Roger Deakins needs no introduction around these parts. He is, after all, one of the most prolific and talented cinematographers to ever grace the medium of film. At the Cannes Film Festival last month – where Deakins’ latest film Sicario was premiering – a representative from ARRI caught up with him. Needless to say, some delectable cinematography wisdom was imparted:
First and foremost is how Deakins approaches preparation for any given scene. He says that one of the things he’s learned from collaborating with the Coen brothers over many years is that storyboarding is crucial, not necessarily because you’re planning the exact shots that you will eventually capture, but because the process forces you to find the “essence of the scene.” He’ll meticulously storyboard everything with a director, but oftentimes that material will go out the window as soon as they arrive on set and start shooting. However, what he learned about the story and characters during the storyboarding process helps inform all of those spontaneous changes made on set.
Another interesting takeaway from this interview is Deakins’ philosophy towards LUTs. While LUTs are without a doubt an instrumental tool in the digital age, as most everybody is shooting some flavor of log (and monitoring log footage is really a drag), it might surprise many people that Deakins has been using the same LUT for most of his digitally-shot films of late. He makes slight adjustments in contrast and saturation depending on the aesthetic of the film, but when it comes to crafting looks on set, he opts to do it through lighting adjustments.
I think what he’s getting at here is actually really important. LUTs have become a major part of modern on-set and post production workflows, but many people rely on them to determine how their film is eventually going to look when all is said and done. If you’re not satisfied with the images that you’re seeing on set, manipulating the LUT can seem like an easy choice, but strengthening the lighting may end up being the best thing you could do.