How I Shot That: The Cameras and Cinematography of Sundance Scripted Narrative Films

IndieWire reached out to the cinematographers behind the scripted narrative features premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival 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.

“After Yang”

On the set of “After Yang”

Courtesy of Cinematographer

Section: Spotlight

Dir: Kogonada, DoP: Benjamin Loeb
Format: ProRes 4444 XQ
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Primos, Pathe, and Canon 8-64mm

Loeb: Kogonada and I compared making this film to the conception of a good ramen broth: the time, love, and attention required in each layer of the broth and how these layers later eventually combine, rather than the individual ingredients. From reading the script, and from our first conversations, K and I spoke about the film as having different layers and that these elements might want to feel different. So we ended up testing a lot of different setups and landed on the Primos for the main portion of the film as well as the human memories, the Pathe for our “screen-calls,” and the Canon 8-64 for Yang’s memories. Panavision helped us with a lovely detune of the Primos to take the edge off the image. We wanted “After Yang” to be a meditative experience, grounded in a reality — even though it’s considered to be science fiction. Kogonada and I were more interested in the mundane aspects of our characters’ lives.

“Alice”

Cinematographer Alex Disenhof on the set of “Alice”

Steve Dietl

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Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Krystin Ver Linden, DoP: Alex Disenhof
Format: ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Anamorphic Primes

Disenhof: For “Alice,” I paired the Arri Alexa Mini with Cooke Anamorphic prime lenses. In my opinion, the Arri sensor still gives me the most gentle and nuanced skin tones of any digital camera, and the distortion of the anamorphic glass gave the image a textured and imperfect feeling, which fit the story of “Alice” very well. In addition, the anamorphic distortion made the foliage of the great live oak trees on our plantation pop in a really painterly way, which created an interesting juxtaposition between the beauty of the natural landscape and the brutality of the events taking place there.

“Am I OK?”

On the set of “Am I OK?”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: Premieres

Dir: Tig Notaro & Stephanie Allynne, DoP: Cristina Dunlap
Format: 3.2K ProRes
Camera: Alexa Mini 3.2k ProRes
Lens: Cooke Speed Panchros

Dunlap: We shot on an Alexa Mini with a mixture of Cooke Speed Panchros. It was important to us to make sure we capture the spirit of Los Angeles without it feeling parodied, but still being self-aware. I thought the Cooke Panchros, with their warmth and gentle fall off, were a great choice for helping to bring a sun-drenched feel to our locations. We knew that we were going to be spending a lot of time up close and personal with Lucy and Jane in their cramped apartment and workplace environments. Cooke Panchros are among my favorite for shooting faces and portraits. Not only do they have a flattering softness and painterly quality, but they are unobtrusive in size so it is easy to get physically where you need to be in the scene as an operator.

“Babysitter”

Cinematographer Josee Deshaies on the set of “Babysitter”

Fred Gervais

Section: Midnight

Dir: Monia Chokri, DoP: Josee Deshaies
Format: 35mm Film
Camera: Arricam LT 3-Perf
Lens: Primo lenses, Primo zoom

Deshaies: We were very much impressed by the freedom of Altman’s “Three Women” for this project. Shots were not conceived as a strictly narrative but as a style/emotion of its own. After trying a glass cup as a diffuser in front of the camera the first day of shooting, we started investigating prisms and kaleidoscopes. Every shot had to have a little something: a glare, a flare, a touch of light here and there. My AC in Montréal was a trooper. So was my gaffer. She built pink-tinted mirrors for flares, used her own hands to create moving shadows and subtle effects, and the 1st AC bought little optics gear on the net. Classic filters (Promist, Mitchell) were not always enough for what we needed to achieve.

I choose some old Primos lenses because I wanted a mix of modernity and old school. Kodak 500T. Exteriors had to be very sunny, so we had a lot of HMI (18k, 9K) and some cover sets if it was raining or the sky too gray.

“blood”

On the set of “blood”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Bradley Rust Gray, DoP: Eric Lin
Format: 3.2K Apple Prores 4444
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Super Speed, Zeiss 135mm Standard Speed, Canon 300mm

Lin: With “blood,” Brad and I wanted to expand on the approach we explored on “The Exploding Girl”: a calm and formal approach to capturing something unexpected. On set, Brad seeks to create situations for his actors where unplanned emotional moments could naturally unfold. We would choose camera positions where we could capture those moments in an unobtrusive way to give the emotional moments a feeling of being found. Given how tight we knew spaces would be in Tokyo, the compact size of the Alexa Mini was a huge help in keeping our footprint small so we could squeeze into corners and give actors a lot of freedom. We tried to be on long lenses and shoot through objects to give a sense we were eavesdropping, like we were peering into Chloe or Toshi’s inner world. We also wanted to capture the incredible texture and available light in Tokyo. I knew the color rendition and the latitude of the Alexa sensor, when paired with the lower contrast of the Zeiss Super Speeds, which have fast aperture, would give us a lot of flexibility to capture what we saw while still maintaining the gentleness we wanted in our imagery.

