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Cannes Cinematography: Here Are the Cameras and Lenses Used to Shoot 52 Films

How I Shot That: The world’s best cinematographers tell IndieWire how they created the look of their highly anticipated features at Cannes.

"Flag Day" cinematographer Daniel Moder

“Flag Day” cinematographer Daniel Moder

MGM/Allen Fraser

IndieWire reached out to the directors of photography whose feature films are premiering at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to find out which cameras and lenses they used and, more importantly, why these were the right tools to create the look and visual language of these highly anticipated films.

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

Out of Competition

Director of photography Masanobu Takayanagi on the set of STILLWATER, a Focus Features release. Credit: Scott Garfield / Focus Features

“Stillwater” cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi

Scott Garfield / Focus Features

Dir: Tom McCarthy, DoP: Masanobu Takayanagi

Format: 3.4K ARRIRAW
Camera: Alexa Mini & Alexa Mini LF
Lens: Leitz Summicron-C, Cooke Anamorphic Full Frame Plus

Takayanagi: We tried to visualize the emotional state of the main character Bill (Matt Damon) by using different formats and lenses. In the beginning of the movie, when Bill is in Oklahoma, we used Cooke anamorphic full frame lenses to enhance isolation of the character by pushing shallower focus with the wider field of view. Once in Marseille, we switched the lenses to spherical Leitz Summicron-C lenses with more movement and energy to represent what Bill is feeling from the port city.

“The Velvet Underground”
Dir: Todd Haynes, DoP: Ed Lachman

Format: Super 35mm, 8mm
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini 2.8K ProRes (35mm), Pro8 Beaulieux 4008 (Super 8mm)
Lens: Older Angenieux Zoom Lens, 25-250mm HR3.5, and Super8 Angenieux Zoom 8-64mm

Lachman: The music group The Velvet Underground in the ’60s created a sound and a raw-inspired improvisation in rock and roll that changed how music would be perceived. Lou Reed and John Cale’s songs and music under Andy Warhol’s influence and experimental visual grammar was inextricable from the underground art and avant-garde filmmaking in New York City at the time.

Todd Haynes’ approach was to create a visually-immersive experience as The Velvet Underground did in sound and images. We photographed the interview recollections influenced by Andy Warhol’s minimalistic screen tests against an illuminating Pop sensibility of flat-colored backgrounds alongside Super 8mm and archival footage in split screens. Todd and his brilliant editors juxtaposed original and archival footage into layered collages, reinforcing the sense of discovery with the inspiration of its visual techniques to place the viewer in the spirit of their music with the texture of their time, place, and the people who were essential to it.

Cannes Premiere

"Cow" cinematographer Magda Kowalczyk

“Cow” cinematographer Magda Kowalczyk

Kat Mansoor

Dir: Andrea Arnold, DoP: Magda Kowalczyk

Format: Sony 4k 4096×2106 XAVC-I 25fps
Camera: Sony fs7
Lens: Vintage Carl Zeiss Jena Flectogon 20mm, Planar 25mm, Distagon 35mm, Planar 50mm, Planar 85mm, Distagon 135mm, Planar 135mm

Kowalczyk: Lenses were our first choice. I made tests with legendary vintage lenses and we chose the Zeiss Planar and Zeiss distagon lenese. We’re aiming for a look that would be unglamourized, a real picture with all the details, yet we didn’t want a surgical, sharp clinical look. Cows can see the sunlight every day with all the shades of it, so we needed lenses to be able to see light in a way they possibly do. We knew we would need to film for a long time, so we needed a lightweight, easy to operate camera. The Fs7 was great in the farm conditions. Its dynamic range in the highlights was what we needed for high contrast shots outside.

"Mothering Sunday" cinematographer Jamie Ramsay

“Mothering Sunday” cinematographer Jamie Ramsay

courtesy of filmmaker

“Mothering Sunday”
Dir: Eva Husson, DoP: Jamie Ramsay

Format: 3.4K ARRIraw, 1.66 aspect ratio
Camera: ARRI Alexa mini
Lens: Super Baltars, Cooke s4s

Ramsay: We wanted the film to feel like a memory, to give the viewer a a sense of nostalgia. A longing that would not be romantic, but rather based in a more logical state of mind. We referenced the early Autochrome photography, which was arguably the earliest sense of color in portrait photography. Because of the long exposure times and the temperamental processing procedures there was as inherent misty-ness to the images, which gave them a ghostly nostalgia that still haunts the viewer.

