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Why did they use Arriflex cameras on Return of the Jedi rather than Panavision cameras?

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For Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, PanaVision cameras were used, but for Return of the Jedi they switched to Arriflex cameras. Why was this?

On an unrelated note, Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as it’s predecessors, in my personal opinion. I don’t if it’s the DP they used, or the director, or the cameras, but Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as Star Wars or the Empire Strikes Back.

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Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

Also, the film stock used for the movie is what resulted in a blue tint over everything.

The Arriflex thing is probably down to economy. They were shooting in England for large stretches of the movie so maybe it made more sense to rent European.

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Could be budgetary reasons. Panavision rentals are really expensive, but then again this is Star Wars so I doubt they needed to save money.
Do you know how long it took to shoot ROTJ? If the shoot was longer than ANH and ESB they might have reasoned that it was cheaper in the long run to buy some Arriflex cameras rather than rent Panavision equipment for the duration of the shoot.

Or it might have to do with the director, maybe Marquand preferred Arriflex? He did a lot of television before SW, most of which was probably shoot with Arriflex cameras. So maybe he was more used to their equipment. Then again, I saw on IMDb that his previous film before ROTJ, Eye of the Needle, was shot with Panavision cameras, so I really don’t know.

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I don’t think it would really matter if they filmed much of it in England. ANH and ESB were also mostly shot in London. But then again, they may have just seen an opportunity to save some money. Whatever the reason was, it probably made sense to the producers back then.

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ZkinandBonez said:

Could be budgetary reasons. Panavision rentals are really expensive, but then again this is Star Wars so I doubt they needed to save money.

They didn’t NEED to save money, but a lot of things happened so that they could. I’ve heard conflicting reports of why they changed the Wookies to Ewoks, but what seems most likely is to save money.

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Are you saying child actors are cheaper than adult actors? 😄

Fang Zei said:

Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

I’d genuinely like to know more about these.

The Original Trilogy’s Timeline Reconstruction: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Implied-starting-date-of-the-Empire-from-OT-dialogue/post/786201/#TopicPost786201

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John Doom said:

Are you saying child actors are cheaper than adult actors? 😄

Fang Zei said:

Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

I’d genuinely like to know more about these.

With the exception of Warwick Davis, I think most of the Ewoks were played by adults. Child labor laws would have made the shoot even more difficult if all the Ewoks were children.

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John Doom said:

Are you saying child actors are cheaper than adult actors? 😄

Fang Zei said:

Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

I’d genuinely like to know more about these.

GL wanted to use multiple cameras for more coverage to work with in the editing room, while Marquand wanted to use only one or two.

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I see, thank you! More cameras can be useful, but I guess Lucas shouldn’t have hired Marquand if he didn’t approve of his methods in the first place.

SilverWook said:

With the exception of Warwick Davis, I think most of the Ewoks were played by adults. Child labor laws would have made the shoot even more difficult if all the Ewoks were children.

Nevermind, then 😄

The Original Trilogy’s Timeline Reconstruction: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Implied-starting-date-of-the-Empire-from-OT-dialogue/post/786201/#TopicPost786201

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Seeing this stuff is the first time I’ve ever heard of Hume walking off ROTJ let alone Marquand actually being replaced. There have always been rumors akin to Poltergeist of George being so over the shoulder but this is really something else.

I’ve always thought ROTJ had at least some parts that didn’t quite fit with Hume’s slight lean toward softness that you see in his Bonds compared with Alec Mills sharper look I prefer in his Bonds that immediately followed. Both are great cameramen and I do think you see both’s work in ROTJ since Mills was Hume’s operator for years.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/star-wars-cinematography-history-663563e9b58d/
This article indicates that this did happen. I wonder what exactly the sources are. The production sounds a bit too business minded for sure and I had that notion really underlined when I read the making of paperback written by the producer.

As for the original post, Panavision was also the premiere rental house and would sometimes just be credited because they supplied equipment. Camera types and brands are usually chosen by the DP as each has specific strengths and weaknesses. Back in the day most films were shot with a variety of cameras from different brands.

ROTJ has less intricate lighting for sure and you can tell there was less time spent on it especially in Imperial set interiors. The film stock is improved but it never has the wow factor of SW or ESB despite being made by a team of two of the best British cameramen then working. I’d chalk it up to production interference and a lack of desire to be artistic like ESB because George hated spending all the time and money on that film when they could just do it fast.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.
“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford
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Usually cameras and lenses are separate. The DP picks the cameras and the lenses and the film (based on what the director and producers want). So you could have Panavision lenses on Arriflex cameras and both might get credit in the film.

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CJackson said:

For Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, PanaVision cameras were used, but for Return of the Jedi they switched to Arriflex cameras. Why was this?

On an unrelated note, Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as it’s predecessors, in my personal opinion. I don’t if it’s the DP they used, or the director, or the cameras, but Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as Star Wars or the Empire Strikes Back.

Evening all (long time lurker, first time poster).

