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The Crown: Making a 1950s-set series in a UHD world

Jenny Priestley hears from series director Philip Martin on de-digitalising the end result

The team behind Netflix’s award-winning drama The Crown took part in a special Royal Television Society event last night, where they discussed the task of making a 1950s-set drama for a UHD broadcaster.

Asked by TVBEurope as to how much the team take UHD into account when making the series, director Philip Martin explained they try very hard not to make the series seem too realistic in the way it looks, “We have a set of vintage lenses so we have high-definition 4K raw footage and then we try, in effect, to optically shoot it through lenses that are 50-60 years old, just to de-digitalise the end result.”

“We use a lot of smoke and so on,” Martin continued. “It softens the vista if you like. Often with 4K or very high ultra definition things, everything is pixel perfect from right in front of your nose to a million miles away. So we had to get the light and the lenses to fall-off photographically as it would do when you were shooting on a camera 50 years ago.”

Martin paid tribute to the show’s production designer, Martin Childs, whose work comes under the spotlight even more in a UDH-shot series, “It does subject Martin’s work to incredible scrutiny – everything has to be amazing, because you’re going to see it all.”

Childs chipped in, “And I never know when that falling-off is going to happen.”

Martin continued, “Sometimes something you think is going to be in the middle of the frame turns out to be the one thing you want to focus on. It’s something we’re very conscious of and particularly with a story that has so much mystery and magic to it, in someways you want it not to feel too real.”