The Cinematography Podcast Episode 257: Greig Fraser

Cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC doesn’t see Dune: Part Two as a sequel, but as simply the second half of the Dune story. Shooting the second movie made Greig feel “emboldened, to make decisions that we may not have made in the first instance. We weren’t necessarily considering how to outdo ourselves. I think the fact that we were kind of riding a wave- no pun intended- but a wave of success for that last movie.”

Dune: Part Two was shot digitally on the ARRI ALEXA 35, the ALEXA 65, and the ALEXA Mini LF then printed to 70 mm film in post production for the final print. Greig prefers the look of film to that of raw digital, but he doesn’t feel like he has to shoot on film. He used a small set of spherical lenses that were easily transportable.

Lighting for the movie included plenty of hard light and open shade, since most of Dune: Part Two takes place in the harsh desert sands of Arrakis. Greig chose to uplight in order to illuminate faces, because harsh sunlight would naturally bounce off the ground and reflect upwards onto the characters. “I think that the most important thing in this movie is that everything feels honest. When you’re going to extremes in a story, if you’re running a thousand foot long sandworm in the middle of the movie, which is obviously fantasy, then you’ve got to also fill it with reality and honesty. You can tell Denis’ direction with the actors was absolutely honest. I needed to make sure that I had the same kind of approach for the lighting.”

The production featured a massive crew, shooting in four countries: Budapest, Italy, Jordan and Abu Dhabi. The second unit was essential for staying on schedule. Greig also relied on his DIT to help him match shots across different locations, sometimes months apart. He often had to choose whether to shoot on the sound stage or outside on location for the desert sequences. Though filming outside was best for daylight, the reality is that real sand is messy, uncontrolled, and harsh on equipment. The huge sandstorm sequence was shot on the soundstage, which was pumped full of atmospheric haze and color graded in post to be sand colored.

Greig enjoyed testing and using infrared black and white film for the gladiator-style fight scenes on Giedi Prime. He used a modified ARRI ALEXA 65 to shoot infrared. Since the people there have very pale white skin, he imagined that Giedi Prime has only infrared light from the sun, and no visible sunlight.

Greig partnered with actor Josh Brolin to create a beautiful art book of photography called Dune: Exposures. It features photos he took on the set of Dune and Dune: Part Two, with prose written by Josh Brolin. You can find it at Insight Editions or on Amazon.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram: @greigfraser_dp

Close Focus: The Popcorn List is a brand-new survey of independently produced films, recommended by film festival programmers, that don’t have theatrical or digital distributors.

Ben’s short end: Late Night with the Devil is a horror movie set in the 1970’s that blends documentary style and “found footage.”

Illya’s short end: The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell podcast on KCRW.

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