Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

A Look Beyond Horror


When cinematographer Zach Kuperstein got the job to shoot writer-director Zach Cregger's horror feature Barbarian, one of the first things he did was reach out to Light Iron senior colorist Sam Daley. The two had previously worked together on a short and three independent features The Eyes of My Mother, The Vigil and Paper Spiders but their collaborations began during post, not during preproduction. For Barbarian, Kuperstein was able to shoot tests and then work with Daley from the start to create a shooting LUT that would match Cregger's vision for this mind-bending story of a girl (played by Georgina Campbell) who arrives at a house she's booked for the night only to discover a young man (Bill Skarsg rd) has also rented it.

To give Daley an idea of what he and Cregger wanted, Kuperstein assembled a short look book of photographic references that defined the movie's tone and mood. The book included stills from the features Prisoners, Gone Girl and Sicario for night interiors, It Comes at Night for flashlight scenes, and American Beauty and Pleasantville for a 1980s flashback sequence. Texturally we tried to keep it limited, the cinematographer explains. It wasn't too built-out or complicated. I find it best to keep the references really tight because otherwise it's hard to articulate exactly what it is about each image that is related to the color.

Barbarian is set in Detroit but was shot in Bulgaria, where infrastructure limitations made it difficult to reliably share footage from set with Daley in New York. So, Daley explains, Zach came up with a lo-fi way for us to exchange images and LUTs. He would shoot a test, and instead of sending me terabytes of files to look at, he would send me high-quality DPX still frames, which he could easily email or put up on WeTransfer or Dropbox.

Kuperstein was grateful for Daley's partnership throughout this testing phase. It was great to get Sam's eyes on the footage and his guidance on where we could or where we shouldn't push the camera, he says. We shot with the Sony Venice, which I hadn't used before, so I was like, Can I go to 5,000 ISO? Can I go to 10,000 ISO?' And Sam said, Don't go to 10,000 ISO, but go to 5,000 if you need it.' His guidance was super-helpful, and paired with the test footage, it made for a robust LUT that we could use to shoot everything.

The shooting LUT Daley provided was set for a color temperature of 4300 Kelvin, approximately halfway between tungsten and daylight, giving Kuperstein the ability to use the LUT in any type of lighting situation. It was just something to get in the ballpark while Zach was on location in Bulgaria and working really quickly, Daley says. When we circled back after the edit to do the final color, I came up with another series of looks, and it was ultimately Zach Cregger, the director, who decided which of the looks he preferred.

Kuperstein and Daley kept their lines of communication open throughout principal photography. I usually don't work with a DIT on set, or somebody live-grading, or somebody else judging exposure with me, the cinematographer says. Having Sam to bounce that off of throughout the production was really helpful. He helped me make sure the exposure was giving us a lot more depth in the shadows, which I'm glad we had.

Both on set and in the final grade, Kuperstein always strove to keep the lighting tethered to reality. My approach is very much about motivated lighting, he says. I try to find whatever sources are in the room or in the space that make sense for the scene. At times those could be sodium-vapor streetlights outside, tungsten or fluorescent lights inside, or a mix. From a lighting perspective, it's often about keeping something bright in the background so you can make the rest of the image dark you can get away with it being darker if there are highlights in the image. Then, in the grade, you're making sure you aren't losing those highlights and are bringing out that contrast wherever possible.

Similar to what Zach says about motivating light sources, that's what I always do, Daley says of his process. It's got to feel real so that somebody is going to watch and be engaged in the story. Then I flavor it with whatever's going on and create mood with contrast or a slight hue change to help tell the story through color and contrast choices.

For the color grade, Kuperstein and Daley worked together in person at Light Iron New York while Cregger split his time between Light Iron's New York and Los Angeles locations. Based on the locked picture in combination with Kuperstein and Cregger's notes, Daley began by offering a range of looks for the filmmakers' consideration. One option offered a grainy, bleach-bypass, cross-processed look; another was much more subdued and classical in style, with a Kodak film feel. The opportunity to see the opposing looks helped Kuperstein and Cregger make their choice. I'm glad we got to see the extreme look even if it wasn't the direction we went with, the cinematographer reflects. It was good to test the waters with that and see how Zach responded to it. He reminded us that we weren't trying to tip our hand too early and that we needed to play it more neutral. When we saw the Kodak look that Sam put on it, the colors just popped into life and the whole film felt fresh.

