InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 44

44

www.incinematographer.com | Issue 3

DP Overton Shoots
The Letdown with
VariCam LTs
Comedy series The Letdown was shot by renowned cinematographer
Judd Overton with VariCam LT cameras...

N

etflix and the Australian Broadcast Corporation
have partnered to produce a new comedy series,
The Letdown. Produced and written by Sarah Scheller
and Alison Bell, the pilot and six half-hour episodes
follows Audrey, played by Bell, as she navigates the
chaos of motherhood while still trying to balance a
career-focused husband, a self-absorbed mother, and
a care-free best friend. The series also stars Duncan
Fellows, Sacha Horler, Noni Hazelhurst and Celeste
Barber.
Overton shot the pilot for The Letdown over
two years ago. (The show was part of an ABC pilot
program in which six comedy pilots were produced.)
"A lot of the comedies in Australia have a broad,
skit-based attitude," explains Overton. "Director
Trent O'Donnell, who is the showrunner on (Fox TV's)
New Girl, and I approached The Letdown as more
of an international show, not just for the Australian
television audience. We absolutely made it with an
Australian voice, but we really wanted it to stand on
its own two feet in an international market."
Shooting with VariCam
Overton's first experience shooting with the
VariCam LT was on a short film, Remembering
Agatha, which premiered in October at the Adelaide
Film Festival. "I've been a fan of the VariCam since
the beginning," reveals Overton, "so I was already
sold on the look. For The Letdown, it was more about
making sure the camera delivered on resolution and
workability. On the show, we had a lot of mid-30s
women and we wanted skin tones to look great, but
not artificial or plastic looking. I wanted a naturalistic
look and from my use of the camera on my short film,
I knew VariCam could deliver that."
Because they are both mothers themselves,
writer/creators Bell and Sarah Scheller had strong
ideas about the look and style of the show. They
watched several half-hour comedies like HBO's
Girls and Netflix's Love to see what to do...and what
not to do. "We wanted The Letdown to have more

Panasonic VariCam LT (Courtesy of Judd Overton)

of a raw and authentic
look," says Overton. "My
challenge was to find a
format that could work
in the schedule that we
needed to work in, but
also give them the results
they desired. The VariCam
LT is a light camera that
can be quickly switched
between production mode,
handheld, or Steadicam
easily so it was great to
work with."
Overton recorded 4K
(4096x2160) files in both RAW (recording to a
Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+) and 10-bit 422 AVC
Intra to P2 cards in-camera. All shots were captured
in 25p.
For lenses and support, Overton chose Panavision
Sydney. "On this show, the 11-1 Primo Zooms were
a staple as a lot of the show is cross shooting," he
explains. "We also carried the 19-90 zoom and a
handful of Primo Prime lenses for night work and
Steadicam. The Primos are fantastic lenses. It's funny
that a lot of the people who championed the newest,
sharpest lenses are now challenging the sharpness
of high resolution cameras by using older lenses. I
found the Primos were exactly the look I wanted for
The Letdown.
"I also saw [Cinematographer] Andrij Parekh's
work on [Netflix series] 13 Reasons Why and the show
really sold me on what could be delivered in low light
with the VariCam," continues Overton. "I spoke to
Andrij about working with the VariCam and he told
me that because most of his show's audience was
going to be watching the show on iPhones, he went
with the AVC Intra format. For The Letdown, I knew
that the first two episodes would screen in a cinema
in Australia and we have quite a bit of VFX and
graphics work, which led to me choosing the RAW
workflow. I think the internal codec is fantastic and
delivers great results, but when you're up to the edge
and obviously anything with visual effects, I opted to
shoot RAW. For more traditional dramatic coverage,
we recorded internally to P2 cards."
Challenges
In terms of the production, the most challenging
sequences for Overton to shoot were the mothers
support group meetings, which consisted of shooting
six mothers with six crying babies in an open hall.
Each episode contained a group meeting sequence.
"That was my biggest challenge straight away

Judd Overton
(Photo: Daniel Asher-Smith)

The Letdown (Courtesy of ABC)

with daylight flooding in and screaming babies,"
explains Overton. "We rarely got second takes so
we had three cameras constantly running on those
sequences. We knew we had to shoot quickly and
cross shoot to get coverage because the babies
would usually not do what you wanted them to do,
and we had to move very fast."
Overton worked closely with his gaffer, Russell
Fewtrell, to build a lighting rig into the ceiling, which
acted as a large soft source. Overton says they
leaned a lot on the RAW files to obtain "extra wiggle
room" with the VariCam's 14+ stops of latitude.
Overton's colorist Billy Wychgel created LUTs,
which were loaded on to the Odyssey 7Q+ and
Teradek transmitters instead of in-camera. "We
wanted to go away from a soapy television look,"
Overton says. "The series starts with warm colors;
there is hope about the possibilities of new
motherhood. As the show progresses, some of the
warmth and saturation dissipates and our audience
gets to see life through sleep-deprived eye, as the
challenging reality of raising a new born baby takes
over.
"Overall the look is slightly cool with inky blacks
and neutral skin tones," continues Overton. "The
moments of warmth are added back in as Audrey and
Jeremy's relationship starts to rebuild. In the final
parents group meeting, situated outside in a park,
there is a shift and we see the mothers relaxed in the
world having a glass of champagne and celebrating."
The Letdown was posted at The Gingerbread Man
in Sydney.
The Letdown, which began airing on ABC on
October 25, will move to worldwide streaming on
Netflix in December.
www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/letdown/
www.juddoverton.com
http://info.panasonic.com/varicam-LT.html


http://www.incinematographer.com http://judd-overton.squarespace.com/ https://youtu.be/PWSr6sYODZ8 http://business.panasonic.co.uk/professional-camera/varicam-lt-1 http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/letdown/ http://www.juddoverton.com http://info.panasonic.com/varicam-LT.html

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of InCinematographer - Issue 3

In This Issue
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - Intro
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - Cover1
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - Cover2
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - In This Issue
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 4
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 5
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 6
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 7
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 8
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 9
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InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 11
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 12
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 13
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 14
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InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 17
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 18
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InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 20
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InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 50
InCinematographer - Issue 3 - Cover4
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