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Cinematographer David Pimm Builds on the Look of “Save Me” Series to Capture Naturalism and Control Light

“The story takes place on a vibrant estate with colorful characters, and the look reflects that reality. It’s beautifully saturated, but we tried to take the edge off primaries and lean a little towards slightly subdued tones.”

April 30, 2020 — Give David Pimm a TV drama with plenty of night or low sun scenes and a set of Cooke Panchro/i Classic lenses and he’ll do wonders. That is the case for Save Me Too, the follow up to Sky Atlantic’s BAFTA-nominated and RTS award-winning first series Save Me.

Photo courtesy of Celine James

Save Me Too is the continuing story about a man struggling desperately to find his daughter, Jodie, with the makeshift support of the close-knit community around him. Created, written, and starring Lennie James, the series is directed by Jim Loach and Coky Giedroyc.

For cinematographer David Pimm, the challenge was to build on the look of the previous series. “The story takes place on a vibrant estate with colorful characters, and the look reflects that reality. It’s beautifully saturated, but we tried to take the edge off primaries and lean a little towards slightly subdued tones,” described Pimm. “The second series takes place over a year after Jodie goes missing, and for me the material was darker, so we dipped our toes into that world with the visuals too. My aim was to balance the vibrancy of the community, and pursue a sense of naturalism without becoming gritty or bleak.”

Photos courtesy of Sky NoTape

Pimm is very familiar with Cooke lenses, having shot extensively with them since film school. “I like them for their personality, and continue to use them because I trust them,” he said.

Having heard about the Panchro/i Classic lenses just before he got the Save Me Too production, he tested them and immediately turned to them upon accepting the challenge. “The Panchro/i Classics provide that wonderful, unique Speed Panchro look, but with all the reliability you usually sacrifice when using old lenses. These lenses do quite remarkable things, yet at the same time they don’t steal attention or distract from the storytelling. It’s a real sweet spot.”

Much of Save Me Too was shot at night, so having lenses quicker than T2.8 was very helpful. “There were numerous scenes where the performance of the lenses really helped me. One of them was a darker scene which was lit predominantly by the LED light of a smartphone and, combined with some excellent production design, it worked beautifully,” he recalled. “The blacks are deep and rich and the image didn’t go muddy or fall apart. The lenses performed well in low key situations like this, often working wide open or 1/3 of a stop down.”

Another scene – quite a simple one between two characters – came to life because of a combination of low afternoon sun, a nice big tree in the background, and the Panchro/i Classics.

Sky NoTape

“The nice gentle look we got was from the lenses working with the ALEXA Mini, despite it being at its highest UHD resolution,” Pimm explained.  “Sometimes the lenses reminded me of how anamorphic looks in the out-of-focus areas, but in a subtler way. They can sometimes produce a gentle swirl in the corners, and a kind of ‘dragging’ of the blur in the background – both of which I love because they inject personality into a scene where you don’t have as much control or the ability to do that from a lighting perspective.”

Save Me Too airs on Wednesdays at 9pm BST on Sky Atlantic and all episodes are now available on  NOW TV.

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