IndieWire reached out to the cinematographers behind the scripted narrative features premiering this week at Sundance to find out which cameras, lenses, and formats they used, and why they chose them to create the looks and meet the production demands of their films. Here are their responses.
Films appear in alphabetical order by title, and are organized by section:
1. U.S. Dramatic Competition
5. World Dramatic Competition
Dir: Esteban Arango, DoP: Ed Wu
Format: RED HELIUM 8K S35 RAW 6:5
Camera: RED HELIUM
Lens: Lomo Anamorphic Round
Wu: This was a film made with heart, blood, tears and soul. We fought for what we wanted creatively even though we had a limited budget for what we were trying to achieve. We knew that we wanted to make an “Uber-Metalized American Latino Adventure” movie, meaning we wanted to have some serious kick ass visuals that ultimately told a heartwarming story about a family that is faced with the reality of how tough the American dream is. We wanted to go extreme with our visual choices and play up the dreamlike nature of coming to America as an immigrant family but mirror the hardships of moving to a place without knowing anyone let alone the language. Because of this, Esteban and I were adamant even from the start that we needed to shoot anamorphically. We both fell in love with the older gunky and funky nature of the Lomo Round-Front Anamorphic lenses. Optically, they’re technically terrible but it was the exact feel that we were going for. The vignetting, halation, distortion, bokeh, and beautiful flares all added to the dreamlike nature of the movie. To play it up even more, we decided to wear a 1/8 Black Promist and Gold Diffusion 1 filter at all times. When it came to deciding on how to move the camera, Esteban and I would try to relate the visuals to how the characters were feeling. But would always ask ourselves, how can we push the camera to an 11 and break the rules a bit. That ended up usually meaning putting the camera in places that you normally wouldn’t be in. The RED HELIUM was great for this because of its size. The camera would be directly below the characters or straight above. We could roll the camera on the Z-axis mid shot to end upside down. We were playing with perspective of the camera to show how tough it could be these characters to adapt to America.
“Charm City Kings”
Dir: Angel Manuel Soto, DoP: Katelin Arizmendi
Format: 3.4K ProRes 444XQ
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Ultra and Super Speeds
Arizmendi: Angel and I always wanted to stay true to the authenticity of Baltimore and this story, assuring it didn’t become a flashy, Hollywood interpretation of this world. The lenses I chose offer imperfections, different characteristics with each lens, softer flares, and surprises. They didn’t feel clinical and too perfect. I also love the focal lengths of these lenses- 29mm and 40mm being my favorite portrait lenses. We also experimented with some specialty lenses from Panavision like the detuned 29mm, 50mm T1, and 75mm flare lens to add something special to some of the riding scenes.
“Dinner In America”
Dir: Adam Carter Rehmeier, DoP: Jean-Philippe Bernier
Format: 8K Anamorphic REDCODE raw
Camera: RED Epic-W Helium
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic/i
Bernier: Dinner in America was an indie shoot with a ton of locations and a tight schedule. My first instinct was to go with a camera system & lenses that I knew well and liked. Adam and I both knew right away that we needed anamorphic lenses to tell the story of Patty & Simon, because much of the film lives in tight and medium two shots. We felt that the defocus of an anamorphic lens would add more separation and help isolate them in their own world. After looking into different vintage anamorphic lenses, I went back to Cooke, which I love for their mix of vintage aberrations but packaged in a more modern design that makes it easy and fast on set. They also have the perfect amount of softness in the wider stops that pair perfectly with the hi-resolution 8K Helium sensor. Helium also gave us the room in the edit for shots that needed a small, emotional zoom, while keeping a true 4k finish. The RED 8K felt close, in my eyes, to the rawness of my visual references for the film: street and punk shows photography from the 80s/90s.
“The Evening Hour”
Dir: Braden King, DoP: Declan Quinn
Format: 3.2 K ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Super Baltar Lenses
Quinn: Braden wanted to capture the scarred beauty of Kentucky in the Autumn. We chose to avoid the verdant green of Summer but also the stark, black and white of Winter. The Autumn light and color helped suggest a hopefulness for the embattled characters in the film. At first, we imagined Super 16mm film would give us the grain and texture that would support the story’s rawness. But as we scouted and prepped it became clear that we did not want to give up the more abstract focus fall-off you get with larger negatives and sensors. We also realized that a wider, 2.40:1 aspect ratio was feeling more intimate than the taller 16mm ratio. We decided to shoot a test on Arri Alexa using LiveGrain software to give us the feel of film grain. The results were very satisfying, so we decided to shoot digitally on the Arri Alexa Mini. We applied the LiveGrain during the DI process. We went mostly with old glass — Super Baltars. They are sharp in the center with a subtle softening of focus out to the edges. Also, I don’t feel the focus pulls as much as you might on a modern lens, which I like.
Dir: Ekwa Msangi, DoP: Bruce Francis Cole
Format: Arri ProRes
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Primos, Cooke Panchros
Cole: Our film “Farewell Amor” is a simple immigrant love story but told in the form of a triptych. We wanted each chapter to feel tethered to the emotions of our characters. During prep, the director (Ekwa Msangi) and I decided that creating a different visual language for each chapter was the most effective way to achieve that. We used Classic Primos to create a sense of realism for the 1st half of the film. Chapter 1 in our film was in the style of “slow cinema”, which at times required long observational-like takes on a stationary camera. Our character Walter, the husband, is trapped between his old life and his newly arrived family. The second chapter was more in the style of “cinema verite”. We used handheld camera movement to reveal the inner conflict and rebellious angst of a young teenager trying to navigate her way through a new life. The third chapter was more in the style of romanticism. This is also where we switched lenses to the painterly-like Cooke Panchros. Taking inspiration from the Slavko Vorkapic technique and the art of the montage, we used a lot of long lenses and diopters. We open up and find our character Esther living and desiring to be in the prefect marriage so bad that she chooses to live in a fantasy until it all comes shattering down. We wanted to isolate her emotional journey and reveal her enamoured view of the same unfolding events as in the chapters before. The final 4th chapter aka The Epilogue is where we integrated all the visual devices to create a progression from turmoil to harmony amongst the family. We really loved the dynamic range and simple workflow found within Arri digital cameras. A lot of our scenes took place in a moving car on the streets of New York. Our budget wouldn’t allow us to use a process trailer, so we had to find a camera that could be stripped down small enough to make shooting in live traffic with a hostess tray possible. The Alexa mini was the perfect fit.
Dir: Lee Isaac Chung, DoP: Lachlan Milne
Format: 3.4k Prores 4444HQ
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision P Vintage prime lenses
Milne: Isaac and I both love single camera films with minimal coverage. We wanted “Minari” to be a wider angled film where we could shoot the performances in more of a real time way by keeping the actors together in the frame where possible. The flat and hot exterior landscapes lent themselves to the always cinematic spherical widescreen aspect ratio. We kept coverage as minimal as the scene would allow and shot most of the film on the great Panavision 29mm.
