In Station Eleven, the end of the world is a vibrant, lush green

When enthusiastic about methods to introduce viewers to the world of HBO Max’s Station Eleven, the present’s manufacturing staff determined to flip the ordinary script: The current would really feel like the future, and the future would really feel like the previous.

“We chose a lot of locations that had artificial lighting, subway stations, a theater, even the streets at night. Everything has this stark, manmade aesthetic,” cinematographer Christian Sprenger stated. “We intended to let that be what the sci-fi future aesthetic normally feels like. And when you jump forward to the future, that almost feels like 200 years ago.”

That imagined future is lush and green and exquisite. It’s an iconoclastic alternative for a post-apocalyptic story. The first episode of Station Eleven drops viewers in a now-familiar fictional setting: The world is ending, and a handful of characters try to navigate that truth. The episode is largely set in our present-day world, in a snowy Chicago that is about to be devastated by the lethal Georgia Flu. The story takes place over a few hours at evening, and the pictures are stark and white, snow in every single place.

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But look extra intently and also you’ll see the episode makes distinctive use of colour. Christmas lights twinkle, and the whiteness of the snow is so, so white. A younger lady wears a pink jacket over a cream-colored costume. The inside of a subway practice options transient, shiny pops of colour.

This premiere episode is directed by Hiro Murai, one of TV’s greatest visible stylists working proper now, and discovering colours at the end of the world seems to be the overriding philosophy of the sequence, which captures the surprisingly hopeful tone of the Emily St. John Mandel novel the present is primarily based on. Reds, blues, and greens are in every single place, and the producers tweaked the pictures to be extra colourful in post-production, the place so many post-apocalyptic tales would tweak them to have much less colour.

“In many ways, we were trying to invert the post-apocalyptic genre,” stated Station Eleven creator and showrunner Patrick Somerville. “Hiro always said he wanted to be there when we were talking about year 20 [after the plague that kills most of humanity]. Quiet, big, expansive, beautiful, green. Not destroyed. Just still.”

Why are so many motion pictures and TV exhibits so drab?

In the twenty first century, the colour grey leads the manner for a lot too many motion pictures and TV exhibits. Big and daring colours aren’t a factor of the previous, however they’ve fallen out of favor. Why did this occur? And what worth does colour add to filmmaking anyway?

The end of the premiere units up that visible concept fantastically. The episode leaps ahead 20 years for a very transient shot set in the post-apocalypse, the place the whole lot is lush and green. That tiny quantity of footage ended up being key to holding collectively a huge manufacturing that filmed simply two episodes (the first and third), each of which have been largely set in the pre-apocalypse, earlier than Covid-19 pressured an prolonged shutdown onto the manufacturing. That tiny snippet of footage of the post-apocalypse was shot by the staff of Helen Shaver and Daniel Grant. Sprenger, who served as cinematographer for the episodes shot earlier than the shutdown and established the colour palette of the sequence, then digitally tinkered with the colour in post-production. It turned key to the whole lot shot after the shutdown, the place Steve Cosens served as cinematographer.

“That moment of Mackenzie [Davis, the series’ star] in the sand trap at the end of episode one meant that Christian, who was the original conceiver of the before and after, did the color timing of that scene. He popped the greens in the scrub and other plans. There’s that crazy blue sky, and then Mackenzie has red and blue on. Christian just popped all those colors for about 15 seconds in episode one, and it became a guide for Steve Cosens for all of year 20,” Somerville stated.

And in distinction to most tales set in post-apocalyptic or dystopian futures, Station Eleven really deemphasized colour in scenes set earlier than everyone died. Sprenger stated that arose naturally from the design selections made for the post-apocalyptic scenes.

“Year 20 is very naturally lit with lots of bright sunlight and lots of colorful greens and flora and lots of saturation. We wanted that world to feel welcoming, and we wanted to push against that concept of Cormac McCarthy’s [The Road’s] very gross, dirty, almost monochromatic future, that sad apocalypse aesthetic,” Sprenger stated. “Where that led us was that year zero, the world we’re currently living in, wanted to feel a little bit more subdued and slightly desaturated.”

