HD Has Varied Advantages for Different TV Genres

Mar 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Eventually, all the kinks will be ironed out and hi-def will be as versatile for sitcoms as it is now for shooting outdoors.
Suzy Greenberg, a line producer for Fox’s hit comedy “How I Met Your Mother” and a five-time Emmy Award winner for “Seinfeld,” acknowledged there are still some problems working in hi-def, but she mentioned as many strong points as drawbacks.
“Hi-def is much cheaper than shooting film,” she said. “You can shoot endlessly in hi-def. CBS [home to “How I Met Your Mother”] was the first network to use it. The networks required it, so the studios started doing it. It’s much more cost-effective. And even if you don’t show it in hi-def, you still have to deliver.”
Ms. Greenberg acknowledged that HD is “a much more unforgiving medium. In the older tapes, it was a lighting issue,” she said. “The old tapes were brightly lit, but people wanted the quality and depth of film as much as possible, so television started gearing for that.
“The makeup is different,” she added, “but the biggest challenge is for DPs and gaffers, who have to light it differently,”
Steve Olson, production designer for the series, noted that while HD might be cheaper to shoot than film, “The savings are at a different level. Not so much in the art department.
“All of our surfaces have to be more accurately rendered,” he said. “[In standard-definition] you could get away with scenic cheats, but hi-def is much more like feature film production. We also have to work in 16×9 format; we’ve had to keep that in mind to make sure we have enough coverage for the wider frame than when it was 4×3.”
If sitcoms have to adjust for lighting and scenery, outdoor documentaries face a different set of challenges.
Jason Carey, executive producer of “Escape to Chimp Eden,” which debuted Feb. 8 on Animal Planet, finds the new technology tailor-made for shooting an outdoor series.
“There’s no lights, no makeup,” Mr. Carey said. “It’s a perfect format for hi-def, because the visuals are outstanding.”
The color palette, whether painted and lit or naturally occurring, seems to make the strongest difference in how the finished product looks.
Mr. Olson said the crew on “How I Met Your Mother” uses “darker and more saturated colors. Sometimes brights can go off the scale.”
While “Escape to Chimp Eden” uses natural lighting, Mr. Carey noted that his crew is shooting “in Third World countries, and the scenery is vibrant and filled with colors.”
“It’s all documentary, all shot in the moment,” he said. “Eugene Cussons [who stars in the show] walks through the bush meat markets [looking for chimps], sometimes with an armed guard.”
Mr. Carey said the show uses a variety of hi-def cameras, but opts for durability first, noting his South African star is “part animal caretaker and part James Bond. When you’re running and gunning,” he said, “you can’t always use top-of-the-line cameras. We use an HDV handheld a lot of the time. It’s durable enough to shoot anything.”


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