Dir: Channing Godfrey Peoples, DoP: Daniel Patterson
Format: 3.2K Arriraw
Camera: ARRI Alexa mini
Lens: Angenieux 12 to 1 zoom
Patterson: The Optimo zoom lens ended up being our go-to lens for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we were able to vary our focal lengths while eliminating the time that it would normally take to change focal lengths, when using prime lenses. There are also times where we made the choice of having zooms during shots that we used to push the storytelling and point of view. Last, I’ve always appreciated the glass coating and how the colors are rendered on this particular lens.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
Dir: Eliza Hittman, DoP: Hélène Louvart
Format: Super 16 mm
Camera: Arri 416
Lens: Ultra Prime Zeiss
Louvart: The Super 16mm give poetry in the pictures, and it was important for this film not to remain too realistic. This choice brought us to a particular way of filming, and the result is simple skin tone that are naturally soft. Mostly shot with 7219 Kodak, we changed and added some light of course, but always in a natural way. And we continued to follow this choice during the color grading. Keeping as much as we can the feeling of the Super 16mm.
Dir: Max Barbakow, DoP: Quyen Tran
Format: 4:3 2.8K 2X ANA (2.39:1 Scope)
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision T Series Anamorphics
Tran: Since we were shooting in small, practical locations, with multiple company moves I wanted a tight camera profile and close minimum focus. Even though the film has plenty of comedic and absurd moments, it also has a lot of heart, emotion, and pathos. To find the right balance tonally was tricky, so I felt that in choosing the T series anamorphics, which has a very dreamy minimum focus, I could get the camera to an intimate space both physically and emotionally with the actors. The fall off and bokeh is so beautiful, and oftentimes surreal depending on the light sources. As the characters begin to open up to one another, so does the camera work, moving from studio mode to a more free flowing handheld — often times we would run scenes documentary style with no rehearsals.
Dir: Alex Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, DoP: Matt Clegg
Format: 3.2K Pro Res 4444
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Primos, 19-90, 24-275 Primo Zooms
Clegg: We shot a lot of this movie in a beautiful but tiny cabin in the woods so the Alexa Mini became essential for squeezing into all the different rooms and getting wide enough to keep both our heroes in the frame together. During pre-production the directors and I shared a lot of references from American comedies of the ’70s, Edward Yang, and Todd Field. We built our visual ideas on a muted palette of earth tones to underscore the humble beauty of the Catskill mountains and shot design that emphasized performance over formalistic lensing. Alex and Eleanor wrote a hilarious and frankly brilliant script so it became my job to craft an aesthetic of simplicity in order to let the performances resonate and not distract with undue stylistic imagery. I fell in love with the 19-90 Primo zoom while shooting, It has a very clean-but-not-sterile texture, great color rendition, doesn’t breathe, and is small enough to operate handheld. I probably shot over half of the film on that lens. All of Panavision’s glass is beautiful but I think we got a really nice one in our package. Because the narrative deals with a couple’s romantic relationship, we often created blocking that kept both our leads in the frame. The zooms helped us be physically flexible while also dialing in the intimacy/alienation dynamic as the story arc progressed. Occasionally we used zooms for comedic effect (this was a lot of pressure because our leads were VERY funny and it was a high bar trying to be funny in the same scene with them).
Dir: Josephine Decker, DoP: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Format: 3.2K ProRes 4444XT
Camera: Arri Alexa MINI
Lens: Bausch&Laumb Super Baltar Primes, Angieneux 24-290 Optimo
Grøvlen: We experimented a lot with visual concepts on “Shirley”, and approached each scene with curiosity and an open mind. So it was important to have tools that didn’t limit our creative process or slow us down. We wanted a very organic and distinct look for Shirley’s house, which we wanted to treat as a character in itself. We tested 35mm film, but in the end we couldn’t afford it. I felt that with the combination of the Arri Alexa MINI and the SuperBaltar lenses we were able to create a look that had the organic feel that was right for the interiors of the house. For the exteriors we wanted a crisper look and ended up going with the Optimo 24-290. We also used a lensbaby for specific scenes to enhance a world which dissolves between fiction and reality.
Dir: Eugene Ashe, DoP: Declan Quinn
Format: Super 16 film – Kodak Color Negative
Camera: Arriflex 416 camera
Lens: Zeiss 16mm Ultra Primes
Quinn: We were quick to choose Super 16 film for “Sylvie’s Love.” Eugene wanted the film to be reminiscent of the romantic musical stories from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s- films like “Paris Blues,” “Pal Joey,” “Sparkle” and “Mahogany.” 16mm film grain and the inherent softness that a smaller negative delivers worked to bring the nostalgic feel we wanted for this film. We did not need to further diffuse the image with optics so we chose the crisp Zeiss Ultra Primes which were designed for Super 16. On testing film stocks we quickly learned that the 500T was too grainy for us, so we shot using the 200T and 50T. This pushed us into using more direct light than we would have been accustomed to. The gaffer, Christian Epps and myself used a soft/hard lighting approach that evoked the hard light feel of the early 60’s films but we also kept a softer natural feel to the light when needed. Consistent with older movies, apart from the nightclub scenes, we did not use much color on our lights. It was Mayne Berke’s production design and Phoenix Mellow’s costumes that brought the colors and textures to the screen. The lighting remained relatively neutral.
Dir: Tara Miele , DoP: Carolina Costa
Format: 3.2K ProRes 4444XQ
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Speed Panchros- rehoused at Panavision
Costa: Tara and myself would say the visual language of the film should be like ‘I was there that day’. Every shot, the lighting and camera movement should evoke the inner feelings of our characters and the viewer needed to feel they were right there witnessing it. The audience, that way, could smell, touch and experience it, almost if by luck they could be there and almost miss it. The Alexa Mini camera was ideal because of its compact size allowing us to move freely in small locations. And the format was one that we were comfortable in achieving the colors we wanted and the quality for post. Though most of the transitions were achieved in camera, we knew that we would need help with Vfx to make it seamless.The lenses was a choice we made after many tests we carried at Panavision Tara and myself. We felt the speed panchros were the perfect combination to render this realism and the inner world and psychology of the characters that was so important for this story. The camera was real up close to our two main characters and had to express viscerally the trajectory — both physical and psychological. The right glass was a must since we were placing the lenses so close to actors’ faces and having to always be emphatic with their journey.
Anna Kooris / A24 Films
Dir: Janicza Bravo, DoP: Ari Wegner
Format: Super 16
Camera: Arri 416+
Lenses: Zeiss Super Speeds
Wegner: “Zola” is a film that interweaves the stark reality of day and the nightmarish journey through the night, from vividly lit clubs to sun-bleached highways, dim motel rooms to sparkling resort pools, so colour and contrast were always going to be hugely important. 16mm was the natural choice to capture that nuance of the journey from candy to putrid.
We also love how 16mm captures the beauty of skin and of places in a way that is both incredibly real and yet somehow heightened, which describes almost exactly our philosophy of how we wanted the film to look.
Dir: Euros Lyn, DoP: Erik Alexander Wilson
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision T series
Wilson: We wanted to convey a slightly romantic vision of the community in this valley and of Wales in general, so anamorphic seemed the right way to go. And as it’s a story about a syndicate, we often had 7 shots or 12 people in a frame, so the T-series edge to edge sharpness worked a treat. 2:39 was a no brained for a film about horses, but the actual racing was shot spherical with various Panavision zooms, as we only had one take per horse run!
Dir: Florian Zeller, DoP: Ben Smithard
Format: Sony 6K RAW X-OCN
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Zeiss Supreme
Smithard: The Sony Venice is a great Camera, versatile with a huge amount of attributes that make my life as a Cinematographer much easier. On a Feature like ours with great actors like Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams, I was looking for a Camera system that recorded faces as I saw them in real life. The Venice has great Colour Rendition, and a brilliant Contrast Range, and it’s super easy to use. I wanted to concentrate on the performances and my lighting, it’s that kind of film, the film I generally shoot. Also I had just finished shooting Downton Abbey on the Sony Venice, so it made sense to use it on The Father. The Camera is just a tool. I spend lots of time thinking about how I’m going to use the Camera, and what Camera to use whilst in prep, then I just want to completely forget about it when I’m shooting, and just shoot the film. Once shooting I’m only really interested in what is in front of the Camera.
