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Cinematographer Frank Mobilio chose to employ the Cooke Look™ with Panchro/i Classic FF lenses for 'Arcadian'

By: The Cooke Team  |   2 min de lecture

‘Arcadian’ is a recently released feature film starring Nicolas Cage with direction from Benjamin Brewer and cinematography by Frank Mobilio. The film is set in the near future on a decimated Earth and follows a father and his twin sons as they fight to survive in a remote farmhouse. The movie merges genre elements of horror-science fiction with family drama; there’s tranquillity during the day but the night brings ferocious creatures which the family must outwit in order to outlive.

Cooke optics spoke with cinematographer Frank Mobilio about his employment of the Cooke Panchro Classic/i FF lenses on the project which was very well received at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival earlier this year.

The director and DP had been friends for a long time before ‘Arcadian’ came their way. Mobilio first met Brewer in 2007 when he was working on a student film that happened to be shooting in the director’s childhood home. Mobilio would go on to study film with Brewer and work on multiple projects with the director, and his brother Alex over the subsequent years. The director had worked with lead Nicholas Cage on 2016 film ‘The Trust’ but ‘Arcadian’ would mark Mobilio’s first feature film and first time working with the charismatic star.

Pre-production and conversations between the duo about building the look focused on the importance of keeping the film grounded, leading to the reference films they studied being wide ranging.

“On the surface, it’s a science fiction/horror apocalypse film, but we wanted to lean into the coming of age / family drama side of the story and for it to look and feel more like that than a big action thriller. We were really interested to try to ground the film’s genre and visual effects heavy content in a world that felt real and found. So we looked at films like Ken Loach’s ‘Kes’ (DP. Chris Menges BSC, ASC), Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Ratcatcher’ (DP. Alwin H. Küchler BSC) and Lars von Trier’s ‘Breaking the Waves’ (DP. Robby Müller, NSC, BVK) for their beautiful, naturalistic lighting and raw, organic camera work. These films all have a certain purity to the photography that feels honest, yet really draws you in.”


For the horror aspect reference was found in a variety of places ranging from M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’ (DP. Takashi Fujimoto, ASC) to online clips filmed in an amateur style in order to guide the blends between real world and CGI elements.

« The more unconventional creature reveals in ‘Signs’ were particularly influential. We aimed to do less jump scares where something is happening loud and fast, in favour of slowing things down and just holding on a shot until you’re weirded out and uncomfortable with what’s happening in front of you. We would also look at YouTube and social media clips – people just filming their friends with their phones, funny animal videos, extreme sports. Ben and VFX supervisor Zak Stoltz were passing around crazy videos of aardvarks and opossums and stuff as a way to communicate how the creature in Arcadian might move and act. These videos are always filmed on a phone and the operating is all over the place and sometimes they’re dropping the phone or putting it in their pocket. We wanted to inject a little bit of that gonzo, in the moment camera work to the film and avoid always shooting things in some kind of epic, heroic way.”

Mobilio recollects that the prep process was very short but very thorough and collaborative across all departments. Director Brewer is a talented and accomplished VFX artist within his own right having previously worked on films such as ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (Dir. The Daniels, DP. Larkin Seiple) as lead VFX Artist. Knowing that ‘Arcadian’ would be a VFX heavy film lots of the prep centred around conversations with the director and VFX supervisor Zak Stoltz in a “very detailed and open” way, both sharing a similar language and knowledgebase in this world which soon led to testing certain elements of the style.

“Because we were aiming to shoot this VFX-heavy film in an unconventional way with a largely handheld camera, we did a fair amount of testing to see what we could and couldn’t get away with, especially when it came to motion capture for the creatures. In the end, [the VFX team] made it possible to shoot most of the film with traditional handheld, but for a few critical VFX heavy shots we would stabilize the camera on a gimbal, Steadicam or tripod and then some “handheld” action would be added in post.”

Mobilio sings the praises of production designer Shane McEnroe and his crew – who came onto the film later than usual resulting in greater time pressure than was ideal to get everything prepped for filming.

“We worked very closely together on the layout of the sets. Because things in ‘Arcadian’ are very different in the day time vs. night, we were very conscious of light sources – ie window placement and height for day interiors, where the fireplace (and thus the primary light source) would be in the room for night interiors etc. The art department provided a myriad of lamps and candles and lanterns for us to use as both props and actual light sources and SFX was bringing in real flames and haze and smoke into every scene to supplement. Shane and team were able to provide extensive layout drawings and 3D renderings that Ben could use to explore and then ultimately extensively pre-vis some of the more complicated scenes which was invaluable to the entire crew.”


