In this episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast: How Wes Anderson’s New Movie Asteroid City Was Shot on Kodak 35mm Color Film
The Fine Art Photography Podcast Episode 96: Full episode transcript
In this episode, the analog film stocks, camera, and lens choices for Wes Anderson’s visually stunning new movie Asteroid City.
Wes Anderson — the film director whose vision is so distinct that it has been called the “Wes Anderson look” — has released a new movie called Asteroid City, and it was shot on Kodak 35mm film. I’ll tell you all about it here.
Asteroid City is a new candy-colored 1950s-era sci-fi film that received a standing ovation at Cannes.
Here are some interesting facts about Asteroid City:
It was filmed on location in Spain, while being staged to look like a stylized version of the American southwest.
It was shot in just 35 filming days.
And of course, as I said earlier, it was shot on Kodak 35mm film by Director of Photography Robert Yeoman.
Yeoman says that a cinematographer is in charge of the lighting and the photography and works with the director and the production designer to help design the visual look of the film.
The film was shot using an ARRICAM ST 35mm film camera, with the black and white sequences framed at 1.37:1 aspect ratio with Cooke S4 brand lenses and the color sequences shot in 2.40:1 aspect ratio with ARRI Master Anamorphics.
Yeoman said the ARRI Animorphics lenses offer low distortion into the far corners of the frame.
Color was shot on KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213.
Black and white was shot on EASTMAN DOUBLE-X Black & White Negative Film 5222 which I personally love in medium format under the rebranded name Cinestill Double X (and that is not a sponsored comment, by the way).
Yeoman also loves that same black and white film stock and raved about its beautiful grain structure and tonal contrast in an article on the Kodak Website (and I’ll include a link in the writeup). I’ve talked about it in previous episodes of this podcast too.
The truth is that today most movies are shot digitally rather than on film.
Yeoman is on the record as having said he loves shooting in both film and digital formats and he believes in some circumstances digital cameras are superior to film.
Film has some inherent disadvantages — it requires more light; It can typically only roll for about 4 and a half minutes before it needs to be reloaded; and one source said that processing that 4 and a half minutes of film costs $430.
Also, while digital dailies can be reviewed in 4K on set, film rushes of course must wait for processing and scanning. Digital rushes means that finding errors like a missed focus or an annoying hair in the frame can be fixed and avoided in the moment.
The dailies were developed in Paris at a film lab called Hiventy and I am positive I am saying that incorrectly… H-I-V-E-N-T-Y.
The color effects work was done in London.
In addition to the aesthetics of shooting on film, Wes Anderson also believes that shooting on film — with its expense and all the factors that go with that — helps the cast and crew concentrate more on each shot. People are more attentive and take it more seriously, as opposed to digital where sometimes the camera is just left running between shots.
Interestingly cinematographer Bob Yeoman said Director Wes Anderson makes a full animatic of the entire film in advance and that the crew plans every shot and every camera movement religiously according to that animatic.
By the way, I didn’t know this, but an animatic is a filmed and animated version of the storyboard which may even include music. In Anderson’s case, he actually hires someone to animate the characters and he uses his own voice to record the dialogue.
Yeoman has in the past said that he is mistakenly known for shooting in natural light when in reality he uses movie lights to simulate natural lighting. However, in Asteroid City, the exterior color shots were all made with natural light.
Interiors were constructed to include a skylight with an integrated grid to provide soft even natural light.
Yeoman said that he worked with Anderson to plan the shots on location, using a viewfinder to place the mountains and buildings, which were all constructed and placed onto the flat Spanish plains to create the stylized world of Anderson’s vision.
One last thing about filming Asteroid City: Yeoman said they filmed not only in natural light but often in direct overhead light — which as you know is a photographer’s worst lighting conditions. For this production, Anderson was totally opposed to using all lights including fll lights, so they used a white bounce card to reflect light back into the shadows. They also used digital technology to open up the shadows in post according to Yeoman.
Something else of interest for photographers in Asteroid City: the film’s lead character played by Jason Schwartzman is an avid photographer and carries a vintage film camera throughout the film – remember it’s supposed to be the 1950s. According to the website Casual Photofile, has identified the camera as a fake brand called Muller Schmid Swiss Mountain Camera, with an F2 lens labelled Combat Lens.
Through some impressive research and detective work, they have identified the camera as a Soviet era Kiev 4M and the lens probably a Jupiter 8.
Well I hope you enjoyed hearing about the use of film and camera gear on the set of Asteroid City.
As always, a full episode transcript is available on my blog at I catch shadows dot com.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for listening.
I’ll talk to you again real soon.
Sources and Links
Casual Photofile. “What’s That Camera in Wes Anderson’s Latest Film, Asteroid City?“
YouTube. Academy Originals. “Creative Spark: Robert Yeoman“
YouTube. In Depth Cine. “The Pros & Cons Of Film Vs Digital: Featuring Robert Yeoman“
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