‘Clear Blue Tuesday,’ Post-9/11 Dramatic Feature Punctuated With Song, Is Shot With Panasonic AG-HPX500 P2 HD Camcorders


Last Updated: October 26, 2009 4:21 pm GMT
(Secaucus, New Jersey--October 26, 2009) "Clear Blue Tuesday", a highly original cinematic response to the events of September 11, 2001, blends heightened narrative and original music to follow the lives of a group of New Yorkers over seven Septembers as they relearn their city and themselves. The full-length feature, which had its world premiere last month at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, was shot with two Panasonic AG-HPX500 P2 HD camcorders.

Director Elizabeth Lucas and an ensemble of 11 actor/singer/songwriters from the indie rock scene, comedy clubs and Broadway theatre used personal material and improvisation to create their fictional Clear Blue Tuesday counterparts and write the eclectic songs they sing. With a 50-page script outline in hand, Lucas initiated a 19-day shoot in October 2007, with locations ranging from an entire top floor of the new 7 World Trade Center to law offices in Rockefeller Center to various restaurants and apartments recruited from the ranks of the cast and friends of the production. The Director of Photography was Raoul Germain.

“We discussed many different cameras, but there were several deciding factors in our choice of the HPX500,” said DP Germain. “First, we were looking for a camera with a 2/3-in. chip, and HD was a must. We briefly considered shooting with the HVX200, but I wanted the control of a full manual lens and the depth of field of a larger chip.”

“As Clear Blue Tuesday was to be pretty much 100% handheld driven by the improvisational nature of the shoot, the camera also had to be light and not at all cumbersome,” he continued. “The ability to download our footage at the end of the day with the P2 cards and have it edit ready was a huge plus and negated the need to rent a deck during editing, which would have been a big-ticket item for us. None of the other cameras could offer the kind of turnaround of image for the cost.”

The production rented two AG-HPX500s from Isis Rental (New York, NY); Germain used both camcorders in almost every scene for either double or cross coverage.

“Anybody who has shot on location in New York City can tell you that you are in for an uphill battle,” he said. “Most locations were walk-ups, without any elevator service. Consider the fact that most New York apartments are just big enough for two grown people to turn around in, and you will understand the challenge of shooting a motion picture in one. I tried to use as much natural light as possible, exploiting window light whenever possible. Many of our locations were older buildings that still used glass fuses. We didn’t have the budget for a generator and had to pull house power. Consequently, we used a lot of Kino Flos and smaller wattage tungsten units. We had no budget for HMIs.”

“But having to use smaller lighting units was really not a problem as the HPX500 has a great light sensitivity,” Germain added. “I rated the camera in the realm of 640 ASA; in bright daylight I set the camera at –3dB and used additional ND filtering in order to really open up the lens and throw the background out of focus. I have always been happy with the Panasonic color scheme. Skin tones are very natural out of the gate. The ability to choose Cine style gamma and color ranges helped to give the image a more dynamic feel than typical video, truly more cinematic.”

“The HPX500’s dynamic range is very impressive as well,” Germain said. “This film features a lot of rock and roll music sequences, and I wanted to give it a hard back light feel in several instances. The camera was able to hold quite a bit of detail in those highlights and still give me fantastic exposure in the shadows. I actually had to use less fill light than I have ever used before. Indeed, the camera is so nicely balanced on the low end of the exposure range that I was able to light one close-up with only a single candle about 1½ feet from our actor’s face, allowing the scene to feel extremely intimate.”

The DP made extensive use of the HPX500’s variable frame rate capture. ”We both over and under cranked the camera for different effects in the film,” he noted. “What was particularly helpful was the instant playback of the shot, which allowed Elizabeth and me to test, review and decide if we wanted more or less under or over crank.

“Most of our overcrank was at 48fps; for specific shots, like papers falling through a green screen, we used 60fps to really capture them flowing through the air. This was for an effects shot, and I was a bit nervous that we were not going to be able to key in an off-speed capture. But the end shot was fantastic, a tribute to the DVCPRO codec.”

“After extensive talks with our rental house, the decision was made to use SD lenses on the HPX500s,” Germain said. “We were shooting in 720 24pN mode and a solid SD lens resolves over 800 lines. While the image might have been a bit crisper with a true HD lens, I am extremely happy with the resulting imagery in Clear Blue Tuesday. We shot with a longer 21x and wide 11x lenses, which made coverage of scenes easier as we could shoot tights and wides at the same time, preserving what was essentially an improvised script. We had a standard matte box set-up for the cameras, but aside from a few special effects shots where the camera had to be locked off, the film was pretty much handheld.”

The Clear Blue Tuesday edit, effects work and color correction were handled in Final Cut Studio. Director Lucas said that she was scheduling additional screenings and video podcasts for the movie, and was planning to launch a self-distributing marketing campaign.

“The HPX500 brought so much more than I could have expected to the production” she said. “It was lightweight, affordable and, most importantly, the visual quality is stunning.”

“In all, I had a great experience with the HPX500,” Germain added. “The P2 system was robust and quick to use. In two weeks of solid shooting, we never lost a frame. The DVCPRO codec was fantastic for our special effects work with green screen. The image was consistent from camera to camera, and from day to day. Ultimately, the proof is up on the screen.”

For more information about Clear Blue Tuesday, visit http://www.clearbluetuesday.com.

About the HPX500
The AG-HPX500 teams the full production-quality of 2/3” 3-CCDs, DVCPRO HD, 4:2:2 sampling and independent frame encoding with the versatility of interchangeable lenses and the creativity of variable frame rates. Offering the highly popular features of the incredibly successful AG-HVX200 P2 HD hand-held camcorder but with many new enhancements, the 8.2-pound HPX500 features progressive 2/3” 3-CCDs that provide a larger light receiving area resulting in increased resolution and sensitivity, superb low-light performance and wide dynamic range. The HPX500 records in 32 high definition and standard definition formats, including 1080i and 720p in production-proven, 100 Mbps DVCPRO HD. The HPX500 records on removable P2 solid-state memory cards in 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p; in 720/60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p; and in DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV. For more information on the HPX500, visit http://www.panasonic.com/P2HD.

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 of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC) and the hub of Panasonic’s U.S. branding, marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, visit http://www.panasonic.com/broadcast.


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