Producing a Christmas Special

This year, I got to do something completely different for the holidays. I produced a Christmas Special. It wasn't news, it wasn't a feature or a commercial, it was a like a tv special. But of course it came with its challenges...

Now, it doesn't feel like I get to do this often enough, so I when I get the chance I like to go all out as much as I can. So that's what I tried to do. It was shot with 3 cameras at the theater in Newhall called The Main, but one of the camera angles had to be cut due to a technical issue I'll get into below. 

The Set Up

Originally, Jeri, the station owner, wanted something that was a bit more simple. From what I understand it was to be a single camera angle and Savannah was to do everything that we see in the video, but on stage as if there were a live audience. 

I saw this more as an opportunity to really branch out and get more into the filmmaking side of me. I wanted multiple camera angles, set decoration on stage, lights, a change of scenery. So I got right to work on an Outline.  Luckily Savannah brought in her audio guy, Jay, that she trusts, which was great for me, now I don't have to worry about juggling audio since we have a guy JUST doing that one task and I can worried about the image. 

Production

Production was smooth with very little hiccups. As I had mentioned before, it was a 3 camera set up. A Panasonic GH5 as our main, a Sony Alpha 6500 for a B-Cam, and a Panasonic HMC150 as C-cam. 

IMG_0136.JPG

We only did 2-3 takes for every chunk of the Outline I wrote out. A fairly simple production technically, however, it's when we arrive to post-production that complications begin to a rise . 

Post-Production

TOP: Unprocessed LOG Footage.

BOTTOM: LOG Footage converted to the REC 709 Color Space. 

Remember earlier I said that one of the camera angles had to be cut? Well here's the nerdy technical reason. The color information just wasn't there. Both the Sony 6500 and the Panasonic GH5 shot in a 4K resolution with the idea in mind that the final product would be in 1080p and 4K could enable some cropping. The third camera was only capable of shooting in 1080p. The 4K cameras I also had set to shoot LOG footage. There is a big reason for this, color science! 

Every camera manufacturer has their own color science, how their camera interprets color in our world. So when you shoot multi-cam, IDEALLY you wanna shoot when the same camera, or at least the same camera manufacturer. Well I didn't have that, so what can I do? Shoot LOG! 

LOG is basically shooting extremely flat and the camera knows to preserve the details in the highlights and shadows as well as to store a lot more color information.  Of course, although we're shooting extremely flat on both cameras, color science still applied as a problem particularly in the skin tones.

The Panasonic camera gave off a slight greenish tint to the skin tones which normally wouldn't be noticeable, but compared to the Sony skin tones, which felt more natural, the greenish tint felt waaay off. The goal here was constancy, I wanted it to look the same throughout the film. So, I turned to Paul Leeming's Leeming LUT One. A LUT that I was able to easily standardize colors between Sony and Panasonic with little effort. Here's the end result. 

 TOP: Panasonic GH5. BOTTOM: Sony Alpha 6500

TOP: Panasonic GH5. BOTTOM: Sony Alpha 6500

While I was able to have the guitar and red dress match in previous attempts, the skin tones kept falling out of line making it look unnatural until I tried out Leeming LUT One. The LUT gave me a much better starting point for both cameras, the skin tones fell into place and almost locked there.

So this is where cutting the third angle came into play. The color information was just not there to really stand up to the other camera angles. However, while I couldn't use any of C-cam footage, I was able to decide to keep the special in 4K instead of the 1080p downsizing. 

Round Up

On the technical level, here's all the programs used to bring this special to life. 

  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC
  • Adobe Encoder CC
  • Adobe Audition CC
  • Leeming LUT One
  • iZotope's RX
  • iZotope's Neutron
  • Apple Motion 5
  • Logic Pro X

Gallery 

Bonus  

As a tiny bonus, here's a tiny promo that I created for the project.