“Comedy has to be the most important thing in the frame, with everything else coming after that,” says After Life cinematographer Martin Hawkins. “This series has a ‘look’ that we feel doesn’t distract from the comedy.”
Created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais, the Netflix show required a camera package that, Hawkins says, “could cover me for any eventualities.
“Whenever you are filming comedy,” Hawkins explains, “there is always that element of spontaneity. Shots that seem a great idea before, will often change when you’re on the set and seeing the actors in front of you.”
The decision was made to film the show with two Panasonic VariCam 35, and a VariCam LT, alongside a lens package that included Zeiss Ultra primes and ARRI Alura zoom lenses, plus a 12′ Jib Arm and a MoVi.
“We tended to shoot with both VariCam 35s, on dollies, tripods and even hand held when the scene demanded that kind of style, and the LT was used exclusively on a MoVi or the Jib Arm,” Hawkins says.
“The VariCam series is a great one to use from the point of view of speed. Even more so than usual, comedy requires a fast pace for the actors to maintain their energy on set.
“Directors just like filming, actors just love acting and so the least amount of time required to wait around the happier everyone will be, and that makes for a happy set. You cannot achieve that if you are constantly needing to wait in order to change settings, lenses or filters, which only adds to the pressure of time.
“With the VariCam 35, everything is right there in front of you, and with a simple push of a button you can quickly change menu settings and no one need know anything had happened. It’s got a great Menu layout,” Hawkins continues. “We always filmed with two cameras, as Ricky loves to cross-shoot scenes so he can ad lib and overlap with the other actors and sometimes we would add the LT as a third camera on a scene.
“With a VariCam, everything is right there in front of you, and in a simple push of a button you can quickly change settings and no one would know that anything is different.”
In addition, the VariCam 35 was fitted with two Teradek Bolt units to enable shots from the other 35 camera to be viewed at any time. Hawkins explains, “This was especially useful to enhance the ease of directing for Ricky when standing alongside my camera I could talk to him about both the camera’s frames. It was easy to switch between the camera shots to decide which he preferred.”