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    My work on the Ghost Whisperer Webisode series shot on HVX, an article for you guys.
    #1
    Senior Member zoostory's Avatar
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    For your convencience:
    http://www.cbs.com/ghost
    http://fansofgw.com/tostrailer <---HD and iPod trailers


    Hey I've been a long time member of these boards so I thought I would share here:

    I recently was Post Production Supervisor on a "Webisode" series shot as the internet counterpart for the CBS show "Ghost Whisperer." I'm also an employee of GW, so I had a lot of hands on experience from beginning to end. I thought I would share our workflow and show you guys the result.

    This was really exciting to me because a new arena has opened up: a medium where younger people like myself, more experienced in "poor-mans filmmaking" (or whatever you want to call it) got a chance to be create and work with a big network, television show creators/producers/showrunners and actually have a creative voice and an impact. Doors are opening, technical and creative - read on.


    The origin:


    When I first started working at the GW offices one of my first tasks was to create a pitch DVD that sold a project called "Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side" to CBS execs and sponsors. Communicating with the already chosen director/editor, Claudio Faeh (Director of Coronado and Hollowman 2, very experienced in low budge quality VFX type movies) we came across the idea of a visual style that was younger, edgy, more like 24 and Memento - the concept was simple - see the world through a ghosts eyes.

    So I used found footage from movies, GW the show, and some fancy titling to make this DVD pitch. By the way, for those don't who know, Networks are very, very old school. So A DVD promo pitch is a whole new world to them... and, a new job market opening up for people like us. Embrace it!

    Anyway, the DVD really sold the tone, the idea, and the energy. It hit that younger demo CBS wants so badly.

    The workflow:

    Flash forward to GM is our sponsor and we are greenlit. The budget was much higher than my USC student film, but, given overhead, slalaries (yes, people actually get paid!) and production costs of being associated with a big show, things actually worked out to be about the same.

    So here is where it is interesting. You get the giant Television monster wanting a product created - but with the cost effectiveness of an indie flick much like what a lot of us make here.

    My job then was to put together a team (me and an assistant editor) that would coordinate the workflow from beginning to end, making things cost effective, but still really cool.

    The result: We went with a two camera shoot, two HVX cameras with P+S Technik Adaptors with Zeiss ultrafast lenses (I myself wanted to go with the Brevis, which I own, for cost effectiveness and less light loss, but the DP didn't like the flipped image, so P+S it was).

    We set up one new iMac with a second monitor and a G-Tech 500Gb GRaid on set as well as a cheapo seagate 500gb for backup.

    Camera Asisstants rotated cards on us, we used a P2 Store and a cool little (though over priced app) called P2 Backup to backup the footage in P2 folders that were dated and named accordingly.

    From there the AE was able to capture and edit rough cuts right on the scene.

    The major drawbacks were: We had a few snags with a bad card read here and there. Most annoying was the amount of data coming our way. Sure, the director SAID he would shoot it like he had a film ratio - but Hah I say, Hah, those days are gone. 3 hours+ footage a day...at least. That and, right when everyone breaks for lunch, the director and DP run in to see dalies, so get your food fast!

    Ok but the good news is, but the time 6 days of shooting were done, we had rough cuts of most everything, and all our footage organized for editorial.

    I should add that everything was shot 24pN 720p. We had some hellish times with the P+S Techniks, mainly because no one on the crew had used them before, so when a piece of dirt was found spinning on the inside of the GG, we had to call in a specialist, etc. Also, I don't like that they use camerea batteries and as the juice runs low, the GG just starts rotating slower, with no warning. Finally, my least favorite thing of all, which I guess is a problem all around, is that you can't play with the shutter too much on the camera or the GG shows up badly.

    That being said, cutting together a fast paced 24 style show, you can get away with A LOT.


    Post:

    In post as everyone hammered away, we had one additional off site VFX artist that we would send/recieve VFX shots to/from via FTP. Old school, but it worked.

    For CC, I handled everything in FCP with a callibrated monitor. I have to say, the CC tools in FCP are actually quite good. At first I was going to use color finesse in AE, but I realized that time in these situations forces decisions. Everything in TV is about time. So, the rule of thumb is do the easiest thing possible to get the job done, as long as it passes your Q&A meter inside your head. I only busted into Maya once to generate some realistic looking clouds, other than that everything was AE and FCP.

