For my moving image research, I wanted to talk about someone who has recently inspired me, and this is Michael Slovis, the cinematographer of the hit TV series, Breaking Bad. Slovis shot every episode in seasons 2, 3 and 4 each of which were 13 episodes, and some of which he directed and some of which he acted as DoP. All in all, he has rein of the overall look and feel of the show. “My name is closely associated with this show, and there aren’t a lot of shows that let the cinematography be such a big character.” I believe this is due to the distinctive appearance of the show as a whole and the trademarks that he stamps across it.
As I have a background in film photography, the fact that Breaking Bad was filmed almost solely on 35mm truly appealed to me which was the main catalyst that started me watching the show as I have a large amount of appreciation for artists who work on film as a stylistic choice as it is so much hard work (and expensive).
“I carry three Kodak stocks: I use 5203, the slowest, tightest grain stock they have for all the day exteriors in the desert. It eats into the shadows beautifully and holds highlights tremendously and is responsible for the colors and beautiful skies. The color saturation and the resolution are incredible. It’s sharp as can be; you can blow this up to the size of a building and it’ll still be sharp. More importantly, the accuracy of the color reproduction is just tremendous. We also carry 200 ASA stock which is a tungsten balance and a lower contrast stock. I never correct for balance; I let the colorist do that. Whenever we’re at the DEA office where I don’t have the control outside, it helps me on the highlights. We also have the high-speed stock, the Vision 3 ASA 500, which we use for all our studio work, exterior night and interior day and night in the studio. All three stocks cut together seamlessly.
We also integrate other tools in the storytelling. We’re not afraid to use Canon 5Ds and 7Ds or the Panasonic HVX-200a, which I own. We’ll stick these small cameras where we need them. We use Technocranes, Condors and scissor lifts to get the camera up high and snorkel lenses to get the camera low. Our rule is to tell the story organically, to be filmmakers and make it cinematic.”
Another thing that inspired me while watching Breaking Bad is the amount of high quality, visually stunning time lapses that are used generously throughout all 5 seasons. I have previously experimented with time lapses both from speeding up video and sequencing large amounts of images taken over a long period of time and this is something that I want to incorporate in my moving image project.
Here is a compilation of some of Slovis’ time lapses from all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad: