Calls the shots
The throughput is helped in the studio because the cameras are switched. A Multidyne adaptor has been added on the back of the cameras to feed a fibre optic cable to a control room and switcher, at least when they are in the studio. Directors call the shots and switch cameras much as they would do in a live studio broadcast. The VariCam 35 cameras will also happily shoot film style, as Shortland Street does on location, where the signal is recorded to memory cards for later ingestion and editing.
The switched approach allows post-production supervisor Dylan Reeve to take some whole sequences as more or less complete. However, for the last couple of years they’ve recorded both the line cut and the individual cameras – just in case.
“All of those things go into the Avid editor and will become a group clip,” says Reeve. “Most of the time – it depends on the director and it depends on the scene – it will come out of the line switcher and go into the show with nothing more than a little bit of top and tailing. And then there are other times where we choose every cut in post. It is a variety, and different directors approach it in different ways.”
Reeve says once they had selected which cameras to buy they could begin to exploit the other benefits on offer. Technically, the camera has an extraordinary optional native ISO 5000 setting, which in plain English means it will see stuff at night.
“The new camera is three stops more sensitive than what we had, maybe even four stops, and has a low noise floor. We don’t need as much light in the sets, we can play light and dark more than we used to,” Reeve says.
Not the first transition
Reeve expected punters to notice the visual transition and, for the dedicated fans, there was a Facebook post announcing the change. Together with the couple of thousand likes and a smattering of comments, it has now scrolled down and off the page.
“Shortland Street fans are incredibly vocal on Facebook,” he says, “but it drops away very quickly. When we make changes, you could ask them what is different and they wouldn’t able to tell you, but they could tell you that something is different. At least that’s been my experience,” he says, recalling the change from standard definition to high definition, from interlaced to progressive images, and from stereo to 5.1 surround sound.
These steps all stem from the same premise: it’s worth investing, improving, and evolving. Yes, content is king and a show lives or dies on the drama and story, but check out early Shortland Street episodes on YouTube and you’ll see technology and a visual style that would kill a show today. Most shows simply die off before they have any need to take on new generations of gear or a new look.
Shortland Street’s not most shows.
— All images courtesy of South Pacific Pictures
Written by Peter Parnham
Peter is a freelance technology writer, business mentor and systems specialist who spent many years in the screen industry equipment business.