DEFINITION January 2022 – Web


conventions, bringing a new layer to the ethical dilemmas within the narrative. This shapes much of the storytelling – and influences cinematographic decisions. DOP Byron Shah explains that Covid-19 lockdowns afforded an unexpected advantage to the production of You . “We had a really nice prep, because it was during the shutdown when no one was working. We were able to spend about three months meeting, to talk about the look of the show.” Shah worked with Cort Fey, who also shot for Season 2. This time spent together contributes to a strong thematic consistency – something difficult to achieve, as DOPs don’t often have much opportunity to collaborate when working on different episodes of the same series. “Having a very clear sense of the tone – and letting all instinctual decisions flow from that place – doesn’t always happen.” Shah notes that this synchronicity was vital on a project like You , where the subtle nuances in cinematography are essential in helping the audience relate to its main characters. “For us to empathise with that kind of dehumanisation is really asking a lot. It’s only possible if you don’t realise it’s happening. The cinematographic elements play a big part, because you need to be lured and seduced.” TONE COLD KILLER A great deal of this tone and aesthetic can be attributed to the distortion from the chosen anamorphic lenses. “We ended up shooting with these Todd-

AO anamorphics, which are very rare, beautiful and unique. The same set were deployed on Season 1 – we decided to go back to the look of the first season a bit more aggressively.” The visual effect of the lenses – with their vignetting, blurring and distortion around the edges – helps create a subtle sense that something’s not quite right. Shah discusses how we’re brought into Joe’s world, where he and Love are masquerading as the perfect couple. But their sadistic sensibilities encroach on domestic fantasy. As such, the crew took extra care to position much of the action in the centre of the frame, so that this distortion and resultant feeling of unease were almost subconscious – and only made overt when certain props were placed in the edges. “We were very careful when putting the story on those edges. When you’re lured into the tale, it looks normal, because you’re really only paying attention to the centre of the frame. Until it’s time to make you realise, and feel subconsciously that you’re looking through a very distorted perspective.” An example is when Joe returns from his life-altering camping trip in episode 5, placing his new crossbow to the bottom of the frame. The visual artefacts from the lenses are even more blatant in this production than they might otherwise be. This is due to the employment of a 2:1 aspect ratio, and shooting in 6K resolution for lenses intended for a Super 35 format. Shah explains: “When an old-school

anamorphic movie came out, it would be 2.4:1. By shooting 2:1, there’s a lot more of the vertical area that’s exposed on the lenses, and you’re outside of the area that was originally designed. Basically, we were overscanning in both directions, because we ended up shooting 6K. We were expanding sideways, top and bottom to shoot a lot of the funky edges of the lenses.” The team were looking to strike a balance, and didn’t intend for the distortion to become overt and distracting for the narrative. This season was shot on the Sony Venice – as opposed to the Red Monstro and Arri Alexa LF for Seasons 1 and 2, respectively – and this decision was made in part because of the adaptability of aspect ratio. “The camera gave us

“The visual effect of the lenses – with their vignetting, blurring and distortion – helps create a subtle sense that something’s not quite right”


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