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Home Tech & Gadget How Did WandaVision Do That? A Peek Behind the MCU Series’ Cinematography

How Did WandaVision Do That? A Peek Behind the MCU Series’ Cinematography

WandaVision is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including how it looks. Cinematography is a crucial part of this. For most of its nine episodes, WandaVision spanned decades of American sitcoms, starting in the 1950s with the classics and breaking the Fourth Wall in the 2000s. Along the way, WandaVision has consistently played with its height ratio. / width, the way it’s filmed and framed, and the color schemes – all to pay homage to the family sitcoms from which it is partly inspired.

There’s a lot going on in this process, as WandaVision’s cinematographer Jess Hall – previously best known for Edgar Wright’s action comedy Hot Fuzz, sci-fi Ghost in the Shell directed. by Scarlett Johansson and beloved indie coming-of-age The Spectacular Now – told Gadgets 360 in a chat this week.

“When you watch an era, you watch specific shows – we watch family sitcoms from every decade – but I think beyond that, you also watch a particular cinematic vocabulary that existed, a language that existed, which is common among shows from this period, ”Hall said. “When you watch the 1950s, you basically watch a lot of live multi-camera shows. They needed some type of wide lighting to run because you’re shooting with three cameras from different angles.

WandaVision Episode 1, aptly titled “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience,” was actually shot with a studio audience. Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda Maximoff, previously said the experience was “so nerve-racking. There was a lot of adrenaline, there were a lot of rapid changes, and it totally confused my brain, the idea of ​​not performing in front of an audience, but feeding off an audience and having a camera. .

Moving on to WandaVision Episode 2 “Don’t Touch That Dial,” Hall continued, you find yourself in the era of “single camera lighting, more modeled”. In January, WandaVision director Matt Shakman revealed he sat down with Dick Van Dyke from the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–66), and screened “a ton of old TV episodes” before filming. for the cast and crew.

Matt Shakman, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany on the set of WandaVision
Photo credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

In episode 3 of WandaVision “Now in Color” the MCU series sprouted into the 1970s, this is where “you get the kind of look from the early movies, so it’s a very specific type of palette. colors and they work with stock films, ”Hall added. “And then when you introduce it as a video, in the 80s and 90s”, – it happened with episode 5 of WandaVision “On a very special episode…” – “which had a very special quality. So, it’s not just the shows, but it’s also the technological eras that are common to some of these shows that I was watching.

As Hall noted, the obvious way to deal with the different looks with each episode of WandaVision would have been to use different types of cameras, each appropriate to their time period and style. For example, “find a first video camera from the 1980s and shoot an episode on it,” he says. This is not how the show was produced.

“I actually went the other way,” Hall told Gadgets 360. “I used a predominant camera rig for each [WandaVision] episode: large format [Arri] Alexa, I would say 85% of the show is shot with this camera. And for me, it was about developing the color science within this very high-level camera platform, kind of wrapping around the look I was doing and basically creating a LUT, so that I can mimic those looks into the camera. . Part of that was done with Technicolor in terms of creating these different envelopes to work with that camera rig and then using a lot of different lenses and a lot of different lighting techniques to try to make this world.

Simply put: Large format used to refer to the size of the film, but with digital cameras like Arri Alexa LF it refers to the size of the sensor. Large format cameras, in addition to being much larger than standard 35mm film cameras, also allow filmmakers to do more with tighter lenses.

Large Format vs 35mm Comparison Film 35mm Medium Wide Format

4×5 and 5×8 are examples of large format films
Photo credit: Wikimedia

LUT, or Look-Up Table, is basically a mathematical equation applied to RGB values, that is, to color. This allows the filmmakers to see, on set, what the final product might look like.

So when Hall talks about “mimicking those looks in the camera,” he means that they were able to achieve the different time frames that WandaVision needed using a camera platform (Arri Alexa LF). Add to that a bunch of different visual styles (or envelopes, as Hall calls them) created in partnership with Technicolor, a company that specializes in developing and delivering LUTs to filmmakers around the world.

On WandaVision, Hall deployed a total of 47 different lenses, some of which were custom-made by Panavision to recreate the look of the 50s to the 70s. Did Hall have a favorite? The cinematographer says that during his research he observed that as TV shows entered the ’60s, they became more cinematic, in terms of lighting and shooting with just one. camera.

“One of the things I noticed was these wonderful close-ups they took of the leading ladies, which almost looked like Garbo-esque. Greta Garbo was one of Hollywood’s leading ladies during the silent era and was known for her calm, subtle, serene and understated performances. Hall continued, “So I made two special portrait lenses for Elizabeth Olsen, which sort of mimic that quality, which had very special characteristics with a highlight halo, kind of a smooth drop from the center to the edges. “

The inhalation is basically a blur of the highlights – these are the brightest parts of the movie – which sometimes makes the characters look ethereal.

As WandaVision left the Westview Hex starting with Episode 4 “We’re Breaking This Program,” Hall began using lenses that were used for the Marvel movies. Specifically, the Panavision Ultra Panatars which were “specially designed” for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Ultra Panatars are 1.3x anamorphic lenses – meaning they capture 1.3 times the horizontal data of a spherical lens (this is the kind you get with a standard DSLR camera that people like you and I could have). And unlike spherical lenses which produce a spherical image, anamorphic lenses produce an oval image.

“[Ultra Panatars] actually sort of rendering three-dimensional space in a different way than the spherical lenses we used for the sitcom world, ”Hall explained. “So you feel a shift in perspective as an audience, even though you might not be aware of it. And you feel a spatial shift; the rendering of three-dimensional space in two dimensions actually changes with [Ultra Panatars]. “

wandavision ensemble jess hall wandavision

On the set of WandaVision
Photo credit: Disney / Marvel Studios

“We inhabit a very particular kind of lighting environment, color space environment, and a color palette in the sitcom world that absolutely changes when we go into the MCU world,” Hall continued. “Of course, as the sitcom world gets more modern, the difference gets smaller. But I kind of protected that by only using the anamorphic lenses for the MCU world. So, it was kind of like my special sauce, which always differentiates those [Westview vs S.W.O.R.D.] goes well. “

For Hall, his favorite moments are the ones that mix these two worlds. This includes the dinner table scene from WandaVision Episode 1 “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” which goes from a mysterious comedic angle to a more dramatic tone as Mr. Hart (Fred Melamed) s’ collapses. Hall said of the scene, “The kind of lighting is changing and we’re kind of creating this drama with the cinematography.”

Hall also liked the in-depth transition to color in WandaVision Episode 2 “Don’t Touch That Dial”, and the pivotal moment in WandaVision Episode 3 “Now in Color” where Monica Rambeau / “Geraldine” (Teyonah Parris) was kicked out of Westview Hex by Wanda. He added: “From that very warm sitcom bubble to that cool exterior, and the aspect ratio goes from 1.33: 1 to 2.39: 1.”

WandaVision’s cinematographer teased that a few more shots he loves are yet to come in the two remaining episodes of WandaVision – WandaVision Episode 8 premieres February 26 and WandaVision Episode 9 premieres. the series, drops March 5. But naturally, as with all things to come Marvel, he can’t talk about it.

Hall’s time in the MCU has come at the most interesting moment, with the ever-expanding universe appearing to be the most experimental: “We’ve built this bubble of this cozy sitcom, this Americana that’s sort of familiar. And then we kind of disrupt it, with uneasiness and tension. We are fracturing it. And that’s a really interesting kind of dramatic tension to work with as a cinematographer.

WandaVision is available on Disney + and Disney + Hotstar.


Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from

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