I agree with the suggestion that either Marquand or Hume preferred to shoot with Arri cameras. It is also possible that, by the time of principal photography, Lucasfilm had built its own camera inventory. Panavision cameras can only be hired.

As for the look of the film, it was shot on Eastman 250T 5293 colour negative film - new in 1982 and discontinued just a year later (Kodak replaced it with a faster 400 ASA stock). Although 250 ASA sounds laughably slow now, it was a fast film at the time, which meant ‘grainy’. Fast films became less grainy as Kodak refined their technology through the late 80s/90s.

Some of the Endor exterior shots looks underexposed to me - ‘muddy’ - but Alan Hume was a very good DP, so there might have been some characteristic of 5293 that was not well suited to low light (deep forest) daylight exteriors.

I’m guessing that the ‘T’ at the end of 250T stands for Tungsten, which meant the film was balanced for warm, artificial light. When you use tungsten balanced film in daylight, you get a strong blue cast which normally has to be corrected by a filter - but this might cost you a stop of exposure, negating the advantage of fast film. So perhaps some of the Endor exteriors were shot without filtration and the cast was corrected - but not eradicated - by colour correction in the lab.

This is all guesswork, I hope wiser people will chime in 😃

“If it ain’t workin’, eat sugar.”

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SilverWook said:

John Doom said:

Are you saying child actors are cheaper than adult actors? 😄

Fang Zei said:

Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

I’d genuinely like to know more about these.

With the exception of Warwick Davis, I think most of the Ewoks were played by adults. Child labor laws would have made the shoot even more difficult if all the Ewoks were children.

Still I guess it saves on fur… penny pinching sounds plausible.

Yub Nub for life

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captainsolo said:

ROTJ has less intricate lighting for sure and you can tell there was less time spent on it especially in Imperial set interiors. The film stock is improved but it never has the wow factor of SW or ESB despite being made by a team of two of the best British cameramen then working. I’d chalk it up to production interference and a lack of desire to be artistic like ESB because George hated spending all the time and money on that film when they could just do it fast.

The Making of book has some possible answers. Marquand talks about how often the set up would get thrown out the window because George would add cameras. Lucas is very much a ‘figure it out in the edit’ kind of guy, and he wanted a lot of coverage on the film, and would often add them to set ups himself and tell Marquand “don’t worry about it.” Sometimes this meant up to five cameras shooting at once, if I’m remembering correctly. This leads of course to some flat lighting and also some cameras being forced to change their position or composition so that the other cameras didn’t end up in the frame.

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SilverWook said:

John Doom said:

Are you saying child actors are cheaper than adult actors? 😄

Fang Zei said:

Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography in TESB is one tough act to follow.

Alan Hume actually walked out because he didn’t like how GL was treating Marquand. Alec Mills took over for the last month of production.

I’d genuinely like to know more about these.

With the exception of Warwick Davis, I think most of the Ewoks were played by adults. Child labor laws would have made the shoot even more difficult if all the Ewoks were children.

I know that it’s reddit but someone just posted this in another thread.

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I thought it was maybe a mixture of both kids and actors? Though mainly actors - with some familiar faces too.

50 Cent is just an imposter

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There definitely are child labor laws, especially for those on sets, so it’s entirely possible that maybe they did it as more of a promotional thing when they had LOTS of Ewoks shown on set.

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digitalfreaknyc said:

There definitely are child labor laws, especially for those on sets, so it’s entirely possible that maybe they did it as more of a promotional thing when they had LOTS of Ewoks shown on set.

Yeah, it seems like a really odd thing to do for any other reason. The rules vary from country to country, but anything involving children in film and TV is almost never worth the trouble.

If they used kids at all for a “practical” purpose I’d imagine that they only used them for certain shots that required more than the twenty or so Ewoks seen in the photos V.I.N.CENT posted. Though I can’t really remember any scenes that had more than those Ewoks anyway. I checked the ambush scene again just to check, and it looks like they simply showed the same twenty Ewoks over and over again to imply a much larger crowd.

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I know this is way beside the point but man… I just love the Ewoks. Completely unironically. I think they’re great.

It’s bizarre to me how even back in 1983-1984 (and of course, continuing all the way til now, really) people thought they were somehow a stain or a mark on Star Wars. They fit so perfectly. Guerrilla-warfare with teddy bears. That’s Star Wars as hell. The idea that they didn’t fit really doesn’t make any sense. I could see how you could make the argument, and to be honest I DID make some variations on that argument (to a lesser degree, at least) myself when I was younger and took Star Wars way too seriously as a teenager and young adult. But from here, now that I’m old and looking back from 2020? Of course they fit. They fit beautifully. I kind of wish they were used a little bit better, of course (that’s a general wish about everything Return of the Jedi, honestly, I wish it was just done a little bit better in a lot of ways) but they never felt “out of bounds” or anything.

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Yub Nub!

“The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” - DV

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Broom Kid said:

I know this is way beside the point but man… I just love the Ewoks. Completely unironically. I think they’re great.