We shot through textured glass, stockings, and filters to achieve these moments. I also opted to use a haphazard set of lenses, so that there was an incoherence of visual continuity, choosing the lens that fit the mood of the moment. We referenced Dutch Baroque paintings for lighting and mood, and applied big window light sources. The trick was that the film mostly happens in a day, so this meant that natural light was out of the question.

"Val" Val Kilmer



Dir: Leo Scott & Ting Poo, DoP: Val Kilmer (archival) and multiple additional cinematographers

Format: 4k (additional cinematography) Cam, 16mm film (first person, archival)
Camera: Canon C300 (additional cinematography), Canon XA40 4k camcorder
Lens: Canon CN E 18-80 (additional cinematography)

Scott & Poo: The film is largely archival, but for the present day photography, the Canon C300 was perfect for the small intimate type of photography we were going for. We also had Val [Kilmer] shoot on a Canon 4k camcorder, as a modern day continuation of the first person shooting he was doing in the ’80s and ’90s.

Special Screenings

"La Croisade" cinematographer Julien Poupard

“The Crusade” cinematographer Julien Poupard

courtesy of filmmaker

“The Crusade”
Dir: Louis Garell, DoP: Julien Poupard

Format: 3.2K Arriraw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Canon K35

Poupard: The script of “La Croisade” (“The Crusade”) seemed like a novel, a novel shot with a certain emergency. With Louis we want a kind of alive camera. So, I like Alexa mini because it’s perfect for handheld work. And I have chose the Canon K35 prime lenses because I like their natural look. In prep, I have shot different tests to emulate the same color of the Kodak Portra 400 film stock.

“The Heroics”
Dir: Maxime Roy, DoP: Balthazar Lab

Format: Arriraw Open Gate
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Fujinon zoom 19-90mm T2.9, Zeiss Super Speed T1.3

Lab: The main idea was to shoot the movie as we would have shoot a documentary. Therefore we built a very compact and versatile camera set-up. We tested several zooms against the Fujinon, some Angenieux and vintage Zeiss, but the Fujinon had the perfect range and was really compact. The idea was to soften it up through filtration to give it a bit more character and match it better with the older Zeiss Super Speeds.

Lighting-wise the idea was to give a lot of freedom to the actors. Most of the lighting was from outside. With our pre-light rigging we were trying to have several lighting directions possibilities. Then when blocking was done, we could just switch on and off what was interesting for us to have the right directional light. If documentary was the main idea, we were also looking for a counter point, with more magic and surreal moments. In some sequences, we really pushed the lighting toward that, having in mind a collection of beautiful lighting moments you come across in everyday life: A sharp ray of sun passing through, a beautiful dawn, street light patterns. Sticking to this kind of mundane beauty, allowed us to keep a natural, blended look through the different sequences of the movie.

"Mariner of the Mountains" cinematographer Juan Sarmiento G.

“Mariner of the Mountains” cinematographer Juan Sarmiento G.

Ilyas Guetal

“Mariner of the Mountains”
Dir: Karim Aïnouz, DoP: Juan Sarmiento G.

Format: HD/2K, Canon Log, Sony SLog2/3, S8mm, 35mm Stills, Digital Stills
Camera: Canon C300, Sony a7s, Canon 814 XL-S , Canon AE1 Programm, iPhoneX, Fuji x100f
Lens: Lomo Standard Speeds (Spherical)

Sarmiento G: This film is a sci-fi cine-memoir. Our crew in Algeria consisted of three people (Karim, myself and a fixer). We shot the film on many different formats, analog and digital, looking for what our gut told us was the right thing to do at any specific time. I remember letting the C300 roll on a tripod, shooting S8mm ektachrome in parallel and taking analogue and digital stills while Karim shot on the Sony as his “pen-camera,” which I also often took into my hands, specially when it became dark. The Lomo’s gave a us the dreamy atmosphere we needed and their flares, focus fall off, and bokeh were perfect for this film.

