February 7, 2024

El Conde cinematographer Ed Lachman, ASC

El Conde is a a dark comedy/horror film that portrays former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a 250 year old vampire. Director Pablo Larraín wanted to play with the idea that a dictatorship is a blood-sucking drain on society with lasting generational impacts. Cinematographer Ed Lachman immediately liked Larraín’s message. “El Conde is his allegory of how we are seduced into yielding to fascism. And it isn’t just in Chile. It’s like the last 50 years, we’re facing that all over the world. That’s why I think the film has something to say- if you can get past the gore.”

Ed had been a long time admirer of Larraín’s work. He found Larraín’s films to be conceptually brilliant with camera placement and movement to tell the story. “They say a cinematographer and a director is a marriage. But I always like to think of it as a dance partner- you hear the same music, but do your steps compliment each other? And I’ve certainly felt I have that relationship with Pablo.” Ed knew he wanted to shoot El Conde in black and white, referencing gothic vampire movies such as Nosferatu and Vampyr (1932). Working with Netflix Latin America, Larraín obtained approval to originate the film in black and white rather than shoot in color and then desaturate it later. For production design, special effects and costumes, all the color choices could be made for the best look in black and white. Ed decided to use the ARRI LF camera, and fortunately, ARRI had just developed a monochromatic sensor for them to use. He enjoys shooting with an actual black and white camera because the exposure latitude and grain structure is different, and he can use monochromatic filters meant for black and white cinematography.

El Conde features some amazingly realistic scenes of vampires flying. The night flying sequences had to be done with a blue screen, which did require a color camera. But all of the day flying sequences and stunts were shot with the black and white camera. The flying sequences were done practically, with no special effects. A 120ft crane suspended the camera operator, who moved through the air with the actors and stunt acrobats on wires.

Ed used the EL Zone System, a method he invented, to figure out the proper exposures for the cameras on El Conde. He’s developed the EL Zone system over the past 10 years, in an effort to measure light values and standardize exposures for digital cameras, and won a technical Emmy in 2023 for the technology. The system uses 18% gray as the standard, which is a universal photography standard. The camera’s sensor data is used as a reference point and filmmakers can view the entire exposure of a shot on a monitor to make lighting adjustments easier.

El Conde is streaming on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81590652
Find Ed Lachman, and learn more about the EL Zone System: https://www.elzonesystem.com/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

December 14, 2023

Saltburn cinematographer Linus Sandgren, ASC, FSF

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren believes that films don’t always have to look pretty. “A film should look appropriate for the story we’re telling. It’s about communicating the emotions of the film. And that can be ugly.” For his latest project, Saltburn, the beautiful images counterbalance the evil within the main character, Oliver Quick. Oliver is an outsider at Oxford who grows obsessed with Felix Catton and his friends, who are effortlessly born to power and privilege. Director Emerald Fennell wanted to create a “vampire movie without vampires” due to Oliver’s ability to latch on to Felix and his family.

Linus met with Fennell, who described her vision of the film. She was influenced by the rich colors in Caravaggio paintings, the early vampire film Nosferatu, and Hitchcock movies for suspense and voyeurism. It was important to tell the story as though the viewer is observing the film from a distance, as if it were a painting. To create the language, Linus found images of paintings and photography that were light-specific to put into a lookbook. They chose to shoot on Kodak film that emphasized the red spectrum, and for a portrait style look, Linus shot in the nearly square aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

With the exception of shooting around Oxford University, Saltburn was almost entirely filmed at one estate in Northamptonshire. Linus and the team scouted around the grounds and inside the building, thinking like a painter to decide on shot composition, lighting, furniture placement and blocking for the actors. Outdoors in daylight at the Saltburn estate, it’s summer, so Linus felt inspired by fashion photography, impressionist paintings and the square framing and colors of a Polaroid picture. He captured the Gothic feel of the grounds at night, adding to the suspense of Oliver’s encounter with Felix’s sister Venetia and the showdown he has with Felix in the maze. 

Saltburn is currently in theaters.

Find Linus Sandgren: Instagram @linussandgren_dp

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz