ALEXA on LAST KNIGHTS
Having shot his two previous films himself in a highly visual style, director Kazuaki Kiriya chose to work with cinematographer Antonio Riestra, AMC, ACK on his latest project, LAST KNIGHTS. Starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, LAST KNIGHTS is an action-packed medieval adventure that tells the story of a fallen warrior who rises up against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master. Riestra opted to shoot the film with ARRI ALEXA cameras and speaks here about his experiences on the production.
Captured with ALEXA by cinematographer Antonio Riestra, AMC, ACK, LAST KNIGHTS is an action-packed medieval adventure directed by Kazuaki Kiriya; it tells the story of a fallen warrior who rises up against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master.
Did Kazuaki have specific ideas about the kind of look he wanted to create for this film?
He brought in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES and BLADE RUNNER as references. I did my own research and brought in the paintings of Remedios Varo, a Surrealistic painter. These, together with the drawings of production designer Ricky Eyres, were our inspiration and brought the whole picture together.
What led to the choice of shooting with ALEXA?
I've been working with the ALEXA since it was first released and I've only seen the camera improve; each update responds to the real needs that we have on the set. We were working the whole time with two cameras, mostly handheld and on Steadicam, and in the action scenes we always brought in a third and a fourth camera.
Was ALEXA a good camera to work with for all the visual effects in the film?
We had a lot of visual effects so we decided to record ARRIRAW, but the film was shot before the ALEXA offered in-camera ARRIRAW recording. Our 1st ACs made a couple of adjustments to the camera so we were able to use the Steadicam and shoot handheld without carrying the Codex recorder the whole day. The grips would carry a small backpack made to fit the batteries and the recorder itself, and this reduced the weight on our shoulders a lot.
How did you go about creating the look you wanted?
We created four LUTs that worked as a base for night interiors and exteriors, as well as day interiors and exteriors. Doing this gave all the departments a closer idea of how the film was really going to look and allowed everyone to contribute because it meant there was time for the images to evolve.
The film is set in a non-existent world around the time of the Middle Ages, when technology was based on fire, therefore the lighting was mainly real sources and also moonlight, which we had to create ourselves.
What solutions did you come up with for firelight?
We filmed a real fire during prep and mapped the flicker so that we could recreate the same effect by programing a combination of lighting fixtures via software on a laptop. This was used to augment practical fires on the set. We had to emulate firelight and flames from a variety of sources, so we had a number of different pulses and flickers programed according to each location and scene.
And how about moonlight?
We decided to look for the softest moonlight we could achieve, so we started by bouncing a 1.8 kW HMI into a polystyrene and then diffused the light even more with a frame of 250 or 216, separating the subject from the source until we found the correct distance by eye. So we ended up lighting a very large area (150 m x 80 m) with only four 12 kW lights bounced from a 12' x 12' frame on a cherry picker at a height of about 45 m, and then softened this with HiLite.
Did that mean you were working at low light levels?
Yes, the light levels were quite low; we rated the ALEXA at 800 ASA and most of the time we shot wide open at T2. We loved the quality of the light and the camera captured this light with an amazing closeness. In fact, there was more detail in the shadows than I expected, so I ended up using some negative fill. The texture of the images from the ALEXA was stunning.
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