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03/11/2003

Fox TV comedy series shot with Panasonic HD camera

New Fox TV comedy series 'Arrested Development' the first network, primetime series to use Panasonic's AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera for an entire season.
The comedy, which television critics are calling "hilarious" and "one of the most original and bright comedies in years," follows the travails of the well-to-do, eccentric, Bluth family as they cope with unexpected imprisonment of the family patriarch.
Arrested Development comes from Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television. Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Parenthood), Brian Grazer (The Nutty Professor 1 and 2, 8 Mile, and 24), David Nevins and Mitch Hurwitz (The Ellen Show, Golden Girls) serve as executive producers. Victor Hsu serves as producer for the series.
Hsu said that when producers were looking for an acquisition format suitable for the series' creative approach and budget, they discounted 16mm because the show is shot semi-documentary style with abundant improvisation; the film and lab costs associated with shooting that much footage would have been prohibitive. They found Sony's HDCAM was too large for the handheld work the production wanted to adopt.
The producers had Director of Photography James Hawkinson test Panasonic's AG-DVX100 Mini-DV camcorder, but that camera was ruled out because it doesn't capture native 16:9 images, which would have led to complications in post. Their choice - Panasonic's AJ-HDC27 VariCam.
Hsu said: "Co-executive producer Ron Howard wanted this to be a single-camera show more like the way sitcoms used to be, from his years on Happy Days. He liked the notion of giving the cast a day to rehearse and rewrite, and then shooting really fast, in a single day, improvising as we go along, changing things, getting as much of that on tape as possible. Instead of spending time on detailed lighting, jelling windows, deliberations over focus, etc., we decided to go for a lightning-fast pace on the shoot, all handheld. It's not documentary-style per se, but it maintains the spirit and style of that approach. To accomplish all that, we needed portable, reasonably small cameras that could give us 24p images, and of course, we had a budget limitation."
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