William Rexer on HUNTERS with Louma2, RED MONSTRO 8K VV, SIGMA FF HS Primes

“HUNTERS, Rexer, SIGMA, RED” almost sounds like the incantation from Fellini’s 8½: “Asa, Nisi, Masa.” 

If you are binge-watching at home, here is a background interview with William Rexer, one of the cinematographers on HUNTERS. There is technical information on his use of SIGMA Full Frame High Speed Primes — one of the first shows on which they were used. The episodes were shot with RED MONSTRO 8K VV cameras.

HUNTERS is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. In case you haven’t seen the show: “Inspired by true events, HUNTERS follows a rag-tag team of Nazi Hunters in 1977 New York City who discover that hundreds of escaped Nazis are living in America. They set out on a quest for revenge and justice as they  discover a far-reaching conspiracy and must race against time.”

Jon Fauer: How long were you working on HUNTERS?

William Rexer: There are 10 episodes and they averaged about 12 days per episode. Fred Elmes shot the pilot.  He started slightly before we began the series. Due to scheduling issues, we were all working at the same time.  Essentially, we were completing episode eight as the pilot was finishing production. It wasn’t like a traditional show where the pilot was done first, analyzed as to what worked and didn’t work, and then the individual episodes began. Instead, it was all happening at once. Most of HUNTERS was shot in the New York area. Ten days were done in Budapest. We finished shooting last March.

Were there different directors?

There were six directors: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Wayne Yip, Millicent Shelton, Michael Uppendahl, Nelson McCormick, Dennie Gordon. And three DPs: Fred Elmes, Tim Norman and myself. I did most of the work on five episodes and some of the work on the others. Tim shot four episodes and he and I worked closely together, planning, talking about our scenes and discussing dailies.

Who established the look to maintain continuity throughout?

It was interesting. While Fred and Alfonso were doing the pilot, we were prepping episodes two and three at that same time. David Weil, the creator, wanted Wayne Yip and me to come up with our own look independently.  Our producing director, Nelson McCormick and co-show runner, Nikki Tuscano, pushed Wayne and me to expand the look and our references.

I wanted to respect what Fred and Alfonso were doing. I did look at their dailies, but at the same time, David Weil wanted us to embrace more of the comic book elements. We were given license to go our own way and to create a new look for the show starting with episode two. Fred and Alfonso pretty much live on two lenses: a 40 mm and a 50 mm throughout. On the other hand, we mixed it up using a wider selection of lenses and  more wide lenses. We were not afraid to introduce 14mm and 20mm.  We found ourselves on the 28mm more often than not.

Why do you say comic book style?

It was not based on a comic book. David grew up hearing stories from his grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor. As a little kid, the only ways he could understand these horrific stories were in terms of comic books because he was a comic nerd and saw it in abstract images of good versus evil. He said, “When I heard those stories, that was the only way I could make sense of them.”

That was the direction he wanted us to go in. It was a delicate dance, but we definitely used some of that language of superheroes opposing evil. We looked at Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN and Marvel action hero films.

To establish the look, I gathered reference material for every scene and had conversations with the director. On episode two and three, Wayne Yip and I sat down with David Weil and Nikki Toscano presented how and where we were were going to take it.

HUNTERS takes place in 1977 with flashbacks to the 1940s. The present day, 1977, has a bit more contrast. I slightly desaturated skin tones and added some cyan into the shadow areas and it’s on the edge of being noir. When we go into the 1940s, there are black and white elements as well. Probably our biggest reference for that was Spielberg’s MUNICH.

Explain the lighting style.

The lighting style is exaggerated naturalism. All the lighting is justified in terms of sources, but at the same time, heightened. The saturation and colors are slightly over the top, but not too far. The camera work is “active participant” meets exaggerated action thriller. We wanted to make sure that the audience was going for a ride with us.  I wanted to make sure that the audience experienced the scene as a participant.

