Sometimes the newest technologies come from the oldest conventions. From Hi8 cameras, lenses used on The Godfather, or a circular frame that harks back to the Renaissance, the films at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival featured an array of innovative technologies reinventing tools from the past.
With each chosen to aid in one way or another, the past, future, or timeless quality of the story, here is a glimpse of the cameras and lenses chosen for five films that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Shot in a 360-degree format that director Gust Van Den Berghe termed 'Tondoscope', Lucifer follows an angel who lands in a small Mexican village on his way to hell in an enclosed frame drawn from Renaissance works from the likes of Bruegel and Bosch. Van Den Berghe on making the camera specifically crafted for the film:
The idea came from a wine glass actually. I was talking to my cameraman and I had a wine glass. He chopped off the bottom and turned it upside down, and then we hung over it and you could see a small circular reflection of my room. Looking at the wide top of a wine glass, we became the camera. We began looking over the world, as it were. He took the wine glass home, he put mirrors on it, and that was the fist prototype of that mirror. Then we took it to the University of Brussels where there's a faculty of Optics and they made two mirrors -- because also you have to think every mirror has to have its right angle. So we made two mirrors that are like that. We put the glass tube on top of it, and with the camera on top you have that eye. This was the black dot you see.
In the hacker sci-fi world of Jackrabbit, modern technology has been wiped out and the future is run by old Apple IIe and CRT cameras. Director Carleton Ranney explains shooting on a mix of retro mediums:
We filmed all our surveillance with Hi8 video cameras. It's just got a really nice texture. We didn't really want to try and mock up the surveillance look. There's just something about that old video that's kind of frightening. I think that maybe found footage movies have brought that to fruition. There was just a texture about it that we loved. It's analogue at this point, a Hi8 video camera is. It just made sense to fit that in with the world that we had already created, that they would use these older surveillance cameras -- [For the rest of the film] we shot on the ARRI ALEXA. We wanted a dark noir sort of lighting. We mainly used lights that you could find at hardware stores, like sodium vapors and fluorescents, really gross, pukey lighting.
Playing with the notion that memory is malleable, director Pamela Romanowsky chose a camera that could give a unique style to the main character's flashbacks, paired with vintage lenses used by Hitchcock and Francis Ford Coppola:
We shot on the RED for a couple reasons -- one is that is allows you to shoot really slow motion. That's why we picked that camera over the ALEXA, for the ability to shoot very slow. Bruce wanted a specific lens on the flashbacks, so we used Super Baltar lenses. They're old and imperfect and they just look slightly different than what we shot the present tense stuff with. In the color correct, I spent a lot of time picking the right grain and I think ultimately I ended up picking a stock that we both shot on a lot in Film School, which was interesting. It's like a 16mm Kodak stock and we were both like, "Yes! That's the one!" Because it looks really familiar.
On the last film of legendary Albert Maysles, whose incredible career started in 1955, this ensemble-directed film used a plethora of cameras. Each of the five directors had a unique set of tools to shoot on a train over a period of three days, and according to co-director Nelson Walker, the late Maysles used his favorite:
We shot on three different cameras. The majority of the film was actually shot on the Sony PMW200, which is like the next step up from the EX1, and then a lot of it is also shot on the Canon C300. And then Albert's camera of choice was actually the Canon XF100, which is a smaller HD camera, because he likes the images, and he likes to be really light and tiny. Originally we thought about shooting the whole film on those cameras, because the train is such a cramped space. Not only is it a cramped space, but it's simultaneously a public and private space. So you're in somebody's personal space with a big camera. It's still public, so you're there, but if you have a big crew or boom or rig or something like that, it does actually impend upon other peoples experience, so we wanted to go as small and lightweight as possible. We actually found, later on as we were working, that the low light capabilities of the C300 were fantastic, and the train is actually just so dark that the C300 ended up being a really valuable tool in our kit.
Director Zachary Sluser didn't want his story, set in the eponymous region of the Midwest, to have a specific time period it would be constrained to, so he asked his DP, Production Designer, and Costume Designer to work in unison to achieve that end:
It was a Panavision package. We used the the ARRI ALEXA and we shot with Panavision C Series Anamorphic lenses. My DP, Daniel Voldheim, and I really wanted it to be wide screen and we wanted to have the whole film we wanted to have a timeless look. That goes to Daniel but also to my production designer Tony Devenyi and our costume designer Maria Livingstone. We wanted everything to feel not specific to now, yet it's not a period piece -- it's like a contemporary -- a timeless contemporary look and feel to it.
Thank you, filmmakers!
Full interviews with these films and more will be rolling out on No Film School as the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival comes to an end.
Have you borrowed or modified old technologies to create something altogether new for a film? How have you used a specific camera or lens to create a specific time (or lack thereof) in mind?