HIGH SOCIETY cameraman Andreas Berger about ARRI: "Nothing but good experiences"
Cameraman Andreas Berger worked with ARRI once again on Anika Decker's new comedy High Society – OPPOSITES ATTRACT – and talked to us about the collaboration and how the film was made.
Austrian cameraman Andreas Berger has been involved in some of the most successful films to be made in Germany in recent years, including Vincent will Meer, Fack Ju Göhte 2 and Traumfrauen - Anika Decker's directorial debut. Berger was in charge of the camera for Decker's latest comedy feature HIGH SOCIETY as well, once again in a collaboration with ARRI, which provided the camera, lighting and postproduction. HIGH SOCIETY - OPPOSITES ATTRACT, a Hellinger/Doll-Filmproduktion movie, will be in cinemas from 14 September (distribution: Warner). We talked with Andreas Berger about making the film.
You filmed HIGH SOCIETY with two ALEXA Minis. Why?
That was an easy decision: We used hand-helds and the Steadicam relatively often on the shoot, so a lightweight camera was a big plus. The ALEXA Mini is always my first choice. When you use it you can quite simply see that ARRI has a hundred years of experience making cameras.
What makes it so special?
It's easy to use and the handling is amazing. You pick it up and it works for you, no practice required. The first time I used it to film a commercial, I thought: "this is my camera". The big ALEXA is great too, but I work a lot with hand-held, and the big ALEXA starts getting pretty heavy when you've had it perked on your shoulder all day. Apart from that, I always shoot with ARRI Master Anamorphics, which are a bit bigger and heavier. So it is really good that the camera is small and compact. And it is highly versatile when shooting in small spaces, like cars. The ALEXA Mini is a tool I wouldn't want to have to do without.
Why do you work with anamorphic lenses?
The last time I shot on film was five years ago. Then came the ALEXA, and I remember thinking: "now everyone has the same camera. How can you get that special look?" Then I started filming with anamorphic lenses, which was sometimes tricky because they had fuzzy edges or because some lenses distorted more than the others. Then the ARRI Master Anamorphics came out, and I got myself one. It is the best of both worlds: an anamorphic lens that is like a Master Prime to use; a modern, almost entirely distortion-free lens. You can film with a completely opened aperture, and the picture stays sharp!
Did you use it on HIGH SOCIETY?
Yes. I did a test on HIGH SOCIETY: I filmed scenes both with the ARRI Master Anamorphics and with spherical lenses. Then we showed the scenes parallel to one another on the big screen at ARRI in Berlin for the whole team; so also for people who are not lens experts. It was like a blind tasting for wine. I asked them which picture they preferred, and seven of the eight people liked the scenes shot with the Anamorphics better. Nobody could say why; it was just a gut feeling for all of them.
What look did you want to achieve with HIGH SOCIETY?
The film is about two children – one from a wealthy family and one from a poor family – who are switched at birth. The story is pretty much a fairytale, so we wanted to create a kind of hyper-reality by designing separate color concepts for the two worlds. The wealthy world was to be bright, sunny and clean, so we tended towards coolish colors. And for the "underprivileged" world of the housing estate we chose warmer colors.
How did you manage the colors on set?
In the past I always asked for still frames in LogC format from the data wrangler or the DIT. I then graded them on the computer after the shoot, and sent the grading moods to the colorist so he could make the proofs. The process is a little complicated, but during shooting I don't have much time, so I'm always happy to be able to do that afterwards on my own time. But on my next film I'm going to try out on-set grading with look-up tables. That's the future. I only have a theoretical knowledge of it as yet, because ARRI grader Philipp Orgassa (note: Lead Colorist at ARRI Media) showed it to me – but it sounds amazing.
When you talk with the grader about the camera, do you consider it an advantage that ARRI is involved in various fields, such as camera making and postproduction?
Oh yes, that's a huge advantage. Everything dovetails with everything else. The people talk with each other. On HIGH SOCIETY, the lighting equipment, camera and postproduction all came from ARRI. That's a great service. I love working in a constellation where everything comes from one company. If you have a different rental company for each piece of equipment, it is logistically far more complicated. And I can't remember anything not going smoothly with ARRI. If you have special requests, for example with lenses, they take care of them. I've had nothing but good experiences with ARRI.
What was it like grading with Philipp Orgassa?
He's a top-tier grader. We've already made a few feature films and a number of commercials together. He always prepares the grading in advance and sets everything up. On HIGH SOCIETY he showed me what he had prepared and I just looked at it and said: "yep, okay, perfect".
I take it that isn't always necessarily the case?
I've certainly experienced it otherwise. You adjust around for hours on end and you still have the feeling you're never going to get it right. The grading on HIGH SOCIETY was incredibly easy, because Philipp Orgassa is really good at his job and we know each other well. And the proofs that ARRI made based on my stills were already pretty close to what you see in the finished film.
You examined the proofs on set with ARRI Webgate. What was that like?
That's a great innovation. In the past, some team members never got to see the proofs. I love the fact that all "Head Ofs" can look at them on their tablet the very next day. They see their work and can think about what they can pay even more attention to.
Have you worked together with other ARRI staff?
I graded "Fack Ju Göhte 2" in Munich with Traudl Nicholson (note.: Lead Colorist at ARRI Media). That was great too. I'd work with her again any time. My first camera assistant is chiefly responsible for the contact to the equipment rental company, but regardless of whether it is the head lighting technician or assistants: they're all really happy when everything comes from ARRI. The support is just great. In the early stages of the ALEXA, when it was brand new on the market, we had one case where the camera got damaged. It was on the weekend, but we called them up and they had a new camera on set for us within the hour. That's not a service that every rental company offers. In the support you can see that there's a big company behind it all.
Interview: ARRI/Dr. Dominik Petzold