“Brian & Charles”

Cinematographer Murren Tullett on the set of “Brian & Charles”

Barney Coates

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Dir: Jim Archer, DoP: Murren Tullett
Format: 2.8k ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Leica Summicrons

Tullett: The film was always intended to have a documentary feel, but we were keen not to lean on the use of zoom lenses to sell this style, feeling it had been done too many times before in the comedy genre. Jim and I discussed shooting anamorphic, though I felt that in the tight space of our main interior location, a small remote Welsh farm cottage, we would struggle with the physical size of the lenses. The close focus of anamorphic’s would also be an issue as Jim was keen to let scenes play out in long, handheld single takes, tracking and moving around the rather unpredictable movements of a 7-foot homemade robot!

After testing, we opted to shoot on the Leica Sumicron lenses, framing for 2.35.1, to complement the beautiful Welsh countryside and further move us away from the ob-doc feel. These lenses gave us a great range for our small interiors and car work, brilliant close focus and low veiling flare, which I didn’t want to be distracting in our often single-window, single-source interior scenes. Shooting in December in the consistently overcast Welsh countryside also helped define the look of the film. We wanted a certain drabness to convey Brian’s loneliness before the arrival of Charles. Using a cool low contrast show LUT created with the film’s colorist Matthieu Toullet helped to reinforce this theme.

“Call Jane”

On the set of “Call Jane”

Wilson Webb

Section: Premieres

Dir: Phyllis Nagy, DoP: Greta Zozula
Format: Super 16mm
Camera: Arri 416
Lens: Zeiss Master Primes

Zozula: The choice to shoot film, specifically Super 16mm, was one of the first things Phyllis and I started talking about regarding the format for “Call Jane.” Just as the costume and production designers were looking to the past for textures, looks, and colors, we did the same with the mediums available during the era of the actual story. In addition, shooting film helps create a unique set experience where the process is respected a little bit more. It really transforms the set in a great way. It doesn’t slow the process but just gives greater intent for every frame you are capturing. Super16 paired up with Master Primes gave me the added sharpness that only a modern lens could, as this ultimately will be presented in a 4K DCP. The film stock gave the richness and texture we needed, so we didn’t want to distract from that and wanted to preserve as much of the negative as possible with cleaner glass.

“The Cathedral”

On the set of “The Cathedral”

Mike Kohlbrenner

Section: NEXT

Dir: Ricky D’Ambrose, DoP: Barton Cortright
Format: 5k REDCODE Raw
Camera: RED Gemini
Lens: Cooke 18-100 T3

Cortright: Early on, Ricky showed me many 35mm photos and VHS footage from his childhood that would visually inspire the film. With the film being shot digitally, it was important to me to find a lens that took that crisp digital edge off and could emulate an ’80s or ’90s look. The script called for a number of zooms, so I narrowed down my lens choice to older zooms. After a test shoot with the Cooke 18-100mm T3, I knew it was the right lens. It had both the range and a subtle softness that I thought would work nicely for the project. As a bonus, I knew from working with Ricky previously that he’d be interested in the low contrast look that the lens offered.

Ricky is very specific about everything featured in each frame, so it makes sense that he’s interested in deep focus, which proved to be a bit of a challenge lighting-wise. However, I knew to remedy this we’d want a camera that was good in low light in case I needed to stop down for depth. To that end I thought the RED Gemini would be a great fit. Its dual ISO modes allowed me to boost the ISO without adding too much noise, while also being a lightweight and modular camera — a must since we’d be using a 14lb lens with a very small crew.

Cha Cha Real Smooth

Cinematographer Cristina Dunlap on the set of “Cha Cha Real Smooth”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Cooper Raiff, DoP: Cristina Dunlap
Format: 4K UHD ProRes 4444 XQ
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4’s and Angenieux HR 25-250 Zoom

Dunlap: After testing many lenses, we ended up landing on the Cooke S4’s because of their rendering of skin tones and ability to hold contrast and detail. Since we were shooting in such a wide variety of locations and had a colorful lighting palette, I wanted to make sure that we had a pretty true to life rendering from the lenses. Early on in our discussions, Cooper described wanting to think about the camera as drunk/focused/loving eyes. For this we used an old Angenieux HR 25-250, usually at the long end to capture the emotion of seeing someone you like across a crowded room and feeling as though they are the only thing in focus and that you are being drawn toward them.

