focus on film
Canal+ focuses on
French channel Canal+ is a major player in television
broadcasting and the distribution of paid television
programming. A pioneer of new television methods and a
precursor to satellite high definition format in France, it has
enriched the quality of French television movies and series by
favouring 35mm 2-perf. Under the direction of head of drama,
Fabrice de la Patellière, Canal+’s ground-breaking endeavours
represent a small revolution in this field.
InCamera talked to Fabrice de la Patellière about his
experiences with 35mm 2-perf.
Q Fabrice, in terms of programming quality, how would you
define the policy of Canal+?
A We want to go beyond traditional French drama and achieve
cinema-quality work. In the last five years we have produced
movies and series, but we have also been developing
a ‘different’ form of television: one that demonstrates
ambitions normally reserved for cinema. However, I speak
with some caution as there have been some awesome
achievements in cinema films, but certain aspects are not
so good. Cinema is not intrinsically superior to television; it
is merely different. Nevertheless, a minor cultural revolution
is necessary to rid television of its poor image, especially
amongst film crews that shoot their own cinema films, or
work for both television and cinema. It is very important to
communicate our desire and enthusiasm for a new kind of
Q Why did Canal+ start using 35mm 2-perf?
A Right from the development phase of the first Canal+
series, we discussed lighting with the DPs and directors.
We wanted to put an end to what has long been called
‘the television image’, i.e. an image which is rather flat and
uniformly lit, with compulsory sharpness throughout. It
produced a result lacking a personal, artistic touch and was
emotionally unrealistic for the audience. This generic image
corresponded to the standard television code of the time
(which has since evolved slightly). A lack of resources in
television production meant that the image was neglected,
lighting was limited and photography was considered a
minor element. We decided to change that by proposing
a very different environment. Now, as soon as we begin a
production, we talk to the DP about his or her intentions
and visual references, so that we can anticipate the final
look. It is very important for us to create a beautiful and
coherent visual universe; one that is different from the
casual television look and feel. DPs are delighted with this
form of interaction, which is so unusual amongst television
broadcasters. We tell them: ‘Work in a way that is generally
forbidden on television. Don’t be afraid to use back-lighting,
deep shadows, contrast and depth of field. Use the full range
of visual grammar to breathe a cinematic dimension into
television!’ In this quality-focussed perspective, the role of
film capture becomes formidable and unrivalled.
Q Has Canal+ abandoned Super 16 format?
A When well implemented and well lit, Super 16 gives
magnificent results. We still use this format, but we want
to go further. When we started five years ago, 35mm was a
dream – essentially for economic reasons. Today, thanks to
the efforts of the laboratories and the arrival on the market
of 35mm 2-perf, it has become a viable alternative, even
though it is still somewhat expensive. A real film look adds
so much to the attractiveness of television shows that the
cost can be justified. Another reason for wanting to work
with 35mm 2-perf and HD, which together represent
the future of television, is that audiences – and in
particular our own Canal+ subscribers – have become
accustomed to watching cinema films. Whether
good or bad, they possess an excellent image
quality. It was therefore necessary for 35mm
2-perf to become an affordable option for
television drama. The focal lengths used on
35mm cameras tailor our perception of
the visual image as well as the depth of
field, the actors and the frame. Today
everyone is impressed and even
amazed by what can be achieved
with 35mm 2-perf. The Braquo
and Pigalle, la nuit series are the
latest examples. Professionals
can probably better discern
the difference, but viewers
sense it and realise
they are not watching
The more we
advance, the more
we are riding the
tide of history.
Q So how do you decide
which format to use?
A Initially television
adopted a square
format, but today
16:9 television sets
are standard. This
allows us to shoot
mainly in 1.77
or 1.85 format
of our shows.
is a unique
case. It was
shot in 2.35
and will be broadcast
in France as three 90-minute
programmes, together with an international feature-film
cut. Black strips will be visible on the top and bottom of
the screen, because Canal+ never re-frames any films
it broadcasts. Our policy is to respect the original
Canal Plus.indd 1 5/1/10 13:22:37
Q Does the use of 35mm 2-perf facilitate the export of television
movies and series?
A Production quality and visual image are crucial to the
market and can only help to sell more programmes.
Q Do you think that the use of 35mm 2-perf in
television induces different on-set behaviour?
A Compared to digital – certainly! There is
no question that the presence of a 35mm
camera generates additional respect. Even
the actors value it. The care we take with
our series and the resources we allocate
(which are well above normal television
production standards) create a unique
and gratifying atmosphere; one that
raises everyone’s energy level. It is
encouraging to see a happy team
that is proud to work in such
focus on film 23
Q Do you think that the use of 35mm 2-perf on television will
attract film crews to work on television projects?
A When I first started in this field, many producers and film
directors politely stated that television drama might interest
them one day if it offered what cinema couldn’t deliver. In
other words, they felt that television still had to prove its
worth. Today, that gap has narrowed considerably. Inevitably,
some directors and producers remain disinterested in
television, but more and more are becoming excited by it
– especially the idea of a series that would enable them to
develop stories and characters over a period of time; a luxury
that cinema does not permit. Moreover, with 35mm 2-perf
we guarantee them the reassurance of working with their
regular teams to shoot television productions that are of
equal worth to cinema films.
Q In this regard, Canal+ has always been a pioneer...
A It’s our trademark. There would be no reason to pay
to subscribe to television that is similar to regular, free
television. Since his arrival at Canal+, director-general
Rodolphe Belmer has put all his efforts into making Canal+
as exceptional as possible.
Q So Canal+ is leading the way for other private channels, as
well as the French public channels...
A That’s what the many producers we have worked with have
been telling us, and it’s true – we have raised the bar very
high. Our goal is to create a unique channel and continue
to develop television quality, both technically and
The Canal+ Group employs 4,500 people and has
in excess of 10.5 million subscribers.
1 A scene from the French TV drama Pigalle 2 Fabrice de la Patellière
3 A scene from French TV drama Braquo
Canal Plus.indd 2 5/1/10 13:22:44