Troy Miller, who co-directed the fourth season of Arrested Development with series creator and showrunner Mitch Hurwitz, recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about production (uniquely, he also served as Steadicam operator), the decision to make this season in 4K resolution and what might be ahead for the Bluth family.
“It was one of the best sets ever; It was improvisational filmmaking, from top to bottom,” said Miller, who also served as an executive producer. “Mitch would often rewrite as we go. … You’d decide live, shot to shot, how to best tell that joke or story point, which is really unusual.”
Working with director of photography Peter Lyons Collister, Miller was also the Steadicam operator. He used a Handsfree Segway transport device that the operator steers with his or her legs, which Miller said is not uncommon to see on a feature set but isn’t frequently used in television, particularly half-hour sitcoms. “This was [used for] Arrested Development to allow very fast dolly moves that kept the handheld look [of the series]. We often used a three-camera configuration where we were able to do our cross shooting and also add this new life.
"It gave us very fast mobile camera movement ... more of of a feature point of view, and it allowed parallel dolly and tracking shots without the [setup] time [typically] needed by the grip crew.”
Importantly, it also contributed to the directing style. “It allows me to be very close to the actors,” Miller said. “As a director-operator, I was able to speak to the actors as I was shooting. Mitch as co-director was able to walk alongside me and he would be able to see my monitor. So both Mitch and I would spend the majority of the time right next to the actors.”
Miller’s Steadicam work can be seen, for instance, in a scene during which Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera) are walking on a university campus. “There’s a long walk and talk, and they are walking toward the camera. That is normally done with a long dolly, but it is a reverse Segway,” said Miller.
He also cited a scene during which Tobias (David Cross) starts a dance group and the Steadicam does a series of 360-degree shots around him.
The series was photographed with Red Epic cameras and also incorporated use of Red’s smaller Scarlet camera with still lenses. “The Scarlet is not much bigger than a normal DSLR, so [for instance] we could mount that to the dash of a car for driving shots.”
Miller related that Arrested Development was also shot, finished and mastered in 4K -- four times the resolution of high definition --which isn't often used in television series production at this stage. “The mandate from Netflix is to do what we though was best and make the show look as good as we wanted it to look. They were so supportive. There wasn’t a [mandate] to go 2K or 4K, but for archival reasons, 4K has a greater afterlife,” he said, adding that 4K also allowed them “to not only do blowups but have more contrast and color range than you normally have. It’s a lot more work because you’re increasing storage capacity, so it is exponentially that much more expensive and time consuming. But [the season] does have a great look and I think a lot of that is attributed to 4K.”
Saying that he believes the Arrested Development franchise will “keep living and growing,” he related, “The future will lie with Mitch and what is in his head, and [Netflix chief content officer] Ted Sarandos, the greatest executive; he’s got such great ideas. They will hatch something that is going to be excited. Mostly obviously what they have discussed is a feature or additional seasons. That is a logical direction.”