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The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018’s Oscar-Nominated Films

Michael Maher

Dive into the cameras and gear used to capture all of the 2018 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.

Top image: Set of The Shape of Water via K Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

Leading up to the Academy Awards, I always love diving into the production stills and going deep into the tech specs for many of the Oscar nominees. That includes finding out the gear these filmmakers and cinematographers used.

Obviously, ARRI continues to lead the pack as the standard cinema camera package — and ARRI just celebrated it’s 100th anniversary. Let’s dive into the cameras and lenses behind 2018’s Oscar-nominated films and see what made the list. (You can find previous nominees here: 2017, 2016.)


Blade Runner 2049

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Blade Runner 2049
Image: Blade Runner 2049 set via Sony Pictures. 

Oscar Nominations: 5 — Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Director of Photography: Roger Deakins
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini, ARRI Alexa XT Studio
Lenses: Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Blade Runner 2049 Lights
Image: Set of Blade Runner 2049 via ARRI.

We previously took a hard look at Roger Deakins‘s work on Blade Runner 2049. Our friends at ARRI provided some stellar set photos and gave us insight into the lighting rigs set up by gaffer Bill O’Leary.

Roger achieved most of the look in-camera. For the lighting, we used soft sources and lots of gels on the lampheads to create the different color atmospheres. We went through almost 1,400 rolls of gel by the time we had finished shooting!

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Blade Runner 2049 Light Ring
Image: Set of Blade Runner 2049 via ARRI.

The lighting rigs on Blade Runner 2049 were absolutely massive. One of the main set pieces featured a light ring with 256 ARRI 300-watt fresnels, and another used 100 SkyPanels.

I always wanted to light the two scenes on that set quite differently. The first lighting design was something I had thought out well before the idea of the pool was finally locked in. This was based on the idea of sunlight coming through skylights in the roof and was similar in a way to the initial wide shot that introduces the Records Library. Of course, the addition of the element of water helped me create a second, quite-different look for that ‘interrogation’ scene. But the caustics were just a background to the actual character lighting, which was also something I had been thinking about for some time. It seemed a natural extension of the theme of moving light. —Roger Deakins

You can read the whole Blade Runner 2049 cinematography piece here. The film’s sound design and VFX were also well received. I’d also suggest checking out The Secrets Behind the Sound Design of Blade Runner 2049. Several VFX houses worked on Blade Runner 2049, including Atomic Fiction, whose office we visited in a previous interview and tour.


Dunkirk

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Dunkirk
Image: Dunkirk set via Warner Bros.

Oscar Nominations: 8 — Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design
Director: Christopher Nolan
Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Camera: IMAX MKIV, IMAX MSM 9802, Panavision 65 HR, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio
Lenses: Panavision Sphero 65 (50mm wide angle, 80mm for close-ups), Hasselblad Lenses 
Recording Format: 65mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219)

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Dunkirk Aerial
Image: Set of Dunkirk via 

In an interview with British Cinematographer, Van Hoytema shared the following:

Chris is a champion of film, so Dunkirk was always going to be a film project . . . To be honest, I am very much with Chris that there is not yet any medium that reaches the depth and quality of film. So if you want to tell a story in a visual way — as a dramatic, close-up, immersive experience of what is in front of you on-set — film is still the No.1 choice.

On shooting handheld with an IMAX camera:

From an aesthetic point-of-view I thought it was an inspired choice. Our ambition was to be in the action all of the time, to portray feelings and evoke the emotions of the people caught up in those dramatic episodes, in a documentary style. There was some crane work — with the camera mounted on a stabilised Edge Head, provided by Performance Filmworks — but it’s very sparse, that style of cinematography can take out of the immediacy of the moment.

From a practical point-of-view, the IMAX and the 65mm cameras are big — like a hotel mini-bar — and the 65mm camera is heavier than the IMAX. But the lengths of the filmstocks in the magazines are fairly short — two-minutes for the IMAX, and around eight minutes for the 65mm — and I knew I would only have to shoulder the cameras for short periods of time.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Dunkirk Camera
Image: Christopher Nolan and Hoyte Van Hoytema via M.S.Gordon/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

On the camera and lens package,

Large format is not an off-the-shelf affair, especially the lenses, and we worked with Panavision L.A. for a good six weeks to assemble our shooting package. Although Dunkirk was essentially a one-camera shoot, we always had four IMAX cameras ready to go – on-set, hard-mounted to the fighters or on our camera ship — and Chris and I were constantly in motion, leapfrogging between the cameras. We shot the 65mm footage using the 65mm Panaflex System 65 Studio Camera — 65SPFX — which is blimped and is great for shooting sound.

