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RED cameras absent from all Oscar cinematography and best picture nominees


Andrew Reid
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and the Arri Amira has only just been released in November 2013 , so Red will take even more pressure this and next year once that camera gets into productions too.

I had a play with at at BVE trade show last November and its a superb smaller lighter version of the Alexa

 

 

David Fincher is a loyal RED user so when we see his next film that may be on RED

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Maybe even more interestingly, for all the digitally shot movies this year, there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in 4k...  Maybe there will be more cameras etc, and maybe it will take over broadcast and prosumer markets, but I saw most of these "lower res" films in theatre and they all looked great.

 

Or maybe we are just holding our breath for an Arri 4k system...

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In this (wounderful) conversation between Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese (link: http://cigsandredvines.blogspot.de/2014/01/watch-pta-interviews-scorsese-somner-on.html )  , the second tells how there's one scene (the "fasten your seatbelts blinking sign") in the final cut of The Wolf of Wall Street that was shot with an iPhone by the cinematographer while on a plane.

I find this funny.

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So has Arri reached critical mass?

 

And why the Cinema EOS cameras cropping up in such top flight productions? The image isn't as good as the Alexa!

 

Stunt shots, shots expressly intended as video, cramped quarters.  The same reason 5Ds have been used in film and television production for several years now (and GoPros).  Strapped to vehicles.  Strapped to people.  No big mystery.  They're not being used for extensive coverage just where they can be most effective or offer a shot impossible to get with a studio camera without wrecking the narrative flow or standing out too much.  Threat of destruction is also a big factor.

 

We're starting to see big features that have gone through ACES post workflow as well which will allow multiple camera types to mix more easily and consistently.

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Captain Phillips seemed to have the most disparate use of cameras.  Quickly skimming the Nov'13 ACM it appears they used Super-16mm (Aaton) shooting on the water, especially for the Somali only parts of the film, in the skiffs.  Being so remote without support they didn't trust digital for this kind of shooting.

 

As soon as the Somalis step onto the boat and Tom Hanks' portion of the story starts it switches to 3-perf 35mm.  For the arial stuff showing the extremities of scale they shot Alexa.  GoPros were used to capture the SEAL parachute drop.  VistaVision was used for VFX plates.  They don't mention the C300 at all in the article, nor do they list it at the end, so I'm betting it's inclusion above is mostly about marketing.

 

Wolf of Wallstreet was split 4-perf 35mm and Alexa to ArriRaw.  Here again the filmmakers went with different shooting styles for different stages of the narrative, mainly with different optics, lighting and color.  Depending on the character's state of mind they shot either spherical Arri Master Primes and the Hawk anamorphics, heightening DiCaprio's mania by shooting a lot with the 35mm and 28mm anamorphics, switching to spherical when his state of mind is more clear and precise.

 

For DiCaprio's "quaalude look" they shot 20mm on an Alexa at 12fps with 360 degree shutter, then step-printed to resample back to proper time.  And a prototype C500 was used by the second-unit/VFX to shoot ariel photography.  It was small enough they could rig it to the nose of an RC Octocopter.  The RC copter was necessary because the location in Long Island didn't allow full-size choppers as well as allowing them to get shots that would have been impossible with a full size chopper.

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For Her, they initially discussed shooting 35mm during the day and Alexa at night but Jonze liked the way the Alexa looked in daylight as well, stating it "has a really beautiful creaminess that worked great for this movie."

 

Like the other films, they altered the look of the photography depending on what was happening, with specific lenses for flashback, high speed and everyday, including the DPs own set of uncoated Cooke Panchros and an old set of Zeiss Superspeeds and a Canon K35 zoom specifically for its flare.

 

It was a really tight budget with a tiny crew.  The ACM article makes no mention of any specific instance where the C300 was used.  I haven't seen the film yet but I'm betting, being they shot in LA, on location, with almost no money and a tiny crew, it was used to impromptu steal a shot or location discretely or just get a camera crammed somewhere the Alexa was just too big to go.

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We should send them all an email. "Dear fanboy." Lol... I saw an interview with Peter Berg on Lone Survivor. Said they wanted the Alexa, but for BUDGETARY reasons, opted for the Epic. Fincher will almost certainly use the Red Dragon next, and that shit looks amazing. Seems like while everyone else has a hard on for resolution and low light, Arri created a look that was predominately "smooth" in the Alexa, and time in, time out - it wins the favor consistently.

