FilmLight talked to legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in Los Angeles this summer.
He had just completed work on Café Society with director Woody Allen. It was Allen’s first taste of digital shooting.
How did you come to shoot and finish Café Society digitally?
When Woody Allen asked me to do Café Society, he had never done a digital capture before. At that time I knew that it was a chance to step up to this new digital world. I chose the Sony F65 camera so that the image we had on set was as close to the final image as possible. I had experienced the first CineAlta digital video cameras from Sony in the past and valued the quality of the Sony equipment; I know that what I see on set is 90 percent of exactly what I will see in finishing. Plus I wanted to work with a camera that gave me a ratio close to the 2:1 aspect ratio that was suggested to me by Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, along with 4K resolutions.
We also had a 4K 16-bit video projector, because that was my previous experience and my preference. And for the post-production of the movie at Technicolor PostWorks NY, I asked specifically for the colour grading to be done on Baselight. It was good news, as they already had the system!
How would you say the role of a cinematographer has changed with the evolution from film to digital to DI?
The main change is that before digital nobody was able to tell how the film would ultimately look. Only the cinematographer – through perception, knowledge, culture, intelligence, technology and experience – would eventually predict how the image would end up looking. Today, with digital capture and high-end technology, the standards are higher and reachable and pretty much everyone can tell if it’s good or ugly, too contrasted, too bright, and so on. Digital video cameras have mostly everything automatic, you don’t even have to think anymore.
Knowing only technology is not enough. You need to know the meaning of the visual elements as well. Know ALL the arts that are part of cinematography. Cinema is a common art, not a single one. A good cinematographer will bring feeling and composition from the storyline, adding the emotion, the feeling and his own perception to the film: to know how one colour connects to another colour and the kind of emotional reaction you can have in relation to them.