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Aug. 31, 2023

ARRI ALEXA 35 elevates vivid cinematography of Thai film “Man Suang”

The team behind “Man Suang” pushed the boundaries of artful cinematography by incorporating candlelights and a blend of vibrant colors with the help of the ALEXA 35.

Aug. 31, 2023

Highly anticipated Thai film “Man Suang” has finally made its debut in theaters, showcasing its exceptional cinematography to audiences nationwide. Set in the 1800s, the movie revolves around the tale of two friends, Khem and Wan, who embark on a daring mission to uncover the political mysteries concealed within Siam's most opulent entertainment club, Man Suang.

“Man Suang is not your typical nightclub in central Bangkok. Here, diverse individuals gather, including merchants, politicians, gamblers, and more. In Man Suang, you are free to reveal your inner self, and this underlying message is intricately woven into the film's visuals,” says director Chartchai “Nat” Ketnust. “Our aim was to seamlessly blend characters, genres, and narratives, while cinematography served as the pivotal tool that harmonized and balanced them all.”

Watch the trailer for “Man Suang”

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Driven by their enthusiasm to capture the essence of “Man Suang,” the crew engaged in extensive discussion to create their shared vision. Cinematographer Chaiyapreuk “Bank” Chalermpornpanit explains their approach, stating: “We wanted to go back in time, and, without distorting history, create a fantastical world where Man Suang exists. I was determined to communicate the enigmatic and extraordinary nature of this world using colors and light, drawing inspiration from darkness and candlelight.”

“Collaborating closely with our production design team was essential, particularly with the abundance of real candles on set. In the end, we all agreed that we should design a look with high contrast and high saturation but still maintain natural skin tones,” colorist Sorawich “Ice” Khunpinij from White Light Studio adds.

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A colorful still from “Man Suang,” shot with the ALEXA 35

Before production began, the team ran several camera tests to ensure that they could capture the concept they were going for and finally decided on the ALEXA 35. “I was more interested in the visual dimensions of the Super 35 format than the full frame. Therefore, I chose the ALEXA 35, and when pairing the camera with anamorphic lenses, we achieved the desired results,” explains DP Chalermpornpanit.

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DP Chaiyapreuk Chalermpornpanit with the ALEXA 35 on set

“The ALEXA 35 was very reliable and stable. It gave us the look of classic anamorphic cinematography while preserving every intricate detail without any loss through HDE. Just from looking at the camera, we could already see that the images are closely aligned with our desired outcome in post-production, which is vital for a film encompassing a diverse range of visuals and ideas,” says director Ketnust.

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The ALEXA 35 allowed us to embrace the challenges of working in low light conditions. We shot at ISO 3200 with enhanced sensitivity switched on, and the results turned out beautifully.

Chaiyapreuk Chalermpornpanit

Cinematographer

Given the dark and secretive nature of “Man Suang,” the camera’s exceptional dynamic range was especially crucial in bringing the filmmakers’ creative vision to life. “The ALEXA 35  allowed us to embrace the challenges of working in low light conditions. There was no electricity in that era, so the film was mostly shot in natural light and, as mentioned, candlelight. There were several scenes set in a dark room that required special candlelight effects, and we also had the actors' faces illuminated by lanterns during the rehearsal scenes behind the stage. We shot at ISO 3200 with enhanced sensitivity switched on, and the results turned out beautifully,” reveals Chalermpornpanit.

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A lantern illuminates protagonist Khem’s face

The team was also determined to infuse the film with vibrant colors. DP Chalermpornpanit continues: “Our color scheme evolves with the characters' emotions, making it difficult to light the scenes realistically, so we relied heavily on post-production and color grading. The REVEAL Color Science assisted greatly in handling mixed lighting situations in unique atmospheres.”

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DP Chaiyapreuk Chalermpornpanit and the ALEXA 35 on a dolly

Colorist Khunpinij expresses the team’s surprise at the camera's ability to capture accurate colors, granting them greater flexibility during post-production. This challenge was particularly evident in a specific scene inside character Tub Tim's room, where the filmmakers chose to give the highlights a magenta hue as the light passed through the glass window.

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Light passing through magenta-tinted glass windows shines on the main characters

“In this scene, a captivating magenta glow emanates from the window, which inspired me to create a distinct ambiance for this room, setting it apart from the rest of the film. The results were remarkable! I achieved the desired magenta-infused look while maintaining excellent skin tones,” explains Khunpinij. “The new ARRI LogC4 gave us the flexibility to push the limit of our creativity. We were delighted with its ability to fine-tune colors yet still achieve a natural look in every single colorful shot.”

“We really appreciated the ALEXA 35 during the final grading process. The camera’s organic color saturation and film-like grain truly stood out. It’s a classic look with modern technology,” adds director Ketnust.

“Man Suang” is now showing in theaters in Thailand.