FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
Philippe Rousselot ASC, AFC switches from 35 mm anamorphic to spherical 65 mm with ARRI Rental’s exclusive ALEXA 65 for the FANTASTIC BEASTS sequel.
Just as on the first FANTASTIC BEASTS movie, Rousselot was teamed with director David Yates, working from a script by J. K. Rowling. Set in the same fictional universe as the Harry Potter films, THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD takes place in 1920s Europe, with the story crossing between our world and the wizarding world. Filming mainly in the UK and Paris, Rousselot used ALEXA 65 cameras combined with Leica Thalia and Prime 65 S lenses supplied by ARRI Rental UK. He speaks here about his work on the film.
Did anything else inform the look of the movie?
In prep you do a lot of research and you grab all the textures you can from the 1920s, not just from photography, which was mostly black and white, but also from paintings. You discuss looks with the director, and it's an important step, but what is even more important is that all these visions you may have in prep can be abandoned one after the other, because for me, shooting is an experience of discovery. Things change, the minute you roll the camera. So, yes, there are inspirations, but for most films I’ve done these don’t really translate; once you see the film it’s a different monster, in a way.
The first film was shot with 35 mm ALEXAs and anamorphic glass—what drew you to the ALEXA 65 for the follow-up?
Because it’s bigger! The sensor is bigger, it’s a bigger cake to eat. The thing is that the ALEXA 65 has all the benefits of the widescreen format, which we wanted for the film, but it doesn’t have the anamorphose, which always brings little problems due to the complexity of the system. With the ALEXA 65 you have the 2.39:1 format, the longer focal lengths, and the ease of spherical lenses. On top of that, the 65 mm sensor is fantastic, and it’s a big benefit for visual effects because they can move around within the frame.
I did wonder when I did tests whether in close-ups you would see every detail of the skin and it would be way too sharp, but the fascinating thing with the ALEXA 65 and the lenses I used is that when we did some very tight close-ups, we didn’t need any diffusion or cosmetic changes in post. It was extremely respectful of the skin tones; it didn’t translate as being too sharp, or cruel to faces.
What was your approach to using the lenses you had?
What I found fantastic was doing a film mostly shot on the 75 mm, rather than shooting on the 40 mm. Or using a 35 mm for wide-angle shots and it doesn’t distort in the way an 18 mm would. That’s what is similar to anamorphic—you’re using much longer lenses in the 65 mm format. We banned the use of a zoom, which was an aesthetic decision I really applauded. When you have a zoom you can use it to adjust the frame, but with prime lenses you have to question the position of the camera.
How was your experience with ARRI Rental in the UK?
It was wonderful, I had great backup. On these big films there are always changes with production and you have to ask for help at the last minute, and it was always provided in a very quick manner, so I was very happy with the service and the quality of the equipment.
What kind of work did you do during the final color grade?
The DI is a time of reinterpretation, especially with David. It’s a complex operation, it takes time, but it’s very interesting because you’re basically questioning the fabric and structure of the film. We had multiple characters, multiple sections, multiple locations, and the first approach from David was to give specific characteristics to each of these sections. When we did the first pass it was our feeling that—on the contrary—the film needed homogenization. Very often going into the DI you have a theory, you apply it, and you realize that it’s not the best way, so you start again.