Extraordinary: Gen Z Life in an X-Men Kind of World

March 30, 2023 Mar. 30, 2023

Imagine everybody is endowed with an amazing superpower…except you. It would be pretty depressing if people could effortlessly fly or walk through walls around you, and you couldn’t. That’s the premise of Extraordinary (now streaming on Hulu and Disney) — a humorous and relatable series from Creator Emma Moran and Sid Gentle Films, the company behind international megahit Killing Eve. Senior Colorists Gareth Spensley, who previously colored that international hit series, handled the grade for Extraordinary‘s introductory episodes, and Senior Colorist Chris Rodgers finished out the season.

Much of the humor and pathos of the show comes from Máiréad Tyers’s lowkey performance as Jen – a Gen Z woman negotiating the expected love- and work-related challenges of her age group compounded by her lack of even a little superpower. Her responses to events – whether losing out on a job or catching a sex partner literally flying out her window – combine a kind of deadpan acceptance mixed with a touch of snark and a dash of pathos.

“The brief,” says Spensley of the show, which was shot by Carlos Catalán, Daniel Stafford-Clark, and Álvaro Guitérrez, “was that it should have a heightened, but still natural, feel. We designed a LUT before production started that helped give the look a strong color separation, but it was essential not to mimic the look of a modern superhero movie.

The LUT, he adds, was designed to essentially emulate film but not truly constricted to what would be possible to create in a photochemical workflow. “Some sets and locations needed slightly varied approaches to make them feel richer than the rest,” Spensley notes. “A notable example is a clinic that Jen visits. There we needed more room for the blues to give the environment the strongly clinical feel that the story called for.”

“Gareth did a lot of work to help bring about the show’s look,” says Rodgers. “When I came onboard, a lot of the overall look had been determined, and I primarily focused on bringing out the best of what was already in the cinematography. I think we were all looking to find that balance between not wanting it to be very dark, but also not wanting it to be too poppy and garish.”

Both colorists also did some work in the grade to very subtly help some of the VFX work fit perfectly within surrounding imagery in order to maintain the specific tone the filmmakers intended. “It’s delicate balancing act,” says Rodgers, “of making the superpower moments noticeable without letting them feel unnatural. We spent some time on the flying sequences in particular so that they felt ‘normal’ in the city surroundings, adding lens flares, camera moves and some sky replacements in the grade.”  

“I think of it as being a very British kind of show,” says Rodgers. “Even more than that, it really has a feel of the trendy, edgy parts of East London. I was very happy to see that people were enjoying it everywhere.”

Extraordinary was quickly renewed for a second season; read more about it here.