InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 37
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 3
The Deuce: '70s Style New York
Colorist Sam Daley collaborates with cinematographers Vanja Černjul
and Pepe Avila to recreate the look of New York City in the 1970s...
in The Deuce
he Deuce, the new drama from HBO and
Executive Producers David Simon and George
Pelecanos, is set in 1970s New York City where
prostitution and crime were rampant, and the modern
adult entertainment industry was just coming into its
own. Bold, brash and visually intoxicating, the series
was finished natively in High Dynamic Range (HDR) at
Technicolor PostWorks New York. Colorist Sam Daley
collaborated with Director of Photography Vanja
Černjul, ASC, in mastering seven episodes from the
show's debut season, after having similarly teamed
with Cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino on the
With characters that include porn stars and
prostitutes, The Deuce reveals a city that's a mix of
glitz and sleaze. Dive bars and grimy bus depots exist
alongside the pulsating, neon-illuminated environs
of Times Square. In approaching this world, Černjul
says he drew inspiration from such classic films as
Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver, but took a different
approach in recreating the look of the city and the
era where they were set. "I wanted our 1970s New
York to look as real as possible," he explains. "I was
intimately familiar with a lot of films that were shot
in New York at that time - it was probably the most
amazing period in American cinema - but I didn't
want to simulate the period lighting style. I wanted
to make it seem as though we were actually in the
1970s, capturing that world with modern technology.
I wanted to erase the media filter that we have when
we watch those classic films."
Černjul chose to work with Panasonic's VariCam
35 for principal photography as its super35mm MOS
sensor minimized the need for artificial lighting.
"I wanted a shooting style with the greatest
mobility," he says. "We needed to move quickly as we
sometimes were shooting two or three locations in a
day. The sensor of the VariCam helped with that as it
allowed us to work with available light. If we walked
into a restaurant that was lit by candlelight, we could
shoot it like that."
During pre-production, Černjul worked with Daley
on camera tests to establish a preliminary look.
For the sake of consistency, they chose an image
texture similar to what had been established in the
pilot. "For the pilot, Pepe and I created a film-print
emulation LUT," recalls Daley. "It gave the digital
photography the feel of a dye-based motion picture
print. To complement that, we used Livegrain, which
generates a filmic grain pattern based on the unique
exposure of each scene.
"For the series, Vanja and I modified the LUT
to accommodate the VariCam. We again used
Livegrain, but we did so a bit more aggressively.
VariCam captures a very clean image and we wanted
something a bit grittier."
The decision to finish in HDR also occurred as the
show moved from pilot to series. Although the show
will initially air in standard dynamic range, the HDR
masters promise an enhanced viewing experience
when the technology reaches more households.
Daley notes that, even as the show moved to
an HDR workflow, they continued to employ the
LUT they developed when they were expecting a
conventional HD finish as the lighting and other
creative decisions had been based on that look.
"We treated the existing LUT like a film print being
remastered in HDR," Daley says. "We embraced
the brightness of the new format, but we exercised
restraint. The look pops where it needs to, but
doesn't distract from the story."
"It was a challenge to match the HDR color
space to the color space that we had prepped
for," adds Černjul. "We had to redo the process
we went through in pre-production. It took some
experimentation to get it right."
Daley says that the extra time and effort proved
worthwhile and are evident in the results. "The
colors are like characters," he observes. "We have
a lot of dark, grainy, contrasty images, but there is
real beauty in the period hues, even
when they are slightly askew. They
provide a glimmer of optimism in an
otherwise bleak world. People who
get to see the HDR version are in for a
treat. The scenes on 42nd Street, with
the marquees, neon and flashing lights...
it's like you're looking through a window
Černjul was similarly impressed with
the quality of the HDR master and with
how smoothly the process was managed
by Daley and Technicolor PostWorks.
"It's very important to me to have a
good rapport with the colorist," he says.
"I worked closely with Sam throughout
production and we learned a lot together about the
HDR format. I hope we can do it again very soon."
echnicolor PostWorks New York is hailed as the
East Coast's most comprehensive digital motion
picture and post-production facility, employing an
exceptional team of creative artists, engineers and
project managers to serve clients through the film
and TV finishing process.
Technicolor PostWorks New York offers one
complete source for every post requirement,
including in-context digital dailies, film imaging
and restoration, collaborative non-linear editorial
and HD/UHD broadcast finishing, 4K digital cinema,
global content lifecycle support, and comprehensive
film and TV sound services on nine mix stages.