Cinematographer Frank Prinzi Turns to VariCam LT for ‘The Enemy Within’

NEWARK, N.J.—The Panasonic VariCam LT is the camera of choice for the new psychological thriller “The Enemy Within,” which airs on NBC, Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT.

Frank Prinzi, an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer, selected the camera because of VariCam’s dual-native ISOs and color palette. The VariCam LT was deemed to be the ideal option because the series, which follows a former CIA operative serving a life sentence for treason but released to assist the FBI, because the program is a “huge camera show,” in the words of Prinzi.

“We shot ‘The Enemy Within’ close to 90% handheld, with tons of coverage, gun battles, stunts,” Prinzi recounted. “The LT, lighter and smaller than the VariCam 35 but with so many of its light handling and color space characteristics, was my top choice.”

Production began in fall 2018 and ran through mid-February 2019. Shooting was done on location around northern New Jersey and on soundstages constructed in the East Rutherford (N.J.) Meadowlands Arena.

Three VariCam LT cameras are used to shoot the series along with a Panasonic AU-EVA1 5.7K handheld camera used to shoot out a car window, for other challenging shots and for hidden shots. The VariCam LTs were equipped with a set of Angenieux zoom lenses and Cooke S4 Primes. The EVA1 used EF Sigma lenses.

“The VariCam’s dual 5000/800 sensor is brilliant—I can go to any location and make it work, which is especially valuable for TV,” said Prinzi. “It’s like a safety net—you always feel safe taking chances and there isn’t anything you can’t shoot.”

“The camera is equally adept with underexposure and overexposure, with exceptional dynamic range,” he added. “I want to push the edges, and with the VariCam I can easily move from really bright to really dark.”

The show was recorded with 1920x1080 AVC Intra 4:4:4. High-speed VariCam LT shots were recorded using AVC Intra 4:2:2, while the 4K All-I 400Mb/s codec was used by the EVA1.

Prinzi and Digital Imaging Technician Lewis Rothenberg worked prior to shooting to light and design the show. He served as DP for half of the series’ episodes, and Frank DeMarco took on that role for the other half.

“The camera’s color palette is cinematic and its texture has film-like grain, with skin tones I really like,” noted Prinzi. “DIT Rothenberg and I were essentially able to seamlessly color match the whole series as we went along, giving post production a guide to follow. Altogether, the texture and color tone are magnificent, and the LT affords me the possibility to shoot in any stop.”

More information is available on the Panasonic website.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.