When interested by the way to introduce viewers to the world of HBO Max’s Station Eleven, the present’s manufacturing crew determined to flip the same old script: The current would really feel like the longer term, and the longer term would really feel just like the previous.
“We selected lots of places that had synthetic lighting, subway stations, a theater, even the streets at evening. The whole lot has this stark, artifical aesthetic,” cinematographer Christian Sprenger stated. “We supposed to let that be what the sci-fi future aesthetic usually looks like. And if you bounce ahead to the longer term, that nearly looks like 200 years in the past.”
That imagined future is lush and inexperienced and exquisite. It’s an iconoclastic alternative for a post-apocalyptic story. The primary episode of Station Eleven drops viewers in a now-familiar fictional setting: The world is ending, and a handful of characters try to navigate that truth. The episode is usually set in our present-day world, in a snowy Chicago that’s about to be devastated by the lethal Georgia Flu. The story takes place over a couple of hours at evening, and the photographs are stark and white, snow in all places.
However look extra carefully and also you’ll see the episode makes distinctive use of colour. Christmas lights twinkle, and the whiteness of the snow is so, so white. A younger woman wears a pink jacket over a cream-colored costume. The within of a subway prepare options transient, shiny pops of colour.
This premiere episode is directed by Hiro Murai, one among TV’s finest visible stylists working proper now, and discovering colours on the finish of the world seems to be the overriding philosophy of the collection, which captures the unusually hopeful tone of the Emily St. John Mandel novel the present relies on. Reds, blues, and greens are in all places, and the producers tweaked the photographs to be extra colourful in post-production, the place so many post-apocalyptic tales would tweak them to have much less colour.
“In some ways, we have been attempting to invert the post-apocalyptic style,” stated Station Eleven creator and showrunner Patrick Somerville. “Hiro at all times stated he needed to be there after we have been speaking about yr 20 [after the plague that kills most of humanity]. Quiet, massive, expansive, lovely, inexperienced. Not destroyed. Simply nonetheless.”
The top of the premiere units up that visible thought superbly. The episode leaps ahead 20 years for a really transient shot set within the post-apocalypse, the place all the things is lush and inexperienced. That tiny quantity of footage ended up being key to holding collectively an enormous manufacturing that filmed simply two episodes (the primary and third), each of which have been largely set within the pre-apocalypse, earlier than Covid-19 compelled an prolonged shutdown onto the manufacturing. That tiny snippet of footage of the post-apocalypse was shot by Sprenger, the collection’ cinematographer for the episodes shot earlier than the shutdown. It turned key to all the things shot after the shutdown, the place Steve Cosens served as cinematographer.
“That second of Mackenzie [Davis, the series’ star] within the sand entice on the finish of episode one meant that Christian, who was the unique conceiver of the earlier than and after, did the colour timing of that scene. He popped the greens within the scrub and different plans. There’s that loopy blue sky, after which Mackenzie has crimson and blue on. Christian simply popped all these colours for about 15 seconds in episode one, and it turned a information for Steve Cosens for all of yr 20,” Somerville stated.
And in distinction to most tales set in post-apocalyptic or dystopian futures, Station Eleven truly deemphasized colour in scenes set earlier than all people died. Sprenger stated that arose naturally from the design decisions made for the post-apocalyptic scenes.
“Yr 20 may be very naturally lit with a number of shiny daylight and many colourful greens and flora and many saturation. We needed that world to really feel welcoming, and we needed to push towards that idea of Cormac McCarthy’s [The Road’s] very gross, soiled, nearly monochromatic future, that unhappy apocalypse aesthetic,” Sprenger stated. “The place that led us was that yr zero, the world we’re presently dwelling in, needed to really feel a little bit bit extra subdued and barely desaturated.”
Coloration can be used all through the collection for storytelling functions. The colour crimson units the principle character, Kirsten, aside from others inside the present. It nods each to a violent militia often known as the Crimson Bandanas (largely heard and never seen over the course of the present) and to the times she spent early within the apocalypse in an residence with two brothers. As you’ll be able to see within the picture above, that residence was streaked with reds.
However the picture that leads this text additionally incorporates a pale sea inexperienced, which the manufacturing used as the colour of a mysterious group whose true plans grow to be evident all through the course of the present. Thus, Station Eleven might use that sea inexperienced to emotionally hyperlink sure characters — typically simply characters who would flirt with becoming a member of the motion — to stated group. It might additionally pop that colour into the background of scenes so your unconscious would nonetheless sense the presence of the group, even when no person from stated group was round.
Retaining a colourful search for the scenes set in yr 20 may very well be difficult for the collection’ designers, who wanted to create garments and units that believably mimicked human beings’ scavenging objects out of the wreckage, with out sacrificing the colourful colour schemes. (In a single scene, a personality memorably wears an outfit product of soda bottles, as an illustration.) Costume designer Helen Huang says she used a number of athletic put on, which might retain not less than some colour.
“You would sand it to obliteration and it nonetheless appears to be like like what it’s. The colour continues to be very sturdy. We tried to overdye as many issues as attainable, so they preserve lots of that colour,” Huang stated. “We had our ager-dyers, paint over all the things very strategically. It retains a colour however creates form of a sun-faded look. We did cheat how soiled some issues are to push again a number of the colour to retain its unique efficiency.”
And as soon as it got here time to digitally tweak the collection’ colour scheme, Station Eleven subtly used the desaturation widespread in post-apocalyptic tales for the scenes set proper now and within the speedy aftermath of the Georgia Flu, in distinction to the hyper-saturation of yr 20.
“Desaturation to me felt a little bit bit like an overcast earlier than and after a storm. Having that feeling helped inform what individuals have been feeling simply as a pandemic hit, and so they’re realizing they’ve misplaced relations,” stated Gina Gonzalez, the collection’ post-production supervisor, who labored carefully with the digital colour crew. “Then in yr 20, we’ve got these artists who’re remembering what they beloved, and attempting to make artwork of what’s left to them and doing an excellent job of it. So magnificence is vital.”
In any case, should you out of the blue eliminated everybody from our current second, there would nonetheless be a lot colour, argues Huang.
“A big a part of this venture is about optimism and reminiscence. These two issues additionally spark colour, as a result of should you have a look at our world as it’s now, should you took away all of the individuals in it, it’s stuffed with colour. It’s stuffed with graphics. It’s a reminiscence of our civilization,” she stated. “It creates this world that’s separate from all the opposite language of the post-apocalyptic world that’s on the market.”
Station Eleven is way from the one post-apocalyptic film or TV present to embrace a colour palette that differs from the same old bleak greys and blacks. Mad Max: Fury Highway, as an illustration, is filled with crisp blues and burnt yellows, highlighting its desert setting, and different post-apocalyptic tales like I Am Legend and The Strolling Lifeless have been set in worlds the place greenery has overtaken what as soon as have been human areas.
However what units Station Eleven aside is its willingness to push these vibrant colours to an excessive. Each time the collection drops us right into a world the place humanity is rebuilding, regardless of the devastation of the Georgia Flu, that world feels nearly inviting. It’s not a suggestion that we ought to be hoping the tip of the world arrives, but it surely does supply the promise that even after the tip of all the things, individuals will preserve discovering methods to look after one another. That optimistic vibe wouldn’t work with out the nice and cozy colours of the collection’ visuals, so the present’s barely idiosyncratic decisions add as much as one thing not like another present on the market.
“This present was too difficult emotionally to not have colour play an enormous function,” Somerville stated.