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EXCLUSIVE: Roger Deakins and Chris Sims Go 1-On-1 to Talk No Country for Old Men

By Brian B. — March 6th, 2008

Long time Coen Brothers Cinematographer/Director of Photography gets tech with Music Video Director Christopher Sims

Next week, this year's Academy Award winner for Best Picture, No Country for Old Men, will be coming home to living rooms and home theaters across the country on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. For the first time since the hi-def format war has ended, consumers are going to get to experience the true power of Blu-ray with the amazing, uncompressed look of this pitch-perfect Coen brothers film. This is in no small part credited to the masterful technique and visionary style of cinematographer, Roger Deakins.

Music video director Christopher Sims, along with his own director of photography, Jessica Young, recently had a chance to go one-on-one with Roger Deakins to talk about some very intricate technical details about the production of No Country for Old Men.

It's known the Coen Brothers heavily story board their films. Do you prefer working with directors who have shots in mind themselves and you add a bit to that or do you enjoy it more when you get to design the shot list almost entirely?

Roger Deakins: I like either way of working. Every film is different and every director is different. Often I can add more of 'my bit' as you call it if a director has a clear idea for a shot. If I am creating the shots from scratch I may have to spend more time holding the directors hand and therefore have less time to finesse the shot or the lighting etc. but it really all depends on the project. Some films benefit from their spontaneity such as 'Jarhead' which we basically made up as we shot it with a hand held camera.

How do you feel about HD dailies vs printed and projected dailies?

Roger Deakins: Obviously HD dailies are more efficient and less expensive etc. and it is nice to have time in the evenings especially as work hours seem to get longer and longer. However, I do miss the idea of the crew getting together to watch dailies after work. I will usually get selected dailies printed on film especially for the early part of a shoot as HD dailies really don't tell me much photographically.

Have you ever shot digitally and if so how was the experience? If not would you consider it, and what would have to happen to make you interested?

Roger Deakins: No and yes, of course, I would consider it. It will depend on the project and whether the quality of the digital cameras ever attain the quality and flexibility that I am used to with film.

How do you feel about the black representation on the new digital HD formats, for example Blu-Ray?

Roger Deakins: Seems quite good though I really have not seen enough to comment. I am concerned that the subtlety is being lost and every film tends to look very contrasty and saturated.

If you had one prime lens to shoot an entire feature with, what would it be? 21mm? 40mm? 65mm? etc.

Roger Deakins: 32mm

Are there situations where you feel limited during production when thinking about the "home video" viewer?

Roger Deakins: No, but as the playback monitor is now what the director is seeing I do feel shots can tend to be more conservative and close-ups bigger.

What are the characteristics in a script that make you want to be a part of it?

Roger Deakins: I want a script to affect me in some way. I am usually drawn to character studies, scripts about real people and the world we live in not some fantasy.

Do you like operating your own shoots? Or do you like stepping away and watching the action unfold on a production monitor?

Roger Deakins: I have always operated and am very uncomfortable being at a monitor.

What is the funnest and most rewarding process for you? Preproduction? Production? DI Process? Theater viewing?

Roger Deakins: Production and the DI process equally.

When do you think the "resolution" race will cap out? When will the digital resolution be so high that it will never be noticeable to the human eye? 2k? 4k? 6k? etc.

Roger Deakins: It is interesting. To maintain all the information that film has to offer resolution must be at least at 4K. However, given the loss of quality in the post production process (Scanning, Recording etc.) it is a fact that we should really be scanning at something between 6K and 10K to end up with film quality. I think 4K would be fine if it were maintained throughout the system.

Do you think it would be cool to have "camera reports" as a subtitle option on Blu-ray? For instance for every cut in the movie there would be subtitles that would show the viewer the lens choice, shutter degree of camera, film stock code, filters used, f stop, support system, etc.

Roger Deakins: That would be of minor interest to the viewer, I think.

No Country for Old Men is on DVD and Blu-ray March 11th, 2008.

Check out Christopher Sims' music videos here.