The Secret Behind HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 Is the Out-of-Production Discontinued Kodak Ektachrome

Euphoria has been one of HBO’s most successful TV shows, and fans have been buzzing about the second season of the series. Everything from debating the potential dark side of characters’ dreams to analyzing the appearance of an actor’s lips has gotten headlines. 

It’s safe to say that the show has attracted an audience that pays attention to details, and that’s a good thing because the creators are putting a lot of time and care into their decisions. In fact, the entire look and feel of the cinematographic production is thanks to an old-school camera. 

Season 2 of ‘Euphoria’ has made some big moves 

Lexi sitting next to the actor who plays Rue in her play in 'Euphoria' Season 2 Episode 7
Lexi’s play in ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 Episode 7 | Eddy Chen/HBO

Following a group of high school students through their dramatic ups and downs is definitely no new approach for television. Teen dramas have long been a staple of TV, but Euphoria earned attention for being willing to push the envelope in new ways. 

The series follows a group of teens who seem determined to make some of the worst decisions imaginable. The flashy party scenes unfold as the protagonists deal with sex, drugs, and mental health crises. Some parents have seen the show as too edgy, but it has also been heralded as creative success.

Much of the praise has been heaped on Zendaya’s portrayal of Rue. As NPR‘s Eric Deggans writes, the characters’ stories are “told with a gutsy, explicit flair, forcing the viewer to face the brutal reality of each character’s pain, along with their poignant emotions. In particular, Rue’s struggle to deal with her desire to get high – culminating in a tour de force story focused on her character in episode five – gets at the debilitating reality of addiction in a way few other shows match.”

A switch from digital to old school filming makes a difference

The acting and the heart-pounding drama may get most of the attention, but the creative team is not resting on those flashy elements to carry the series. There’s no detail too small, and that includes the very camera on which the series is shot. No Film School reports that fans of the series may notice things look a little different in Season 2, which was long delayed because of the pandemic

Previously, the show had been shot the way most are these days — digitally. Going back in time to use an older method of filming was no small feat. Cinematographer Marcell Rév, who aimed to create “a more restricted version of the show that mimicked the worn-out youth” at the center of the plot, wanted to use Kodak Ektachrome to achieve the effect. However, getting enough of the film required an effort. Shooting the entire series in the 35mm format meant “Kodak converted parts of its factory to make it possible.” 

How did the filming choice change the series? 

Why go through all that trouble just to use an older method of filming? The beauty is in the details. 

Shooting on Ektachrome means that the creators are able to pick up better color with an emphasis on skin tone during close-ups. The difference is particularly pronounced during simple scenes where the emotion on the character’s face needs to carry the moment. Creator and executive producer Sam Levinson wanted the worn feel of the film to match the sense he was trying to convey in Season 2: “If season one was a house party at 2 a.m., season two should feel like 5 a.m., way past the point at which everyone should have gone home.”

That leaves fans wondering what Levinson and the production team have up their sleeves for the confirmed Season 3. As Deadline reports, the series has been renewed for more, and we’ll have to tune in to see if Levinson once again changes up the filming method to match the tone of the season as a whole. 

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