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‘Expedition Africa’ Shot on Sony XDCAM HD

The reality TV show “Expedition Africa: Stanley & Livingstone,” which premiered this week, is being produced by Mark Burnett Productions using Sony’s XDCAM Professional Disc System.

“The system is our preferred format of choice as we’ve become an XDCAM house,” said Chris Campbell, executive in charge of post for Mark Burnett Productions. “We’ve transitioned nearly all of our shows onto XDCAM, whether it’s XDCAM HD for ‘Expedition Africa: Stanley & Livingstone,’ ‘Survivor,’ ‘The Contender,’ or ‘Wedding Day,’ or earlier versions of XDCAM for our standard-def shows.”

This was the second consecutive season that “Survivor,” which recently completed its 18th installment (“Survivor: Tocantins—the Brazilian Highlands”) has used the optical HD technology. According to Campbell, the XDCAM PDW-700 camcorder has become the company’s camera of choice for each of its HD series.

“Survivor, for example, has always been an epic show,” Campbell said. “We shoot in exotic, remote locations all over the world. We’ve been able to acquire some beautiful footage ever since our first season, but, honestly I’ve never been more proud of the visual quality of our show as I am this season. It’s exceptional.”

Campbell noted the camcorder’s ability to shoot and record in progressive mode has also raised the shows’ level of image quality.

“When we transitioned to XDCAM HD, and we chose to shoot 30P, we found it’s the closest thing to film that I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “The richness of the color draws in the viewer, allowing them to feel as if they’re really at a tribal council or ringside on ‘Contender.’”

The show’s production teams are also using the XDCAM HD PDW-HD1500 deck, which includes a Gigabit Ethernet data drive that can write any flash memory file format from any codec onto the optical disc media. Files can then be previewed using a Web browser, transferred over IT networks and easily archived and accessed by multiple people simultaneously.

“It’s essentially a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ deck,” Campbell said. “We’re able to use it for all our SD and HD series, it’s affordable and it’s been a workhorse for us that we expect to be using for many years to come.”

The system’s Professional Disc media is providing reliability and durability in the field, as well as a long-term archiving option.

“Reality directors and DPs credit the XDCAM technology’s fast recording functions and in-camera features for helping to capture all those spontaneous must-see reality show moments,” said Wayne Zuchowski, XDCAM group marketing manager for Sony Electronics. “For them, the benefits are being able to quickly browse through tremendous amounts of footage that’s digitized and all ready to go to the editing suite. And on any type of program, time saved on location translates to money saved.”