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A Different Type of Western

Cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr. employs a mix of optics with DXL2 to craft the widescreen western The Harder They Fall.

Pair a British-born songwriter-director who’s collaborated with musicians like Jay-Z with a Romanian cinematographer known for shooting intense dramas, and what kind of movie might you get? An American western, of course. But not just any American western. The Netflix feature The Harder They Fall, directed by Jeymes Samuel and photographed by Mihai Mălaimare Jr., is a table-turning, race-bending, music-rich western where Black actors play the cowboys (and villains) while the white actors populate the background. This depiction of the American West is one seldom seen on the silver screen, but one that nevertheless existed, as the film notes on its title card.

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Personal Histories

Alice Brooks, ASC recounts the journey that led her to the feature tick, tick… BOOM!

Based on playwright Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical stage musical, the movie tick, tick… BOOM! marks the feature directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who partnered with cinematographer Alice Brooks, ASC. The two had met on director Jon M. Chu’s musical feature In the Heights, which itself was based on Miranda’s stage musical.

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Commercial Spotlight: Cinematographer Bron Moyi

From a young age, Bron Moyi knew he wanted to tell stories with images. As a teenager, he would shoot skits and short movies with his family’s Handycam, and still photos with his grandfather’s vintage film camera. Fast forward to present day, and Moyi is now an established photographer and cinematographer with a body of work that includes music videos, commercials, narrative features and documentary shorts. In 2018, his talent was recognized with the Best Cinematography Award at the 29th Annual New Orleans Film Festival. 

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Different Times

Kramer Morgenthau, ASC takes Panavision behind the scenes of the period features Respect and The Many Saints of Newark.

On the surface, a biopic about “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin and a heavy-hitting mob drama about a young Tony Soprano’s coming of age might not seem to have much in common. In fact, though, there’s more connecting them than one might think. Both are set amid a backdrop of political and cultural change, both stories span the 1960s and ’70s, and both were photographed by Kramer Morgenthau, ASC with Panavision T Series optics.

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Panavision Sydney Services 'Shang-Chi'

Large-format Sphero 65 optics contribute to the look of the Marvel blockbuster.

Cinematographer Bill Pope, ASC turned to Panavision Sydney for the camera and lens package on the Marvel Studios feature Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Over the course of production, Panavision Sydney supplied a total of 7,934 items — including cameras, lenses, and a vast array of accessories — to the project’s main, second, VFX and drone units. 

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Bearing Witness

Cinematographer James Laxton, ASC discusses working with Panavision optics to craft the visual language of the series The Underground Railroad.

Published in 2016, Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad examines America’s history of slavery through a fictional lens that imbues the story’s terrible truths with a touch of mythology. After its main character, Cora, escapes from a plantation in Georgia, she embarks on an arduous journey northward, toward the promise of freedom. Cora travels on the Underground Railroad, which — unlike its real-world namesake — is depicted as an actual functioning railroad that wends from station to station through subterranean tunnels.

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Celebrating Community

Cinematographer Alice Brooks discusses using DXL2 and G Series anamorphics to craft a big look for director Jon M. Chu’s musical In the Heights.

In 2002, when cinematographer Alice Brooks and director Jon M. Chu were still film students at the University of Southern California, they partnered for the short When the Kids Are Away, a musical about how a group of neighborhood moms spend their day after sending their children to school. During that collaboration, Chu interviewed Brooks on camera about the project, asking her why she wanted to shoot the short. As Brooks tells it, “I said, ‘I've always loved musicals. My mom was an actor, dancer and singer, my dad was a theater director and a playwright, and I grew up going to theater. When you handed me your script for a musical, I knew I had to do this.' We bonded over our love of musicals.”

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Calculated Moves

Cinematographer Jack Donnelly discusses windowing DXL2 for 6K capture and pairing the camera with Super 35-format Primo lenses for Godfather of Harlem Season 2.

When Godfather of Harlem Season 2 begins, it’s February 1964, and the series’ eponymous gangster, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (Forest Whitaker), has been in hiding for three months while notorious mafioso Vincent “Chin” Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his men scour New York City for him. Titled “The French Connection,” the season’s first episode opens with a disheveled-looking Bumpy driving headlong through nighttime streets with a carful of Chin’s thugs in hot pursuit. It’s a far cry from the powerful image Bumpy projected upon his return to Harlem after a stint in Alcatraz, but as he showed throughout Season 1, he’s endlessly resourceful, and one never knows what tricks he might have up his sleeve — or hidden in the trunk of his car.

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