IndieWire reached out to this year’s nominees for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour), Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), and Limited Series or Movie, and asked them which cameras and lenses they used — but even more important: Why were these the right tools to create the look of their series? The nominees answers are below, organized by Emmy category and in alphabetical order by series title.
Nominated Episode: “Know Yourself”
Format: ProRes Log-C
Camera: Arri Minis
Lens: Leica SummiLux-C’s
Mark Doering-Powell: “Grown-ish” follows Zoey (Yara Shahidi) navigating her college years with a new group of friends. We learn their hopes, dreams, and challenges along the way, while exploring serious topics that one encounters in life and school. The strength of this series is our characters tackling these hard conversations, head on. We frame this in what we call our “aspirational” look, but we play to story. For example, one act ending had Zoey in a tiny prison cell, and it’s hauntingly sad for the brief moment we could show it. We have many such moments to deliver. The Arri Mini and Leica Summis are the perfect choice for the creamy, cinematic look. It’s also a camera that can easily be rigged for use in tight spaces or on a gimbal. That form factor also makes it steadicam friendly and allows us to move through sets with our ensemble cast.
Nominated Episode: “Primm”
Format: REDCODE RAW 8K
Camera: Panavision Millennium DXL2
Lens: Panavision Primo 70
Adam Bricker: “Hacks” explores the generational divide between two female comedians: Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), a Las Vegas stand-up comedy legend in the twilight of her career, and Ava (Hannah Einbinder), an up-and-coming comedy writer making a name for herself on Twitter. Director Lucia Aniello and I were drawn to images with a vintage feel, reminiscent of Deborah’s heyday, but simultaneously wanted the series to feel contemporary, reflective of the world Ava inhabits as well. We sought to find a mix of these two sensibilities in our visuals.
Our approach to lensing mirrored that confluence of vintage and contemporary in the story. With “Judy” and “Behind the Candelabra” as our reference points, I turned to Guy McVicker at Panavision to customize the optics on a set of modern Primo 70s. Rather than shoot on vintage glass, which can be cumbersome and impractical on a tight television production schedule, Guy was able to tweak the internals on the lenses to emulate the characteristics of those touchstone films, softening highlights, adding bloom, and warming the flares.
We captured in 8K resolution on the Panavision DXL2. I’ve loved shooting on RED ever since I graduated from film school and raised funds with my best friends to invest in a RED ONE, so I knew I would feel at home shooting on the DXL2’s RED MONSTRO sensor. Capturing the vintage characteristics of the glass in a modern ultra-high-resolution format created a timeless quality that helped us strike a balance in the show’s visual language.
“Made for Love”
Nominated Episode: “User One”
Format: 2.39:1 Anamorphic wide screen, ProRes 4:4:4 XQ
Camera: Alexa Mini 3.2K (primary), Sony a7iii S-Log 2 to Atomos Shogun
Lens: Arri Master Anamorphics (flare module on 75, 100, 135mm) with additional shots on Sigma Cine T1.5’s, Angienieux Optimo Anamorphic 48-580, and Nikkor primes for the a7s.
Nathaniel Goodman: Executive Producer S.J. Clarkson and I were really excited to shoot “Made For Love” in 2:39 anamorphic, though we knew it might be a tough sell to HBO Max since it was considered a half-hour comedy and unusual formats for such shows are rare, if not non-existent. But this format really lends itself to comedy, especially the kind of physical comedy we expected from the scripts. The first anamorphic studio movie was “How to Marry a Millionaire” (the second was “Ben Hur”). It allows us to keep the frame, have the actors interact without cutting, and still get close enough to their faces when we needed to. It’s also an excellent format for localizing the characters in their environments, which for this show — with its two distinct worlds, each in its own way a funny character — was crucial. It really provided an excellent canvas on which to collaborate with production designer Jordan Ferrer, and for the directors and actors to have freedom. And the use of the full sensor was helpful for all the world-building VFX we had to design in the show. So we were all happy the network agreed.
Nominated Episode: “The Believer”
Format: 4.5K Arriraw
Camera: Arri Alexa LF
Lens: UltraVista Anamorphic Lenses from Panavision
Matthew Jensen: The original trilogy was shot on anamorphic lenses and has a specific, controlled, and composed grammar which we were hoping to emulate on “The Mandalorian.” That aesthetic reason combined with the nature of our virtual sets, which were projected on LED screens surrounding our characters, drove the decision to choose a camera format and a lens package which had very little depth of field. The lack of depth, and the aberrations and imperfections of those lenses, helped hide the seams of our virtual set world.