With the film look they landed on in the final grade, Daley adds, We did deviate a little bit from what we had in the testing. But it wasn't a very assertive film look. It was more subtle.

The overall palette for the interior of the house tended toward the warmer range of the spectrum. I like to look at the color palette of the production design and see what I can lean into, shares Daley, who graded the project wi
See more stories from panavision

More from Panavision France


Shots That Speak Volumes

Director Sarah Polley's feature Women Talking about a group of women in an isolated Mennonite community in 2010 who share refuge in a hayloft while weighi...


Honk for Your Format

It's not often that a cinematographer is tasked with shooting a film within a film, but for writer-director Adamma Ebo's feature Honk For Jesus. Save Yo...


Panatar, Shantaram

Adapted from the novel by Gregory David Roberts, the Apple TV+ series Shantaram tells the epic story of an imprisoned criminal (played by Charlie Hunnam) who es...


True to Life

Inspired by Stephanie Land's memoir of the same name, the 10-episode Netflix limited series Maid centers around Alex (played by Margaret Qualley), a young s...


Mystical Turns

Lucas Delangle's Jacky Caillou gives audiences something to believe in. The director's feature debut follows the eponymous young man (played by Thomas ...


Through the Years

For Vincent De Paula, CSC, shooting the Netflix series Firefly Lane felt like a dream come true. Over the course of 26 episodes spanning two seasons, he was tas...


Liminal Journey

In Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Mexican filmmaker and expat Silverio Gama (Daniel Gim nez Cacho) undertakes a mind- and time-bending journey o...


In Conversation With Mandy Walker, AM, ASC, ACS

In December, cinematographer Mandy Walker, AM, ASC, ACS made history as the first woman to win the Best Cinematography Award from the Australian Academy of Cine...


In Conversation With Mandy Walker, ACS, ASC

In December, cinematographer Mandy Walker, ACS, ASC made history as the first woman to win the Best Cinematography Award from the Australian Academy of Cinema a...


Complementary Vision

The feature Mascarade reunited writer-director Nicolas Bedos and cinematographer Laurent Tangy, AFC, following their collaboration on the 2021 release OSS 117: ...


The Making of Tesciowie (The In-Laws)

For director Jakub Michalczuk's lauded comedy Tesciowie (aka The In-Laws), cinematographer Micha Englert, PSC sought a natural look that he achieved with P...


Listen for the Call

Directed by Valentin Petit, the globe-hopping Squad Up spot for the hotly anticipated video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II assembles a star-studded cast s...


Eternal Hunger

To me, this definitely has that '90s video look and feel, cinematographer James Beattie says of the music video for the song Miriam by Berlin-based artis...


All the Reasons

Directed by Brendan Yates, the music video for Paramore's This Is Why finds band members Hayley Williams, Zac Farro and Taylor York in secluded locales, f...


Till It's Dawn

For the track Tonight on their album Alpha Zulu, French band Phoenix partnered with Vampire Weekend's lead vocalist and guitarist, Ezra Koenig. Underscori...


Revolution x Reinvention

The campaign surrounding sportswear brand Puma's collaboration with multi-hyphenate artist Skepta presents a message of revolution, reinvention, and the lim...


Farming the Imagination

My career has spanned many genres, a journey I could have never predicted, says cinematographer Simon Reay. With credits that run the gamut from the series Man...


Love on the Margins

Starring Taylor Russell as Maren and Timoth e Chalamet as Lee, director Luca Guadagnino's feature Bones and All is a film about cannibal lovers, cinematog...


A Collaboration With Panavision: Anastas Michos, ASC, GSC

Anastas Michos, ASC, GSC's credits as a cinematographer include the features Man on the Moon, Keeping the Faith, Mona Lisa Smile, Freedomland, Perfect Stran...


The Making of The School for Good and Evil

Based on the book by Soman Chainani, the Netflix feature The School for Good and Evil depicts an epic battle as seen through the eyes of best friends Agatha (So...


The Making of Sonata

Written and directed by Bartosz Blaschke, the Polish feature Sonata is inspired by the true story of a deaf boy misdiagnosed with autism who discovers a passion...


Incredible Journey

Writer-director Olivier Dahan's feature Simone, le voyage du si cle (known in English as Simone: Woman of the Century) traces the life story of Simone Veil,...


A Relationship to Remember

Introduced in 2021, the FilmLight Colour Awards celebrate the art of color grading as practiced around the globe. This year's nominees in the Theatrical Fea...


