VIEWFINDER: ALAN WALKER
Alan Walker is a DP who has worked on numerous VIDEO AND FILM shows including: SIMON SAYS, THE JOHN LARROQUETTE SHOW, BLOSSOM, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, ROSEANNE, THE COSBY SHOW, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, EMPTY NEST, FULL HOUSE, ALF, and DIFFERENT STROKES. We talked with him about shooting in film and video and using FILMLOOK. Here is a brief excerpt of our interview:
F - Generally, all sitcoms are shot with multiple cameras - you're compromising for each camera, right?
AW - Ultimately, having only one camera to light for is the best of all worlds. In the multi-camera world, you have generally three or four cameras (and sometimes five), working in a proscenium concept. It is my opinion, beyond the single camera approach, that every time you add a camera you are compromising your ultimate lighting by that factor in this format. Remember, we are doing a "play" in front of an audience.
F - For the sake of speeding up the process?
AW - We have a very limited amount of time to capture the "play." Therefore, the process of multiple cameras allows us to capture more information (shots) in a short period of time.
F - When using film, it is 4 cameras and they all run together?
AW - Yes, in film, we also use the multi-camera process for exactly the same reasons, and as in videotape all cameras are recording simultaneously. In the case of film, 20-35 rolls are delivered to the lab overnight to be transferred, possibly the next day. Whereas, in the videotape process, the tape goes directly to editing with no lab work involved.
F - Between 20 - 35 1000 ft. rolls??
AW - Yes, somewhere in that amount. All of which has to be processed and transferred, interestingly enough, to videotape for editing.
F - If things drag on you can consume a lot of film in a multi - camera film shoot?
AW - Film is more expensive than videotape. The figure for budgeting for a film show is approximately $50,000 or so more than a videotape show. This is a figure that I have been given by various line producers. If the show drags on into the wee hours, obviously the cost will rise. I have often wondered what would happen at 4:00 in the morning if you ran out of stock.
F - Do you transfer mostly everything?
AW - On the multi-camera film shows that I have done, we transferred everything.
F - There's still the schism, that different mind set or almost political disposition as to the world of film or video?
AW - Videotape is the "new child on the block." The film world has been around for a long, long time, and the creativity (lighting), especially in feature production, is considered the benchmark. Multi-camera film, because it is shot on film, commands nearly the same level of admiration. Videotape lighting, generally, has been suffering under the "network news" stigma up until recently. For the last few years, the techniques employed by feature directors of photography and directors of photography working in videotape have merged.
F - Has part of that attitude contributed actually towards holding video back?
AW - Absolutely, of course it has!
F - You're not going to be given the budget and time.
AW - Recently, I have had several experiences with film "P" friends desiring to attempt the transition from film to videotape. I was able to secure a project for a very close friend who had no videotape lighting experience. It was interesting for him to recount to me, "this is the hardest thing I've done in my life." This is because the dynamic range of film is considerable not to mention that adjustments can be made in the development process as well as the telecine process for over or under exposures.
In video, the exposure latitude is more restrictive and there is essentially no second chance to compensate for exposure errors. My friend found it very difficult to work within this restraint and to deal with the electronic high level saturation limitations. He also discovered the compromises of multi-camera shooting versus single-camera work from which he came.
F - There is also the problem of the upper echelon doing more changes and second guessing on you with videotape.
AW - You better be flexible. We don't do story boards in videotape, as a rule. We also don't do as much pre-production as you would find in film. Interestingly enough, in multi-camera videotape or film, we get very little information as to what the producers/writers actually want to see. We do the project and hope that they like it. We also have "Plan B" in our pocket.
F - They place less value on time and effort if it isn't a film show?
AW - Unfortunately, videotape because of its "network history" has a stigma of being "quick and easy." Although this is no longer the case, the perception remains in the minds of some.
FILMLOOK allows videographers to bridge the gap between a show that could have been done on film, but is now being done on videotape. It must be remembered that "quality" videotape lighting has as much visual enjoyment as does "quality" film lighting in the multi-camera world.
Recently, FILMLOOK has provided a new dimension to their process of making videotape appear to look like film. Beyond the frame-rate illusion and the textural addition, they now provide comprehensive exposure and color correction during the same process of transfer. This allows videotape productions to be smoothed out to provide an ultimate product. This is very similar to taking a film to the lab and having it timed for release. This is a major step for those of us in videotape.
F- One of the things I always noticed is that normally on film shot television programming, the film never gets to be projected...it is always transferred to tape.
AW - If they can achieve the look that you want without having to go through that then you got it. You know we are living in an economically conscious world and if you get a process that really does give you the impression that this is a quality film project and you shot it on videotape well, you've done more than one thing...you've done a great job in videotape and added an additional essence. Going back to what we've said, shooting videotape is a difficult process and this heightens the sense of accomplishment.
F - Do you think people are aware of the difference?
AW - Let me give you an example, we aired a segment of Larroquette last year that was the master we brought over to be processed through FILMLOOK , but somehow the non-FILMLOOK master got to the networks and the FILMLOOK version didn't get there and it aired and everybody knew the difference...and they said "what was that?" There was an endorsement there. The executive producer was very upset. This is the dynamic change that FILMLOOK is giving us as videographers...and it works. If average people notice the difference, obviously there is something there.
F - What does it mean to you to come here at FILMLOOK and supervise an episode in addition to lighting the show?
