PARAMUS, N.J.—Sony Electronics has announced that some of its latest HDR capture and monitoring technologies have been used in the production of the second season of Netflix’s “Sweet Magnolias.”
Sony equipment used for production included the BVM-HX310, the PVM-X series of monitors and the VENICE camera.
Netflix’s “Sweet Magnolias” is a dramatic love tale set in the South about three lifelong friends who navigate their personal and professional priorities and relationships side by side.
With a cast led by JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Brooke Elliott and Heather Headley, each character’s storylines help set the tone and feel of the show, which often features the traditional light and bright exteriors typical of romance tales, while incorporating genre-uncharacteristic shadows, darkness and contrast, all of which are amplified through the use of HDR imaging, Sony reported.
From a behind-the-scenes perspective, Sweet Magnolias features the technical talents of Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) Tyler Blackwell, whose credits include “One Night in Miami…”, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Women of the Movement,” among others, and Brian Johnson, cinematographer, Gemini Award nominee, two-time Golden Sheaf winner and recipient of two Leos, whose resume includes “The Killing” and “You Me Her,” for name just a few. As cinematographer, Johnson uses his camera and lighting to execute the series’ creative vision, helping to determine the show’s look, emphasize aesthetics, and create emotional connections with the characters, while Blackwell helps Johnson ensure his vision is maintained. and the look is crisp, precise, and designed to seamlessly pass the post-production process.
Season 1 of Sweet Magnolias has been a popular title on the streaming platform, and Season 2 was released on February 4, 2022. Its stunning footage is captured by Johnson using Sony’s VENICE full-frame digital cinema camera , while Blackwell monitors the series using a combination of the Sony PVM-X2400 and BVM-HX310 4K HDR monitors.
As HDR comes to the forefront of productions, Blackwell explained its appeal, explaining, “On Sweet Magnolias, we deliver a show in SDR and HDR. My hyper-critical eyes are on every frame and having HDR monitoring on set was really helpful in pushing a different standardized look. We use Dolby Vision, which I believe is the pinnacle of HDR and provides the best viewing experience for our dedicated fans.
Another important aspect of offering and delivering this top-notch viewing experience to audiences is having the right tools.
Blackwell prides itself on mastering the latest cutting-edge technologies, including 12G, 4K, and HDR, which contribute to its success and marketability as an in-demand DIT, and it understands that using superior solutions helps it achieve first class result and notoriety. “After some trial and error with other gear, and a lot of research and development, I found my way to Sony 4K HDR monitors,” he said.
“On Sweet Magnolias we use three PVM-X2400s and one BVM-HX310, with the X2400s on my cart and the main cart, while the HX310 is on the HDR cart, which is in our command center – the DIT tent .” Johnson added: “The DIT tent is quite impressive. It has a range of Sony monitors and it really offers the best visual representation of what we’re going to end up with.
The BVM-HX310 is also used for daily QCing. Blackwell explained: “We use the BVM-HX310 to make sure the team compares my stills to what they see in their surroundings and makes sure everything is aligned and accurate to what Brian and I have. created.
For Blackwell, he focused on the Sony PVM-X2400 after standardizing on the BVM-HX310 in 2020. Blackwell chose Sony over the competition due to the company’s “critical” and “invaluable” support and its dedicated resources. He also cited the monitors’ Dynamic Contrast Control feature, which helps ensure content matches the HX310, as well as appropriate viewing environments.
Since Blackwell already owns two BVM-HX310s, he recognizes the benefits of working with a predominantly Sony workflow. He said, “The fact that the HX310 and X2400 match colors perfectly and work well together is very important. We even had a scenario where Brian and the crew were filming on top of a building and we set up the HX310 so Brian could see what was being filmed in real time. Due to the size and weight of my cart, and the lack of an elevator, rolling my cart was not an option. This is where the X2400 really shined. I was three floors down, operating the cart and relaying Brian and me to make sure he could match what he was looking at with what he wanted to see. I had one of the X2400 monitors in HDR mode and the other in SDR mode. Brian was monitoring upstairs in SDR on the HX310, but I could still get the environment we usually have, where the HX310 is usually HDR and the X2400 is usually SDR on the cart.
