An ARRI used by Ingmar Bergman, an iPhone 7 with a DJI Osmo Mobile, and 10,000 hours of public surveillance footage. What do they have common? They were all ways that this year's TIFF filmmakers told their stories. Take a look at the diverse assortment of cameras used in this year's films, along with reasons from their directors, cinematographers, and producers on why each was the perfect tool for the job.
DP Martin Neumeyer used the ARRI Amira to capture this Icelandic-set story told from a child’s perspective, fusing coming of age with myths of local monsters and beasts. From Neumeyer:
We shot on the ARRI Amira, used Cooke mini S4/i ARRI Alura and Fujinon Cabrio Zoom. I almost shot the entire film handheld with an Easyrig. Asa and I were looking for a slightly moving "breathing" camera style. Also in scenes with animals, it was helpful to be able to quickly move position to get the shot. I like the natural look of the ARRI sensors, skin tones, contrast range, especially shooting in challenging daylight conditions (Iceland: one minute sun, one minute rain and clouds all in one shot.
Chinese director Xu Bing used 10,000 hours of cloud-based surveillance footage to create a mind-blowing fictional feature that’s one for the books. Here’s his fascinating description:
All of the surveillance videos in the film were downloaded from the public cloud database. So, technically we didn’t choose a camera to shoot the film. We don't have a cameraman. Those surveillance cameras were our cinematographer.
I like the image recorded by the surveillance cameras because they are not here for this film. The original aim of those cameras is to monitor the area they are set and, in that way, I believe the image actually goes beyond the traditional athletics of cinematography.
DP Sari Aaltonen chose the Blackmagic Ursa to lens this loopy exploitation throwback following a deranged freelance pet euthanizer:
We shot 'Euthanizer' with Blackmagic Ursa. We had a really limited budget and Ursa was easily available for us. I have been shooting documentaries with Blackmagic gear, so I was very familiar with its pluses and limitations. I knew that it would be easier for me to work with Ursa than learning a new camera from the same budget range. We also used Samyang prime lenses that have a very soft, powdery look. For me, they worked nicely with Ursa creating a soft, organic look for the film.
Established DP Timo Salminen shot the latest film from acclaimed Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki on two cameras, one of which was originally used by Ingmar Bergman! Here’s his reasoning:
I was using two cameras, ARRI 2BL ( which is an old Ingmar Bergman's) and the other ARRI3 Evolution. These cameras are from the production company. Mostly I shot the interiors and night exteriors with the Evolution and my ARRI Ultra Primes with some classic soft filters so that they would match with the ARRI2 BL and its old Cooke lenses.
Shooting on analog or digital does not matter to me, I just light the digital like the analog with the same ISO rate and soften a bit with these classic soft filters. But the camera does not make the picture, it is lighting. Like somebody said: 'Give a shoe to Roger Deakins and he makes a beautiful picture.'
This Next Wave comedy from Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama, following an imam sent into a tailspin by the death of Michael Jackson, was shot on a Mini Alexa for its size. From Salama:
I chose a Mini Alexa because it's easy to use, light and mobile. For time constraints, it works really well. We have a lot of hand-held shots and since it's light, it wasn't too hard on the shoulders.
DP Emil Christov captured this stylized portrait of a dreary, somnambulant town—the first film from Lithuania to play the TIFF in over 15 years—on a Sony F55. Here’s his take:
We shot 'Miracle' on Sony F55 camera with set of Zeiss Standard primes. We used Sony because it's cheaper, lighter, smaller, and more sensitive comparing with ARRI Alexa cameras. It's a good choice for low-budget movies.
Director Kim Nguyen went to great lengths to capture the POV of a six-legged robot with Alexa Minis in this surveillance-era romance. Here’s a glimpse into why:
We used Alexa minis, but the most interesting tool we used was a Steadicam flipped upside down, AND rigged to a gimbal, so that we could move the camera at "rat height". It was very hard on our Steadicam operator because of the way the weight was put on the Steadicam, but it gave really cool results for POVs of the crawling hexapod.
The dynamic range and organic feel of the Alexa is still unsurpassed to me. A lot of cameras claim 12, 13, 14 stops of dynamic range but only ARRI is really genuinely honest about their camera's dynamic ranges.
Part of a new wave of South African filmmakers, Director Jenna Bass chose to shoot her film about four friends on a camping trip in 4K on the iPhone 7, controlled by the FilmicPro, with the DJI Osmo Mobile smoothing out the movement. Here’s Bass’ description of why this worked for this film:
As much as I enjoy found-footage films and mockumentaries, I would never have chosen this technique if I didn’t feel we were bringing something new to it. And the way selfie-culture allowed the characters to interact with the camera took it to a whole new level. In a time when young people are losing touch with cinema language, I found this very exciting.
DP Benoit Dervaux shot 4:4:4 with the ARRI Alexa Mini to capture this moody modern-day noir. A brief word from Dervaux:
It will take a long time for me to describe why, and I'm shooting a film right now, but I can tell you it was an ARRI Mini with UP lenses, CODEC PRORES 4.4.4.
Filmed inside the notorious Bolivian prison of San Sebastian over the course of many years, filmmakers had to be crafty and resourceful. Here’s producer Daniel Fallshaw on why they moved from Sony A1 to DSLR to waterproof TX10:
'Cocaine Prison' was filmed over seven years and the first pictures I shot were with a Sony A1, one of the same cameras [Director Violeta Ayala] and I used to shoot our first feature doc 'Stolen.' During production, we filmed from a small plane with no doors flying over the Andes, in the middle of the jungle where the Coca grows, and in an over-crowded prison in Bolivia. Overall it was a pretty demanding shoot. When we began filming inside San Sebastian Prison, I was shooting with a Canon 7D and T3i as backup. We used the DSLRs so our impact on prison life was minimal, to maintain access and be allowed back every day.
It would have been impossible with anything bigger than a DSLR. We also gave little point and shoot cameras to several of the guys in the prison. Sony made a small HD camera at the time that was waterproof and pretty bombproof called the TX5 and TX10; we used 5 of those over the course of filming. I gave Mario (one of the main characters of the film), a really old SD point and shoot that actually makes an appearance in the film. It was really poor quality video but fortunately, it fit into the film and helped tell the story when Mario was learning to use the camera. Toward the end of production, I shot a little bit of material with a Canon 5DMk3.”
To capture changing perspectives of a 16-year-old and his prized ram through the Bab el Oued neighborhood of Algiers, director Karim Sayad used a Sony A7s2. Here’s his explanation:
We shot 'Of Sheep And Men' with a Sony A7s2 camera. It was the right choice for this film and particularly well suited for the style I was looking to achieve. It allowed for this beautiful picture while at the same time looking a bit like fiction. But above all, the camera is small and almost all the accompanying equipment with the lenses did fit in a backpack, which was important so that we could react quickly to all unexpected situations a documentary can have.
Thank you, filmmakers!
Head image from the TIFF feature documentary "Of Sheep And Men" directed by Karim Sayad.