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Awake In The Dark
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Old November 18th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #1
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WWII in HD (on History Channel)

For those of you watching this, do you wonder whether this is a documentary or a more theatrical docudrama? From my perspective, this is an interesting and well made project. The part of it that sticks in my craw is that since most of the footage was shot MOS, the addition of "nat sound" in post is disingenuous. More than being a value judgment, something in my gut says "wrong" with the background ADR and foley is crafted to follow the story line when it's likely that the visuals might not be actually related to that story at all, in spite of the fact that they might be showing the proper location.

Maybe I'm not seeing the forest for the trees here, but are you comfortable with how they've done it and would you do it this way?
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Old November 18th, 2009, 09:03 AM   #2
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Hi Tripp, I'm really glad you brought this up, as I had been planning to do a short write-up on this series. It's produced by a friend of mine, a DV Info Net alumnus whose name will be recognized by long-time members here: Frederic Lumiere (formerly Frederic Haubrich).

The foley is one thing -- I also noticed it right away and had to think about it. In my opinion they couldn't *not* do it, as today's audience expects audio to follow video. It all comes down to how you define verisimilitude for your audience, based on their expectations. Do you "keep it real" by not adding sound over silent film, or do you "make it real" by doing the foley instead of an alternative, such as a music bed or additional VO. Perhaps I'll have to ask Frederic how he made that decision.

About matching the shots in any given sequence, my understanding was that he did heavy research in preproduction and relied on a detailed database of shots so that they were indeed using correct locations, etc. Again, maybe I should just ask him.

I'm trying hard to distance myself from my relationship with the producer, and I think if I can pretend that I don't know him, I'm pretty sure I'd still be totally impressed with what I've seen so far (have the whole thing set up on my DVR, but have seen only one out of twelve episodes; will do another today). Thanks again for making this topic.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #3
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I was watching last night and in a commercial break they did a quick little behind the scenes thing about new technology enabling them to capture the images in high quality and I swear out the corner of my eye (I was browsing the web at the same time) I caught a glimpse of a Red One body in their setup. Am I imagining things cause this didn't make sense to me. I figured they just ran the footage through a scanner or something.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #4
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Keep in mind that Frederic was Jim Jannard's right-hand man at the very beginning back in 2004-2005 before RED was first announced up through NAB 2006. So I would have been very surprised if he had not used a RED One in one way or another on this project.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 12:01 PM   #5
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I'm admittedly not very knowledgeable about film scanning/telecine but I was just a little surprised they didn't do a frame by frame scan instead of telecine. Maybe there isn't enough resolution in the original film to justify the added expense of scanning over telecine? I'm asking cause I don't know.

Also, I did notice on several occasions when they slowed the footage down what appeared to be some jello cam effect (whatever the technical term is). Was this caused by the process of slowing film down or somehow due to the fact that they did the telecine on a CMOS camera and then attempted to slow it down in post? Again, nobody kill me for asking cause I just don't know any better.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 01:15 PM   #6
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According to Frederic, they used a film scanner for some source material, a telecine for others, and in a couple of cases they shot projected film right off the wall, depending on a variety of factors.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 01:28 PM   #7
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The grandson of the person who owns the studio where it was produced is in my film class. He said they hired narrative editors to work on the project because they wanted it to have a more narrative feel over a documentary. I know some of the editors from the show "Weeds" were very involved in giving it its style.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 02:03 PM   #8
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I just saw an article about this documentary that covers some of the technical aspects I was asking about. It even includes a frame grab of the setup I saw last night that had me asking questions in the first place. It's a Red One pointed at a screen with a projector beside it, so I wasn't going nuts when I thought that's what I saw in the split second I caught it out the corner of my eye.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 02:32 PM   #9
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Wow! I was amazed that 1/my account was still active on DVINFO.net 2/my computer remembered my password!!!

Frederic here - there is a lot of misinformation on how we digitized the footage and where we digitized the footage.

