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Using Helicopters Instead Of Drones Gives ‘Night Stalker’ Those ‘80s Vibes

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The Netflix Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer docuseries has many of the trademarks of your standard prestige limited series, with beautifully shot interviews, archival photos, and intimate stories to bring the true crime to life. But one way they made it feel like the time period was avoiding the use of drones, the modern tool of choice for dramatic city landscapes.

“Typically, in all these doc series and features, what everybody does is, ‘Hey, let’s use drones for the aerials,’” director Tiller Russell told LAist. “Because they’re cheap, and they’re effective, and they’re beautiful.”

Russell’s happy to use drones in his work as well, but he didn’t think it was the right choice for this series.

“We came to the idea early on, if you were shooting this in 1985, what would it look like? You would actually have legitimate helicopter aerials,” Russell said.

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They used vintage camera lenses, along with a loose camera gimbal to give it the feel of what those shots on the nightly news of the time might look like. It keeps the footage closer to the archival shots that are also used, helping to evoke the way it felt to watch the story of the Night Stalker’s crimes on TV news of the time.