It reminded me a little of Kodachrome. 

Yes. It leans slightly towards Kodachrome. For the most part, I was thinking of a 5248 film stock look where the blacks were truly black. The reds have a particular color. Of course, the reenactments in Auschwitz are a different story. We created three in-camera LUTs for the show: two for the recreations and one LUT that was consistent all the way through for the 5248 type of look.

How did you handle the grading?

Joe Finley, our colorist, was in LA. I did a lot of the initial grading remotely from Tribeca, NY, live, in real time. Then I went out to LA for a week and sat down with him. We graded with DaVinci Resolve.  I always fight to get into the room with the colorist; so much happens in the final grade.


We shot RED MONSTRO 8K VV cameras. It was finished 4K HDR. On the technical side, that’s the one thing we’re all still working on: we really are not viewing HDR on set. We’re viewing standard Definition.  On set, I’ll switch back and forth between the Log and LUT image to try to judge what I’m going to have in the land of HDR. I look forward to the day where I can actually view what we’re really doing.

Could you not have used HDR monitors on set?

Production finds them too expensive. It’s tricky when you have all the producers and directors on set. I try my best to get matching monitors across the board so that everybody’s looking at the same thing. I try to have six good monitors that have been taken to the facility and balanced for a consistent image. At the moment, few of us can afford that.

Hopefully that will change. Where did the camera package on HUNTERS come from?

Panavision equipped the whole show. As mentioned, I had RED MONSTRO 8K cameras and SIGMA Full Frame High Speed Primes. The cameras on the pilot show came out of ARRI Rental because Fred has a relationship there. He used ALEXA LF with Cooke S7/i lenses, and ALEXA Mini for his work on specialty rigs.

What influenced your choice of SIGMA primes?

I like the look of the SIGMAs. Also, we did a lot of gimbal work. The SIGMA lenses are not only beautiful but they are also some of the lightest and smallest lenses out there, which is helpful for gimbal work.  I love those lenses. I think the Cooke S7 primes are gorgeous too, but I’m doing too much gimbal work.

Getting back to the lenses, yours is one of the first major productions to use the SIGMAs. They were on TOP GUN and SILENCE OF THE TIDES. But HUNTERS is the first episodic show I’ve heard about. Please tell us more.

I love the size, the quality and the build has been fantastic. Since they were relatively untried, I didn’t know how they would hold up — and they held up beautifully. Their look is somewhere between Cooke and the ARRI/ZEISS Master Prime. They really have their own style. They have very nice contrast, excellent resolution and there is a slight fall off on the edges, sort of the way Cookes do. (This may be because the SIGMAs have a stated image diagonal of 43.3mm for Full Frame format, but the RED MONSTRO 8K VV has an image circle of 46.31mm. Therefore, SIGMA’s Illumination Circle covers the RED MONSTRO, albeit with slight shading and slightly decreased resolution around the edges.)

In Full Frame, you get an ever-so-slight fall off. I’m constantly putting a slight vignette on all my images anyway, very often by cutting ND gel and putting that in front of the lens. So I’m very happy to have this naturally with the SIGMAs. I like them so much that for HALSTON, I’m using the SIGMA FF High Speed Cine Primes again. I also have a new set of SIGMA Classics for some nighttime scenes where I want it to be flared and have a unique look. They’re gorgeous.

On the SIGMA Classics, I appreciate how the skin tones look so beautiful. They’re not clinical. They feel like an older style lens. I was an ARRI/ZEISS Master Prime person for so long and now in this Full Frame world, I’m using both series of the SIGMA Full Frame lenses: both the regular High Speed set and the Classics. I like the blacks, I like the flares and at the same time, the resolution.

