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The Creator and the FX3

The Creator and the FX3

By Olivia Farrimond | November 1st, 2023

Filmmakers and film aficionados worldwide are talking non stop about Gareth Edwards’ latest
sci-fi release, ‘The Creator’, but the buzz is not centered around the usual cinematic aspects we
all love to discuss, such as actors or a surprise plot twist. Edwards, renowned for helming major
productions like Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), opted for a unique
approach in the making of 'The Creator.' This film was funded at only $80 million, which may
not seem like a low number but is comparatively to his two previously listed films which were
budgeted between $160-265 million to complete. So how did Gareth create a movie that looks as
good as a big budget film but costs a fraction of the price? Simple - by choosing to shoot on the
Sony FX3.
While the FX3, retailing at only $4,000 per body, may be regarded as one of Sony's more
modest entries in their cinema camera lineup, it nevertheless boasts impressive capabilities.
These capabilities were compelling enough to persuade a highly regarded film team to opt for it
over Hollywood's conventional camera choices, such as a Venice or an Alexa. To gain a more
in-depth understanding of Gareth's specific camera choice, 'The Creator' cinematographer Oren
Soffer interviewed with Youtube film buff Matti Happoja for a detailed discussion.
“Gareth shot a test film to basically pitch the movie to the studio before it was greenlit
and this was pre pandemic, so 2019,” Soffer explains. “They traveled around, just him and Jim
Spencer - our producer - to seven countries in Southeast Asia to scout locations, but also to shoot
footage for what would eventually become a test film that Gareth used to get the movie greenlit.”
Soffer goes on to describe that the test footage the duo shot on a Nikon DSLR with a gimbal was
“absolutely stunning.” “When it came time to then decide like, okay, what are we going to shoot
the actual movie on? Gareth’s first and foremost instinct was like -I want to shoot the movie like
I just shot this little test reel.” And so the wheels began to turn, and eventually after it’s release in
2021, the Sony FX3 was chosen.

Why Sony?

According to Soffer, the primary prerequisites for filming 'The Creator' included the need for a
compact and lightweight camera capable of delivering high-quality cinematic imagery with
features like ProRes RAW, 15 stops of dynamic range, and 4K resolution. The FX3 easily met
these criteria.

So, why not other brands? Again- why Sony?

Different camera manufacturers have the capacity to offer quality imagery within a lightweight
body, as demonstrated by brands such as Black Magic, for example. But the science behind
Sony’s color is what ultimately won them over. “Sony was taking their color science from the
bigger cameras like the Venice and shrinking it down into the FX3, so there's a color science
continuum with the other Sony cameras that just elevated the FX3 above the other options that
were in the same size and weight range.” Soffer also went on to explain the importance of using a camera as a data capturing tool and not to lean heavily on the body to create your movie's
“look.”   “Raw is raw. Footage is footage. Data is data. What you end up doing with it, like color
grading is what gives a project a look. They really dug into Slog and ProRes RAW to get that
richness and color separation and then added in a film emulation underneath it.” Aside from
Sony’s impressive color technology, the size and flexibility of the camera was important to
Edwards to emulate the feel of his original test footage.
“I hope it becomes an industry standard for cameras to get lighter,” says Gareth Edwards. “I don’t think there’s any cameraman in the world that enjoys holding this really heavy brick hours on end.”   Not only does a smaller body alleviate potential stress for a camera operator, in an intriguing chain reaction it also benefited how Edwards was able to give direction to actors on set. The FX3 has a dual native ISO, one at 800 and 12,800, making it ideal for virtually any type of lighting situation. According to Edwards, the increased ISO level would reduce the necessity for additional lighting on set, as the camera's sensitivity would already be elevated.
“As the actors are given freedom to sort of go any direction they want, I can quickly move with them and the lighting can quickly change in an instant. So, instead of waiting 10 to 20 minutes to change the lighting all the time, we were waiting three seconds,” says Edwards.
We live in a unique time in cinema where the accessibility of technology and over-the-top showmanship can occasionally detract from the essence of why we even watch a movie. The choice to shoot slim and adapt to the “less is more” principle for ‘The Creator’ is in perfect taste
with the movie’s plot. Edwards and his team said that the philosophy of their shoot was always
working around limitations and the confines they set up for themselves. Choosing to shoot on the
FX3 was a bold move that paid off beautifully, and a good reminder that a great film is
determined before shooting even starts.

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