Dos Estaciones

Cinematographer Gerado Guerra Soriano on the set of “Dos Estaciones”

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Dir: Juan Pablo González, Dir: Gerardo Guerra Soriano
Format: 3.2k Prores 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke Mini S4i, 300mm Meyer-Optik Görlitz Orestegor, 80-200mm Leica Vario Elmarit

Soriano: We shot on the Alexa Mini with a set of Cooke mini s4i lenses, also with a Meyer-Optik Orestegor lens for very specific shots. We had done plenty of tests with this camera configuration. The low profile and compact setup was something that worked pretty well for us since we had plenty of lengthy Steadicam and handheld sequence shots in the film. It also appeared to adapt very impressively to highly contrasted lighting scenarios. We explored a number of options to use for lenses but ended up going for the minis, plus they were seriously accessible to us. In our sequence shots, they seemed to have a beautiful soft rolling off focus, silky flares; with foreground characters, they give a very special sense of dimension to the spaces, and the warmth inherent in them suited our red dirt world beautifully.

The real challenge was shooting a film with a documentary soul and pushing that aesthetic in a fictional story. We wanted something stylized, but realistic, naturalistic, and coherent at the same time, walking that line and traversing between reality and fiction. The success rested on making sure this place and these people felt real.

“Dual”

Cinematographer Michael Ragen on the set of “Dual”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Riley Stearns, DoP: Michael Ragen
Format: X-OCN 4k 4:3 in 1.3x Anamorphic, 1.85 finish
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Hawk V-lite 1.3x Anamorphics

Ragen: “Dual” was filmed in the winter in Finland, which provided its own unique set of challenges. By the end of our shoot the days were so short and dark that we were shooting at 2500 ISO with no ND filters outside, with very few hours of useable daylight. Many of the interiors had to be shot night for day because of the short days and lack of natural daylight. The Venice allowed us to shoot in this low light while maintaining image integrity. Our second camera body we kept in Rialto mode, which was great for mounting the camera in tight places like car interiors.

We selected the Hawk V-lite 1.3x anamorphics after testing a variety of lenses at Vantage in L.A. We didn’t feel a wider 2.40 aspect ratio was appropriate for this story but shooting anamorphic helped us put the images in a slightly different reality. The 1.3x squeeze format gave us exactly what we wanted with the 1.85 aspect ratio finish, and beyond that we fell in love with the look of the lenses.

“892”

“892”

Care of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Abi Demaris Corbin, DoP: Doug Emmett
Format: 6K X-OCN
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Zeiss Supremes

Emmett: Abi and I arrived at the look of “892” through many conversations about the interplay between light and shadow, controlling the color palette, and what is considered “natural” vs. “stylistic.” We agreed the film could be cinematic without appearing overly lit. Abi and I gravitated toward a deeply rich blue/green color palette and emphasized rich, black shadows where we could. To capture an unrelentingly honest image, we chose Zeiss Supremes and shot in 6K to photograph every detail on our actor’s faces.

At the core of our process, Abi and I selected focal lengths and designed actor blocking to feel authentic to our characters’ motivations while allowing us to make visually dynamic choices. Initially we were entertaining a different aspect ratio for “892” but all discussion quickly ceased when we found our primary bank location — it was immediately obvious that the 2.40 ratio would allow us to make the strongest compositions while utilizing various planes of focus within individual setups. The experience of working with a director as visually adept as Abi, who insisted on the integrity of every moment, made for a creatively fulfilling collaboration.

Emergency

On the set of “Emergency”

Quantrell D. Colbert

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Carey Williams, DoP: Michael Dallatorre
Format: ArriRaw 4.5K
Camera: Arri Alexa LF Mini
Lens: Panavision PanaSpeed large format primes

Dallatorre: Our vision for “Emergency” was to create layers of emotional experience and honor the reality of the situation. Part thriller, part dark comedy, part love story between two friends, balancing those along with the social commentary was a challenge. I wanted to subtly create a visual language that represented the dichotomy of their situation.

I did some blind test for Carey and there was an intimacy and vulnerability that was felt with the Alexa LF and Panaspeed lenses. The combination gave us wider frames with rectilinear distortion and a pleasing perspective that will make the audience feel like they are along for the ride. We are big on contrast and both the camera and lens set gave us the look we felt fit the overall tone. It was important for the camera to inhabit the van, as a third of the film takes place there. Although we filmed all the driving on an LED stage, the size of the camera along with the lens’ close-focus ability gave us the opportunity to get emotional expressive angles. We also had a custom right angle relay tube made by Dan Sasaki at Panavision, which helped us get into some tight spaces of the van. Throughout the film there is a lens/camera proximity that differs between Kunle and Sean. We would match fields of view but with different focal lengths subjectively representing their different points of view.