A Love Like This

A comedy particular to modern times, the feature I Love My Dad is equal parts true-life catfish story and popcorn comedy. The movie was written and directed by...


Un Mystery Crew Diferente

Created by Saturday Night Live alums Fred Armisen and Julio Torres along with fellow comedian Ana Fabrega, the Spanish-language comedy series Los Espookys foll...


Call and Response

Known for photographing cult-classic television such as Felicity and Monk, Marshall Adams, ASC knows how to identify and respond to a story that subverts ex...


Guiding Principles

Based on James Lee Burke's short story Winter Light, the feature God's Country stars Thandiwe Newton as Sandra, a college professor whose encounter with...


A Look Beyond Horror

When cinematographer Zach Kuperstein got the job to shoot writer-director Zach Cregger's horror feature Barbarian, one of the first things he did was reach ...


In Lieu of Lumon

From the eerie calm of Lynne Cohen photographs to the is it safe aesthetic of Marathon Man, cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagn has underscored her own creative...


A New Arena

Only a veteran cinematographer such as Donald A. Morgan, ASC could take chisel and hammer and recontour the shape of sitcoms. The eye behind the camera of class...


Controlled Chaos in the Kitchen

Cinematographer Andrew Wehde spent more than a decade shooting commercials for Michelin-star restaurants before he ventured into the frenetic kitchen of The Ori...


90-Second Portrait

For the KCB Bank Kenya commercial Go Ahead, director Blake Farber and cinematographer Nicholas Bluff collaborated to craft a portrait of the vibrant people, p...


Desire for Cinema

The coming-of-age drama L' t ternit (released in the U.S. as Our Eternal Summer) marked the continuation of the collaboration between writer-director mi...


Mystery Down Under

The Australian series Mystery Road: Origin adds to the popular mythology established in the franchise's preceding features and television seasons. The detec...


Authenticity and Optimism

After a grim and gritty fourth season, the Showtime series The Chi returned to its more optimistic roots for Season 5, changing not only the tone of its stories...


Multi-Cam Matchmaking

Continuing the legacy of the fan-favorite CBS series How I Met Your Mother, the Hulu original How I Met Your Father lends a new perspective for a new generation...


The Wheres and Whys and Whos

Known for his work on movies such as 300, Watchmen, Super 8 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Larry Fong, ASC has brought his magical talents to bear for ...


Life, Love and Laughter

The second season of the Chuck Lorre CBS sitcom B Positive finds the kismet-connected duo Gina (Annaleigh Ashford) and Drew (Thomas Middleditch) diving deeper ...


Villainy Never Looked So Good

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Season 1 of the Marvel Studios series Loki finds the titular God of Mischief (played by Tom Hiddleston) in the custod...


Funny Business

In Season 1 of the HBO Max original series Hacks, legendary but no longer irreplaceable Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and canceled television ...


In Conversation: Winning Time

The HBO original series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty re-creates the Los Angeles Lakers' historic climb to prominence over the rest of the NB...


The Old, the New and the Gritty

The FX original series The Old Man stars Jeff Bridges as the eponymous lead, former CIA operative Dan Chase, whose off-the-grid existence is rudely interrupted ...


The Natural World

Based on the best-selling mystery novel of the same name, the feature Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a young woman who grew...


Deal With a Devil

Inspired by real events, the Apple TV+ limited series Black Bird tells the story of Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton), who, in exchange for early release from his 10-...


Tribute to the King

It was June 2019 when director Baz Luhrmann first approached cinematographer Mandy Walker, ACS, ASC about collaborating on the new biopic Elvis. I was extremel...


Light Iron solidifies management team with 2 key hires

LOS ANGELES (June 28, 2022) Light Iron, an industry leader in providing innovative post-production creative services and part of Panavision's end-to-end o...


Different Worlds

After years of shooting television dramas like Snowfall and Empire, cinematographer Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, ASC longed for a project that explored the mysterious a...


Championship Caliber

The give-and-go between cinematographers Todd Banhazl and Mihai Malaimare Jr. on the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty has been as impress...


Outpost RC enables remote near-set dailies for a trio of productions

Since its founding in 2009, Light Iron has been reimagining post-production workflows. Over the past two years, as the pandemic has driven productions to embrac...


A Collaboration With Panavision: Markus Frderer, ASC, BVK

Always try to do something that you find visually interesting, and use it as an opportunity to do something new, encourages Markus F rderer, ASC, BVK. In this v...