ASC cinematographer Michael Slovis’ challenge in shooting AMC’s "Breaking Bad" goes beyond the intricate storylines about the consequences of the life choices made by the main character. The New Mexico location offers a wide variety of looks and camera/lighting situations. Life is never dull on this acclaimed series. To make the most out of what he has, Slovis often relies on his favorite filters, the True-Pols from Schneider.
Solvis and his crew carry two ArriCam LTs, Cooke S-4 primes, Angenieux zooms, a close focus lens, OConnor fluid heads and everything from small Litepanels bricks to 18ks. Every eight days, they made a small movie. None of the episodes follow much of a pattern. Shooting can go from three to six days in the studio in which there can be a lot of action or a lot of dialogue. Even though the show has a graphic look, Slovis never wants it to overwhelm the story. Many of his "specialty" shots were often aided by Schneider filters.
Slovis says he’s been a long-time fan of Schneider. Early in his career, he learned the true neutral quality of the NDs and polarizers. He finds polarizers to be extremely effective. They do a great job, and he would like to add more to his personal package.
Breaking Bad has a few iconic images, Some of the most important are the wide shots in the desert. Everyone remembers them, and they are unusual for television. In Solvis’ mind, they capture the tones and beauty of nature in New Mexico. One of the first things you notice about being in the desert is the size of the sky, especially for someone from New York like Slovis.
Slovis simply wouldn’t shoot these sequences without Schneider’s True-Pols. He works with the locations department, art department and directors to ensure that his cameras are in a position to "max pola" the sky for any day exterior (as much as the schedule will allow). He owns filters in multiple sizes to accommodate studio mode (dolly), Steadicam and handheld use.
The filters help define the beauty of that sky, and they bring out the gorgeous New Mexico clouds in all their glory. They give that deep blue that contrasts so well with the warm tones of the brown dessert. And when shooting a scene with coral, tobacco or straw effects filters, it is the True-Pols that deepen the sky into a rich dark hue separating the actors from it. They are an essential part of the toolkit for shooting "Breaking Bad."
Known for their ability to saturate colors, improve contrast, penetrate haze and reduce unwanted reflections, Schneider True Pol filters have an extinction ratio that is 12X more effective than other polarizers on the market. They are available in all popular professional sizes.
Three-time Emmy Award nominee (2009, 2010, 2012) for "Breaking Bad," cinematographer Michael Slovis, ASC is now on location shooting the new season of the AMC series. New episodes will premiere early this summer. The series is one of the “most viewed” on Netflix, VOD and Hulu (and is one of this writer’s personal favorites).