Emily The Criminal

“Emily the Criminal”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Section: NEXT

Dir:John Patton Ford, DoP: Jeff Bierman
Format: X-OCN 4K
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical

Bierman: The film is set in L.A., but Emily’s world is not the glamour we often associate with the city. John and I wanted to portray a more honest version of what it’s really like there. For her, I always think it’s like being on the 10 freeway at rush hour, sweating in the dead of summer, your AC is broken, you’re stressed out and late for work at your dead-end job. That’s what we wanted the film to feel like.

We thought to create an image that had the coarseness of films like “The French Connection” or “Mikey and Nicky,” but we couldn’t shoot film so I wanted to do what I could to bring that textural life to digital capture. And I also I knew I wouldn’t have rigging crews and lots of resources for the night exterior work so I needed a format that could shoot in low light in Los Angeles at night. The 2500 ISO of the Venice supported both of those ideas. I used that as a base for day and night to bake in and maintain the consistency of texture in the image throughout the film. The Kowas paired great with this to soften out the harshness, while still maintaining contrast. Their coatings are beautiful on skin and highlights and the natural characteristics add a creamy element to the photography. Combined you get this wonderful push and pull between the two techniques that balance each other out.

Every Day in Kaimukī

On the set of “Every Day in Kaimukī”

Alika Tengan

Section: NEXT

Dir: Alika Tengan, DoP: Chapin Hall
Format: 4K
Camera: Sony PXW-FX9
Lens: Atlas Orion Anamorphic Primes

Hall: From the earliest conversations about this film, discussions about the aspect ratio were an important choice that the director and I knew would shape how it felt to watch and, maybe more importantly, how the characters and world of the story fit on screen. We knew we wanted to use Atlas Orion anamorphic primes as we had on our last project together but knew we wanted to find a unique look that was special to this story. By looking at lots of reference images and designing camera and lens tests to try different things, we arrived at a process in which we used the camera rolled 90 degrees to the right but mounted the 2x anamorphic lens normally to result in our final 1.33 (4:3) aspect ratio. This gives the film a natural way to use the large sensor of the FX9 fully and keep our field of view wider while putting a lot of the aberrations, flares and optical artifacts that can come with shooting anamorphic into the top and bottom of frame rather than the standard left and right. This choice felt right from day one and continued to serve the story throughout filming by allowing us to work quite close to the actors in a way that we both like while using a longer focal length than usual to render the backgrounds and landscape of the film in that way only anamorphic does.

Gentle

On the set of “Gentle”

Szilagyi Lenke

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Dir: László Csuja & Anna Nemes, DoP: Zágon Nagy
Format: 3.2K
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Arri/Zeiss Master Primes

Nagy: Before this feature, we shot a documentary with other female bodybuilders. This was incredibly helpful for us to find our visual language of what we wanted to use in “Gentle” very early on. We found that this sport can be quite lonely. Often, you’re just standing, pushing and pulling while you concentrate inwardly. We used static camera most of all, some Steadicam shots and a handheld camera once. Our aim here was to “rhyme” or align the camera movements with our story. With these shots and the lighting, we wanted to follow our character’s life as she changed throughout her journey. After some testing, I chose Arri Alexa Mini and Arri/Zeiss Master Prime lenses for this film. I liked how they helped to serve the story with a sharp and clean digital texture. I didn’t want to hide the digital look — I wanted to involve it as a big part of this film.

Girl Picture

Cinematographer Jarmo Kiuru on the set of “Girl Picture”

Ilkka Saastamoinen

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Director: Alli Haapasalo, DoP: Jarmo Kiuru
Format: 4.5K Open Gate, Prores 444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini LF
Lens: Samyang XEEN Cine FF

Kiuru: We knew that the world in which the story takes place would need a great dynamic between the frail daylight and more colorful, nocturnal sequences. That’s why I love the Arri sensor, its latitude and organic color space I was already familiar with. Large format seemed like a great tool since we wanted to achieve not only an intimate and subjective connection with the characters but also to see them in a larger, more iconic context. The shape of LF’s sensor worked great with the aspect ratio as well. We used the academy ratio as it felt more intimate for framing singles and even more dramatic when someone else enters that space and makes it in to a two shot.

I used Samyang XEEN lenses, as they rendered actors in a pleasingly three-dimensional way. They provided an appropriately modern look while not feeling too clean or sterile. For the handheld operating I also wanted something compact and lightweight. This certainly was helpful when operating the camera while skating in the rink!