We used many sources, Ascent Media, Bono, Prelinger and other companies in Europe. We used lots of different equipment from million dollar film scanners to the RED ONE shooting 8mm film projected on a wall.

We used the best option for every case and have thousands of hours of color footage from the 1940s some in 4K and some in HD.

But most importantly, we told important, historical and captivating stories... (at least we hope) :)
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Old November 18th, 2009, 02:40 PM   #10
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Hi Frederic, many thanks for responding here -- much appreciated!

To be perfectly honest with you, I was too busy being totally floored by the narrative to give much thought to any particular technical aspect of the production. I read Richard Tregaskis and Robert Sherrod when I was a young man; what you have done with this is as thoroughly compelling for me now on screen as it was for me in print back then... if not even more so.

It is definitely gripping material. You and your team have done a fantastic job; many congrats. Thanks again,
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Old November 18th, 2009, 02:45 PM   #11
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... to the RED ONE shooting 8mm film projected on a wall.
I was just shocked that this method was used at all, but I'm admittedly a novice on the subject of film transfer. I assume the 8mm in question was of such poor quality/resolution that any other method would have been overkill.

As far as how the material is presented, I find it quite interesting and inherently more watchable than many WWII docs. I especially like the technique of slowly fading out of the voice over to the live vet delivering the same line in his interview setting. Every time they do that it just seems such a nice smooth transition from the old to the new and reinforces that these are real people's stories and not just random bits of war footage. Very nicely done.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 03:13 PM   #12
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Thanks guys.

Chris - you're a stud.

Here's a recent interview I did which explains a little more of the creative approach:

themorningcall.com: TV Watchers Blog

Incase anyone's interested.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 08:39 PM   #13
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Wow... post an idiot question and all sorts of neat people chime in.

Chris... The reason I posted the original question was that I had been following the doco thread for some time because I had been drawn into doing a documentary on a now defunct race track in northern Vermont. This was my first so I pulled on my DVInfo thinking cap. I know that opinions can range from the conventional to the wild so I subscribed to those closest to my values in the production. They were conventional. Qu'elle dommage! Ripping up that convention would have caused me more work on a project that at most will sell 200 DVDs, but it might have been worth it. It would have at least measured the limits of my so called creativity. I'm an old newb and disinclined to "bomb the disco" the first time out.

Frederic... I think I posted my question after I had watched the first hour or two. I was trying to reconcile what you had done to my set of rules/values. Having now finished five hours it's time to throw away my arbitrary yard stick. Nicely done. I am riveted and am getting an education, not only about WWII, but about new ways to do things. Thank you and your crew for that.

As to thinking outside the box, I've worked in so many "box factories" over the years that I know that going against convention can bring some great rewards. Oh yea, it's gotten me fired a time or two as well. My life. My rules... and consequences.
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Old November 19th, 2009, 01:31 AM   #14
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I'm just starting to make my way through the series... I began out of order with Ep. #2; just watched #1 and am preparing myself for Tarawa tomorrow. Not looking forward to Saipan at all -- I know what to expect though. War is all hell, as Sherman put it some 145 years ago. From a production standpoint, the foley really doesn't bother me at all since it's so nicely done. And the *coolest* shot was right at the beginning of Ep. #1, that street in Manhattan that cross-fades from present day to 1940. Awesome.

And I have a new hero now, in the form of Jack Werner. Thanks, Frederic! Your people have done an amazing job.
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Old December 11th, 2009, 05:33 PM   #15
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I have now done work on two documentaries with old film at the source of the story. One we chose to do foley and sound design which I was in charge of. The more recent we chose to keep it real except for one instance where the narrator specifically talks about the sound. Bottom line is it has to fit the project. I think a lot of the "feel" would have been missed without adding sound to this footage.

WWII in HD is an amazing piece of work and I paid special attention to the look of the film as I have done a lot of telecine and scanning for projects. Hearing the methods used, I'm even more impressed with the results.
Hats off to the team who put that immense project together! Brilliant work!
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