Arri Alexa XT brings “Free State of Jones” to life on the big screen

Jul 11, 2016 4:00:00 PM

Ambient Skies Productions Blog

Posted by Trenton Massey

Out of all of the film’s that have touched on the war between the Confederacy and the Union, Free State of Jones manages to travel into the grey area of the civil war and stick up for the southern residents that were opposed to the confederacy. It was a breathe of fresh air in a sea of recent films whose settings take place in the south and revolve around racial tension. Part of the success of the film can be attributed to the humble, straight forward cinematography that keeps you engaged in the moment and doesn’t stop to gloat or show off.


Director Gary Ross scored in my opinion with his adaptation of this inspiring true story. Ross has wrote and directed such films as Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and The Hunger Games. He made his break in the eighties writing the classic film “Big” starring Tom Hanks and more recently is set to direct the “Ocean’s Ocho” film. French cinematographer Benoit Delhomme joining that team was sure to yield incredible results and sure enough, he and the team delivered.


Delhomme’s known for such films as “The Theory of Everything”, “1408”, and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” all of which have their own unique visual style. His choice to use the Arri Alexa XT seemed to fit the tone of the film. The film had minimal digital smear which is hard to get away from under certain lighting conditions, but for the most part, I was unable to distinguish whether it had been shot on film or digitally. 


Free State of Jone’s Basic Tech Specifications

 Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1

Arri Alexa XT, Panavision Primo, PVintage, SS and US Lenses

Negative Format - Codex

Cinematographic Process - Arriraw (3.4K) (Source format)

Digital Intermediate (Master Format)

Printed Film Format: D-Cinema



Delhomme made his digital debut with the film “Lawless” where he used the 1st generation Arri Alexa camera and has used upgraded versions of the camera on every film since. For most DP’s who come from a strong background in shooting 35mm, the Arri Alexa seems to be the most preferred camera amongst veterans. Why, might you ask? Highlight rollover, color tone, grain structure, low light performance might have a lot to do with it, but the ergonomic design is the number one reason why DP’s run to the Arri Alexa when transitioning over.

This film made good use of the camera’s abilities overall and was the right candidate for this film’s dramatic tone in my opinion. Using a camera like the RED weapon or even a Sony Camera might have given us a different quality of veiwing experience in my opinion.

Additional Resources:

eBook Download:  When there are so many different tiers of video production along with so many different tiers of cameras, are you sure what camera package will be best for your next shoot? This eBook will discuss different equipment tiers and what style of video production they are most commonly used for.  


Topics: motion picture production, Camera crew, Director of Photography, Video Pre Production,video production services


Topics: Video Production Equipment, motion picture production, Camera crew, Director of Photography, Camera Packages