Adapting to an HDR viewing environment is also important to Johnson, although it is understood that he will primarily view content on SDR monitors and many of the show’s viewers will consume Sweet Magnolias in SDR. He realizes that there are certain situations where having an HDR point of view helps boost his creativity and ensures the best viewing experience. He explained, “In scenarios where there is a wider field of view or where there are multiple windows facing the outside, we will put it on the HDR monitor to see the perceptual effect of bright windows. Even if they’re not clipped, in HDR they can be so bright, allowing us to gain perceptual information beyond any waveform information, so we can adapt our strategy to mitigate the brightness. When you look at an SDR image, you don’t always get the same preview. »
But Sony workflow and color matching weren’t the only reasons Blackwell chose the PVM-X2400. He said, “Not only are Sony monitors the industry standard, they are also in demand by customers. As a service provider I have to listen to my customers and understand market demands and that has always been Sony.
Johnson added, “I’ve never monitored in HDR on set before, but I found it really comforting and convenient to be able to do so, especially when we get closer to a place where we feel good with the camera. SDR lighting. Once I’ve checked the HDR monitor, we can further reduce highlights if needed, or flag items for posting. Using the monitors lets me know I’m in the right place with the HDR deliverable, which is invaluable.
Additional features Blackwell mentioned included the “fantastic” multi-channel setups of the monitors. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to use all 30, but being able to quickly switch between configurations on the monitor is awesome. Then I use the quadrant view to set an HDR and an SDR next to each other.
Another benefit of using Sony monitors on all of Sweet Magnolias is the seamless collaboration and streamlined workflow they offer with the Sony VENICE camera Johnson uses. In addition to lens impact, Johnson uses a LUT he deems “idiosyncratic” and “absolutely essential” to create a distinctive look for the show, which is well represented by monitors.
But that’s not the only advantage of filming with VENICE. Johnson, who used the camera for the first time to capture Sweet Magnolias in 5.7K, 16:9, remarked that he was “really pleased with the contrast and color representation of VENICE”. It first turned to the camera because of its ability to meet Netflix’s delivery requirements and its “super awesome” large format sensor.
Johnson noted, “I knew on this project we were going to want to limit the depth of field as much as possible on stage, so I was really keen to go with a large format sensor. It turned out that the VENICE was our best candidate and aligned with our budget. I had obviously read a lot about VENICE and some of my colleagues had shot on it and had very good experiences. I was curious and excited to work with VENICE, and it turned out to be an awesome camera. It won’t be the last time I use it, that’s for sure.
Additional advantages of VENICE mentioned by Johnson include its size and the quick and easy accessibility of settings. He added: “It’s a real cinema camera. My team changes the ISO a lot and we like the internal ND function, which we use constantly, and all the functions are there for helpers. Also, the camera is small and light enough for us to successfully integrate with the Ronin, which is great.
From Blackwell’s DIT perspective, he likes the VENICE as well. He explained: “Being able to work with technology that can see more colors than the human eye is quite inspiring. Knowing that we have as much as we can collect on set to work with is amazing. In addition, from a technical point of view, the ISOs we use allow us to ensure that we maintain the shadows or the highlights depending on the scene and the lighting environment in which we find ourselves.
Blackwell also highlighted the use of ART files, a technology that provides bit-level precision when using a 3D LUT for on-set monitoring and improves image integrity for video applications. viewing reviews. He found that ART extensions provide camera operators and assistants with insight, even when Blackwell is off set due to COVID restrictions. He explained, “Being able to leave Brian and leave the department with a camera that produces the LUT show in an ART was essential for Brian to continue doing his job without someone like me keeping tabs on things.”
Additionally, Blackwell appreciates Sony’s SxS cards, especially their dual recording functionality. He described the benefits saying, “We used dual recording on Sweet Magnolias, recording to AXS and SxS media to make sure we have a backup because no matter what camera system you’re working with, crashes happen. . Cards can be removed while you are recording or there is a power failure or file corruption. Being able to have two separate versions of your media recording at the same time is a great safety net.
As Blackwell and Johnson look to the future, they recognize that using state-of-the-art equipment, including Sony’s HDR monitors and VENICE camera, helps usher in a future where HDR is the expectation while cementing the show’s legacy. Johnson concluded, “I can only assume that one day all monitors will be HDR, and by keeping an eye on that, we’re increasing the shelf life of Sweet Magnolias through our use of cutting-edge technology.”