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I imagine that you have to think of any big production as part of a very well established camera ecosystem. The camera, lens, whether you use film or video etc can not be isolated choices. Arri, which has been around since the silent era, very purposely made the Alexa so that it can be interchanged with (film-based) Arricams almost without notice - all the bits of gear that make it work (gears, flags, matte boxes) are widely availabe and second nature to a practised camera crew. 

 

You can find crews around the world that will know how to work such standard 35mm-like gear. While RED has made tremendous progress, its layout, unique setup, and the depth of support by rental houses are just not as well established. While very technically adept directors like Fincher and Jackson might prefer a RED and enjoy fidling with it and pushing the camera system to its limits, most directors have enough on their hands and want as little drama as possible from the camera dept.

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I've worked background/crew on atleast fifty tv shows and movies in the last year and most of them(90%) of them shoot Arri Alexas and only Red if they can't afford them(or Sony if their a sony production). Also all digital as well. Which was a pretty fast change from fall 2012 to fall 2013. When I started in 2012 everyone was film except a few productions but by next fall I haven't been on a set that shoots in film.

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While the Academy itself is all about politics, which is the only reason I can think of why both Only God Forgives and To the Wonder are missing from Best Cinematography, the Arri cameras are being picked by DPs because that's what they want to shoot on, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with politics.

 

This is also the first year where a majority of the nominees are digital origination versus film, 3:2 where last year it was 2:3 and the year before it was 2:3 as well (with one RED film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and one mostly film with some RED b-cam, Tree of Life).  A lot of European DPs prefer Arri cameras just in general and then you add to that the Alexa's more immediately pleasing, baseline output which is less dependent on DIT support, post, etc.

 

Let's see what Cronenweth Jr. and Fincher can get in there for next year though.

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Even when shooting with the ARRI "The Fridge" D 20 back in the "old days" the decision to use it instead of a RED was a decision for the aesthetic character of the image, it's "film-likeness", that made people to put up with a camera which was kind of hard to handle concerning size and weight. This concept - stay as near to film aesthetics as possible - was quite efficiently transferred to the Alexa which provides great DR plus excellent colour rendition, especially skin tones. Also Alexa fitted better into the existing workflows. A decisive bit less franken-rigging. Very nice and not overly complicated menues. Sturdy body. And great reliabilty.

What befuddles me is that the rental costs of a camera should be a big factor in a major production of a narrative film or even an average one. For a German TV-Movie costs for camera (excluding lenses) is maybe 3% of the budget or even a bit less. The cost-factor should be really only kicking in, when you go small to low budget or your production manager is named Scrooge. Apart from questions of aesthetics - you like or dislike a certain characteristic delivered by a sensor (which really is there or maybe only assumed :-)) - again workflow on set and in post is also cost-wise the decisive factor to take this or that camera. Not rental costs.

In the end all a camera is is a tool. And Alexa seems to fit in better under most circumstances for middle to bigger budget productions of narrative films. No miracle here and definitely no "fanboy'ism".

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Roger Deakins' Prisoners looked amazing which is obviously no surprise given who's behind the camera.  All of his stuff on the Alexa has looked very filmic and in his hands it beats the best all the other RED stuff I've seen.  I do believe because of Deakins' work on this camera a lot of other DPs are going to it for belief that they can replicate his look.  

 

Still though there are some RED films that really stands out for me and its either by Fincher and Soderbergh.  Social Network and House of Cards both have a unique lighting that give the images a certain look that I've only seen been done on the RED.  Soderbergh's Side Effects looked very unique and you can tell he used a lot of diffusion with some unique lighting.  It almost seems where as the Alexa can look more filmic, the RED with unique lighting can create a look that isn't necessarily filmic but looks unique and fresh given the right projects.

 

I believe the C500 scenes were mostly the night scenes in the car  for The Wolf Of Wall Street.  There's a point when it is intercut with film and you can tell from the bokeh its going from anamorphic (which i believe is film) and to spherical lens which is the C500.  I highly doubt the average person could tell when it was film or digital though, although to me the lack of grain the digital scenes were noticeable after cutting from a scene shot on film.   

 

 

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While the Academy itself is all about politics, which is the only reason I can think of why both Only God Forgives and To the Wonder are missing from Best Cinematography, the Arri cameras are being picked by DPs because that's what they want to shoot on, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with politics.

 

 

I'm surprised at Only God Forgives' ( lack of ) reception in the cinema press too. The silence is deafening...

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