As for the lenses, because of our need for clarity, we shot Dunkirk completely spherical. Optically it is so much more pure than Anamorphic, with much less glass and light refraction between the subject and the emulsion. We had two pairs of lenses for the IMAX cameras — a 50mm wide-angle and an 80mm for close-ups.

You can read the entire British Cinematographer piece here. Hoyte van Hoytema also sat down with Deadline to talk about Dunkirk, and I suggest giving that podcast a listen.

For more on the making of Dunkirk, check out The Power of Sound: Using the Shepard Tone In Filmmaking to dive into the film’s sound design. If you’re interested in recreating the title sequence from Dunkirk, you can also check out our video tutorial here: Create Transparent Titles Inspired by Dunkirk in Premiere Pro and FCPX.


Mudbound

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Mudbound
Image: Dee Rees on set of Mudbound via Steve Dietl/Netflix/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 4 — Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song
Director: Dee Rees
Director of Photography: Rachel Morrison
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lenses: Panavision C and D Series Anamorphics, Vintage Super Speeds
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Mudbound Morrison
Image: Rachel Morrison shooting Mudbound via Steve Dietl/Netflix/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

In an interview with IndieWire, Morrison spoke about her work on the film,

Both Dee and I set out to shoot Mudbound on film. Everything about this project screamed to be analog. But our budget was so tight that any added cost came at the expense of something else — shooting days, extras, production design assets, etc. We did extensive tests to determine if it was worth it. We tested both anamorphic and spherical 16mm on the Arri 416 (which to this day is still my favorite camera ever designed) as well as anamorphic and spherical lenses on 35mm vs the ARRI Alexa shooting ARRI Raw. We were working with Fotokem locally in New Orleans, and I asked our dailies colorist Illya Laney to add a grain emulation curve to the digital media, match the shots to each other, and then reduce saturation and contrast by about 15-20%.

It’s always a challenge to shoot a period film and not have it look like you hit the tea stain button in post. We wanted to create a world that was true to the time, but felt raw and real and not overstylized in a way that the audience can sense the theatricality.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Mudbound Rees
Image: Dee Rees on set of Mudbound via Steve Dietl/Netflix/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

We chose older lenses, a mix of Panavision C and D Series anamorphics as well as Vintage Super Speeds from the ’60s and ’70s that had inherently reduced contrast and many optical aberrations.  We decided to embrace the aspherical softening around the edges because we felt that even on a subconscious level, this would help the imagery feel more like the FSA photography of the era.

We wanted the lighting to be naturalistic, largely motivated by sun and moon once the McCallan family have left the creature comforts of the city and settled into rural life.  As much as I would have loved to shoot everything at magic hour, this film is about the sun beating down and what that does to one’s spirits — and so we embraced harsh lighting conditions when that was called for, but also contrasted the beauty of magic hour and dusk over the fields to illustrate that the endless battle for something greater is fueled by moments of hope and inspiration.

We’ve been huge fans of Rachel Morrison’s work, and she also just shot the massive blockbuster Black Panther. You can check out our exclusive interview with production designer Hannah Beachler on creating Wakanda and the amazing sets for the film.


The Shape of Water

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Shape of Water
Image: Set of The Shape of Water via K Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 13 — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Director of Photography: Dan Laustsen 
Camera: ARRI Alexa XT Plus, ARRI Alexa Mini
Lenses: Fujinon Alura Lens, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Shape of Water Del Toro
Image: Set of The Shape of Water via K Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

In an interview with British Cinematographer, Lausten talked about his rekindled relationship with Guillermo del Toro and how he shot The Shape of Water:

‘We shot 3.2K open gate,’ notes Laustsen. ‘The bathroom is shot wet for wet so we used an ALEXA Mini.’ Elisa and the creature falling into the river was shot dry for wet with a lot of smoke, cranes, wires and projectors for caustic lighting. ‘I like Master Primes because you know what you’re getting. We went for wide angles and shot a lot with 25mm and 27mm. We were afraid of the female actors getting too sharp so I shot with a diffusion filter inside of the camera to break up the highlights.’

In terms of the film’s colors, Luasten told Filmmaker Magazine that

That steel blue color we used for The Shape of Water goes all the way back to something we used on Mimic. When I have those steel blue and green colors, I’m always at 3200° Kelvin on the lights and 3200° Kelvin on the camera as well. Then I’ll use gel on the lights to get the exact color I want. Guillermo and I like to shoot at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning that our dailies look more or less like the final movie is going to look. In the Digital Intermediate (DI) we’ll use some power windows for adjustments, but the overall color is very close to what we shot.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Shape of Water Del Toro set
Image: Guillermo del Toro on set via S Giraud/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock.

