Frame by Frame: The Deuce – Season 1 (2017)

Year2017
Decade2010s
Cinematographers – Vanja Cernjul, Pepe Avila del Pino (pilot)
Director – various
Aspect Ratio1.78
DistributorHBO
GenreDrama; Period (1970s)
Camera – Panasonic VariCam35, Arri Alexa (pilot only)
Lenses –  SphericalPanavision PVintage; Panavision Primos (pilot only)
FormatDigital; Shot in V-Log in HD (1920×1080) resolution with ProRes 4444 compression

Categories
Night Exteriors           Car Shots                       Frames Within Frames     Bars
Silhouettes                   Wide Shots                    Full Shots                            High Angle
Title Cards                   Mirrors                           Shafts of Light
Mercury Vapor Streetlights                              Sodium Vapor Streetlights

Clink on any link above to see similar frames from other films.

The Show
The legalization of pornography alters the lives of the denizens of New York’s seedy 42nd Street circa 1971.

Single Frames

Groups of Frames

Night Exteriors

Frames Within Frames

Car Shots

Location – Bars

Location – Police Station

Location – Diners

Location – Courtroom

Location – Bench


Quotes from cinematographer Vanja Cernjul

On using Panasonic’s VariCam35

From an American Cinematographer podcast interview

“I tested the VariCam against the Alexa with a lot of different lenses,” he continues. “The results just blew me away. I tested all the different ISO ratings and found the sweet spot for what we wanted to do with the LUTs, which Senior Colorist Sam Daley at Technicolor PostWorks NY helped create for the show, was 3,200, dropped down from 5,000. I got a very clean and beautiful image that worked really well with the LUT we were using. The clean image was important for me because we made a choice to treat the whole series with a texturizer called Live Grain, which made it feel like a real film grain. I didn’t want this grain to interact with the noise of the camera so it was important to have a clean image to begin with and texturize it to have more control.”

“The beauty of the VariCam is the flexibility. I could have gone anywhere from 800 to 3,200, even within a single scene, and it will be perfectly matched. Basically, I could decide shot by shot. For example, I started at 800, and, for whatever reason, if I wanted to capture extreme depth of field, I could switch to 2,500. Once you get used to having the flexibility and power, you start doing things that were unthinkable before — using filters indoors that you normally wouldn’t use in a dark setting because you couldn’t afford to lose two stops. Or you start using gels that would take too much light on small light sources. Switching to slow motion when you had no plans for slow motion and you’re already lit for 24 frames, it gives you a freedom. Once experienced, it’s hard to go back.”

On using Panavision PVintage lenses

From the October 2017 issue of Digital Video Magazine

“The old glass gave us a beautiful period look organically,” he says, noting that the characteristics and artifacts of the lenses would be close to impossible, or certainly impractical, to re-create in post even today. “But those lenses are temperamental. They’re not very reliable. So I had to be able to close down on the iris to get them to perform properly. I could only have used them for this project with a camera that could shoot at an ISO high enough that I could close down to a T-2.8/4 at night.”

On the difficulties of shooting neon signs

From the October 2017 issue of Digital Video Magazine

“We tried to build [fake neon] signs with LED technology but it just didn’t look like neon. So we searched for ways to keep the neon from blowing out. Sometimes we would put a hard ND gel over the window or paint the neon tubes down or build boxes around the signs with hard ND gels of 9 or even 12 around them. Then he would fill in areas with tungsten or LED lights, gelled with similar colors. The ability to use some of these rich, dense gels came from the VariCam’s high ISO. I can’t normally use many of those gels, even though I like them, because I can’t afford to lose that much light. But here that wasn’t a problem.”

On creating the look of mercury vapor streetlights

From the October 2017 issue of Digital Video Magazine

For the exteriors, the production re-created portions of the old Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen in a two-block space they took over roughly 170 blocks north, in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. New York City streetlights no longer use mercury vapor technology and so are missing the greenish color cast typical of the era. In order to create the appropriate look in show exteriors, crew members would shut down the actual lamps and light with a couple of 20K tungsten units gelled to give off a greenish illumination. These would be up on 80-foot Condor lighting cranes positioned several blocks from the action.

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