“Four Good Days”
Dir: Rodrigo Garcia, DoP: Igor Jadue-Lillo
Format: 4K Sony Venice
Camera: Sony Venice plus Rialto mode
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic
Jadue-Lillo: Rodrigo Garcia our Director wanted to do a Classic Movie from the very beginning. From this premise, we worked out a look that would be quaint and humble but with the objective to have a classic and classy picture. “Four Good Days” is such a dramatic and internal story that the look needed to play along these parameters, so our photography needed to be real and naturalistic, rescuing all the values that we found in our sets and shooting our main characters — Glenn Close and Mila Kunis — for what their characters were constructed for. Once we brought the term classic, we were directed straight to the 2:40 ratio and from then on, after testing many different lenses, we landed with the Anamorphic Cooke which gave us that soft, creamy look that we were looking for. Once we decided for the Cooke, the Sony Venice became our camera. We needed to shoot at f4 to have the depth of field we wanted and this camera gave us the option to rate at 5ooasa or 2500asa when we were at night. Also with such big lenses, the use of the Rialto Mode in such small locations became paramount.
Dir: Julie Taymor, DoP: Rodrigo Prieto
Format: RAW/X-OCN with AXS-R7
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: H Series spherical lenses and Primo Zooms
Prieto: This is a film about the journey of Gloria Steinem through her life on the road, facing many adversities as well as joy and adventures along the way. The color depth that the Sony Venice offers, allowed us to play with different intensities of color as the decades pass and the movie enters her mind in some surreal moments. We cover the gamut, from black and white, through de-saturated colors of her childhood, to the aggressive color of certain settings in the 70’s and dreamlike subjective scenes. The H Series lenses have a vintage quality that, coupled with the large format camera, give the film a sense or period, while immersing the audience in the experience.
Dir: Phyllida Lloyd, DoP: Tom Comerford
Format: ProRes 4444 XQ 4:3 2.8K
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Master Anamorpic
Comerford: Phyllida had a very clear vision for how we should shoot the film, it was going to be all hand held, the camera would be an observer for long takes, moving with the main character, so I wanted a camera set up that was light, reliable and unobtrusive. The Master Anamorphics were great in low light situations and gave us depth in tight locations while still keeping the image feeling natural and real without a heavy anamorphic “look.”
Dir: Jeff Baena , DoP: Sean McElwee
Format: SonyRAW X-OCN
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Angenieux Optimo 24-290 and Cooke S5’s
McElwee: “Horse Girl” is, at its core, a psychological thriller, but one that is very grounded in reality. Alison Brie’s character is having difficulty distinguishing her dreams from reality, and Jeff and I never wanted to visually telegraph what is real and what isn’t. The Cooke S5’s gave us a natural, clean look that lent itself beautifully to our visual approach. We also wanted to utilize zooms as much as we could. Zooms always feel a bit unsettling to me while still maintaining a natural feel. With the Optimo we were really able to walk that tightrope and create a particular but subtle mood with the zoom that never took away from the overall naturalistic aesthetic. This was my first time shooting with the Sony Venice and I was very pleased with its latitude and natural highlights. The dual ISO makes shooting at night easier and the internal optical ND system saves a lot of filter swapping on set.
Dir: Miranda July, DoP: Sebastian Wintero
Format: 2.8K Arriraw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision anamorphic C-series
Wintero: Miranda’s story has this incredible element of insight on human nature,
exploring our social relations and behavior in a somewhat surreal settings. It’s a very engaging and intimate love story but at the same time its also a portrait of a dysfunctional family, observed from a little bit of a distance.
We both love the inherent artifacts of the classic Panavision look, the curvature,
the fall off and softness that comes with this glass, but the decision on a widescreen ratio was a more important one. Because 2.35 is so wide left to right, the space around a human can be filled and crammed with other people, props, elements, etc, creating comfort, a sense of community or belonging. On the other hand, if the same space around a character is left empty, it becomes equally powerful hinting at isolation or a certain degree of loneliness, but can also suggest strength, poignancy and importance. It can still show the main character and a group at the same time, in the same frame, eliminating the need to necessarily cut back an forth to establish relation, meaning that we were often able to stay in a frame for longer, stay with a character, reflecting the real time tension in the scenes, as opposed to use editing to create that.
It is a very precise format; And maybe that’s what I like the most about it.
The camera (and the human beings behind it) must really commit, because the frame articulates every choice; So, the real strength of the format, and the reason that made it so perfect for this project, in my opinion is the combined ability to convey both the personal, intimate and relatable story from a single persons point of view,
while at the same time potentially unfolding that into the more epic and iconic storytelling.
“The Last Shift”
Dir: Andrew Cohn, DoP: W. Mott Hupfel III
Camera: Sony venice 6K OCN ST 17:9
Lens: Zeiss Supreme primes
Hupfel: A large portion of The Last Shift takes place in a single location, a restaurant. We had only a 20 day shooting schedule and our focus was to support the performances above all. I needed to find a way to create beautiful images quickly — and in mostly non-cinematic settings. I had been very interested in working with the Sony Venice in it’s 6K mode and taking advantage of it’s larger sensor. The softer depth of field it creates, even with wider lenses, was perfect to add some poetry to the restaurant. I spoke to many DPs I admire about the Venice, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Paul Cameron was incredibly helpful, also directing me to the Zeiss Supreme primes that open up to 1.4 and really make the most of the camera’s beautiful depth. The Venice allowed us to capture only the 17:9 part of the 6K sensor, saving us tons on data storage costs. Our data rates at 6K for our 2:1 frame were not much more than they would have been on cameras without the bigger sensor. The people at Keslow Camera bent over backwards to make it work for me and even threw in the Rialto, which was used on every single shot. That tiny rig allowed many cool angles that I would have never even dreamed of with a larger body. Finally, the 2500 base ASA and the internal NDs made the Venice my new go to camera, in fact I used it again on another project in the fall and keep finding more to love about it.
Dir: Liz Garbus, DoP: Igor Martinovic
Format: 6K Full Frame
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Vintage Leica R
Martinovic: The main cinematography concept in Lost Girls is based around subjective perspective of the main character (Mari) and her quest of finding the truth about her missing daughter. We used framing to show Mary through her relationship to the wider world. A full frame large format camera allowed us to emphasize her feeling of loss by framing her in a way that makes her appear small in a wider landscape. Sometimes we would frame her in contrast to large institutions she is fighting against. Other times we positioned her on edges of frames to signify her sense of being out of balance. We also used frames within frames as a way to show her being trapped; she becomes a captive of the frame. Since this is a film based on real events we embraced imperfections of vintage lenses to bring out a feeling of reality to the film narrative. Soft edges of these lenses obscure the details within frames, hiding them from the audience, mirroring the notion that the truth is hidden from our tragic heroine. Eventually she is able to break out of her circumstances, bringing the truth to the forefront and finding her way from obscured to a more open framing.
Dir: Sean Durkin, DoP: Matyas Erdely
Format: 35mm film
Camera: ARRICAM LT
Lens: Cooke S4, Angenieux 24-290
Erdely: Sean and I were very clear about the format from the very beginning. Besides shooting on 35mm film there were no other options. This is my third film in a row on 35mm for a reason. I just love how film looks.
