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September / 2001

An Interview with Serge Desrosiers csc Shooting Shinny and Santa in 24P HD “I could say I’m a fan of 24P, but every project has its own complexity.” by Don Angus

Serge Desrosiers csc is a believer in two great Québec institutions — hockey and Père Noël. Now the Montréal DOP figures that what the fastest game on earth and old Father Christmas really needed all along was the 24P look of highdefinition video. It wasn’t a sure thing in the beginning. Desrosiers told CSC News that 24P HD was not the unanimous choice for DOP Serge Desrosiers csc (right) at shooting Lance et compte - La nouvelle génération, the camera with 1st AC Patrick Beaulac revival of the 1986 hit Québec series Lance et compte (He on set of Lance et compte. Photo: Shoots! He Scores!). The original slam-bam hockey series, Izabel Zimmer somewhat sexy and profane for its time, aired 15 years ago and was, of course, shot on film. It was Caroline Heroux of Communications Claude Heroux Plus who pitched 24P as the acquisition medium for the encore of Lance et compte, which wrapped May 30. “She is taking over the company now and she wanted to come up with something new” for the series sequel, Desrosiers said. “Her father, Claude, didn’t want to shoot HD. He was really relentless on new mediums and the complexity of focus in HD.” Director Jean-Claude Lord, who directed the original series, sided with Caroline and the director of photography. “He said,” Desrosiers quoted: “‘I know the guys and I know they will manage to do it, and if they say it’s not going to be a problem it won’t be.’ And that’s what we basically told him, it’s not going to be a problem.” So, 24P won the day. In addition, all 10 of the hour-long episodes were shot in 16:9 ratio — “not without a battle” — and will be broadcast in the letterbox format on Québec’s TQS television network. Derosiers claimed Lance et compte was “the first TV series in Quebec to be shot on 24P HD, in letterbox” (see CSC News, May/01), and Station nord, which wrapped in July, “is the first Canadian feature shot in 24P.” He said he was the one who decided on 24P HD for Station nord, a Christmas movie to be released in December, after he went to the CSC meeting in Toronto last Jan. 22 and saw the test screenings by Panavision and Richard Stringer csc (see CSC News, March/01). “I spoke to Jean-Claude Lord, who was also directing the feature, soon after I left the meeting and told him the 24P looked really good.” Producer Pierre Gendron of Bloom Films “was crazy

enough” to go along with the idea. “We ended up shooting this feature, that we were supposed to shoot in 35mm, in 24P because we had a CGI (computer generated imaging) budget of $400,000 to $500,000, a lot for a Québec feature. And one advantage of shooting CGI in HD is that you don’t have to scan the film first. “We took some shots from Lance et compte, I did a small editing, and sent that footage off to E-Film in Los Angeles. The result looked really beautiful. We then went to see Scott MacDonald and Stuart Hurst at Panavision Canada and they came up with a nice package. They were really interested in doing the first Canadian feature in 24P.” Desrosiers said Station nord was shot in the Laurentians north of Montréal, with principal filming starting in April during a three-week break in the production of Lance et compte. “We needed snow — and we had snow.” Shooting on the feature resumed in June after the series wrapped at the end of May. ‘If we were shooting a feature with nice, landscaped shots, then, sure, we would have shot it in 35mm.’

The Panavision lenses used on Station nord were “really beautiful,” the DOP enthused. “We had the 6x27mm and a nice 5mm prime, which in video is almost a 2.5 ratio that equals a 14mm in 35mm. We had the 11 to 1, which is a 9.5 to 105mm — a really big but really beautiful lens. “I could say I’m a fan of 24P, but every project has its own complexity. If we were shooting a feature with nice, PUNCH-UP: Serge Desrosiers csc, landscaped shots, then, sure, we would have shot it in with camera, gets in close for a 35mm. But since we were shooting a kids’ Christmas movie fight scene in Lance et compte. At right are 1st AC Patrick Beaulac and with a lot of CGI effects — reindeers appearing and disappearing — we really needed the help for CGI, and also grip Marc DeErnsted, both on skates. Photo: Izabel Zimmer for the budget, that shooting 24P can give. The CGI guys told us that if you’re shooting 24P HD we can do this, but if you’re shooting 35mm we can’t do this in the same budget.”

Desrosiers said there was no CGI in Lance et compte. The action on the ice is all real, and the camera crew had to come up with some slippery moves to capture it all. “We had seven days on hockey rinks, with dollies on ice and a lot of people. We had this big day in Québec City with almost 13,000 spectators. They were there because of the Lance et compte reputation. There was nothing else going on in this arena except Lance et compte shooting, and 13,000 people came to see us.” The fictitious team in the series is called Le Nationale, but their sweaters are intentionally similar to those of the NHL

PENALTY SHOT: Dolly grip Marc DeErnsted pushes DOP/operator Serge Desrosiers csc as a scene focuses on a penalty shot. Following the action. from left, are boom operator Marcel Royer, 1st AC Patrick Beaulac, and B-cam operator Martin Pilon, who was

