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Header image for article DP Lucas Gath on Creating Two Distinct Looks for “Rap Sh!t” with the Sony VENICE & Extension Unit

DP Lucas Gath on Creating Two Distinct Looks for “Rap Sh!t” with the Sony VENICE & Extension Unit

Recently, we asked Cinematographer Lucas Gath about his work on Rap Sh!t and how the Sony VENICE and the VENICE Extension Unit (informally, known as “Rialto”) helped him create two different looks for the show. The new HBO comedy series from executive producer Issa Rae follows two women trying to make it as a rap group in Miami.

 

What were the creative inspirations behind the project’s cinematography?

The show creates a contrast between the way the characters portray themselves in social media and the way they are in real life. In order to reflect this, we created two distinct looks.

The “real life” look was inspired by photojournalism and street photography, such as Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s photography. We wanted this to have more texture and a less polished feeling, something that would contrast with a more digital look.

The second, more digital look was inspired by today’s social media. We looked at many different profiles on social media, including up-and-coming artists, influencers, and local celebrities. We identified the feel of their interactions on social media, as well as the locale, camera angles, and movements. Then we replicated it.

 

What cameras and lenses did you use on the project?

The show was shot on the Sony VENICE with Canon FD lenses and ARRI Supreme Primes. The Canon FDs were our main set of lenses for the show, giving us more texture and a softer image when filming wide open. We used the Supreme Primes at a higher F-stop for a more polished, sharper look to emulate phones without having to change the camera.

 

Were there any specific challenges you had to overcome to achieve your full creative vision?

Yes! Our camera had to act like a phone. That meant that it had to look like a character could put it down on a kitchen counter or a car’s dashboard. It had to allow the character to move and flow the way they would while filming on their phone.

Issa Rae, Rap Sh!t, Sony VENICE and Extension Unit

 

Did you do any tests before you settled on the final configurations or setups?

We built many different rigs, cameras, lenses, and all kinds of different configurations. Ultimately, the flexibility of the Rialto was the best option for our show.

 

What did using the VENICE Extension Unit allow you to achieve creatively?

The show was written largely to be seen through what we called the digital world: FaceTime calls, IG lives, reels, Twitch, and OnlyFans. So from the beginning, my challenge was to find a visual approach that could emulate this. I didn’t want to film with phones, since the change in quality would be too jarring for the viewer. I wanted to use the same camera across the entire show, only switching the lenses for the moments when a phone device was being used. The challenge was finding a professional camera that could emulate the versatility of a phone and move in the same way. The characters needed to be able to hold on to the front of it as if it was a phone while our camera operators could move the camera the way a phone would move. The Rialto extension unit was the perfect solution. It allowed us to create very fluid shots, giving the actors the possibility to act as they did with their own phones.

 

What types of shooting locations were you working in?

All kinds! From large stages to small cars, nail salons, strip clubs, and mansions.

 

What was the shooting schedule like?

Each 30 minute episode was 6-7 days, so we were moving fast. And, we had several configurations, including Ronin, dolly, Steadicam, and handheld with and without Rialto. But our team could switch configurations in just a few minutes.

 

Issa Rae - Rap Sh!t - Sony VENICE

 

Did you have previous experience with the Sony VENICE? And, have you had a chance to use the VENICE 2 yet?

This was my first experience filming with the Sony VENICE. I tested the VENICE 2 a few months ago for the show I’m currently filming. It’s a great camera. Many of my shots are long Steadicam shots, so my Steadicam operator was excited to work on a smaller body that still held all the same capabilities and gave us more flexibility.

 

What would you tell someone who was interested in using the VENICE or the VENICE Extension Unit on their next project?

The Sony VENICE and the Rialto have opened a world of possibilities in how we film, where we can put the camera, and how we light. The two sensors, combined with the size of the Rialto are a game-changer. For those filmmakers that choose to embrace it, they’ll be able to operate camera, find angles, and light in ways that weren’t possible before.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

 

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