In this rapidly changing technological landscape, making movies has never been more exciting. Digital cameras are constantly evolving, forcing filmmakers to understand their creative tools like never before. We are at a moment in time where “workflow” has become just as important, and relevant, as what camera you decide to shoot your story with.
I interviewed cinematographer, Xavier Grobet, ASC, during the production of, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the feature he photographed last year in Atlanta, GA, and released last month by Lions Gate. He couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the project, about the people he worked with, and about shooting with the ARRI Alexa. “As a cinematographer, it’s so important to know what the workflow is, and what you can and can’t do. On this feature, I shot ARRI raw files with the Alexa, and we basically had an on-site lab in Atlanta, where we processed, color corrected and archived the footage on a daily basis, with the help of EFILM, who set up a mini mobile lab and telecine in our production office.”
Shooting uncompressed ARRI raw captures full 2880 x 1620 pixel resolution, 12-bit raw data, at the time, the highest resolution output able to achieve with the Alexa. The image quality is quite impressive, and extremely close to that from a 35mm negative. Cinematographers, directors and studios are in love with this camera and lauding its technology and ease of workflow.
Xavier explains, “The footage was recorded to digital data packs directly from the camera that were downloaded in the camera truck where our first LTO backup was made. The data pack then went to the production office and was downloaded into a computer system where the files were color corrected and a second LTO was made that serves as the master. The files were then copied and loaded onto iPads, which was the main viewing device for dailes that were distributed to the DP, director and producers. And finally, the same prepped, color corrected files were streamed to the editor, directly across the hall in the production office. EFILM had a producer, colorist and data manager onsite to oversee their mobile lab and workflow operation. It was all pretty amazing.”
What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a comedy that looks at the lives of four couples as they prepare to become parents. I asked Xavier how he approached the look of the show. “I basically shot for a naturalistic look. The film takes place over different seasons of the year, so I made look choices that would show the lapse of time. Based on tests I did prior to shooting, I created 4-5 looks that represent the seasons, and kept them in storage, and then chose the look up table (LUT) that made sense for the story. Sometimes I played around a little bit with the color temperature. The colorist matched the raw image to the LUT and applied it, so the film is about 80% of what I want it to look like before we even get to the digital intermediate. It’s ultimately going to save time and money downstream that we would have spent in the DI suite. Plus, it’s great because everyone associated with the film gets to see it in post immediately for how I intended it to look. Sometimes people get used to a look while they are editing for months on end, and it’s hard to come back and change it during the final color correct, but since it was very close already, there was only minor tweaks later on in the DI.”