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March 2013

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format files HD: past, present and future A This early adopter shares his story. Seadrift Vs. The Big Guy: Dark used 25 cameras to create this documentary. USTIN — In 1986, writer/director Randall Dark was given his first opportunity to view high definition. Immediately, he knew it would be the future of broadcast television, and has worked exclusively in HD ever since. A few years later, he founded HD Vision in New York, with a mandate to specialize in HD, later moving the company to Dallas. "In the mid-'90s, there were only a few of us worldwide that had HD trucks. Back then, the content shown, most of the time, were images that we created," recalls Dark, whose DarkMania Productions (www.darkmania. com) is based in Austin and Macao, China. The first satellite transmission of an all-digital, commercial HDTV broadcast originated from the Waco, TX, CBS affiliate and was transmitted to the HD Vision theater in Irving, about 120 miles away, on December 14, 1996. Dark was executive producer. The programming included a number of breakthroughs, including realtime encoding and broadcasting of live wide-screen HDTV and Dolby surround sound stereo; HDTV broadcast using standard video satellite transmission; two-way interactive audience participation with the program's hosts; 35mm filmto-HDTV transfers, and seamless tape roll-ins of several of HD Vision's HDTV programs. HD eventually had a dramatic impact on the pro landscape, not only because it offered better quality, but because it lowered production costs and created more flexible shooting schedules for certain types of projects. In post, HD's extended archival life was revered, and it simplified transferring content to any future medium. Where manipulations to celluloid images had to be performed in a lab — resulting in expense and some risk — HD editing allowed colorists to see exactly what effect is occurring as they manipulate the image. With the greater freedom, filmmakers were able to more easily correct shooting errors and be more creative. "HD has had a huge impact on the film industry and has proved as significant to the storyteller as the invention of oil-based paint was to a painter. It's presented filmmakers with new options for creating a quality product at a more manageable budget," reports Dark. DOCS EMBRACE THE FORMAT Evolution of technology has allowed broadcast pros to produce programs in HD that a short time ago would have been almost impossible. "Imagine 25 years ago going on safari or jumping out of a plane wearing a VTR the size of a refrigerator, tethered by RGB 38 Post • March 2013 Post0313_038-People ProfileMV4FINALREAD.indd 38 cable to cameras that cost over $350,000 each. Good luck," he says. "Now we have an arsenal of cost-effective choices in a variety of sizes, and it keeps getting better." Because shooting an HD doc is less costly than using film, and because the logistics are simpler, documentary filmmakers can capture moments that wouldn't have been possible on a wouldn't be any problems; that's the confidence Maxell has provided me with over many years." THE FUTURE In Dark's latest doc, Seadrift Vs. The Big Guy, he used 17 different types of cameras, ranging from the JVC 4K to an iPhone. "HD is now so cost effective and so portable, for this docu- Randall Dark shooting Seadrift Vs. The Big Guy with a JVC GY-HMQ10 4K compact hand-held. tighter shooting schedule associated with film. For interviews, the filmmaker can let the camera run all day. Dark's Telly Award-winning, Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark, is a good example. In this doc, Dark (@RandallPDark) was able to capture the nuanced story of an artist's daily triumphs over dyslexia. While filming the project, which was shot partly and mastered exclusively on Maxell HDCAM, Dark was able to roll the camera all day while conducting interviews, leading to many spontaneous and truthful moments. "Sometimes I'd just set up the camera and not let Shayne know I was shooting," adds Dark. "We'd run through the shoot as though it were a rehearsal, which made him more relaxed and natural. When shooting on film, I'm not allowed that luxury; film is too expensive to risk wasting, and the subject knows when you're shooting. In this format, viewers are given a sense of being there, which makes the story more compelling." Being able to trust his equipment also saved resources. "I was once asked to produce a series of documentaries for WealthTV called, European Getaways, which featured my favorite European cities. I shot about 60 Maxell HDCAM tapes. When I finished a box, I shipped the tapes to the US and told my staff not to bother opening them. I knew when I got back there mentary I was able to seamlessly use over 25 cameras in total to tell this story," says Dark. "I had cameras attached to head gear, canoes, clothing. There were cameras in the air and underwater…even eyewear cameras." The film documents the personalities, history and traditions of world's toughest canoe race. The doc follows Jeff McAdams, a largerthan-life, big and brash Texan with questionable health habits, as he attempts to paddle from San Marcos to Sea Drift with his wits, a few bottles of water, minimal training, and a lot of grit. He's got 70 days to prepare and hasn't been on the water since he was a boy scout. "What excites me about the future is my ability to interface and intercut professional, prosumer and even consumer image sensors seamlessly, where appropriate. Having such a wide range of imaging technologies at my fingertips allows me to take my viewer on a visual journey that was either too cost prohibitive or physically impossible until now." In the early years of HD, Dark used to say, "The future of HDTV is bright, 10 times the picture information and 16x9. Now I just say that the future is unbelievable. Close your eyes, picture what story you want to tell, and just go tell it." 3/1/13 1:32 PM

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