Hear All About the Amazing Cinematography of House of Cards

Been watching season two of House of Cards? The answer is yes. So you know how beautiful the cinematography is. In an interview with Go Creative, the Igor Martinovic, the show's cinematographer tells how he crafted the show's unique visual style.

When watching House of Cards, you may be struck by the precisely composed shots, dark lighting, and subdued colors. It's all a deliberate strategy formulated by the show's directors in concert with Martinovic, who has significant cred from working on projects like Nurse Jackie and the terrific documentary Man On Wire.

Some tidbits that are extra interesting in the interview is when Martinovic talks about how the camera is very still throughout the series. There is not a single steadicam shot, and the camera never pans and tilts at the same time. This is a stark contrast to the prevailing filmic style of fluid motion and dynamism. He also mentions how they try to remain as naturalistic as possible with lighting, attempting to mirror the natural light sources in the space as often as possible with artificial light.


The series was shot in a RED Epic camera, and although the raw footage is in 5K resolution, the composing was all done in a 4K frame, so that they had wiggle room to adjust shots during post-production for more precision.

The whole interview is interesting, and we recommend heading over to Go Creative for a listen. [NoFilmSchool]

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I am not a fan of the look of this show, its has many of the qualities that I consider cheep and lazy. I don’t doubt for a second that the extremely dark look adds a patina of drama but, to me its just cinema trickery to save money and end up requiring less bandwidth. Vast darkness is a trick which producers like because it saves money and it hides an amazing amount of stuff that would otherwise look cheep. Sci Fi films use dark a lot, it saves money on set details and the it adds a quality of depth. Dark is cheep. This show is hands down the darkest thing I have ever seen.

But there is another interesting thing going on here, vast blackness actually creates a file which is far smaller (with good quality) then a similar image that has lots of mid tones. Additionally, a locked down camera also reduces the file size of each shot. When the camera moves it changes the file size goes up because the master frames (B frames) must update more frequently. Its part of the mpeg compression thing which all that black and locked down cameras like a lot.