Last week saw the movie premiere of the popular ITV series, Downton Abbey. Filmed on Arri Alexa for the tv series, Cinematographer Ben Smithard chose the Sony Venice for the film version. His goal was to make Downton Abbey look ‘epic’ on the big screen.
|Aspect Ratio||2.39 : 1|
|Shooting Format||Sony Venice 6K|
|Camera||Sony CineAlta VENICE|
|Lenses||Zeiss Supreme Prime Lenses, Zeiss Cinema Zoom CZ.2 Lenses|
|Colour Pipeline||Delivered in ACES|
|Printed Film Format||Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP)|
Decision to Choose Sony Venice
The show, which features a large lead cast including Dame Maggie Smith & Hugh Bonneville, was previously shot by 8 cinematographers throughout the tv series using Arri Alexa as the main camera. Having received a brief to make the film version more cinematic than the tv series, Smithard decided on the new Sony Venice.
“I used the new Sony Venice for 98 percent of the film. We kind of knew I was going to use that, although it had only just come out. I did The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  and I shot Belle  on the Sony F65, so I knew the Sony cameras would be really great.”[i]
Thanks to how well-known Downton Abbey is to viewers, there was more freedom to focus on the technical aspect of the narrative.
“Because viewers already know the characters and their arcs, the visual storytelling was allowed to make the saga bigger — using large-format cameras, wide-angle lenses, sweeping shots of the English countryside and a dozen gorgeous flyovers of Downton Abbey at golden hour — and at the same time more exacting.”[ii]
Sony Venice 6K format was utilised in a similar fashion for Wine Country and Top Gun: Maverick, coming out next year. You can see what Cinematographers think about the Sony Venice in one of our previous blogs.
Obsession with Perfection
Getting every minutiae of a shot right seemed to be another reason for picking Sony Venice over the Arri Alexa for the movie debut.
“The idea was to make each shot as perfect as possible, because the story takes place in a moment in time where perfection was the most important thing in the aristocracy of England,” says Smithard in conversation with Variety. “It was all about detail, because that’s what the [characters were obsessed with].”
Overall Downton Abbey promises to have more of an epic cinematic feel to it than the TV series. Using the Sony Venice 6K format paired with Zeiss Supreme Prime lenses, makes for stunning wide shots of Highclere castle. We can look forward to Ben Smithard bringing his technical expertise to translate the grand and often frenetic energy of the series to the silver screen.
[i] Interview from Studiodaily
[ii] Interview from Variety
Discover more about Sony Venice Specs & Pricing here