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ARRI May Have Dominated the Oscars, But Sundance is a Different Story

By James DeRuvo

When it comes to the cameras a shooter chooses for his project, ARRI may have dominated Academy Award nominated features, but when it comes to the indepedent world of the Sundance film festival, the use of a wide variety of camera models is more the norm. From DSLRs to traditional film cameras, the old Ansel Adams addage has never been more true – the best camera is the one you have with you.

According to IndieWire, who took a look at all the films showcased at the Sundance Film Festival, independent filmmakers have a wide variety or preferences for the cameras they choose to lens their festival piece. From Canon DSLRs to the RED EPIC, to even models of the ARRI Film camera, there was no dominant camera platform that filmmakers chose, unlike the Academy Awards, which seemed to indicate that cinematographers preferred the ARRI Alexa.

The film that took Sundance 2014 was “Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle. Whiplash received both the Grand Jury Award and the Dramatic Audience Award, and was shot on the ARRI Alexa. The Alexa was also used for Camp X-Ray, with Zeiss Ultra Primes and Alura Zooms; Cesar’s Last Fast; Cooties, with Master Primes; Dig; Drunktown’s Finest; Hellion (on Kowa Anamorphic lenses); Imperial Dreams; Infinitely Polar Bear; Jamie Marks Is Dead; Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter; Life after Beth (which also shot on the Canon 5D Mk III); Song One (which also shot on Canon C300 and GoPro Cameras); The Badabook; The Guest; The Skeleton Twins; and The Sleepwalker.

Now I know what you’re thinking... James, that look like ARRI dominated Sundance to me. And that could be true, but there were plenty of other award winners that didn’t go the ARRI route for their A camera.  The list is below:

  • Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory – shot on the Panasonic HVX200, with Letus 35mm adaptor, and then the Panasonic AF100. Canon 7D, Canon T2I, Canon C300. EF Canon lenses, ranging from the 16-35mm f/2.8, to the 24-70mm f/2.8, and the 75-300mm f/4-5.6, and a few old Nikon prime lenses.
  • All the Beautiful Things Aaton Penelope 35mm
  • Appropriate Behavior Red Scarlet, u2028
  • CAPTIVATED The Trials of Pamela Smart 16mm, Super 8, Red, 5D, 7D
  • Cesar’s Last Fast also shot on a plethora of platforms including the Sony Betacam, Panavision Genesis, Canon C300 & 5D; & Canon C300 & Super 8mm; Arri 416 & Panavision Genesis; Arri Super16 SR3; 35mm Panavision (boy, that must’ve been fun to color correct).
  • Cold in July Two Epics, one set of Cooke s4s and an Angenieux 24-290
  • Dead Snow: Red vs Dead Red Epic
  • Dear White People Epic X Cooke 18 – 100 Cooke S4 set
  • Dinosaur 13 Canon 5D Mk. II, 7D
  • Drunktown’s Finest Also shot on the Red Epic, Canon 5D and 7D, Go-Pro, and one iPhone
  • E-Team Canon 5D Mark II & III and Canon C300, with a range of Canon L series lenses (standards 24-105, 70-200, 24 1:4mm, 16-35)
  • Fed Up 5D with Zeiss Prime lenses, Sony F3
  • Fishing Without Nets?Red EPIC and Red Scarlet cameras, with Zeiss Super Speeds and Angenieux Optimo DP 16-42mm and 30-80mm zooms.
  • Happy Christmas Arri 416 with Super Speeds and Kodak 7219 (500T)
  • Ivory Tower Canon C-300 and Canon 5D Mark II, with L Series 24-105mm and 24-70mm as well as Zeiss 50mm and Zeiss 28mm
  • Land Ho! RED
  • Listen Up Philip Aaton, Super 16mm
  • Low Down Arri 416 Super 16mm Hawk V-Lite Super 16mm Anamorphic lenses
  • Marmato Canon XH A1
  • No No: A Dockumentary Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark II
  • Obvious Child: Red Scarlet
  • Private Violence Panasonic AF 100, Nikkor 35mm f1.4
  • Rich Hill Red Scarlet, with Canon zoom lenses
  • The Better Angels Super 35mm with some Red EPIC, and a little super 16mm and one Canon 5D shot
  • The Case Against 8 Sony F3 and the Canon 30-105 along with the Sony EX-3
  • The Foxy Merkins Canon 7D with Zeiss Prime lenses
  • The Internet’s Own Boy Sony F5, Canon 5D
  • The Overnighters Sony F3 with the Red 17-50 and the Fujinon 19-90.
  • What We Do in the Shadows RED Epic
One name is noticeably missing. According to the Indiewire breakdown, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera wasn’t used by any film screening at the Winter festival. That seemed strange to me as Blackmagic is extremely supportive of independent filmmaking with high performance, low cost cameras like the Cinema Camera and the Pocket Cinema Camera.
When I asked Blackmagic about this, they were quick to dispel that notion, stating, “We?spoke with more than a couple of these films, and Me+Her shot with both the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (MFT), and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, which was also used for a number of specific shots requiring a smaller camera form factor. You can read more about it here. And who knows how many where color corrected using DaVinci. I didn’t ask about that.

And while the digital cinema camera category is extremely competitive, it looks to me like there’s plenty of work for everyone.

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