Linus Sandgren


Linus Sandgren, ASC, FSF


      Linus Sandgren, ASC, FSF is best known for his feature work with top directors such as Lasse Hallström (The Hundred-Foot Journey), Gus Van Sant (Promised Land) and David O. Russell (American Hustle). Between feature projects, Sandgren shoots high-end commercials for an international roster of clients and directors. Most recently, he photographed two spots back-to-back – one for the French market touting Orangina, the carbonated citrus beverage; and a second for the North American market for Cisco Systems, the technology concern based on San Jose, California.

            The Orangina spot, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, takes a quirky, humorous look at a battle between two gladiators and the Roman emperor who hesitates when it’s time for the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. After a sip of Orangina, the robed leader spares the vanquished fighter and celebration spreads throughout the Coliseum-like arena. See the spot here:

            The Cisco spot, directed by Dante Ariola, features a computer hacker talking calmly to the camera about how he is in the midst of hacking your computer – right now. The shots include slow push-ins on black and white portraits of a wide variety of people from around the globe. The push-ins are sometimes intercut with longer or wider shots that are static and shot from different angles.

            Both spots were photographed using the ARRI ALEXA XT in combination with Hawk Anamorphic lenses from Vantage Film – the Orangina spots with 2x V‑Lite anamorphics, and the Cisco with Hawk 1.3x V‑Lite lenses, which are designed with a subtler squeeze that retains true anamorphic flavor in a 1.78 frame. Sandgren had used a similar approach on Promised Land to boost image quality.

            “For the Cisco spot, we wanted a medium-format black and white still photography look, and the 1.3s allowed us to fill the 4X3 frame and unsqueeze it out to 1.78,” says Sandgren. “That gave us additional detail and kept the anamorphic characteristics in terms of focus, and so on. The simple, naturalistic lighting and framing, as well as minimal grading, meant that lens choice was almost the only way I could affect the image. I usually don’t like filtering much, so it’s about the lens characteristics.

            “In general, I think that anamorphic lenses make people look beautiful,” says Sandgren. “When you rack focus on people, it’s very beautiful the way the focus travels over a face. In the case of the Cisco spot, we had these mid-shots, and we could be further away and make a slightly wider room space – because they still felt close because of the shallow depth of field. You could live with them, and feel them more in the mid-shots.”

In the Orangina spot, Sandgren and van Heijningen shot 2x anamorphic to create a CinemaScope feeling reminiscent of grandiose anamorphic films set in Roman times like Spartacus (1960; cinematography by Russell Metty, ASC) and Ben-Hur (1959; Robert Surtees, ASC). The Orangina commercial was shot in a 2,000-year-old stadium in Croatia, with hundreds of extras and visual effects extending the crowd further. Sandgren made extensive use of the latest LED lighting technology on the shoot.

            “If we had just shot spherical and cropped the image, it wouldn’t be as interesting,” says Sandgren. “We considered old school vintage lenses, but anamorphic made it look more interesting and epic. When you shoot digital, you almost have to shoot anamorphic to keep it from being too clean and boring. You need to do something to create magic. Lens choice has huge importance when you’re shooting digitally.

            “One nice thing about the Hawk anamorphics is that they have the special artifacts, the softer focus on the edges, for example,” says Sandgren. “Some anamorphic lenses I’ve tried aren’t so interesting. The Hawks have a nice attitude, without being overly crazy. And they’re really solid to work with.”

            Vantage Film stands behind the Hawk lenses – no small consideration, according to Sandgren. “They are really listening to and supporting the filmmakers,” he says. “They are always asking what we think about new ideas. I love their experimental attitude – they’re always making cool new things like rotating Polarizers and the Bethke Filters. They are the best.”

            Since he finished the Orangina and Cisco commercials, Sandgren shot Joy, another feature with David O. Russell. He is currently filming an anamorphic feature film with director Damien Chazelle titled La La Land. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and it follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress. The format is 35 mm film and the final aspect ratio is CinemaScope 2.55:1.

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