For the Classics, they re-coated just some of the elements—not all of them. You’ll find that their speeds vary because of some of them have just a couple of uncoated elements while others have more. They flare in a really beautiful way. They’re not a lens that you could use for everything because if you shoot against a bright window there may be too much halation. But in the right environment, and the right lighting, they are gorgeous. For HALSTON, I was shooting a Liza Minnelli scene with her performing and we had some old Fresnels in the background, just in frame, and the flares are just stunning.

I think you were one of the first people who got the SIGMAs. They were barely out of the factory?

They told me they’d have them in December and I said I really, really would like them for this show. And so SIGMA made it happen. I even bought a set.

Who does service on your SIGMA primes?

I’ve sent mine to Duclos twice for general maintenance in between jobs, which I do with any of my lenses.

Do you find any differences when shooting Full Frame versus Super35?

We shot with 5:1 REDCODE compression. As for filters, we were using diffusion all the time. I used something that Fred Elmes introduced on the pilot. He had a wedding veil in front of the lens. It wasn’t behind the lens diffusion but rather a stretched front diffusion net.

There are some daytime exterior scenes where we used the Angenieux 25-250 HR zoom lens with a 1.6x Tokina expander to make it cover Full Frame. With that setup, we wouldn’t use any diffusion because it already had a nice, softer contrast look to begin with.

Moving back to the RED MONSTRO cameras, tell us more.

I use the RED MOSNTRO cameras for many reasons. One, I like the fact that we have the resolution to work with. Resolution does matter. Two, I like the form factor and the size for doing a lot of the gimbal work. Three, RED has been a really great camera and I also love its look.

Aspect ratio?

HUNTERS was shot in a 16:9 Full Frame aspect ratio. HALSTON, for Netflix, is 2.39:1. Both shows were done with SIGMA High Speed Primes and RED MONSTRO 8K VV.

 How did you get into film?

I grew up in Huntington, Long Island. I went to boarding school in Pennsylvania,  The Hill School. After that, it was Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. One of my mentors, like you, was film professor, film critic and screenwriter Maurice Rapf, also a Dartmouth alumnus and co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild.

My mother had a theater company and my father was a theatrical producer. My first job in the business was probably cutting off the asbestos leads on Fresnel lights and putting in proper wiring. My dad produced and promoted shows in the 1970s. At age 16, I was running carbon arc follow spots on performers like Cab Calloway, the Spinners and Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Filmmaking wasn’t something I considered. I was I going to go be a doctor, but I loved lighting. At The Hill School I did all the plays, all the lighting design. Then I got to Dartmouth, shot many student films, but I was studying neuropsychology and thought that was where I was going to end up.

Then Maury (Maurice Rapf) got my attention, and the rest is history. Actually, as a little kid, my father would go to the New York City Public Library and bring home Keaton, Chaplin and art movies. We would project them in 16mm in our living room. So, at Dartmouth I was taking film classes because it was something with which I was interested and familiar.

Then because I knew something about lighting, the students in acting classes would ask me to shoot things and there was Maury with that crazy Super 8mm Steenbeck that was broken all the time. I was kind of handy, so I could fix it. He noticed and said, “If you can fix this thing, do you want a job here in the camera room to help maintain all our gear?” I said, “Sure.”

Then I returned to New York, worked as a camera assistant and then a cinematographer.

Congratulations on a beautiful job on HUNTERS.

Thanks.  I also want to thank my team.  I owe so much on this show to my them:  my gaffer, Scott Ramsey, and key grip, Gary Martone, my entire camera team.  I ask so much of them all.  Working in Full-Frame and with fast lenses, the camera team has to give it there all.



William’s equipment list from HUNTERS.

We have posted this a few months ago but here it is again. 