“Promising Young Woman”
Dir: Emerald Fennell, DoP: Benjamin Kracun
Format: 2.8K ProRes 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision G-Series Anamorphic
Kracun: We chose to shoot on the Alexa Mini with G-Series Anamorphic lenses. Firstly, Emerald and I wanted to create a heightened world, a luscious and seductive one but also dangerous – this is a predatory world where Cassie has to confront a trauma in her past. I love pairing the Alexa with older glass, I knew we wanted to amplify certain colours but retain a dreamy softer image texture. Id shot many of my previous films on Alexa and knew how far I could push the camera when needed.We tested many lenses but ultimately the G-series lenses had the perfect character for us, they contain certain aberrations especially when using the wider lenses and often the edges would slightly blur. The combination of slightly de-tuned G-series and the colourful design of the film was the perfect flavour. The lenses had an imperfection we loved. Using the wide end of the anamorphic lenses and emphasising the negative space within scenes really helped to amplify our world. A world which feels safe but also out of balance.
Dir: Greg Barker, DoP: Adrian Teijido
Format: Red Helium 8K
Camera: Red Helium
Lens: Leicas Summicron
Teijido: I read the script and watched the documentary “Sergio”, directed by Greg Barker in 2009. It got evident to me that I should film this story as if it was a more realistic story. I wanted the audience to believe the images as if they were real, and at the same time, this was exactly what Greg was looking for. To achieve this concept, I used a lot of handheld camera, without dolly and crane movements or light pyrotechnics, when the camera was not handheld; it was in Steadicam operated by Ariel Swartzman. I decided for the aspect ratio 2:1 because I believe that this format helps this realistic concept. Since it was an original Netflix, I had to capture these images with a minimum resolution of 4K. I also wanted a camera and a set of lightweight, versatile lenses because I had the most diverse situations to shoot. So I chose to use Red Helium with Leicas Summicron lenses. There was an extensive search for archival footage, and which helped understand what happened after the explosion inside Canal Hotel in Baghdad. To simulate the post-blast in the Canal Hotel, we used haze machines, smoke, and dust inside the building. The entire interior of the rubble of the Canal Hotel, where Sergio was stuck, was filmed in a studio in Bangkok, with incredible work by Production Designer Jonhy Breedt and his team. To light this set, I asked Johny to make holes in the rubble in such a way that I could simulate that the sunlight could illuminate the interior through these holes. This sequence was tough for the actors. They had to stay in a very uncomfortable position with limited movements to simulate that they were really trapped in the rubble. I was very happy to be invited to join this production and film this incredible story of Sergio Vieira de Melo, who was a great humanitarian diplomat.
Dir: Michael Almereyda, DoP: Sean Price Williams
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Super Baltar
Williams: The camera and lenses were not my first choice of gear. Fate interfered and we, in fact, had no choice but to rent the Super Baltars. I was not unhappy though. Each lens in the series has its own wonderful aberrations and charms. So it wasnt always the focal length that determined my choice from scene to scene. I never used the 100mm which would have been my go to often. So it was a good challenge and the quirkiness of it all suited the material.
Dir: Alan Ball, DoP: Khalid Mohtaseb
Format: 4K 4:3 XOCN-XT
Camera: Sony Venice , Sony Rialto
Lens: Hawk C-series and rehoused lomo square fronts
Mohtaseb: We shot the film on location in Wilmington, North Carolina and during the scout process I knew we’d need to be quite small with our footprint. The film also takes place in the 70s with flashbacks to the 50s so we wanted lenses that can accommodate that era but not be too heavy handed. The Sony Rialto (Venice sensor extension) became a pivotal part of getting the camera where we wanted.
Dir: Benh Zeitlin, DoP: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Format: 16mm film
Camera: ARRI 416
Lens: Zeiss Ultra 16 Primes
Grøvlen: Benh has only ever shot on 16mm, and envisages his environments and characters with that in mind. I love the look of 16mm and felt that it was right for the film, so there was never any other format up for discussion. We did a few tests on digital and tried to match it to the 16mm look; we initially worried that the extensive visual effects would mean we’d have to shoot a lot on digital formats. But in the end we shot most of the VFX stuff on 16mm as well. Besides the look of 16mm it’s also an extremely reliable format — no fragile electronics to worry about. And since we shot in some extreme conditions, this proved to be invaluable. The choice of lenses were obvious to me as we wanted the image to be as sharp as possible. When shooting on digital formats I like to use vintage lenses, but the texture of 16mm film itself provides enough character. I shot the New Orleans portion on Kodak 250D stock and pulled it two stops to get a bleak and slightly more grainy image. I wanted the real world to feel less colorful and more “real” compared to Neverland which I shot on Kodak 50D to get a more saturated and contrasty look. I also carried a Aaton A-Minima with a short zoom, to be able to quickly catch those unscripted moments in between takes or to get B-roll whenever I felt inspired.
Dir: Sara Colangelo, DoP: Pepe Avila del Pino
Format: ARRIRAW Open Gate
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke anamorphics
Pino: “Worth” can be summed up as a story about the battle of institutions, structures and formulas on the one hand, with the human factor, the personal, the natural on the other. The color rendition of the Alexa with the smoothness and creaminess of the Cooke anamorphics was the ideal choice to dance and play with these two thematic elements. Sara and I wanted to have a more restrained and classical approach for the moments when the story felt the weight of institutions, bureaucracy, the State; and we wanted a more loose, more fluid look when we were exploring the minutia of the characters’ faces and their very specific emotional states. We were inspired by the idea of shooting in 2.39, because we felt this could highlight much of the awkwardness and isolation of our protagonist, Ken, at the beginning of the film, but also move to a warmer, more human framing — one that would ‘imperfectly’ show him engaged and alive in the world of his claimants by the end.
Dir: Romola Garai, DoP: Laura Bellingham
Format: Arri 3.2k
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini and Amira
Lens: Cooke Speed Panchros for present day and Zeiss Super Speeds for the flashback sequences.
Bellingham: Our key location in the film is a decaying house in which our protagonist Tomaz finds an unlikely sanctuary. We wanted the camera, like the house to feel like an impassive observer, spying on Tomaz, the Mini gave us the ability to rig high up in corners and cupboards or peer over banister rails. Our approach always revolved around Tomaz’s shifting psychology and persona. We wanted to create a sense of liminal space that he is on the threshold of transformation. In addition, we often had to cross shoot in tight spaces, the 2nd camera usually capturing the viewpoint of that third, unsettling subjectivity of the house. We sought to acknowledge our film’s horror influences through this kind of framing, Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession in particular. The apartment in that film had a big influence on both our design and light. We used the Cooke Speed Panchros for the present day sequences combined with soft FX filters, we felt it brought a nostalgia to the gothic romance scenes between Tomaz and Magda. We talked a lot about the perspective of Tomaz, his ‘gaze’, specifically where Magda was concerned. And contrasted this look by switching to Super Speeds in the flashbacks to achieve a cooler, more acute look in the forest. We shot in Dartmoor during very challenging weather. I’d taken Low Contrast filters to diffuse the far off highlights you’d see of the sky between the trees but the moisture in the air created an interesting bloom that made everything feel watery and ethereal, like Tomaz was trapped inside his own dark fairytale. We also used an Angenieux zoom and a Lens Baby on occasion for more subjective, stylized moments. Tomaz’s experience of events is in constant flux and we wanted that to be built into our camera language, his state of mind or how he (and inadvertently the audience) might interpret or misinterpret events would always be at the forefront of our approach. The genre of this film really attracted me as well as how it subverts expectation, I feel very lucky to have been a part of it.
