Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Caprica Video Production Podcast

The From Still to Motion's facebook page had a status update today that was intriguing “Listening to SyFy Caprica podcast... just heard them say that many of the sequences are shot using DSLR with a Lensbaby Composer."

I’d never even heard of Caprica, but I did a search and found the podcasts. Caprica seems to be something to do with Battlestar Galactica (sequel or prequel or something) I’m really not sure.*

But at the moment there’s three podcasts up for Episode's 102, 103 and 104, and even if you’re not that interested in the show - I haven't seen it yet! - anyone interested in video production will find them worth listening to. They’re really like DVD director’s commentaries, except that they are a podcast. They feature the executive producer (and others) watching the episode and talking about how it was done and the issues they dealt with.

I’ve listened to part of Episode 102 and all of Episode 104’s podcast, and I'm intrigued. The first podcast (Episode 102) features executive producer David Eick, and producing director Jonas Pate, and it’s here where they have the discussion about using SLR’s:
Pate: This opening sequence was not shot in [the] three camera style, it was actually shot with a [SLR]. And we put a funky little lens on the front of it called a Lensbaby and we shot the whole thing incredibly quickly in probably…I dunno, 30 minutes. Increasingly the digital technologies are allowing camera guys to work quicker
Eick: Well yeah, what it does is it strips any of the mystique of the so-called art of film making, which is to say that anyone listening to this could probably make their own episode of Caprica if you study these podcasts long enough. The technology really has simplified and shrunk.
In episode 104’s podcast, Eick and Pate are joined by actors Paula Malcomson and Sasha Roiz, and in addition to production details, there’s a lot more talk about acting and production from the actors point of view. At one point they talk about problems in shooting a sequence in a car:
Roiz: Now this was all re-shoot
Eick:Yeah, well because Jonas had this bright idea that we could shoot this all on a…like Viewmaster or whatever it was..
Pate: Yeah, I screwed the pooch on that one…we convinced Watkins to shoot on these tiny little kind of lipstick cameras, but the lenses were so wide that it made it feel too comic….[] so when we had a chance to redo it , and we also shot originally during the day and it just wasn’t ominous enough
Roiz: Oh yeah, I remember we shot during the day and it was really hot….we had Steve McNutter the DP in the back seat with you, and we had Michael Watkins [the Director] in the front shooting one […] and it was very difficult to create that kind of energy because it was day time and we had these two guys in the car right there, cameras right in the face.
Eick And then [to Pate] you shot the reshoot? Was that Poor Man’s Process or were you out on the road?
Pate: No, I despise Poor Man’s Process. For those of you who don’t know, the Poor Man’s Process is when you shoot a scene in a car in a static way and you just have lights and things going on in the background. You see it in a lot of old TV shows. But I like to be actually on the road. I feel like you can feel it. I’ve never seen a Poor Man’s that you can’t tell.
Not even being familiar with the term “Poor Man’s Process” – at first I wasn’t sure that was what they were saying - I did a search and turned up Devon DeLapp’s description of Poor Man’s Process, with a nice sketch;
Headlights mounted on rolling stands, with black cloth draped between them, served as cars. Crew members hid behind the draping and slowly moved these lights back and forth. To create the illusion of depth, smaller flashlights were used on the rear carts. Next to them, a separate cart with red lights simulated tail lights.
Other things you’ll learn in the Episode 104 podcast include: why it’s important to have someone to hate on set, the difficulties of finding “non-American” cars, and why Paula Malcomson wants to kill the person who invented HD.

They also give a shout out to Bear McCreary - who does the music for the show - and his a blog. In his post Caprica: Gravedancing, McCreary goes through how he scored the episode, with actual music samples (and music) for different audio cues, as well as how he went about getting others to write music for the episode. Definitely worth reading.
Brendan composing “I am a Man” was essential not only because he’s a better songwriter than I am, but because it allowed me time to focus on the score of the same sequence. Once Brendan’s first sketch was complete, I took his key, tempo and groove and began translating them into the “Caprica” instrumentation. Guitars, bass, drums and keyboards were replaced with shime daikos, nagado daikos, hand percussion, gamelan, harp and piano. The resultant track sounds nothing like doo-wop at all:
Now I think I have to watch an episode, just to find out what they are all talking about!

*I lied. I did a Wiki search after I wrote that and established that Caprica is set 58 years before the events in Battlestar Galactica.

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