Cinematographer Yves Cape, AFC, SBC, discusses his work on "Vie Sauvage", a film by Cédric Kahn

par Yves Cape La Lettre AFC n°247

Starring Mathieu Kassovitz, Céline Sallette, David Gastou, French release : 29 October 2014.
Vie Sauvage was filmed over a 9-week period, between the summer of 2013 and the winter of 2014, mostly between Carcassonne and the Cevennes. The film was entirely shot using two shoulder cameras and all-natural lighting.
Cédric Kahn et Yves Cape sur le tournage de "Vie sauvage" - DR
Cédric Kahn et Yves Cape sur le tournage de "Vie sauvage"

Cédric wanted to film in digital for the first time, mainly so that we could have complete freedom to take as much footage as we wanted to with our actors. We organized comparative tests in the Cevennes with a selection of the latest tools appropriate for our project : a 35mm Aaton with Kodak film, a Red Epic, a Sony F55 in 4K, and a Canon C300 (these tests can be seen at TSF). After colour timing and screening the DCPs, we quickly settled on the Sony F55. Some of our reasons were its very interesting “look” in 4K, the quality of its rendering of flesh tones, the ease with which its images look natural after colour timing, and naturally also for its low weight and small size.

The film tells the story of Paco (Mathieu Kassovitz) and Nora (Céline Sallete), who lead a semi-nomadic life with their three children. After a bitter fight, Paco flees with two of the children so that he doesn’t have to give them back to their mother who has custody over them, leading them into a life of hiding that lasts for 11 years. The film was inspired by the true story of brothers Okwari and Shahi Yena Fortin, and their father, Xavier Fortin, who kidnapped them in 1997 when they were aged six and seven, respectively.

As Cédric Khan has already said : “Things start off rather conventionally, with a routine court case, but what isn’t conventional is that the father refuses to accept the court’s ruling, feels slighted by it, and decides to take action.”

I’m presenting Vie Sauvage at a private AFC screening in October, and so we will have plenty of time to discuss the film and my collaboration with Cedric Kahn on this beautiful project. The film has just received the Special Jury Prize at the 2014 San Sebastian Film Festival.

“Rant” by Yves Cape

Because Sony is an associate member of the AFC, I would like to say here that it is necessary that camera operators be consulted regarding camera design, ergonomics, and technology.

What has become of the meetings, dinners, try-outs, and visits some manufacturers used to organize ? These events allowed for exchanges to take place between them and us. Since the “look” is now created by the signal the camera records, film manufacturers have been replaced by camera manufacturers.

The F55 is not a “repurposed” camera, like some of the other cameras we used to use for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed : it is a camera that has been designed for making feature-length films, and yet it is very clearly unsuited for that purpose !

The digital viewfinder is of very poor quality, it has awful colour rendering, has no reserve, bad connectivity, and lots of strobing. The viewfinder housing is too fragile and isn’t convenient to use. The ability to add each necessary element separately — such as an on board battery or HF transmitter — does not exist. It is difficult to balance the camera since its shape doesn’t espouse the form of the shoulder properly. The camera menu isn’t easy to use and certain essential functions should be much easier to access quickly. There are no power cable connections for the accessories, and a few of the “broadcast” tools/connectors could be removed for versions intended only to be used in cinematography. There is undesired wobbling between the camera and its base. We even discovered a hole that let light into the sensor that we had to block !

Obviously, we got used to adapting ourselves to cameras that had supposedly been designed for feature-length films and that had disastrous ergonomics. But our body and our mind suffer. All too often, we are asked to read the FAQs when we bring problems to the manufacturer’s attention, and we have a very hard time getting someone on the line to discuss these problems with.
It’s about time that these newcomers to the camera market, who have become major players in a very short amount of time, consulted with us so that we can help them improve their tools. These discussions will be nothing but beneficial for them and for us.