“We work in a visual medium and TV became more and more cinematic over the last couple decades, and I think the look of a show contributes to the tone and the feel. It is sort of those ineffable qualities that make you feel like, ‘There’s romance here, or there’s sadness,’ or whatever, so it’s very specific, and it’s very important,” Kang said.
“One of the interesting challenges of working on The Walking Dead is we’re still shooting on 16mm film, and we went through a whole exercise of, ‘Do we switch to digital or not?’ And it’s very close in look now, what you can do.”
Because that look can’t exactly be replicated with digital, Kang is instead focused on maximizing the existing look established by original showrunner Frank Darabont.
“We’re like, there’s still something that differentiates the daytime zombie look that’s on the 16 that is not exactly the same as when we try to mimic it with digital, so we chose to stay on it,” Kang said.
“But it’s like with our [directors of photography], we’re picking different film stocks, trying to maximize the look. It’s actually amazing how much as a showrunner in this day and age you really are involved in setting the look and feel and tone of the show as well, it’s part of the storytelling I think.”
The AMC series, which shoots on 16mm and 35mm, is just one of few holdouts not to shoot digitally. In February, The Walking Dead was named Television Series of the Year at the 3rd Annual KODAK Film Awards.
“We’re one of the handful of shows, we’ve been shooting on 16mm film ever since the pilot of the show,” Kang said at the KODAK Awards.
“Frank Darabont, when he set out to make the show, fully intended to shoot digital. They tested multiple cameras — they brought along a 16mm camera for fun, and it ended up looking the best. And it’s part of what created the unique look of the show. And we just have loved the journey ever since.”
In a 2014 interview with KODAK, longtime producer Tom Luse said special effects makeup guru Greg Nicotero’s walker creations “looked much better” on film, which brought “a sort of classic horror film look to it that resonated with all of us.”
The Walking Dead Season 10 premieres on AMC in October.