How DP David Lanzenberg's cinematic expertise shines in Netflix’s “Wednesday”
Cinematographer David Lanzenberg creatively harnessed the ALEXA Mini LF, ARRI Signature Primes, and Orbiter lights to create captivating visuals in Netflix's hit series “Wednesday.”
May 26, 2023
Renowned cinematographer David Lanzenberg consistently delivers gripping images for the film and television industry, and his fondness for ARRI products is evident.
Lanzenberg's expertise in leveraging ARRI's ALEXA Mini LF, Signature Prime lenses, and Orbiter lighting equipment has significantly contributed to the breathtaking imagery in projects like Netflix's “Wednesday,” where Lanzenberg was responsible for the cinematography of the show’s pilot and first four episodes. Camera, lighting, and grip equipment were all supplied by ARRI Rental.
In a recent interview with ARRI, Lanzenberg shares insights into his career trajectory, collaborating with visionary director Tim Burton, and his experiences working with ARRI tools both on the set of “Wednesday” and other films, underscoring their vital role in crafting one of the most compelling visual narratives in recent memory.
The first four episodes of “Wednesday” were shot using the ALEXA Mini LF with ARRI Signature Prime lenses
Refining craft and equipment mastery
From his early days as a production assistant in New York to working on big-budget music videos for artists like Lenny Kravitz and feature films such as “The Signal” and “Age of Adaline,” Lanzenberg has sharpened his cinematography skills through continual experimentation. Embracing new technologies and adapting to the ever-evolving landscape of the film industry has ultimately led to the development of his distinct visual style and creative storytelling techniques.
In creating an authentic visual style for “Wednesday,” Lanzenberg chose the ALEXA Mini LF for its imaging characteristics and reliability, noting, “I knew the ALEXA. I had worked with the LF on another movie. I really understood the camera and I really appreciated the images that came through. We knew exactly what we were getting. That allowed us to keep a good, crisp image. And by crisp, I mean a clean image. The camera setup enabled us to play with the lighting and continue from there. It allowed us to not be bound. I value color, dynamic range, and good skin rendition in a camera.”
ARRI Signature Primes enabled DP Lanzenberg to capture the world of “Wednesday” without gimmicks
Lens selection: ARRI Signature Primes
Continuing the conversation on the weight of aesthetics, DP Lanzenberg stressed the importance of selecting the appropriate lenses for any particular project.
For “Wednesday,” he opted for ARRI Signature Prime lenses as their versatility and clean texture were ideal for the show’s distinctive tonal sensibility. “We did a series of tests in Burbank and we looked at different types. One thing I liked about the Signatures was the range. I knew that ‘Wednesday’ was going to be on the wide end, as we were not planning on shooting on very long lenses. I did not feel like it needed it, just from judging some of the other films that Tim Burton had done. I was counting on having more wide lenses, and Signature Primes had a very clean texture. They felt nice and there was a certain three-dimensionality without being overly exaggerated.”
Through this lens-testing process, the Signature Primes enabled Lanzenberg to capture the world of “Wednesday” without gimmicks or image manipulation.
Innovative lighting approaches
Throughout the “Wednesday” production, Lanzenberg implemented cutting-edge lighting techniques to enhance the show's paranormal visual appeal. Utilizing a variety of lights, including ARRI SkyPanel 360-Cs, Fresnels, and the versatile Orbiter, he created unique and atmospheric lighting effects. “We used the Orbiter for the moonlight in Wednesday’s apartment. It gave us exactly what we wanted, which was sharp moonlight coming in through the window for those scenes.”
Lanzenberg further commended the Orbiter's adaptability, saying, “I think the versatility was what I really liked. The gaffer, Florin Mihalache, owned an ARRI Orbiter and we used it on several occasions. We had Christina Ricci’s character for example: She had big glasses as well as a wig that acted as a helmet. So to not have any lights reflecting on the glasses, which is always a pain to have to see, we would use three-quarter light from the side. Hiding the light, we had to bounce the Orbiter off the ground. This gave the light a gray quality and it was not super saucy. I really enjoyed that.”
SkyPanel S60-Cs and the enthralling fire gag effect
In one pivotal scene in “Wednesday” between Jenna Ortega’s titular character and Gwendoline Christie’s principal Weems, Lanzenberg had to conceptualize how to light a fire without actual flames. To resolve such a conundrum, Lanzenberg utilized a hidden trapdoor fashioned by the production department to slightly conceal SkyPanel S60-Cs to create a mesmerizing fire gag effect. “The gaffer and I said, let’s do the fire gag from the fireplace and turn everything else off. My hope was that the actors would slowly, instinctually, subconsciously go toward the brighter area of the room. So, they rehearsed the scene and they played it by the fireplace, and everything was about the light that was hitting them through the fireplace.”
This visually striking sequence highlights Lanzenberg's skill in using creative lighting solutions to amplify the story and atmosphere, as well as the actors’ improvisational flexibility. Lanzenberg reminisces, “The actors gravitated towards the light, making the scene visually impressive despite the challenges of the location.”
A resourceful fire gag created by DP Lanzenberg was creatively illuminating a scene in “Wednesday”
Collaboration and visual storytelling
Working closely with acclaimed director Tim Burton on “Wednesday,” Lanzenberg understood the significance of collaboration in forging a cohesive visual style that would complement Burton’s iconic and occasionally eerie sensibilities. Teaming up with colorist Siggy Ferstel, they devised a distinctive and effective look-up table (LUT) for the show, granting protagonist Wednesday a cool, porcelain appearance. Lanzenberg expresses, “I aimed to create a visual style that felt authentic, drawing viewers into the world of the characters and the story.”
David Lanzenberg's command of cinematography and his dedication to innovation and collaboration continue elevating his projects and inspiring fellow industry professionals. Expertly employing equipment like the ALEXA Mini LF, Signature Prime lenses, the Orbiter, and SkyPanels, Lanzenberg demonstrates his mastery of visual storytelling and his capacity to adapt to the unique requirements of each production.