Ask The Expert: Anil Mehta Explains The Use Of Cameras In Rogue One

This week we asked senior cinematographer Anil Mehta, who has shot films like Lagaan, Highway and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, to tell us how Rogue One: A Star Wars story was filmed.

FC Staff
FC Staff

December 17, 2016

Ask The Expert: Anil Mehta Explains The Use Of Cameras In Rogue One

Have a technical question about the movies? Shoot them across to Film Companion and we’ll get an expert to address your query. This week we asked senior cinematographer Anil Mehta, who has shot films like LagaanHighway and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, to tell us how Rogue One: A Star Wars story was filmed. Here’s what he had to say –

Q. Gareth Edwards, who directed Rogue One: A Star Wars story, said in an interview that the he and his DOP Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) had a gritty vision for the film.  He said: Star Wars is always old meets new – the far future and the ancient past in the design and environments.”  He added: We tried to do that stylistically as well with the latest digital camera with four times the resolution, the Alexa 65, combined with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses used on Ben Hur.  This gave us the widest possible aspect ratio with a shallow depth of field.”

What does this mean?  And how would this impact on our viewing experience?

Anil Mehta: With the onset of digital cinematography, filmmakers worldwide have been grappling with how to make their films look  ‘cinematic’ or ‘filmic’. Cinema is what we grew up with, film is what we loved. Digital acquisition of images has led to them looking clinical, cold and too sharp.

Now cinematographers are grappling with how to bring the warmth, textures, and imperfections back to the movies. When Gareth Edwards and Greig Fraser chose to shoot digitally on the ARRI ALEXA 65, they were looking at cutting edge digital acquisition. When they chose to shoot with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses (built in the 1950s), they were hoping to bring the vintage textures of Cinema back into play.

Within Star Wars movies, it is critical to be the ‘leading edge of Technical Innovation’ (George Lucas lineage) and yet have a narrative that resonates like universal mythology and touches hearts like a family drama.

Basically it’s like going to a fine dining, gourmet restaurant and asking for your grandmother’s cooking;  food that warms your innards like no other…

So the high end digital acquisition tells you you’re in ‘inter galactic space’

And the lenses allow you to see the cinema that you love. Its not a coincidence that in the previous outing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was shot on Kodak Film Stock.

Write in to thefilmcompanion@gmail.com with your queries.  Use ‘Ask the Expert’ in your subject line