HBO Europe’s 30 Coins shot on VENICE

Exclusive interview with DoP Pablo Rosso

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Pablo Rosso is an award-winning Argentinian cinematographer who started out as a stills photographer in Europe, before moving into TV production and then getting his break as a cinematographer. He’s never looked back and is perhaps best known for his work on the paranormal REC franchiseRosso helped create the distinctive handheld look for the first movie witdirectors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. A commercial and critical hit, there have been three sequels so far and Rosso even briefly appeared in REC2 (2009). Rosso has also received many awards, including the AEC Best Cinematography Award for Frío Sol de Invierno at the Ourense Independent Film Festival in 2004.

Rosso’s latest project is the HBO Europe series 30 Coins (30 monedas), written and directed by Álex de la Iglesiawith the first episode shown at the 77the VENICE International Film Festival in September 2020, followed by its debut on HBO Europe in November. Reaction to the first season has been very positive, with the 8-episode mini-series following the adventures of an exorcist who has been exiled by the Church to a remote village. Principal photography lasted for 26 weeks and was mainly shot on location using S-Log3 with VENICE, then graded in P3. Due to the show featuring a great deal of visual effects, the X-OCN XT codec was used to maximise recording quality. 

The tools are becoming increasingly user-friendly. The new tools Sony is creating are totally focused on the idea rather than the technical aspect. VENICE has an extraordinary quality when it comes to the shadow and highlight  management.

Revolutionary times

Rosso has spent his whole life working with imagery and reflects that while cinematography changed very little in the past 100 years things are very different now.

“Now, In the last 10 years, it’s changing every day. And yes, I’m convinced that we’re living in a revolution.”

New gamma curves, bit depth and colour spaces are constantly redefining the creative possibilities so Rosso appreciates Sony’s efforts in making tools for creators rather than engineers.

“The tools are becoming increasingly user-friendly. The new tools Sony is creating are totally focused on the idea rather than the technical aspect. VENICE has an extraordinary quality when it comes to the shadow and highlight  management. It’s truly outstanding, but above all the key is the Dual ISO. No doubt about it. For example, if you select the High ISO base, you will  have much more room for the shadows and vice versa.  Another feature of the camera that I really like are the built-in ND filters that go up to eight steps.”

In fact, Rosso was so impressed by VENICE’s internal ND filter system that he stopped using external filters for the most part, the only exception being when he required a gradient.

“It’s marvellous to have the convenience of pushing a button and the camera setting the ND level as you wish! I believe it’s a great improvement.”

The quality of the filters and lack of colour bias were key in establishing this trust. They worked particularly well with the Hawk V-Light Vintage 74 lenses.

“Geometric and chromatic aberrations, flares… the lenses have a lot of playful characteristics,” Rosso observes. “At the end, the look and feel of 30 Coins was a bit more extreme than my initial proposal, but the footage sustains the extremes very well. Yet again, VENICE performed outstandingly well as the footage was pushed quite a lot. Even though I had a say in some visual decisions,  it was Alex who had a final word on the end result. I made a proposal and he pushed it to the extreme.”

What do you need? A capturing tool that can manage the details which you have no time to care of. And VENICE is one of those tools. The high sensitivity as well as the outstanding signal management at the extremes.

Tight schedule

The principal photography schedule was the tightest Rosso had ever worked with, so it was critical that VENICE was fast to work with.

“At a certain point Alex says: We’re setting up towards this whole street with the square in the background and afterwards we will do the reverse shot with the street and the village entrance in the background. What do you need? A capturing tool that can manage the details which you have no time to care of. And VENICE is one of those tools. The high sensitivity as well as the outstanding signal management at the extremes.”

The quality of the footage provided greater flexibility in post-production to achieve the desired look.

“Once more, the virtue of this camera is that it offers a Dual ISO which you can choose as a starting point. Either 500 or 2500. 2500 is mind-blowing when you stop to think about it. It’s incredible: 2500 ISO. And the noise. If you enlarge the picture, you’ll notice that is a bit more prominent. But at full screen it is visually negligible. We could say that the image has no noise at all. The picture is no noisier than 500 ISO.”