In terms of his limited budget versus setups similar to Blade Runner 2049:

This was a pretty small movie — it’s a $19.5 million budget — so I had to be clever about our budget for lighting and camera. We couldn’t afford to have a bunch of ARRI SkyPanels on set. When you have to move so fast, I think it’s easier to control the light the old-fashioned way — use 3200° Kelvin lights and then put the gels on for the color. It’s a little bit backwards, but it worked for me on this movie.

The film was almost entirely single-camera with ARRI/Zeiss Master Primes:

I’d say 98 percent single camera. Everything is shot on either a Steadicam, a dolly on dance floor with a jib arm and a hot-head, or on a Technocrane.

I just think Master Primes are the best lenses you can buy in the world right now. Guillermo and I want to have 100 percent control over the image, and Master Primes are really good for that. We try to not do anything by accident. We don’t like to work with lenses that are giving us something we didn’t know was coming, like an unexpected lens flare.

You can read more of the British Cinematographer interview here and the Filmmaker Magazine interview here. For more on Guillermo del Toro, you may enjoy reading Los Directores: Mexico’s Famous Filmmakers.


Darkest Hour

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Darkest Hour
Image: Darkest Hour set via Jack English/Working Title/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 6 — Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Actor
Director: Joe Wright
Director of Photography: Bruno Delbonnel
Camera: ARRI Alexa SXT Plus, ARRI Alexa Mini
Lenses: Cooke S4, Angenieux Optimo Lenses
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K

On researching the look for the Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel shared the following with Deadline:

The thing is, especially for those kind of periods, what you get is basically black-and-white photography, so you can only guess what the color would be. That’s always the problem with a period piece. It doesn’t mean anything, basically. In 1940, the light was exactly the same as it is [now]. So for me, it’s more about discussing with the production designer and finding the right thing from the ‘40s.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Darkest Hour Set
Image: Darkest Hour set via Shutterstock

On the camera package:

At the very beginning, we wanted to shoot with an Alexa 65 with medium format lenses, but you need so much light just to get enough depth of field that I convinced Joe that we should go with the regular Alexa, with Cooke lenses. Because then, I could work with not such a big amount of light. I like a very big depth of field, and I think the depth of field was interesting. In order to get enough depth of field, I couldn’t shoot with the 65.

You can read the entire interview at Deadline.


Get Out

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Get Out
Image: Get Out set via Justin Lubin / Universal Pictures.

Oscar Nominations: 4 — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor
Director: Jordan Peele
Director of Photography: Toby Oliver
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lenses: Angenieux Optimo Lenses
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 3.4K

In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Toby Oliver talked about location scouting for Get Out:

I do use Artemis every day when I’m location scouting, and I use it often on set in lieu of a traditional director’s viewfinder, but I didn’t use it for those photoboards because the quality of Artemis’s [photos] is a bit blurry and cruddy when you try to blow them up and print them. So I just used my 7D stills camera. That was a very valuable process for Jordan and I and also the producers, who were there acting out the parts of the characters when we shot the photoboards.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Get Out Peele
Image: Jordan Peele on set via Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures.

On shooting in real houses in Alabama:

The Sunken Place was the only time we shot on a stage. Well, it wasn’t really a stage. It was a civic center that we treated like a stage. The rest of the movie was shot entirely on location in real houses and real buildings in Mobile. Finding the right house was difficult. Jordan had in mind a specific kind of estate. It couldn’t look too much like it was in the south because the movie is set somewhere on the east coast. Eventually we found a place that was the right balance between being big but not too ostentatious.

In regards to choosing the ARRI Alexa Mini:

I love the Alexa Mini. It gives you the same image quality as the regular Alexa, but in a smaller package. It’s about half the size and half the weight of the regular Alexa even with all the accessories and things you have to pile onto it. It’s great for working on location if you need to squeeze the camera into a corner. A couple of inches here or there can actually be quite handy. I’ve shot with Alexa Minis on my last three movies. And for Get Out, we shot ProRes 4444 at 3.2K. Because we’re finishing the movie at standard cinema 2K, 3.2K gives you just a little extra room to resize, which is useful in post.

