Definition July 2021 - Web


ABOVE Lens choice was crucial. Laxton opted for a modern sharpness with vintage augmentations

tunnels were the biggest and most challenging set build – we had real trains running through them,” recalls Laxton. “The ‘underground’ scenes were all shot in Savannah, Georgia, at a train museum. We built around 200 feet of tunnel over existing tracks, and our art department – led by Mark Friedberg – also created the connecting stations.” These sets were rigged with 30 to 40 LED units, with lots of 2x4, 4x4 and 4x1 panels – depending on space and what was needed. Lights were hidden in the ceiling, largely by headers the art department had designed to look like support beams. “One of the reasons it was such a difficult task was because we had to make

When we ask about the decision to change up the lenses, Laxton tells us it was because there are three episodes that depart from Cora, providing a context for the rest of the series. “Because they do something different structurally, I wanted to find a different way to tell those stories visually. Not a dramatic change, but a different perspective.” Used alongside the Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF, the choice of lenses helped find the look of the show, with Panavision offering support technically, as well as creatively. “Working with large format in general, there’s a great deal of new options for lenses and a handful of old lenses, but not much in-between. I didn’t want to shoot on something soft and vintage, but didn’t want anything too clinical, either,” he says. Thanks to Dan Sasaki at Panavision Woodland Hills, Laxton was able to augment the Primo 70s to fit the aesthetic he was hoping for in a lens package. “Managing to retain sharpness, we infused some vintage characteristics, which were tested and changed over the course of a few months,” he says. “We made flare profiles, honed the shapes on the edges of frame and fine-tuned the vignetting.” STATION TO STATION While the scale of the entire production is huge, there are a few standout moments. The titular railroads themselves are certainly something to behold. “Those

it safe for the actors to walk around and interact – not just with the station and tracks, but with the trains themselves. “Another sizeable one was the North Carolina chapter. There’s a scene where Cora hides in an attic space above a large downstairs living area, and that was all another set build,” says Laxton. “Those scenes actually ended up as some of my favourites – I’m really proud of the work our lighting team did in that space. There were fine details, like subtle LED sources to illuminate trees outside. They really made it feel lived-in.” The size of the production goes far beyond pure visual spectacle. Jenkins, Laxton and the wider team understood

RIGHT Fellow enslaved American, Ceasar (played by Aaron Pierre), aids Cora in her initial bid for freedom, as the pair reach the titular railroad

JULY 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 09

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