Cinematographer Michael Fimognari depends on a CODEX Workflow

The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of psychic dread, is worshipped, studied and copied by cinephiles and filmmakers everywhere. So taking on Doctor Sleep, which serves as a sequel to The Shining and uses some of the same elements, for instance the haunted Overlook Hotel makes an appearance, must have been a daunting prospect to director Mike Flanagan and director of photography Michael Fimognari.

The duo had previously worked extensively together, with credits including features Gerald's Game and Oculus and the Netflix anthology series The Haunting of Hill House. Rather than mimicking John Alcott's iconic, contrasty cinematography in the original, the duo created a different universe based on the script for Doctor Sleep, which Flanagan adapted from Stephen King's novel.

We felt responsible, and it was something we took very seriously – to honor the Stephen King and Kubrick aspects, while still telling our version of the story, says Fimognari. Like many of Mike's stories, it's about childhood trauma and how that affects people later in life. It's a story of recovery and redemption.

"The visuals of Doctor Sleep are optically similar to The Shining," he says. "But the use of color, and the way we move through space at times, is very much related to that recovery narrative. It's a different language. We used lighting more as an expressive element, partly because characters are moving through different parts of the country at different times of the year, in three parallel storylines. We felt it was important to differentiate the struggles and challenges of these characters. At times, you'll see a slightly grittier, natural lighting philosophy as opposed to the more white light that The Shining employed."

In 1980, Alcott shot The Shining with spherical lenses and slow-speed, fine-grain 100 ASA film stock. Fimognari shot Doctor Sleep with the large-format ARRI ALEXA 65 and ARRI Prime DNA lenses. The CODEX workflow included capture of uncompressed 6.5K ARRIRAW images processed with the industry standard CODEX Vault XL, running CODEX Production Suite to convert the sensor RAW data into processed ARRIRAW files.

"Gerald's Game was the first opportunity we had to use the ARRI ALEXA 65, and we fell in love with it," says Fimognari. "We also love the optics that are available for it. The ARRI A65 was particularly appropriate for Gerald's Game because it was a more confined space. We could get shallow depth of field and focal separation even when the character is sitting against a wall. You can have that optical elegance even in small spaces."

"Also, we had a scene in that film in which an eclipse causes color to gradually change over the course of two minutes, he says. We love the ability of the sensor and the workflow to give us very discreet and specific color control. All the ARRI sensors are pretty spectacular, but the 65 in particular we thought was fantastic."

Fimognari and Flanagan also used the A65 and Prime 65 glass on all ten episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, which King called close to a work of genius. So when it came to Doctor Sleep, it was a no-brainer, says Fimognari. "It was going to be experienced on a big screen, and we wanted spherical lenses and a 1.85 aspect ratio in order to stay in the world of Kubrick. Our film covers a lot of ground, but it's also very intimate with some small spaces, and we wanted a look where we could control depth. The ALEXA 65 was perfect. It all felt right. We saw it come to life in IMAX and it looked great."

The filmmakers tended toward wider-angle lenses, set closer to the actors, which is consistent with their previous work in films like Oculus. On Doctor Sleep, especially in the scenes at the Overlook, they echoed The Shining by composing graphic, symmetrical frames with a vanishing point perspective, and by lighting with a dimmed, slightly sickly warmth.

Regarding the CODEX workflow, which is based on the Vault XL Labs from ARRI Rental, Fimognari says, "It's such a seamless, invisible process. I don't even think about it anymore – it's just a thing that works, a given, which makes me happy! We strive to have the most efficient day possible. Mike and I are very specific about what we want to accomplish in a day, because that gives us the time to make the special shots that elevate the material. In order to do that, our workflow has to work. And it absolutely does that – which is so cool. It's a good feeling going home saying, OK, we got the scene. We don't have to wonder."

Doctor Sleep hit screens in late 2019, reportedly earning more than $70 million against a budget of around $45 million. Since then, Fimognari has tried his hand at directing, on two sequels to To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Those Netflix teen rom-coms are scheduled for release in 2020. And currently, Fimognari is prepping to shoot a new feature with Flanagan.

Director: Mike Flanagan
DP: Michael Fimognari
DIT: Dane Brehm
Camera Rental: ARRI Rental
VFX supervisor: Scott E. Anderson
Digital Intermediate: Jill Bogdanowicz – Company 3
Camera: ARRI ALEXA 65
Lenses: ARRI Prime DNA
Resolution: 6560 x 3100

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