You can read the entire interview at Filmmaker Magazine. I also suggest giving a listen to Toby Oliver’s interview on the Go Creative Show, where he talks about blending horror and comedy, shooting with zoom lenses, and the challenges of a limited budget. There is also a wonderful piece on making Get Out over on Vulture that is definitely worth a read.


Phantom Thread

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Phantom Thread
Image: Paul Thomas Anderson on set via L Sparham/Focus Features/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 6 — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes, Best Original Song, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Director of Photography: Paul Thomas Anderson (uncredited)
Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2
Lenses: Panavision Ultra Speed Z-Series MKII Lenses
Recording Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219)

There is no credited cinematographer for Phantom Thread, making it ineligible for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. This has to do with Paul Thomas Anderson’s collaborative cinematography workflow. On the subject, he told Entertainment Weekly the following;

I should really clarify that. That would be disingenuous and just plain wrong to say that I was the director of photography on the film. The situation was that I work with a group of guys on the last few films and smaller side projects. Basically, in England, we were able to sort of work without an official director of photography. The people I would normally work with were unavailable, and it just became a situation where we collaborated — really in the best sense of the word — as a team. I know how to point the camera in a good direction, and I know a few things. But I’m not a director of photography.

If you can give credit, Michael Bauman is the gaffer that I’ve worked with for many, many years on a lot of projects. I could veto Mike, I guess, but he held a lot of the keys. There was a camera operator, Colin Anderson, I’ve worked with, and Erik Brown, who was the first assistant cameraman and Jeff Kunkel, who was a grip. It was a real package like that. It was a really easy way of working. You have to be very, very careful because there are way too many good cinematographers that I would not put myself in that class for a second.

You can head over to EW to read the entire interview with the director.


Lady Bird

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Lady Bird
Image: Sam Levy and Greta Gerwig via Merie Wallace/A24.

Oscar Nominations: 5 – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
Director: Greta Gerwig
Director of Photography: Sam Levy
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lenses: Panavision
Recording Format: ARRIRAW 2K

In terms of the overall look of Lady Bird, Sam Levy revealed to IndieWire that

One way we got at this aesthetic of memory was we were looking at a lot of photos by the French photographer Lise Sarfati, who has all these great portraits of young women from around the 2000s. The photos aren’t at all creepy, it shows they were taken by woman, they are so at ease the way our young cast was with Greta. Through Sarfati’s photos we kept coming back to this idea of ‘plain and luscious,’ that’s what Lady Bird should look like, it shouldn’t be dripping with the visuals.

As for the camera package:

We shot with the Alexa Mini with old Panavision lenses and, in testing different resolutions, we ended up shooting 2k — ARRI raw 3.6K was too vivid and too sharp. Alexa has native grain, sort of video noise, any sensor emits video noise. Alex brought up, How do we tease out the Alexa video grain? Instead of adding artificial film grain, but embracing the technology we are using, but in more of a handmade way, not unlike how you’d create this multiple photocopies.

You can read the entire interview with Sam Levy and Greta Gerwig at IndieWire.

Fun fact: the image of Sam Levy and Greta Gerwig above shows Gerwig wearing a name tag that reads, “Greta, Breakfast at Tiffanys.” This was part of a game on set, where each day the crew would wear name tags and write answers to a daily question. Now as to why Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Gerwig reluctantly revealed that this question of the day was their thoughts on the most overrated film classic.


Call Me By Your Name

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Call Me By Your Name
Image: Luca Guadagnino on set via Frenesy Film Co / Sony / Kobal / Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 4 — Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Actor
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Director of Photography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Camera: Arricam LT
Lenses: Cooke 35mm S4 Lens
Recording Format: 35mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219)

Shot entirely on one lens, Call Me By Your Name was a challenge for cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. In an interview with Deadline, he talked about the challenge,

The producer asked me, ‘Should there be some other, wider lens? Just in case?’ I said ‘No, no. I want to tie my hand to this approach, because this is how I work . . . I think if you limit yourself to something, you struggle inside your idea.’

In terms of lighting:

At the beginning, I was thinking about shooting with all natural light, but the weather conditions did not permit me to do that. At that time, there was historic weather in Italy — it was too hot. I had to adapt my technical approach to that, so I had to order a package of lights. I ended up with 15Ks, down to 2.5. With the lighting approach, I observed the director and the actors. It seems like we should have the idea of what we’re going to do, but it’s not so fixed like that. It always has flexibility. So with observation, I follow them. I adapt to everything that happens in front of the camera.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Call Me By Your Name Set
Image: Call Me By Your Name set via Frenesy Film Co / Sony / Kobal / Shutterstock.