“God’s Country”

On the set of “God’s Country”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: Premieres

Dir: Julian Higgins, DoP: Andrew Wheeler
Format: 8K R3D 1:85 aspect ratio
Camera: Panavision DXL2
Lens: Panaspeeds and 2 H-Series 

Wheeler: Director Julian Higgins and I were trying to achieve a big-screen, epic feeling while retaining a sense of intimacy with the main character. We’d shot every project together thus far on film, so we felt that if it couldn’t be film we wanted it to be a large format. We knew we wanted to shoot primarily with a shallow depth of field, sometimes even in wide shots and the DXL2, paired with the Panaspeeds, allowed maximum control over depth. Our guiding principle for the look of the film was to place the audience with the character. That’s how we made decisions. We never wanted the camera to be looking “at” Sandra. Instead, it needed to play a subjective role, so that the audience would be sharing the experience with her. One choice we made was to restrict the number of over the shoulder shots on to Sandra — she is singular. Anytime we began to deviate from that point of view, it stuck out like a sore thumb. We strove for simplicity in the photography. The camera is patient, and it’s positioning and movement motivated.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”

Nick Wall

Section: Premieres

Dir: Sophie Hyde, DoP: Bryan Mason
Format: 6.5K ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa 65
Lens: Arri DNA Primes

Mason: This film is basically two people in a hotel room for 95 minutes, so we really wanted a camera and lens package that would be great for faces, for characters, for portraits. That size sensor means that an 80mm lens has a field of view equivalent of about 40mm in S35 terms, but with all the optical qualities of an 80mm lens. So, although it took me a while to really get my head around that, the possibilities it opened up were exciting.

Hatching

On the set of “Hatching”

Andrejs Strokins

Section: Midnight

Dir: Hanna Bergholm, DoP: Jarkko T. Laine
Format: 3.2K
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Arri Master Primes

Laine: I wanted to keep the camera package lightweight and compact, and Alexa Mini is a camera body exactly like that. It was also a flexible solution for us, since we had quite a few days and sequences on Steadicam. It is also very good body for handheld work. My choice for lenses were Arri Master Primes based on my good experiences with them earlier and also because I knew we would operate in very low-key conditions at times. I also like the way they take ambient light and flares in. Also, in terms of post production and CGI, I wanted to capture the images as clean and crispy as possible, lens-wise.

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Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul

On the set of “Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul”

Steve Swisher

Section: Premieres

Dir: Adamma Ebo, DoP: Alan Gwizdowski
Format: 5k R3D, IPP2 REDWideGamutRGB
Camera: Red Gemini
Lens: Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 and 85-300, Panavision Primo 70 Spherical, Panavision T-Series Anamorphic

Gwizdowski: We chose to shoot on two Red Gemini DSMC2 cameras provided by Panavision Atlanta, mainly for their low-light capabilities. This allowed us to use a polarizer to control the sheen and shape of light on the actor’s skin tone in low-light situations. Most of the interior scenes were shot at ISO1600 with the Gemini’s low-light sensor, occasionally needing to push to 2000 or 2500. Adamma and I needed to create a visual language that allowed the viewer to differentiate between the documentary within the film and what’s going on behind the documentary. These two styles have distinct looks that eventually blend into each other as the film progresses.

For the documentary footage, we used spherical lenses, Fujinon Cabrio zooms and Panavision Primo-70 Primes. This provided a clean digital look combined with handheld motion, zooming, and frame adjustments within the shots. We cropped the doc footage to a 14:9 aspect ratio to bring it closer to the native 4:3 aspect ratio of the archival sermon footage that was shot on Beta-Cam. This also worked to further distinguish it from the 2.40:1 aspect ratio of the cinematic footage, for which we used Panavision’s beautiful T-Series Anamorphic lenses on a gimbal or dolly.

Leonor Will Never Die

Cinematographer Carlos Mauricio on the set of “Leonor Will Never Die”

Aisha Causing

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Dir: Martika Ramirez Escobar, DoP: Carlos Mauricio
Format: ProRes 422 and 6k Raw
Camera: Panasonic EVA-1 and Red Epic
Lens: Dalsa Leica 19mm prime, Zeiss Super Speeds, and an Angenieux 25-205mm zoom

Mauricio: The script required that half of the film was set to look like old Filipino action films, so it was fitting that we used old lenses (Zeiss Super Speeds). There was also a budget restriction, so the Super Speeds’ opening made up for the lack of bigger lights during big night scenes. When the shot was too big and we did not have enough lights, sometimes we just shot day for night. We would adjust the color temp on the camera to make it look like the sunlight coming in was hard moonlight. The other half of the film, on the other hand, made use of long takes to minimize the cuts in a scene to make it feel set in a more real world. We opted to use a 19mm Dalsa Leica prime all throughout this part so that we could have a wide enough frame and still take close-ups with the same lens.

