“Mythbusters,” the Discovery Channel show that sets the record straight on long-held urban legends, is being shot in HD with the Sony XDCAM HD Professional Disc System.
To provide viewers the best possible view of the separation of truth from fiction, director of photography Peter Heap and the show’s production team carefully evaluated all available options before making the transition to HD production. They chose the XDCAM HD system as the primary workhorse for the production.
Heap was attracted to the system’s IT-based production workflow and use of proxy video, recording both high-resolution original and lower-resolution, frame-accurate proxy audio and video to the Professional Disc media.
This approach to production has allowed the show’s production teams on location to transfer the proxy information to laptop editors or back to their studios at up to 30 times faster-than-real-time so producers can immediately start writing scripts or editing programs while the high-res content is being shipped back on the actual discs.
According to Heap, since the show is shot in the United States and edited in Australia, the logistical advantages of the XDCAM proxy file system are significant. Heap regularly transmits proxy files from his laptop via FTP to the show’s post crew and ships discs to Australia each Friday. When the discs arrive in Australia, the proxy files can be matched instantly to the high-res files, saving time.
In the field, the “Mythbusters” crews regularly rely on the greater depth of field and low light sensitivity of the PDW-F350 to get the shots Heap requires. Occasionally, a stunt is performed over a time period that is best conveyed in slow- or fast- motion footage for TV purposes. To capture this perspective, the crew attaches an intervelometer to a Sony HVR-Z1U HDV camcorder, a smaller and less costly camera that’s helpful to use in specific spots.
Using these carefully selected production tools, Heap said he seeks to keep the show from looking too polished, opting instead to go all handheld to create an appearance he calls a perfect mesh of “independent and slick.”
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