Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

Hi-def daytime

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By Bruce Shutan
Daytime television is not exactly known for spearheading breakthrough technology, but the popular CBS drama The Bold and the Beautiful recently used an innovation that enhanced the show’s visuals while also saving money.
In about 20 episodes, the cast appears to be enjoying a lengthy stay in the Italian fishing village of Portofino. But truth be told, they spent only five-and-a-half days shooting there. The rest was videotaped in standard def on a soundstage in L.A. with the actors performing in front of a 22×33-foot rear-projection screen displaying high-def images shot in the picturesque town.
It’s the first time this technology—shooting rear plates on location in high def, then projecting them onto a screen to serve as a backdrop for dialog—has been used to capture an exotic locale for a videotaped daytime TV drama, raising the production bar on a genre that shoots mostly indoors.
“Being able to pan across from one person to another makes it very realistic compared to having everything locked down and having people walk into shots,” says to Scha Jani, CBS video supervisor and the show’s video operator. “When actors are standing on a terrace overlooking the ocean, they’re actually looking at the boat they’re talking about—not a plain green or blue screen.”
Rear plate was also a money-saver by shaving time off the Italy shoot reducing the cost of meals and lodging for cast and crew. Adds Cristy Trembly, studio manager in the CBS technical and production operations department: “I’d say we saved at least 50 percent compared to doing the same thing on location in terms of the rental cost on the equipment and having the crew stay on for a longer period of time.”
High-def rear-plate projection is also proving more flexible and user-friendly than blue or green screen when it comes to positioning people in the picture frame. The same applies to zoom and focus capabilities.
“If I wanted to do a waist shot of someone but didn’t want a car in the rear footage, I can remove the image,” Jani explains. “It’s a plus to be able to play with your depth of field and make the background do what you want to do in certain situations.”
Rear-plate projection helps production crews overcome lighting challenges, according to Jani. For instance, there’s only a small window of opportunity when shooting, say, a romantic sunset dinner at a sidewalk café. But shooting the scene against a rear screen can be done anytime.
Brighter and sharper projectors add another layer of quality. Jani notes, “In the past, the projectors wouldn’t be bright enough compared to what your cameras could see, so the background wasn’t as in balance with a subject in the foreground. After you light it, your picture would start to disappear on the screen.”
Careful attention was paid to wardrobe, hair, makeup and other crafts–including getting the wardrobe back to L.A. in time for the next round of shooting. “It definitely makes everyone much more aware and every department better organized and coordinated,” says Trembly.
She praises the entire crew for producing an impressive finished product and challenges the myth about the production community’s fear of new technology. “A lot of times when you have new technology people think they’re going to lose their jobs,” she says. “If anything, it was just the opposite. The changes haven’t been as significant or jarring as some [people] thought they’d be.”
Jani can easily can envision rear plate being used again for other exotic locations. “It’s worked out real well for us, and I think we all learned a lot,” he reports. Among those lessons: hot spots can make the screen’s center appear brighter than the edges, creating a porthole effect, while the resolution and sharpness drops off slightly when projectors are doubled up.
Trembly was dazzled by the outcome: “Even editing from shot to shot you couldn’t tell the difference, and I knew which ones were real and which ones were back plates. It was amazing even to me how well it turned out.”

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