CW Sonderoptic - Leica on stage

By François Reumont for the AFC

[ English ] [ français ]

The Leica team organized a special meeting with the attendees of the festival in order to discuss its new Thalia range of lenses, intended to be used on large-format cameras (like the Arri Alexa 65 or the RED Monstro). In order to illustrate what we’re talking about, nothing is worth a few images taken on the spot.

Darius Khondji, AFC, ASC, was given the task of using a first 65mm lens in Paris, alongside his son who is taking his first steps as a director. The result was a short film entitled Jardin d’hiver, shot with an Arri Alexa 65. “It’s true that one might wonder why there aren’t any shots of faces in this demonstration film for new lenses”, admits Alexandre Khondji on stage alongside Tommaso Vergallo and Gerhard Baier, “but the garden seemed to me to be a character all unto itself.”
Indeed, Gerhard Baier adds, “we shot a few scenes with a child on location, but editing convinced us that the idea was not in keeping with the rest of the film.” The result is a sort of nearly-abstract symphony of dark greens and cyan, where the plants seem to dance before the camera to the rhythm of a sophisticated sound creation directed by Nicolas Becker.
The very large area of the sensor causes both a very reduced depth of field and a feeling of a rather mysterious three-dimensionality. Another observation is that there was a very particular handling of flares, like the last scene in the film where the winter sun pierces the leaves of the trees.

Another experience by another user of the Leica cinema lenses was provided by the American cinematographer Tod Campbell, who came to discuss his experience on the set of the series “Mr. Robot”, whose main character is a computer hacker. “I was lucky to do everything with only one director (Sam Esmail) on that series, and since he is also the creator of the series, I had the rather rare opportunity of working with him on the image episode-by-episode, and therefore to move towards a direction we’d set in common.”
Tod Campbell’s presentation focused especially on the second season. “To tell the truth”, explains the cinematographer, “the look and the image of the series were really determined during the second season, especially by including strong vertical lines in the frame. It was a sort of leitmotif that almost became a mantra for us.” It was because of that choice, in particular, that the cinematographer opted to shoot with a Leica Summilux-C series.

Tod Campbell et Seth Emmons pendant la Master Class CW Sonderoptic - Leica
Tod Campbell et Seth Emmons pendant la Master Class CW Sonderoptic - Leica

“The first season was shot with Cooke S4 lenses, and especially a 32mm that we used for almost all the close-ups. On Season 2, we replaced them by the Summilux and especially the 21mm. That allowed us to keep a constant scale but to open up the background behind the actors. And, of course, to keep verticality in our compositions.”
The series was shot in original 5K on RED Weapon cameras, and its third season is about to arrive on our screens.

(Translated from French by Alexander Baron-Raiffe on behalf of the AFC)