ABC’s Agent Carter, the newest television series from Marvel, has been getting great reviews and lots of eyeballs. It is also using a distinctive production workflow — footage is captured on Arri Alexa XTs, and ArriRaw is being used for main unit photography.
In order to enable this workflow, Codex has provided digital recording for director of photography Gabriel Beristain’s cameras, and has consulted with visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal on the lens mapping, to assist VFX production.
The show, which is set in the 1940s, focuses agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) a secretary who has been recruited by Howard Stark to take on secret missions. One episode is produced over the course of eight days, with roughly half shot on stages and half at Los Angeles locations that double for the show’s ‘40s New York setting.
The use of ArriRaw on Agent Carter is typical of Beristain (Magic City, Dolores Claiborne, The Spanish Prisoner, The Ring Two, Blade: Trinity), who was also among the first to pair vintage glass and Alexa XT digital cameras for a television series. On Marvel’s Agent Carter, Beristain worked without a DIT, saying that the Codex/ArriRaw workflow has allowed him to focus on aesthetics and stay involved with the cast.
“It’s analogous to the film system in some ways, where I know how my negative is going to behave,” says Beristain. “It’s going back to a system that always worked really well for us, and we’re getting phenomenal results. Codex recording technology provides us with the technology to capture everything, and get the best possible image.”
The Codex/ArriRaw workflow also helps with post and the VFX shots. Over the course of the eight-episode season, an estimated 1,000 visual effects shots will be created. ILM, Base Effects and Double Negative are working on the show.
“It was always our intention that the VFX should look photorealistic and seamless and, since we had already done a Marvel One-Shot short, the bar was set to a high standard,” explains Duggal (Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games). “The challenge was how to create large volumes of photorealistic VFX shots, at Marvel-feature-quality, but on a network TV post schedule, which ranges from 16 to 20 days, once the picture is locked.
“Gabby decided that we should shoot ArriRaw to capture the best quality images, something that had not been done for network TV before, to my knowledge,” continues Duggal. “And when it came to camera shooting formats, we decided together that we would like to shoot open gate for the VFX plates and 16:9 for the non-VFX shots. I consulted with Codex and we came up with camera graticules and a VFX workflow for the image extraction. I had also been working on a lens mapping initiative with Codex, and camera rental house Otto Nemenz, to map the lenses for VFX, and I’m happy to say that we implemented this for the first time on Marvel’s Agent Carter.”