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Altman turns to HD for “A Prairie Home Companion”

Director Robert Altman’s new feature film, “A Prairie Home Companion,” was captured entirely with three Fujinon HAe10x10 (10-100mm T1.8) and two HAe5x6 (6mm to 30mm T1.8) HD zooms on Sony F-900 HD cameras.

Clairmont Camera supplied the HAe10x10 lenses to Noir Productions, and Fletcher Chicago provided the HAe5x6 lenses.

Central to the decision to employ the Fujinon HD lenses was Altman’s shooting style, said film HD engineer Ryan Sheridan. “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show creator Garrison Keillor is also captured on-stage during readings of the series.

The Fujinon HD Cine Style lenses allowed DP Ed Lachman to capture everything from extreme close-ups to extreme wide shots with two lenses and sometimes with just one. The low-flare characteristics of the lenses allowed the crew to use many shots that looked directly into lights without flare or wash out.

The director wanted to be able to shoot for 30 minutes straight without re-loading. Scenes in the film range up to 23-minutes in length. Some environments, such as on the stage, backstage and in make-up rooms, involved lower lighting levels.

Two large 20in Sony monitors were used to view both A and B camera footage. Clairmont Camera also provided an Evertz fiber optic cable system that connected each camera to a centrally controlled engineering station. All signals were sent through fiber optics, instead of the traditional camera cables.

Clairmont Camera also provided three Sony SRW-1 VTRs, which records with little compression and at 10-bit 4:4:4 sampling, but for “A Prairie Home Companion” recorded at 4:2:2 10 bit.

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