DP: William Rexer & Tim Norman
Camera Operators: Alan Mehlbrech & Mathew Peblar
ACs: Michael Burke & Michael Guthrie, Steve McBride & Vince Truths



3x Red Monstro 8K VV
3x Red DSMC 2 Red EVF
3x Red DSMC 2 Lemo Adaptor A
3x DSMC 2 Base Expander
3x DSMC 2 Gold Mount Battery Module
3x Wooden Camera Right Side Plate Red DSMC2
3x Wooden Camera Easy Riser Red DSMC 2
3x Wooden Camera AIR EVF Mount Red DSMC 2
3x Wooden Camera LW 15mm Bracket Red DSMC 2
3x DSMC VV AL PL Mount 2.0
3x DSMC2 Tactical Top Plate
3x DSMC2 Top Handle
3x 7” Red Monitors w/Noga Arms
3x 5” Red Monitors w/Noga Arms
3x Arri BP-8 19mm Studio Universal Plate
3x 12” Arri Sliding Base Dove Tale Plates
6x Red EVF Cables Flexible from Off Hollywood
6x Red Power Cables 4-Pin to Red Lemo Power Adaptor
6x 8’ 4-Pin 12 V Power Cables
3x Media Black Out 2-Pin Splitter Boxes
12x Cine Locks

1x Panasonic EVA-1w/Arri Cage & Canon EF & PL Mount Adaptors & Shogun Inferno Monitor
2x Panasonic GH5s w/Movcam Cage and Meta Bones EF and PL Adaptors


2x Sigma PL Mount Prime Lenses 14, 20, 24, 28, 35, 40, 50, 85, 105, 135
1x Sigma EF Mount Prime Lenses 14, 20, 24, 28, 35, 40, 50, 85, 105, 135
2x Leica 180mm Lenses
1x Nikon 58mm 1.2 Zero Optek Lens
2x Nikon 200mm T 2.0
1x Nikon 300mm T2.8
1x Angenieux 25-250 HR
1x Angenieux 28-76mm T 2.8
1x Zeiss Compact Zoom 14.5-45
1x Zeiss Compact Zoom 70-200
1x 12mm FF Lens
1x Medium format Zeiss Jena uncoated 300mm, 180mm, 120mm, Funky 55mm, Funky 35mm
1x Lens Baby System
1x 1.4 Extender,
1x 2x Extender Duclos
2x 1.6 Extender Tokina
1x Leica Macro Lux Diopter .5
1x Leica Macro Lux Diopter 1
1x DXLF View Finder Pl Mount 8KHD 16:9 Framelines


20x 480 Gig Red Mini SSD Cards
3x RED Station Red Mini-Mag USB 3.1 SSD Card Readers
5x 480 Gig SSD Red Mini Mags
8x 128 Gig Sony Tough SD Cards


1x Flanders Scientific DM250 OLED Reference Monitor


1x 4×5 Arri LMB 4×5 Pro Set Matte Boxes w/All Accessories
1x Arri SMB-1 6×6 Matte Box w/All Accessories
2x 4×5 Panavision Modular Matte Boxes w/All Accessories
1x 4×5 Arri LMB 4×5 Pro Set Matte Boxes w/All Accessories
1x LMB-6 6×6 Clip-On Matte Box w/All Accessories


1x Each 4×5 Filters True NDS 3,6,9,1.2,1.5,1.8,2.1, 2.4
2x 4×5 Filters 85
1x Each 4×5 Filters True Net Black 1, True Net Grey 1, Black Satin ½,  Black Glimmer Combo Diffusion, Radiant Soft ½ , 1 , 2, Warm Classic Soft 1/4, Warm Classic Soft 1/8
1x Each 6×6 Filters Mitomo True NDS, 3,6,9,1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.1, Rota Polarizer, True Pola, Clear, SEG 3, 6, 9, HEG 3, 6, 9, 85 Filter, ½ Black Satin
2x Each Sets of 85NDs
2x Panavision Net Diffusion Sets
1x 4×5 Rota Polarizer
2x Each 4×5 True Pola, Clear
2x 138mm Polas
1x Each 4×5 Filters Mitomo True NDS 3,6,9,1.2,1.5,1.8,2.1,
1x 4×5 Rota Polarizer
1x Each 4×5 Filters True Net Black 1, True Net Grey 1, Black Satin ½, Radiant Soft ½ , 1 , 2, Warm Classic Soft 1/4, Soft Net 1, Soft Net 2, Black Magic 1/4
1x Tiffen Variable ND

