In time for the 2016 Chinese New Year celebrations in February, a documentary feature film titled A BITE OF CHINA: CELEBRATING THE CHINESE NEW YEAR hit Chinese theaters, produced by the team behind the popular TV series A BITE OF CHINA. Travelling all over the country, the crew shot over 10,000 minutes of footage at 24 locations, documenting 43 regional dishes. The production chose AMIRA as its A-camera, utilizing macro and high-speed shots to highlight the beauty of traditional Chinese delicacies. Director Lei Chen and cinematographer Liwei Zhao spoke to ARRI about their experiences on the film.
Why did you choose AMIRA as your A-camera?
Chen: At the preproduction stage it was very clear to us that choosing the right equipment would be crucial. Shooting for cinema requires a high-quality camera and naturally ARRI cameras were our first choice. Many of the cinematographers on our team also shoot commercials and narrative films, and they spoke highly of ARRI cameras in terms of image quality, color rendition and reliability. In the end we settled on the AMIRA, as it was primarily designed for documentary-style shooting.
We were filming real events like family reunions, so we had to be mobile and constantly on standby. AMIRA was a great fit for us because the image quality is on a par with ALEXA but it is more compact and portable, which works well for fast-paced shooting in challenging locations. The lower cost was also a consideration when choosing this camera.
What lenses did you use?
Zhao: On the TV show we mostly used zoom lenses designed for stills photography, in order to be flexible and economical. For the feature film our priority was image quality so we chose a set of ARRI/ZEISS Ultra Primes, complemented by an ARRI/ZEISS 100 mm macro lens and the ARRI/FUJINON Alura 45-250 T2.6 with 1x to 3x extenders for macro shots.
Prime lenses have the best image quality and the large aperture is perfect for low light conditions; the downside is that there’s no time to change lens when trying to capture spontaneous moments. When we were filming scenes of our subjects’ daily lives we had to move the camera to adjust framing and this is where the compactness of AMIRA shines.
How did AMIRA perform?
Chen: As a director, the overall image quality is very important to me. What most impresses me about ARRI cameras is the excellent color rendition; the AMIRA pleasantly brought out the texture and color of food in our film. Compared with the TV series, the feature film has a more natural look and subtle warmth, thanks to AMIRA. This was exactly what we envisioned for the film — a warm and welcoming mood. In addition, I was also impressed by the dynamic range and high sensitivity. A couple of spontaneous moments in the film were not lit properly due to time constraints, but the results turned out surprisingly well. AMIRA still managed to capture rich details in low light conditions; it helped us tremendously.