Surviving the Night

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Wed, 08/10/2016 - 09:57 -- Nick Dager

Luke Sauer on location for Lasso.When Luke Sauer, veteran director of photography of reality television production, including Wives with Knives and I (Almost) Got Away with It, was selected to shoot the Lasso he knew it would involve a lot of night shoots. Lasso, a survive the night thriller directed by Evan Cecil, centers around senior community center workers Kit (Lindsey Morgan) and Simon (Andrew Jacobs), whose lives are turned upside when they find themselves fighting to stay alive against a group of bloodthirsty cowboys from the local rodeo. Lasso is his first feature project. Currently in post-production, the film is slated for an early 2017 release.

The movie was shot on location this spring on farm and ranch lands in northern California; the production rented a pair of VariCam 35s from Alternative Rentals in Los Angeles, California.

Sauer is an experienced Panasonic camera shooter, having worked with previous generations of Panasonic HD camcorders, notably the AJ-HDX900 and original tape-based VariCam, which he praised for its “color representation and overall image.”

“I was intrigued by the VariCam 35’s native 5000 ISO, specifically because we would do roughly 85 percent of our shooting after dark,” Sauer said. “Our schedule was very ambitious, and we would be shooting at night in woods, old barns and abandoned buildings: I wanted the confidence of having extra sensitivity at my disposal.”

“When I looked at the VariCam 35, the sensor technology seemed so much more advanced than other options; that in combination with the extreme low-light capability sold me,” he continued.

Sauer, who operated the A camera, shot in 4K AVC-Intra 4:4:4. Most of the shooting was done in ISO5000 rated at 2000-2500. Low-res HD proxies were captured in the sub-recorder, and used as rough cuts for dailies. The cameras were outfitted with a full complement of Leica Summicron prime lenses.

“Overall, there was a very easy learning curve for me and our first AC: the ergonomics and layout of menus were all quite intuitive,” Sauer said. “The camera is well-balanced for handheld use—it never felt front-heavy.”

“We were especially impressed with the VariCam 35’s ability to handle mixed color temperatures: the natural representation of light was aesthetically very pleasing,” he added.

For more information about the DP, visit