February 06, 2019

Inside the Interactive Adventure Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Technicolor London teams with Netflix to bring its first live-action project to the screen.

In an era of infinite content, the Netflix series Black Mirror, from the visionary showrunner Charlie Brooker, frequently pushes the envelope in its storytelling. The level of innovation reached new heights when Netflix released the latest incarnation of the wildly popular anthology series, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Bandersnatch is Netflix's first live-action interactive project, a choose your own adventure story requiring a sizable five and a half hours of footage to be shot for its multiple paths and endings. With director David Slade at the helm – a frequent collaborator of Technicolor's Supervising DI Colorist Jean Clement-Soret – Technicolor London was soon on board.

Shortly after receiving the script treatment, Soret and Alex Gascoigne, a Colorist and the DI Workflow Manager on Bandersnatch, commenced early workflow meetings and grade tests. During the pre-production process, Soret discussed the show’s looks and references with the director.

"David likes strong looks and discovering different ways of achieving them," says Soret. "It's about trying to find a way of having a strong look and not losing that detail."

To achieve this, the two were involved in camera tests to look at shots and determine how much contrast and sharpness would be used in the final grade. Despite the period of the episode – set in 1984 – eighties’ references didn't play a role in those early discussions.

"The biggest aspect of our interactions was regarding art direction and costume design," says Soret. "We were not after an eighties’ look; there was a little bit of a vintage aspect to the image, but we didn’t use any grain in the main footage.”

Though this would have been an easy thing to do. they instead went with very sharp images.

Soret explains, “If you look at anything from the eighties, it looks very soft; everything was in standard resolution. It was usually shot on 35mm and put on an analogue telecine, but David didn’t want any of this. He just wanted subtle references to the time period."

Bandersnatch was shot on the ARRI 65 to give it the depth of field of a 65mm sensor. From there, Soret gave Bandersnatch a punchy filmic look – using strong mid-curves – to separate it from other Black Mirror episodes. Though the main storyline was shot on the digital ARRI, flashback scenes were shot on 16mm and 35mm film.

"We wanted to show the audience that this [the flashback] was a different time period, that this happened earlier which is why it looks different," explains Soret. "We wanted to give those scenes a different texture, rather than trying to create an older look that looks like it is from the 60s or 70s. So we worked towards setting a different color tone and texture, as well as keeping the grain from the 16 and 35mm film."

Given the unconventional nature of Bandersnatch, Soret got to experiment with various looks and aesthetics in the different alternative scenes. "There is a scene in Colin's apartment where the walls are warping and the characters' eyes are popping after they have taken LSD. It gave me justification to go a bit mad on the grade, which we probably could have gone even further on – but didn’t want to go too far!” explains Soret.

Another example: "There was also a bit of a crazy fight scene with Stefan and his therapist, which we gave a lot of sharpness to and a bit of a music video grade, which we used to do a long time ago. It just suited the madness of the sequence. We tried to push the grade and decided to go with that, and then suddenly you snap back to reality, and the contrast is very noticeable – from creating madness to looking very flat and normal."

Technicolor London also contributed Marketing Services, working on six different assets, including four trailers and two featurettes, localized for 26 territories in 24 languages.

Pulse, Technicolor's DI and VFX Pulls software, was also used on Bandersnatch to deliver raw camera footage to Technicolor London, as the DI vendor, as well as the show's VFX vendors. With eight different camera formats used for Bandersnatch across film and digital, including Super 8, Super 16, 35mm, SD, HD, 3K, 5K and 6K, Pulse was able to read and collate the metadata and files into a centralized portal for the production and both sets of vendors – resulting in over half a million frames being accessed.


Check out Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix – and choose your own mind-bending adventure!