Before production began on Star Wars Downunder, there was much debate on what format to shoot on. As affordable HD digital technology was yet to become available, the choices were either digi betacam or film. To create a film like look on tape back in those days required a process called deinterlacing. This would strip out 1/50th of a second of movement in an attempt to remove the smoother motion normally associated with video tape. The downside of the process is the loss in resolution. With this in mind the decision was reached to take the bold and expensive step to shoot on 35mm film. They felt that if they were going to go to all the trouble of making this short film, they didn’t want it to have that interlaced video look that most filmmakers despise. Plus shooting on film is cool. With access to super budget camera rentals from the kind people at Cameraquip, and donations of unused short ends for stock, the production was ready to shoot on an arriflex ARRI 535.
With day 1 in the can the film was sent to the lab. This is where things came slightly unstuck. Confronted with first processing bill, a radical rethink took place and the decision was made to switch to super 16mm thus cutting the processing bill in half. The ARRI SR 3 became the main camera for use in the rest of principle photography .
Beginning on 35mm and then changing to 16mm, the ARRI 535 and the ARRI SR 3, were at the time the workhorse of film cameras and two of the most popular ones in the world.
When it came time for post production and shooting VFX elements, unfortunately because of budget and time constraints, shooting these on film wasn’t an option so a number of video formats were employed.
When compositing video elements with film background plates, the differences in quality between the two wasn’t an issue due to the fact that most of these video elements were things like smoke or steam effects that were shrunk down quite small in the final shot, so any apparent differences in quality weren’t very apparent, especially after some skilled colour grading.
No preference was really given to what format was used. It was basically a case of what cameras were available and cheap (free) at the time of shooting.
Taking this into account with the fact that post production was lengthy, the list of cameras and formats used is extensive, too extensive to be interesting in this little blurb but needless to say, there were quite a few.
A nice bit of symmetry to the noted here is that this project was started on ARRI film cameras and the final thing shot, the opening credits backgrounds, was done on an ARRI Alexa, considered by most to be the best digital cinema camera on the planet currently available.