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‘Star’ Premiere Shines with Panasonic VariCam 35s

Created by executive producer Lee Daniels (Empire), FOX’s Star follows three singers on the road to stardom. The series’ pilot was shot by cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, ASC, AIC, using Panasonic VariCam 35 cameras. Star alternates between fantasy and reality, so one of Schaefer’s biggest challenges was keeping his three young leads looking glamorous, yet grounded in reality. “Lee didn’t want the show to look like anything on TV,” recalls Schaefer. “We looked for ways to give it an unusual and distinct look.”

Schaefer shot the pilot in full HD (1920 x 1080) because he wanted the show to have a “rougher” look and didn’t want editorial to reframe his carefully designed shots. He captured 12-bit AVC-Intra 444 files, and separate proxies to take home for viewing.

Daniels wanted to have quick zoom-ins and frame adjustments, so Schaefer selected three Angenieux Optimo zooms—the 15-40, 28-76 and 45-120—in addition to Panavision Primo lenses. Schaefer used filtration on his lenses, including Schneider Hollywood Black Magic filters on shots for which he wanted to tone down the digital contrast. For beauty shots, Schaefer used Tiffen Black Satin filters. For fantasy sequences in a strip club, he went with Bronze Glimmerglass.

Knowing his director would not want to view V-Log footage on a monitor, Schaefer created approximately 10 different LUTs, pushing contrast and allowing highlights to clip. “It has a definite gritty look to it,” says Schaefer of the footage. “It’s not ugly by any means, but it has a very strong look. It’s not one of these totally manufactured looking shows where everything looks so smooth.”