Nominated Episode: “2:00”
Format: 4.5k letterboxed 2:1
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini LF
Marshall Adams: I love the shallow depth of field we get with the large format, that along with the low light capabilities of the Alexa and the speed of the Panavision LF lenses make for the perfect combination to shoot low light with a very natural feel. “Servant” takes place almost entirely in one house, so we needed to use very small sources hidden in the set, which when combined with large sources from the outside, helped create just the right environment for this show. It enabled all of the cinematographers (there were three other very talented DP’s on Season 2) to make bold shot and lighting choices, while delivering on M. Night [Shyamalan]’s attention to detail.
Nominated Episode: “Art of the Swoon”
Format: 6K resolution, 2:1 frame ratio, spherical format
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: ARRI Signature Prime Lenses
Jeffrey Jur: I loved the high resolution offered by the Venice camera. I felt it was important to be able to capture all the sumptuous detail and textures that were offered to us from the sets, costumes, and locations. I also wanted the high base ISO for our many candle-lit scenes; the Venice rendered them so well, a few scenes were lit with only candlelight, even using them off-camera like little lighting fixtures. The Signature lenses were amazing with skin tones, and chosen for their sharpness and a beautiful organic bokeh. The out-of-focus candles looked amazing, a perfect circle that I thought ideal for the overall romantic feel. I was certainly inspired by many period films that have come before, “Barry Lyndon” of course as the “gold standard” for its incredible natural light, but also the lush, swooning paintings of Edmund Leighton. I kept using the term “lifted” to describe our look, meaning a colorful and clear-eyed view of the world, not nostalgic and veiled. It’s a vision of what the world might have been, and how the world could be.
Nominated Episode: “Fairytale”
Format: Sony X-OCN/4K
Camera: We upgraded to the Sony Venice on Season 4, after using the Sony F55 for Seasons 1-3
Lens: Zeiss Super Speeds
Adriano Goldman: We had this idea, from very early prep for Season 1, that we would change the lenses every time we’d change cast. Seasons 1 and 2 were shot on vintage rehoused Cooke Panchros, and we knew we would have to find other choices for Seasons 3 and 4. I personally love the Zeiss Super Speeds, they have a nice soft look, more modern than the Cookes, but still with an interesting, sophisticated vintage touch. I love its low contrast and gentle desaturated characteristics, which felt to be really appropriate for the new cast and period we photographed on Season 4. Glimmer Glass filters remained part of the camera package because they help create a nice glow for the high lights and are really flattering when shooting close-ups. The Super Speeds were perfect for telling the stories on Seasons 3 and 4, and a new cast and period will bring new challenges and definitely a different lens package will be needed for Season 5. The show evolves constantly, always changing its look, embracing new periods, stories, and actors.
Nominated Episode: “Troubles Don’t Last Always”
Format: 35mm Film (3 perf)
Camera: ARRICAM LT
Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar and Cooke S4 and Zeiss Super Speeds
Marcell Rév: With this special episode we wanted to dig deeper into Rue’s character, to get to understand her choices a little more. Given the setting and the nature of a conversation piece, the fact that most of this episode plays out on the faces of these amazing actors we chose film to capture rich skin tones that can help us create powerful close ups. Given the limited visual toolset, small details like choosing the perfect angle or picking a 40mm focal length over a 50mm for a close up became very important. We put together a collection of lenses from three different sets and used different diffusion filters so we have the right characteristic for a certain moment. So while they are sitting at the same table throughout, as the conversation evolves, the way we shoot it keeps evolving too.
Nominated Episode: “Sundown”
Format: 4k UHD proRes 4444XQ
Camera: Arri Alexa LF
Lens: Panavision H series
Tat Radcliffe: “Lovecraft Country” was an opportunity to pay homage to the great Gordon Parks. Inspiration came specifically from the “Segregation in the South” series he shot for Life Magazine in 1956. His weapon of choice was a Rollieflex 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4,” while ours was the Alexa LF. And although we couldn’t replicate the square format for TV, we could at least approximate the telling perspective and field of view of the medium format stills camera. Although there were obviously fantasy and horror elements to the “Sundown “episode, the gentle humanity of those Kodachrome transparencies was never far from my mind. Panavision glass in the form of the H-series was a no-brainer and a rare opportunity to work with Dan Sasaki whose knowledge and guidance was invaluable. For the tough night sequences shot on difficult terrain, our wise gaffer Christian Epps had some Arri 360 Skypanels above the forest canopy with a little green to replicate a soft sickly moonlight, which combined well with the red flares of the finale. Last but not least, I was lucky enough to work again with camera/steadicam operator Ari Robbins, who teamed up with Jorge Sanchez to bust out some tasty moves on his new Trinity rig.