Dir: Justin Simien, DoP: Topher Osborn
Format: Super 16mm/Kodak
Camera: Arri 416
Lens: Super 16mm Zeiss Ultra Primes
Osborn: Super 16mm Zeiss Ultra Primes were the lenses chosen both for look and versatility. I’m a big fan of the 35mm T1.9 Zeiss Ultra Primes for digital formats. I love their contrast, the limited but still enjoyable amount of flare they produce as well as the wide range of focal lengths. I use them on most of my commercials as well as Season 2 and 3 of “Dear White People.” So when working in a format I had not worked with in years (super 16mm film) it was comforting to know that the glass was going to be very familiar to me.
Working with Justin is always enjoyable because he is very specific with how he likes things framed and how he wants the compression of space to feel. So having a wide range of focal lengths has always been a top priority of mine when working with him so we can really dial in exactly what we are both going for.
Super 16mm is such a magical format with a look that comes baked in, so a lens set that captured our images in a clean and straightforward way felt like the right choice. The film was period, but we didn’t have a need to push the image into a softer territory since the format itself already took us in the nostalgic direction we wanted.
Dir: Joko Anwar , DoP: Ical Tanjung
Format: 3. 4K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Super speed set (18-135mm)
Tanjung: The choice of using super speed lens is because we needed bigger apertures. The lens gives this uncleanliness effect to the storytelling. For the main character’s trance scene, we added century double aspherical adaptor as a different point of view that was shown to the character.
Anwar: We don’t have many choices when it comes to which camera to use, it’s either RED or ARRI and I usually go for ARRI for its looks. We used Alexa Mini for more mobility since we shot in many challenging locations. The lenses were chosen because they have more unclean looks which was suitable for the story.
Dir: Natalie Erika James, DoP: Charlie Sarroff
Format: 3.4K Arri Raw
Camera: Arri Alexa SXT & Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4
Sarnoff: Through a horror Lens, Relic explores the overwhelming sense of isolation and confusion that loved ones experience when suffering from dementia. As the film progresses the visuals darken and become increasingly unhinged as Edna (Robyn Nevin) is consumed by the disease. The film’s tone dictated the importance of having a versatile camera and lens package that worked well in low light conditions. Our camera package was provided by Panavision in Melbourne, Australia. We opted to use the Arri Alexa SXT as A cam, often switching to an Alexa Mini for gimbal, Steadicam, or handheld shots when in tight spaces. I appreciate the Alexa’s filmic qualities, dynamic range, and reliable workflow. It was important that Director, Natalie Erika James and I established a look on set that would be similar to what we carried through post and into completion. With the help of our colorist, CJ Dobson we created 2 LUTS, both with similar muted colder tones but one for day/light scenes and the other for night/dark scenes where more shadow detail was needed. We used Cooke S4 lenses because of their pleasing contrast and focus roll-off. I loved the way they beautifully capture skin tones, are fast in low light situations and practical in confined spaces. We worked with a lot of practical lighting, such as iPhone flashlights, I was pleased with the way the Cooke S4 handles flare and reacts to those type of sources in frame. We filmed Relic with a predominantly small selection of mostly wider focal lengths, the dominant being the 18mm, 25mm, and 32mm and then used longer focal lengths during certain pivotal moments in the film.
“The Night House”
Dir: David Bruckner, DoP: Elisha Christian
Format: 2.8K & 3.4K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S5i primes, Angenieux zooms
Christian: Approaching a movie with a title like THE NIGHT HOUSE, I knew a lot of the movie was going to take place in the dark. We shot a lot of night exteriors on a lake and in the woods, and most of our interiors took place in a small house. The physical size of the Mini as well as the low light capability and latitude of the camera combined with the speed and softness of the Cooke lenses allowed us to work quickly in low light. Shooting hours away from any rental house, I needed a package I could rely on in some harsh conditions, and the cameras and lenses performed without issue.
“The Nowhere Inn”
Dir: Bill Benz, DoP: Minka Farthing-Kohl
Format: 2.8k Anamorphic, Super16mm
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini, Arri 416
Lens: Various Panavision Anamorphic, Panavision Primos, Zeiss Super Speed (S16) Lenses, Canon 6.6-66 T2.7
Minka Farthing-Kohl: Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark wrote a really fun meta script that is constantly bouncing back and forth between narrative perspectives: documentary, mockumentary, non fiction narrative, and unadulterated fiction. We wanted to make sure our audience knew what perspective we were in so we played with aspect ratios and formats to keep the story telling clear and concise. This gave us freedom to make more aggressive story telling decisions without worrying whether or not the audience would be able to keep up.
Dir: Josh Ruben , DoP: Brendan H. Banks
Format: 8k R3D
Camera: Red Epic-W Helium
Lens: Modified Canon FDn Primes
Banks: The film’s style comes mostly from the fantastic story that Josh Ruben wrote and directed beautifully. As the stories the characters tell begin to develop, they manifest themselves in the space. We get to have fun genre moments that work through a combination of camera movement, lighting, and performance. Since so much of the film takes place in a small, secluded cabin during a power outage, we had to find creative ways to engage the audience while always serving the underlying motifs in the film. For our base exposure my gaffer, Alberto Sala, built a custom 3-tiered firelight rig made of 12x 100w & 150w frosted & unfrosted bulbs cross-wired into separate flicker boxes. It created a controllable, consistent, and realistic firelight that I hope people like, because they’re going to be looking at it for most of the film. I’ve been working with the Helium sensor since it first came out and I’ve found it to be a great tool that I’ve come to know very well. I particularly love the ability to use behind-the-lens diffusion — specifically Kippertie OLPFs — to set a base layer of diffusion that can be affected uniformly regardless of focal length. I grew up learning photography on my Mom’s AE1 so the Canon FD lens series is close to my heart. For the last few years I’ve made a very small set of FDn primes that we ended up using on the film. Creatively, combining the ultra-high resolution Helium sensor with behind-the-lens diffusion and imperfect vintage glass creates a sharp but textured image. The added compact size of the camera and lens combo meant that I could sneak into corners of our tiny location and find angles that suited our story best.
Dir: Lawrence Levine, DoP: Robert Leitzell
Format: 3.2k ProRes 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Speed Panchros
Leitzell: Our references were all film, but our production required digital. The Alexa is a camera that I know how to push, and at this point a tried and true partner that all the departments on set are used to working with. We considered the Venice, but in the end the form factor benefits and reliability of the Alexa Mini took precedence on a shoot 6 hours away from a rental house that didn’t have the budget for a second body. I’ve seen the Alexa do so many things, and know its limits and behavior so intimately that at this point it’s hard to find a good reason to move away from it, both technically and creatively. The Speed Panchros are soft and organic, and shoot well wide open without being too heavy or cumbersome for verite handheld work. I wanted to unite both halves of the film with the same lenses, but get them to flare and respond differently as the lighting and camera work change. SP’s are extremely glamorous and flattering in close-ups, and then can give enormous soft flares and handle mixed lighting in exactly the way we needed for this film. Some lengths are soft, some just don’t quite sing for me, and of course they are a bit slower than some of their competitors, but I think the choice of lens is impossible to quantify in the end, and I was willing to make some technical compromises for the perfect feel.
