American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 69

Images by Dusan Martincek and Robert Viglasky, courtesy of National Geographic.

"They wanted me to talk to Ron
because he's used to feature-film schedules, and this was going to be a show on
a TV schedule," Herndl says. "So I guess
they were looking for somebody with a
television background to support him."
Meeting with Howard, the cinematographer recalls, "We talked about how to
keep this fresh and dynamic, how we
could do the time period justice without
making it feel dusty and 'period.' We
started to pass around ideas for a recipe."
One thing that came out of these
talks - in addition to the cinematographer's being hired - was the decision to
shoot the show with three cameras.
"Ron told me that in the past, he has
worked with cinematographers who
added in smaller cameras, and he really
enjoys having those angles that he didn't
quite expect," says Herndl. "I was
absolutely game for that, so basically we
shot Genius with three cameras at all
times." The A and B cameras - operated by Ryan Purcell and Honza
Cabalka, respectively - were Alexa
XTs, and the C camera was an Alexa
Mini operated by the cinematographer's
wife, Katherine Herndl, who has a
documentary background.
The three-camera setup did
wonders for the show's schedule, but
there were obvious challenges. "It
demanded a minimalist lighting style
that is very naturalistic," the cinematographer notes. "You need to do it with a
director who understands that challenge, or it puts you in a very precarious
situation. Ron was respectful and let me
put that third lens wherever it would fit
as far as it would be useful for him in the
editing room."
An embrace of mood and silhouette further aided the approach. "We
shot against sources and windows in a
fairly aggressive way," the director of
photography says. "We decided that
light should always be a factor,
with practicals that are a little bit too
hot, and full silhouettes or flares. Light
would be something that matters in
every single shot - in its presence or in
its absence."
Finally, Howard was interested in

Opposite: Several
decades in the life
of Albert Einstein
(here depicted by
Geoffrey Rush)
come to life in the
series Genius. This
page, above:
Director Ron
Howard (right,
gesturing) and
crew ready a
scene with young
Einstein (Johnny
Flynn). Left:
Cinematographer
Mathias Herndl,
AAC lines up a
shot.

finding a visual expression of the "genius
factor." Einstein's brilliance, Herndl
explains, provided the filmmakers with
"the opportunity to look at things from a
perspective that the average person may
not view things from. It allowed us to
shoot fairly extreme angles and also to be
very aggressive in our [choice of lenses].
Einstein's character is constantly under
pressure, being faced with the rise of the
Third Reich while being a Jewish scientist, having a very disturbed relationship
with his own father - and in general a
hard time relating to people - but at the
same time being someone who is so
much in love with the universe and
nature and the environment around him.
All that together allowed us to be very
www.theasc.com

stylized and aggressive in our visual
language."
The first episode of Genius sets up
two interweaving time frames that the
rest of the series goes on to pursue in
more chronological fashion. In the
1890s, the young Einstein ( Johnny
Flynn) is portrayed as a brash, iconoclastic student in Munich and Zurich;
then, in the 1920s, the middle-aged
Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) is an established physicist and professor at the
Berlin Academy of Sciences. The rise of
Nazism eventually forced Einstein to
emigrate to the United States.
Herndl and Howard contrasted
these two time frames in visual terms.
"Young Einstein is an intuitive, impulJuly 2017

69


http://www.theasc.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - July 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 7
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American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41A
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41B
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 42
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