Living

On the set of “Living”

Courtesy of Filmmaker

Section: Premieres

Dir: Oliver Hermanus, DoP: Jamie D Ramsay
Format: 3.4K OG ArriRaw
Camera: Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Supremes

Ramsay: Our reference palette was made up primarily of the likes of Bresson, leiter and Meier, and we found that we had fallen for the dense photographic feel of their mid-century work. Oliver and I went back to the combination that we used on “Moffie,” the Zeiss Supreme LF lenses. These lenses combined with an open gate sensor gave us a large format print feel, which lends itself to our style of composition and lens language.

“A Love Song”

Cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo on the set of “A Love Song”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: NEXT

Dir: Max Walker-Silverman, DoP: Alfonso Herrera Salcedo
Format: Super 16mm
Camera: Arriflex 416
Lens: Cooke SK4, Cooke S4

Salcedo: Shooting on 16mm opened up a great visual palette needed to achieve the right tone for Max’s unique vision of the West. The story contained many elements that had to be precisely balanced in order to convey a proper amount of comedy, tenderness, hurt, and wonder. The color, contrast, and sharpness of 16mm allow for a very distinct aesthetic, which lent itself perfectly to equally render evocative faces and landscapes alike. Paired with the famous Cooke look, the overall definition of 16mm can vary from extreme sharpness to an almost abstract, painterly quality depending on the distance to the captured element. This was a great visual technique used to portray our main character Faye and her peculiar sense of time and place.

In line with the idea of balancing realism and stylization, we relied mainly on natural lighting for the former and composition for the latter. To enhance the presence of the dramatic wilderness, most of the film was shot using deep focus (f.8). The use of both natural lighting, especially harsh midday sunlight as well as deep focus come out particularly organic when recorded on film as opposed to digital. It gave us a look and feel that stylized the recorded element subjectively, giving it a magical quality but without overpowering the story.

Mars One

Cinematographer Leonardo Feliciano on the set of “Mars One”

Courtesy of Filmmaker

Section: World Dramatic Competition

Dir: Gabriel Martins, DoP: Leonardo Feliciano
Format: 3.2K ProRes 4444
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Standard Speed 2.1

Feliciano: “Mars One” portrays a Black family living in a poor neighborhood in the city of Contagem, Brazil. Shooting with the help of Arri’s color science was paramount for us for its response to specularity and rendering of the undertones of the Black complexion. Meanwhile, we needed a relatively small setup to deal with the small locations found in these neighborhoods. Hence the Arri Alexa Mini with Zeiss Standard Speeds were a good choice for our aesthetic intentions. Furthermore the softness of the old optical designs of the Standard Speeds set gave us a very welcome smoothness (enhanced with Tiffen Black Diffusion FX series) that mitigates the acuteness of modern sensors.

Master

On the set of “Master”

Linda Slater Kallarüs/Amazon

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Mariama Diallo, DoP: Charlotte Hornsby
Format: ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Arri/Zeiss master anamorphics, Angenieux 24-290mm

Hornsby: “Master” is a supernatural thriller, which is a genre I love as it invites a very active camera and surreal, expressionistic lighting. Because we were constantly moving from dolly to steadi to handheld and often shooting at night, we needed a versatile camera package that would allow us to move quickly and shoot wide open. The Alexa mini with master anamorphics was a perfect fit. The build was compact and the lenses perform well at a T1.9 and faithfully render nuances of skin tone, which was really helpful as we had a diverse cast and were often moving from naturalistic to expressionistic lighting. As the sinister energy of the school began to emerge in the film, we played with underlighting (titan tubes, covered wagons, candles), hard shadows (dedos, lekos), sickly green fluorescents (fluoros with ¼ green), fire light (fire bars, covered wagons), and red strobes (titan tubes and colt tubes). Along with long zooms and creeping dolly moves, these lights really allowed us to build suspense and dread as our protagonists uncover the dark secrets of their school.

“Nanny”

On the set of “Nanny”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Nikyatu Jusu, DoP: Rina Yang
Format: Sony Venice 6K
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: Panavision Ultra Panatar, Panavision H-series

Yang: We shot “Nanny” on the Sony Venice and Rialto — we liked the Venice’s low-light capabilities, and ability to go compact with the Rialto mode since we were shooting in small, real NYC locations. We used the subtle anamorphic Panavision Ultra Panatar x1.3 for Amy and Aisha’s world, and for the scenes with Mamiwata. I wanted to slightly heighten these moments visually — so the anamorphic focus fall off and the flare felt like the right choice. For Aisha’s world we used the spherical lens, Panavision H-series with handheld movements, to give it a more grounded and intimate feeling.

