Cinematography Secrets to 'Baby Driver, 'Lady Bird' and 'Wonder Woman'

10:45 AM 1/1/2018

by Carolyn Giardina

'Lady Bird' DP Sam Levy says director Greta Grewig wanted the film to look like a “memory."

'Lady Bird'
'Lady Bird'
Courtesy of A24
  • Baby Driver

    Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

    Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver follows getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) who regularly plays music in his ear buds to drown out his tinnitus — and the result is a tour-de-force of picture and sound. The film includes some thrilling car chases, shot on location in Atlanta, on film and often using a Biscuit Rig (a camera car). “There are one or two greenscreen shots, but most of it was just driving on the real streets doing the real stunts,” says cinematographer Bill Pope. “This was really hard. There were safety considerations, lighting considerations, and we had to shut down the freeway. But I think the audience can feel the reality…You want to get the camera in there. That’s key.”

    Other points of note on the cinematography is Baby’s choreographed coffee run during the opening titles, a continuous Steadicam shot set to Bob & Earl's Harlem Shuttle.

  • Lady Bird

    Courtesy of A24

    Director Greta Gerwig wanted her coming of age film Lady Bird to look like a “memory - that the viewer should be slightly removed from the image, but not overly so,” says Lady Bird cinematographer Sam Levy. "As I was dreaming up what this film should look like, I took my location photos, as well as reference images that Greta and I had been looking at, and made color photocopies of them in our office. We had a rather cheap copy machine, but the prints had an alluring quality. The colors were rich, with a distressed quality that spoke to us. It got Greta and I talking about how the early 2000s were still very much the era of Kinkos and color Xerox machines...We decided we wanted a distressed but dynamic image. An image with 'a generation removed.'"

    Lady Bird was lensed in Sacramento with an Arri Alexa. "Through testing, I discovered a combination of lensing and exposure to tease out the native 'noise floor' that exists within the Alexa. This video noise was at the heart of making our aesthetic of memory," Levy says.

  • Wonder Woman

    Alex Bailey/Warner Bros.

    In making Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, cinematographer Matthew Jenson used the cinematography to provide contrast between Diana’s beautiful island home, Themyscira, and the “real” world of war-torn Europe. Jenson also emphasized her character arc, as a “fish out of water," seeing industrialization for the first time.

    “Diana’s home is supposed to be paradise that developed parallel to the man’s world,” he explains. “It’s very much rooted in nature, so we thought it was important to represent this as beautiful as we could. We wanted to use a full color palette—bronze healthy skin, blue skies and lush green on the hillside.”

    In contrast, for the real world, Jenson took inspiration from period paintings that had a black-and-white look, giving this world a “cooler, cyan look and overcast lighting.” Mostly shot on film, Wonder Woman was lensed on location and at Warner Brothers Studios Leavesden in the UK. The film was also shot on location in Italy (for the Themyscira locations).

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