|By Stacey K. Black|
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Hello! It's been a while. Did you miss us? Well it sure is good to be back!
I just watched last night's brand new episode of The Closer, and again, even though I was there while it was shot, I was still struck by how amazing it is. How Kyra, as Brenda, can say SO much, just with her face, is just the tip of the iceberg. She stares at Phillip Stroh with what appears to be no expression, and yet conveys so much emotion. What a powerhouse!
I have talked, in the past, about how things can be thrown at us last minute and our job is to "make it happen." That was the case with the character of Natalie Gilbert, chillingly portrayed by the very talented Julia Whelan. I believe it was a Friday night, I was in my Hair trailer, getting ready for the weekend, and all of a sudden, a crazy version of "the huddle" (First A.D. Joan Cunningham, Director Steve Robin, Producers Andy Sacks and Ronnie Chong, and guest star Julia Whelan), came thundering into my sanctuary with some interesting news. Now, if you have watched The Closer in the past, and if you've seen the previous episode with Stroh, then you know that he has a penchant for blond women.
Anyway, the news from the crazy huddle, was that the girl they cast as Natalie (Julia), one of Stroh's (maybe) former rape victims, was brunette. And she works Monday. And she's not blond. And did I already mention it's Friday night?
Looking at Julia's hair, I know right away that chemically lightening is out of the question. Her hair is very fine, and any amount of bleaching or lightening would be too harsh and leave her hair a mess. It would have been easy enough to find a nice blond wig over the weekend, but there was a more interesting route to take, and luckily, Director Steve Robin was up for the trip.
According to the story, the character of Natalie had been homeless for about a year. So if she had been a bottle blond a year ago, she would have darker roots, at this point in time, right? So for her old photo, we used a blond wig, and for her performance in the current time, I pulled out some blond extensions and voila. Instant roots.
I do love when a plan comes together.
But enough about me. This episode marked a very special occasion for The Closer. For the past 6 and a half years, the show has been shot on 35 mm film. The industry standard. For many reasons, over the past few years, that same industry seems to be leaning toward digital video, or HD (High Definition) Video, and The Closer made the change on this very episode. Bye-bye film. Hello HD. Along with the new Alexa cameras, we also welcomed a new crew member, Evin Grant, the DIT Guy. And what, you may ask, is DIT? Let's find out together!
(NOTE: Evin is extremely brainy. He speaks in paragraph length run-on sentences filled with techno-speak and polysyllabic words. But because he's also very tall and so easy on the eyes, I just nod and pretend I understand)
SKB: Hi Evin, thank you for agreeing to speak with me. On the call sheet, your job title is "DIT." Will you tell me what that stands for, and what your job entails?
EG: Well, it's a fairly amorphous job, but primarily I have three responsibilities. First is data. I take the information that the camera shoots and I shepherd that from the camera magazines, to Post Production. Because of the nature of digital material, I do a redundant backup, here on set, as well as onto drives that get sent to Post. During the process I use a program that mathematically verifies the information to make sure that it is 100% accurate to what was shot on the camera. So, that's the IT Guy portion of my job.
Second, I work as a sort of camera mechanic on set. I keep the cameras happy. They're basically big computers, they have software issues sometimes, and other video issues, and it's important to have someone on set who understands all of these problems, to go in, solve them, and keep the show on schedule. Especially for crews who, for the majority of their careers have been working with mechanical film cameras, once you add these computerized devices into the mix, it makes things run smoother to have someone who is very computer inclined who understands the technicalities that are involved in the camera system.
The third main portion of my job as DIT, is exposure and color. For that job I work very closely with the Director of Photography, and it's my job to interpret a lot of the electronic image parameters, color parameters, and things that affect the look of the show, to allow the DP and the Director to get their vision across.
SKB: When HD first reared it's head in our world, it seemed like people were terrified of it.
