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07.04.2006
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
From 70ft theatrical screen to cell phone, HD is the answer, says Dark

“Closing Escrow,” an independent film shot entirely in HD, is out of post and entering the festival circuit as Randall Dark, the movie’s executive producer seeks broader distribution.

Dark, who has long been an advocate of high definition as a viable alternative to 35mm film, hasn’t simply been content to push his comedy through post and out to moviegoers. He’s creating a smorgasbord of HD projects ranging from a 3-D feature film about World War II aviators flying over the Himalayas to deliver relief to the embattled Chinese to an expeditionary documentary, a unique, reality golf show and even music videos shot for cell phones and Video iPods.

“HD Technology Update” thought it was a good time to catch up on Dark’s latest projects and how HD is helping to make them happen.

HD Technology Update: Randall, for the past 20 years you’re always in the thick of HD production. What are your latest projects?

Randall Dark: I’m involved in four or five incredibly important projects, two of which I call the China projects. There’s a 3-D/2-D feature for an IMAX-type environment called the “High Road to China.” It’s a story about the Hump during the Second World War.

I think it’s important for a number of reasons. China obviously is an emerging power, and Americans seem to have lost sight of what an incredible country we are and the great things we have done hand in hand with nations throughout history. This is a forgotten story — how the American airmen, working with the Chinese were able to fly over the Himalayas in incredibly dangerous planes for humanitarian aid. I’m absolutely passionate about it.

I’m working on that as well as a project called “The Lost Tiger,” solving the mystery of Johnny Blackburn’s lost P40.

HDTU: What advantages and challenges does HD bring to the project?

RD: The most powerful attribute of any HD image is the sense of being there it affords. Capturing the raw emotion of Chinese and American people standing side by side as a plane that was responsible for bringing supplies to Chinese people who were starving in WWII is pulled from the murky water of a lake where it was downed is imperative to my story. It’s going to bring back a flood of emotion, and I want my viewers to feel like they’re standing on that piece of land with them.

Film is a great art form, but film distances you — it’s called poetic distancing. The frame rate and grain of film makes it look like it happened yesterday. This is a moment that’s happening in real time that I want to share as realistically and intimately as possible. HD technology will give the viewer that sense.

As for the underwater photography, I hear it is very, very murky down there, so we may have to do some animation or re-enactments. I will definitely be under the water with the camera to see what we can get, but we’ll have to wait and see if it works out. That’s just the nature of the water as opposed to the technology of HD.

In 1996, I shot Super Bowl XXX for NHK, and they brought over the first RF HD camera, and it was hilarious. It was a gigantic camera with a huge mast, and we had a guy on top of the stadium that had to have perfect line of sight, dead on, and they had to flip it perfect line of sight to my HD truck. It worked, but my goodness, it was complex and high risk. I get to sleep easy at night now because the technology is here, and it’s much more user friendly.

HDTU: What’s your recent involvement with the Caucus for Television Producers and how are you working HD into your work there?

RD: I was recently elected as a board member of the Caucus for Television Producers and Writers and Directors (www.caucus.org). It’s a phenomenal organization. I’m honored to be involved. Its membership includes giants in the television industry.

One of the things that caused me to jump onboard is that they raise money for grants that allow students to finish their film/video projects. Mentoring and supporting students is something I believe in. I get to sit with them and say, “Hey, have you considered high definition?”

HDTU: You are shooting HD on a music video project for release on cell phones and iPods. Why?

RD: There is a whole new way to direct for cell phones and iPods. I’m directing videos with music producer Mark Vogel, and he is producing for some unbelievably gifted artists.

I’m shooting and directing content specifically designed for Video iPod and cell phone that starts with an incredible amount of information. Even though it gets whittled down to cell phone and iPod capacity, the extra resolution captures the emotion of the performance. I call this style of shooting ECU performance pieces because I’m directing specifically for the size of the display devices. A wide shot of 50 people dancing doesn’t look great on a cell phone.

Now, the other thing I believe is that what I shoot for my clients has to be evergreen. So I think it goes without saying that it’s absolutely foolish to record anything of worth unless it’s recorded in digital, wide screen, high resolution. I’m saying that because it’s obviously the world marketplace.

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