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Lensers use color as a compass

Road to the Emmys 2012: Creative Arts - Cinematographers

Shows with multiple storylines set in diverse locales, or with plots that jump around in time, can add an extra challenge for cinematographers, who must help keep viewers oriented in both location and time.

One technique helping some crack this problem: subtle color palettes linked to specific times and places.

“Game of Thrones” cinematographer Martin Kenzie, took his inspiration from the “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series that inspired the skein.

“Author George Martin used names of the characters that you’re following as chapter headings,” Kenzie says, and that helped organize the “chunks of information” conveyed in each section of the book. These chapter headings translated in the TV series as “different color palettes for different locations. … If you’re going somewhere Arctic, it’s going to be blue, and if you’re going somewhere warm, it’s going to be golden.”

Kenzie emphasizes: “It was essential that there was always this guidance, like the chapter headings provide, as we switch from one storyline to the next.”

Hemingway & Gellhorn” required a similar use of visual cues to signal movement to “a different part of Hemingway and Gellhorn’s life and relationship,” says the pic’s cinematographer, Rogier Stoffers. His goal was to “give every single time period in the movie a separate tone for … Spain, it was reddish, romantic. In Finland, when Gellhorn is alone, it’s blue.” Only Holocaust footage was left as pure black and white: “We didn’t want to play with that,” Stoffers says.

The HBO movie was also able to capture the look of film in spite of shooting digital: “When you project digital, it’s completely still, it doesn’t have the movement of film.” Stoffers credits fx supervisor Chris Morley with creating the aged, film effect: “He devised a whole pattern to line it over the digital footage,” which contributed to the pic’s period essence.

Road to the Emmys 2012: Creative Arts
TV f/x artists doing much more with less | Freshman dramas opt for full scores | Technical direction contenders thrive on adrenaline | TV lensers use color to orient viewers | Costumes help thesps create characters | Design Emmy contenders conjure bygone eras | Emmy limits “Smash” song entries
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