“I Carry You With Me”
courtesy of filmmaker
Dir: Heidi Ewing, DoP: Juan Pablo Ramírez
Format: 3.2k pro res 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa mini & Arri Amira
Lens: Cooke Panchro iClassic & super baltar & 25-250 vintage Cooke zoom
Ramírez: The story takes place over several decades, but it was never the idea to show the passage of time with a specific visual trigger or color shift. Instead we decided to travel in time in the way that our memories actually work — in snippets and flashes, a sensation of going and coming. So It was more important to find a look that was realistic, nostalgic and beautiful. We filmed with cameras — sometimes simultaneously — and the sets were mostly lit for 360. We needed to steal real moments during the performances; each shot had subtle but crucial nuances that contributed to the story — and we needed to be able to capture ‘em. Heidi comes from the documentary world and we tried to create the ideal environment for the story to feel as real and immediate as possible — this way both she and the actors had freedom in the set. We chose these lenses because of their low contrast and texture. We wanted an image that resembled memory jumping from episodes in a non — linear way, sometimes clearly sometimes with visual obstacles between the viewer and the actors — such as translucent objects.
“The Killing of Two Lovers”
Dir: Robert Machoian, DoP: Oscar Ignacio Jiménez
Format: Redcode RAW
Camera: Red Helium Weapon
Lens: Cooke S4 (40,50,75)
Jiménez: We had been lucky enough to have a loaner camera package that equipped everything we needed for a bare bones package, especially considering that our camera team only consisted of myself and Nicole Hawkins as camera assistant. We drew inspiration from Béla Tarr, Chantel Akerman, and Barbara Loden that the aesthetic of the film emulates a series of “family portraits” to reflect what our main character (David) desires most. Which is to bring back his family together after the mutual separation from his wife who has begun seeing someone else.Because the setting called for a small town where everyone knows each others business, we aimed to put the audience as snooping neighbors watching drama unfold in the wide long takes. We resisted the urge to go into close ups until we felt there were emotional beats that called for it, especially at the apex of the film, and when those moments came we went really tight. It’s in these close ups where I felt the Cookes really shine! Their distinct characteristic gives Clayne Crawford (David) and Sepideh Moafi (Nikki) faces a 3 dimensional feel that glues the attention of the audience to their eyes as a window into their internal heartaches.
“La Leyenda Negra”
Dir: Patrica Delgado, DoP: Matt Maio
Format: 4K 10bit ProRes HQ
Camera: Canon C500 and RED Dragon
Lens: Cooke S4 Minis
Maio: We decided to use the Canon C500 because of its low light capabilities. A lot of the movie was shot at night and we needed a camera that would give us a clean image but also allow us some flexibility. We also wanted the film to be in black and white to highlight the polarity of choices are lead character had to make. The film deals with a lot of topics that are reflected in our society today. Finding your identity and place in the world isn’t always clear. Making a choice between what’s wrong and what’s right is more complex than it’s ever been. These are ideas that we tried to heighten with the look of the film.
“The Mountains Are A Dream That Call To Me”
Dir: Cedric Cheung Lau, DoP: Jake Magee
Format: 2k pro res
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss super speed primes, panavision and leica zooms
Magee: In preparation for this film, Dir. Cedric Cheung-Lau and I knew we were after a reserved and patient aesthetic. We wanted the mountains and the characters to have the same visual weight in order to emphasize expanded feeling of space and time as Hannah and Tukten cross paths in the mountains. I thought of it as having a camera that could listen as much as it watched – really letting the landscape speak and act for itself during our long takes.The challenge of shooting the entire film while trekking in the Himalayas necessitated a rugged and lightweight package. The budget permitted only enough manpower to get the basics and some backup gear up with us on foot. This was a defining aspect of our planning, as well as a creative limitation that forced us to keep things simple, which was a blessing. We couldn’t shoot celluloid, but we knew we wanted a camera that had filmic properties in color and texture and gave a naturalistic image. Digital would also give us some of the flexibility needed to take on a few tricky low-light situations.For its all-around image quality, compactness and reliability, we chose to bring the Alexa mini with Zeiss super speed lenses. This set of glass is small in size, fast for low-light work and has a pleasing softness. We shot in pro-res at 2k for ease of workflow and to take advantage of the Alexa’s inherent filmic look. We brought two compact zooms, one Panavision Primo 19-90mm as well as a Duclos rehoused Leica R 70-180mm with an optical doubler for “portraits” of far away peaks. I used a modified Rec 709 LUT throughout the shoot to keep consistent in viewing the image on the trail.
Dir: Lucas Leyva, DoP: Daniel Fernandez
Camera: Alexa Classic
Lens: Ultra Primes, Angenieux 24-290 & Nikkor 600mm
Fernandez: This movie called for a classic feel. A feeling that the main character’s world was real at least to him. The speed and sharpness of the Ultra Primes was key in for the many night rain scenes and interior scenes where we needed to isolate our protagonist in his madness with shallow dof. There was a lot of handheld operating and the Classic’s ergonomics were perfect for keeping the fast shooting pace and feel throughout our characters downfall.
“Some Kind of Heaven”
Dir: Lance Oppenheim, DoP: David Bolen
Format: 2K Arri ProRes
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: 16-40 Angenieux Zoom
Bowen: Our film takes place in The Villages, Florida, one of the largest retirement communities in the world. It’s a place where retirees go to live out their final chapter of the American Dream, a utopian community designed to simulate the “good old days” when they were children. Lance and I wanted the film’s visual language to reflect that setting, and we worked to create a look that was somewhere between a Larry Sultan photograph and the Technicolor sheen found in a Douglas Sirk melodrama. We decided to shoot in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which paired nicely with the Alexa as it allowed us to use the entire sensor, and capture the world in ultra wides. Primarily using a 16-40 Angenieux Zoom, we used massive wide shots to show the spaces, but we also committed to primarily shooting close-ups on wider focal lengths as well. For me, doing this always feels more intimate in a way — keeping the camera close to the subjects rather than using telephoto lenses gave a perspective of really being there with them. We wanted the camera to have firmly fixed images that would mirror the controlled, manicured Villages tableau. Yet, in doing so, our approach made it difficult to fade in the background like a fly-on-the-wall. Filming almost exclusively on a tripod over the course of 18 months, our methods made the process of constructing the film’s narrative more legible to our subjects. Rather than “stealing” moments through hours of fly-on-the-wall observation, we invited Anne, Reggie, Barbara, and Dennis into our process. Lance didn’t shy away from asking difficult questions, and instead described his intentions and detailed what he found interesting in their stories. As a result, they became partners in telling their stories, allowing our camera to bear witness to their everyday struggles. Knowing what the lens of the production was, our subjects treated their appearance in the film as a performance — one in which they were enacting difficult moments from their everyday lives. Without the straightforwardness born throughout this rigorous process, the truth and humanity of each subject would likely not have emerged.
