‘Welcome to Earth’ cinematographer Brendan McGinty on capturing the show’s unbelievable imagery [Exclusive Video Interview]

Acclaimed cinematographer Brendan McGinty had a big challenge when he rejoined some of his collaborators from “One Strange Rock,” including executive producer Darren Aronofsky, for the NatGeo series “Welcome to Earth”: How to manage a globe-spanning nature docuseries with Will Smith at the center of the real environments.

“It was a very radical proposal,” McGinty tells Gold Derby about the series during our Meet the Experts: Cinematographers panel. “To take a Hollywood A-list actor and put them on a volcano or at the bottom of the ocean… And we wanted a photographic style that would accommodate this new sort of immersion in the world.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

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The six-part series was shot in 2020 and released late last year. In each episode, Smith is guided by a top-flight explorer and experiences wonders of the natural world that seem almost impossible to comprehend.

“They found with ‘One Strange Rock’ when they showed it to audiences [that] a lot of people couldn’t believe the photography and thought they were looking at CG stuff,” McGinty says. “Which, you know, felt great, but equally, you felt sort of cheated. People didn’t realize the kind of great labor you’ve gone to shoot some of this stuff.” 

Here, similarly – though Smith is in almost every frame – the images McGinty and his team created are all real.

“If there’s a misconception it’s that there’s a lot of fiction involved. And there isn’t,” McGinty says. “We would shoot very, very fast in a day, sometimes a couple of days, in these very exotic, beautiful locations – where a lot of things were happening and things typically were pretty dangerous most of the time.”

All episodes of “Welcome to Earth” are streaming now on Disney+.

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