Classical influences, today’s technology
How did you settle on a visual style for the series? How did Dolby Vision HDR help you achieve that?
CR: I’d never worked with the director Philip Koch before. I was given the script and immediately thought of The Revenant. I mentioned this to the director and hit the bullseye. He’d been thinking exactly the same thing. So I watched that film 20 times, alongside others like Children of Men and Blade Runner. The latter was another film we really wanted to emulate. HDR gave us the confidence that we could get that movie’s contrasts and clarity, as well as the depths of the murkiness.
One of the primary ideas we took from The Revenant was the consistent wideangle view. I shot mostly on an ARRI Alexa 65 with the big 65mm sensor size, one of the biggest you can get. We tried 25 different lenses and lens sets but everyone fell in love with the old ARRI Prime 28mm, which was used on 80% of the show. It wasn’t so much a single camera show – it was a single lens show.
We used SDR monitors on set. HDR monitoring isn’t really practical yet because of costs and lack of standardisation, both of which will be better in the future. But that’s OK. Stephan had an HDR monitor in the trailer for checking and I lit the set exactly as I would for film. I rated the camera for 400 ASA, over-exposed a stop, used my old light meter, and printed a stop down. If it looked OK on SDR, I knew that HDR with all its extra headroom would take care of itself. We tested the whole pipeline, so I was confident it would work. It did.