A Different Look for Nordic Noir

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Wed, 01/18/2017 - 12:24 -- Nick Dager

Cinematographer Johan-Fredrik Bødtker wanted a different look for Valkyrien.When cinematographer Johan-Fredrik Bødtker, FNF was selected to shoot the forthcoming Norwegian drama series, Valkyrien, he knew what look he wanted. “I wanted the series to feel clean and contemporary but move away from the typical Nordic noir look. It was also very important to me that we could capture the details and mood on all of the different sets, especially the dark and dirty ones,” said Bødtker. “I needed a glass that was sharp, but not too sharp, that would have the right fall off and bokeh, and that would not flare or ghost as soon as the camera was pointed at a light source.”

Set in modern-day Oslo, Valkyrien centers on a doctor who runs an illegal, underground clinic in an old bomb shelter, where he treats criminals, emergency patients, and others who can’t or won’t seek medical help in a regular hospital. His most important patient is his dying wife, whom he treats in secret as he tries to find a cure for the unknown disease that is killing her. The series was directed by Erik Richter Strand and produced by Tordenfilm AS and Fridthjof Film.

Bødtker, already a fan of Cooke lenses, tested some Anamorphic/i lenses supplied by the Norwegian production services company Storyline. “As soon as I tested the Anamorphic/i set I knew this was the right choice for Valkyrien. I love the way you can alter and use the upper and lower focus fields to control and decide where people will look,” he said.

Bødtker used Cooke Anamorphic/i and Cooke 5/i lenses for the series. The lens metadata collected from the Arri Alexa cameras was highly beneficial to both on-set production and post-production workflows. Valkyrien also benefited both on the shoot and in post from the /i Technology lens metadata that is available for capture.

Cinematographer Johan-Fredrik, with the camera, and AC Jens Patterson, in the white hat, on set.“The metadata from the lens really helped me to get the shots,” Bødtker said. “I felt more in control and could always watch my T-stop and focus range in the viewfinder. It meant I wasn’t having to stop shooting to remove my eye from the eyepiece. It certainly helps the workflow on set – for example, while doing plates and green screen shots it’s really nice just to move on and not break up the flow to measure different values. That really felt like progress.”

Andreas Herzog Grimsø, camera manager at Storyline Studios, which provided the production equipment and post-production services for Valkyrien, has been an /i user since the S4/i lens set was released. “/i Technology is fairly easy when you know the approach,” he said. “To ensure we get the /i data we need, we coordinate with the DIT on set. The DP is also aware of how we use it and how it’s captured. The DP then can do VFX shots without always having a VFX supervisor on set. It is a huge time-saver for compositing when the artists don’t have to guess all the values and try out different values in the composite, since the DoF and focal length values are read by Nuke directly. It can save a whole day’s work on some shots.”

/i was particularly useful on this project for the second unit work. “The two-man splinter unit did a lot of tunnel shoots where we inserted digital trains. There is one shot that shoots down an empty tunnel with a huge focal pull to track the train. The lens data made it possible to place the digital train correctly down the tunnel and composite the train’s focus correctly based on the lens data,” added Grimsø.

Les Zellan, chairman and owner, Cooke Optics, said, “We’ve been working on /i for over 15 years as an open standard protocol for collecting lens metadata, and it really feels like an idea whose time has finally come. Lens metadata is simple to collect and can save significant time and money during production and post, but only a small percentage of productions currently take advantage of this. Valkyrien is an excellent example of the benefits that can be derived by cinematographers and VFX artists.”

Valkyrien will launch on NRK this month and has been sold to broadcasters in Scandinavia. It will also premiere in the UK on Channel 4 in 2017 before all episodes are made available exclusively on C4’s on-demand foreign-language drama service, Walter Presents.