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Cinematographer Roger Deakins Goes Digital With ‘Unbroken’

Cinematographer Roger Deakins, best known for his work with the Coen brothers, has a reputation for being a purist who prefers traditional film stock. But on Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” about Olympic runner and WWII survivor Louis Zamperini, he went digital, and used an Arri Alexa — the same camera he used on “Prisoners” and “Skyfall” — for practical reasons.

“There were a large number of effects shots in the movie, so that lent itself to shooting in digital,” says the 11-time Oscar nominee. Plus, with digital, “You can shoot, and know what you have at the end of the day.”

“Unbroken” shot in Australia, where locations doubled for Torrance, Calif.; the Olympiastadion in Berlin; the tropics; and, on an island in the Sydney harbor, the Naoetsu prison camp in Japan, where POWs were forced to unload coal from barges. Those latter scenes are the most monochromatic. “We looked at a lot of Bill Brown’s photos of Welsh coal miners,” Deakins says. “That’s what we were after.”

And whether it was Zamporini jostling for position on the track or encountering flak in a B-24 bomber, Deakins and Jolie strove for a “you-are-there” intimacy. “We wanted to be in there, tracking the character,” Deakins explains, “and see the experiences from the character’s point of view.”

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