AMC's popular new dystopian series Into the Badlands, created by Miles Millar and Al Gough — imagine The Hunger Games or Game of Thrones as a martial arts saga set in a deep, feudal south and dripping with supernatural influences — brings Hong Kong-style cinema to the small screen. Featuring a diverse international cast, led by Chinese-American Hong Kong star Daniel Wu, it is packed with gorgeous, acrobatic kung fu combat and plenty of gore, without a gun in sight.
DP Shane Hurlbut, ASC, (Need for Speed, We Are Marshall, Semi-Pro) shot the show's six-episode first season with multiple cameras in the swampy, sometimes stormy, summer heat in and around New Orleans. During an intense 51-day production schedule, he and his team — directors David Dobkin and Guy Ferland — used eight RED Epic Dragons and one 6K RED Dragon Weapon. Three additional RED Epic Dragons were used by the separate fight unit, directed by Stephen Fung, to capture the kinetic scenes in a variety of locations.
"David and Guy wanted this series to be cinematic, large in scope and delivering an emotional punch. We shot the whole series like a feature film," explains Hurlbut, who recorded mostly in 5K HD, a version of 16:9 that eliminates cropping and reframing in post and speeds up the dailies process when delivering HD for television.
"Most TV series shoot with fewer cameras and have specific sets with lights rigged from green beds that stay in place day after day," he says. "This isn't that type of series. I lit every room you enter differently every time. We needed to build this world in just six episodes, and we did it by having enough cameras on location and through creative lighting and rigging."
AMC's Into the Badlands
Even a team of data wranglers on set might have found managing footage from 12 cameras and two very active camera units daunting — especially since Hurlbut had rigged three of those cameras with Freefly's MōVI M15 gyro-stabilized system to move up, over and around the actors and stunt people during filming. However, with camera teams scheduled to shoot eight or more scenes in a single day, and the threat of wild weather potentially disrupting the set's power grid for hours at a time, he persuaded the network to forgo on-set DITs and instead use the traditional film lab FotoKem to digitally process and store all the footage nearby in its New Orleans facility.
"Lab rates can often be much lower than on-set rates because the staff is already on payroll, and I knew we would get a cleaner, more efficient workflow if we went with an established place like FotoKem, which has been in business for over 50 years," he says. "By using a trusted process, updated for digital workflows, we are able to
infuse the FotoKem LUTs — developed with all of their color science — right onto the dailies exactly how I've lit them and am exposing them during
It was a technique he'd developed shooting the 2014 film Need for Speed, and when combined with FotoKem's uncompressed backups to LTO and secure transcoded footage transfers to G-Technology's G-RAID drives for editorial and VFX, it worked just as fast and as flawlessly for the television shoot.
The lab's decision to use best-in-class 4TB to 8TB G-RAID with Thunderbolt drives to backup and transport terabytes of transcoded footage to the various editorial and visual effects teams in Los Angeles was a no-brainer, says Hurlbut. "G-Technology RAIDs have amazing throughput and go anywhere," something he first discovered while shooting 2012's Act of Valor, his first digital film.
"For this show, which is so VFX-intensive, using G-RAID drives helped keep that flow of transcoded footage on schedule. Hong Kong-style is very much about wire work, about pushing the martial arts into a ballet that looks surreal," he continues. "There was obviously a ton of wire removal to be done in post, but also a fair amount of set extensions . . . from an expansive field of poppies to a fortress wall. And 90% of the blood is CGI. We didn't want to worry about setting all that up with makeup and the time it is required for take two — most of it was done digitally so we could stay on time and on budget."
Hurlbut and the Into the Badlands filmmakers viewed dailies from FotoKem on laptops via the secure Pix | System, then got right back to work. "The fight unit had 18 RED 512GB cards and we had 36 that we rotated in and out and literally shuttled back and forth to FotoKem's facility. We had a runner at lunch and a runner at wrap. By the next day at noon, we would get all of our cards and drives back. That's how we did the series: shuttling the cards back and forth from set to FotoKem's facility, and the transcoded footage on G-RAID drives between New Orleans and Los Angeles."
The entire first season of Into the Badlands is available on demand at AMC.com.