Nominated Episode: “The Jedi”
Format: Arriraw, 4.5K
Camera: Arri Alexa LF
Lens: Panavision Ultra Vista 1.65x Anamorphic
Baz Idoine: We extensively tested a wide range of cameras, sensor sizes, and lens combinations (spherical and anamorphic). The combination of the large sensor with a custom-made anamorphic lens package from Panavision was the only lens/camera combination that satisfied the need to tell a Star Wars universe TV show with a look that was anchored in the cinematic history of the original films.
Nominated Episode: “Chapter 2”
Format: 3.5 k 2:1 anamorphic
Camera: Sony Venice
Lens: T série Panavision
David Franco: Trying to emulate the feel and texture of that time period (1930s), I decided to use anamorphic to embrace the diffraction and softness of the lenses.
“The Umbrella Academy”
Nominated Episode: “Right Back Where We Started”
Format: 5.1K ARRIRAW
Camera: Arri Alexa 65 for A and B camera, Arri Alexa LF for C camera
Lens: ZEISS Supremes
Neville Kidd: The Alexa 65, with its large format sensor, was perfect for the world of “The Umbrella Academy.” I wanted it to feel as close to the human eye as possible, and then add enhancements through a depth of field fall off with the wide angle lenses, which helps give the series a cinematic look in combination with the large format. Because we were filming in the 1960s, I wanted to create a different aesthetic from Season 1. I wanted a new look, but not overly vintage. Our characters were experiencing this new Dallas world for the first time, and I wanted the camera to feel that same freshness. For this reason, I chose the Zeiss Supremes and shot them fully open at T1.5 to create a polished cinematic look, but not too sharp and digital. I wanted to light the sets as much as I could from the outside and allow our cast as much freedom as possible to create a real family house vibe. We made the sets 360 degrees, with lighting integrated into the ceilings so we could look in any direction. I feel this helped the cast to feel at home, and helped the house to become almost a character itself.
Nominated Episode: “East/West”
Format: 4.5K ArriRaw
Camera: Arri Alexa Mini
Lens: Zeiss Radiance
Dana Gonzales: For me, large format fits right into the type of aesthetic I am interested in: wide field of view with no distortion and shallow depth of field. The Alexa LF sensor just speaks to me on how it renders colors and tone. It is how I see the world. The Zeiss Radiance lenses were the perfect blend of modern engineering with a vintage philosophy. Combining the Alexa with the Zeiss lenses was exactly the formula for “Fargo” Season 4.
“Mare of Easttown”
Nominated Episode: “Illusions”
Format: 3.2K ProRes 4444
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Leitz Summilux-C
Ben Richardson: I designed the cinematography of “Mare of Easttown” around the faces of our beautiful and varied cast. We developed a soft, source-motivated lighting style that was not deliberately harsh, but also never glamorous. The intent was to embrace and adore every freckle and line, hair, and crease, and create an intimate portrait of both Easttown itself and its occupants. The Alexa Mini remains my preferred camera, due to its beautiful and dependable image quality even under mixed or imperfect lighting. The Leitz Summilux-C lenses are a perfect blend of modern sharpness and gentle vintage characteristics in beautiful, consistent housings. Having such dependable tools was essential over our 119-day shoot and allowed me to keep my attention where it belonged: on set with the actors and lighting.
“The Queen’s Gambit”
Nominated Episode: “End Game”
Format: 8K REDCODE RAW
Camera: RED Ranger Monstro
Lens: ZEISS Supreme Prime lenses
“The Underground Railroad”
Nominated Episode: “Indiana Winter”
Format: Arri Raw
Camera: Arri LF and Arri Mini LF
Lens: Panavision Primo 70, and Panavision T Series Anamorphic
James Laxton: Visually it was important for us to give a sense of scale while also emphasizing the intimacy of Cora’s (Thuso Mbedu) life. The large format of the Alexa LF gave us both of those as a foundation for our images. Panavision also helped us tune our lenses to particular effect for our specific story, giving us a touch of the past while also keeping our image resolute and sharp. We didn’t want our show to look like it was actually made centuries ago, as so much of what the show speaks to is still in our present experience. Barry [Jenkins] and I love to put a lot of care into our characters’ portraits, so skin tone is a really important for us. We’ve always loved the way the Alexa chip renders skin tone, and with the help of our colorist Alex Bickel, working in Arri Raw, we were able to give our characters’ skin tone the complexity and beauty it deserves.