MAGIC SEVEN DP Laurent Dailland on TRINITY

Filming the former Manchester United star Eric Cantona coach a school soccer team in a Chinese desert posed a few challenges for MAGIC SEVEN DP Laurent Dailland and his crew. Laurent spoke to ARRI about opting for the TRINITY stabilizing rig, and his experience of using it.  

What led you to use the ARRI TRINITY on MAGIC SEVEN?

It's a long story. The director, Gérard Krawczyck, contacted me to do the cinematography on his new film, a feel-good movie that takes place in a forlorn Uighur village, where the children play soccer. One day, one of the kids discovers the former Manchester United star Eric Cantona in the desert, where he has been left abandoned by the Hong Kong mafia. Cantona coaches the young team of soccer fans all the way to victory in the school cup competition. We were going to be shooting in the Xinjiang Province, 2,500 miles from Shanghai, in a desert almost as vast as the Sahara. We needed to find ways to work in sand and on rocky ground, where it would be nearly impossible to use classic grip equipment. The ARRI TRINITY really saved the day.

TRINITY operator Junior Lucano in action on set

The key grip initially suggested a system where the camera would be mounted on an exoskeleton, but I wasn't really convinced. I'd thought of a Steadicam, of course, but they only have a height adjustability of 2 feet. It was Natacha Devillers, the executive producer of the film in China, who told me about Junior Lucano, a locally-based Italian-Peruvian Steadicam operator who used the ARRI TRINITY. I'd heard about the kit, but was dubious, as we French often are. She sent me a demo tape and we did tests with Junior. It was really impressive. For the soccer scenes, Junior used the TRINITY perched on a small Segway. The director and I both quickly understood the advantages of this machine.

How does TRINITY compare with a classic Steadicam?

The TRINITY has an articulated arm that allows it to start the camera from the ground and climb up to 2 meters, or more, in the same movement. It's like filming with a dolly, but without having to install rails. In Xinjiang maneuvering the camera in the rocky and sandy conditions just wouldn’t have been as good without the TRINITY. The TRINITY was also very useful for football scenes where we could film the ball, then move on to the players, and finish in close-up on a face, all in the same shot. So, actually, it's much more than a dolly—it’s a complete staging tool. We also used it a lot in comedy scenes to get closer to actors and get more fluid shots. The interior locations in Xinjiang were very cramped. The TRINITY allowed us to make complex moves, like turning in very narrow stairways, without difficulty. This machine is incredibly flexible.

Laurent Dailland quickly decided to use the TRINITY with the A camera

How was the shooting organized?

Initially we used the TRINITY with the B camera, but after a just a few days we switched it to the A camera. I was framing camera B with a large focal length from a Slider 2 meters long that the Chinese made specially at my request.  One of the advantages of TRINITY is that it automatically fixes on the horizon. That means the operator can concentrate on the movement, and the framing. At first, as Junior does a lot of commercials in China, he was keen to show me what TRINITY can do. But we quickly found a good pace, and it was a great collaboration. I'm very lucky to have met him.

Which cameras did you use?

We shot with two ALEXA Mini cameras and three Angénieux anamorphic zooms. Since we were traveling to the most isolated regions of Xinjiang, I wanted a solid camera, one that would hold up under any circumstances. Whenever I work far from France, I always choose ARRI. In case of any hitches, I know you can find their cameras anywhere in the world, and their after-sales service department always finds a solution. For this film, I could have chosen an ALEXA SXT and an ALEXA Mini, but I wanted the two cameras to be interchangeable in the event of a problem. And since the Mini can also be perfectly adapted to the TRINITY.

A challenging shot of the film’s star, Eric Cantona

How did you create the film's look?

I wanted a contrasted, colorful image with saturation. Since I didn't have a DIT with me on this film, I relied a great deal on the ARRI Look Library. It was a valuable aid. I could shoot an image that had character right there on the set. I used a good 20 LUTs, though not always as usually recommended. For example, I used the 3 LUT to shoot at night, even though it's designed for the day, and it worked out beautifully. I'm very satisfied with the result.