Orange County-based WAS Productions recently wrapped production on its seventh season of Chop Cut Rebuild, an automotive “how to” documentary series produced for SPEED Channel. It was the first season the series was produced using the JVC ProHD GY-HM700U camcorder as its main camera.
In February, WAS Productions began shooting its eighth season of the series using two GY-HM700Us. The second camera will serve as the “B” camera on shoots and create a completely tapeless workflow for the series. Earlier seasons of Cut Chop Rebuild had been produced using JVC GY-HD200 ProHD camcorders.
According to Dan Woods, founder of WAS Productions, who also serves as host and executive producer of Chop Cut Rebuild, shooting conditions are less than ideal for the series. For example, in the custom car garages where much of the footage is recorded, the air conditioners have to be shut off because they are too loud for audio recording. As a result, temperatures exceeding 100 degrees are common.
“Throughout our shoot days, cameras are around sparks flying, hammers swinging, and flames flying from welding torches. We even hang our camera out of car windows to shoot footage while driving on freeways and city streets,” Woods said. “Our cameras can get into some extreme conditions on set, but the GY-HM700U has performed wonderfully for us in every situation.”
To capture audio for the series, WAS Productions uses two wireless lavs along with a boom mic, which are fed into a mixer and then recorded with the video on the GY-HM700U. Woods said the camera’s audio recording quality is so good that a separate DAT recorder is not needed. He also noted the ability to shoot in 720p and 1080i allows them to deliver projects to SPEED and other clients in a number of formats and styles. “Interchangeable bayonet lenses and the range of lenses available is a great benefit,” he added.
Because Chop Cut Rebuild is not a scripted series, Woods said the crew tends to overshoot during production. Often, they return from a day of shooting with close to six hours of footage from each camera. In past seasons, a junior editor would spend hours transferring tape-based footage into the company’s Apple Final Cut Pro NLE system. With the GY-HM700U’s native file recording to non-proprietary SDHC cards, however, the workflow is much more efficient.
“The ability to download instead of digitize footage has helped tremendously,” Woods said. “Our postproduction time has dropped significantly. Now that junior editor position can go toward being creative – and the more time you have for being creative, the better your product will be.”
In the field, Woods said the GY-HM700U’s professional look is as almost as important as its performance. “Clients never question our capabilities or professionalism when they see the GY-HM700U,” he explained. “When we have our cameras on our shoulders, we don’t look like we’re shooting a wedding video. For a boutique company, that’s pretty important.”
Later this year, the company will use its GY-HM700Us to produce the next installment of its American Seduction series of one-hour primetime profiles of automobiles that have impacted American culture. The special, which will focus on the Volkswagen Beetle, and the new season of Chop Cut Rebuild should begin airing this fall.