Web Series: Netflix's <I>GLOW</I>
Issue: September 1, 2017

Web Series: Netflix's GLOW

Show producers and creators Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch and executive producer Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black) recently received some great news about their new Netflix Original series, GLOW — The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling — that the cast and crew would be returning to the ring for a second season. With the first season just released this past June, Netflix had already announced by the end of the summer that it had renewed the hit series for a Season 2. The 10-episode first season, based on a true story, is set in and around LA in the 1980s, and follows the lives of a group of women as they become wrestling’s newest celebrities. Part comedy, part drama, the series stars Community’s Alison Brie and Nurse Jackie’s Betty Gilpin.

According to Ashley Glazier (pictured), associate producer on the show (who also worked on ABC hits Castle and Private Practice), GLOW's production was overall quite smooth. However, there were one or two smaller challenges for the post and production crews. For starters, it was the first time that much of the team had worked on a series in HDR. 

“Creating the show in HDR was a great experience,” she says. “It’s a really great new way of coloring and seeing the difference. It’s one of those things where I feel that until you see the comparison between HDR and non-HDR, you don’t really understand what the difference is. You think it looks great as is, but then you see it in HDR and you’re like, ‘Oh wait!’ It’s very similar to when we made that jump from standard def to high def. You think everything’s fine, but when you see it side to side, you really see the difference.”

She continues that while HDR really allows you to “push the colors and get colors out of it that you wouldn’t normally be able to,” that with GLOW, “we didn’t expand the color palette too far beyond what the mass viewer, who is still watching in SDR, would see. At the end of the day, it was still important to all of us that the majority of our audience was able to see and appreciate the show looking great. In post, when we were in color, it was one of the things we would watch closely — we would watch the show in both SDR and HDR so we would know and see firsthand how both Netflix subscribers would see it. 

“HDR was a new concept to grasp and everybody was really happy to jump in and try it out. At the end of the day, everyone was really happy with it. It was a great learning process. Netflix wants all of their shows to be HDR, and they were great through the whole process. They really walked us through. Also, we posted at Light Iron in LA, and they had done HDR previously, so they were terrific to work with. Between Light Iron and Netflix, it was a great experience. I think everybody was a little worried, since it was everybody’s first time, that in the post process we would hit these hiccups but it really went very smoothly and everybody was very happy with it at the end of the day.”

Glazier says that another challenge of the production was maintaining the overall look and feel, to keep with the show’s time period — the 1980s. “As much as you think of the 80s and neon and those colors, Carly and Liz, our show’s creators, really wanted sort of grittier color tones to the overall color palette,” she explains. “Our DP Christian Sprenger, who is amazing, did a really great job between what he shot on-set and in color, and staying true to that.”

Glazier points out that there are many parts of LA that still haven’t changed all that much since the '80s, so the production’s location department did a terrific job at finding just the right areas that could “sell the '80s.” There was some post work required to remove time-inappropriate cars (that didn’t belong in an '80s setting) or more modern streetlights, signage, etc., but she says it was minimal. “For the most part, a lot of what we had was all practical. It always feels more genuine, when it’s the real thing, as opposed to trying to put something back in that’s CG.”

Surprisingly, considering when the show takes place, it was not shot on film. Rather, the series was shot 2:1 on Red Weapon Dragon cameras in 6K. “You know, that was a creative conversation that our creators and DP had early on — how dirty do we want the show to look? They didn’t really want it to look as though it were shot in 1985 by any means, in the sense of it being 4x3 or having the grittiness of actual film dirt,” Glazier explains. “Instead, they wanted it to look like a current television show, just kind of gain that grittiness, just with a color palette and in other ways as opposed to really making it feel like it was produced and shot in 1985.” She also points out that DP Sprenger “really wanted to use that camera. I think he felt that between shooting and then in the post process, he’d really be able to get all the color information he wanted there.”

Once in post, GLOW was cut on an Avid by editors Tanya M. Swerling and Tyler L. Cook (with the pilot cut by Bill Turro), while color grading was completed by Light Iron’s Ian Vertovec on a Rio system from Snell Advanced Media (SAM). There, Vertovec used a 4000-nit Dolby Pulsar reference monitor for HDR mastering. Light Iron also handled the show’s dailies. “We pretty much had a traditional workflow,” Glazier says. “We shot about 30 minutes away from Light Iron, who would process our dailies, so the next morning, editorial would get them and we’d go through the process. It was all very old school.”

Glazier says that one big difference between working on a streaming series, compared to a network show, is that, “when you’re on a network show, you don’t have that luxury of time because you’re shooting and airing all at the same time and producers really have to split their time. Here, we were fortunate that our schedule allowed our producers to spend their time on-set and focus on that until production was completed, and then they could go into post and power through all the episodes as soon as shooting completed.”

Overall, Glazier feels that for a first season, the production and post on GLOW “was really smooth. It was a really good team effort. If there was anything that was foreseen that could be an issue down the road, we talked about it early on in production meetings, pre-production meetings and had plans set up. So, I feel like at the end of the day, there were very little surprises once everything came around to post, which is huge. It was a wonderful experience."