ALEXA and Ultra Primes on Bengali film
Director Kamaleswar Mukherjee's recent Bengali-language action-adventure film MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON (CHANDER PAHAR) tells the story of a young man named Shankar, who -- faced with the prospect of a dim future in his impoverished village -- bids farewell to his family in rural Bengal and makes a journey to Africa's fabled 'Mountain Of The Moon' in search of gold and diamond mines. Cinematographer Soumik Halder chose to capture in ProRes 4444 with ALEXA, utilizing a full set of ARRI/ZEISS Ultra Prime lenses as well as an ARRI/FUJINON Alura Zoom 45-250. He speaks here about his work on the film.
Director Kamaleswar Mukherjee's Bengali film MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON tells the story of Shankar, who bids farewell to his family in rural Bengal and sets out in search of adventure and riches. Cinematographer Soumik Halder captured in ProRes with ALEXA, utilizing a full set of ARRI/ZEISS Ultra Prime lenses, as well as an ARRI/FUJINON Alura Zoom 45-250.
What kind of a look did you and Kamaleswar want to give this film?
We discussed it and planned to have a look that was defined by a golden brown tint. We also wanted to match the color scheme with the true local colors in Africa -- this was relevant not only to the cinematography, but also to our costumes and props, which were sourced accordingly.
Why did you choose the ALEXA?
I always felt that ALEXA's image output is the closest that digital capture gets to the look you achieve with film, mainly in terms of latitude, texture and tonality. I had shot with the ALEXA before and I just knew it was the right camera to meet the demands of this project.
Can you talk through your lens choices?
I really like the sharpness and texture of the Ultra Primes, so they were great lenses to have. We also had the super-wide-angle Ultra Prime 8R/T2.8 lens, which we used for the climactic sequences at the end of the film, set in the Kalahari Desert.
I found the Alura 45-250 mm to be an extremely good zoom with excellent sharpness; it adds real tenderness to the image as well. In my opinion it absolutely matched with the Ultras.
How did you come to decide to shoot in ProRes?
We had the option to record in higher quality using an external recorder, but after testing I decided that ProRes 4444 Log C was good enough even for the big screen. It also made more sense to record to the in-camera SxS PRO cards, because we had to shoot a lot in rough terrain and we didn't want to carry a lot of extra equipment around.
Was it an easy workflow while you were shooting, and were you doing anything to your images as you went along?
The workflow was very easy, but we were shooting for around 14 hours every day so we didn't get much time to grade or edit images as we went along, although we managed to watch the most important rushes at the end of each shooting day. The production handled dailies internally and we weren't applying any kind of look to them.
What approach did you take to the lighting of the film? Did you have ARRI lights in your kit?
I tried to recreate natural light as much as possible through my lighting scheme for the daylight interior sequences and to simulate candlelight and lantern sources for the night sequences. I tried my best to keep the shoot authentic and realistic as much as I could, and yes -- most of the lights we used on location in South Africa were ARRI lights!
Were there situations when you benefitted from any particular strengths of the ALEXA feature set?
There were a few scenes that were shot inside caves, in very low light conditions to create an authentic sense of darkness, when the sensitivity of the ALEXA proved to be very useful. And then for the climactic scenes in the Kalahari, the ALEXA handled the strong highlights very well. Even in the salt pan there were predominant highlights, which once again proved ALEXA's ability. Fortunately it wasn't too hot, but in any case the ALEXA performed excellently.
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