Trying for the Look of The Passion



Hello I was wondering if anyone knew what type of camera that I could use that would make my film perhaps grittier and at a more realistic tone than some of the independent student films used. I've always wanted to do a film based on one of the events from the Bible and I'd like to have it seen in the sense of like The Passion of the Christ or something along the looks of that. I know it can't be as professional but I'm sure there is a camera out there that could do a really good job in the detail and quality of the film and that is more affordable. Thank you.


Hey Seinfan,

Trying to emulate a particular aesthetic is not only dependent on the equipment you use, but also the people, the places, the things, etc. We're not only talking about the finest 35mm film popped into a 6 figure, quality calibrated camera system with the finest optics ever known to mortal beings. We’re talking about disciplined, yet creative cinematography, sets and/or locations that have been distinctively scouted and/or built to meet precise framing specifications for film production, and digital intermediate post production processes that make films so vivid and full of life. These are all integral elements to achieving a particular look.

If you shoot film, you might want to consider shooting super 16mm, then go through the DI process and transfer to 35mm. Matthew Libatique highly recommends this specific format and finishing process if 35mm isn’t accessible.
Now, if you should go digital, you absolutely must go HD, with 35mm prime lens adapters provided by a company like P+S Technic. If you go standard DV, the best results you’ll get will look similar to what was accomplished in 28 Days Later. Anthony Dodd Mantle, a very talented DP worked on that one, using an Arri PL mount 35 mm prime lens adapter for a Canon XL1s PAL, and that’s about as good as it got for DV. Also keeping in mind, they used DI color grading/finishing, and transfers to film, so the “magic touch” is always present no matter if you choose digital or film, you’ll be moving from one format to the other.

OH!...and if you just want a standard DV camera that produces film-like images directly out of the box without any add-ons, I suggest looking at the Panasonic AG-DVX100A; quite possibly the best bang for your buck.

I’d like to see how it comes out, keep us all posted…


New member
Here are the Specs on what camera and film stocks Caleb Deschanel used to shoot the passion. (Information curtesy of American Cinematographer)

Panaflex Platinum, Gold II
PanArri 435
C-Series, E-series,
Primo and Cooke Lenses

Kodak Vision 200T 5274
Vision 500 5279, SFX 200T

But, I agree with Digigenic, arn't going to get the look without big bucks... BUT all is not lost.

1st: Passion was shot anamorphically at 2.40:1 thats a start. You probably won't find a lens that can do that for video unless you are shooting HD. If you are using your basic consumer camera here is a good way to get around that.

SHoot a framing chart with the anamorphic framing on it. get some good old fashioned pieces of electrical tape and tape of the areas of the monitor that shouldn't be in frame. Leave the tape on the monitor/LCD all throughout shooting. When you Dump it into AVID or FCP just crop the picture and BAM you have Anamorphic framing.

2nd: If you are going to be shooting HD then you are going to have to have a shallow depth of field, (the downfall of Video) you are goign to have to shoot the whole thing under a 4. If you take your stop andy tighter you arn't going to get the depth of field and the look of the passion.

3rd: THe lighting. Try and light every seen as though it was lit by candle light and fire. WHy? Because 2,000 years ago they didn't have electricity. IF you notice in the passion Deschanel motivated all his light by either the moon, candles, or fire.

THose are the major things you are going to want to look at when shooting your piece. This month's issue of American Cinematographer has some good stuff regarding the film. CHeck it out.


New member
1st: Passion was shot anamorphically at 2.40:1 thats a start. You probably won't find a lens that can do that for video unless you are shooting HD.

Actually, you can. Get a DV camera that shoots 16:9 (preferably real, but electronic if you have to), and stick a 16:9 anamorphic lens on the front as well. That will give you an anamorphic picture with approximately a 2.35:1 ratio.

Of course you'll have no way to play it back in that ratio, so you'll have to letterbox the footage in post. Quality may not be great either since you've stretched each horizontal pixel by nearly a factor of two with the combination of internal 16:9 and external lens, and you'd have to try it with your camera to see.


There are some DV cameras that have native 16:9 chips in them, meaning that the chips are fully optimized to capture in wide mode, and there isn't any quality loss in the final image.

Sony has a prosumer priced DVCAM with native 16:9 chips in it, but it has really poor low light. I believe it's the PDX10, but you'll want to check on that. Other than that particular camera, you'd have to pay anywhere between 10 and 20 grand for a DVCAM with native 16:9 chips in it.

But, if you wait, the successor to the Canon XL1s is expected to have native 16:9, high def, 24P, and interchangable high def lenses at a cost under 5 grand...that might be your ticket?
Actually, that might be the ticket for us all.


If you're going for the fine grain look, the cinelook filmdamage plug in for adobe after effects adds a nice film look to your picture, it even does the flicker, you have many grain controls available, but that's only if you shoot digital. My GR-HD10 shoots 16x9 native I'm pretty sure, because when I go into the standard 480i dv mode, the picture is cropped to full frame dramatically. It looks like a snap zoom almost. That new canon model sounds like it would be the way to go, especially if it maintaned the XL mount feature, there would be lenses up the yin-yang for it. As for the actual chemical emulsion process, ya got me there, I'm shooting on 16mm for the first time this weekend...

Hope this might be helpful