Andrew Lincoln covered in blood in AMC’s new spin off The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

65 mm format for new "Walking Dead” series

DPs Adrian Peng Correia and Wesley Cardino on shooting AMC’s "The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live" with ALEXA 65 cameras and Prime DNA lenses from ARRI Rental.

Apr. 25, 2024

AMC introduces a new chapter in "The Walking Dead" franchise, following the love story between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). As they navigate an ever-transforming environment, they face the question: Will they be engulfed in a battle against humanity, or realize that they too are among the walking dead? Cinematographers Adrian Peng Correia and Wesley Cardino spoke with ARRI Rental about their creative choices on "The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live," which was captured with ALEXA 65 cameras and Prime DNA lenses supplied by ARRI Rental’s New York facility.

How was the overall look for the show discussed and developed?

Adrian Peng Correia: Directors Bert and Bertie (the professional names of Amber Templemore-Finlayson and Katie Ellwood) were interested in moving portraiture – using depth of field and focus to straddle the balance between intimacy and a sense of something grand. They wanted the human face to be a landscape within the context of the frame. That's when we started discussing what larger formats would give us. The more we looked at the ALEXA 65, the more it appealed. With 65 mm you get cinematic scope that doesn’t require anamorphic lenses, which AMC were not keen on. It simultaneously gave us the personal and the grand in a way that really worked within this romantic universe.

Wesley Cardino: After I had been hired to do the middle block, Adrian and I spoke about the look and he updated me about the discussions. I supported 65 mm because I felt the story needed to feel big. It needed to be part of the world of the original “Walking Dead,” but it had to have a clear, distinct vibe – something that belongs specifically to Rick and Michonne, because they are so pivotal to the story. The ALEXA 65 was an obvious choice to give it a very distinct visual break from the original series and the spin-offs.

Still from The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live zombie mob attack in daylight

In what specific ways was the look different from previous seasons and spin-offs?

APC: Well, there’s a range of looks in the previous series and shows. For “Fear the Walking Dead” they experimented a lot through the seasons with different lighting styles. They shot digital anamorphic, and that felt completely different from the original show, which was on 16 mm film for a long time, although its look also evolved. We wanted to build a new flavor that encompassed a lot of those previous ideas, but it needed to have some connective tissue to the internal turmoil of our characters. We wanted a heavier look that felt dramatically supportive of what Rick and Michonne are going through. We played a lot with heavy silhouettes and Baroque lighting, and contrasted that with day scenes where we tried to light with heavy negatives on people to give them a sense of weight even in open, bright spaces. I wanted heavy contrast on faces to mirror the fact that these are people with a weight on their shoulders.

What was the focus of your particular episodes?

WC: I did the middle block. Those episodes show Michonne trying to bring Rick back from the despair he's been in for the last five or six years, so it was essential to show Rick's emergence from that darkness. They are like two caterpillars going into a chrysalis and coming out totally changed. They parted ways in the original series, but they come back even stronger, even more focused on what they want, how they want to live, and where they want to go. On the first day of testing, I knew the ALEXA 65 would be a great fit. It made things feel big and epic, but when you went in for the close-ups, it didn't matter how long the lens was, you felt closer to the characters while still sensing the world around them.

APC: Even if you're shooting on a longer lens, you're still getting an incredible amount of information about the environment. In the first two episodes we see these characters living in new spaces and I had to communicate that to the audience. The ALEXA 65 let us sit in this new world, which is different from what has been seen before. It was a challenge to determine how far we go towards establishing a new universe this season. Episode one is a pilot, but also a continuation, so you're trying to find that mix between the directors being able to explore their creative ideas for this new universe, but also honoring what has come before in a way that makes people feel connected while still experiencing something new.

Actress Danai Gurira ready to attack and cuts off zombie head

How was your experience of working with the Prime DNA lenses?

WC: I found the DNAs to be a perfect match for the story. They take the edge off the digital image and render the highlights beautifully. We had selected strong LUTs for the camera, and the lenses complemented the LUTs by softening them slightly. The DNAs have a painterly aspect; there is something impressionistic about them, the way they soften the image in a positive way. They were also versatile in that we could shoot wide open or stop down depending on how we wanted to tell the story creatively in those moments. There was a 60 mm DNA with a hint of warmth, so we used it as an intimate close-up lens and it added something really beautiful to the image.

APC: Andrew Lincoln (Rick) has deep-set eyes and sharp, angular facial features, which plays into his acting style, whereas Danai Gurira (Michonne) has shallower-set eyes. She has a very open face but darker skin, so she can take a lot of different tones and textures of light and color. They were an interesting duo to light, and the DNA lenses aided the rendition of their faces in different ways. You get to learn the notes you can play with those lenses, and how the different focal lengths have textures that work for specific moments and benefit you when you’re trying to formulate different things visually. They flare in interesting ways and as well as handling highlights nicely, they smoothed out the lower half of the curve in terms of the exposure. It was fascinating to watch what they did, in combination with the LUT.

Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln on The Walking Dead-The Ones Who Live kills zombie right through the eye with weapon

What aspects of the ALEXA 65 camera were impressive to you?

WC:  For me, it was in a league of its own. I had a visceral reaction when I was using it, when I was looking at the images. It was an invigorating experience as a shooter because I felt that I was doing something new, experimenting, and exploring a new aspect of how to tell stories.

APC: I've never used a camera with that kind of elasticity to the digital negative; there was so much information that I could use to protect my highlights, my shadows, my skin tones, all of it. In combination with the DNA lenses, the ALEXA 65 gave us this burst of artistry in terms of how the image was rendered. I was consistently surprised by what the camera offered me in a way that I found really exciting.

Were you pleased with the support you and your team got from ARRI Rental New York?

APC: We never felt we had to search for support. If something was not working, which seldom happened, they were right on it. This is the first job I've been able to do with ARRI New York in a while; I was coming into my own backyard on a big show that was incredibly demanding in terms of time, schedule, and money. You need somebody who will have your back because the equipment is the last thing you want to worry about. Having someone you can trust, and not having to worry, is invaluable. So, thank you, ARRI Rental New York!

Still of Andrew Lincoln with knife and Danai Gurira with gun ready to attack on The Walking Dead:The Ones Who Live