Panasonic VariCam Cranks for Ford

The work of Panasonic's AJ-HDC26 VariCam high-definition camera from the advertising world is now showing on several cable channels.

The 60-second commercial for the 2003 Ford Explorer uses the VariCam's capability for variable frame rates from 4 to 60 fps and has been running since June 13 on cable channels including ESPN, ESPN2, CNBC, CNN Headline News, Bravo and others through the fall, Panasonic said.

The commercial shoot was more ambitious than most -- four weeks, including five days of shooting, according to director Thomas Barron of Image G in Hollywood. The shoot deployed Image G's motion-control system to scale moves between live action and a twelfth-scale miniature set. The piece integrates stills, high- and low-resolution scans and CG elements from two different sources.

"High-definition was the correct medium for us -- the entire project was a digital composite, and we needed control over every element," Barron said. "Production expediency dictated the immediacy of HD, which not only allowed us to build the composite and pull the commercial together seamlessly during the shoot, but also ensured getting a timely response from the client -- again, right on the set. The 'trust me, we'll fix it in post' scenario most definitely would not have worked for us here.

"[The VariCam] gave us a broad range of exposure control, and retained the image quality while shooting off-speed," he said.

DP/Effects Supervisor Gary Hutzel said he generally shot at -6dB, approximating ASA 320, and adjusted the gamma away from the factory setting.

"The camera was consistent, easy to operate, and I could control lighting fairly effortlessly," he said. "The chromas and blacks are really there -- and controllable. I could reduce colors very smoothly."

The spot is set to run through the fall.