Dir: Carlos Lopez Estrada, DoP: John Schmidt
Format: 3.2k Prores 4444
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini and Amira
Lens: Panavision Ultra Speeds and various Zooms
Schmidt: We went with the Mini and Amira mainly because of their flexibility. Internal NDs and the robust nature of it’s prores were necessary when we just didn’t have time to change filters and could do long takes without being bogged down by the density of Arriraw. With a primary cast of 20+ non-actors, and 2-3 locations per day in a 17 day schedule, moving fast became key. Our look was inspired by stylistic and chaotic often handheld films, “Do the Right Thing,” “Tangerine,” “Soy Cuba,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” and “At Eternity’s Gate.” We knew the camerawork would be rough and filled with imperfections. The loose structure revolves around this youthful and explosive energy of our talent, who mainly consist of real life spoken word poets. The look was designed to embody that energy, bursting from the seams. Although I was opting for the Primos at first, I realized that they were too perfect for this film. The Ultras and Supers from Panavision are older and feel more cobbled together as a full set. Focal lengths were made in different years and don’t always run consistent. Although these inconsistencies sometimes made filtration or mattebox changes slower, I knew if I needed to, I could push forward by just changing ISO and internal ND and the Alexa format would always hold up. There’s beauty in the imperfections and Carlos the director kept pushing me to keep going further, messier.
Dir: Amanda Kernell, DoP: Sophia Olsson
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic
Olsson: We really liked the texture of the Cooke anamorphics for what we wanted to achieve with our film ”Charter.” The family in the film is in a nightmare situation and we therefor wanted the film to have a touch of something surreal, but just a touch. After tests the Cooke anamorphic were the ones that fitted that expression the most. The softness and ability to have information in the blacks without becoming bland. That they keep the dark side dark, but still not too contrasty or crushed blacks. The Cooke anamorphics don’t have that strong of an anamorphic effect and at the same time you can sense that there is something strange. It still breaks up the colors and “straightness” of the feeling of reality, which we really wanted to achieve.
Dir: Visar Morina, DoP: Matteo Cocco
Format: Arriraw 3.4K
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic
Rocco: Exil is a story of isolation and shifted perception of reality. We chose anamorphic lenses to underline the emotional status of the main character, dealing with balance between subject and space. The painterly quality of Cooke anamorphics helped us to move away from realism and naturalism.The Alexa Mini was chosen because of the small size, which allowed us to shoot in real locations either on steadicam or on dolly.
Dir: Verónica Chen, DoP: Fernando Lockett
Format: Open Gate (3424×2202) ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini camera
Lens: Leica Summicron-C Prime lenses set
Lockett: This was a low budget film project, so we couldn’t afford a large crew and we couldn’t afford a large truck of lighting equipment either. And even if we did have it, we couldn’t use those resources because we didn’t have enough time. The whole movie was shot in 3 weeks. So we chose to put the highest percent of the small cinematography budget in the best camera (and lenses) attainable for us in the Argentinian market to obtain the best image structure we could. Also the camera provided us with a lot of lightness and speed on set and that was a must.
Dir: Fernanda Valadez, DoP: Claudia Becerril Bulos
Format: Mainly, ProRes Raw HQ, but Aldo ProRes and QuickTime H265
Camera: Sony FS7ii, Alpha A7Sii, Phantom 4 pro, Inspire 2 + Zenmuse x7
Lens: Minolta Rokkor MC
Bulos: Our main camera was the Sony FS7 with a shogun inferno recorder. The FS7 is a very light and versatile camera, with a raw output. I had used this camera in other projects (mainly documentaries), and for our budget, and the versatility this project demanded, the fs7 was a great choice. We complemented our camera gear with the Alpha a7sii. “Identifying features” required that some scenes were shot almost as a documentary (specially scenes in the border between Mexico and the US, were the crew was composed only by the director, the producer-sound recordist, a member of the cast and myself). The Alpha gave us a good quality and a lot of portability, besides allowing us to use the same set of lenses and the same recorder (the shogun inferno, except in ProRes, not ProRes raw). I was surprised that despise being such a small device, it gave us a great response, specially in latitude, allowing us to shoot in very low key environments. We worked with two drones: the DJI phantom 4 pro, and the Inspire 2 (with the zenmuse x7). We used the Phantom in dangerous situations (in the border for example, near the wall, when we feared the border patrol would interrupt the signal – and they did-). The Inspire 2 gave us a much better image that allowed us to make long shots from the air and with a variety of lenses (not really movements, but still long shots, framing the characters in the landscapes), and with our main codec (ProRes raw).For this project we decided to work with a set of old Minolta lenses (the Rokkor MC, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 200mm). We very much wanted to try uncommon lenses, that would be besides that, fast, light and affordable (except for the 200mm, the maximum aperture ranges between 1.2 and 2). We experimented with different kind of photography lenses and brands and chose the Minolta for its mixture of delicate softness in the backgrounds and definition in controlled sections of the frame, its beautiful reaction to flairs (and its bokeh), and the fact that we could find the whole series in the market. We chased them for several months during development and pre-production until we completed the set we ended up working with.Besides the Minolta, we used a set of Lensbaby lenses (the sweet optics: 35mm, 50mm and 80mm). We used this lenses for some scenes where we needed a very expressive image, almost like a painting. And the sweet optics gave us that: a distortion that can be very plastic and expressive, allowing you to adjust that distortion in specific sections of the frame.In general, we were looking for an atmosphere that could be naturalistic in the beginning, but aiming to become more expressive as the story progressed, without betraying the natural behavior of light (we mainly used natural and practical sources of light that made sense in the universe of the story). I believe this use of light and the lenses we chose allowed us the photograph the landscapes almost like a character, and the actors in the landscapes as if the images were and expression of their emotions.
Dir: Zoé Wittock, DoP: Thomas Buelens
Format: ARRIRAW 2.6K 6:5 2x anamorphic
Camera: Arri Alexa SXT
Lens: Panavision C-series anamorphic
Buelens: Our goals for the look of “Jumbo” were set out very early. We didn’t want it to be too magical and therefore wanted a realistic feel to it but still have cinematographic punch. To counter the “rough” way of filming and lighting we went with anamorphic, of which I am a big fan and advocate. Going with scope was, however, not a straightforward choice as we felt it could get us into trouble seeing that the amusement park ride “Jumbo,” which is itself a character in the film, was 9 meters high. We were doubting as to whether or not we needed more vertical space in the framing. The first choice was therefore to film on Alexa 65 with Open-Gate, which would give a 2,12:1 aspect ratio and therefore in the middle of classical 1,85:1 and 2.39:1. Because of budget reasons, this option deemed not viable so we were luckily steered back in the direction of anamorphic. In hind-sight, this was the right choice. I then decided to use the Alexa SXT as it gave the maximum flexibility in frame-rates and upheld the highest resolution possible in the Alexa range when filming with 35mm anamorphic.I also love to work with the FSND filters. They are a bit of a hassle for the AC’s as the lens needs to come off to be able to change them. I would rather have them than to put a “lower quality” glass in front of the lens, not to mention the unwanted double reflections we would get with all those practical lights of Jumbo.I first decided to use Panavision G-series lenses as I had shot with them before and knew they would be safe for the CGI scenes. They give less flare and aberration. Luckily, they were not available. I was able to get the legendary C-series with which I had been trying to film for a decade but never had the chance to! They give the original scope look with lush flares and aberations that give the image texture. In the end this proved the perfect combo for the look we were after and post-prod. did not have any problems with integrating the CGI elements.
