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How ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ Transports Viewers

Nobody embodied the wild excesses of the Jazz Age more than Zelda Fitzgerald, whose flamboyant highs and desperate lows mirrored the turbulence of post-World War I America. In the Amazon original series Z: The Beginning of Everything, Christina Ricci portrays the troubled woman in a lush, vivid version of the era brought to the screen by cinematographers David Franco, Eric Moynier, Joe Collins and Tim Orr.

Cody Baker of Deluxe’s Company 3 in Santa Monica collaborated with Franco on the look of the first episodes, adding various refinements as the additional DPs came on board. “We give it a look that’s ‘period-ish’ and filmic,” explains Baker, who uses Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12. “It has bloomy highlights and there’s an overall softness to the image, but with a hint of the polish people expect on modern shows.”

David Hoflin as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Christina Ricci. Photo by Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video.

Baker adds that the series’ ARRI Alexa cameras “are so good at reproducing colors that sometimes they did too good a job. So part of fine-tuning the look was about taming some of those colors to keep them in the palette that the creatives had in mind, which suggests the period and feels like we’re watching something shot on film.”

To that end, Baker also used Resolve to layer in a bit of grain, which was derived internally at Company 3 from actual celluloid, rather than created via noise generation. Baker carefully controlled the prominence of the grain within the frame to add to the organic feel.