Checco Varese ASC

Optimo Spherical Zoom
Film The 33

The 33


Patricia Riggen


Checco Varese ASC

Shto with

Optimo 24-290, Optimo 15-40, Optimo 28-76

Checco Varese ASC « The 33 »

“Well, I've been a big fan of the Angenieux for a long time. I started as a news cameraman, so to me the concept of being able to adapt the composition to what the reality is very important, especially in a mine where we try to adapt the reality to us. In a mine you just can't move anything. So, you better adapt your image to that.”

Checco Varese ASC on The 33 – extract from Jon Fauer’s full

“This is a movie about the 33 Chilean miners who got trapped in 2010 underground for 69 days before they were rescued. We shot the movie in the above-ground scenes in Chile and underground in mines in Colombia. There were 2 mines in Colombia, one small mine called Nemocon and one larger mine called Zipaquira. We worked 14 hours a day, 6 day weeks, for 6 weeks inside a mine. It was very tough. For everybody, actors, director and myself. One of the mines was almost two miles long. And one of the sets was in the beginning of the mine, the other was in the middle and obviously the last one at the very end of the mine. So we had to cable all the way, you cannot bring generators into a mine. So we had to cable two kilometers and that was brutal.And the other mine had no vehicle entrance, so you had to walk into the mine, like a five foot high tunnel, four feet wide, so we had to bring everything by hand. So one was easy to get to but it was long, and the other was very hard to get to but it was close. So there you go.

We had 3 Alexa XT cameras. We shot in Raw with Codex. We occasionally had a couple more Alexas when needed, but basically that was the package. The lenses were Angenieux Optimos. We had 24-290, 17-80, 28-76 and 15-40. We didn’t use any filters underground. I exposed the Alexa at 1280 ASA and a couple of particular scenes I went all the way up to 2500 ASA, with fantastic results.

With wide zooms, everybody said, “Oh my God, you’re crazy, you should use primes for depth of field and the lack of light.” But first of all the director wanted to show the immediacy of the process, which you could only get with the liberty of doing one take and then without resetting and doing other take.

The other reason was for the look. Most of the lighting was done with available light, we had the miners with their flashlights, and we had a few little lights hanging. There’s a point with 33 miners with flashlights pointing at camera or at each other.
So that was one of the reasons that the zooms were welcome because they have a more gentle flare. Some of the primes have a very pronounced flare, because of the sharpness of the optics. So we needed to be able to live with 30 flares.

We had very soft halos, a romantic kind of flare. And that was given by the zooms. The above the ground part we shot with the same package, the same cameras, but almost all of it was either a very long lens, the 24-290 or hand held.
Because the director wanted to transmit the immediate feel of the clock ticking… trying to rescue people who are underground.

So the hand held gave this sort of immediate feeling to the product.
The other reason is you don’t want to change too many lenses inside a mine, it’s very dusty. Of course you do change lenses but you change it twice a day, three times a day as oppose to five times in a scene. And that was one of the practicalities, I’m a very practical person. And I think the limitations of reality shape your character in life and the limitations of reality in a movie shape the tools and the look of a movie. We were in a very sunny and windy desert and in a very dusty and dirty environment in a mine.
Three weeks after being out of a mine, I still was showering in hotels with white towels and the towels were black after.
The accident happened in Copiapo, is a mining camp 1200 kilometers north of Santiago de Chile. We went to Copiapo to recreate the town. We couldn’t shoot it in the real place, obviously for legal reasons and the mine is closed because it’s very dangerous, so we found a place a few miles from where the mine was, 15 miles and we shot there.
ne, a two by one and cutting the ribbons and welding and David Lee spend a week with him, prepping on that.
Well, I’ve been a big fan of the Angenieux for a long time. I started as a news cameraman, so to me the concept of being able to adapt the composition to what the reality is very important, especially in a mine where we try to adapt the reality to us. In a mine you just can’t move anything. So, you better adapt your image to that.
As I said, the Angenieux zooms have a very beautiful flare, it’s extraordinary, gentle, even the rainbow, the dissection of the color spectrum is very soft and it’s very nice, you never get this magenta or green flare, you get some kind of a very gentle color.

That was the main reason and the other reason is, the 24-290, by exposing at 1280 ASA, we had a range.
I think it’s a very interesting lens. It has a fantastic warmth. All the colors inside a mine had to be warm to show the friendship and solidarity among the miners and that helped a lot. Once we jumped into the desert, then we were in the same scenario. Believe it or not it’s a large independent movie. At some points we had 1,200 extras. So the advantage of having a zoom is that you can pull focus and it doesn’t breathe, it’s sharp as a razor blade, but at the same time it’s gentile and poetic.

And in the handheld you can grab the zoom and just very slightly adjust your focal length to a better pleasing frame and that was unbelievable.

The 33
by Patricia Riggen