ARRI technology and services behind Oscar® gold

This year’s Academy Awards recognized many outstanding films and artists this year. ARRI is honored to have supported Oscar’s big winner of the evening, “Nomadland,” and many others. 

Apr. 26, 2021

Shot on ARRI equipment and serviced by ARRI Rental, “Nomadland” wins the Oscar for Best Picture

Postponed but certainly not lackluster, the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was held on April 25, in Los Angeles. The event, traditionally been seen by more than 225 countries and territories worldwide, took place in two main locations this year—the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, home to the show since 2002, and Los Angeles’ historic Union Station. Various international locations were also streamed in via satellite.

On a winning streak since the Golden Lion in Venice, “Nomadland” has impressed critics and audiences alike. Besides the Biennale, film, cast, and crew have racked up various accolades, including Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes, Best Picture at the BAFTA Awards, a TIFF People’s Choice Award, most recently the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and many others. “Nomadland” was nominated in six categories at the Academy Awards and became the biggest winner of the evening, earning three golden statuettes: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress in a Leading Role, which went to Frances McDormand. Director, Chloé Zhao, made history as the second woman and the first woman of color ever to win the Academy’s Best Director Award. Zhao also wrote, edited, and produced the picture.

For the eleventh year in a row, the Oscar for Best Picture was awarded to a film captured with ARRI cameras. The cinematographer on “Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards, chose to shoot on ARRI’s ALEXA Mini and ARRI AMIRA cameras with ARRI/ZEISS Ultra Prime lenses. The entire production was serviced by ARRI Rental.

Out of the seven other films nominated by the Academy for Best Picture, four were captured with ARRI cameras. Large-format camera systems continue to be in high demand. Director Shaka King and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt BSC shot “Judas and the Black Messiah” on ARRI ALEXA LF and ALEXA Mini LF with DNA lenses from ARRI Rental. Both “Minari,” directed by Lee Isaac Chung and lensed by Lachlan Milne ASC, NZCS, and “Promising Young Woman,” directed by Emerald Fennell and shot by Benjamin Kracun, were captured with ARRI’s ALEXA Mini camera. For Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix production “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” cinematographer Phedon Papamichael ASC opted for the ALEXA LF and ALEXA Mini LF with ARRIRAW. 

The award for Achievement in Cinematography is always highly anticipated at ARRI, and this year’s competitive playing field speaks volumes for the talent in the industry. Again, four out of the five contenders in this category chose to work with ARRI cameras: ARRI’s ALEXA Mini and AMIRA cameras with ARRI/Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses were used on “Nomadland” by Joshua James Richards; “Judas and the Black Messiah” was shot by Sean Bobbitt BSC on ARRI’s ALEXA LF, ALEXA Mini LF, with ARRI Rental’s DNA LF lenses; Dariusz Wolski ASC shot “News of the World” on ALEXA Mini LF and ALEXA LF; and for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” DP Phedon Papamichael ASC used ALEXA LF and ALEXA Mini LF. In the end, the award went to our friend Erik Messerschmidt ASC for masterfully lensing David Finch’s black-and-white homage to classic Hollywood “Mank.”

Joshua James Richards, a first-time Oscar nominee, chose to work with ARRI’s ALEXA Mini and AMIRA cameras with ARRI/Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses on “Nomadland.” Despite only having four feature films under his belt so far, Richards has earned the most cinematography awards in 2021. Intimate, human storytelling was at the heart of what Richards and Zhao wanted to achieve with “Nomadland.” Richards explains: “The challenge here was doing this in a way that feels like we’re inside their world and we're not just viewing it as outsiders with a long lens,” he says. The compact ALEXA Mini and the ergonomic AMIRA facilitated this intimacy and ease of movement. Richards recalls: “In terms of equipment, I knew that we needed to be as nimble as ever. Here, we have a character on a sort of voyage of discovery, and so I really wanted the audience to feel like they’re moving with her through these places.” 

Nominated cinematographer Sean Bobbitt BSC chose ARRI’s ALEXA LF, ALEXA Mini LF, and ARRI Rental’s exclusive DNA LF lenses for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” all shot on ARRIRAW. ARRI Rental serviced the production. Bobbitt remarked: “I’ve become very fond of the ALEXA Mini LF—the amount of color information you can capture when shooting RAW is fantastic, meaning you can take it to many places in the grade effectively and easily. The DNA lenses have a wonderful funkiness to them.” 

Filmed in rugged New Mexico, “News of the World” presents a portrait of the classic western. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski ASC worked with the ALEXA Mini LF, ALEXA LF, and ARRIRAW in 4.5K. He recalls, “I heard about the LF coming out in 4K and I thought it was a great thing to try. It has shallower depth of field but not so extreme, which I think is perfect. I also think the dynamic range gets better, because of the size of the chip.” The team primarily relied on natural light; however, ARRI L-Series and SkyPanel LED units were occasionally used for night interiors or to provide fill for exterior and interior day scenes. 

For the Netflix production “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” DP Phedon Papamichael ASC applied two ALEXA LFs and one ALEXA Mini LF. Papamichael mentions that he went back to the same equipment he used on “Ford v. Ferrari,” a combination of the ALEXA LF and expanded anamorphic lenses that covered the sensor. He comments, “This enables you to create intimate close-ups by physically being close and using a wider lens (40 or 50 mm anamorphic), but it also doesn’t isolate the character from their surroundings.” This setup helped Papamichael and his team, for, as he explains it: “I didn’t want to just shoot talking heads … nobody is functioning as a single unit.”

Two out of the five nominated pictures in the category for Best International Feature FIlm were shot on ARRI cameras. “Another Round” from Denmark took home the golden statue. Director Thomas Vinterberg and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen used the ALEXA Mini for this comedy about a group of teachers who decided to go on a drinking binge.

Another nominee in this category was from Hong Kong, a film titled “Better Days,” which has already been quite successful this year. DP Yu Jing Pin chose to work with the ALEXA Mini. She mentions how the equipment helped to service the picture: “Since the filming locations for ‘Better Days’ were quite tight, we needed a compact camera to not affect the actors, and the ALEXA Mini fit the profile perfectly. The night scenes were usually illuminated by neon signs, which made the true color response of the camera on a non-standard lighting source vital for the movie. The ALEXA Mini captures the neon lights accurately with no unwanted surprises after shooting. Generally, ALEXA cameras do better with color rendition than other brands. This quality is important especially in the Asian film industry where filming conditions are sometimes limited in terms of time and resources.”

ARRI congratulates all the winners and nominees of the 93rd annual Academy Awards. We thank you for relying on ARRI equipment and services to help bring your artistic visions to life.

For a complete list of winners, along with their acceptance speeches, please see:

Opening image: Peter Spears (from left), Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey pose backstage with the Oscar® for Best Picture. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.