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July/August 2020

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 11 POST JULY/AUG 2020 Where did you post? "For the pilot our post offices were on the Paramount lot, and for the series we used my offices. The main connective tis- sue was editor Dave Rogers, who cut The Office. He's a brilliant editor, producer and director, and he cut the pilot and the show, and also directed some episodes. Then, for sound, we mixed at Technicolor, and I used Bobby Mackston, a great Emmy-nominated sound designer. [He] works out of Sony, and we go way back to The Simpsons, so we've worked to- gether for close to 30 years." Do you like the post process? "I love all of the post process, and my favorite part of all is Foley. I love going to Bobby Mackston's office, especially for a project like this, and just making specialty sound effects out of banging drawers and water coolers, and just using your mouth. It's super-fun! And I love working with music and composers, and Joseph Stephens did the score on this, and I'd worked with our music supervi- sor Maggie Phillips before on People of Earth. And my manager and producing partner Howard Klein composes clas- sical music, and we licensed one of the themes from him for the pilot, before Joey Stephens came onboard for the se- ries. And of course I love editing. I'm a bit of a perfectionist in the editing room and I love sitting there with our editors Rob Burnett and Dave Rogers, and building up every scene. I'm pretty hands-on." Talk about editing with Rob Burnett and Dave Rogers. How did that work and what were the big editing challenges? "It was very demanding, as there are so many layers. You have scenes set in the future, with people FaceTiming, and there are all these digital ads and signs, so each shot had tons of stuff going on and we had to separate it all, and it was a very slow process. There was also so much green-screen work, and then the editors would have to temp stuff in before we got any of the VFX shots back because of the pacing. In fact, we had to lock picture before we got all the VFX shots back, and that can affect the tim- ing, and we couldn't lock picture with all the green screen, so the assistant editors would build their versions of every single element in the Avid so we could time it, and then the real versions would be done by FuseFX in Montreal." All the VFX obviously play a big role. Talk about working on them with FuseFX VFX supervisor Marshall Krasser. "Marshall, who's had a long career work- ing on Star Wars, was on the set every day, making sure all the set ups were right. We'd have production meetings and discuss what I wanted to do, and I'd usually draw stuff, as I come from a car- toon background. The problem with that is, often when you draw it, you're sort of faking the lenses. So my DP Simon would look at it and go, 'That's great for a cartoon, but there is no lens you can use where you keep that in the foreground and also that in the background.' So you have to adapt. And then there's stuff we had to invent, like how do the people coming into VR appear and disappear? And how do you deal with the custom- er service angels manipulating their computer screens? And that's appearing in the VR world. And Nathan's memories are a big part of the show, and we had to shoot those in first-person perspective. So creating and tying in all the VFX was very complex." What was the most difficult VFX shot to do? "It was in Episode 8, when Nathan decides he wants to switch afterlife companies, and we originally had him tour a casino, then a beach resort. But our budget couldn't accommodate all these locations, so I came up with the idea of a travel agency — he goes there, the guy pushes a button, and using blue screen, we could turn the office into his travels around these various VR locations instead. But when we began looking for footage, we realized it's very hard to find aerial footage with four, five different angles that match the camera angles. So that became a huge search during post, as we'd already shot all the dialogue." Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you? "We did it at Sim and I also love the whole DI process, as I'm very picky about the look, as I've had the show in my head for so many years now. I loved working with colorist John Persichetti, and we tried a lot of different things, and I talked quite a bit first about how I wanted to avoid that typical sci-fi cool palette of grays and greens. I wanted rich, fanta- sy colors for the futuristic scenes, and ultimately we made the real world scenes quite de-saturated and normal and like Mr. Robot, and then the digital world far more colorful, like a Harry Potter movie. And that look also helped stress another of the show's themes — the environmen- tal degradation in the future. If you want beauty, you'll have to pay for it, as we've ruined our world's natural beauty." Did the show turn out the way you hoped? "Pretty much, although there's always a few VFX shots you wish you could keep working on. I'll keep giving VFX notes till they drag me away, and I'm sure I drove everyone crazy." I heard you gave the VFX crew T-shirts to that effect? "Yes, and they said, 'Upload me now and get it over with.'" Amazon already renewed it for Season 2. What can fans expect? "I've been working on it and one of the things we'll explore are the Luddites — people who're against all new technolo- gy, and we'll get more into the mystery story." The color grade takes place at Sim. The series is shot with Arri Alexa cameras.

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