NEW YORK - This month, PBS begins airing a new six-part, six-hour documentary series detailing the history of live entertainment on Broadway. Edited at Thirteen/WNET in New York on its new Avid DS Nitris, "Broadway: The American Musical" began production way back in 1996, when theater director/series producer Michael Kantor sat down with artist Al Hirschfeld for an interview.
Kantor is the president of Ghost Light Films, which co-produced the series along with Thirteen/WNET New York, NHK and BBC, in association with Carlton International. According to Kantor, the project not only brings together more than 100 years of Broadway history, but also numerous film and video formats, including Super 8, Super 16 and 24p HD, all of which were assembled during the editing process.
Early interviews, such as Hirschfeld's, says Kantor, were shot on Super 16 to stay consistent with a film look and also to offer future widescreen opportunities. Latter segments, such as those of Broadway star and series host Julie Andrews, were shot in 1080i HD using Sony and Panasonic cameras. Additional interview subjects include Ben Vereen, Carol Channing, Mel Brooks and Stephen Sondheim.
Much of the series is comprised of archival elements - newsreels, papers and prints - but it was the dance footage that Kantor says was essential in making the project a success. Never-before broadcast footage of choreographer Jerome Robbins' "On the Town," as well as his work on "West Side Story" and "Fiddler on the Roof" were vital in telling the story.
Episode Six in the series makes use of around 1,000 clips, says Kantor, and includes a behind-the-scenes, "making-of" look at the successful Broadway show "Wicked," all of which was shot in 1080i in a run-and-gun style.
John Dowdell of Technicolor (www.technicolor.com) in New York handled telecine for the project, transferring footage, such as the Super 8 interviews, to HD using a Thomson Spirit system. Finishing took place at Thirteen/WNET using an Avid DS Nitris system the network bought back in January. Stills were incorporated through the use of Adobe After Effects. The soundtrack was posted at Tonic in New York City by senior audio engineer Ed Campbell.
The show is scheduled to air on PBS over a three-night period. When Post spoke with Kantor, work was wrapping up on the broadcast edit, which includes promo breaks, product offerings and commercial breaks. A five-DVD box set will also be made available and will include all of the episodes along with four hours of bonus content.