DP Federico Annicchiarico works on set with ARRI equipment.

Why DP Federico Annicchiarico relied on ARRI equipment for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Robot”

The Italian feature “Rock ‘n’ Roll Robot” was shot with the ALEXA Mini camera, Ultra Primes lenses, and lighting equipment from ARRI. DP Federico Annicchiarico AIC-Imago and his team talk about the filming.

May 23, 2019

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Robot” is the directorial debut of Italian actor Marco Bocci who used his very own novel “A Tor Bella Monaca non piove mai” (In Tor Bella Monaca never rains) as inspiration for the film. At times dramatic, at times ironic, this picture was shot in the suburban neighborhood of Rome, Tor Bella Monaca, and follows the daily life of Mauro, a 35-year-old man and his family.

Federico Annicchiarico has always chosen ARRI´s ALEXA cameras for his projects. For this one he relied on ALEXA Mini: “We realized that we needed to use ALEXA Mini after the on-site inspection. The main set was a 40-square-meter apartment on the 14th floor of a tall tower located in the suburbs. The spaces were small and reduced. I could touch the ceiling if I took a small jump. In that moment, we understood that we had to choose appropriate equipment to fit the space. The ALEXA Mini seemed to be the right piece of equipment to tell a story like this. Also, 70 to 80 percent of the feature needed to be shot with a hand-held camera, so we needed an ergonomic and lightweight tool.”

The shooting lasted seven weeks starting from October 2018, in which the crew was heavily influenced by various external forces: “We shot day and night, frequently outdoors and mainly in October which is not summer and not quite winter,” Annicchiarico commented. The filming location, Tor Bella Monaca, was hit hard by bad weather and gusts of wind that affected the entire city of Rome, causing not only trees to collapse but also took victims. There were plenty of challenges during the production phase due to the difficulty of shooting directly on location. Annicchiarico commented: “It was a difficult film to shoot. We decided to film in a rather degraded suburb of Rome. Here we had the opportunity to talk with the residents, wonderful people who must learn to exist with the disadvantages and discomforts of a difficult suburb.”

Despite the difficult conditions, Annicchiarico relied on ARRI to get the best results: “With the ALEXA, I feel confident about getting the best out of any location with minimal additional support.” In this feature, the need was to act rapidly. He added: “We walked into people’s houses and had to shoot the scene wasting as little time as possible. In these scenarios, ALEXA Mini helped us a lot.”

Francesco Argenziano, Camera Operator for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Robot,” in talking about the aesthetic taste of the director, specified that he very often found himself shooting in narrow spaces because a dirty frame with objects and scenes was preferred: “Luckily ALEXA Mini could be easily placed anywhere and this greatly facilitated getting the job done.”

The ergonomics and flexibility of ALEXA Mini made it possible to create high-level images, the DP remembers a scene shot at night in an abandoned hangar: “We put the camera in a 40 x 40 space and we still managed to bring home beautiful shots taken through those perforated bricks.”

Regarding the lenses he used, Annicchiarico explains: “I choose Ultra Primes lenses and used them just as they are, as agreed with the director. We had to achieve a certain kind of feeling, atmosphere, and photographic temperament; therefore, I didn’t want to use any kind of filter.”

Another important detail in the usage of ALEXA Mini is the camera’s available recording formats. The team chose ProRes XQ444 for this production. Following the advice given by colorist Paolo Verrucci, the results were excellent especially in projection. The choice for ProRes instead of ARRIRAW was due to the speed in which the scenes needed to be shot. “With the least amount of effort, we needed to create the atmosphere and then start shooting. I can say that ProRes surprised us a lot even when we had to shoot in complete darkness. In those situations, one often thinks ‘What’s going to happen now?’” 

The postproduction process did not have to be invasive. The resulting images had a very classic appeal and the feature maintained a very definite look, bright colors, and very strong contrast. The information captured during the shooting phase was preserved, the skin tones remained skin tones, the pink remained pink. Verruci, adds: “We started from a 709 and from that we worked to gain a proper result, deep black color, solid, significant backlights.”

Speaking about lighting, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Robot” was mainly shot with natural light combined with and helped by reflection. However, for the outdoor locations, both day and night, the ARRI lighting fixtures HMI 1800, 4000, and tungsten were used. Annicchiarico summed up, “I chose ARRI lighting because it made my work on set easier.”

Related link: www.federicoannicchiarico.com

Photos: Federico Annicchiarico AIC-Imago