Netflix’s French-Language Original Series Osmosis Shot with Cooke S7/i

Cinematographer Jean-François Hensgens’ lens selection based on creating visual poetry for the series

Imagine that in the not too distant future, a dating app could match you with your soulmate by mining the data in your brain. That’s the premise of Osmosis, the French-language original series from Netflix; however, things don’t always go as planned. Cinematographer Jean-François Hensgens was chosen by Netflix to shoot the first six episodes of the eight-episode series with multiple directors, including Julius Berg, Pierre Aknine and Mona Achache, while maintaining visual and artistic continuity from episode to episode.

Hensgens used two RED DSMC2 BRAIN camera bodies with an 8K MONSTRO sensor, using the entire sensor but with fairly high compression ranging from 9:1 to 16:1 to have file sizes that would be manageable.

“When we started this project in May 2018, there were only a few lenses that could cover the full frame. I tested and compared almost all of them, including the Cooke S7/i, the Cooke Anamorphic/i Special Flair and lenses from other manufacturers,” said Hensgens. “I immediately saw the beauty of the images shot with the S7/i lenses, especially at T2, which just seduced me.”

The crew was shooting with both cameras entirely on the shoulder, either simultaneously or with one camera shooting and the other being prepped. Hensgens’ S7/i lens kit contained the 25mm, 27mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 75mm, 100mm and 135mm primes, with the 65mm being the lens of choice for the majority of shots.

“We only had one set of S7/i’s, so we did our best to share focal lengths, and at times, used a 2x extender,” said Hensgens. “Sometimes, we even changed the camera settings to 7K to lengthen the focal length to have the ideal reverse shot.”

Lighting played an important part of the set design as Hensgens wanted the audience to feel that, in the near future, light is alive and that it breathes. “We essentially used LED sources such as Litepanels and Astera tubes, which allowed us to constantly evolve the light on the various sets — that worked especially well in the offices of the dating app’s start-up where everything is controlled by an artificial intelligence and where the light is the reflection of the state of mind of this AI,” he said.

Hensgens used large light boxes filled with Litepanel Honeycomb 60 Deg Gemini LED fixtures. “I also wanted to make sure that there was a visual difference in the way people look today and how they and the world might look in the future,” added Hensgens. “For that, I collaborated with makeup designer and key makeup artist Mabi Anzalone to create a special shine on the skin of the main protagonists. We were inspired by the photographic work of Erwin Olaf and did a lot of camera tests to determine what we liked, keeping in mind that in about twenty years, global warming would have a significant impact on the look of the atmosphere and on the skin.”

As a veteran of 30 feature films and several TV series, Hensgens has regularly used Cooke lenses, especially the Cooke Anamorphic/i primes. “I love the characteristics of flare and the beautiful drop-off that you get with a large opening. I felt I found this with the S7/i’s as well; they have the continuity of the S4/i’s with the same smooth transitions,” he said. “On the other hand, using full frame sends us a step further with shallow depth of fields, especially at T2. The faces in close-up leave in the drop-off. That’s something you don’t get when using other lenses in full frame 8K. And that historic roundness of Cooke lenses was always present.”

Osmosis aired in March, 2019.

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