5 hit TV series shot on VariCam5 minutes
If you ask someone what ingredients make a great TV show, you’ll probably hear some familiar responses: a compelling premise, excellent writing, talented actors, or an interesting setting. Less commonly considered, but just as important, are the behind-the-scenes elements that can make or break a series: direction, score, costume design and, of course, cinematography.
Cinematography is an essential aspect of filmmaking; when done well, it can strengthen a narrative or elicit an emotional response from the audience. An effective cinematographer needs a strong understanding of how movement, composition and lighting can help tell a story. And of course, they also need the right professional equipment to realize their creative vision.
Enter Panasonic’s VariCam series. From light-hearted comedies to grim crime dramas to intense documentary series, our 4K cinema cameras are bringing stories to life across both cable TV and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Check out these five popular TV shows shot on VariCam.
In the critically acclaimed crime drama series Ozark, financial planner Michael Byrde (Jason Bateman) is forced to relocate to the Missouri Ozarks with his family after a money-laundering scheme goes awry. There, he must devise a plan to launder $500 million in five years to pay off his debts to a Mexican drug cartel and thus protect his family. The third season of this hit Netflix series is expected to debut in late 2019.
Ozark was shot in Atlanta with Panasonic VariCam 35 cameras by cinematographer Ben Kutchins (Crown Heights, Mozart in the Jungle). In response to Netflix’s mandate to shoot all Originals in 4K, Kutchins and his team tested out several cameras before deciding on the VariCam 35, which featured all the filmic qualities they sought along with strong low-light capture capabilities. “We almost went with the VariCam PURE for the second season, but we ended up just doing what we did before,” reveals Kutchins. “We were really happy with the look that we achieved in season one.”
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is a comedy-drama series about Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a privileged New York woman who is sentenced to serve 15 months in a minimum-security women’s prison for a crime committed a decade prior. Based on a true story, this Emmy-winning series follows Chapman as she adjusts to life in prison, learns to navigate a flawed corrections system and reconciles with her own past behavior.
The series’ director of photography, Ludovic Littee, gave an interview in 2015 with the Go Creative Show, where he talked about transitioning camera formats between seasons three and four. “Last year, we were shooting on Alexas. And now that Netflix is pushing everything to be 4k, we’ve changed, and we’re shooting with the VariCam 35s,” he told interviewer Ben Consoli during the show. When asked why he chose the VariCam 35 over the Sony F55, Littee cited its ease of use, its ability to break down to a small size, and the fact that the F55 had moiré issues. (The moiré effect occurs when a subject being photographed contains repetitive details, such as lines and dots, that cause odd patterns to appear in your images.) “Because we have so many bars and fences and nametags, I didn’t want to take a chance with the moiré-ing [sic] issue.”
The series finale of Orange is the New Black aired in July 2019, after seven seasons.
13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is a drama series about high school student Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and his classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who has recently commit suicide. At the beginning of the series, Clay receives a mysterious box of cassette tapes, recorded by Hannah before her death two weeks prior, in which she outlines the 13 reasons why she decided to end her life. This controversial look into 21st-century teenage life explores themes such as mental illness, bullying and sexual assault.
After testing several different cameras, cinematographer Andrij Parekh (Show Me a Hero, Blue Valentine) chose the Panasonic VariCam 35 to shoot the series, primarily due to its high performance in low-light settings. “The sensitivity in the VariCam is quite remarkable,” remarked Parekh. “It was a very clean 5,000 ISO, unlike what you would get out of an Alexa at 5,000.”
Anne with an E
Anne with an E is a reimagining of L. M. Montgomery’s classic children’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. Created by screenwriter Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad), this drama series is set in the late 19th century and centers around the bright and spirited Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), an orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with spinster Marilla Cuthbert (Geraldine James) and her brother, Matthew (R. H. Thomson). The aging Cuthberts, struggling to maintain their ancestral family farm of Green Gables, decide to take on an orphan boy to assist with the upkeep – and are surprised to find that they have been sent a girl instead. Though the Cuthberts are initially skeptical, Anne manages to capture their hearts with her shining personality and forge a place for herself in her new home.
The series, created for Netflix and CBC Television in Canada, was shot by cinematographer Bobby Shore (The Invitation, Goon). Knowing that Netflix would require the show to be shot in 4K, Shore needed a 4K camera that would work well for the series’ setting. After reviewing a series of tests performed on multiple cameras, Shore decided upon the VariCam 35 – and has been very satisfied with the results. “I was extraordinarily pleased with the way everything looked,” says Shore. “After shooting with the camera for six months, I’m confident I can go into any project knowing how to make it look exactly the way I want.”
Unless you’ve watched Discovery Channel’s Emmy-awarding winning documentary series, Deadliest Catch, you might be surprised to learn that Alaskan crab fishing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on Earth. Now in its 15th season, this series depicts the mortal dangers faced by real-life fishing crews on the Bering Sea during crab fishing season. From enormous waves and gale force winds to dangerous equipment and subzero temperatures, the crews navigate untold hazards on the open sea – often hundreds of miles from the nearest port.
Each of the boats featured on season 15 housed a two-person TV crew: one to document the captain, and one to follow the action on the deck. "Capturing the captain in his wheelhouse entailed much less salt water than on the decks, and the situation was minimally run-and-gun,” said David Reichert, the series’ director of photography. “The money shot would often be a beautiful image of the captain in front of surrounding windows – here dynamic range was key – or, at night, the captain at watch through these same windows, with absolute restrictions imposed on us regarding lighting. Given these criteria of expansive dynamic range, superb image rendition and extreme low-light handling, the VariCam LT was ideal."