(SECAUCUS, NJ--July 11, 2006) New York City's Broadway is by any definition one of the world's greatest avenues. Extending from Bowling Green near the foot of Manhattan north to 262nd St. in the Bronx, Broadway is home to the fabulously wealthy and the indigent alike. It is mecca to the theatrical elite, and also teems with incredible street life. And it was Broadway's street theater that appealed to veteran sports producer Rob Liano, who enlisted cinematographer colleagues to show up with their AJ-HDC27 VariCam® HD Cinema cameras earlier this month to shoot--over the course of only 12 hours--a documentary about the avenue.
In a rare example of democratic filmmaking, the participating cameramen on the documentary (called A Broad Way) comprised more than 220 amateur shooters, who brought their own handheld cameras and were assigned to document one Manhattan Broadway block—for one hour only. The ultimate goal was to capture the sights and sounds of Broadway from Battery Park to upper Manhattan. While A Broad Way is slated for theatrical release, more than 300 hours of footage will ultimately be posted online for access by participants and the public, with the intention that a countless number of interpretations of the documentary will be created and will compete in an ongoing web-based film festival.
Liano, founder of production company Saul Goode Entertainment (New York NY) created the event, and serves as producer and co-director with Tom Coppola of the documentary. Watching passers-by from his apartment at 10th Street and Broadway was his inspiration for the project. He decided that the only way to capture the avenue's constant hubbub was to put scores of cameras on the street.
"I knew that our amateur shooters (recruited online) would show up June 6 with varying experience levels and cameras ranging from Hi 8s to DVX100s, which turned out to be the case," Liano said. "Having worked with the VariCam for years, I knew that it was the camera I needed to tell the story of this event and give me a cohesive beginning, middle and end. Shooting HD with the VariCam assured me perfect images as ‘wrapping paper' for the documentary."
Liano has spent more than 20 years as one of broadcasting's top sports producers. This year alone, he has directed VariCam crews shooting ice-skating features at the Winter Olympics in Torino; specialty elements and teases at the U.S. Ice Skating Nationals; and The Masters Movie, the official highlights documentary covering the Grand Slam golf tournament.
"As A Broad Way is essentially a labor of love, I called in a raft of professional favors, and enlisted six of the finest cinematographers I know to shoot the event," Liano recounted. "Five of them own their own VariCams and Liman Video Rentals (New York, NY) generously donated two Panasonic AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO50 camcorders, which inter-cut beautifully with the HD cameras."
Liano's camera crew began their day shortly after 6 a.m. shooting scenics on and around Broadway. After that, their core assignment was to shoot the amateur cinematographers at work. Two VariCam shooters documented the mass crew call at Roseland (52nd and Broadway) at 2 p.m., where participants registered, checked in their cameras and received their assignments. Once they reached their designated block by 5 p.m., VariCam photographers were positioned in four convertibles up and down the avenue, and when the project officially began at 5:30 p.m., they recorded the action, shooting out of the back of the moving cars. Once the hour-long shoot concluded, the pros all returned to Roseland, where they documented the spontaneous wrap parties until midnight.
Liano said he intends to have a first cut of the documentary completed by the end of October. "This is a gargantuan post challenge," he said. "At this point, we're downconverting all 300 hours of footage for nonlinear offline. For the theatrical release, we'll upconvert the material back to HD." The edit is being done at Postworks (New York, NY).
Sometime in early fall, Liano will post all 300 hours of footage online for viewing and downloading. "The theatrical distribution is all well and good," he said, "but the heart of the project is how the public will embrace the opportunity to interpret the mass of material we've created."
"With the VariCam, we took the production bar as high as we possibly could," Liano noted. "With capable shooters, there is simply no better tool for attaining incredible images and a distinctive look. We had top cinematographers working with their favorite camera, and their material is really rich, full of character and totally evocative of New York City."
Panasonic's AJ-HDC27 VariCam replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition, including 24-frame progressive scan images, time lapse recording, and a wide range of variable frame rates (4-fps to 60-fps in single-frame increments) for "overcranked" and "undercranked" off-speed in-camera effects. The AJ-HDC27 VariCam also features CineGamma™ software that permits Panasonic's HD Cinema camera systems to more closely match the latitude of film stocks.
About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast and professional video products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the North American headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the company's web site at www.panasonic.com/broadcast.