"Alabama" pilot in the can...and a big announcement at DVinfo.net

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Old December 11th, 2010, 01:18 AM   #1
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"Alabama" pilot in the can...and a big announcement

Hi DVI'ers.

Today I spent eight fantastic hours in the Davinci suite at Laser Pacific in Hollywood color-correcting (oh sorry, "grading"--I'm old school) the pilot for the FX series "Alabama". We shot it in four long days in October and it's heading for network delivery by mid-next week. Very exciting stuff.

The show was created by Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, who are known for "The State", "Viva Variety" and of course "Reno 911". I operated their feature "Balls of Fury" a few years ago and they subsequently invited me to appear on and behind camera as "Steadicam Operator" (talk about typecasting!) on an episode of Reno. When I heard about the concept for this show, Reno meets Battlestar Galactica, I was thrilled. The guys told me they were planning to shoot on an actual vintage submarine for the spaceship (they wanted it dirty and authentic), and while bandying around how we would approach it, I showed them footage I shot on the 1DMKIV and how it can do wonders in low light. That clinched the deal, and I came onboard.

Imagine a crew of 25 plus half as many again cast members crowding onto an actual submarine (The Scorpion, moored next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach) and trying to load gear, run cable, rig lights, etc. The sub had four hatches along its length that required one to essentially slide through--again, imagine doing that all day with gear. It was an epic experience! We used two 1D's equipped with a set of Zeiss CP2's, couple of Canon zooms and the cine-style Focus Optics Ruby 14-24. AC's worked from Panasonic 17" monitors in adjoining rooms, pulling focus via Prestons (no room on the sets for them). Our fourth day was a marathon day exterior in the Arboreteum in Arcadia, CA, standing in for an alien planet.

The fantastic cast included comedy geniuses such as Mindy Sterling, Rob Huebel, Natasha Leggero and much to my delight, a guest appearance by Eddie Izzard as the alien overlord. Tom and Ben were of course in there as well. All dialogue was improvised from their script outline.

Having now seen the final cut, it's got a lot of laughs and I'm very pleased with the look. The 1D held up beautifully, with the spaceship interior very high contrast with lots of saturated colors, but very little noise visible (I shot at ISO 1250 for the interiors).

With any luck you'll be seeing it on the air sometime next year--until that happens, I can't post stills but naturally I'll follow up.

***************************************
now on to the announcement:

"Alabama" closes out what has been a very successful year for me of focusing on DP work, which has also included shooting additional 1st unit (aka double-ups) on the ABC series "No Ordinary Family" and shooting six major label music videos. On June of this year I hit the milestone of 25 years of Steadicam operating and thought that would be a appropriate anniversary to close out that portion of my career. So now I am now purely working as a DP, and my big rig is up for sale. It's an exciting change of pace and a fascinating time in the industry to be experiencing it. I'm also looking forward to seeing what the next generation of Steadicam operators will bring, and to setting them challenges on set!
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Old December 11th, 2010, 01:29 AM   #2
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Congrats! Love BALLS OF FURY BTW... Def looking forward to watching it.
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Old December 11th, 2010, 07:49 AM   #3
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Charles,
First off Happy 25th Anniversary and all the best to you in your new chapter of life. I guess you can think of this way, sell your rig, buy a red sports car with the money, no more schlepping all thoses cases, no more back ache, buy a red sports car, no more sweating your butt off on 100 degree days wearing your big rig, buy a red sports car....Hmm I sense a theme here. Best to ya.


O|O
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Old December 11th, 2010, 10:30 AM   #4
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Well done, Chas, and congrats on your new beginning!
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Old December 15th, 2010, 09:57 AM   #5
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I love Reno 911 cant wait to see what they have next. Glad to see they like the DSLRs
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Old December 16th, 2010, 11:05 AM   #6
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Congrats!
Wait... were you the steadicam op in the Dog the Bounty Hunter (Hawk?) episode of Reno 911??
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Old December 16th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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Guilty as charged...

As you can see, they strapped a gun to my thigh (all of Hawk's "crew" were packing, including the makeup girl character!!)

I was encouraged to improvise along with the guys but I had my hands pretty full operating the damn camera. They did 20 minute takes on that show--not much energy left to even think about participating as a character.
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Old December 16th, 2010, 02:41 PM   #8
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Congrats Charles .. 25yrs on Steadicam wow! .. and you can tell that gal in back she's hired :)

Happy Xmas.

Cheers.
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Old December 20th, 2010, 02:15 AM   #9
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Cast and crew screening of "Alabama" tonight at a theatre on the Fox lot. Watching on a (my estimation) 22 foot screen was epic! I can't believe how well these cameras hold up. 1250 ASA and barely any noise detectable, except for shots that we had to pull up a bit for one reason or another, and then it only looks like a bit of film grain, not objectionable at all. Very happy with how everything came out.

Now we are playing the waiting game to hear if the show gets picked up...
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Old December 21st, 2010, 05:31 AM   #10
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Congrats Charles! Here's to your continued success! :)

If you ever post up your rig for sale here, please link to it. I'm just curious as to what your nimble cam setup entails. Happy Holidays!
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Old December 24th, 2010, 07:55 PM   #11
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Charles,

Congrats on the "anniversary", and congrats on all of the DP work. You've been a huge inspiration to me, and I'm sure countless others like me around the world. And hell, if I can scrounge up the money, I'd pick up your nimblecam in an instant, just for the cred of owning a piece of film production history!

Best of luck, and if you're ever out in my neck of the woods (alternatively Buffalo/Toronto and Philadelphia), let me know!
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Old December 24th, 2010, 08:28 PM   #12
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I'm holding on to the Nimblecam for now. The big rig is about to get posted for sale. I'll include a link here.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 05:06 PM   #13
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Submarine hatches

Congratulations for the job. Can you imagine diving through those hatches with a Zero dropping out of the sky, firing all its machine guns at you. Your knees would probably never feel hitting the metal as you went through.
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Old December 28th, 2010, 01:59 AM   #14
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Big rig is indeed up for sale and listed here, along with a wheelbarrow load of odds and ends (and even some goodies that folks here might like, in the "non-Steadicam" section).

http://web.me.com/chupap/gearsale/splash.html
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Old December 28th, 2010, 02:09 AM   #15
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Charles.


Out of curiosity, do you know Rusty Geller? He was in steadycam when it was less commonplace (my paraphrase). He now lives out here in Western Australia in Hovea, a bushland setting just out of Perth.

His website is here :-

Rusty Geller


When I see you guys wrestle those rigs about, my left knee suggests and about 15 joints down, my back says to me sternly - "don't even think about it." I have a great respect for what I define as a unique athletic skill and endurance.

All the best with your new direction. Thanks for your advice thus far and hope for more to come yet when I need it.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 28th, 2010 at 02:11 AM. Reason: error
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