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'Breaking Bad' cinematographer thanks Netflix and cheap HDTVs for show's success

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Michael Slovis is Breaking Bad's cinematographer. He's the man responsible for the show's striking visual style: its filmic landscapes, its lingering timelapses, and its trademark perspective shots. And what does Slovis say allowed him to imbue Breaking Bad with its own distinct aesthetics?

Cheap HDTVs. Slovis thanked the increased take-up of the technology in an interview with Forbes.

It just so happened that during the last seven years, widescreen televisions became affordable. And HD became the norm. Now people could see what we were doing and we didn't have to tell stories in the old style of closeup [then another] closeup.

Perhaps more important to Breaking Bad's overall success, Slovis says, was the rise of digital video recorders and Netflix. The cinematographer argues that Breaking Bad's audience grew because people were "able to binge view and catch up." Show creator Vince Gilligan has agreed in the past, saying Netflix provided Breaking Bad with an "amazing nitrous-oxide boost of energy and general public awareness."

"We didn't have to tell stories in the old style"

Slovis also celebrated the show's shooting format. Breaking Bad is one of the few modern shows to have been shot on 35mm film, a choice that is allowing Sony to re-transfer the show at 4K in anticipation of the next wave of television technology. It's something that wouldn't have been possible if the show had been shot digitally. "Film is upscaleable," Slovis notes. "It's archiveable, as the formats change."

The full interview goes into more detail on how the cinematographer imagined, lit, and shot Walter White's descent into badness, and explains why the show's perspective camera shots are like toppings on a sundae.