Lozano’s background also includes 15 years as a camera assistant, operator or second unit cinematographer, often on projects with Luc Besson and Pierre Morel.
Recently, he had the opportunity to shoot his first feature film, titled Braqueurs, which translates as Robbers. The story takes place in the bleak suburbs of Paris, where a tight-knit group of professional criminals go quietly about their business until an error threatens their carefully protected anonymity. The director was Julien Leclercq (The Assault, The Informant).
Lozano says that the visuals for Braqueurs were inspired by Heat, the 1995 Michael Mann film shot by Dante Spinotti ASC AIC; and The Town, the 2010 Ben Affleck caper film shot by Robert Elswit ASC.
“Julien said he wanted a Scandinavian flavour,” says Lozano. “Something a little more brutal and visceral, and less refined than the kind of stories that take place in Hollywood movies. The challenge on the film was to succeed in stylising the images just enough to make it look like fiction. We didn’t want it to look like a documentary. We wanted to maintain the feeling of natural light and to stick to the artistic direction of the bleak Parisian suburbs.”
Toward that end, Lozano made extensive camera tests. He considered anamorphic but chose spherical 2.40:1, in part because it felt more natural and less overtly cinematic. He chose to shoot the majority of the film on an ARRI ALEXA XT, with internal Codex recording capturing ARRIRAW in the open gate format. The 2.40:1 frame was extracted from the centre of the chip. Using open gate resulted in a significantly greater image area. The lenses for the ALEXA included ARRI/Zeiss Master Primes and Angenieux Optimo zooms.
“The entire process was designed to get the best possible quality,” says Lozano. “We chose the ARRI ALEXA because the script called for low light scenes. We also had a lot of action, and we didn’t have the budget for five or six cameras. We were also looking for a smaller camera, so we tested several systems including the Codex Action Cam. Honestly, it was way better than all the other cameras we tested, which all looked more like video. On the big screen, there was no comparison. When the producers saw the imagery from the Action Cam, they really wanted to use it and the rental facility (TSF in Paris) agreed to buy them.”
Codex Action Cam allowed Lozano to shoot RAW 1920 x 1080 images at up to 60 frames per second. The 2/3” single chip sensor has a global shutter so there’s no distortion of fast moving objects.
“The Action Cam image was amazingly close to the ALEXA’s,” says Lozano. “The latitude made it super easy to match in the grade. In a two- to five-second shot, you’ll never see the difference.”
The Action Cams were used with older professional quality Super 16 format lenses, which were sharp, contrasty, and reasonably close to the look of the Master Primes used on the ALEXA, according to Lozano. The Action Cams came in handy for car rigs, wheel shots and even a shot of a character driving a scooter where the tiny camera was mounted on a helmet.
“THE ACTION CAM IMAGE WAS AMAZINGLY CLOSE TO THE ALEXA'S”
“It was one of the first uses of this camera in Europe, so we were careful about planning our shots,” says Lozano. “The images fit with our brutal aesthetic. I’d say 80% of the film is handheld, and even when we had a static shot, we used something under the camera so it wasn’t exactly stable. The Action Cam footage worked well with that look.”
Produced by Labyrinth Films, Braqueurs was recently accepted at the 2015 Busan International Film Festival, one of the largest and most prestigious festivals in Asia.