Engineering Service, Inc.
VariCam 35 cameras have helped set the tone for the hit Netflix show “Ozark” in its first two seasons. The show, starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, follows a family forced to relocate from Chicago to Ozark, Missouri under threat of a Mexican drug cartel. Since Netflix Originals all require 4K, Ben Kutchins, director of photography on Ozark, turned to the Varicam 35 for its ability to capture low light and its “filmic qualities.” Specifically, he captured 4K DCI (4096x2160) 12-bit 4:4:4 AVC Intra files in V-Log at 23.98-fps.
Kutchins, along with a cinematographer and digital imaging technician, developed a viewing LUT throughout Ozarks’s first season. This helped lift the blacks, add contrast in the mids and create a deep cyan in the shadows, while providing a some warmth in the highlights.
“What I was trying to do was mimic an old Fuji film stock that I used to use back when I was shooting stills. Working at Lucasfilm, I inherited a huge box of expired film and it was one of the discontinued films in that box.”
While shooting, he used VariCam’s native ISO 5000 conservatively, which delivered quality results, he said.
“I’m a bit of an old school cinematographer and I find things that I like, and I continue doing that,” he said. “I don’t really feel the need to shoot things at 5000 just because it’s there. A couple of times, I used it for a surveillance look. I was hoping it would be grainy but there was no grain at all, so I had to add a ton of grain in post. There were a few times that I had a crazy setup on a crane and didn’t have quite enough light, or enough time, to add a bunch of light. We basically switched the native ISO to 5000 and I was really impressed with the results. When I went into the DI to finish it, I would be hard pressed to figure out which shots were done at 800 or 5000.”
For post-production, Kutchins said the VariCam also helped him bring up shadows in scenes before the image showed any noise. “There’s been a few times where I wanted to bring up a shadow,” Kutchins said, “and I tend to underexpose ¾ of a stop to 2 stops as a baseline.
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