Lighting a Dark Lifetime

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Tue, 01/05/2016 - 10:59 -- Nick Dager

Dejan Georgevich, ASCOnce in a Lifetime tells the story of two aspiring New Jersey rockers (the real-life band Clayton-Ellis), who move to New York and by chance meet a legendary 1980s rock icon, who they want as their manager and potential ticket to success. Written by Iron Maiden’s groundbreaking bass player and songwriter, Stephen Harris, the pilot for the series was shot in New York City over the course of eight days in November. Dejan Georgevich, ASC, served as director of photography. He shot with two Panasonic VariCam 35 4K camera recorders. “During pre-production, I and our digital imaging technician Dave Satin ran demos on the VariCam 35 that included literal candle tests in pitch darkness,” he said.

“That convinced us that this would be the right camera for this challenging pilot, which story-wise required a lot of night shooting in Brooklyn and Manhattan streets, rooftops and nightclubs,” Georgevich continued. “Yet another low-light challenge was the young musicians’ hell hole of an apartment, which was lit only by a menorah because they forget to pay the electric bill.”

“The dual ISO of 800 and in particular 5000 was highly impressive in low-light conditions,” he continued. “The pilot presented two ‘realities’ that the main characters were experiencing: the dreamlike nocturnal world of night clubs and bright city lights contrasted to the harsh light of their daytime reality.

“This led me to reach out and seriously consider the Varicam 35, which proved to deliver unbelievably, especially in the night scenes where we set the camera at native ISO 5000 and dialed it down to ISO 1250, which provided no noise and such rich blacks in the images. What’s more, I was shocked that the camera was registering T4.5 even in local night street scenes where we used scarcely any additional light.”

Once in a Lifetime shot for eight days, mainly in low light settings.The production shot 1920x1080, ProRes 4444, with V-Log recording. The VariCam 35s were outfitted with Cooke S4 Cooke, Fujinon Cabrio 25mm- 300mm and Angenieux Optimo DP 16-42mm Zoom lenses, and Tiffen Black Pro-Mist ¼ & ½ and Hollywood Black Magic ¼ & ½ filters. Technological Cinevideo Services provided the lenses, filters and additional camera support services and accessories.

“We were working on a tight budget, and consequently my approach in lighting was to be as minimal as possible, going for dramatic high contrast ratios and very specific stylized color palettes, especially for the nightclub scenes, creating depth not only with light and shadow, but by combining dynamic color combinations that together were emotionally appropriate for the specific scenes and storyline,” Georgevich noted.

“The VariCam 35’s dynamic range of 14+ stops is quite impressive, and the camera rendered flesh tones and colors beautifully,” he added. “Along with LUTs that Dave Satin and I created, the camera offered a lovely, cinematic look, not a clinically sharp, cold, antiseptic video look.”

Georgevich also cited the VariCam 35’s modular design, which allowed him to ergonomically fit the camera into tight spaces, specifically for interior car scenes.

David Platt directed Once in a Lifetime, with executive producer/showrunner Joe Cacaci, executive producers Emily Segal and Ylfa Edelstein, producer Samara Yeshaiek and a cast led by British actor Charlie Creed Miles as the middle-aged rocker with a full-blown midlife crisis.

Georgevich is an award-winning director/cinematographer working in television and feature film production, as well as a professor of advanced cinematography at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Television credits include the series Mercy, Cupid, 3lbs., The Book of Daniel and The Education of Max Bickford; documentary credits include HBO’s Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World, PBS’ A Wayfarer’s Journey: Listening to Mahler and Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York.

For more information about the DP, visit

Panasonic’s VariCam 35