American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 68

Speed
of

Light
Cinematographer
Mathias Herndl, AAC visualizes
greatness for the National
Geographic series Genius.
By John Calhoun
*|*

C

overing several decades in the life of Albert Einstein,
Genius is the first scripted drama series to air on National
Geographic Channel. For director of photography
Mathias Herndl, AAC, who was behind the camera for
all 10 episodes of the first season and worked with director
and executive producer Ron Howard to set the look of the
show, working on the series was an honor. After all, he says,
National Geographic is "a brand that is synonymous with
photography." But, given the modern television landscape,
taking the job also meant that he was "ready to be told by the
network what cameras I should use, that we would have to
shoot the highest resolution possible, and so forth.

68

July 2017

"I was really positively surprised, and again honored and
thankful, that that didn't happen," Herndl continues. "They
asked me what I would like to shoot on, and signed off on it."
His choice of camera for the show was Arri's Alexa because,
he says, "I think the imagery you get out of these cameras is
spectacular, even though you don't get a full 4K image. They
respected my choice as the photographer to use what I
thought was aesthetically right for the show." The production
recorded 1.78:1 ArriRaw files to Codex XR Capture Drives.
The network also signed off on an unconventional decision for television, to frame for and broadcast in the 2:1 aspect
ratio. "For something that is supposed to feel cinematic - and
considering the production design, the kind of story we were
trying to tell, and the kind of scope we were trying to achieve
- I thought 2:1 would be something really interesting to do,"
the cinematographer explains.
Such a vision was appealing to Howard. Herndl, a
native of Germany who has spent most of his career working
on American and Canadian projects, met the director through
executive producer Kenneth Biller, with whom he had previously worked on the series Legends. That show was shot in
Prague, where Genius - with its many and varied European
settings - would also be photographed.

American Cinematographer



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