When Erik Magnus, CAS interviewed with the producers of the TNT show “Leverage,” he heard that they wanted to do things a bit differently. “They wanted an in-house workflow, and that meant they wanted to use HD all the way,” he says. “It was shot with up to three RED cameras, and I recorded the audio digitally on a Fostex DV824 multitrack DVD-RAM recorder.”
To get the tracks for this shoot, Magnus didn’t have to add anything special to his cart –– he relied on Sanken COS-11 lavs with Lectrosonic UCR411As, and used a Fostex FR-2 as a back-up recorder. However, he did see a difference in how dailies were being created and delivered. The footage and audio from the RED drives were imported into an Apple Final Cut Pro editing station on the set. “They turned that footage into QuickTime movies to be used as dailies to be distributed through the production company’s intranet,” Magnus explains. “We created the idea of going to Telecine without Telecine.”
Magnus got the audio tracks onto the RED hard drives by sending a track to the monitor station via CAT 5 cable, because the two main cameras were tethered to the monitors. If the scene required the use of a Steadicam, Magnus would send a wireless feed. He also used the cable to take a return so that he could see what the cameras were seeing (after the signal was down-converted to standard def) on his monitors.
A challenge Magnus encounters while on HD shoots is that frame lines depend on the number of cameras used. “There’s always going to be a tight and [a] wide shot, and there are always more handhelds with HD,” he says. “So it’s harder to use a boom on HD shots and you end up using more radio mics.” This also means more work on the mixing board, especially on “Leverage” where there are five principal actors (and very often a guest star) who each wear a wireless lav. Magnus also relies on a boom track. “There are six or seven channels to be recorded. It’s more work than if you have one or two booms,” he explains.
Beyond the technical challenges, Magnus has taken note of a couple of other factors on HD shoots. One is that directors can shoot more. “Because they’re not developing 35mm film, there is a tendency to do more takes right away,” he says. “The other thing [is that] they are ready faster because they’re not loading film. It’s much faster and chaotic than a film shoot.”
Magnus adds that there is also a lack of rehearsals on HD shoots. “They want to shoot everything, because maybe they can get lightning in a bottle,” he says. “I think the rehearsal is very important for everybody — people know where the actors’ marks are, we know where the camera is going to be and how the lighting works. When you don’t get a rehearsal, it’s more that you’re guessing how things are going to go. That makes it more difficult for everyone involved.”