In From the Cold is Netflix’s new suspense series that follows a single mother exposed as an ex-Russian spy, who must juggle family life and unique shape-shifting skills in a battle against an insidious enemy. Cinematographer Hermes Marco, AEC, worked with a team of directors to create a stunning contrast between different cities and time frames. Showrunner Adam Glass and Marco worked very closely to define the show’s look, compiling lots of references and defining the contrasting styles to enable the directors to retain a consistent look across the series
The film makers faced two key challenges in the delivery of the series: to convey a sharp transformation of the main character’s personality from an inconspicuous American mother to a lethal assassin; and to move the action from Moscow in the 1990s to present-day Madrid. With four fantastic directors on board for different episodes: Amy Canaan Mann, Daniel Calparsoro, Birgitte Staermose and Paco Cabezas.
The choice of lenses was an easy one for Marco. “The optics were one of the clearest things I had from the beginning, it was always going to be Cooke,” he said. “They provide the right touch of softness and flare, but moreover, they are lenses I trust for their excellent optical performance.” In the end, he trusted a combination of Cooke S7/i Full Frame Plus and vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses, as well as a modern Cooke Panchro/i Classic 65mm Macro lens.
However, getting hold of the lenses was no easy task. After a halt on the verge of beginning principal photography due to the first lockdown, filming began in Spain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when access to gear was difficult with productions resuming all around the world and the rental teams found it challenging to put together all the required lenses. But Marco’s determination and rental house Welab’s perseverance and contact with Cooke, led them to receive all kit on time.For the contrasting warm, smooth, and natural look that Madrid offers, Marco turned to the S7/i Full Frame shooting in 6K, making use of LUTs when the character transforms from suburban mother to spy.
“The S7/i’s are those type of lenses that you know you can trust, no matter what focal length,” said Marco. “My preferred focal length is the 40mm. The proximity to the character works very well at the narrative level, but at the optical level it is something very difficult to achieve without aberrations. The 40mm offers a wide-angle view and works very well in this close-up environment, bringing a very intimate feeling of being with the character without having to be overwhelming them.”
Marco describes his career as a cinematographer as a journey from science to alchemy. “I started my career focusing on technical excellence; knowing every detail and component of the camera was a fundamental part of my work,” he said. “The evolution of the kit and my experience as a cinematographer has allowed me to move on from calculating every technical aspect to being much looser behind the camera, improvising more, and being more open to embracing accidents. This in turn gives me the chance to be much more spontaneous and to cultivate and harvest what I find along the path, and In From The Cold is a reflection of this growth. Confidence brought by years of experience filming Indie projects, where you can’t always afford all the tools you need, and a lens I trust, are the key elements in my baggage as a cinematographer.”
In From the Cold launched on Netflix January 28. All episodes are now available on the platform globally.