New Turner sitcom puts P2 HD workflow to the test

A new Turner Broadcasting System sitcom, "Are We There Yet?," based on the movie comedy hit of the same name, recently wrapped production of 10 episodes shot with Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 native 1080p one-piece P2 HD camcorders.

The director of photography was Bill Berner, who shot the 2009 version of PBS's "The Electric Company" with the HPX3000s as primary cameras. Just as he did with "The Electric Company," Berner wanted to work with 1920 x 1080, 10-bit 4:2:2 acquisition and reduced depth of field, he said. The HPX3000 offered a solution to match with its 1920 x 1080 sensor, AVC-Intra codec, 14-bit DSP and compatibility with cine-style lenses.

The four-camera shoot — with a spare HPX3000 belonging to Berner that was used occasionally for handheld shots — was done at the 24,000sq-ft Connecticut Film Center in Stamford.

"We shot AVC-Intra 100 1080/24pN with a 180-degree shutter at all times," said Berner. "It's a beautiful codec with a very subtle gray scale owing to the 10-bit depth."

The HPX3000s were mounted on Vinten pedestals and heads. Typical of multicam sitcoms that use ped-mounted cameras, the operators controlled all functions, including pulling their own focus, moving their pedestals for live dollies and zooming.

With the show's post department on site, P2 cards were offloaded every night after shooting and returned the next day for reuse. To sustain this workflow, the production relied on five 32GB P2 cards for each HPX3000.

A cost analysis of the workflow revealed the production saved money and time by using the solid-state P2 medium. Savings came from the elimination of tape stock and the need to rent decks, Berner said. Time savings were realized from faster-than-real-time ingests to edit and easy logging in the file-based system, he said.

"Are We There Yet?" is being cut with Avid Media Composer 4 on new quad-core Apple Mac Pro towers.