Arcadian’ was shot digitally on the Sony VENICE which Mobilio employed due to its suitability for shooting in extremely low light conditions. Two bodies were carried with one kept in RIALTO mode for tight spaces and gimbal work. During dialogue scenes both cameras regularly worked in tandem with director Brewer operating the B-cam. The film was shot on location in Ireland with stage work being carried out at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow. The production shot in late Autumn and the crew had to deal with a variety of weather conditions.

“We were hoping for a lot of overcast skies and fog. Daytime was only from about 8am to 4pm. The first day of the shoot was meant to be a sunrise and we were met with an absolute torrential downpour when we arrived at 6 in the morning. a bad omen maybe, but from then on, things were actually quite mild and there was more sun than any of us had imagined, but it actually worked in favor of the story.”

When it came to the on-set blocking and lighting approach the director and cinematographer were keen to not over engineer the scenes whenever this could be avoided.

“I tried to light (and clear) as many degrees as possible and really let the actors move freely through the set. We’d typically loosely block a scene, but rarely rehearsed so that the camera operation would never get too dialed in. There is a searching feeling to most of the shots like a documentary and I tried to not do the same thing with the camera more than once so we’d have a lot of different kinds of shots that could be cut together in a more documentary sort of fashion.”

“For example, there is a scene early in the film where Thomas is running through the woods and the camera is following him from behind. Thomas jumps over something and continues to run away from the camera, but the camera stays behind and sort of haphazardly tilts down to casually reveal a giant crevice in the ground (which will become an important part of the story later on). This is absolutely not a “found footage” movie by any means, but I think these kinds of shots add a dimension of realism to a film that takes place in a fictional future, in a fictional place, with deadly fictional creatures.

When it came to lens choice Mobilio is no stranger to the lens offerings of Cooke Optics. Over his years of commercials and music videos he’s used S4/i S35, S7/i FF, Panchro/i Classic and various zoom lenses – he even has a prized Cooke Cine Varotal MarkII 25-250mm in his personal collection!

« Cooke lenses always have a classic beauty to them that is natural and not too clinical. I have used Speed Panchros when looking for something a little more expressive, with their more painterly, swirly bokeh. In recent years I’d gravitated toward the S7/i  for commercials on full-frame cameras where I was looking for a lens that would render faces and locations truthfully, but without feeling too sterile. Across the board, Cooke lenses have a nice gentle focus roll off that I really appreciate.”

Frank Mobilio | Director of Photography

After lens testing in pre-production the film settled on the Cooke Panchro/i Classic FF lenses for a variety of creative and practical reasons.

“They have a way of beautifully rendering faces and their accompanying backgrounds. I find the focus roll off to be very natural and the bokeh to be expressive but not over the top or distracting. We were shooting in a lot of candle and fire lit environments and the lenses could handle flames with the right amount of blooming. They were definitely one of the factors that made it possible to shoot a large portion of this film under real, practical fire light. And when a scene called for it, we could get a really beautiful sun flare on day exteriors.”

“They are a full range of remarkably light lenses that I could handhold for the duration of the shoot. The close focus capability greatly aided us in the more tight locations and sets we were shooting in, and the robust housings could stand up to the sometimes difficult Irish weather. We were looking for lenses which could record metadata for use with VFX so that box was checked as well with /i technology.”


The camera and lens package was provided by Vast Valley Ltd in Bray, Ireland. Mobilio recollects that the 27, 32 and 65mm Macro lenses became their go-to choices with the macro capability of the latter making it extremely versatile for closeups and inserts.

“There was a time we were trying to get through a kind of complex scene very quickly to make our day. We ran the scene just a couple times and with the 65mm macro lens on the handheld camera I could get different iterations of closeups and also grab the inserts we needed in rapid fire without cutting and without changing to a tighter lens.”

To oversee the final stages of his images the cinematographer worked with colourist Sean Coleman. Coleman joined the production in prep and helped build a show LUT that was based on references and some test footage. This meant that come the final grade the images were already well aligned with the final look of the film. Mobilio and Coleman focused mainly on what colour the firelight and moonlight should be and how a sunny day exterior should look in a post apocalyptic world.

In summary, Mobilio offers “the crew was absolutely incredible across every department and I have to bring attention to the fantastic work of A camera 1st AC Simon Culliton, B camera 1st AC Joshua Bourke and the rest of the camera department, Gaffer Michael O’Mogain, and Key Grip Darrell Murphy. It was a pleasure to show up each day and work together and go home at night feeling proud with what we’d accomplished together.”

‘Arcadian’ will be released theatrically in North America, UK & Ireland on April 12th 2024 via RLJE Films.