MGM Television’s dystopian series The Handmaid’s Tale became a cultural phenomenon and 2017 awards-season juggernaut upon its debut, earning eight Primetime Emmys, two Golden Globes, a Peabody Award and a BAFTA Award, among many others. For season two, which expands on the source material novel by Margaret Atwood, Deluxe Toronto Senior Colorist Bill Ferwerda reteamed with series DP Colin Watkinson, who won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography on “The Handmaid’s Tale” pilot, and also worked with DP Zoe White. Ferwerda once again delivered HDR and SDR grades for season two, following the same palette established for season one and helping develop looks for new environments, including the polluted Colonies.
“The look of The Handmaid’s Tale is so established and familiar to audiences, there wasn’t a need to reinvent the look for season two, but rather we pick up where season one left off and keep that tension building. I often pulled up season one footage to make sure I was staying true to that original aesthetic and feel,” explained Ferwerda.
Similar to how Ferwerda keyed in the signature ‘handmaid red’ for season one – a creative decision established by Watkinson and Director of season 1, episodes 1-3 Reed Morano – he accentuated a few primary colors in one key element within a scene, maintaining a simple palette and adding contrast to help the wardrobe and set design pop. He used the SDR grade as the guide for the HDR Dolby Vision grade, careful to carry through the intentionally subdued look.
Season two introduces The Colonies, a horrific compound where disobedient handmaids are sent to work in harsh conditions. To underscore the unpleasant environment, Ferwerda played up smoke and atmosphere with harsh contrast, following an aesthetic he helped develop with Watkinson and DIT Ben Whaley. He also accommodated for changing daylight in exterior scenes, and footage shot with both ARRI Alexa and drone cameras.
“The Colonies is a toxic environment so I was more aggressive in pushing the contrast; blacks are harder and I balanced a lot of opposite colors, such as adding a pink sky to counter green and different color tones,” Ferwerda said. “As a fan myself, this was a very exciting project to be part of, and I can attest that season two lives up to its very high expectations.”
The Handmaid’s Tale season two is now airing on Hulu in the United States and on Bravo in Canada.