In 2015, the original 1954 Godzilla was named by Variety as one of the ten best monster movies of all time – presumably due to its outsized cultural impact. It’s true – the longest-living film franchise in history began with an actor in a lizard suit.

In any event, the fearsome creature has returned to the big screen in Warner Bros.’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Dougherty and photographed by Lawrence Sher, ASC, recently profiled in Variety’s “Million Dollar Cinematographer” series. It’s the third film in the Legendary MonsterVerse, and while critics targeted the film’s character development, most agreed that the visual effects and action scenes were superlative. After three weeks in release, the box office has taken in roughly $350 million.

The film was shot mostly in Atlanta, with some scenes shot in the historic center of Mexico City. Sher says that he and Dougherty wanted to make sure that the imagery had atmosphere and texture reminiscent of the ‘80s sci-fi movies they loved as kids, like Close Encounters or Alien. They were drawn to anamorphic format for the intrinsic personality of the glass, but decided to test the medium-format ARRI ALEXA 65, which seems appropriate given their star’s gargantuan scale.

“Approaching a movie that we knew would be released in IMAX and in 3D, we thought, ‘Why not look into this large sensor?’” says Sher. “With anamorphic, there was a slight sensor reduction, but I fell in love with the feel of it immediately. Suddenly, you’re getting all this increase in image quality, but you’re also continuing to constrict depth of field. Anamorphic was the original 35mm large format, in a way, because you’re using the greatest possible negative area, and that translates to digital with the 4:3 chip. Now, with an even bigger sensor and more of that large format feeling, it really elevated the movie. And it gave us future-proofing in terms of image size and increased resolution. Knowing that we were making an event picture for the biggest screens out there, the ALEXA 65 felt like a beautiful fit.

Even on a project with a budget approaching $200 million, the additional data management can be a concern. But those worries are increasingly a thing of the past. “It’s still a conversation with the studio and the producers, but we pushed forward with it and had no problems at all,” says Sher. “The workflow was seamless. For most of the time we’ve been living in a digital world, most producers felt that 4K wasn’t worth it. It’s always been a head-scratcher to me – if you shot a tiny Netflix movie, you would be forced to shoot 4K, but a $150 million action movie – ‘just do 2K.’

The idea of gaining front-end resolution, which you might think would be amazing for IMAX, or even for other deliverables, wasn’t really a major factor. But I think there’s been a tipping point this year.

As we approached Joker, and made the decision to shoot ALEXA 65 in 5K, people behind the scenes at Warners seemed to appreciate having a 4K master – something that wasn’t usually an option just a year or two ago.”

Camera Type: ARRI ALEXA 65
Camera Rental by: ARRI Rental US
Dailies Colorist: Ben Estrada
Final Color/DI: Company 3 – Jill Bogdanowicz
Director: Michael Dougherty
Director of Photography: Lawrence Sher
DIT: Nick Kay

Codex related product and workflows

Images courtesy of their respective owners.

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