Dir: Zeina Durra, DoP: Zelmira Gainza
Format: 2.8K ARRIRAW
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Super Speeds T1.3
Gainza: We were shooting a lot of exterior locations amongst the ancient ruins and temples of Luxor, which I knew would have a lot of contrast. We needed a camera that could handle that, and I knew that the Alexa Mini has great dynamic range, as well as delivering beautiful skin tones. Its size was also a factor since we were shooting a lot of hand held, and in cars. Our schedule was only 18 days, so any kind of camera issues would have been disastrous, and the Alexa Mini has never let me down.Zeina loves film, her previous film “The Imperialists are Still Alive” was shot on Super 16, and we had initially planned to shoot the same format for “Luxor”. However due to logistical reasons, we needed to shoot digitally. I knew that Zeina wanted to achieve as filmic a look as possible, avoiding any kind of digital crispness, so we chose older lenses, the Zeiss Super Speeds. We liked the softness, over other more modern lenses, and they are great even when shot wide open, which I knew we would need for some of our night exteriors. The 35mm was the lens we used most, along with the 25mm and the 50mm. Our colorist Elie Akoka did a brilliant job in creating a Fuji-style look for the film with smoky blacks, lower-contrast and slightly muted colors, as well as adding grain.When we were discussing how to shoot the film, Zeina said that she wanted there to be restraint in all areas. This meant that we shot minimal coverage, spending more time designing wider shots that really integrated characters in the locations. Zeina’s framing is extremely precise. Our approach to lighting was to keep it as naturalistic as possible, and always soft, mainly using it to adjust contrast or shape the existing light. For night scenes we relied heavily on practicals.
Dir: Brandon Cronenberg, DoP: Karim Hussain
Format: 2K ProRes 4444, 3.2K ProRes 4444
Camera: Arri Amira
Lens: Canon K-35 Primes, Vintage 70’s Angenieux 25-250 Zoom, 24mm Laowa Macro Probe, 90mm Macro Kilar Vintage
Hussain: Possessor needed a softer, dreamy look, so we went with 2K ProRes 4444 primarily to get a more painterly image, then blew it up to 4K for the final DI. The Canon K-35 lenses provided a shallow, soft patina without diffusion, as did the 1970’s Angenieux 25-250 Zoom we used, which intercut surprisingly well with the K-35’s. We rated the movie primarily at 1280 ASA to have a natural grain embedded in the files. Since a 4:3 gate was not required, the Arri Amira was selected as a camera for cost saving purposes, as well as ergonomics. Possessor primarily uses in-camera effects, including elaborate projection effects done live, and practical effects done with sound that are normally used for scientific purposes, such as acoustic levitation and freezing water visually with sound synchronizing to the camera’s frame rate and shutter angle. So much experimentation was done, including for all the color effects, which were done practically with gels wrapped around the lenses and colored flashlights flaring the vintage lenses to contrast. The only new lens used was the Laowa 24mm Macro Probe, which was an amazing tool and a stunning innovation.
Dir: Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson, DoP: María Sarasvati Herrera
Format: 2K 4444
Camera: ARRI AMIRA and ALEXA MINI
Lens: We used Zeiss High-Speed lenses
Herrera: We decided to film in Amira because it looks a little like 16mm and we wanted to have that texture. We also chose those lenses for the same reason, they are not sharp and tend to soften the edges. You can have very low depth of field opening the iris to isolate the character from his surroundings, and since most of the film is about getting into the kid’s mind and feelings, it helped a lot to create that perspective.Basically the whole film is hand held and shot in single sequences in every scene, so the Amira was a great choice because it adapts easily to the body and it’s not too heavy. I’m also very keen to film with very low light so Arri was my first choice. We worked with the color palette based on the name of the film, “Summer White,” which is a tone of painting used to paint the house. At the beginning we created an atmosphere full of saturated colors, and as the film progresses, the house is painted with white. We decided that white meant an invasion, an intrusion. So we tried to use different kinds of whites on the walls to keep the contrast, but to follow the character’s feeling of being displaced from his own house.
Dir: Aneil Karia, DoP: Stuart Bentley
Format: Pro Res 2K
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: TLS Rehoused K35s, Optimo Angenieux 24-290mm zoom, Canon 50-1500mm zoom
Bentley: We shot a combination of observational, long lens sequences and handheld, semi improvised takes where we remained close to our lead character, Joseph (Ben Whishaw) – we lit most of the locations with a 360 approach so the cast had the freedom to explore the spaces as the scenes developed. We used long zooms for the sequences in which we were observing Joseph from a distance and the K35s for the handheld sequences. We stripped the camera back to make it as lightweight as possible for the long handheld continuous takes – we also used a Vari-ND filter so the depth of field could be maintained as we moved from interior to exterior within the same shot. The intention throughout was to feel as connected to Joseph as possible and to experience the world through his eyes.
“This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection”
Dir: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, DoP: Pierre de Villiers C
Format: Sony 4K XOCN LT
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: S2 Panchro Spherical Lens Set & 25-100 T3 Cooke Classic Zoom Lens
Villiers: This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is a film that’s set and was shot entirely in the remote mountains of Lesotho. With no film infrastructure to speak of, we had to bring everything in from South Africa which made choosing the correct gear absolutely vital. The director and myself wanted to bring across the brutality and timelessness of the landscape which forms part of interrogating the physical, psychological and spiritual experiences of Mantoa (the lead character) . Composing in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and utilizing a micro force sometimes, we slowed down, studied and got lost in the face of our 80 year old actress. The Sony Venice afforded us a reliable build, impeccable low light ability, speedy internal ND filters but most of all a 16 colour bit depth. This was essential to me as I knew I wouldn’t be able to control the environment as much as I would like but also creating an unobtrusive environment for the village residence who predominantly made up our cast. We paired 16mm grain and a custom kodak emulsion to the image and collaborated closely with art and wardrobe in order to find frames that felt like alone standing paintings.We derived inspiration from many sources but specifically the traumatic imagery of the artist Katherine Kolwitz and filmically, the intensity of director Elem Klimov’s 1985 film “Come and See”. It was so stimulating to interrogate and strive towards challenging what is perceived to be the African aesthetic.
“Yalta, a Night of Forgiveness”
Dir: Massoud Bakhshi, DoP: Julian Atanassov
Format: ARRIRAW/ Prores 4444
Camera: ARRI ALEXA MINI/ALEXA Plus
Lens: Master Primes/ Cooke CXX 15-40 T2/Cooke 25-250/Optimo 24-290
Atanassov: Massoud and i started our discussion over Skype, we had several long sessions, before ever meeting each other in Person. He was very clear in his visions and convinced me in the importance of following the actors without interrupting them through out the scene. So once Massed and i agreed on the way we were going to create the look of the film,in long takes, following several actors, without asking them to hit marks and in highly emotional scenes, i knew, i would go with more modern and exact lenses. Master Primes are very reliable, also wide open, and the T stop could be a life saver. In addition, i value them for there “no look”. To me, they are a standard reliable tool.
Beside, following the wish to keep the main happening and TV show in the same aspect ratio, anamorphic format was not an option. And shooting anything else but Alexa was never a consideration.
Regarding the look though, a bigger challenge created the fact, that the story is taking place almost real time, within two ours, in a night dull interior. Visiting Tehran in advance, two moths before the shooting, helped me a lot. It´s a world on its own. During the locations scout i also realised the need of a person, who would think alike and would understand my way of lighting. The only crew member, who came with me from Europe was the Portuguese gaffer Helder Loureiro Alvarez Da Silva, brought in from our Coproducers from Luxembourg. He was not only the very necessary and important bridge between me and the local crew and production, but he also convinced part of the crew to go vegan, at least for the period of the shooting. The work on the film and the time spend in Iran had a very strong and positiv and impact on me, it changed me not only as a cinematographer, but also as a person, i guess.
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