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AJA Ki Pro delivers drama for Trapped in the Closet


R. Kelly directing on the set of Trapped in the Closet
The latest chapters of R. Kelly’s cult hit Trapped in the Closet debuted recently on IFC, garnering the network’s highest ratings for an original production. The “hip-hopera” served up more of its signature rhymes and plot twists after a five-year hiatus in the series which first debuted in 2005. Approaching production again after several years, longtime Trapped co-director/editor Jim Swaffield decided to adopt AJA Ki Pros to optimize and simplify their camera to edit workflow.

For the saga’s latest installment, Swaffield and DP Teodoro Maniaci chose to work with two Sony F3 cameras for the bulk of the photography, supplemented by an Arri Alexa for slow motion sequences. “With good glass, the Sony F3 produces wonderful images, it has a great sensor,” explained Swaffield. “However the internal recording is done at 4:2:0 35Mb/s and we wanted a higher data rate.” To address this issue, Swaffield turned to Gary Pontore, a VP in the modern media solutions division at Future Tech Enterprise, who serves as a post/digital workflow consultant on the series. Pontore recommended an all-new workflow using two Ki Pro recorders on set fed from the cameras’ SDI outputs to the recorders to benefit from Ki Pro’s 10-bit 4:2:2 recording capabilities, along with Mac Pros running Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Creative Suite 6 for editing.

R. Kelly
The two F3 cameras output 1920x1080x23.976fps 4:4:4 10-bit RGB S-log signals, to which LUTs were applied on set by DIT John Waterman using Pomfort LiveGrade software. “Teo likes to interactively combine illumination and grading, and we were able to get very close to our final look dynamically on set as we shot,” Swaffield said. “We then recorded this signal at high quality, to ProRes HQ 422. With the Ki Pro, our files were already in ProRes and ready to edit without having to transcode, which allowed co-editor David Rosenblatt to work live on set. This was key for us because our start date got pushed back while our delivery date remained the same, so we ended up only having three and a half weeks to do everything, but thanks to the Ki Pros we were able to work and turn everything around very quickly with no problems.”

AJA KONA cards have been in use on the series since 2005, and were once again tapped KONA 3G to precisely monitor the signal during all aspects of visual effects creation and color grading.

“Our KONA cards have always performed so well, I had faith in AJA gear and in Gary’s assessment of what would be best for our workflow,” Swaffield said. “The Ki Pro really allowed us to get the most out of the Sony F3 with high quality recording and real time color correction. It let us work faster and better from filming through to editing – we really got to have our cake and eat it too.”

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