The Netflix series Narcos takes an unflinching look at Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) the formidable empire he ruled in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It also looks at law enforcement efforts to take him down, including those by the police officer Horatio Carrillo (Maurice Compte) The unique visuals of the show, just renewed for a second season, offers inspiring opportunities for Company 3’s Siggy Ferstl, who handles color grading duties for the series under the supervision of Stefan Sonnenfeld.
“A lot of it’s about what we don’t do rather than what we do,” Ferstl explains. “We deliberately give it a slightly raw look, which helps give the show its period feel. Back in the ’70s, movies were generally not as polished as they are now–everything was photochemical; there were no power windows or anything like that. A lot of the work on ‘Narcos’ is about leaving certain things, or even enhancing them, and not trying to ‘correct’ them.'”
The series follows the ruthless Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the national and international law enforcement agencies trying to thwart his criminal activity and put him out of business. Cinematographers Mauricio Vidal, Lula Carvalho and Adrian Tejido (shooting with the RED Epic Dragon), imbue the look with the feel of the South American locations and the unique time period.
“It’s beautifully shot,” says Ferstl, “We might have a shot with a strong green feeling [in a fluorescent-lit room] and then the shot continues into a very orange, tungsten-lit space. We don’t hide any of the differences. We might even enhance them. Or there might be some extreme falloff from a brightly lit room into deep shadow where an actor’s face is very dark. The natural instinct is to brighten up the face and the eyes but instead we keep it natural.
“It’s a different way of working,” Ferstl concludes, “and I really enjoy it!”