Understanding the Cinematography of Benoit Debie

Benoit Debie is one of the most interesting cinematographers working today, and you either love his look or hate it. I go through some of his cinematography lighting and camera techniques to help you understand his unique style.

Just to be clear: Benoit Debie changes his style to suit the movies he shoots. The goal of this video and article is to drum up enthusiasm and a yearning to learn more.

Warning: I do not claim this knowledge is 100% accurate. Just think of it as an endorsement of his work. If you want accuracy, look someplace else.

Here’s the video illuminating the cinematography style of Benoit Debie:

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How he lights faces

Benoit Debie usually lights in the three-quarters or split lighting style, and his signature look is a side-rim light. He always tries different looks, and backlights his actors in daylight.

Usually, he sticks to a high contrast ratio, and he tries to get deep blacks. With high contrast and deeply saturated colors, his cinematography always makes a strong statement.

About color

For day exteriors, he uses the Varicolor Polarizer (not sure if he uses the Cokin brand) – either the blue-yellow or blue-lime. This creates interesting effects. It changes the color of the sky or bodies of water, and at the same time changes everything else as well.

Since he uses strong colors I’ve noticed he either splits between colors or sticks to one primary color for a shot.

He uses color to set the scene and to create mood.

Camera and format

He uses all kinds of lenses, and even mixes lenses in the same movie. He doesn’t stick to one camera format, though for most of his feature film work he stays with 35mm or 16mm to get the rich colors he loves. He uses digital exclusively for his commercial work.

He prefers the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, though not anamorphic.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If I’ve stoked your interest in Benoit Debie’s work, please watch the movies he shot, and check out his Facebook page and official website.