ASC cinematographer Michael Slovis’ challenge in shooting AMC’s Breaking Bad goes beyond the intricate storylines about the consequences of the life choices made by the main character. The New Mexico location offers a wide variety of looks and camera/lighting situations. Life is never dull on this acclaimed series. To make the most out of what he has, Slovis often relies on his favorite filters, the True-Pols from Schneider.
“We carry two ArriCam LT’s, Cooke S-4 primes, Angenieux zooms, a close focus lens, OConnor fluid heads and everything from small Litepanels bricks to 18ks,” he explains. “Every eight days, we make a small movie. None of the episodes follow much of a pattern. We can go from three days in the studio to six days in the studio. We can have a lot of action or a lot of dialogue. Even though the show has a graphic look, we never want it to overwhelm the story. Even with all of our ‘specialty’ shots, which are often aided by Schneider filters.”
Slovis says he’s been a long-time fan of Schneider. “I clued in early to the true neutral quality of the NDs and Polarizers,” he says. “The polarizers are extremely effective. They do a great job – and I would like to add more to my personal package.
“On Breaking Bad, we have a few iconic images,” he explains. “For me, some of the most important are the wide shots in the desert. Everyone remembers them, and they are unusual for television. In my mind, they really capture the tones and beauty of nature in New Mexico. One of the first things you notice about being in the dessert is the size of the sky, especially for someone from New York like me.
“I simply won’t shoot these sequences without Schneider’s True-Pols™,” he says. “I work with the locations department, art department and directors to insure that we are in a position to ‘max pola’ the sky for any day exterior (as much as our schedule will allow). I own them in multiple sizes to accommodate studio mode (dolly), Steadicam and handheld use.
“These filters really help define the beauty of that sky, and if we are lucky enough to have those gorgeous New Mexico clouds, the filter brings them out in all their glory. They give us that deep blue that contrasts so well with the warm tones of the brown dessert. And when we shoot the scene with coral, tobacco or straw effects filters, it is the True-Pols that deepen the sky into a rich dark hue separating the actors from it. They are an essential part of the toolkit for shooting Breaking Bad.”
Known for their ability to saturate colors, improve contrast, penetrate haze and reduce unwanted reflections, Schneider True Pol filters have an extinction ratio that is 12X more effective than other polarizers on the market. They are available in all popular professional sizes.
Three time Emmy Award nominee (2009, 2010, 2012) for Breaking Bad, cinematographer Michael Slovis, ASC is now on location shooting the new season of the AMC series. New episodes will premiere early summer 2013. The series is one of the “most viewed” on Netflix, VOD, and Hulu.
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