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2nd Unit Television
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Old February 16th, 2008, 05:23 PM   #1
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Sorry to ask...

... but some of your episodes just look like regional tv (look at the framing and lighting in the george spiro dibie for example). I really like all of your program, I watched it all, but sometimes I was asking myself, when you got all that sponsoring and all, why does the interview just look like what I have to do sometimes when I'm alone and have to do two cameras and sound at once?

It kind of annoys me when I'm being told that I need to have a lighting kit that fills a truck, two operators for everything, a camera that costs a fortune, and so on - and at the same time this is being presented to me in interviews that I could do better myself with four 1K lamps and two HVX200 - alone! If you don't believe me I can post more than one video of a 2 person interview I have recorded alone (with the help of one intern) and three or four 800W-1kW lamps. Timeframe two hours at most...

I hope you won't outlaw me now - I'm seriously asking this question. Why is some (most?) of the 2nd unit tv stuff shot so cheaply? Don't you have any decent operators at all that participate in 2nd unit?
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Old February 18th, 2008, 07:17 PM   #2
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Heiko, you are absolutely right! Most of our shows were shot with a small crew 2-5 at most. 2 cameras one locked and the other moving. Sometimes with a total of 60 minutes or less to get into the set, setup, shoot the interview with exisiting lighting plus maybe a couple of LitePanels and get out! That is why they let us come to their sets, we did not get in anyones way. But our main goal is to educate filmmakers by "interviewing" some of the top people in the industry and passing it on. But thanks for your comments; we always appreciate it when someone takes the time to write a review. Because we are here for you guys.
Thanks for watching all our videos.
Scott C. Chambers

Last edited by Scott C. Chambers; February 18th, 2008 at 10:04 PM.
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Old February 19th, 2008, 10:26 AM   #3
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On the contrary; you're absolutely correct and I'm grateful for your thoughts. But, a little background is in order so you understand what we're doing . 2nd unit was founded as a teaching environment and I can't count the number of people who have gone through the program. And some stayed like Jaime Emmanuelli, Scott Chambers and Paolo Ciccone; three people who really, really know what they're doing on the set, in the editing both and virtually everywhere else but knowing what you're doing means, more than anything else, knowing how to let go and to step back and to make sure that, no matter what, the message of the real pros, the guests who have given of their time to help our audience, understand and learn; people like George Dibie and Rodney Charters. George Sipro Dibie was the very first interview we did and we did it in a "factory" setting and it was, by far, the worst, from a technical setting, we've done. And it was, by far, the most successful one we did because it was George Spiro Dibie. You see, he understood what mattered; the information, not the flash. The steak, not the sizzle. It was done by "amateurs" who were there to learn, not succeed and for an 8-time Emmy-Award winning Cinematographer to give of his time knowing that it wouldn't be perfect speaks to the quality of the idea. And his recent note the it's time to "do it again" speaks volumes about the idea, 2nd Unit and a whole library about the character of the man I'm truly proud to call "my Friend". Much has happened since that first interview. George lost his young daughter and then, a few months later, his wife of more than 4 decades. I went under the knife to have significant lower back surgery because I couldn't live with the pain or on constant pain medications anymore and then the industry shut down for 3-months and to cap it all off, my own wife fell and broke her hip requiring my round the clock care for the next 2 1/2 months. I say all this not for sympathy but to illustrate the strength of 2nd Unit. Life is about learning, coping, getting better and continuing on better than we started out and that's exactly what you see and have commented on. And that's exactly what the thousands of e-mails and postings we've received evidence as well. Despite all of the problems over the past year, 2nd Unit is still here and still free. If you look at each succeeding episode, you'll note that improvement is the word of the day which is exactly why Jaime is able to book so many quality people... because each and every one of them remember the days when they were starting out but had no 2nd Unit or guest Pros to listen to or watch. Where else are you going to get people like Rodney Charters... and direct from the set of "24" no less. No one gets near that set much less shoots any footage on it. And as for Rodney, he's the Number 1 Cinematographer in a very competitive industry which is why he was selected for "24"; one of the most innovative and difficult shows to light and shoot in industry history. Think about it. What other show has continuing shots with characters standing, turning, walking, running 90, 180 and 270 degrees from the initial shot!? And with no break to re-set lighting, he pulls it off. You know like anyone who's set a shot how difficult it is to light a single angle correctly. Now imagine doing perfect lighting when the key light instantly become the back light, kickers, top, side and other lights change responsibilities as characters move, turn and walk or run down a hallway. Rodney Charters is, as a Cinematographer but beyond that, as a friend, simply the best person I know. So is George who wrote the book on sitcom and multi-camera lighting. So remember that 2nd Unit is not so much about it's look but the information it provides... for free. I mean, where else can you go back stage and talk with the gaffers and grips, UPMs and cinematographers of shows like The Unit, The Office, 24 and a dozen others. Where else can you go inside the armory that supplies 90% of the guns for all of the top television and motion pictures, again, an area never before filmed. Where else can you listen to Randal Einhorn, Brad Lipson, Bobby Finley and others from Men in Black, Jurasic Park, Die Hard, Forest Gump and a hundred others talk about exactly what you note on your 2nd Unit site posting. Nowhere. That's why, no matter what search engine you use, typing in 2nd Unit results in our show popping up 2nd or 3rd in the listing. And, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a cable show is now offering to do exactly what we have been doing for 2 years now...for a price, a big price. And finally it's why our sponsors continue to support us including Chris Hurd.

