There are certain elements that usually go hand and hand with the sci-fi genre, a very specific color palette being one of them. Often, cool tones such as blue and/or green, are used to create a foreign or futuristic setting. You will notice this in films such asBlade Runnerand The Matrix.

Another recent example of this is Luke Momo’s sci-fi/horror film, Capsules.

Luke worked closely with the film’s Cinematographer, Harrison Kraft, to touch on those sci-fi aesthetics, while also applying a gritty edge.

An edge that was partly obtained by using a 2.20:1 aspect ratio reminiscent of films shot in Super Panavision 70 format. In the below interview, Harrison expands on everything from the specific equipment he used on Capsules to what preproduction looked like.

We went a little deeper with Kraft, to chat about what sets the look of this film apart and how it was achieved.

Capsules (2023) - Jasper and Ryan's "Custom" Discovery | Official

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cinematography Tips for Creating Sci-Fi with a Gritty Edge

No Film School: What was the path or the turning point that landed your first big gig as a cinematographer?

Harrison Kraft: My turning point moment as a cinematographer came with Capsules. Prior to this project, I had primarily worked on short films, music videos, and a few commercials. However, Capsules marked a pivotal shift as my first feature film.

Following its completion, I started receiving invitations for more substantial projects. I owe a debt of gratitude to Luke for entrusting me with the DP role on this journey.

Cinematographer Harrison Kraft headshotHarrison Kraft

NFS: What did preproduction look like for you on Capsules? Did you storyboard, etc.?

Kraft: From the start, Luke sent me a lot of reference material and we did several screen tests. Although we didn't extensively plan shots, we engaged in discussions about specific shots that Luke wanted to incorporate. Beyond that, we relied on our artistic instincts to guide us.

NFS: Did you watch any films to get inspiration before working on Capsules? If so, which ones?

Kraft: Luke mentioned wanting a grittier feel, he brought up several films including Klute (1971), Upstream Color (2013), and Heaven Knows What (2014), so I watched those to get a sense of visual tones he might like. I also knew that Luke was a big Terrence Malick fan so I also watched several of his that I hadn't seen.

NFS: Can you talk about collaborating with the film’s director Luke Momo? What did your working relationship look like?

Kraft: My introduction to Luke came through my late best friend Charlie. They had gone to high school together and had made films in their youth. I had met Luke several times and when he reached out to me about the project, I got very excited. Our working relationship was characterized by comfort and mutual trust and understanding. Luke consistently encouraged me to take creative risks, and his trust in my abilities as a DP was immensely rewarding.

A man sitting by a toliet in 'Capsules''Capsules'Credit: Cranked Up Films

NFS: What was key for you to create a highly cinematic look for Capsules on an indie film budget?

Kraft: Drawing from my prior work, Luke pinpointed specific aspects he admired and wished to incorporate. Our discussions centered around establishing the film's atmosphere and tone—striving for a fusion of sci-fi aesthetics with a gritty edge.

Ultimately, we chose the 2.20:1 aspect ratio reminiscent of films shot in Super Panavision 70 format. This choice, coupled with a contrast-rich approach, contributed to the desired look and feel.

A surgeon working in 'Capsules''Capsules'Credit: Cranked Up Films

NFS: Can you talk about what sort of camera and lenses you used for Capsules?

Kraft: Capsules was shot entirely on the Panasonic Lumix S5. I had been using that camera for quite some time and Luke wanted to be shooting with a very light package. The S5 is a really amazing camera looking at it from a price versus image quality standpoint.

I work as a part-time colorist and much of the work is matching lower-cost B-cameras (like the S5) with more industry-friendly A-cams (i.e. Alexas, Venices). In doing so, I really started to realize how much the gap has closed between the high end and the low end. At the end of the day the camera just collects data, what is in front of the lens matters the most. We shot on a mix of Canon L glass and vintage primes.

NFS: Is there a scene in Capsules that you are most proud of, look-wise?

Kraft: I like the surgery/dissection scene. I think Luke and I were both nervous about pulling this scene off, but the way it came out had the perfect tone visually. I lit the surgery scene with a single COB fixture, mounted above the table with a fresnel attachment banging straight into the prosthetic chest. I was able to motivate this with the practical we had in the frame. I let the return bounce be the key light for the actors. We used this technique several times in the film, especially in the scenes where they are sitting around the table. It helped the surgery scene because the light had a quick fall off into darkness, making it seem very eerie.

Three people looking down at a body in 'Capsules''Capsules'Credit: Cranked Up Films

NFS: Were there any obstacles with Capsules you had to overcome? What did you do to overcome it?

Kraft: The biggest obstacle I faced was that I didn't really have any crew aside from one friend I had on set. I was running around adjusting the lights 24/7 on set. I was also operating the camera and pulling my own focus. I come from a background in which I’ve done this enough to be able to pull it off, but If I could do it over I would’ve loved to have my gaffer Danny Rinaldi on set to take some of the pressure off. Overall, it was not a stressful shoot for me, but rather a pleasant first feature film.

NFS: Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work on the film?

Kraft: Capsules was my first feature film and we shot it in January of 2022. This project served as a gateway to new opportunities, for which I'm immensely grateful. Keep an eye out for my second feature film, Cannibal Mukbang, directed by Aimee Kuge, as it enters the festival circuit. Additionally, you can catch Capsules on Tubi for free, offering a glimpse into our creative journey.