Color is additionally used all through the sequence for storytelling functions. The colour crimson units the essential character, Kirsten, aside from others inside the present. It nods each to a violent militia generally known as the Red Bandanas (largely heard and never seen over the course of the present) and to the days she spent early in the apocalypse in an residence with two brothers. As you may see in the picture above, that residence was streaked with reds.

But the picture that leads this text additionally options a pale sea green, which the manufacturing used as the colour of a mysterious group whose true plans turn out to be evident all through the course of the present. Thus, Station Eleven may use that sea green to emotionally hyperlink sure characters — typically simply characters who would flirt with becoming a member of the motion — to stated group. It may additionally pop that colour into the background of scenes so your unconscious would nonetheless sense the presence of the group, even when no person from stated group was round.

Retaining a colourful search for the scenes set in yr 20 might be difficult for the sequence’ designers, who wanted to create garments and units that believably mimicked human beings’ scavenging gadgets out of the wreckage, with out sacrificing the vibrant colour schemes. (In one scene, a character memorably wears an outfit made of soda bottles, as an example.) Costume designer Helen Huang says she used tons of athletic put on, which may retain not less than some colour.

“You could sand it to obliteration and it still looks like what it is. The color is still very strong. We tried to overdye as many things as possible, so they retain a lot of that color,” Huang stated. “We had our ager-dyers, paint over everything very strategically. It keeps a color but creates sort of a sun-faded look. We did cheat how dirty some things are to push back some of the color to retain its original potency.”

And as soon as it got here time to digitally tweak the sequence’ colour scheme, Station Eleven subtly used the desaturation frequent in post-apocalyptic tales for the scenes set proper now and in the speedy aftermath of the Georgia Flu, in distinction to the hyper-saturation of yr 20.

“Desaturation to me felt a little bit like an overcast before and after a storm. Having that feeling helped tell what people were feeling just as a pandemic hit, and they’re realizing they’ve lost family members,” stated Gina Gonzalez, the sequence’ post-production supervisor, who labored intently with the digital colour staff. “Then in year 20, we have these artists who are remembering what they loved, and trying to make art of what’s left to them and doing a good job of it. So beauty is important.”

After all, in the event you all of a sudden eliminated everybody from our current second, there would nonetheless be a lot colour, argues Huang.

“A large part of this project is about optimism and memory. Those two things also spark color, because if you look at our world as it is now, if you took away all the people in it, it’s full of color. It’s full of graphics. It’s a memory of our civilization,” she stated. “It creates this world that’s separate from all the other language of the post-apocalyptic world that’s out there.”

Station Eleven is removed from the solely post-apocalyptic film or TV present to embrace a colour palette that differs from the ordinary bleak greys and blacks. Mad Max: Fury Road, as an example, is full of crisp blues and burnt yellows, highlighting its desert setting, and different post-apocalyptic tales like I Am Legend and The Walking Dead have been set in worlds the place greenery has overtaken what as soon as have been human areas.

But what units Station Eleven aside is its willingness to push these vibrant colours to an excessive. Every time the sequence drops us into a world the place humanity is rebuilding, regardless of the devastation of the Georgia Flu, that world feels virtually inviting. It’s not a suggestion that we must be hoping the end of the world arrives, nevertheless it does provide the promise that even after the end of the whole lot, individuals will maintain discovering methods to look after one another. That optimistic vibe wouldn’t work with out the heat colours of the sequence’ visuals, so the present’s barely idiosyncratic selections add as much as one thing not like every other present on the market.

“This show was too complicated emotionally to not have color play a huge role,” Somerville stated.

Update: The piece has been up to date to incorporate a extra thorough clarification of the taking pictures of the brief snippet of footage at the end of the present’s first episode.

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