“Mi Iubita, Mon Amour”
Dir: Noemie Merlant, DoP: Evgenia Alexandrova

Format: 2:39 aspect ratio
Camera: Sony FS7
Lens: Zeiss Super Speed

Alexandrova: For “Mi Iubita, Mon Amour” I chose to use Zeiss Super Speed. I know these lenses pretty well. This seemed to be the best balance in terms of aesthetics and handiness: the lenses have a nice, a bit retro look, but still sharp enough with à pleasant blur. They are light and easy to handle which was crucial as I did the focus pulling myself. Also Zeiss Super Speed offer a great aperture up to 1.3, which in our circumstances (no lighting or grip team and several low light scenes) was a great advantage.

"Tom Medina" Behind the Scenes

On the set of “Tom Medina”

Bruno Charoy

“Tom Medina”
Dir: Tony Gatlif, DoP: Patrick Ghiringhelli

Format: 2.8k ARRIRAW
Camera: Arri Alexa mini
Lens: Cooke anamorphic/i

Ghiringhelli: The film takes place in the Camargue in the south of France. The omnipresent, mysterious nature provokes the fate of Tom Medina, a young man in exile. Tony Gatlif is a plastic filmmaker, he has to feel the material to shape it. We chose to shoot with an Alexa mini with anamorphic lenses. The film is shoulder-mounted and most often in natural light. The Alexa mini is ideal for lightweight setups. Its reliable viewfinder makes it possible to adapt very quickly to live shooting. Simply equipped, it favours shooting in cramped locations or perched in a tree!

This is my third feature film with Tony, and all three of his films have been shot with the Alexa, which I have adapted with different series of lenses according to the tones required. It has been classic and then mini, accompanied by Panavision C series, k35, or for “Tom Medina” by Cooke anamorphic/i adapted to the enhancement of these wild landscapes.

Midnight Screenings

"Bloody Oranges" Behind the Scenes

On the set of “Bloody Oranges”

Antoine Parouty

“Bloody Oranges”
Dir: Jean-Christophe Meurisse, DoP: Javier Ruiz Gómez

Format: Sony Raw X-OCN LT 4K
Camera: Sony F-55 with External Raw Recorder AX-S7
Lens: 2 Angénieux Optimo 28-76 mm T2.6, Standard Compact Spherical Zoom Lens; 2 Angénieux Optimo 15-40 mm T2.6, Standard Compact Spherical Zoom Lens; Carl Zeiss G.O T1.3 Lenses Set

Gómez: This is my third collaboration with director Jean-Christophe Meurisse. The main peculiarity of his work is that all actors are completely free to invent their own lines and choose the best time to act or move. There are “play writing” sessions with the comedians, but there is no rehearsal on set. It’s a film that is made live on set, in front of all of us: director, actors and technicians!

We didn’t want to miss anything of these performances, so we have always shot with two main cameras (prepared and carefully maintained by 1st Camera Assistant Charlotte Michel and her team) with identical lenses, accessories and settings, so they are perfectly interchangeable. Each camera gave original and unique rushes, there were never two takes the same. We gave a lot of preference to camera movement,  often a slider or Dana Dolly with the B-camera operator Antoine Parouty, but there were also plenty of handheld or steadicam with operator Benoît Deléris.

We worked exclusively on real locations, the camera and light installations were always done just before the shooting and we rarely worked on the same set two days in a row. All installations had to be simple, flexible, light and efficient to allow as much time and space as possible for working with the actors. As soon as we were ready, we rolled the camera without technical or play rehearsal, and often in long shots of 15 to 20 minute takes where almost anything can happen.

The choice of the Sony Raw X-OCN LT codec was a discovery and a real saving of time and storage space for a very good latitude in color, contrast and skins tones. This image quality allowed us to make extensive adjustments even in complicated situations and to accomplish a superb color grade by Gadiel Bendelac.

Next page: Un Certain Regard and Critics’ Week

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