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Cinematography Aboard the ‘USS Callister’

Making the wonderful, terrible, beloved 'Black Mirror' episode

Read more: How “USS Callister” DP Stephen Pehrsson Lensed a Visually Stunning New Dimension of Black Mirror

“‘USS Callister’ is refreshingly different in tone from most of Black Mirror,” writes Nick Statt. “It’s an unabashed love letter to Star Trek, with the titular spaceship replacing the USS Enterprise, and the episode’s structure resembling a classic Trek narrative arc. It’s also simultaneously a deconstruction of the aged fanbase that still holds onto Star Trek—including all its tired tropes and played-out stereotypes—as a symbol of prestige science fiction. 

“This episode uses a dizzying buffet of clever ideas, homages, and references to paint a wild picture of the future, with the relevant message that the people we’re trusting to build us a shining technological paradise could be just as fallible and compromised as the worst of us.” To read the full article, click here

Cinematographer Stephen Pehrsson tells Kendra Ruczak of Sound & Picture about shooting “USS Callister:” 

“We used RED cameras. We wanted to use anamorphic lenses and we needed to shoot in 4K, as is required for Netflix original productions. There was only one camera at the time, two years ago, that had a sensor big enough for anamorphic lenses and could provide a 4K solution: the RED Weapon.

“We mainly shot on a set of lenses called Master Anamorphics [ARRI/Zeiss] which are very, very sharp. We were told by the visual effects team that this was the only anamorphic lens we could use, because it’s very clean and perfect, and every line is straight. Every shot has to be tracked in post before a visual effect can be applied. This lens makes it very easy for the team to do their tracking, so there are fewer problems. We actually saved money on visual effects by choosing this lens.

Read more: Creating the Visual Effects for “USS Callister”

“In the beginning of the show, we had the sequence that emulates classic ’60s Star Trek, or it could be any sci-fi program of the era. We shot that with a static camera in a 4:3 format and used spherical lenses, [ARRI/Zeiss] Super Speeds and zooms. 

“Then at the very end they go through the wormhole and come out the other side, and suddenly it becomes a very similar spaceship to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek with all the flares that go on. The rep from the camera rental company [ARRI Media/Simon Surtees] suggested that we used Toyo anamorphic lenses, and he was right they just had the most fantastic flare. With the way the practicals light the spaceship, they were bringing up those blue stripes and these beautiful flares.” To read the full interview, click here.

Read more: In Black Mirror‘s “USS Callister,” the true villains are real-world tech moguls

Read more: Three Ways Netflix’s Black Mirror Broke the Rules With “USS Callister”

Read more: Director Toby Haynes goes inside the making of the season four space opera, revealing the Star Trek and hidden Star Wars homages and why there’s still more of the story to tell.