What cameras are used for Hollywood movies

Still retro

by Birgit Heidsiek,

American cult film director Quentin Tarantino swears by shooting his works on chemical film. He stayed true to this with his movie epic “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”.

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” is the sixth collaboration between Quentin Tarantino and DoP Robert Richardson after “Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2”, “Inglourious Basterds”, “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight”. The film is set in the late 1960s in the era of the hippie and flower power movement. So Tarantino and Richardson chose a retro look with trendy colors. However, the cameraman, who was highly decorated with three Oscars, only knew parts of the story, because when Tarantino presented the script to him, he was not allowed to read the last act. At the center of the story are Leonardo Di Caprio as a moderately successful television actor and Brad Pitt as his stuntman, who are hired for a western series. Fast sledges and popular pool parties shape the zeitgeist. In the immediate vicinity on Cielo Drive live Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, who roar in their convertible through the winding streets to their new house, which they have taken over from a music producer. Similar to “Inglourious Basterds”, Tarantino takes the liberty of retelling a piece of history in his new work.

The film for “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” took place on 90 days between June and November 2018 at various locations in Los Angeles such as Cielo Drive, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, in Burbank and in the studio in Hollywood. Richardson, who shot the two and a half hour cinema epic in widescreen format on 35 mm film material, used old anamorphic lenses from Panavision's C and E series, which Dan Sasaki, engineer for optical systems at Panavision, adapted for close-up shots . Richardson used Kodak Vision3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and Kodak Vision3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 as footage for most of the scenes. One of the reasons Richardson preferred to shoot on chemical film is the way the skin is depicted on film. “This softness is difficult to achieve with digital cameras,” says Richardson. During the production of “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, however, there was no discussion about the pros and cons of film and digital cameras, as Tarantino was certain from the outset to shoot analog on film. A declared aim of the director was to optically tie in with the Technicolor aesthetic with rich and saturated colors. As a reminder of this era, the Technicolor lettering even appears in the film.

For the film-in-film recordings of the Western series, in which Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt also play the leading roles, Richardson relied on 35 mm black-and-white and color material, predominantly with spherical zooms in the classic TV format with a Aspect ratio of 1:33 was rotated. Two sequences set in the home of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski were filmed on Kodak Ektachrome in 16 millimeters and Super 8. The samples were viewed on set with the help of classic dailies that were developed at Fotokem in Los Angeles and drawn onto negative film. To examine the material, Tarantino set up a temporary demonstration in his office that was open to all team members. Due to time constraints, some sightings were made directly at Fotokem when shooting motifs that were nearby. In post-production, the film material was scanned, viewed on the computer and the final version was edited on film at the editing table. The copy of “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, which was shown at the world premiere in Cannes, was not a DCP, but a conventional film copy.


"Footage is on the rise again," said Steve Bellamy, President Motion Picture & Entertainment, Kodak. The company, which had to file for bankruptcy in January 2012, has now reopened copier plants in Pinewood Studios in London, as well as in New York, Atlanta and Bombay. "In our new branch in New York we have already developed more than six billion meters of film because a lot of feature films, commercials and television series are shot there." In the last four years, the demand for film material has increased significantly. 65 mm film is in demand again. The demand for 35 mm material has grown by 155 percent, that for 16 mm film by 206 percent and 8 mm by as much as 407 percent. Bellamy believes the initial excitement and enthusiasm for digital technologies has subsided. “It's like the music industry, where there's a trend back to vinyl. Many bands would like to record their records on two-inch tapes again. "

For young filmmakers who grew up with the 2K and 4K formats, 8K is not particularly appealing, according to Bellamy. “Last year, two short films were submitted to the Halifax Short Film Festival that were shot on film. This year there were 155 entries. " At the International Film Festival in Cannes this year, 16 films were presented in the official program that had been shot on analog film. In addition to Quentin Tarantino's “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, these included “Matthias and Maxime” by Xavier Dolan, “Sorry We Missed You” by Ken Loach and “Room 212” by Christophe Honoré. “When directors are shooting on film, they spend less post-production time because they have shot a lot less material,” concludes Bellamy. "We are planning to open another copy plant this year."

Quentin Tarantino inflated “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” to 70 mm and wants to present it in this format in the USA as well. In Los Angeles this is at least possible in his own cinema. It has a 70 mm projector. [8926]