Javier Aguirresarobe ASC, AEC captures the latest Thor movie with ARRI Rental’s exclusive ALEXA 65 camera system

Marvel Studio’s third film starring Chris Hemsworth as the superhero Thor was directed by Taika Waititi and shot by cinematographer Aguirresarobe, who speaks here about working with a full camera and lighting package from ARRI Rental, including the ALEXA 65 camera with Prime 65 and Vintage 765 lenses, and ARRI SkyPanel LED soft lights.

What benefits did the ALEXA 65 format bring to this production?

The ALEXA 65 captured the color tones and chromatic contrast of scenes with enormous fidelity. It also provided very good definition and useful information for the development of visual effects, ensuring a high quality in backgrounds and other spaces created by CGI. Its technology and behavior were consistent in filming; I liked working with it and felt very safe on the set.

Our team also found the camera flexible to work with and there were no complications with the coordination or setup—it was as simple as the other ALEXA models that we already know. The workflow we established worked very well. We saw dailies of what we had shot the day before, with a color and contrast similar to the grading done on set.

How would you describe the look and feel of ALEXA 65 images?

The look of the ALEXA 65, in principle, captures what is in the scene with a soft contrast that is a consequence of its high dynamic range. Highlights do not burn out and there is a margin to the treatment of dark areas. On the other hand, I personally like to rate the camera at a color temperature of 6,000 K. With the ALEXA 65 thus arranged, the skin tones, illuminated with warm light, seem insurmountable. I love it and it reminds me a lot of Eastmancolor, which has always been a good reference for me.

In general I think one can conform the characteristics of the ALEXA 65 according to one’s visual expectations. The response of the sensor allows more creative freedom, with the possibility to take risks and get the desired look. For me, I see no limits to visual imagination with this camera. One may need more extreme lighting to burst the highlights or to take risks in the lows, but it's all up to you.

You had both the Prime 65 and Vintage 765 lens series; how did you use them?

Before traveling to Australia for the shoot I conducted tests with the ALEXA 65 and different lenses at ARRI Rental UK. When I screened tests of the Prime 65 and Vintage 765 lenses, I felt that they did not differ greatly in their visual characteristics. Perhaps the Vintage 765s had a bit more softness in their definition, which I found useful for establishing shots of the actors, but it certainly seemed possible to use both sets at the same time. The combination was favorable and facilitated a collection of 12 lenses with focal lengths ranging from 24 to 250 mm.

What kinds of applications did you use the ARRI SkyPanels for?

The SkyPanels were essential in lighting this film. I organized different boxes based on two, four and six units, sometimes even up to 12. According to the type of scene, I used these boxes as the main source of illumination. At other times, these boxes served as a powerful side light or fill light. I also combined LEDs with HMI fixtures to create spaces with contrasting intensities and textures of light. Our sets were expansive and the SkyPanels helped us to make fast transitions as scenes changed. They offer the possibility of adjusting intensity and color tone in record time. If a control panel is added, fast and efficient work is assured.

Has the ALEXA 65 changed your perception of the possibilities offered by digital cinematography?

I sincerely believe that with the ALEXA 65, digital cinematography is further consolidated, in case there was any doubt. After my experience on THOR: RAGNAROK, I wonder where we are going to end up—where are the limits of digital technology in relation to the image? I am sure that although we will continue making new developments, we have reached a stage seemingly difficult to surpass.