“Preparation Is Essential”

21 12 2007

I’ve never worked with the P2 cameras but I am about to embark on a big documentary project, called RIVERS, which will be shot across four continents with the Panasonic HVX-200. I’ll then be editing in in Avid’s Media Composer. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about P2 workflow.

There’s a great article on Ken Stone’s website by Dan Brockett about his work shooting a television pilot using the same camera which details many of the problems inherent in working with a tapeless workflow (that is, the image doesn’t go onto film or videotape — it goes directly to a computer format on some kind of storage medium, either a hard drive or special cards that insert in the camera for storage).

My interest is, of course, how it worked in post production and Dan was quite good in mentioning some of those issues as well. Paperwork tended to be crucial, because organizing the equivalent of 400 8-GB cards worth of footage would have been nightmarish without it.

The most important element here was that Dan was working with producers who, though they wouldn’t listen to his pleading not to use this camera for this particular shoot, seemed more than willing to let him test everything involved in the workflow. That is crucial even in workflows that are well defined. When I worked in film, I always met with the script supervisors, assistant camera, vendors and more to make sure that everyone was on “the same page” (though no one ever used that expression back then — it’s amazing how fast that one became trite).

Now, with new HD workflows cropping up every time you start a new job, it’s even more crucial. But many producers/companies just can’t afford to test anything. Then, they can’t afford to fix it when the inevitable problems crop up. As Brockett notes, he shot the pilot and never once lost a file and was able to deliver the pilot on time and with the degree of professionalism the studio wanted. And what was one of the lessons that he learned: Preparation Is Essential.

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