Master Cinematographer Roger Deakins on Shooting with ARRI ALEXA: 'Film Had a Good Run'

Roger Deakins, ASC is up for a cinematography Oscar this year for lensing the Coen Brother's masterful True Grit, and according to Deakins himself, it might be his last movie shot on film. Deakins -- whose other credits include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and The Shawshank Redemption -- has been nominated for nine cinematography Oscars but has never actually won one (really?). Coming from the legendary cinematographer, who up until now has never shot digitally, it's not just another "film is dead" quote.

From a forthcoming interview with /film, Deakins talks about his experience of shooting digitally for the first time (on Andrew Niccol's forthcoming Now), and had this to say about the ARRI ALEXA:

It’s the first camera I’ve worked with that I’ve felt gives me something I can’t get on film. Whether I’ll shoot on film again, I don’t know. [Shooting on Digital] gives me a lot more options. It’s got more latitude, it’s got better color rendition. It’s faster. I can immediately see what I’m recording. I can time that image on set with a color-calibrated monitor.... Am I nostalgic for film? … I mean, it’s had a good run, hasn’t it?

Deakin's decision to shoot on an ALEXA could be seen as a slight against RED, whose EPIC is now shipping. But when Now was in production, the EPIC was not yet available. In a long-running thread about RED EPIC on his personal site, Deakins had this to say about the ALEXA:

The Arri specs on the Alexa seem totally honest and accurate. I was testing the camera yesterday and I found it the first (and right now the only) digital camera to produce an image with the resolution and range as one captured on film.

If you read the rest of the 100+ threads in the discussion, however, you will find that Deakins has not yet shot on RED; talking about film vs. digital, he says, "My point was that when you add a little digital grain to the [digital] image it is virtually impossible to distinguish it from film. I am talking here about uncompressed images captured by the Alexa rather than the Red camera, my only experience of which has been viewing films shot with it."

Sounds like we can look forward to many digital pictures from Deakins; as accomplished as he is with film, though, I'd certainly expect him to shoot several more films using celluloid. Speaking of which, if you didn't catch True Grit or just want a reminder of the film's beauty, here's a featurette on the Super 35-shot, 4K-scanned 2.35:1 cinematography:

If that clip whet your appetite, how about a full half-hour with the legendary DP?

There's another great interview with Deakins online, wherein he talks more about film vs. digital and the ALEXA; you can find it linked in the following FreshDV post.

Link: Deakins Hearts Alexa - FreshDV

[via FilmmakerIQ]

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Your Comment


Can't get enough of Roger Deakins. I really hope he gets his first Oscar this year.

February 12, 2011 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Really enjoyed this interview, thanks for sharing it.

February 17, 2011 at 1:01PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '+1'.

Why in the video he is shooting with film cameras and it says he shot with the Alexa?

November 25, 2013 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The Alexa is what's RECENT in Roger's career, not in True Grit. The Alexa camera wasn't around back then.
He showed True Grit to give some perspective on Deakins' career and technique, not validation for the Alexa.

January 3, 2014 at 4:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM