LOWELL PETERSON RELIES ON PANAVISION FOR TELENOVELA STYLE OF JANE THE VIRGIN

When director of photography Lowell Peterson, ASC was gearing up to shoot The CW series Jane the Virgin, which has a diverse array of talent in front of the camera including numerous Latino actors, he felt Panavision's Primo Zoom Lenses would be the ideal glass. “I find that the Panavision lenses are really good with skin tone,” he remarks.

Set in Miami, the hour-long comedy's quirky satire from over-the-top drama has made it a breakout hit in its first season, with soap opera plot lines dense enough to rival some of the best telenovelas. A humorous narrator guides the story along as the young, devout Jane is artificially inseminated in a clinical mix up and decides to carry the baby to term. With love, revenge and murder, the story only gets more complex from there.

Lowell Peterson is no stranger to this type of television, having shot such series as Knots Landing, Profiler and Desperate Housewives. In his usual manner, the cinematographer turned to Panavision Woodland Hills for his camera packages.

“When I was a film student at UCLA, I borrowed 35mm equipment from them to do a student project, and I've been a Panavision guy ever since,” he says. “It's the house that offers the most support, has the most rock solid equipment and can get you anything you need. If they don't have it, they'll make it for you. When you're on location and you need something sent out but don't have an opportunity to prep it, it will work right the first time."

Peterson selected two Panavised ARRI Alexa camera packages and Primo Zoom Lenses—the 17.5-75mm Primo 4:1 Zoom-SLZ and the 24-275mm Primo 11:1 Zoom-SLZ11. “I love the way their Alexas are rigged—the way they've Panavised them,” he adds. “[Sr. VP of Marketing] David Dodson is just great. He gets us whatever we need and makes it work for us.” Zoom lenses, as opposed to primes, add to Peterson’s flexibility. “We shoot a seven day schedule, and the challenge of the show is that it's a lot of strips, a lot of little scenes,” he explains. “We have to get in and out of those quickly. The zoom lenses allow us to change a size in the blink of an eye and get that next focal length.”

Shot on sets built at the MBS Media Campus in Manhattan Beach, California, Peterson has each Panavised Alexa mounted on its own Chapman-Leonard dolly for mobility. “I pretty much shoot on axis,” he notes. “Maybe I'll shoot 90 degrees, but typically not opposing angles. Most of our sets are double-walled so we don't really take walls out. Instead, we find a corner of the room and shoot from there.”

With space at a premium, Peterson typically lights the sets with big-source lighting from an off-camera wall. “We do what we call ‘wall wedges,’ though some call them ‘book lights,’” he explains. “With a 5K or 10K source, I'll do a 12-by wall wedge gridded so that it is directional, and I'll make that the key light. Because the Panavision lenses and Alexa cameras are good with skin tones, I can put our fair-skinned actors and our deeper-toned Latino actors in the same light, and that big, wraparound light is good for everybody.”

The hotel set, featuring a penthouse, lobby, lounge and a 100-by-30-foot printed backing of the ocean, is Peterson's favorite. “It's an elegant set to light because I've rigged big 10K and 20K hard-light sources coming through the windows and large wall wedges inside. We've done sunsets and even a hurricane. It's fun!”

Recording in ProRes 4444, Peterson uses one very general LUT on set for consistency, and color timing is handled by Modern VideoFilm. With the tight schedule, cameras are never a worry for Peterson. “We haven't had anything go wrong,” he says. “Panavision's cameras and lenses are just rock solid, and that's the reason for going with them.”