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A few words about...™ Mad Men - Season Five -- in Blu-ray

A Few Words About

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#1 of 4 Robert Harris

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Posted October 31 2012 - 12:46 AM

For those addicted to Mad Men, season five continues apace.


A wonderful high-end soap opera set in the early 1960s Madison Avenue.


Being in my teens at the time this is set, I can recognize, probably better today than then, the cast of characters who used to frequent my parents' home less than an hour north of the city.


Smoking was the norm, with ashtrays and lighters everywhere.  And yes, there was always a bottle of Canadian Club at the ready.  Although that particular crowd weren't heavy drinkers.


I believe I've noted before that I don't normally watch these series in broadcast, but prefer to view them en masse in 1080p on a Blu-ray, for a more satisfying experience.


Season five of Mad Men has a bit of a different look to it and it can be discerned on Blu-ray.  While the first four seasons (beginning all the way back in 2007) were shot on 35/3, S5 went digital.


The resultant image is digitally gorgeous, and yet still has a film-like quality.  How did they do it?


The bottom line is that it was shot with Arri Alexas with grain added in post at Technicolor.


Sound & Picture has a great interview with DP Chris Manley.  Here are some excerpts:



S&P: Are you still shooting 35mm?
Manley: No, actually. We switched to the Arri Alexa. It’s crazy. The people over at Lionsgate wanted to do it. Matt was a bit unsure if it would work so we shot a bunch of tests with film versus the Alexa, and the Alexa looked great. We ended up going with it and Technicolor, the people who do our post. They added a digital grain effect to make it look like the 5219 film stock we were using. 



S&P: How do you feel about moving away from film?
Manley: I’m on the fence about it. I love film. I love the Alexa. When we discussed the issue about switching, I knew it would give me a little more creativity going into my fourth season so that was a bit exciting. But if we stayed on film, I knew that it might be one of my last opportunities to shoot on it.



S&P: How has the Alexa changed your approach to lighting?
Manley: The first season was more of an old fashioned style of lighting. Over the seasons, Matt wanted to go in a more naturalistic direction, which is more of my default style of working so it got easier.


I generally rate the Alexa at ASA, but after a few weeks, I put my meter in the drawer and it hasn’t come out since. If you set your meter to 800 ASA, it’s too bright. Our swing sets are working at far lower lighting levels then we ever have, which I kind of like, as it help our ability to keep it looking naturalistic.

With the Sterling Cooper office, we are building up the light levels to the overhead fluorescents and the backing. The office lighting levels are at their normal tone, but now I’m putting ND filters in front of the camera. For wide shots, I’m using an ND6, and for close ups, I will have an ND3 on there to make it a little easier for the focus pullers.


The entire interview is worth your time, and can be found here:

http://soundandpictu...ley-on-mad-men/


Great series, now represented on Blu-ray in a pure digital to digital form.

With previous seasons now priced in the mid-teens on Blu-ray, one can catch up with the first four seasons for a mad price of around $65.  That's 2500 minutes of extremely high quality programming.

Very Highly Recommended.

RAH




"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 4 Doctorossi

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Posted October 31 2012 - 04:25 AM

Thanks, Robert. :cool:

#3 of 4 TravisR

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Posted October 31 2012 - 04:58 AM

Not that I'm an authority but I've noticed on a number of shows when they make the switch to digital from film so I'm surprised to see that Mad Men did it because I didn't have a clue. This is a great show and I highly recommend it. Thanks for the info, link and review, RAH!

#4 of 4 Robert Harris

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Posted October 31 2012 - 05:30 AM

Originally Posted by TravisR 

Not that I'm an authority but I've noticed on a number of shows when they make the switch to digital from film so I'm surprised to see that Mad Men did it because I didn't have a clue.
This is a great show and I highly recommend it. Thanks for the info, link and review, RAH!

They've done it beautifully, as it still has the intended film look.  At first glance, it's doubtful that you'd see it.  But it makes a very interesting comparison between the two last seasons.


RAH


"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence






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