AW - When I come over to FILMLOOK, you are able to enhance the quality work that I have done in the studio and diminish that "standard videotape feeling." There is textural difference, whatever it is, and you perceive it. The other thing is that when you get into the alternating fields of video versus the 24 frames of film, there's a whole psychological difference--your mind accepts it in two different ways. I think we've grown up to feel that videotape looks one particular way and film looks another particular way, and fortunately you guys have been able to pull these two together in a common ground. It's interesting that when you go to see a feature film there's a motion process that's in front of you, your mind accepts it quite readily. If you were to put a film and a videotape "side by side" you would get confused. We go for the standard feeling of film. It seems to be emotionally pleasing.
F - I guess it's very subjective?
AW - It's incredibly subjective!
F - Do you find that you have to light much differently for a show that is going to be processed?
AW - I used to until you upgraded your hardware to give me more flexibility in gamma adjustment and color. Now, you have given me a completely new window here to deal with videotape and hopefully you will continue to add more to this process. The frame rate concept and the way you have got that setup; however, you do this thing... that now has become the standard because it works, it does look like I shot the damn thing on film. But then when you added all those other elements within the process, that allowed me to have this as a constant and then to be able to play with the dynamic range and the color imagery of the process separately and I can add that to the project. We end up with something that actually looks like it was shot on film, swear to God it does.
SHIPPING FOR FILMLOOK
Since scheduling is very active this time of the year we need to make arrangements for your job well in advance. There are questions we have regarding processing, billing, and return shipment which cannot be addressed by voice mail. Therefore, we need to talk to you during our normal business hours (9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PST, M-F) in order to satisfy our curiosity about your tapes, and in turn answer your questions regarding FILMLOOK.
It is important to choose a shipping company that can guarantee delivery in the morning, as well as track a package en route (we highly recommend FEDERAL EXPRESS). For these reasons we do not recommend shipping by mail or by a courier who cannot track a package or guarantee delivery by a certain time. Priority delivery costs a little more, but it is cheap insurance compared to potential aggravation. The sooner we receive your package the faster we can process it and return it to you.
When you finally ship your tapes to our facility, PLEASE do not place your tapes in Jiffy-type bags that have a protective padding made from recycled paper. The reason is that the padding can tear open during shipment and cause the insulation (which has the consistency of sawdust) to spread all over your tapes. There is nothing worse than a one-of-a-kind camera original or edited master destroyed by shredded paper dust, and we would hate to let you know about it. Please ship only in bubble wrap lined or Styrofoam type mailers or boxes. Cardboard or crumpled newspapers will also do in a pinch.
STONES AND FILMLOOK, PART 2
NEW YORK - Graying and Balding has used us once again to process various music videos featuring The Rolling Stones in an "unplugged" recording session.
The videos, that were processed in color and hi-con black and white, were shot in Tokyo during a tour stop.
CRIME AND FILMLOOK
HOLLYWOOD - ZM Productions' The Future of Crime Fighting features Homicide's Richard Belzer examining the often fascinating new tools used by law enforcement and the FBI to solve crimes and apprehend suspects. New techniques, previously classified and never before seen, are examined in the hour long special. The special was shot entirely in video then processed in order to achieve "the documentary feel" requested by ZM Productions. The Future of Crime Fighting airs on NBC in January.
"MOMMY" DEBUTS IN FILMLOOK
MUSCATINE, IA - The macabre thriller Mommy that stars Patty McCormack (The Bad Seed) makes its national debut as a direct-to-video motion picture which was shot entirely in video then processed.
The production was shot single camera style on Betacam SP then processed under supervision by director-producer Collins. Leonard Maltin of Entertainment Tonight reviewed the feature as "chillingly good." Mommy is currently available at video stores.
© 1995 FILMLOOK Inc. All rights reserved. FILMLOOK is a registered trademark of FILMLOOK Inc.
We are now processing a one hour dramatic series, ACAPULCO BAY produced by Televisa in Mexico City with location shooting in Acapulco.
Designed for syndication in the States, the 60 episode series is a prime-time show set in the famous Mexican Riviera and centers on two feuding brothers. A. B. is currently being shown in selected U.S. markets with potential nation wide syndication.
HOLLYWOOD - Local station KCAL has used our process to transfer promotional video for the Mighty Ducks hockey team for a local ad.
The spots that feature the Mighty Ducks team were shot in blue screen video then composited with FLAME at 525 post. Then the process was applied at 24 and 30 simulated fps before final posting. The spots are currently airing on KCAL in Los Angeles.
HOLLYWOOD - ZM Productions has produced a compilation video entitled Saturday Morning featuring alternative rock bands shot on video and processed in FILMLOOK.
Violent Femmes, Murmurs, Reverend Horton Heat and other bands perform unique versions of the theme music from H.R. Puffinstuf, Johnny Quest and The Jetsons. The videos were shot and processed in FILMLOOK and matched with filmed wraparounds featuring host Drew Barrymore.
ATLANTA - Turner Classic Movies turned to FILMLOOK for interview footage of Casino stars Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci for a special featuring the movies of Martin Scorcese.
The interview segments were shot originally in video then processed to achieve a "35mm look" in order to blend the interviews with film clips by the legendary director.
NEW YORK - In-depth commentary and interviews with AFL players highlight the special documentary Rebel With a Cause--The Story of the American Football League. The interview segments were shot in video and processed under supervision by HBO Sports, Joe Levine, which also used FILMLOOK on the controversial documentary featuring heavyweight Sonny Liston. Rebel With a Cause aired in December on HBO.
- Nickelodeon has utilized FILMLOOK once again to process two
new Wienerville specials featuring the offbeat and zany puppets
from the popular series. Wienerville Chanukah Special
and Wienerville New Year's Eve Special were both
shot in video then processed to achieve a unique look to both