So, your question is a valid one and one I hope I've answered. And as to "all that sponsor's money", it's really not all that much compared to what it costs to pull this show off, even with volunteer manpower as any of our guests will tell you. If it wasn't for the fat that they also provide the equipment we use, it couldn't be done. In fact, there are times we run short and people like Scott Chambers who's so committed to the idea that he paid his own way to New York to shoot Tiffen and Scorsese's new Film School. If it wasn't for people like Chuck Haifley who traded the use of his entire stage for our help on other things or Chuck Lee at Fujinon who found and flew in from Germany a specific "George Lucas Star Wars lens we needed for a specific set of shots or Chris Hurd for sticking with us through some very difficult times, the money our sponsors provide wouldn't begin to cover costs and for that, I'll be forever in their debt. It's Sony, Fujinon, Tiffen, Big Vision Studios, Adobe and the others who know the value of education that make 2nd Unit work and now, with the strike over, we'll be posting more interviews, hopefully with ever-improving quality. But please, while you're looking at the work our volunteer filmmakers do, listen to what our guests are saying.

I'm sorry for the length of this answer but, as you can tell, 2nd Unit is a passion for me and for the people who work on it and to have people like you ask intelligent questions and bring up pertinent points is what 2nd Unit and DVINFO is all about. So thank you.
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Old February 19th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #4
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Crikey! I bet you regret asking the question, now, Heiko.
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Old February 19th, 2008, 03:48 PM   #5
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I think this is an excellent observation. The quality of the programs defiantly has gotten progressively better, from a production stand point.

But the content was there from the very beginning. Right out of the gates the programs provided fantastic information.

I look forward to more episodes.
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Old February 20th, 2008, 11:50 AM   #6
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Addendum to Reply

First, thank you for the added comments, guys. I appreciate them. Second, I did want to address something I failed to originally speak to that Heiko said because it's the very basis for 2nd Unit and I believe DVINFO. When Heiko said, "Don't you have any decent operators", in fact we do. But when they're on 2nd Unit, they turn into teachers, not operators. Operations are left to those who ask us to be a part of the series so they can meet the people who are the true professional like those whom we interview, work with great equipment and take advantage of a wealth of knowledge available through hands-on learning which explains why the companies support us.

One of the proudest days in my life, right behind the birth of my daughters, was when Adobe, Sony, Fujinon and Tiffen asked us to present in their booths at NAB 2006 and explain a short film Jaime Emmanuelli, Scott Chambers and Paolo Ciccione shot called "El Papel". Everyone we talked to said it couldn't be done; shooting the script with the lighting it called for with a 1/2" camera. One of the things that 2nd Unit teaches is that it's not the camera, it's the knowledge of the operator. Light, lens and camera all have to come together in the hands of a team that understands the abilities and limitations of each for a shot to be fulfilling. Using a Sony F350 and a series of Fujinon lenses we got the 350 to effect a complete pilot but more than that, we got it to give us an astounding opening shot that stretched the limitations of the camera relative to DOF, latitude and everything else including a wonderful rack focus that made the shot work. And that's why I felt compelled to write this addendum.

