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Here is the equipment Hoyte van Hoytema used to film Tenet

How do you put together one of the most visually complex films in recent cinema?

The cinematography of principle, photographed by Hoyte van Hoytema, is a masterpiece that not many people argue about. Terrifyingly, the Oscars weren’t even interested in nominating the film or the cinematography.

We think it’s a masterpiece, not because every shot is perfectly refined, but because Hoytema is overly sensitive to maintaining realism and pushing the boundaries of naturalistic lighting. The cinematography puts viewers in a state of intense immersion that perfectly matches the story and dynamics of principle.

With the lenses, lighting, and of course the infamous IMAX 70mm cameras, Hoytema was able to deliver extremely naturalistic and bold images that strictly served history.

You can watch our video discussion here:

The cameras

principle has more IMAX footage than any other film in history.

They filmed with the Arriflex 765, IMAX MKIII, IMAX MKIV, IMAX MSM 9802, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio and Logmar Magellan.

Although they shot a lot of IMAX footage (and has been heavily marketed as such), most of the film was actually made on the Arriflex 765 and Panavision 65.

Hoytema says “IMAX cameras are loud. If you want to record sound and dialogue, you have to work with a different format. So we shot IMAX whenever we could – and used the next best 65 mm format for dialogue. It was a purely practical decision. “

It seems like almost every dialogue scene they didn’t want ADR was filmed mostly with the other cameras, which turns out to be a pretty significant part of the movie. You can tell by the fact that the aspect ratio changes over the course of the film.

The splendid IMAX Footage would have no black bars and would be in 1.43: 1 aspect ratio. The dialogue scenes that are filmed on the Arriflex 765 would have an aspect ratio of 2.20: 1 (with the black bars). Most of the car scenes appear to have been shot on IMAX, and all ADR footage that was shot on IMAX (dialog scenes on a noisy boat, for example).


‘Principle’Recognition: Warner bros.

The film inventory

The cameras are a perfect match as they all used 65mm Kodak footage. The footage used on principle includes Kodak Vision3 50D, Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Kodak Vision3 200T 5213 and Kodak Vision3 500T 5219.

To get a rough estimate of the cost of shooting an entire movie on 65mm film, a 1000-foot roll of 65mm Kodak film costs approximately $ 1,400.

At IMAX, the 65 mm film material runs horizontally through the IMAX camera with 15 perforations at the same time. That would be about 337 feet per minute.

So you would burn $ 1,400 every three minutes.

With a conventional 65mm camera, the film travels vertically through the camera with 5 perforations, about 111 feet per minute. So that would be nine minutes per roll, and the cost of IMAX is about three times as much footage.

The “Time Reversal” sequences were often filmed twice, both forwards and backwards. So you can only imagine how many rolls of film they put into this film.


‘Principle’Recognition: Warner bros.

The lenses

The camera and lens package is very similar to that used for the recording Dunkirk, it’s actually pretty much the same camera and lenses. They used converted Hasselblad still lenses to cover the entire negative of 65mm film on IMAX.

To like Dunkirk, principle was taken completely with spherical lenses.

Hoytema says: “Optically it is so much purer than anamorphic, with much less glass and light refraction between the subject and the emulsion. The original IMAX lenses are dark, so Dan Sasaki and his team adapted these to achieve T2.0 and improve brightness. They also optimized the focus so that we can get closer to more intimate situations. “

Her preferred lens was a custom one Panavision Sphero 80mm Main lens. They also had a number of Hasselblad They called them lenses “Micro-macro” in 50mm and 80mm, which allows them to be enlarged 1: 1 for both missions and some of the greatest close-ups ever seen in IMAX.

Like most Panavision lenses, they are less clinical and produce incredibly beautiful images. A moderate focus roll-off and mixed contrast layers enable the glasses to capture pleasant skin tones and a soft, classic overall picture.


‘Principle’Recognition: Warner bros.

The lighting

The lighting is very naturalistic.

“We wanted reality, not beauty,” says Hoytema. “We have all but abolished the continuity and the tendency to take backlit photos – everything that a cameraman learns as best practice. The aim was to take what is given: to use the natural, available light as best as possible and to add as little additional light as possible. “

Hoytema is not afraid to show you pictures that are not polished. The cinematography is completely based on reality and you can’t help but immerse yourself in the story. His lighting was always about realism and naturalism, but with principle, we think Hoytema really mastered this. A lot of parts of the movie feel almost like a documentary, and just like a documentary, you rarely wonder where the lights are coming from because you are solely focused on the story.

“I always have the ambition to use natural light because I love its abundance and I can learn from it,” says Hoytema. “You always want to align your film reality with actual reality, but you also want to deal with questions of consistency. I recently warmed up to LED lighting due to the jumps in color and controls. The manipulation and control of existing environments is much more feasible, and without taking up a lot of space or using extremely large guns, which makes us much more flexible and leans us on the light we find on site.

Hoytema’s lighting style is all about illuminating the area and giving the actors space. The location, the light, the appearance is what it is. He really doesn’t like putting lights near the sets as he finds it limiting and unnatural. Of course, when they move in for news coverage and close-ups, most cameramen move their lights closer to have a more comfortable and softer light on the subjects.

Hoytema doesn’t do any of this. Even with close-ups, you can see that the lights likely haven’t moved from the far reaches. You can tell by the shadows. This would also give Christopher Nolan considerable extra time filming. Although its main intention is likely to be to maintain that realism rather than to save time.

“I lit the scene, not just the shot,” says Hoytema. “We’re going to make adjustments for a particular shot, but getting a smooth, visceral IMAX experience is all about capturing immense nuances. Your approach is to be pure. If you light an entire scene, you can find out where the light would be coming from. But for me it’s never a macro approach about shadows and the like. I try to keep my light sources far from the epicenter of the set unless it’s convenient in front of the camera. Aesthetically, I believe that this gives me a controlled wealth that works for the story. “

He’s also not afraid of shooting at noon in bright sunlight, which most cameramen avoid. It boldly captures the atmosphere of the midday sun, capturing the shadows on faces rather than softening them.

What did you think of the cinematography while watching? Principle? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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