1x Panavision Geared Head
1x Hi-Hat
1x Lo-Hat
1x Spider Grips
2x OConnor Head 2575D
1x Cartoni Lambda Head
1x O’Connor 100
1x Tango Head II
1x Standard Legs
1x Baby Legs
1x Hi-Hats
1x Lo-Hats
1x Spider Grips
3x Holzer Shoulder Pad
1x Easy Rig Cinema Vario 5
1x Cinesaddle
1x Matthews Rocker Plate
1x Rolling Spreaders
1x Sneaker Butt Dolly Complete Set
1x Cinemilled Fig Rig
1x OConnor Head 2575D
1x OConnor 100
1x Weaver Steadman
1x Ronford Standard Legs
1x Ronford Baby Legs
1x Easy Rig Cinema Vario 5
1x Tiffen Steadimate
1x Large Cinesaddle
1x Small  Cinesaddle
1x Betz Wave


2x Preston FIZ MDR 3 w/ Single Channel  (Each Kit w/ 3x Heden Motors)
2x Preston Light Ranger 2 w/ All AKS
2x Cinematography electronics CineTape
2x Focus Bugs
2x Denecke SB-T Time Code Sync Boxes
1x Cine-Tape
3x Panavision Top Handle Complete Set
3x Panavision Red Monstro Back
3x Panavision Red EVF Mounts
3x Panavision General Hot Swap Gold Mount Pass Through Backs w/ 4 Pin 12 V Hot Swappable Power
3x Each Sliding Base Dove Tail Plates 12” & 18”
3x Panavision RBQ Plates
3x Sets of 19mm Rods: 9”, 12”, 18”, 24”
3x Sets of 15mm Rods: 3”, 4”,  6”,  9”


16x Anton Bauer 14.4/28V VCLX Block Batteries w/ 6x VCLX Chargers
16x Switronix 150 WH Batteries Gold Mount
w/ 4x Quad Simultaneous Chargers
3x V-Mount to Gold Mount Adaptors
3x Gold Mount to V-Mount Adaptors
3x Gold Mount to 4-Pin Power Adaptors
1x Battery Belt
16x Switronix Nano 98 WH Batteries
w/2x Quad Chargers
1x Battery Belt
3x Hot Swap Adaptors
10x Canon LP-6 Batteries w/ 2x Chargers
10x Sony L Series Batteries w/ 2x Dual Chargers


1x Teradek Link Pro
1x Teradek Bolt 3000 XT Complete Set w/ 1 Tx & 2 Rx
1x Teradek 10K Receiver
1x Small HD 703 Bolt Wireless Monitor
1x Focus Bolt Sidekick
1x Small HD 1303 Monitor
1x Small HD 503 High Bright Monitor
1x Small HD 702 High Bright Black Monitor
2x Sony 17” PVMA OLEDs w/ AB Backs
1x Breakaway Video Cart
1x Teradek Bolt 3000 XT Complete Set w/ 1 Tx & 2 Rx
1x Teradek 10K Receiver
1x Small HD 703 Bolt Wireless Monitors
1x Small HD 1303 Monitor
1x Small HD 503 High Bright Monitor
1x Arri 5” Transvideo Monitor
1x Small HD 702 Monitor
10x 3’ BNC s
10x 10’ BNCs
10x 25’ BNCs
10x 50’ BNCs
10x 50’ BNC 3-Wire SNAKES
10x BNC Barrels
2x AJA Video DAs w/ AB Power Cables
1x Panavision Quad Box w/ 4 Way Switcher
8x 8 Foot 4-Pin XLR 12V Power Cables
4x Rolling Monitor Stands





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