    At first, for sound, we went to a house, then, for cost effectiveness, we hired on someone to rough together SFX in Pro Tools LE using an Mbox. He would then cut out the sound to unmixed tracks that we imported and mixed right in FCP. This gave us the flexibility to quickly change things as notes came up, and also saved a lot of money... and if you know what you are doing, it sounds really good for what it is.

    I owe a lot of my ability to handle this workflow to classes I had at USC where we learned about audio frequencies, peaking, mixing, NTSC colors, etc. You can handle ANY of these things in almost any program out there, as long as you know the technical side.

    So be technically saavy and creative. It pays. Not one or the other. This is the future.

    Result:

    So there you go, we used all the tools that we use regularily on these boards to create something for a television network. On top of that, the webisodes seem to be a huge hit, we've now transfered our trailer to DigiBeta, and sent out blowups to 1080p for broadcast. We've had some air time on CBS, TV Guide Channel, and E! Entertainment.

    We even managed to get enough recognition, that the lead actor in the Webisode series, an unknown non-union actor named Mark Hapka, will be transitioned into the season Finale of GW... in a worlds first (I think, I could be wrong) Webisode/Dramatic Network TV show storyline crossover!

    My one big thing, after color correcting is - MAKE SURE YOU USE THAT WAVEFORM all you DPS out there. There were times when I had to pull up interior footage more than I would have liked. It's tough to shoot at roughly ASA32 with those adaptors in dark rooms - but in the end, for us, the grain worked.


    So there you have it. There will be more stuff like this coming, more jobs, better stuff, better quality (Sadly CBS at this time can only screen in a small real or WM box) in the future.

    Just for you guys I put up a link to the trailer for the series in HD and for your iPod, so if anyone has an Apple TV out there, tell me what you think of the HD one on your fancy plasma:

    http://www.fansofgw.com/tostrailer

    for the actualy webisode series, which is up to Webisode 3 of 8, go to:

    http://www.cbs.com/ghost


    I urge you all to support this new world of media. As the internet and TV merge slowly, this is a huge new arena for all of us that love our indie workflowz!

    Peace

    Stephan
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    stephanfleet.com


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    I just watched the first 3, very nice. Awesome work. Very nice images and editing.
    Eric Piercey - Hindsight Productions Ltd.
    DVX100B/Apple workflow (FCS2 MacPro etc)


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    #3
    Senior Member eddavid's Avatar
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    just saw ep 3
    beautiful images, great color correct - sharp, cool high shutter speed. well-done!
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    Ed David
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    really nice work,can you tell enlighten me on the subject of "ultrafast lenses" and their application?


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    Senior Member chakamonkey's Avatar
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    Great work. It would be nice to avoid the Buffering (nn%) to really give your content the presentation it deserves. BTW, dslreports.com tested my link out at 9627 Kb/s (lower to LA & NY, but always above 5Mb/s) at the time of buffering. I don't think it's me.


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    #6
    Senior Member zoostory's Avatar
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    chakamonkey if you're talking about buffering on cbs.com, I have no control over that That would be the network, I am part of the production company.

    If you are talking about the trailer page with the HD feeds, that is a smaller site with limited bandwidth, it may be getting slammed as of late, so downloads may be a little slow, sorry!

    Tube: I am not a renowned DP, but from what the DP told me, basically ultrafast is a series of lenses from Zeiss, they are at F1.2 or something of the like. Maybe a DP out there can help clarify this??? The moral of the story is, with these Cinema Adaptors, having a fast lens is imperative due to the light loss, and further, using pro lens designed for film (like a Zeiss) is better than using a Nikon still camera lens. Critical focus is more precise and, the thing that stands out to me is that you can Rack Focus with much less breathing. Still lenses, for good reason, were never designed to rack focus - nor were they designed to capture motion pictures!

    Still, I say do what you can afford, these days, for a minimal technical budget, you can get away with murder. They key is to open up your cranium, let knowledge flow in, and develop that eye for the technical and the creative!
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    stephanfleet.com


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    Senior Member eddavid's Avatar
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    Definately if you have the budget using the mini 35 with cine lenses like the Zeiss superspeeds is the way to go. They are better than Nikon still lenses also because when you put on an 85mm lens, that's pretty much the 85mm lens we all know and love - still photography is a different type of frame. Of course I use still lenses on my stuff because most of what I do is low budget and it still gets the job done effectively.
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