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From ‘Black Mirror’ to ‘Westworld,’ Here Are the Cameras That Shot The Year’s Best TV Shows

Emmy-nominated cinematographers tell us how they chose the cameras and lenses that created the look.

Emmy nominated DP Reed Morano shooting "Divorce"

Emmy nominated DP Reed Morano shooting “Divorce”

Macall B. Polay.HBO

Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie

The nominees for outstanding cinematography in this category are Yves Bélanger (“Big Little Lies”), Seamus McGarvey (“Black Mirror: Nosedive”), Dana Gonzales (“Fargo”), Fred Elmes (“The Night Of”) and Luca Bigazzi (“The Young Pope”).

Last Year’s Winner: Dana Gonzales for “Fargo”

“Big Little Lies”

DP Yves Bélanger with director Jean-Marc Vallee on the set “Big Little Lies”

DP Yves Bélanger with director Jean-Marc Vallee on the set “Big Little Lies”

HBO

Camera: Arri Alexa XT
Lens: Zeiss superspeed T1.3

DP Yves Bélanger: “‘Big Little Lies’ is a single-camera show – even for stunts or action scenes – and we used the Alexa XT and shot RAW. I used a Pola filter every time I could ‘afford’ it exposure-wise – even on brighter night scenes – and then ND filters when necessary.

For conceptual artistic reasons, we shot entirely handheld and only with available light, which means without adding any artificial lights or reflectors, so the Alexa was the best tool for the show. First, latitude in the exposure allows me to under and overexpose part of the frame and bring back details in the color grade. This camera sees life like the human eye and the skin tones are always great, especially when you don’t use lights. Since I operate, I can play with the menu without leaving the viewfinder because all the settings can be operated there and I can change them even in the middle of a take. Finally, the Alexa is just big and heavy enough to stay very stable when shooting handheld.

I used the Zeiss lenses because I love their old look; they open at 1.3, which is useful when you shoot available light – I always used them at 1.7. They also have a secret quality that is very useful for the way we shoot. Because I don’t add any lights to ‘even’ the exposure, and because director Jean-Marc Vallée loves to do all the different angles of a scene in one take, I have to change the exposure constantly. I always do it myself while operating, rather than assistant doing it with a remote control. The old Zeiss lenses make it easier for me because the exposure ring is at the beginning of the front of the lens, just beside my right hand, so my finger can quickly and easily change the T-stop.”

“Black Mirror: Nosedive”

"Black Mirror: DP Seamus McGarvey

“Black Mirror: DP Seamus McGarvey

Dale Robinette

Camera: Sony F55
Lens: Primo spherical lenses supplied by Panavision

DP Seamus McGarvey: “This was the first time I shot with this camera. Netflix insist on their films being shot at 4K minimum, so I was unable to shoot with my Alexa XT and Alexa mini. The look we were going for on the film was a low-contrast, sickly, pastel wash with a ripeness verging on the rotten! This look eventually progresses into a higher contrast, desaturated feel for the end of the film.”

“Fargo”

FARGO -- “Aporia” – Year 3, Episode 9 (Airs June 14, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle. CR: Chris Large/FX

“Fargo” Season 3

Chris Large/FX

Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Leica Summilux-C Lenses

DP Dana Gonzales: “Every season on ‘Fargo,’ we change the story, characters, look, and tone. For season 3, we paid homage to the Coen Bros film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’ We eliminated the blue spectrum from the image and designed all the production design and wardrobe to work with this look. The Alexa Mini let us shoot in the ArriRaw format, which was imperative to be able to change the color temperature in post. This was the best way for us to match the fast-changing natural light of the day exteriors in Alberta, Canada. I love the form factor of the camera, and also am a huge fan of the internal ND filters that make my style of photography painless.”

“The Night Of”

Riz Ahmed in "The Night Of"

Riz Ahmed in “The Night Of”

Craig Blakenhorn/HBO

Camera: Arri Alexa XT
Lens: Leica Summilux and Summicron lenses, ProRez 4444 recording format

DP Fred Elmes: “‘The Night Of’ takes place in a dark, cold world. Even when the sun is shining you feel the night may soon overtake it. The combination of Leica lenses and Arriflex cameras allowed me to control the mood and contrast sufficiently to help create this world. Creator Steven Zaillian and I spoke about diving deeper and making the later episodes darker and more nuanced than the beginning of the story. I accomplished this by pushing the limits of the equipment and relying on the support of Company 3 [colorists] to maintain the feel of my lighting through the color correction process. The final result should be shared by the art department and crew who helped made it happen.”

“The Young Pope”

"The Young Pope" Jude Law

“The Young Pope”

Gianni Fiorito/HBO

Camera: Red Weapon
Lens: Leica Summicron lenses. Canon zooms.

DP Luca Bigazzi: “With [creator] Paolo Sorrentino, we immediately said that we wanted to make a series that should have been like a movie, both in terms of shots and the visual look. So there was no fear of using wide shots and having a great deal of contrast. Some sequences were very bright and obscure, mysterious and solar as the Vatican setting requires.

The choice of using the Red was based on its versatility and its small size. For example, the ability to shoot with two exposures — one for highlights and one for shadows — offered by the HDR system, turned out to be crucial. I have always thought that the indiscriminate increase in latitude of exposure is a suicidal choice for digital. The HDR system allows me to choose to limit the contrast when needed, and observe the darkness when the scene allows it. Summicron lenses have a three-dimensionality and a softness we tried to accentuate by using the pro mist filter for the entire duration of the film. Canon’s zoom quality is such that it made it possible to use them as an alternative when the need to shoot quickly was inevitable.”

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