Format: 2.8k and 3.2k prores4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision USZ primes, Ultra Speed primes, Primo primes, and the 24-275 Primo zoom (for spherical)and we shot with Panavision C-series, D-series and E-series anamorphic lenses
Daniels: For Trey and I, the lenses were a huge part of the emotional language and visual curve of the film. We assigned certain lenses for certain characters, certain emotions, and really leaned into the unique “personality” of each lens. We originally intended to shoot “Waves” on film, but in retrospect, digital was a blessing because I really love the look of the film and some of the shots we achieved, like the 360 degree shots in the moving vehicles and very long improvised takes would have been technically impossible for us with bigger film cameras in very tight spaces.
Trey and I decided that if it had to be digital, we needed to push the sensor to the absolute extremes and beat it up as much as possible. We shot the entire film at 3200 ISO. This altered the curve in such a way that to us, felt more filmic. The shadows fell off faster and the highlights held more detail. We were very keen on following our hearts and going with the flow. We called it “playing jazz” with the actors and the tools we had for the job felt like the exact right choices to make the movie feel special and unique.