News Production & Post

First BBC drama shot on D-SLR

7 July 2010
First BBC drama shot on D-SLR

Conker Media, a subsidiary of Lime Pictures, is shooting BBC teen fiction Shelfstackers on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, writes Adrian Pennington. It’s believed to be the first large scale use of a digital SLR camera by a UK broadcaster to date.

Shelfstackers is a BBC Switch multiplatform commission comprising 30 x 5 minute episodes to be shown first online then repackaged into six half hour omnibus editions for transmission on BBC Two. The series, described as a comedy soap, is currently being shot in a working supermarket in the Liverpool area over five weeks.

Two Canon EOS 5Ds are being used as A and B cameras by director and DoP Dominic Bridges. Rushes are transferred from the camera’s Compact Flash memory cards twice a day and encoded from H.264 into Apple ProRes within Final Cut Pro. Sound is recorded separately on radio mics with clapper boards for each shot and manually synced with the pictures. The ingest and sound process takes over four hours for each 30 minutes of video.

This workflow blockage, reminiscent of the old days of tape or 16mm, is more than made up for by the D-SLR’s suitability for acquisition on this project, says producer Anita Turner.

“What’s fantastic is that it is so easy to use in a real environment. The shooting ratio is quite high since it’s treated more as a documentary style than rehearsed drama. We’re just using available light and the images are really beautiful. We don’t need lighting rigs and can set up much more quickly.

“The D-SLR also has a dramatic effect on performances, with actors feeling able to improvise much more freely because they feel much more relaxed. And since we are filming in public we attract far less attention from shoppers using a stills camera than if were using a camcorder.”

Final delivery is SD on Digibeta although Conker maintains rushes as an HD file. A pilot was broadcast last March and subsequently commissioned as a six-week event for BBC Switch (BBC Two), and YouTube. Lime Pictures is part of All3Media.

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