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  • The show’s look is as meticulous as the mechanics of police work it depicts.

  • Going inside Mindhunter Season 2: imagery is as meticulous as the police work it depicts. There’s a contradiction at the heart of Mindhunter, the highly rated Netflix drama. For all the efforts of creator David Fincher and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt to craft a minimalist aesthetic for this ripped-from-the headlines chronicle of the modern serial killer and its FBI profilers, the show itself continues to win plaudits for how it stylistically marries editorial with subject.



  • Season 1 was lauded for shining a light onto this particularly murky corner of the criminal psyche with its desaturated cinematography. “David and I continued with what we had put together for the first season,” Messerschmidt explains. “If anything, Season 2 is even more structured and formalist. That classical aesthetic is driven a lot by the content. The show is very measured in its approach to a story about serial killers so we felt the photography should be restrained and simple.”

    Messerschmidt photographed all nine episodes of the new season which returned to Netflix after a two-year hiatus. Directors Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Carl Franklin (House of Cards) and Fincher took charge of blocks of three. Before taking responsibility to shape the look of Mindhunter’s first run, Messerschmidt had worked as a gaffer on shows like Mad Men and Bones, and then the feature film Gone Girl where he first came into contact with Fincher.

  • We tried to stay within sources motivated by natural light and practicals.

  • Definitive if subtle changes were made for Mindhunter’s latest season, the most notable of which was shooting with the custom XENOMORPH with HELIUM 8K S35 sensor and being able to monitor HDR on set.

    “We tried to stay within sources motivated by natural light and practicals — which is the style of the show - while simultaneously keeping in mind where the story was going,” he explains. “This season broadens the story out and takes a slightly different direction. It gets a little bigger, so the photography had to support the change in the story’s scope.”

    The second run has the Behavioral Science Unit investigating potential serial killings in Kansas and another in Atlanta, while continuing to conduct interviewers with killers, including Charles Manson. While the first season was shot with XENOMORPH with DRAGON sensor at 6K, 4:1 compression, Messerschmidt was tempted to take advantage of the added sensitivity of the HELIUM sensor and the reduced noise.

    “We wanted to keep the post costs as reasonable as possible and made extensive tests when it came to handling the larger 8K R3Ds. We found we could shoot 8K at 8:1 but then transcode to 6K openEXR without major changes to the post workflow. The downscaled camera raw (R3D) at 6K had a much lower noise floor when compared to DRAGON at 6K at 4:1 compression. The camera was also faster and for the most part, I would argue, had superior color fidelity.”

  • HDR was monitored on a Canon 24-inch professional display in Dolby PQ (Dolby Vision). “This marked a profound change in the whole way I work,” Messerschmidt says. “The beautiful thing about this was being able to see images that were very close to the dynamic range of the sensor’s capabilities. When the sensor was clipped, the monitor and waveform was clipped so we were in a good position to protect highlights. The monitor might not be fully capable of showing the entire dynamic range – but monitoring in “near” rec. 2020 is substantively better than SDR monitoring in rec. 709. When it came down to the final color grade, we were able to pull the openEXR files up in ACES and see exactly what we saw on set.”

  • Messerschmidt maintained the original lens choice of Leica Summilux-C lenses (mostly using 29mm, 40mm and 65mm focal lengths) and eschewed use of Steadicam. “Working with prime lenses is great because it requires a little more discipline than zooms,” he says. “The lenses were very flat and clean and so worked really well for our aesthetic, even adding a touch of distortion characteristic in post as needed.” “I like to work with low light and a relatively minimal lighting package so we hedged our bets and shot 800 ASA. I was able to shoot most of the series at a T2-2.5 and never approached wide open on any of the lenses.”

    “The ACES transform does slow the camera down a bit, but with the added benefit of fattening the negative and shooting in really low light I never felt challenged for exposure. We shot with the Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF and found it gave us great color separation in the grade with really low noise. In many instances we actually added grain in post.”

  • “David is involved in every visual decision in the show and he kept our palette restricted to a very specific set of tones. We had no on-set colorist or DIT or show LUT. It was as close to a film pipeline that you might be able to approach these day – incredibly simple and elegant.”

  • The scene was almost

    One scene in an early episode has agent Bill Tench interviewing an attack survivor in a lengthy dialogue scene that takes place at pre-dawn inside a truck in a parking garage. “The scene was almost 11-pages-long, which even the most effective film production would take at least an entire day to shoot. We had to figure out how to maintain this pre-dawn look across what was a day-and-a-half shoot for us. We decided to shoot plates and recreate the scene in a truck on stage. It took a lot of preproduction planning and previz of camera angles to work out the correct lighting against green screen and to ensure all the plates matched. It was a very technically detailed and aesthetic challenge for a largely static, dialogue-heavy scene and one which is kind of synonymous with everything we are trying to achieve with this show.”

    The show’s look is as meticulous as the mechanics of police work it depicts. “It is very pleasing but somewhat ironic that people appreciate how Mindhunter looks because we’re not trying to put style in the audience’s face. We are really making an effort not to be flashy, but to be as formal and simple as we can so the script and performances shine.”

    Special thanks to Erik Messerschmidt
    for sharing behind the scenes
    of Mindhunter Season 2.

  • Photos courtesy of

Different Body. Same Soul.

RED built the XENOMORPH, a one-of-a-kind camera, for David Fincher and his camera team for the thriller series ‘Mindhunter’ from Netflix. Season 2 utilized the HELIUM 8K S35 sensor technology.

Watch Now
RED’s HELIUM 8K S35 sensor delivers 17x more resolution than HD, over 4x more than 4K, and over 16 stops of dynamic range. HELIUM’s unmatched performance offers users benefits such as the flexibility of super-sampling, cropping, and stabilizing in post to produce unbelievable content without compromising their vision.

HELIUM is available in the modular DSMC2 or all-in-one RANGER system.



  • 35.4 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • 29.90 mm x 15.77 mm (Diag: 33.80 mm)
  • 60 fps at 8K Full Format (8192 × 4320)
  • 75 fps at 8K 2.4:1 (8192 × 3456)
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  • 35.4 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • 29.90 mm x 15.77 mm (Diag: 33.80 mm)
  • 60 fps at 8K Full Format (8192 × 4320)
  • 75 fps at 8K 2.4:1 (8192 × 3456)
Shop Now

2017 | TV-MA | 2 Seasons | TV Dramas

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

Starring: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv
Creators: Joe Penhall

Watch MINDHUNTER Only on Netflix