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David Lanzenberg and Todd McMullen Dive Into Palm Royale


Created by showrunner Abe Sylvia, the Apple TV+ comedic drama Palm Royale navigates the tale of one womans ambitious journey to make it amongst the upper crust, through extravagant settings that evoke the golden era of Life magazine. Cinematographer David Lanzenberg was behind the camera for the first two episodes, working with director Tate Taylor, and then passed the baton to fellow director of photography Todd McMullen, who shot the remaining eight episodes. With support from Panavision Woodland Hills, the cinematographers opted to pair Panaspeed large-format spherical primes with the Millennium DXL2 camera. Here, the collaborators highlight how the series' visual language was distinctly enhanced by the choices made by the art, wardrobe, and hair & make-up departments.

Panavision: Were there any particular visual references you looked at for inspiration?

David Lanzenberg: From the beginning, [executive producers and directors] Abe Sylvia and Tate Taylor had very specific references they wanted Todd and me to follow. The idea was really about following the tone and feeling and opulence of the amazing photography of Slim Aarons, which had a very Kodak Ektrachrome feel from the '60s and '70s, with vivid primary colors.

Todd McMullen: Slim was a World War II Army photographer who, after returning from the war, turned his lens towards attractive people, doing attractive things, in attractive places.' Slim was a master at composing frames that were inclusive, stylish, bold, and included the landscape and architecture of the changing time period.

How would you describe the look of Palm Royale?

McMullen: Visually, the show presents a retro style that is aspirational, inviting, and center-punches a bold new color palette that was blooming in the '60s. We dig into the patterns, the fabrics and the daring styles that were emerging. America was coming out of the black-and-white, monotone flavor of the '50s and starting to bleed color. And because the story is set in Palm Beach, Florida, it felt appropriate to keep our world warm and sunny and welcoming.

Lanzenberg: I remember in my first meeting with Tate Taylor, I said, Im really interested in telling the story with one camera. Every show is different, but for Palm Royale, to set that tone and look in the first two episodes, having only one camera really helped. There are some scenes by the pool where the positioning of where everything was placed in the background was very calculated with the operator. There was a certain symmetry. The attention to detail within the set dressing, within the staging, when we would go to a close-up, when we wouldnt everything was very important. It was great to be able to do that.

What brought you to Panavision for this project?

Lanzenberg: Todd was on another show when I started prep on the first two episodes of Palm Royale, but this show was a great opportunity to come back to Panavision and achieve something special. Panavision is a very familiar environment no matter where you are in the world, be it Canada, New York, L.A., Paris. There is very much a close-knit community.

McMullen: Panavision is the first collaboration call for me on any project. The reasons are lengthy, but the service, selection of tools, and the experience in crafting those tools is paramount and accessible. Also, the Panavision team is unwavering they will help you find your solutions without hesitation. And the number of locations they have around the world to access equipment is a sigh of relief.

What led to your choice of Panaspeed lenses and the Millennium DXL2 camera?

McMullen: As David said, I was on another show when Palm Royale started, so David and 1st AC Chad Rivetti had the fun of landing the right equipment for the look, and the Panaspeeds fit the bill. They were brilliant in their speed, look and imperfections' for framing the colorful world of the '60s. Also, the DXL2 is such a workhorse and has the large-format capabilities and a sensor that I feel is natural and smooth.

Lanzenberg: I'd appreciated working with that camera in the past because it has a certain print' quality that's achievable with its Monstro sensor. To me, it's reminiscent texture-wise of some of the films of the '70s that I grew up with and really appreciate. One of the things with shooting digitally sometimes is that youre losing that texture that you were able to manipulate with film. As a cinematographer, you still want to be able to have that input, and one of the things with the DXL2 is that it does allow you to have that. One shoe doesnt fit all, and different cameras will definitely give you different options, but this one added a print quality that I appreciate.

What optical characteristics did you see in the Panaspeeds that made them the right match for Palm Royale?

Lanzenberg: On a previous show, I had tested Panaspeeds and really liked them. Theres a certain gentleness within the image, and there's a three-dimensionality that I would normally get with anamorphic lenses. When the opportunity came to work on Palm Royale, we did quite a few tests with other lenses that Panavision provided, but those were always in the back of my mind. It was great to have them, and we used them with these anamorphic flare attachments that Dan Sasaki has come up with, so we were able to create this very subtle tone to the image that had slight aberrations to the background or the edges and how the focus would react in certain parts of the distance. With that combination, we had the best of all worlds.

How does this project differ from others in your career?

McMullen: Palm Royale was a wonderful project to pivot from the darker and moodier tones I'm normally associated with in storytelling. I felt it was certainly a comedy, but the story emotionally had an edge and layers of underlyin
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