'House of Cards' DP Reveals the Camera & Lighting Techniques of the Popular Netflix Series
Television cinematography has come quite a ways in the past 10 years. In the arena of episodic television, where multi-camera shoots with high-key lighting were once the norm, incredibly cinematic single-camera cinematography has now taken hold. Although many of HBO’s and AMC’s offerings started the ball rolling with this delightful trend, the Netflix original drama House of Cards is the absolute epitome of dramatic cinematography in an episodic show. Igor Martinovic, the cinematographer from the second season of House of Cards, recently sat down with our friends at the GoCreative Podcast and he shared quite a bit about the cinematography of this world-class show.
First and foremost, Igor Martinovic is a world-renowned cinematographer known for his fantastic work on the Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire. Check out his reel below:
And here’s the trailer for the second season of House of Cards, which was released in its entirety on Netflix two weeks ago. This gives you just a basic sense of the show’s intricately dramatic cinematic stylings:
In his interview with GoCreative’s Ben Consoli, Martinovic covered a plethora of cinematography-related topics.
- The inspiration behind the look of ‘House of Cards’
- Working with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey
- Lighting for different environments and characters
- Working with Netflix
- The Academy Award winning “Man on Wire”
- Commercial vs. Film vs. Documentary
- Igor’s big break
Here’s the interview in its entirety. Jump to the 11-minute mark to get right to the good stuff:
Towards the 16-minute mark, Martinovic starts talking about the show’s philosophy behind camera movement and camera placement. He mentions the 1979 Hal Ashby masterpiece, Being There, with its static and objective (and oftentimes symmetrical) framings as one of the primary influences. One look at the final scene from the film, and the similarities in cinematic style between the two are glaring.
Through keeping the camera at a distance from the characters and allowing the actions to take place within a wider frame (with the exception of a few key scenes), Martinovic is able to emphasize the fact that the world in which these characters exist is extremely cold and inhumane (much like the characters themselves).
Martinovic also talks about how he creates extremely naturalistic (but still incredibly dramatic) lighting for the interior scenes in House of Cards. In almost all of the interior scenes in the second season, the windows of the sets (and locations) were used as the motivation for a strong naturalistic key light, usually from large tungsten lamps. In order to sell the key light as natural window light, however, the lighting team would use small Kino Flo units as a kicker from the same side as the key.
There is a TON of information in this podcast, more than I can possibly write about here, so be sure to listen to it in its entirety, because there is quite a bit to learn from Martinovic’s approach to the modern masterpiece that is House of Cards.
What do you guys think of the second season of House of Cards, especially in terms of its cinematography? Let us know down in the comments!