×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Parts Unknown’ Crew Shares How Show Shaped Its Vision

In the 11 seasons of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” the late Anthony Bourdain taught us more about humanity than about food. The series captured six Emmy nominations this year, including four in below-the-line categories.

The show’s “Lagos” episode — which snagged noms in cinematography, picture e diting and sound mixing — details slices of the Nigerian megacity, which Bourdain describes as “the most dynamic, unrestrained and energetic expression of free-market capitalism and do-it-yourself entrepreneurship on the planet.”

Production prepped for three months, then spent several days scouting before recording more than 50 hours of footage, visiting affluent Victoria Island, where nightclubs cater to the elite; the floating shantytown of Makoko; and Computer Village, an electronics market where people repair goods as customers watch. Morgan Fallon, one of the three nominated DPs alongside Jerry Risius and Tarik Hameedi, cites the 1982 film “Fela Kuti: Music Is the Weapon” as a visual reference. “I fell in love with its 16mm cinema vérité look,” says Fallon. “We wanted to do something similar with ‘Lagos.’”

The DP trio shot most of the episode on 16mm film, using unobtrusive handheld techniques to capture the city’s energy. “We wanted our camera to be organic,” Risius says. “We are the guests, and visually that’s how we look at it. It’s about operating in the emotional guidelines of the environment … and tuning into the hearts of the people.”

Episode editor Hunter Gross sifted through the content, drumming up a heart-pulsing pace tied to the area’s popular Afrobeat music. “Integrating natural sound and elements into the edit has been something I’ve been working on over the years,” Gross says. “We try to create a symphony from the production sound and other audio elements to build atmosphere.”

In the episode’s first 10 minutes, a cacophony of music, honking horns and street sounds mix with snippets of dialogue and other aural cues in the city of 20 million. “We use sound to draw you in,” says rerecording mixer Benny Mouthon. “Hunter will have the sound design already laid out so I can concentrate on the audio cleanup and complementing any mono sounds with stereo versions. We’ll also pan different sound elements to match on-screen visuals, like a boat crossing through, for instance, to make it a more natural, immersive experience.”

“It’s about operating in the emotional guidelines of the environment … and tuning in to the hearts of the people.”
DP Jerry Risius

The biggest challenge for the editor is staying true to the people and environment. “You can very easily make a show about those living in poverty in any one of the cities we visit, but we try to create a balance,” says Gross. “We take the point of view of the common person while bringing to light the more positive facts about their society.”

For “Lagos,” the story was rooted in survival, perseverance and the relentless positivity of the people in achieving their dreams. “Since I don’t travel with production, I explore these places just like our audience,” Gross explains. “It’s something that will be incredibly missed now that Tony is gone. Everyone is very proud of what we’ve accomplished, and everyone is incredibly sad it has to come to an end.”

More Artisans

  • First still from the set of

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • National Theatre Live Midsummer's Night Dream

    National Theatre Live Marks Decade of Stage-to-Screen With Immersive ‘Midsummer’

    National Theatre Live has filmed nearly eight dozen theatrical productions over the last decade, bringing theater to the cinema using top technologies and talents in the videography space. This month, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is challenging the technical producers and crew with an immersive stage [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in development on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call ‘micro-contrast.’ [The look] was never going to be [...]

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Will Smith Gemini Man Special Effects

    How the 'Gemini Man' VFX Team Digitally Created a Younger Version of Will Smith

    More human than human — yes, that’s a “Blade Runner” reference — yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith [...]

  • Jest to Impress Cartoon Network Virtual

    New In-House VR Program Helps Cartoon Network Artists Add a Virtual Dimension

    Teams of animators and artists from across Cartoon Network’s numerous properties are getting the chance to expand into virtual reality storytelling via the company’s pilot program, Journeys VR. The work of the first three teams — including experiences based on action, nature and comedy — was unveiled to global audiences Oct. 1 on Steam and [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen II' Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation

    “The more believable you can make the character [look], the more people believe how [it’s] feeling,” says Tony Smeed, who, with Becky Bresee, shared the challenge of heading animation on Disney’s highly anticipated “Frozen II.” “Emotion comes from inside and manifests itself into actions and facial expressions. Anything beyond that is movement for the sake [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content