Québec Nordiques before they moved to Colorado in 1995- dressed as a referee. Photo: Izabel 96 and promptly won the Stanley Cup as the Avalanche. In Zimmer the series, the DOP revealed, the team owners refuse to sell the franchise to Colorado and stay in Québec. “People in Québec City are going to be heartbroken with this series.” For the hockey action, “we had five cameras and six operators,” Desrosiers laughed. “I had one operator with skates on — we put an AC with him — to go ahead and do some handheld shots. Then when we had to do off-ice shots, what was he going to do? He couldn’t just go into the crowd with his skates. So he passed the camera to another operator who was in running shoes and went into the crowd. The operator on skates was dressed in a referee’s shirt. Sometimes — in a slow-motion shot or something — I’m sure we do see him. “I was on a dolly (fitted) with little skates. I would take the A-camera on to the rink and shoot a sequence with players shooting pucks into the net. Then, when we needed to do off-ice shots of this sequence, I would run with the ACs and the grips and the other cameras. “Something really funny: When I was on the dolly I was going with the actors, but a puck goes where it’s got to go. I would pan and follow the actors; I would know that the B-camera was on my left, but I still go panning. The grips and the camera operators are lying down in front of me so that I don’t see them in the camera. I’m panning and panning, and they lie down. Then I get to the director and the script assistant. They are all falling down, boom, boom, boom.” Desrosiers said the A- and B-cameras were Sony HDW-F900 24P (CineAlta) units and the other three were Sony’s earlier HDW-700 models. “What I decided to do on the hockey sequences was shoot at 30 frames per second with all five cameras, setting the 24Ps on what we call 60i. This is basically the thermal video image which goes back to 30 frames per second. Then they put a film look on the images, because the images are really bare, a real video look. They would add motion blur in post. ‘That’s the advantage of 24P, the luminosity that you can get.” “I saw the footage taken in the rink and everything looked really nice. With the 24P we did a lot of nice lighting effects not possible in regular video. The clipping in the whites doesn’t occur as much as in regular video. We had a lot of high-key situations and even low-key situations. I even had the director come up to me and say, ‘You don’t have any lighting in there, do you see that?’ And I showed him the monitor, and he was really impressed with the luminosity of the image without any lighting.

“We did a lot of sequences lit with just one candle, and we did a lot of wide shots in restaurants at night where we didn’t even put in a light. We did the wide shots with candles and the little practicals in the restaurants, and then we went in and did the close-ups. That’s the advantage of 24P, the luminosity that you can get.” The DOP said that “we were lucky to get two 4K Mole CHRISTMAS CREW: The camera Beams from Mole Richardson in Los Angeles for Lance et team on the Christmas feature compte, and they were really beautiful. They are small Station nord included, from left to beams, two feet in diameter. We had two of them in the right, 2nd ACs Veronique Poulin hockey arena with two 12Ks and two 6K Pars for backlighting and Dominique Beaulac, 3rd AC

and fill-in where we had our actors. I had lightning strikes creating flash effects when a player got a goal. We didn’t bring any lighting on to the ice, we would just go out there and shoot. No light on the camera at all.

Sylvain Albert (video assist), DOP Serge Desrosiers csc, and 1st AC Patrick Beaulac.Zimmer

“We also had six Xenon follow-spots already in the arena, so we used them. I had six followspot operators who, every time there was a goal, would follow the player. We even followed him with the Mole Beams; they are really strong. “We were looking for a searchlight effect,” Desrosiers continued. “What I would have liked is that when there was a goal, you do a down light along with the little follow-spots. But we couldn’t do a down light in an arena. So what we have done in post is bring down the luminosity of the image every time a guy scores, and then what happens is we see these searchlights following the player and the effect is as if we had a down light. It looks good.” Desrosiers said most of his experience has been with film, but he has been shooting video for five years. He was DOP on the CBC series Diva (Cover Girl on the English network) for three years, using the HDW-700 camera. “The only thing new about 24P is the motion blur or the film effect when we transfer the tapes. The only problem that occurs with 24P is the flickering effect in the viewfinder; it looks like an old video-assisted film. “We didn’t work with a video engineer (on Lance et compte or Station nord). For me it was useless because we knew we were going to colour-time the show through a DaVinci or Spirit or something. We didn’t need a guy saying, ‘Look you’re 1/8 of a stop overexposed.’ What is an 1/8 of a stop? We can correct it by colour-timing it. We were shooting two cameras handheld almost all the time. We couldn’t always have wires. The ACs called the opening, the Tstop. Once I set mine, the other camera set his and sometimes he would tell me it was a little bit dark. I would say, ‘Open it up and we’ll colour-time it.’” On Lance et compte, “we shot with a Canon 5.5-to-55mm zoom lens on the 24P cameras, which is a relatively small lens at about 30 to 35 pounds. On the other cameras, we had a basic HD lens from Canon called an 18X. “I shoot at almost 600 ASA. I don’t have any grain in the image. The image is clean. Sometimes at night I go to almost 900 ASA — 900 or 800 ASA is very quick and clear. “Depth of field will always be a problem in HD, just because of the size of the chip. The CCD chip resembles a Super 8 negative; really small for depth of field. You have to work long focal lenses. When you do work wide-angle lenses, you have to help yourself with the lighting. You have to create 3D lighting in video, more than in film. In film you would never really care about 3D lighting.” [ Magazine ][ Archives ][ Search ]

Canadian Society of Cinematographers  

An interview with Serge Desrosiers csc Shooting shinny and Santa in 24P HD