How did you light “Drift Away”?
The difficulty with this film was that we shot from October to January so I could only count on four or five hours of daylight. So, I organized myself accordingly. For the daytime interiors, I mainly used ARRI SkyPanels, which I systematically placed outside the sets. That way I could vary the power and color of the light quickly throughout the day. For the exteriors, I added very little light. First of all because Xavier likes to shoot in natural settings and often integrates them into his directing. Also, the proximity of all the sets offered us effective cover sets.
For the scenes on the 9 m sailboat, which we shot on the open sea, lighting was out of the question. But the ALEXA Mini LF's sensor copes well with large differences in brightness, which was also the case with the classic ALEXAs. This allowed me to maintain the details in the highlights when I was shooting offshore, inside the cabin of the sailboat.
Were you shooting in ARRIRAW or in ProRes?
In ARRIRAW. But since the camera was brand new, I had a limited number of cards. That's why I decided only to record the scope part of the sensor. This allowed us to almost double the card recording capacity. I did 90% of the film this way and it worked out really well. Only part of the scenes shot on the sailboat were recorded in full frame. The seas were quite rough, quite bad, and I wanted to be able to correct the frame using the reserve in postproduction. My assistants made the backups in HDE (Codex), a lossless compression format, so that the backups were lighter and faster. M141 decompressed the rushes and recovered the original ARRIRAW. This was my first time using this workflow and it performed really well.
Have you pushed the sensitivity of the ALEXA Mini LF?
For some of the night watch sequences I went up to 1600-2000 ASA. I also did this for a big night-time sequence on a farm where I used a mix of artificial moonlight and a few tungsten light points. On this film, I had all possible light atmospheres indoors and outdoors, with very inclement winter skies. We also shot a lot by car and boat, day and night. This is where I found the flexibility and simplicity I previously had with the ALEXA Mini. I was on familiar ground. In fact, the ALEXA Mini LF is like an improved ALEXA Mini, with increased image subtlety and an exceptional viewfinder.
Opening image: crew on “Drift Away” (original French title: “Albatros”) by Xavier Beauvois
DP: Julien Hirsch
First assistant: Raphaël André
Second assistant: Marie Deshayes