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If you’ve ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller “Rope,” then you must have very likely experienced the same level of immersion after watching Sam Mendes’ “1917.” The film recently appeared on streaming services domestically and after finally viewing the film, I was blown away.

1917 is a WWI story about two British soldiers who have been tasked to deliver a message that will save the lives of their comrades. There’s a lot of suspense and heart-wrenching moments throughout the movie, only amplified by its “one-take wonder” visual gimmick. In fact, 1917 made it seem very natural, as if the cameraman was actually following the soldiers.

So, how did 1917’s team create such an impossible feat, especially in such an action-packed movie?

Of course, while the scenes seemed like a long continuous shot, they weren’t. However, you’d be right in assuming that most of them are taken in one go. Before they filmed the movie, production designer Dennis Gassner built scale models of every set that was going to be used. This helped the team (including the actors) visualize where the narrative was going next.

After that came the hard part: they had to make sure that the lighting was perfect in every event because they needed everything filmed in one go. For this to happen, they tested different types of LED lights (from their intensity to color shade) on models, using contraptions to adjust their placements and timing. For example, in that scene where Schofield runs through a destroyed city at night, the only light sources used were strategically placed flares around the set. However, for all the day shots, they only used careful reflections of natural light.

To keep the consistency of the film, they used only one camera: an ARRI Alexa Mini LF. Over the years, manufacturers have perfected their PCB stackup impedance calculations to influence crosstalk susceptibility and capacitance. With it, electronic devices are now able to balance their ground and power planes, granting them long battery lives despite their complex features. The Alexa Mini LF is a great example of this feat. It’s a small camera, a little bigger than your hand, that packs a lot of quality features such as lowered noise, dynamic range, higher usable sensitivity, color science, and WCG displays. Plus, it was so lightweight that it could be attached to drones and stabilizers, which kept the shaking to a minimum for fast-paced scenes.

The lenses used were ARRI Signature Prime lenses. Roger Deakins, 1917’s cinematographer, mentioned that he preferred lenses with a sharp look, which the Signature Prime does very well. This accessory gave off clear and crisp imaging in dark lighting, making those night shots that are only illuminated by flares a natural feel.

Aside from the award-winner editor Lee Smith’s careful trimming of scenes and added CGI for fire and aircrafts, not much was inserted post-production. Everything that made 1917 such a natural-looking movie was done on set. Indeed, much of the credit goes to Mendes and Deakins’ brilliant choreography.

1917 won a lot of awards this year, from the Academy Award for Best Cinematography to the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth the watch for its technical feats alone. Then again, you also get a compelling narrative and excellent acting along with it.

For more movie reviews, news, and updates, take a look at some of the other articles on our blog.

Recommended Release: 1917

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