EG: I call that FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, Disinformation. See, the first generation of HD cameras were designed basically as slightly modified broadcast cameras. The kind of cameras that were used on the evening news, and for what we would consider very video-like applications. Because of that, they had a tendency to not have a very cinematic looking image, and they tended to over-sharpen fine-line detail to make up for the fact that there were generally not very good resolution and that accentuation of the micro-contrast tended to make people look much harsher than we were used to with 35 mm film.
(I'm nodding, and smiling)
SKB: We've made huge strides since then.
EG: Yes we have made some very huge strides. We are now into what I would consider to be the third generation of the various digital cinema cameras that are out there, and these are not really video cameras in the sense that they are not designed to shoot video specifically for the purpose of just recording a video signal, they are designed to be film replacements, or emulate the general feel and look of what we consider to be cinematic 35 mm film. And we use primarily, for most digital feature films and digital television shows, cameras that have sensors that are the same size as 35 mm film, we use all the same lenses, and really the only thing that is different in how we approach it is that instead of recording onto a piece of film which then gets sent to a lab and processed, we're recording onto a digital file which then gets sent to a different lab to be transcoded. So. A lot of the things are the same. I guess the biggest difference, really, is cost. Film is just very expensive to buy, to shoot, to process, to then transfer to an electronic format which all television shows are broadcast in, the cost savings can be upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode.
SKB: You just shot your newest short film, SAND, on the Red camera, right?
EG: On the Red Epic, yes.
SKB: Thank you for giving me a sneak peek at some of your footage. It's very beautiful, and specific, and I wonder, would you have been able to do the same thing with film rather than digital?
EG: I would have been able to shoot it, sure, but it would have cost at least 50% more to shoot on film.
SKB: Wow! That's significant.
EG: That is significant.
(I am so glad I pulled out a four syllable word. Whew).
EG: I would say for me, the real benefit of using the Red Epic camera, is actually for it's size. It's bigger than an SLR, but not much bigger. Even with professional film lenses attached, you can do things with a camera of that size that would become much harder for a small crew to do with film, unless they have much larger budgets. Not to mention the sheer weight of the film stock that I would have had to pack, pretty much, on the back of a donkey.
EG: I have one shot in SAND where I was able to put my Red camera on a light stand and get it 25 feet up in the air, and get a very neat aerial shot. If I'd had to use a camera that was even 30 or 40% heavier, it wouldn't have worked on a lightweight rig like that.
SKB: Evin, you came in during season 7 onto a show where the crew and cast have been together for many years. Have you been enjoying your time with us?
EG: Oh, I love this crew. We've become a big fast family. I love the camaraderie. I've been on a lot of sets where I feel the delineation of creative people and technical people, or crew members and cast members, is so hard to penetrate, but here, on this show, well for example, you, DMac, Sheelin, are all able to direct an episode, and there's the feeling that everyone is in this thing together. You know, some shows are like that but it's rare.
SKB: It's so rare.
EG: Yeah, and I really appreciate that.
SKB: And I appreciate you letting me pick your monstrous brain. Thanks Evin!
Stacey has been burnin' hair on Hollywood TV and Film sets since 1996. She is a two-time Emmy nominee for her Hair Styling prowess on "GLEE." Her other credits include the feature films "THE STEPFATHER," "RUNNING WITH SCISSORS," "THE MINUS MAN," and TV Series "NIP/TUCK," "JAKE IN PROGRESS," "THE D.A.," "EZ STREETS," "PROVIDENCE," "CSI:NY," "TOTAL SECURITY," TNT's "THE CLOSER," and the new "MAJOR CRIMES," where she is enjoying season 1 as Department Head Hairstylist. Stacey also made the jump to Director during season 6 of The Closer, on the episode "Last Woman Standing," and since the episode didn't suck, she was handed the reigns once again for her second episode,"Star Turn," during season 7. She somehow snowed the powers-that-be into letting her direct an episode of "Major Crimes" during season 1. Her methods of persuasion remain a mystery. She also enjoys making music and movies. And hobo salmon.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer/speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.