Neptune Frost

Director and cinematographer Anisia Uzeyman on the set of “Neptune Frost”

Section: Spotlight

Dir: Saul Williams & Anisia Uzeyman, DoP: Anisia Uzeyman
Format: 2.8K ArriRaw 
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Lomo Illumina s35

Uzeyman: We wanted a super 16mm film look with a twist of modernity. Also “Neptune Frost” has a lot of night scenes and we had limited light equipment so we needed lenses with the maximum aperture. There is no camera equipment rental in Rwanda, so we partnered with our camera assistant and focus puller Ishmael Azeli’s rental facility in Nairobi, Kenya, and we were very happy when he proposed and brought the set of Illumina s35. They were perfect and a great combination with the Arri Alexa Mini.

Palm Trees and Power Lines

On the set of “Palm Trees and Power Lines”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Jamie Dack, DoP: Chananun Chotrungroj
Format: 4K Red Raw
Camera: Panavision DXL-M
Lens: Panavision Ultra Speeds

Chotrungroj: We wanted to capture the emptiness, boredom, and suburban malaise our adolescent protagonist, Lea, is experiencing, which eventually causes her to make certain life-altering decisions. We intentionally isolated her in mostly static frames until she meets the other main character, and he begins to invade her world and her frames. The Panavision DXLM with a Red Gemini weapon was a great fit for our film. The story explores sensitive subject matter and features a debut lead performance, which meant that we wanted to shoot on as small a camera as possible, without sacrificing the quality of the image.

The Panavision Ultra Speeds are from the mid 1970s, and have a sensitivity that naturally elevates the emotions of our story — the low contrast and warmth of this lens package created a strong feeling throughout the film. Pairing the Ultra Speeds with the Panavision DXLM gave us a lot of versatility. We were able to craft breathtaking images thanks to the combination of cutting-edge tech in camera with the legacy of Panavisions’ lenses.

“Piggy”

“Piggy”

Magnet Releasing

Section: Midnight

Dir: Carlota Pereda, DoP: Rita Noriega 
Format: 3.2K Prores 4444 2.0:1
Camera: RED Monstro 8K VV
Lens: Cooke anamorphic special flare

Noriega: I was looking for this softness and unique texture Cooke anamorphic SF has. Their bokeh, aberrations, and flares were what the film needed. I wanted something very organic. I shot many scenes wide open, looking for even more imperfections. We did an unusual combination of lens and aspect ratio in this film. The aspect ratio was 4:3, and we were shooting Anamorphic. I wanted the specific look this Cooke lenses have, regardless of aspect ratio, which was a creative election based on narrative aspects of this film.

Sharp Stick

Cinematographer Ashley Connor on the set of “Sharp Stick”

Em Michelle Gonzales

Section: Premieres

Dir: Lena Dunham, DoP: Ashley Connor
Format: 2.8k ProsRes 4444, 1.66 Aspect Ratio

Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke S4

Connor: Lena really wanted the look of the film to reflect that special winter California light, so we created a LUT with my colorist Nat Jencks and used filtration to create a lower contrast image that still had depth and life to it. I always love the Cooke S4s for their softness and how they render faces, and since we knew so much of the film hinged on experiencing our main character Sarah Jo’s sexual awakening, I knew they’d be perfect for how close we’d be to our characters.. We wanted the cinematography to make you viscerally feel her obsession, her desire, her pleasure — the camera had to be a friend and ally to her emotional journey. A lot of our references were films like “An Unmarried Woman,” “Turkish Delight,” and “Belle du Jour”: films that dealt with women and sex from the ’60s and ’70s. Lena and I love this genre of film, but since they all tend to punish the women for their sexual freedom, we knew we had to be careful not to tread the same territory. The visuals had to empower Sarah Jo and not condemn her for her search for pleasure.

Something in the Dirt

On the set of “Something in the Dirt”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: NEXT

Dir: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson, DoP: Aaron Moorhead
Format: Redcode RAW 8k
Camera: Red Monstro VV, DVX-100, Panasonic GH4, iPhone, Wyzecam, Panasonic Varicam
Lens: CP2s

Moorhead: The film is a hybrid of a narrative and faux-documentary mixed media. While much of the story is shot on Red, the characters in the film have their own cameras, and we aimed to make those cameras look as heterogenous as possible to reflect their personalities. One guy who fancies himself a future Errol Morris has a slightly more polished prosumer DSLR, and the other, who holds no delusions of grandeur, hasn’t a clue that his 20-year-old standard def DVX-100 looks a bit ridiculous nowadays. This film was shot without a traditional crew, so we used the Monstro’s 8k sensor allowed for framing adjustments in post since we weren’t able to monitor each others’ shots to know if we were matching our own coverage.

