Truth Seekers is a new Amazon Originals comedy eight-part comedy series.
Lead actor Nick Frost plays Gus who works as an engineer for an internet provider with a side-line as an enthusiastic part-time paranormal investigator. With new trainee Elton (Samson Kayo) they stumble into haunted houses and meet possessed individuals. It’s a quirky, British piece with bags of energy harking back to Frost’s earlier work and even Ghostbusters
The director, cinematographer and colourist discuss how they created a retro, filmic look for Truth Seekers working with vintage glass and a modern digital workflow for a 4K HDR master.
Picture and sound post production was completed at Molinare and camera and lenses were supplied by Movietech.
Director and Executive Producer: Jim Field Smith
Recent Credits: Stag and Criminal
“From the very beginning, I wanted Truth Seekers to have a slightly anachronistic, analogue feel, partly to ground the paranormal activity that takes place in the show – which we were attempting to achieve with as much in-camera practical trickery as possible – but also because the story and characters themselves evoked a slightly retro, soulful feel. The references I was reaching for were the look of early-Spielberg and John Carpenter films. Knowing we wanted to shoot anamorphic, DOP Arthur Mulhern and I tested various lenses before settling on some vintage Cooke Xtal lenses which were absolutely bursting with character. I had used them before on The Wrong Mans, but the amount of practical lighting, strange locations and effects on Truth Seeekers really brought their curious, unpredictable optics to life. These lenses alone took the digital edge off our 4K image, but in post we pushed the look even further with trusted collaborator Andrew Daniel, leaning into a low-contrast look with plenty of warmth and inky blacks whilst still preserving plenty of detail, most notable in the HDR. It was very satisfying conceiving of a weird and wonderful look early on and finding a team of people, and a combination of equipment both historical and cutting edge, to bring that to life.
Cinematographer: Arthur Mulhern
Recent Credits: No Greater Law and Trying
“When Jim and I first started talking about Truth Seekers, it was very clear to me that this was a show that would unapologetically wear its references on its sleeve. And combined with a huge amount of practical lighting, characterful locations and in-camera special effects, meant that this show was nothing if not an incredibly enjoyable challenge.
“I had previously used the Sony Venice with Hawk anamorphics on Apple TV’s Trying, so I knew that it was an excellent package that would deliver different looks based on requirement. I was very impressed with the quality of the sensor and colour space that Sony has developed for this camera, and any hint of digital sharpness or edge was softened by the characteristics of the anamorphic glass. Where Trying was quite a clean, bright show, Truth Seekers by its very nature allowed me to push the camera further and allow for more unpredictability in the image. The Cooke Xtals from Movietech were a perfect compliment to this philosophy. Other directors may have balked at these lenses for an entire series, but Jim fully embraced their quirkiness and how we could work with their very unique qualities.
“The Venice is built from the ground up to take HDR finishing and ACES into account, so grading with Andrew [Daniel] on this project never felt technical or functional, but entirely creative and we were able to expand on our thematic look. Nonetheless it was still a challenging grade. We had a wide range of lighting set-ups, often within the one scene, but we were able to hone the image without much compromise, and ultimately found a look that we are all very proud of.”
Colourist: Andrew Daniel
Recent Credits: Fear City: New York vs The Mafia and Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
“It’s not often that a project like Truth Seekers comes along. It was so original and funny and brimming with enticing visuals. It was also a chance to collaborate with Jim again having worked on The Wrong Mans and Stag previously so although we already shared a shorthand understanding, this was still an opportunity to create something unique, new and suitably cinematic. This was made so much easier by the images that Arthur shot using the Sony Venice and vintage Cooke lenses. Both Jim and Arthur had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with Truth Seekers and we were all very quickly on the same page.
“The Venice has a beautiful roll off in the highlights anyway and combined with the character of the lenses it made working in HDR a real pleasure and allowed us opportunities to further achieve a more filmic vibe. HDR can be quite sharp and sometimes quite electronic feeling especially in highlights so we worked hard to not throw away the beauty of what had been achieved in the shoot but also to make sure that the contrast level (the beautiful inky blacks and the softer highs) and colour palate were exactly at the level that we wanted them and bespoke for the project. I always tend to do a quick check of the SDR conversion at the end of a day’s session to see how it’s translating and to avoid any nasty surprises, in the case of Truth Seekers it was a super clean transition”