A pivotal plot point in Martin Scorsese’sKillers of the Flower Moon” is when a house explodes in the middle of the night. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto initially thought the camera would show a house blowing up. So, naturally, he started thinking about visual and special effects. But that was not the case.

“I remember Scorsese saying, ‘No, we don’t need to see the house explode. We’re with the characters,” says Rodrigo who sat down to discuss his Oscar-nominated work for Variety’s In the Frame series. The film marks their fifth collaboration and often the two will go with a gut feeling or throw ideas against a wall to see what sticks.

Set in the 1920s, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone. Weaving a narrative of murder, the story tracks the mysterious deaths within the Osage Nation. To tell the story, Prieto seeped his choices in photography to represent the different groups. “The white settlers were photographed with the emulation of Autochrome, that work was invented by the Lumiere brothers. The Osage were photographed as naturalistic as possible.”

He used ARRI to capture everything he needed – the ARRICAM Lite LT and ARRICAM Studio ST. For lenses, Dan Sasaki, vice president of optical engineering at Panavision helped detune T-series lenses “ever so slightly so that they were a little less sharp and the flares wouldn’t be the characteristic blue flare of anamorphic lenses, they become light flares.”

When it came time to shoot the key scene, rather than go the big action explosion route, Prieto’s camera is in the room, anticipating as Mollie (Lily Gladstone) and Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) are asleep – the audience knows that Ernest has been plotting this earlier in the day. “We know something is brewing,” Prieto says of the decision to have a wide shot, and that adds tension to the moment.

Prieto reveals there was no B-camera to capture the exploding glass which jolts them awake. “I found that refreshing,” he says. However, without that second camera, Prieto recalls holding his breath. While there was concern for the actors, he was worried whether the light flash would happen at the correct moment, “Will it be synchronized? Will the camera be okay?”

The bedroom scene was shot in an airplane hangar in Bartlesville, Okla. with air cannons and sugar glass (breakaway glass typically used during production) flying as the moment happens. Using a Steadicam, Prieto captures the fear and anxiety by circling the characters.

As Ernest goes down the street, it’s a night exterior shot. For that, he lit cranes with lightbulbs. The fire itself with flames strategically placed using gas burners. “I lit the whole place with 20×20 frames with silver lamé. We let it be loose so the grips could move it. That way the grips could move it, and when you’re bouncing a light into it with a gel, the reflection is kinetic, like fire.” He adds, “We had a few grips moving the silver and that created this warm light representing fire. The whole scene has this hellish orange look to it.”

When Ernest returns home, he finds his wife and children in the cellar hiding. The scene wasn’t originally set up that way. Scorsese had asked for Gladstone’s input and when she had told him, she’d be hiding in a cellar, the scene needed to be completely reworked. He says, “We redesigned the shot to go through the living room, pan into the kitchen, and through the opening of the door and finding her on the bottom with everyone else.

He adds the moment became a powerful moment because now, the camera is moving, but “because there are microphones down there, you’re hearing the kids crying.” When Gladstone screams, Prieto says, “My whole body felt it to my core. As a cinematographer, you’re thinking of all these technical aspects and creative aspects of how to make the perspective work, the lighting, the atmosphere, the mood and you’re thinking of all these things, and then the shot happens and the emotion explodes.”

Watch the video above.