Speak No Evil”

“Speak No Evil”

IFC Films/Shudder

Section: Midnight 

Dir: Christian Tafdrup, DoP: Erik Molberg Hansen
Format: 2.39:1 Scope 4.5K
Camera: Alexa Mini LF
Lens: Canon K35 Primes mixed with some Leica R lenses

Molberg Hansen: We wanted to create a more eerie feeling in a normal drama set up, that something was not quite right and lurking under the surface. The charming imperfections of the K35s was an obvious choice for this in a full-frame universe.

Utama

On the set of “Utama”

Santiago Loayza Grisi

Section: World Dramatic Competition 

Dir: Alejandro Loayza Grisi, DoP: Bárbara Alvarez
Format: 3.4K ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Super Speed

Alvarez: The Alexa Mini with the Zeiss Super Speeds were our choice not only because of the look they deliver together, which is not the sharpest and “perfect” as of last generation lenses and 4K+ sensors, but also because they let you work faster and lighter than other sets. The crew and equipment had to be small due to budget/logistic reasons, so anything that could help organize ourselves in an efficient way was welcome. We used natural and available light most of the time, and especially when we shot “day for night” exteriors and had to wait until the daylight was almost gone, the Super Speeds made the difference.

Watcher

On the set of “Watcher”

Courtesy of filmmaker

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Dir: Chloe Okuno, DoP: Benjamin Kirk
Format: 4.5K Open Gate ArriRaw 2:1 aspect ratio
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini LF
Lens: Vantage One4

Kirk: Our main character, Julia, relocates to her partner’s native Romania and is tormented by the feeling that she is being stalked by an unseen watcher in an adjacent building. We wanted to show that Julia is feeling distanced and isolated in her new surroundings. The large format sensor of the Alexa Mini LF gave me a more narrow depth of field, which helped me in isolating Julia from the background. It was also important to us that the story unfolded with Julia, and that the way the camera portrays her was closely linked to her state of mind. Without the distortion of a wider lens, the large format sensor and the very close focus abilities of the lenses helped me in creating a much more intimate connection between Julia and the camera. We wanted to give the film a sense of heightened realism. To achieve this we chose to use the Vantage one4 lenses. They were magical. They have some characteristics of vintage lenses but with the engineering of a modern lens. To me that is a perfect combination. I added Glimmer Glass filtration in front of the lens to give a subtle halation to the highlights and to slightly soften the skin details. I believe that this combination augmented the look towards a sense of heightened realism.

“When You Finish Saving the World

On the set of “When You Finish Saving the World”

Karen Kuehn

Section: Premieres

Dir: Jesse Eisenberg, DoP: Benjamin Loeb
Format: S16mm
Camera: Arri 416
Lens: Panavision Primos

Loeb: Jesse wanted a feeling of imperfection and a grounded naturalism that comes with shooting on film, so it wasn’t really a question. The producers were even pushing to shoot this on film, which made things much easier on my end. The biggest topic of conversation in terms of the format was about 35mm versus 16mm, and we just felt that the deeper depth of field and the way the texture comes out in S16 just felt right. We did spend quite a bit of time figuring out the stocks — it was important for the film to still feel contemporary so we ended up with the Vision 3 200T stock for most of the film. This gave us a bit of a cleaner negative to work with while also requiring a bit more light, which my gaffer, Andrew Hubbard, and I thought was a good starting point for us to sculpt from.

“You Won’t Be Alone

On the set of “You Won’t Be Alone”

Noomi Rapace

Section: World Dramatic Competition 

Dir: Goran Stolevski, DoP: Matthew Chuang
Format: 3.2K ProRes, 6K R3D
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini, Red Komodo
Lens: Cooke Speed Panchros rehoused

Chuang: Goran describes “You Won’t Be Alone” as “a story about a witch, but it’s not really a horror movie, it’s about her feelings.” All our creative choices were all based on how it all “felt.” Our actors were given the freedom to discover moments, so, instinctually, the Alexa Mini handheld with the painterly quality of the older Cookes felt right. We stayed away from anything that felt too designed or too staged; we never set marks for actors or camera. It placed a lot of pressure on the entire crew to adapt and to be incredibly focused, but they could feel we were onto something tangible. The complexity of natural light was embraced and I would “light” by the way the handheld camera moved with the actors and any lighting we did do was hidden within the space. To us it felt more intimate, sensory, and humanistic.