Debut Production Battles Humidity, Wows Networks
Although most documentaries struggle for broadcast or theatrical release, "Los Duros" ("The Tough Ones") is a hot property fielding offers from major cable networks and motion picture distributors - and it isn't even "in the can" yet.
"Los Duros" features the rags-to-riches stories of Dominican ball players - such as Bartolo Colon, Sammy Sosa, Manny Mota and Pedro Martinez - who left their homes in the poverty-stricken Dominican Republic to play ball in America. The documentary offers insight into why one in five major leaguers comes from the Dominican Republic, the world's poorest Spanish-speaking country.
Besides its compelling subject matter, "Los Duros" is also of interest to major networks because it has been produced entirely in 24P HD. Producer Chad Carlberg has already signed a deal with cable network Fox Sports Espanol to air "Los Duros" during the World Series in October 2002, and he is actively negotiating with other broadcasters including Fox Sports Net and ESPN. Universal Studios is among the Hollywood studios negotiating for the theatrical film distribution.
Moreover, "Los Duros" is Carlberg's debut production, which he funded by borrowing against his personal credit cards. Because he opted to produce in 24P HD, Carlberg was able to self-finance the show's $400,000 budget in production costs, a comparatively small budget for a 90-minute primetime documentary.
"My decision to shoot 24P HD was based on economics and aesthetics. If I had shot with Super 16mm or 16mm film, I would have spent $25 per minute just to generate something for networks to look at. But with 24P HD, the cost was only $7 per minute, with production values rivaling 35mm film," says Carlberg who, along with partner Pablo Bressan, is producing "Los Duros: The Making of the Dominican Hero" under the banner of Going, Going Productions Inc. in Gloucester, Mass.
"There's no better acquisition format than 24P HD for shooting documentaries," says Carlberg. "24P HD enabled 'run and gun' style production, adapting to virtually any lighting situation quickly and allowing higher shooting ratios without constantly having to reload."
The 24 fps frame rate will also be beneficial because the HD video will be recorded onto 35mm film for theatrical release. Because his production was the first time an HD camcorder was ever used to shoot in the Dominican Republic, Carlberg and his six-member crew entered the country through the VIP customs check-in.
RETURN TO THE REPUBLIC
Having lived in the Dominican Republic for one year while in college, Carlberg's fluent Spanish and affinity for the local culture gained him interviews with star ball players like Cleveland Indians pitcher Bartolo Colon, four-time Golden Glove Award winner Tony Pena, and Vladimir Guerero of the Montreal Expos.
"I had greater access than ESPN and even Major League Baseball Productions because I could converse with the players one-on-one. They also liked that my program would show the altruism of Dominican ball players who often invested their new-found wealth in schools, hospitals and other services that help raise the Dominican standard of living."
Shooting both on land and from a helicopter, the production captured such striking images of the Dominican Republic that Carlberg is planning to publish select pictures in a coffee table book following the completion of the HD documentary. The HD video was shot using both the Sony HDW-F900 and Panasonic AJ-HDC27V camcorders. Although the Sony HDCAM system was run at 23.97 fps, the Panasonic camcorder was used to shoot at variable frame rates enabling slow- and fast-motion in-camera effects.
On location at Chicago's Wrigley Field, for example, "Los Duros" DP Michael Caporale was able to add a dynamic motion blur as he captured the shot of Sammy Sosa swinging his bat for an historic home run - making him the first baseball player in history to hit 60 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Color correction on a da Vinci 2k (at Roland House in Arlington, Va.) will match the footage shot by the two 24P HD cameras.
In stark contrast to the Dominican Republic's impoverished countryside, Carlberg's crew carried $200,000 worth of rented HD video gear to and from locations. "Sometimes the humidity was so high, the camera's humidity light would go on and the camera would stop running. We'd have to rush the camera to the nearest five-star hotel where we could sit it on the air conditioner for 15 minutes until it cooled off and became operational again," says Carlberg.
With accommodations at Peace Corps hostels and shacks with outdoor latrines and no running water, the crew also had to haul water for bathing every day. "Afterward," Carlberg said, "We'd flip the tubs over and use them to set up our (Sony 9-inch HD color) monitor on a porch with a view of the Caribbean. Every night, we'd sit there drinking beers while we screened our dailies, thinking could this be any better?"
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