(Secaucus, New Jersey--March 10, 2009) Starz Entertainment recently wrapped principal photography on its new half-hour comedy series, “Party Down,” shooting it entirely with AJ-HPX3000 native 1080p P2 HD camcorders. The 10-episode scripted series, produced by the channel’s affiliated company Starz Media, will debut exclusively on Starz on Friday, March 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT and will air in high-definition. The Director of Photography is Giovani Lampassi.
The comedy follows a team of Hollywood cater-waiters – a sextet of dreamers and wannabes -- stuck working for tips while hoping for their "big break." Having opted out of “normal” lives of traditional jobs and nuclear families, this crew of misfits passes the days assuming that their time in catering is just a brief place-holder before success inevitably transforms them from unremarkable unknowns into “Somebodies.” Each episode is a catered event -- a senior singles mixer, a Sweet Sixteen party gone horribly wrong, a soiree at a social club for organized crime, and so on.
DP Lampassi explained that Starz’ distribution needs led to shooting in native 1080p and after reviewing his choices found the HPX3000 to be the best fit. “Our shooting style is documentary and handheld, for which we felt the HPX3000 was preferable,” said Lampassi. “Also, as I have experience shooting in P2 HD, I was familiar with the workflow and confident that the HPX3000 wouldn’t present any data issues between the camera and post.”
“The HPX3000, with its film camera-like operation, the intuitive remote focus and zoom, makes a film veteran like me quite comfortable,” he added. The production rented two HPX3000s from Sim Video (Los Angeles); shooting began in mid-December and wrapped at the end of February.
With a background in both cinematography and lighting, Lampassi has considerable experience in quickly setting up mini sound stages on location, which is standing him in good stead on “Party Down.” Each episode was shot wholly on location, with actual venues used for the party sites. (For instance, an Elks Club stands in for the mob social club.) Each shoot enlisted up to 100 extras as party-goers.
“The HPX3000 is a great camera and I’m very happy with the image quality,” Lampassi said. “The low light performance has been phenomenal. While we are, of course, using supplemental lighting, we’ve been very successful shooting dark locations such as a nightclub, where we’ve exposed as for film and lit at only 2-3 foot-candles. The grain structure is really good.”
Lampassi worked with Panasonic to establish his camera settings: -3 dB for exterior day, O dB for interiors and + 3 dB at 1250 ISO for exterior night. He shot 1080/24p full-raster native 1920 x 1080 resolution with the AVC-Intra codec, and using the HPX3000’s Film-Rec 500% gamma setting, a feature that ensured recording of the imager’s full dynamic range and higher bit depths, especially valuable for linear color correction in post production. The camcorders were outfitted with Canon cine-style zoom lenses.
The production’s two camera operators worked completely handheld, with each HPX3000 rigged out with matte boxes, Preston remote focus, and a 5” monitor for the AC. A departure from typical sit-com cinematography, Lampassi shot 90% cross-coverage, with the A camera on the A actor, B camera on the B actor. “I had to light two directions at once, so it’s a test of my lighting skills,” Lampassi said, “but it served the show’s improvisational elements.”
The DP used 32GB P2 cards, opting to shoot one card at a time. Once a card is full, two mirrored copies were made -- one copy was sent to editing, the second copy was cleared and the P2 card was reformatted once an editor confirmed the footage was “safe.”
“We realized considerable economies shooting P2 vs. film,” Lampassi noted. “As an example, we recently shot the equivalent of 20,000 ft. on one scene, without any concerns about media costs.”
Starz Media is handling post-production of the series. “Party Down” is being edited in Final Cut Pro, and the deliverable to Starz will be D-5 HD.
For more information about Party Down, visit http://www.starz.com/originals/PartyDown
About the AJ-HPX3000
With three 2/3” high-density 2.2-megapixel CCDs, the HPX3000 captures cinema-quality images in full-raster 1920 x 1080 resolution with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling, utilizing the powerful, new AVC-Intra codec. The HPX3000 offers intuitive film camera-like operation with advanced gamma settings, including Film-Rec mode (made popular by the VariCam). Designed for episodic television, filmmaking and commercial production where mastering quality is essential, the HPX3000 records in industry-standard DVCPRO HD at 1080 in 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i and 60i, and in AVC-Intra. AVC-Intra, the industry’s most advanced compression technology, provides high-quality 10-bit intra-frame encoding utilizing the Hi-10 and Hi-422 profiles of H.264 in two modes: AVC-Intra 100 for full-raster mastering video quality and AVC-Intra 50 Mbps for DVCPRO HD quality at half the bit rate, thereby doubling the record time on a P2 card. For added flexibility, the HPX3000 can also produce standard definition recordings in DVCPRO50, and is 60/50-Hz switchable for worldwide use. For more information on the HPX3000, visit 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 company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE Symbol: PC) the hub of Panasonic’s U.S. branding, marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, visit www.panasonic.com/broadcast