"The Great Wall" is a joint production from China Film Group, Le Vision Pictures, Legendary East and Universal Pictures. Set during the Northern Song Dynasty, the story sees European mercenaries join forces with a specialist Chinese army to battle fierce monsters known as the Taotie. Director Zhang Yimou and cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (co-credited with Zhao Xiaoding) here share their experiences on the film, which was the first to use ARRI Rental's ALEXA 65 as its A-camera on main unit.
ZYM: The images from ALEXA 65 have more clarity; the dynamic range and color reproduction are excellent. Despite being a digital camera, ALEXA 65 still manages to retain the organic smoothness from analog film. Many other digital cameras tend to be too clinical in terms of sharpness and detail. ALEXA 65 isn't like that -- the images look pleasing without being overly sharp. The tonal range, gradation and granularity also impressed me.
You had both the Prime 65 and Vintage 765 lens series; did you use each for specific things?
SD: To be honest we mixed the Prime 65s and Vintage 765s -- eventually without giving it much thought at all. A more techy person than myself could probably pick the difference, but I was very comfortable with both. If the right focal length for a particular shot was on the A-camera as a Vintage 765 and on the B-camera as a Prime 65, I felt quite comfortable in mixing them up. Any minor differences in resolution or lens color can be corrected so easily in post, particularly with frame data of that scale.
What influence do you think ALEXA 65 may have on the Chinese film industry?
ZYM: As a director I have high standards for image quality and aesthetics. Good visual storytelling is a result of the proper integration of technologies. I hope that shooting with ALEXA 65 on "The Great Wall" would bring the attention of Chinese filmmakers to this topic. The quality of films will ultimately depend upon the filmmakers' ability to take advantage of the tools.
Photos: Jasin Boland for Universal Pictures