DP Oren Soffer on Shooting “The Creator”

DP Oren Soffer on Shooting “The Creator”

Cinematographer Oren Soffer sat down with B&H’s “Inside Digital Production” to discuss his work in Gareth Edwards’s sci-fi epic The Creator.

Brett Smith: So, one of the things that really surprised me about The Creator was that you reportedly used the Sony FX3 as your main camera. Is that right?

Oren Soffer: Yeah, the FX3 was our main camera. We used it with a 75mm Kowa anamorphic lens to shoot to the majority of the film.

BS: That’s pretty wild considering you’re talking about a big-time Hollywood blockbuster. How did you guys settle on the FX3?

OS: So, that decision was a Gareth Edwards and Greig Fraser special. How they got there really had to do with understanding the way that Gareth wanted to make the film and the energy and sort-of visual character he wanted to imbue it with. That character was a sense of immersion that would come from shooting the film with a small crew and a small footprint, travelling to real locations, and capturing footage in a documentary style.

Director Gareth Edwards on the set of 20th Century Studios THE CREATOR
Director Gareth Edwards on the set of 20th Century Studios THE CREATORGlen Milner

BS: Had you even shot on it before?

OS: No, not at all. In fact, I had the same reaction that you and probably most people had, which was: “Really?” But that was just because I really wasn’t familiar with the FX3 yet. All it took was one visit to FotoKem to screen some test footage that Greig had shot earlier in the year to see that camera is perfectly capable of creating a cinema-quality image.

BS: How many cameras were you guys using? I imagine because it’s so small, you had more than a couple.

OS: We carried 10 camera bodies total. That’s another one of the advantages of the FX3: They’re so small and cheap, we basically just bought a bunch of them pre-rigged in different setups. That way we could leapfrog from one to the next with minimal setup time. So, for example, we had a camera that lived on a crane all day long, and whenever we needed a crane shot, it would already be set up and ready to go. Same for one that lived on a drone and the handheld gimbal.

Oren Soffer

BS: Do you remember which drone and gimbal you guys used?

OS: The drone we had was the DJI Matrice 350 RTK. Our handheld gimbal was a Ronin RS 2.

BS: I want to talk about your lighting approach a little bit. It seemed very minimalist, but it was also extremely effective and impactful. Can you talk about how you approached lighting this film?

OS: Lighting was definitely minimalist by design. It was created to dovetail with the shooting approach, which again was meant to evoke this very loose documentary feel.

John David Washington as Joshua
John David Washington as JoshuaOren Soffer

BS: Switching gears, I wanted to talk about the aspect ratio you shot in: it’s weird, right?

OS: Yes.

BS: Like, not like in a bad way, obviously, but I wasn’t sure I had ever seen it before. It’s 2.76 right?

OS: So you have seen it, but you may have not realized it at the time. 2.76 is the old Panavision 70mm anamorphic aspect ratio, so movies like Ben-Hur and more recently Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. When you shoot anamorphic lens on FX3, which is 16:9, you get this super, super wide aspect ratio, 3:5:1 We actually toyed with the idea of shooting the whole movie in that ratio.

Photo courtesy by 20th Century Studios

BS: Has that ever been done before? Is there a movie in 3:5:1?

OS: No, which is why we didn’t end up doing it. You know, you show that to a studio, there’s no precedent for it, and they’re just like, “What is this?” So we ended up settling on the widest existing legacy aspect ratio we could point to and that ended up being 2.76.

BS: Which obviously turned out great because it really is just one of the most immersive movies I’ve seen in recent memory, just the way it pulls you in and keeps you in that world—without you even realizing it’s happening. The widescreen just kind of wraps around you. It was really wonderful.


For more information on IDP: The Creator, check out the dedicated landing page for the event, which includes a series of video interviews with the team behind The Creator as well as a space to watch the April 15th livestream, which coincides with NAB 2024, featuring a live presentation by Oren Soffer and special virtual guests, Gareth Edwards and Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC.