New story for Filmmaker Magazine on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw, who shifted the series to anamorphic glass and large format cameras for the sequel. Check out a sample from the piece below as well as a few behind the scenes stills. Here’s my previous chat with Durald Arkapaw for Season 1 of Loki.

The Gear List
Camera – Sony Venice
Lenses – Panavision T Series anamorphics; Panavision Ultra Panatar 1.3x anamorphics for IMAX sequences

Filmmaker: The first Black Panther was shot on a Super35-sized Alexa sensor and with spherical lenses. I re-read DP Rachel Morrison’s interview with American Cinematographer for the first film and she said both of those decisions were influenced by director Ryan Coogler. He didn’t want the shallower depth of field of a large format sensor, and he was more familiar with spherical glass. What were the discussions with Ryan around moving to large format and anamorphic for Wakanda Forever?

Durald Arkapaw: I feel like the lens choice is actually the first thing the audience responds to. Everything is going through that lens. So, it’s a big deal to change the lenses and the format. When we first spoke about anamorphic, Ryan was really open to it. The majority of what I shoot is in the anamorphic format. Ryan always makes fun of me because I’m anamorphic’s biggest fan. [laughs] So, it was an easy conversation for me as far as trying to sell him on anamorphic and how the attributes he was looking for to help him tell this story were also the attributes I embrace whenever I shoot anamorphic. For instance, we had long conversations about the movie’s throughline of grief and how grief can present a fog over you. I told him that I thought the right lenses could really accentuate those emotional characteristics. 

Filmmaker: What anamorphic lenses did you choose?

Durald Arkapaw: We used Panavision T Series anamorphics that we modified with Dan Sasaki at Panavision. I tend to embrace aberrations, fall off, field curvature and a particular type of flare that I love with certain focal lengths. All of those choices give the image a texture, but also an emotional quality that helped Ryan tell the story he was after. We’re introducing a new world, Talokan, and Ryan was interested in having the feeling of a deep space movie under the sea. Alien was one of the movies I responded to when I talked to him about creating tension and darkness. That film was shot on Panavision C Series lenses, so when we detuned our T Series I was after a lot of the characteristics you can get from the C Series. When we were modifying and testing lenses for this project, I also put a B Series lens in there as well. That was the lens Ryan responded to most—we shot maybe half the movie with that. It’s what we used for our pivotal closeups, and it was pretty much the main lens we told our story with. I found that lens when I was shooting Loki and fell in love with it. It was a 35mm and I tend to refer to the lenses by their focal length [before they’ve been expanded to fit large format cameras].

Filmmaker: Those original B Series are over 60 years old at this point. Do they have certain particularities you have to deal with when you use them?

Durald Arkapaw: When you shoot with lenses that have so much personality, they don’t all tend to be consistent if it’s not a newer modern series, so you just learn how to shoot them. You learn what stop to shoot a lens at to get varied effects with fall off or with the way light behaves at certain stops. I tend to shoot at around a 2.8, which is what we shot most of [Wakanda Forever] at. Coming up always shooting anamorphic, Panavision has been there my whole career. At times I’d be doing movies with no budget, and they would just give me whatever anamorphics they could find that were available. So, I’ve shot every single thing, and I keep the SKU numbers. 

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