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HomeCraftsCameraBlackmagic Design Helps Capture Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways

Blackmagic Design Helps Capture Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways

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Director Dave Grohl recently relied on Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Cameras to shoot behind-the-scenes footage and B roll for the Foo Fighters’ eight part Sonic Highways series for HBO. The company’s HyperDeck Studio Pro SSD recorders and Teranex 2D Processor were also used as the backbone for the mobile production unit.

Each of Sonic Highways one-hour episodes is devoted to a different musical landmark, chronicling the unique history, cultural environment and people that define a city. With episodes set in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C., the series airs Fridays on HBO.

Executive producers James Rota, Roswell Films and John Ramsay, Therapy Studios, oversaw all technical aspects of the production, which required a mobile, reliable and easy to use workflow to capture more than 480 hours of recordings, performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

“In turning 20 years old, the band wanted to do something special, and they have,” said Rota. “They didn’t just fly around to different cities to record music. They went to iconic locations that have significance to the musical fabric of America, and those places inspired the album. Sometimes we were in a recording studio, and sometimes we built a recording studio in a venue, such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans. Each location was a little different, and we wanted to document that process too.

“The concept around using the Pocket Cinema Cameras was anyone, a band member, gaffer, me or John for example, could pick one up and shoot if they saw something interesting happening. Because of the compact form factor, it was a great grab and go camera that still provided a really nice image,” he continued.

Six HyperDeck Studio Pros were dispersed among six flypacks, which were placed near static cameras set up around the venue to capture the action from all angles. The camera feeds were sent via HDMI and SDI directly into the HyperDeck Studio Pros, which have dual SSD recording slots for continuous recording.

“With the HyperDecks, we could record in DNxHD, which saved time on transcoding, as well as playback footage if needed, jam it with timecodes and basically ‘set it and forget it’ all day. It was like having a never ending tape machine,” said Rota. “We would set the packs down near the cameras like little stations and when finished, carry them down to the truck and move on. At the end of the day, we would hand off the drives to the DIT, who would send the media back to L.A. for post, and bam you have the majority of your basic footage.”

The DIT used a MultiDock Thunderbolt-based disk dock to back up and manage the media, and a Teranex 2D Processor standards and format converter was also used in conjunction with one of the HyperDeck Studio Pros to record in the frame rate needed, as well as to smooth out any cadence issues.

“Teranex was great because we could record in whatever frame rate we needed, and when we started cutting episodes in post, we also used Teranex for the archival footage to get the formats and frame rates needed. We also used a few UltraStudio Express and Intensity Extreme devices for capture and playback,” said Rota.

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