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Burnett Productions gambles on reality TV with Panasonic VariCams

Shooting and most of the post production have been completed for FOX’s new reality series “The Casino,” which debuts Monday, June 14th. It’s the first primetime network unscripted drama series to be shot documentary-style in high definition (720p HD) with nearly two dozen Panasonic AJ-HDC27 VariCam multiframe-rate HD cameras.

Nearly two dozen of Panasonic's Varicams will be used to capture the drama in FOX's new reality series, "The Casino."

The 13-episode series provides a 24-hour, behind-the-scenes look at the real-life dramas that unfold at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino after its new owners, entrepreneurs Timothy Poster and Thomas Breitling, take the reins and attempt to bring it back to its glory.

To give the hour-long show (airing 9 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET/PT) a unique look, creator/executive producer Mark Burnett used Panasonic VariCam cameras and cinematographer Scott Duncan; who has worked with Burnett for the past five years, including on the creation of the dramatic main title sequences for the “Survivor” and “The Apprentice” series.

Twenty-two Panasonic VariCams, rented from Bexel, were used - operating up to 20 hours a day - to provide viewers with a fly-on-the-wall, 24-hour perspective of the drama unfolding. A substantial amount of the unscripted drama revolves around a gambling pit, which was outfitted with seven VariCams (three mounted on the ceiling with pan/tilt heads for remote operation and four on tripods behind glass). The crews, which shot as many as 190 videotapes a day, shadowed Poster and Breitling and a cast of characters and entertainers for 46 days to get what they needed for the new series.

To give the hour-long show a unique look, creator/executive producer Mark Burnett used Panasonic VariCam cameras and cinematographer Scott Duncan.

Duncan, the show's executive visual director, said he and his fellow cinematographers wanted to “push the limits of VariCam to use the Varicams to produce rich, textured images.

This included using the VariCam’s multipleframe-rate capabilities to add slow-motion effects and other production values. They also mounted the cameras on a variety of jib arms and cranes (including a 30-foot Techno Crane to shoot the dramatic entrance of the new owners as they first enter Las Vegas).

In addition to VariCam for acquisition, Mark Burnett Productions used a variety of Panasonic DVCPRO HD VTRs, including the AJ-HD1700 studio editor and AC/DC-powered, portable AJ-HD130, for ingest into their offline edit systems and for screening of material. Panasonic high-contrast plasma displays were also used to screen material.

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