Magazine article American Cinematographer

Spy Game

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Spy Game

Article excerpt

There's a mole In the CIA. Operating under the name "Thomas Shaw," he or she has been channeling highly classified - and often damning - information not to another clandestine organization, but to the general public. Field agent Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage) has been assigned to the agency's Berlin office to bring Shaw out of the shadows, but his net of suspicion is necessarily cast wide, and none of his fellow operatives is privy to his mission.

The series Berlin Station began airing on television network Epix in Odober. Five directors each took the reins of two episodes for the first season, beginning with Michael R. Roskam - who also served as an executive producer - and continuing with Christoph Schrewe, Giuseppe Capotondi, John Coles and Joshua Marston. On for the duration were cinematographer Hagen Bogdański and 2nd-unit director-cinematographer Ralph Kaechele. Although they hadn't worked together previously, they quickly developed a rapport that carried throughout the Berlin-based shoot, which began in November 2015 and lasted through this past April.

Berlin Station marks Bogdanski's first foray into episodic television, and for the project he elected to work with Arri Alexa Plus cameras, recording 2K ProRes 4:4:4 files to SxS cards. The cameras were paired predominantly with Arri/Zeiss Ultra Primes by the first unit, and Angenieux Optimo 45120mm (T2.8) and Optimo Style 16-40mm (T2.8) zooms by the second. Kaechele also utilized Sony a7S II and GoPro Hero4 cameras to emulate surveillance footage, and Arri's Alexa M for an underwater scene and Alexa Mini for car interiors. Arri Media provided dailies services during production, and when Bogdański and Kaechele spoke with AC, the first-unit cinematographer was in the midst of the final grade at Deluxe's Encore in Hollywood, where senior colorist Pankaj Bajpai was working with 2K files on a FilmLight Baselight system for a final 1920x1080 HD delivery.

American Cinematographer. How did you define the show's style?

Hagen Bogdański: We wanted to present a modern spy story in Berlin - not the typical Sixties, Cold War, Russiansagainst-the-Americans story. The main goal was to show Berlin as it is now, and how it has transformed into a big, international, cosmopolitan city.

Ralph, during production, how often would you check in with the main unit?

Ralph Kaechele: Whenever I had the time I was trying to swing by the set and look at what the director and Hagen were doing. Even if it was on a set I was pretty sure I wasn't going to shoot on, it helped to get deeper into the style and how the directors would work. I'd send out emails at night with specific questions for Hagen or the directors, and sometimes they would swing by [the second unit's] set. If I had a lighting question, I had my gaffers Andre Poser and Axel Scholz contact the main unit's gaffer, Janosch Voss, or the rigging gaffer, Stephan Rother. [Throughout the production] I was involved in all the head-of-department meetings, where we went through the script and addressed all the needs for every department - that was crucial. We also had a great digital clouddailies system, where I could watch main unit's footage and they could watch my footage.

Bogdański: In modern filmmaking, the workload is so big and the actors' schedules are so limited that you cannot work without a full additional-photography unit anymore. You need a second-unit cinematographer and director to understand the visuals of the whole show and what the director wants. That requires a lot of meetings, a lot of time, a lot of work, but without it I think it would be impossible to shoot a show like this on schedule.

How did your interaction with showrunner Bradford Winters and creator Oien Steinhauer compare with your interaction with the episode directors?

Bogdański: Olen and Brad gave their input, but on a very subtle note. They were looking out for the dialogue, and whenever the actors had questions about their characters' past, then Olen or Brad would step in. …

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