It’s bizarre to me how even back in 1983-1984 (and of course, continuing all the way til now, really) people thought they were somehow a stain or a mark on Star Wars. They fit so perfectly. Guerrilla-warfare with teddy bears. That’s Star Wars as hell. The idea that they didn’t fit really doesn’t make any sense. I could see how you could make the argument, and to be honest I DID make some variations on that argument (to a lesser degree, at least) myself when I was younger and took Star Wars way too seriously as a teenager and young adult. But from here, now that I’m old and looking back from 2020? Of course they fit. They fit beautifully. I kind of wish they were used a little bit better, of course (that’s a general wish about everything Return of the Jedi, honestly, I wish it was just done a little bit better in a lot of ways) but they never felt “out of bounds” or anything.

Ditto. Not only do they make sense within the world of SW, but more importantly it works thematically as well. Youtuber E.C. Henry made a really good video summarizing the whole thing; A Defense of Ewoks

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Re: the reddit excerpt

Looks like someone on the Internet lied!

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Darth Dougal said:

CJackson said:

For Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, PanaVision cameras were used, but for Return of the Jedi they switched to Arriflex cameras. Why was this?

On an unrelated note, Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as it’s predecessors, in my personal opinion. I don’t if it’s the DP they used, or the director, or the cameras, but Return of the Jedi just didn’t look as good as Star Wars or the Empire Strikes Back.

Evening all (long time lurker, first time poster).

I agree with the suggestion that either Marquand or Hume preferred to shoot with Arri cameras. It is also possible that, by the time of principal photography, Lucasfilm had built its own camera inventory. Panavision cameras can only be hired.

As for the look of the film, it was shot on Eastman 250T 5293 colour negative film - new in 1982 and discontinued just a year later (Kodak replaced it with a faster 400 ASA stock). Although 250 ASA sounds laughably slow now, it was a fast film at the time, which meant ‘grainy’. Fast films became less grainy as Kodak refined their technology through the late 80s/90s.

Some of the Endor exterior shots looks underexposed to me - ‘muddy’ - but Alan Hume was a very good DP, so there might have been some characteristic of 5293 that was not well suited to low light (deep forest) daylight exteriors.

I’m guessing that the ‘T’ at the end of 250T stands for Tungsten, which meant the film was balanced for warm, artificial light. When you use tungsten balanced film in daylight, you get a strong blue cast which normally has to be corrected by a filter - but this might cost you a stop of exposure, negating the advantage of fast film. So perhaps some of the Endor exteriors were shot without filtration and the cast was corrected - but not eradicated - by colour correction in the lab.

This is all guesswork, I hope wiser people will chime in 😃

This makes perfect sense and seems pretty spot on from my understanding of stocks and tungsten lighting.

DominicCobb said:

captainsolo said:

ROTJ has less intricate lighting for sure and you can tell there was less time spent on it especially in Imperial set interiors. The film stock is improved but it never has the wow factor of SW or ESB despite being made by a team of two of the best British cameramen then working. I’d chalk it up to production interference and a lack of desire to be artistic like ESB because George hated spending all the time and money on that film when they could just do it fast.

The Making of book has some possible answers. Marquand talks about how often the set up would get thrown out the window because George would add cameras. Lucas is very much a ‘figure it out in the edit’ kind of guy, and he wanted a lot of coverage on the film, and would often add them to set ups himself and tell Marquand “don’t worry about it.” Sometimes this meant up to five cameras shooting at once, if I’m remembering correctly. This leads of course to some flat lighting and also some cameras being forced to change their position or composition so that the other cameras didn’t end up in the frame.

Yes the book is filled with stuff like this and constantly trying to meet deadlines. I think this dovetails with the discussion above and it was likely a number of multicamera setups with less intricate positions combined with less time allowed for lighting and George was dissatisfied with how long it took on ESB despite having very difficult sets to shoot not to mention effects and fog.

I’m extremely curious about the source on Hume and or Marquand leaving. Never before have I heard or seen this stated.

With the children as Ewoks it is entirely possible they had some fill in for pick up shots if everyone else had gone back to London or vice versa if they needed stuff beforehand such as when Garrett Brown was shooting Steadicam plates etc.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.
“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford
YT channel:
https://www.youtube.com/c/DamnFoolIdealisticCrusader

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Funny, I recall a kid writing in to *Dynamite" magazine back in 1978(?) claiming they and a sibling had both played Jawas in the scenes where Artoo was shot and carried off. With the passage of time it’s going to be harder to verify such claims, much like the occasional old geezer who claimed they were one of The Little Rascals.

Maybe someone can ask Warwick Davis if any of the other Ewoks were kids?

I can’t imagine any of them being allowed near the pyro effects going off on set. This wasn’t too long after the infamous Twilight Zone accident.

I’d be surprised if they didn’t swap hoods and weapons around to make new Ewoks for some battle scenes.

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