All too many times, filmmakers seem to think they need the latest and greatest to fulfill their needs when exactly the opposite is true. The JVC 100HD is a wonderful camera which is why we used it for so long, purchased at our own expense, but it has limitations inherent to all 1/3" cameras. P&S Technic, Red Rock and others extend the range of that camera and with the 200 series its become even better, especially at that price point and Paolo continues today to get the JVC line to do things that are truly amazing because he knows the camera and has the education and vision to see what he wants in his mind and set the camera to give him those results. But there are things that 1/3" cameras can't do and we moved to the 1/2" Sony, especially for El Papel which shot the opening night scene on a 30X40 Big Vision stage that was totally dark except for the light of 4 Litepanels 1X1s with 4 full blue gels over them and 2 Litepanels minis hidden behind candles to give us the specific illumination we needed. As evidenced by NAB 2006, the 2nd Unit team got that F350, with the right lenses and lighting, to do things no one in any of our audiences thought was possible with a 1/2" camera. The moral of the story is this. Know your equipment and be willing to teach for in teaching, in helping others and answering others' questions like Chris and every other contributor to DVINO does, we help ourselves further understand our tools and expand or imagination. So, in point of fact, no, we don't have any decent operators. We have wonderful operators who are willing to learn from the true greats in the industry we interview who will, because they have the hands-on opportunity, become better operators, cinematographers, gaffers, grips and the like. And we have outstanding teachers who can take equipment and make it do amazing things, things anyone can make their equipment do if they know how light, lens and camera all come together. Does film have its place. Always. Do 2/3" cameras give you more latitude and the like than 1/2" cameras? Absolutely. But far too many times, people let Madison Avenue and its multi-million dollar advertising campaigns dictate the filmmaker's choice and the glitz and the glamour of a well-produced advertising campaign makes you think you need a better camera... or lens, or light or whatever when in truth, the filmmaker has only begun to scratch the surface of what their existing equipment can do. El Papel is proof of this when Jaime and Scott and Paolo really pulled every bit of performance that was available out of the team and the system they had at hand; all this while we had, because of Jaime's reputation and experience, free access to any lighting we need. Fujinon gave us free-run of anything we needed. Tiffen opened the doors to us and Adobe did so as well. And yet we chose the Sony F350, a few Fujinon lenses and some 1X and mini Lite panels for a short that, in the end, our sponsors thought warranted exhibition at NAB to show what the right tools in the right hands can do. Not much more could be said for why 2nd Unit exists, DVINFO is the champion web site for filmmakers it is and why cinematography and filmmaking has the passionate siren call they have for artistic people. Whatever equipment you have, use it to its potential and the thousands of subscribers to DVINFO are here to help you do that. I don't know where you live bt if it's close to Los Angeles, we'd be pleased and proud to have you join us and lend us your experience so that others may learn from your expertise as they have learned from the people we interview and through the expertise of Jaime, Scott and Paolo's.
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Old February 20th, 2008, 10:07 PM   #7
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Jonathan, thank you so much for your comments! It was actually last year at the "2007" N.A.B. where we were stars! So many people came up to me after the Adobe theater show (200+ seats) asking questions. There was so much excitment, I was so jealous that I had to go to catch a flight!!!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 08:36 PM   #8
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Jeez, it looks fine, don't let this one critic throw you...

The 2nd Unit material looks fine, especially for what it is. It is not a film noire, it is not a sitcom, it is not big-budget feature film. It is an educational video, and if you've seen many educational videos, you would realize that the look of 2nd Unit stands head and shoulders above 99.99% of them.

I think it is very generous of Johnathan and the others who responded to take the original poster seriously and address the issues that were raised. But please, 2nd Unit team, don't let one person out of TENS OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS who have enjoyed your visuals give you one more instant of concern.

Congratulations, all of you who've poured your hearts out, given your time, and shared your personal learning curves with the world for and with 2nd Unit, on a job not just well done, but very well done.

Now if anything sucked it was the sound, but then I did some of that so what do you expect? Just kidding!

Tip McPartland
Vice President of Production and Development
TMC Mediaworks
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Old February 29th, 2008, 04:40 PM   #9
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Thanks, Tip

As some of you know, my wife of 16 years, soul-mate and best friend fell and fractured her hip requiring surgery, three screws, a plate and 2.5 months of down time. We're in the middle of revamping the site and Jaime, Scott and Paolo have been like family supporting us not to mention Chris. Hopefully a new and improved site will be up and running by Springtime back behind the scenes. And from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who knew and especially George Dibbie, Chuck Lee at Fujinon, Wayne Zuchowski at Sony and the teams at Adobe and Tiffen, thanks for the well-wishes and prayers. We're losing the quality of filmmaking quickly and it's up to us, the independent filmmakers to 1) sustain REAL quality in filmmaking, 2) make certain that reality shows can't be the standard-bearers of quality, 3) evidence that a simple ScrimJim and roll of Lee ND are absolute requisites to a well-planned a day-lit shot that contains a window in the background (latitude should be understood and should matter) and finally 4) the future of a century-old craft is in our hands.

It's been a tough year since NAB '07, and no one knows that better than the internal family here at 2nd Unit like Scott, Jaime, Paolo, Chuck at Big Vision and, yes, even you, Tip, not to mention Joe Bowey and the rest but with lessons learned, humility acquired and accepted, a well-healed wife and a second chance, 2nd Unit will re-launch in the Spring and '08 will be a good year. Finally, I I could be so bold as to ask, any prayers for Joyce would be well-appreciated.
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Old February 29th, 2008, 05:39 PM   #10
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Your always in our prayers. And if you can't make it to NAB, Then give me an address so I can unload some coffee and tea I have been saving up.

This was a up and down year. Did some excellent work and got ripped off by very evil people in this trade. (Watch out for jobs on craig list). But overall a learning experience. Since the shooting jobs have dried up recently, I have been editing. Just finished a Ford Mustang presentation.

Anyways going to vegas cause I am having TWIN BOYS in july and that will keep me busy.

Keep in touch and I am always there with anthing I could help with.

Keep the dream alive, Joe Bowey
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Old February 29th, 2008, 09:31 PM   #11
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All of our prayers from the Chambers family go out to Joyce! She rocks!!! As one of the producers for 2nd-unit I can't wait till we get to shooting the new episodes. I have some great guest's!!!!
Scott C. Chambers
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