The season’s last episode takes place at night in downtown Los Angeles, with a big sequence between Kiefer and the bad guys. Director/Co-Executive Producer Jon Cassar and I were reminded of Collateral because we in the film world were impressed with the extreme latitude of shadow detail evident in that film, and we knew it was because of the sensitivity of the digital chips. Although it used a larger chip, I felt that the new Panavision Genesis camera would help us in this way.
More importantly, we needed the Genesis to be a transparent experience for my crew, because we were in full production and didn’t have time to test it. Even when it was a go, my 1st assistant was concerned about using the Genesis with no prep. Although we tried to get two camera bodies for two days to shoot on the roof of a parking structure downtown, we ended up with only one. But Jon Cassar and I felt it was still worth trying. Our hope was that it would be transparent in an existing 35mm workflow.
When I agreed to use the Genesis, I was adamant that we didn’t put any sound on the recorder and didn’t take any cable feeds from the camera. On the first day, we did mount a 17-inch Astro LCD monitor to confidence-check that we were actually getting close to the color we needed to be at. After that, I used the half-res HD Astro monitor that was hanging on the camera.
As a matter of fact, in retrospect, it was effortless. Within 15 minutes of taking it out of the box, we had mounted the same follow-focus controls, and the assistants were familiar with everything on the front end. On the back there was a record button, a dial that allowed me to change the color temperature and the shutter opening and that was it. If I had wanted to go into the matrix, all of it was available – but for expediency I chose not to do that. I dialed in 3200 degrees Kelvin for color temperature and we just shot.
Anyone walking on the set would not realize that there was even a video camera present because the front end is identical to any other Panaflex. The recorder package mounts on the top or on the back of the body, emulating the look and feel of a 400-foot magazine, just like another Millennium. This was a psychological victory on the set, because everyone felt it went the same way it would have gone had it been a film camera.
My familiarity with digital imaging is through Canon’s series of still cameras and I’m familiar with the way they capture shadow detail and fail to capture highlight detail. I was, however, very impressed with this chip in that it did a much better job of realizing the highlights. It was employed as a C camera on the CTU set the very first day, and I did not change the lighting in any way. We discovered an anomaly when we saw dailies. The profile of the chip had been put together to emulate Kodak’sÃ¢Â€Â˜18 stock, which chokes up on the blacks somewhat more than ourÃ¢Â€Â˜29 Vision Expression stock, which has a gentle toe in the black area. Both post supervisor Paul Gadd and UPN producer Michael Klick were concerned that it looked different. We did scene-to-scene color correction to make it match the other footage, and the edit was seamless.
We put the Genesis through its paces. We mounted all the zooms including the 3:1; we mounted primes; we used it handheld. Because the camera would have run for an hour had we wanted, we were able to get two massive sequences and the dialogue in a helicopter without landing. We disassembled the camera with an umbilical feed from the head to the Sony SRW-1 recorder, stuck it in a helicopter with two doors open, and shot an 18-minute take from a helicopter. Kiefer was inside the helicopter doing dialogue with only the operator [ Guy Skinner ] present because of space limitations. Finally we put the camera on a hot head, a 36-foot crane, and hung it over the building.
The next day we heard via the grapevine that the crew in Sydney on Superman were upset that we took it apart and put it in a helicopter because no one had told them they could do that.