DP Claire Mathon AFC used the living vibration of KODAK Film for…
Production on Spencer took place over 38 shooting days from January 28 to March 29, 2021. A chiefly location-based shoot, with the sole exception of Diana’s bathroom, locations included the Schlosshotel Kronberg, near Frankfurt am Main, Schloss Marquardt, north of the city of Potsdam, and Nordkirchen Castle in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. The production moved to the UK for the final stretch of filming around locations in Norfolk and London.
Mathon’s crew included her long-time gaffer Ernesto Giolitti, a local German team including 1st AC Daniel Erb and key grip Bernd Mayer. Diego Ignacio Miranda Meneses, who operated Steadicam, knew Larraín from previous productions, “which simplified the exchanges and created a great fluidity in the work,” Mathon relates.
Supported by ARRI Rental in Berlin, Mathon shot Spencer using ARRI 416 Super 16mm and ARRI LT 35mm cameras, fitted variously with Zeiss Ultra 16 and Leitz Summilux optics.
“Pablo and I liked the precision and minimal distortion of the Ultra 16s in short throw,” Mathon says. “The 8mm and 9.5mm were recurring short focal lengths in the film, as we were often very close to Kristen’s face. I chose the Leitz Summilux for their softness and depth.
“We shot in 1.66:1 aspect ratio so as to be the most faithful to the Super 16mm film format – to keep all its dimension and its definition. The 1.66:1 also helped with the close proximity we were looking for in this portrait of Diana.”
Mathon used a trio of KODAK VISION3 film stocks for the shoot – opting for VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 7203 for brighter exterior day scenes, VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 7207 for overcast exterior and general interior day scenarios, using 500T 7219 and 5219 for the night sequences. Film processing and 4K 16-bit scans were done at Hiventy in Paris, with Mathon deciding not to perform any push/pull treatment at the lab, preferring to allow the set design and costumes evoke the period.
“Spencer is a winter movie, but it is also a hot movie,” says Mathon. “I have always favored less sensitive film stocks and, if the light had been sufficient, I would have shot every outdoor day scene using the 50D.
“Crucially, the 50D became the benchmark for the final look of the film, partly due to the overall smoothness of the image it produces, and partly the lovely soft rendition of the colors we wanted to achieve. For example, we really liked the rendering of greens, in the lawns and fields that were present in all of our English exteriors, and also the lavish reds of some of the costumes in the movie.
“Additionally, with film I always find extreme highlights are alive, and I love the great richness of skin tones in warm lighting situations, such as the two high-speed sequences we shot featuring candles.
“Overall, the choice of (analog) film formats helped to give the fable side of the visual storytelling a slightly haunted feeling, whilst also adding a smoothness to the image that, to my taste, contributes to the overall beauty and mystery of Diana’s character.”
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