Post Magazine

January 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 51

workflow SNL: cutting฀humor,฀cutting-edge฀technology By฀ RANDI ALTMAN Editor in Chief The Film Unit embraces a datacentric workflow. N EW YORK — Once upon a time, the Saturday Night Live Film Unit –— those responsible for the fake commercials, shorts, title sequences and prerecorded elements used in sketches — shot on 35mm film stock. On the surface that doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you take into account that they were shooting on Friday for a Saturday show, you realize the implications: films labs, telecine sessions and other time-intensive steps. Alex Buono, one of the Film Unit's primary DPs for the past 12 seasons, remembers it as an "incredibly challenging" workflow. "Back in the film days, the photo-chemical process meant that we wouldn't have footage to edit until well past midnight on Friday night — with less than 24 hours before the show was broadcast." Buono says back then they Buono. "Not so long ago we were shooting with prosumer cameras like the HVX200 — with relatively small 1/3-inch image sensors that imparted a very 'video' look — and then there was a huge shift around 2009." That's when DSLRs arrived. The team saw the advantages and embraced the format. "We shot the 2009 title sequence with a Canon 5D Mark II," remembers Buono, "That was a huge wind change for the Film Unit because suddenly we had this tool that combined what we loved about the look of film — the shallower depth of field, wider dynamic range and greater low-light sensitivity — with the incredible workflow of tapeless media. Shooting with large image sensor cameras has made a huge difference to us — and I think you can see it in the quality of our work from the past few seasons." Following the 2009 title sequence, the Film Unit shot the majority of their commercial parodies that season with a Canon 7D. With the introduction of so many other large image sensor cameras over the past seemed to be a perfect marriage of form factor and workflow." But their experimenting didn't end there. "Thanks to my tech-savvy director/producer Rhys Thomas constantly pushing to find better tools and evolve our workflow, we've shot the network debut of many of the most popular cameras in the market — starting with the 7D back in 2009, but we were also one of the first to air footage from the Alexa. "More recently we shot the debut of the Canon C300 and the Epic Monochrome, and just a few weeks ago, the debut of the Canon C500, which was fascinating — shooting 4K resolution with this compact camera. People think of Saturday Night Live as a place for cutting-edge comedy, but it's also a place for cutting-edge adoption of the latest production technology." three seasons, the SNL team adopted the attitude of, 'let's see what works best for us', relying on local rental houses, including Abel Cine, TCS and Hello World Communications, to supply the gear. "Since the large image sensor revolution of 2009, the Arri Alexa has evolved into our most common A-camera, but we've shot our share of spots on the Red Epic as well. The release of the Canon C300 was also a big deal for us because that camera using Light Iron's Lily Pad Case — which the Hollywood-based post house developed for dailies and on-set color correction based on their experiences with datacentric workflows on films like The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall and Flight. The Lily Pad sits inside a Pelican case and is made up of a MacBook Pro, a slew of import slots, including SxS and RedMag, a 6TB drive and Colorfront's Express Dailies software. "It's our hub for all of the production CURRENT WORKFLOW A typical Film Unit workflow might involve shooting with the Alexa in Log-C 4:4:4 color space to SxS media cards in native ProRes. For on-set media management, the team is L-R: Film Unit director Rhys Thomas and DP Alex Buono on location with the Canon C500, which they plan to use more. Right now, Alexa typically gets the nod. were so desperate to get the edit started earlier they began recording the video taps with visual timecode and then eye-matched the real footage when it finally arrived in the wee hours of Saturday morning. "Those were dark days in the edit suite. People forget how ghetto the old B&W video taps looked! Not exactly an ideal editorial format." WILLING TO EXPERIMENT When digital formats like Mini DV and DVCAM arrived in the early 2000s, the Film Unit embraced the faster workflow but lamented the image quality, especially when compared to 35mm film. "SNL's been an amazing place to experiment with cameras over the years and has given me the chance to experience the entire digital format evolution firsthand," shares 12 Post฀•฀January฀2013฀ Post0113_012,14-workflowRAV4FINALREAD.indd 12 12/21/12 2:45 PM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - January 2013