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Taking HD to the Jungle: ‘Survivor’s’ John Heard

Oct 2, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The player: John Heard, post-production coordinator, “Survivor”
The play: Heading into its 17th season on CBS, “Survivor’s” lush backdrops and stunning locales lend themselves to high definition. However, “Survivor” post-production coordinator John Heard said the jump to HD depended on the equipment, as cameramen must slog through jungles with contestants. “The cameras available at the time were slightly more delicate,” he said. However, technology finally caught up with the show, and tests were run during the past year to bring “Survivor” into HD.
The pitch: Settling on XD HD cameras, which are disc-based cameras that were originally intended to be used by television reporters in the field, “Survivor” kicked off its 17th season in Gabon, Africa, in HD last week. Mr. Heard said the jump to HD wasn’t seamless, as the improved image quality forced producers to consider new problems that hadn’t arisen before. While shooting in nature isn’t a large issue, scenes set in the tribal council and contestant challenges require set dressers to take great pains to make sure everything is painted and lit well and correctly. Standard-definition television didn’t require that level of detail, he said. Also, camera operators must consider shooting for 16:9 letterboxed HD screens, but also protect the shot to appear correctly on a standard 4:3 screen. However, the move to HD has allowed producers the freedom to shoot the show more cinematically, Mr. Heard said.
Backstory: Mr. Heard, 29, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He has worked on “Survivor” for five years. Mr. Heard arrived at Mark Burnett Productions as a production assistant on “The Restaurant” and the Burnett/AOL production “Gold Rush.”

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