The show Ted Lasso has truly become a feel-good TV phenomenon for Apple TV+. With tons of new subscribers after its premiere in 2020, it saved the brand-new streaming service and was Apple TV+’s top comedy in 50 countries. Ted Lasso seemed to tap into what many people needed during the pandemic. It’s a positive and uplifting show about Ted, a fish out of water determined to spread joy and inspire confidence while coaching the AFC Richmond football (soccer) team in England.
Cinematographer David Rom has been shooting Ted Lasso since the pilot. He and co-creator/star Jason Sudeikis worked out the look of the show together with the production designers. They wanted to find a look that was clean, bright and saturated, but not look like a network comedy. It was a challenge to make so many offices and locker rooms look interesting because they had to be lit from above. David and director Tom Marshall used the sports films Moneyball and I, Tonya as references for the pilot episode. David chose to shoot with the ARRI Alexa LF with Tokina lenses to get the big, colorful look. The show frequently uses a single camera, handheld approach even though they often need several cameras to cover the action. Many of the scenes are rewritten, changed or improvised in the moment, so both David and fellow cinematographer Vanessa Whyte have to be ready to think on their feet.
DOP Vanessa Whyte joined Ted Lasso in season 2. As the seasons of the show have progressed and the characters deepen, the look of Ted Lasso has also progressed, with room for experimentation in a few episodes. For example, in the episode “Beard After Hours,” Vanessa got to have fun with more psychedelic and dreamlike camera work as Coach Beard parties his way around London after a team loss. Vanessa also found that each season has a lot of episodes that refer back and tie in to previous episodes. With help from the show’s DIT, she would reference these previous scenes, in order to match up the shots and storylines neatly. She finds that the fans of Ted Lasso notice and appreciate when they’re able to recognize a callback.
Ted Lasso IS about football, and for all of the football sequences, the show has a special second unit for shooting the games. David and Vanessa use a large crew to shoot on the field, with many extra cameras. The crew is not allowed to shoot on any actual football pitches, and all of the stadiums where the games are played are recreated with computer graphics, and a CGI crowd. Most of the practices and games are actually shot on the Hayes and Yeading Football Club pitch. A few small greenscreens are strategically placed on the field and behind the goals, and the CGI team does their magic to turn it into a stadium.
For both David and Vanessa, shooting in the UK can be a nightmare with the unpredictable British weather. Vanessa says that it’s definitely part of the training for any European cinematographer. The weather regularly shifts from clouds to sun to clouds and rain. They always need to build in more time to shoot, and have plenty of lights as backup with color grading in post to correct for drastic light and shadow changes. After season 1, the crew built a set instead of using a real location for Rebecca’s office, since it was so difficult to control the lighting in the south-facing windows.
Ted Lasso is streaming on AppleTV+.
Find David Rom: http://www.davidrom.com/
Find Vanessa Whyte: https://www.vanessawhyte.com/
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