American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 38

◗

Left for Dead

Top: In a flashback sequence, Glass observes a pile of buffalo skulls. Bottom: Lubezki moves the
camera in for a close-up on DiCaprio and Grace Dove for a flashback of Glass and his wife.

Lubezki did "by far his most superb
work ever" on The Revenant - which is
high praise, considering Lubezki
entered the production after winning
two consecutive Academy Awards for
Gravity (AC Nov. '13) and Iñárritu's
Birdman (AC Dec. '14).
As Lubezki explains, he realized
from the beginning that shooting in
harsh weather amid woods, mountains
and prairies, with constantly shifting
skies and short windows of daylight,
would only work if the entire crew
performed "as true filmmakers" - a
hearty band of collaborators on their
own adventure, mirroring the saga they
were putting onscreen. He describes the
38

January 2016

colleagues who made it through, from
grips to camera assistants to fellow
operators, as "indispensible" and "my
right hands" on the project.
The original plan for the production had been to shoot a film/digital
hybrid, and while the production did
carry film cameras early on, no film
footage appears in the finished cut. The
Revenant ultimately relied on a combination of Arri Alexa cameras: the Alexa
XT, which was used primarily for
Steadicam and crane shots; the Alexa
M, which was designated as the
primary camera; and the new Alexa 65
system, an early version of which Arri
made available to the filmmakers in
American Cinematographer

January of 2015, several weeks into
production.
Though the Alexa 65 was originally carried primarily for vistas and
more expansive shots, the filmmakers
ended up using the new large-format
camera "more and more and more,"
according to 1st AC John Connor, and
for all sorts of applications, including
crane work for entire scenes and some
Steadicam. Connor notes that the Alexa
65 was commandeered for "long takes
[that progressed] from wide shots into
close-ups, usually to [the minimum
focus of ] 15" on the widest [24mm]
lens."
Lubezki explains that he was
initially attracted to the idea of "including the dynamic range of a film negative. I wanted to shoot a combination of
35mm and 65mm film, and then use
Alexa for dusk and night. But the tests
weren't turning out the way we wanted
- we were having [logistical problems]
with X-rays in airports and labs - and
I was already [impressed with] the
Alexa tests when Arri called and said
the Alexa 65 was available.
"Once we started testing that
camera, we decided to switch to alldigital," he continues. "In the weather
conditions and the short windows [of
sunlight], the Alexa did great work.
Even if the dynamic range is not exactly
the same as film, what the Alexa was
able to do in the low end was something



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 7
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American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 63
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64a
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64b
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64c
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64d
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64e
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64f
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64g
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64h
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