Danny Etheridge dissects the enormous range of equipment used to create TV’s most ambitious reality programme, Hunted
This article was written in 2021
Tv’s game of adult hide-and-seek, also known as Hunted, returns to Channel 4 with a bang after a year’s break. The show follows members of the public trying to evade capture by the Hunters – a team of retired police, members of intelligence services, counterterrorism officers, analysts, profilers and cybersecurity wizards – for 25 days. The prize: a share of £100,000. Since first airing in 2015, Hunted has evolved enormously – not only in terms of structure (there never used to be a cash prize, with participants entering either to make a point about civil rights and oppressive surveillance or, play Jack Bauer for a month) but in the cinematography. Series DOP Danny Etheridge, explains: “This year, we’ve given the Hunters’ headquarters a brand-new look. When I came on in Season 2, we gave it a cyber feel – and that lasted four seasons, before mixing it up in Season 6 for something more like a bunker.” Shine TV wasn’t too keen on this, though, stating that it looked grimy and not in line with the astuteness of its inhabitants.
They were looking to revert to its former glory, but with more pizzazz. “With this direction the headquarters in the new season looks much more cinematic. Think Bourne Ultimatum and Skyfall,” says Etheridge. “I wanted to make the Hunters imposing, so we shot everything from the waistline. They’re Greek gods in there, toying with the fugitives through touchscreen computers.”To evoke the desired filmic quality, Etheridge shot the headquarters on two Sony Venice cameras, with Angénieux lenses and various probe lenses to capture the minute details of the tech – such as fingers on keyboards and eyeballs watching the computer screens. The equipment had been purchased from CVP, which to him is more than just a supplier: “I always go to them for repairs or advice about the gear,” he says.
The Venice was crucial to Etheridge, since he adopted a complex approach to lighting the set, and was reliant on the camera’s ability to achieve a high ISO. “The idea was to create a nice mix between Tungsten light from the surroundings and blue light from the computer screens – but have the blue light more at play, so viewers could register the important information on the screen.” He adds: “The camera is also constantly on the move, zooming and doing whip pans, which is another reason why I chose the Venice. It’s got an incredibly strong shutter, so you don’t get rolling shutter when wrapping it around the room.”
CAPTOR AND CAPTIVE
Away from the confines of HQ and back on the streets – where Hunters and Hunted are embroiled in a game of cat and mouse – the direction is quite different. “It’s not about what it looks like, but making sure footage is captured,” says Etheridge. “The fugitives are often filmed on iPhones or little Canon 205 Handy cams. When we hear from Gold Command – the team with a target on them– that they’re about to be caught, we want to capture that arrest through whatever means possible. We’ve even had crew strap cameras to their feet!” The ratio of camera operators to fugitives is 1:1, and Etheridge alludes that the crew members often get invested in their runaways. “There’s a sense of Stockholm syndrome on the show. They get immersed in this new state that’s created, and are basically on the run too,” he laughs.
The Hunters on the move are also given a different direction, with Etheridge employing covert filming techniques, such as thermal imagery and drones. He adds, “We wanted to be a bit more stylised with the Hunters, because even though they’re out on the streets too, they still hail from intelligence. So, as well as all the covert optics, we filmed them on Sony FS7 and FX9 cameras.” With such an array of capture equipment, there were concerns the show wouldn’t be visually seamless. But Etheridge points out that viewers don’t expect this. “It’s split into three distinct parts: the headquarters, Hunters and fugitives. As long as these individual elements all look the same, it doesn’t matter if they are different to each other. The goal is to be there, making sure we’re documenting the chase.”
Hunted is available to watch on Channel 4