Talking to IndieWire about the torrential rain in Italy during production, Mukdeeprom revealed that

We had scheduled 30 days of shooting — five weeks, six day weeks — and we ended up shooting 34, of which 28 there were heavy rains . . . We were freaking out, and we’re reconstructing the light every day.

I said to the producer, ‘This is bananas,’ I kept saying ‘You have to be kidding, this is not why I came to Italy. But it became my war.’

There are times you don’t have the space or time for a large light, or set up . . . I have learned if I get the contrast right, what colors I can and cannot pull from the image in post. I don’t like working this way, ‘fixing it in post,’ but I’ve learned shooting in Thailand what colors must be present on set when we shoot and which I can find later on.

You can read more about the cinematography in these interviews at Deadline and IndieWire.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - Three Billboards
Image: On set of Three Billboards via M Morton / 20th Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock.

Oscar Nominations: 7 — Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (2)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Director of Photography: Ben Davis
Camera: Arri Alexa XT Plus
Lenses: Panavision E-Series and C-Series Anamorphic Lenses
Recording Format: ARRIRAW

Talking with British Cinematographer, Ben Davis spoke about his crew,

‘I had a lot of the same crew from Seven Psychopaths,’ states Davis. ‘My AC was William Coe who I adore and is great, Stephen Campanelli was the operator and Ross Dunkerley was the gaffer.’ Panavision supplied two ALEXA XT cameras along with E and C series anamorphic lenses, which have imperfections that help to break down the digital image. One truck of lights was utilized that consisted of a lot of LEDs, 4×4 Cine panels to create moonlight, and a single generator. ‘What you learn as you go on as a DP is to use fewer lights and to put them in the right place.’

‘We never did a huge amount of takes,’ states Davis who shot the crime comedy drama in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. ‘The coverage was what was necessary. For me, the cinematography was purely about delivering the script. When the words are so good there’s a temptation to shoot your actors in the close-ups. We made sure not to do that.’

You can read the entire interview at British Cinematographer. I also suggest watching this great behind-the-scenes video of a oner captured from the streets.


The Post

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - The Post Camera
Image: Janusz Kaminski on set via Niko Tavernise / Twentieth Century Fox.

Oscar Nominations: 2 — Best Picture, Best Actress
Director: Steven Spielberg
Director of Photography: Janusz Kaminski
Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2
Lenses: Panavision Primo, PVintage, PCZ Lenses
Recording Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219)

With now over 20 projects between Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, the DP shared with Deadline that he “wanted to make it feel like someone else shot [The Post]”:

The first thoughts were, ‘Man, we’re spending a lot of time inside. People are talking and talking. How do we make this more visual?’ It was very clear that theWashington Post floor had to be more vibrant, not just because it makes a better movie, but because the reality of that the floor was that there was a constant exchange of information, constant phone calls.

As filmmakers, we had to reflect that energy in the way we photographed the movie, knowing that the camera was going to move a lot. I had to create an environment where the actors were not inhibited by the lighting equipment within the frame, so they could go wherever they wanted and the camera would follow them.

There was no compromise in my lighting; I just had to accommodate that particular need. So the choice was very clear: I’m going to put our own fluorescents into the set, and light from the top. Anytime I had a chance, I hid a little bit of lights so I could introduce more direct light onto the face, because top light tends to create a deeper shadow, and that’s often not right for the story. When you’re not able to see the character’s eyes, it feels like they’re hiding something. All the characters in the movie are very transparent, particularly the journalists. You want to see their eyes.

The Cameras and Lenses Behind 2018 Oscar-Nominated Films - The Post
Image: The Post set via Amblin Entertainment / Kobal / Shutterstock.

Regarding his choice of gear:

In America, we always shoot using Panavision equipment — it’s the best equipment there is. Because it was a slightly period movie and I didn’t want the images to be overly sharp and crispy, I used an older set of Zeiss lenses, with different color and light reproduction. I used 200 SA Kodak for all my Washington Post interiors, and for the rest of the movie, I used 500 SA Kodak, which has a little more grain.

We used finer-grain film at the Washington Post office to make it feel more crispy and more immediate. The rest of the film, I didn’t mind a little grain. It was a very familiar environment — traditional equipment, traditional lights. It was an old-school movie set.

Read the entire interview over at Deadline. For more on the relationship between Spielberg and Kaminkski, I suggest checking out 8 Cinematographers Behind Famous Directors and HBO’s New Documentary “Spielberg” Is a Must-See for Aspiring Directors.


The 2018 Academy Awards will be presented on March 4th. Congratulations to all the Oscar nominees!

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