Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold. Cr. Netflix © 2023
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv How Lighting And Lenses Revealed The Man Inside Icon In Schwarzenegger Doc ‘Arnold’

How Lighting And Lenses Revealed The Man Inside Icon In Schwarzenegger Doc ‘Arnold’

Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold. Cr. Netflix © 2023

When cinematographer Logan Schneider joined Netflix’s ‘Arnold’, a three-part documentary series about bodybuilder, movie star and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first thing he did was take a deep dive into the actor’s filmography. “I’ve seen all of his movies and it’s been really fun to see that progression,” Schneider told IndieWire, noting that he stopped at “Eraser” when filming took over his life. Seeing all of Schwarzenegger’s output through 1996 was enough for Schneider to appreciate the actor as an icon, but that was only one side he and director Lesley Chilcott wanted to convey. “He’s an over-the-top guy, but we wanted to go further and connect with his backstory and his very unique American dream story. We were trying to do something cinematic and iconic, but also make sure the big moments were personal and intimate.”

To this end, Schneider chose to apply to “Arnold” the techniques he had learned on narrative films, shooting in large format with Arri Mini LF cameras and limiting himself largely to prime lenses rather than the zooms more typically favored in vérité documentaries. . “Shooting with primes keeps me from being sloppy,” Schneider said. “If I put a 40mm wide open and keep it sharp, I can get a shot that’s natural and immediate, but not like I’m chasing it. It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t always work, but most of the time it works and at the end of the day I’d rather have four great shots than 10 good shots.”

The series’ many vérité scenes featuring Schwarzenegger training, feeding his animals, visiting his hometown in Austria, and more were methodically constructed by Schneider and Chilcott to give editors the kind of coverage they would expect from a fictional film. “We’re trying to get a wide and medium shot through the doors to build a scene like a narrative. It’s less about capturing every moment than it is about conveying the feeling of it.

“Arnold” cinematographer Logan Schneider on location in Vienna

The still active lifestyle of 75-year-old Schwarzenegger presented further challenges for Schneider when it came to getting the footage he needed with the discipline he craved. “Arnold is hard to keep up with,” Schneider said. “He’s always doing something, so I had to pick my battles and get enough pieces for the editor to be poetic about. I can’t get every hit because Arnold won’t stop. He’s just going through his life.

For Schneider, the key to accurately composed and lit coverage often came down to keeping things simple and eliminating extraneous footage. “It’s about finding the heart of the scene in the way a screenplay breaks down into a narrative project. When do I need a reaction shot? When do I need to let him breathe and walk out a door and give him some isolation so the editor can build this character in a way that’s relatable?

Schneider noted that it’s always difficult to maintain a consistent visual style in documentaries, but he benefited from being on “Arnold” every single day – something cinematographers are rarely afforded in the documentary world. However, Schneider found it difficult to maintain visual cohesion, even in segments that seem simpler to the viewer: the interviews filmed with Schwarzenegger in his office at his home. The crew shot over 30 hours of interview footage spread over six months, which meant the weather conditions kept changing. “It was about lighting the first floor so it could stay consistent through all these changes, with an exterior light to connect the house to the interior,” Schneider said.

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Behind the scenes of “Arnold”

Luckily, Schneider was able to conduct space lighting tests with Schwarzenegger before filming, which taught him how to connect the background to the foreground in a way that would be minimally affected by the weather conditions. The tests also helped Schneider strike a balance between “Arnold Schwarzenegger” and the real man he and Chilcott were looking for. “We ended up with this three-quarter top light that is both dramatic and flattering,” he said, adding that the blending of warm and cool tones helped provide the naturalism that was trying to humanize his subject. “We had very cool backlighting, then not so cool, then warm, all the way to a super warm light that brought out all the skin tones as they would be in real life.”

Those lighting tests are what led Schneider to shoot large format even with spherical prime lenses. “We tested the anamorphic lenses, but they felt too immersive, too much like we were in a movie,” Schneider said. “The large spherical format felt very present and focused, so that’s how we went.”

Ultimately, Schneider hopes that the public is unaware of the care and thought that has gone into every choice behind the lighting, lenses and coverage. “The idea is that when you look at it, you’re not distracted by some component of the technical end,” she said. “It feels like I’m sitting there talking to him. That’s the goal.

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