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?Sweet William Shot With Panasonic AJ-HDC27 VariCam

Exploits Final Cut Pro ?HD on a desktop? editing workflow (December 02, 2004)

Sweet William, an emotional coming-of-age feature about a young mans journey to understand his past, was shot on location in Louisville, KY last summer with Panasonics AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera. Writer/actor Bruce Marshall Romans debut film, Sweet William stars celebrated screen and stage actor Frank Langella, exciting newcomer Laura Allen (who headlines the new USA series The 4400), and filmmaker and Louisville native Romans in the title role.

The film is one of the first feature-length projects to take advantage of the desktop HD editing capabilities made possible by the Panasonic/Apple implementation of IEEE 1394 FireWire with 100 Mbps DV-HD (the native video compression of Panasonic DVCPRO HD recording systems), bringing unmatched capabilities and cost efficiency to HD post-production and content distribution.

The feature was shot last July and August (a 24-day shoot) with Churchill Downs, the University of Louisville and local bars as backdrops. Produced by Josh Liveright (13 Going On 30, Angels in America, the Hours), Sweet William was directed by J. Miller Tobin (CSI, OZ, The Agency), edited by Mitch Stanley (In & Out, Just Cause, City By The Sea), and veteran cinematographer Michael Caporale served as Director of Photography.

With Panasonics new, compact AJ-HD1200A DVCPRO HD VTR, 24fps or 60fps progressive scan material shot on a VariCam can be transferred via the VTRs IEEE 1394 interface directly into Apples Final Cut Pro HD without generation loss. Once transferred, the material is instantly available for real-time editing operations. All footage maintains its camera-original quality, because the IEEE 1394 FireWire interface transfers the native DV-HD high definition files, as originally recorded on tape in the VTR or Varicam, directly to the Power Mac G4 or Power Mac G5 host computer's internal hard drive. At that point, users can edit camera-original quality HD content on their desktop.

Stanley, whose credits include prime-time episodic television shows (First Years, MDs) as well as theatrical features, said, ?There was an AJ-HD1200A deck on set used to clone tapes, which were then sent to me in Los Angeles, where we rented an additional AJ-HD1200A deck to load video.

?With high definition editing on Final Cut Pro HD, the offline and online process essentially becomes one. We 'offlined' on FCP at full HD resolution (720p24)--so, in that regard it's difficult to call it 'offlining.' We are seeing the images in full HD quality.

Stanley (who worked on an Apple G4 1.25 dual Power Mac) continued, ?There is no 'online' edit session with this process. We do not have to go to an online linear tape room and pay for an expensive tape-to-tape HD conform. We simply take a hard drive with the final exported assembly from FCP and bring it to a facility for color correction and digital intermediate before going to 35mm film and distribution.

?Previously, the only way to edit HD was to digitize the material over SDI-HD (serial digital interface). You had to capture uncompressed video, and this created huge file sizes and immense data throughput. You needed expensive hard drives--and lots of them--to edit long-form material (feature films, episodic TV, docs), making HD editing on long-form material cost-prohibitive.

He added, ?With the AJ-HD1200As ability to output HD over FireWire, the DVCPRO HD codec, and FCP HD, the equation changes significantly. The files sizes are much smaller and the data flow is radically lower--and this with no loss of HD quality. In real terms, on Sweet William I was able to have 45 hours of 720p24 HD video loaded on 900 gigs of ordinary inexpensive hard drives. For example, a 250 gig Maxtor drive bought from CompUSA for $129 held 12 hours of HD video. Prior to the AJ-HD1200A deck, you needed a fast disk array that would cost thousands of dollars that would hold maybe three hours of HD video. So the economics of HD editing are vastly changed for the better, now comparable to editing in standard NTSC definition.

?The most significant observation I can offer is that working in HD with the deck offers only benefits--no sacrifices. From a creative standpoint, the images you are working with are vastly superior to standard NTSC, but your editing workflow does not change. There is nothing extra to do to edit in HD. No rendering, no waiting, no swapping drives--you can work as fast and as efficiently as you always have - only now with HD.

Sweet William director Miller Tobin described the editorial path as ?spectacularly easy.

?Throughout the project, Mitch and I have almost always been in different cities, Tobin recounted. ?While we were shooting, wed clone daily takes that hed then upload in his system in LA. Later in the fall, while I was shooting subsequent TV projects, I was able to download project files from Mitch and watch them on my own computer (running FCP HD). Regardless of geography, we could keep working.

The director added, ?This was my first time working with the VariCam, and we were fortunate that our DP had so much experience with the camera. Our production structure was comparable to film, and we achieved tremendous visual image value using HD. The images are crisp and pretty and, quite remarkably, Sweet William looks like a multi-million dollar production.

DP Michael Caporale, principal of production company 24P Digital Cinema, LLP (Cincinnati, OH), provided both the on-set VariCam and the AJ-HD1200A deck. Caporale, a veteran of many projects with Panasonic 24p cameras, observed, ?The VariCam was ideal for this shoot because of its wide dynamic range and color gamut. We had a mixed cast of Caucasian & African American actors in various lighting from dark club interior atmospheres to bright sun exteriors.

?Nothing was done differently from a 35mm film shoot. We mixed HMI, Quartz, natural light, tungsten practicals and Kinoflos. I used the Panasonic BT-H1700B monitor for critical color judgment and the 8.5" BT-LH900 LCD monitor in waveform mode to evaluate toe, knee, gamma and exposure.

He added, ?One of the more interesting and challenging aspects of the shoot was working at Churchill Downs around the thoroughbred horses. Rules were very stringent about what we could and couldn't do, especially regarding lighting. We did a lot of shooting during early morning training hours starting before sun-up in nothing but available light and on into early morning as the horses worked out on the track. We were not permitted lights or shiny boards or anything that would spook a horse and endanger lives. We shot an entire scene with Frank Langella and Bruce Romans, as well as scenes with Laura Allen and Bruce, in nothing but available light because of the sensitivity of the animals and our agreement with the track and trainers. Also much B-roll was captured before sun-up of typical track activity. It's all glorious!

Post-production on Sweet William will be completed by mid-January 2005, at which time a multi-format HD master will be made for festival submissions.

Panasonics AJ-HDC27 VariCam replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition, including 24-frame progressive scan images, time lapse recording, and a wide range of variable frame rates (4-fps to 60-fps in single-frame increments) for ?overcranked and ?undercranked off-speed in-camera effects. The AJ-HDC27 VariCam also features CineGamma software that permits PPanasonics HD Cinema camera systems to more closely match the latitude of film stocks.

For more information on Panasonics complete HD Cinema product lineup, visit

About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast, professional video and presentation products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit company of Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, the principal North America subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC), one of the world's leading producers of electronic and electric products for consumer, business and industrial use.

For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the companys web site at


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Related Keywords:Sweet William, Panasonic, AJ-HDC27, AJ-HDC27 VariCam, Final Cut Pro, camera, Apple, DV-HD, DVCPRO HD, Josh Liveright, J. Miller Tobin, Mitch Stanley, Michael Caporale, cinematographer, Photography, Final Cut Pro HD, Maxtor, Michael Caporale, 24P Digital Cinema, BT-H1700B, BT-LH900, CineGamma, AJ-HD1200A, Matsushita Electric Corporation,


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