This article talks about the latest hit TV Show, Mr Robot, which premiered this summer. Time and time again, TV shows are always shot in a very generic, bland way in terms of their cinematography. Sitcoms usually use a 3 camera setup, while other shows do not focus on the visual impact each shot can have. This is the exact opposite of what they do in movies. In movies, they intentionally frame each shot to give off a certain feeling or to allow the audience to understand something just through the visuals on screen. Previously on television, such a thing was extremely rare. The cinematographer of Mr Robot, Tod Campbell, decided to change that, saying: "I'm so sick and tired of directors coming in on episodes I'm shooting like, 'Oh, I want it to look like House of Cards! I want it to look like blah blah blah!'... we need to become the reference point everybody uses from now on. I want everybody to say, 'I want it to look like Mr. Robot.'
Campbell could not be more right. He gave the episodes of Mr Robot such a cinematic and distinctive style that it could be easily recognized. I also love the way he drew inspiration from filmmaker David Fincher, by the way he restricted his camera movements and also used mostly natural lighting. The one thing that is most similar to Fincher's style, is how Campbell and Mr Robot's creator Sam Esmail decided to color correct the show. Most of the time, the show is shown to the viewer in 3 different color pallets. The first one being the yellow look, where the majority of the frame is filled with the color of a saturated yellow. The second one is a flat, unsaturated look. I think they decided to do this in order to portray that the world Mr Robot takes place in is a place where Elliot (The main character) is uninterested in everything around him. The third and final color that they use is blue. They predominantly use this at nighttime or at moments where Elliot is most vulnerable.
Campbell also went against the grain in how he chose to frame the entire TV show. Most of the time, he frames the conversations wrong on purpose. He intentionally decided to ignore common cinematic rules in order to leave viewers an unsettling feeling. To do this, he left characters no leading room in the frame, by framing them at the inverse edges that conventional film making suggests. By doing this, he left an immense amount of dead space in the frame when the characters are conversing, and he claims that “'Shortsighting is unnerving,' Campbell explains. 'It further accentuates how fucked-up Elliot’s world is. The idea was to convey the loneliness. That's the internal dialogue I had with myself: How do we tell that story? How do you get Elliot across?'"
Overall, Campbell did a phenomenal job on the cinematography of this TV show, and managed to challenge conventional film making wisdom in order to make something unique. We should all be striving to do the same.