In this exclusive interview, we sit down with showrunner Holger Frick, co founder of Superama Filmproduktions GmbH, and Director of Photography Edward Salerno Jr., who share their insights into the creative process on RTL2’s “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction,” the challenges faced and the technology that made the sixth season possible.
“I connected with Holger Frick through a mutual acquaintance and subsequently interviewed with him and his team, expressing my interest in and appreciation for the original series from the '90s. Shortly after that interview, I was brought on board, and from there, we immersed ourselves in the visual narrative, never looking back,” begins Salerno Jr.
“During discussions with Holger and director Ben Munz we delved into the essence of what the original ‘90s show had captured. We carefully considered the visual aesthetics, shot style, camera movements, and each director's unique aspirations and objectives. This allowed each short to have its own visual identity within the broader world building framework.”
Given the diverse nature of the shorts, each shot within a day and requiring adaptation to fit the individual stories' needs, it was a collaborative effort with Nick Ramsey, who lensed Series 5, returning to work alongside Salerno Jr.
Within the course of one hour, five stories are shown. None of these stories have any logical explanation, and some of them actually occurred. Viewers are left to decide which of these stories, if any, are fact, and which are fiction.
Those series featured numerous diverse locations, each presenting unique opportunities and challenges, Salerno Jr. reflects. “While all had specific requirements, if we were to highlight one of the more challenging locations, it would be an early shoot on a ranch in the mountains of Santa Clarita. Shooting in scorching temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit was quite demanding.”
The duo worked closely to define the camera treatment and develop a guiding show LUT for image manipulation during post production. “I shared my approach to camera treatment for the season, detailing how I would use filtration to achieve various time periods and effects,” says Salerno Jr. “While I was in prep for the show's final weeks, Nick worked with another director during their eight day block.”
To maintain a cohesive look and vibe throughout the series, the team anchored its approach in the visual language of the original '90s series. This involved using filtration, classic blueish moonlight, and a specific level of haze, which, combined with accent lighting on props and set decoration, created a consistent '90s atmosphere.
“While we drew inspiration from the original series, we also allowed ourselves to explore various shooting styles, including gimbals, Steadicam, zooms, handheld, and dolly, choosing movements that best complemented the performances and emotional arcs of the characters and the respective stories,” Salerno Jr. continues.
The choice to shoot with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro digital film cameras added a new dimension to the latest series.
“Our primary camera was the URSA Mini Pro 12K, complemented by Angenieux EZ 1 and 2 T2 Zooms and the Canon 30-300. We also used the Pocket Camera 6K Pro on a gimbal with Sigma primes. We employed various Schneider and Tiffen filters to achieve our desired look,” notes Salerno Jr.
After meticulous testing to determine the ideal 'aesthetic breaking point' for the show's visual style and factoring in considerations like data management, storage, and post production requirements, the production team chose to shoot at different resolutions. “For moments with integrated VFX and nighttime scenes, we used 12K 5:1 or 8K 5:1. For general settings and daytime shots, we primarily used 8K at 8:1. We'd then adjust based on the high frame rate needs of each story,” Salerno Jr. explains.
According to showrunner Holger Frick, there were both creative and financial benefits in choosing the URSA Mini Pro 12K. “The ability to shoot in 6K, 8K and 12K simplified many of our decisions on set, especially when framing shots on what was a very tight filming schedule. Additionally, when filming Jonathan Frakes, we didn't need to worry about retakes or using a B cam for close ups.”
Frick continues, “Moreover, given our limited budget for an eight episode television show, opting for Blackmagic cameras allowed us to allocate more funds to what appeared on camera.”
The pre production and testing phase lasted three days, covering various aspects, including noise levels, exposure ranges, and quality compression. After fine tuning in DaVinci Resolve Studio, a show LUT was created for color correction, ensuring a consistent look throughout the series.
Managing the rushes on set posed a considerable data management challenge for production. “We anticipated capturing approximately 60TB of data during our 44 shooting days,” notes Frick.
Recognizing the need to begin editing in Munich immediately upon commencing shooting in LA, Superama established a daily automated proxy delivery system. “While continuously backing up data on set, the Blackmagic Proxy Generator App ran concurrently. We utilized a Blackmagic Cloud Pod to synchronize a watch folder with Dropbox, ensuring that the material was readily available to the team in Germany the following day,” Frick concludes.
Blackmagic Cloud Pod network storage solutions in three locations were responsible for managing the data, which amounted to 55TB of RAW footage per episode, according to Frick. With a project library hosted on Blackmagic Cloud, Superama's team of editors, VFX artists and colorists worked collaboratively within DaVinci Resolve Studio throughout production.
“Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction” Season 6 is a testament to the power of creative collaboration. The show's creators have crafted a remarkable visual experience that pays homage to its roots while pushing the boundaries of storytelling.
Product photos of Blackmagic Cloud Pod, DaVinci Resolve Studio, URSA Mini Pro 12K, Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and all other Blackmagic Design products are available at www.blackmagicdesign.com/uk/media/images