Alex Garland’s "Devs" shot on Sony Venice by Rob Hardy, BSC

Contre-Champ AFC n°318

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"Devs" is one of 2020’s most critically acclaimed TV shows ; a stunningly beautiful 4K HDR production for FX Networks. The eight-part miniseries is a philosophical and intelligent exploration of determinism and individuality or free will—what it is to be alive—and how technology is shaped by humanity’s emotional need and input.

The production is the latest collaboration between cinematographer Rob Hardy, BSC and director Alex Garland who previously worked together on the highly praised feature films Ex Machina (2014) and Annihilation (2018). Rob Hardy, BSC is one of the UK’s most accomplished and admired cinematographers who shot blockbuster Mission : Impossible – Fallout for director Christopher McQuarrie in 2018, and won a BAFTA Award for Best Photography and Lighting for Boy A in 2007.

“You’re getting everything you want and need in terms of image quality, detail and balance between the shadows and the highlights. And the confidence to know you could shoot in low light.”

For "Devs", Hardy put the Sony Venice camera through its paces in just about every environment possible. There are multiple lighting setups throughout the series, with very brightly lit daylight interiors and equally bright San Francisco exteriors with an authentic soft contrast feel. The Devs ‘Cube’ interiors on the other hand are very dark with bright gold paneling highlights and backgrounds, while the exterior night-time scenes are often only lit with available light sources.

Rob Hardy, BSC, et le réalisateur Alex Garland.
Rob Hardy, BSC, et le réalisateur Alex Garland.

The majestic aerial scenes of San Francisco unusually coming out of the fog with extraordinarily subtle nuances in the mid-tones are quite stunning. There are also the most effervescent and memorable night-time aerial shots with exceptionally bright highlights that never seem to clip, while retaining all of the details in the shadows. "Devs" is also rich with visible and invisible VFX that blend perfectly with the photorealistic Venice images.

"Devs" was shot over 100 days mainly on location in Northern California, but also included a six-week studio shoot in Manchester and a grading session that ran over two months in London.

“There’s always something esthetically pleasing to me in finding a frame that tells the story – that gives us proximity to the actor – but it never hides the environment that we’re in. With Alex, in a sentence you immediately understand where you are, what you’re looking at and the perspective you’re going to take or what this character is feeling without ever being told any of these things.”