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December 2014
Issue: January 1, 2004

GETTING REAL ON TV

By: By Randi Altman
It's difficult to flip through the channels these days and not find a person you went to high school with dressed in a loin cloth, eating pig testicles or out on a date with a beautiful person. Whether you think it's great entertainment or a sign of the apocalypse, reality TV is here to stay, and it's making its mark in production and post.

I recently spoke with Mark Raudonis, director of post at Van Nuys, CA-based Bunim/Murray Productions (www.bunim-murray.com). Bunim/Murray is probably best known for some of the earliest reality TV endeavors, most notably MTV's "The Real World" and "Road Rules" franchises. They are also behind Fox's "The Simple Life" and NBC's "Starting Over." For two years now, they have been using the Sony IMX format for shooting. "For what we do it's perfect," says Raudonis "It's not so much the recording format as much as the possibilities - it's digital, it's a step into tapeless post, and while we're not there yet, that's where we are headed."

He says other formats, such as DV, Beta or even Digi Beta, just don't have the capabilities. "I'm talking about the ability to have the e-VTR, proxies simultaneously recorded, that kind of stuff." And he is seriously looking into Sony's newest format, the disc-based XDCAM. "That is very attractive for reality television," he explains. "With disk-based you have the sort-of-always-recording feature where you can go back and get 10 seconds."

Bunim/Murray has approximately 50 Avid systems, mostly Media Composers, spread over five different shows, and they are all connected via Unity. They also have a couple of Symphony systems. Burbank's Wexler Video supplies most of their post and production gear.

A trend that Raudonis is seeing is that finishing is coming in-house. "We still go out of house for ‘The Real World,' ‘Road Rules' and ‘Simple Life,' but for ‘Starting Over' we do everything start to finish in-house. That's a trend that we are seeing all over town." While he says cost is an issue, with "Starting Over" it was more driven by schedule. "That is a one-hour show, five days a week. For us it's a comfort factor. If I even had to go across the street to an outside facility it's too far. Yes, it's a little cheaper, but for us it's more a workflow and operational thing."

And what about HD? While they are shooting the main title sequence for "The Real World San Diego" on Panasonic's VariCam, overcranked at 48 frames to give it a slo-mo look (once it's finished and color corrected will be downconverted to Digi Beta), Raudonis doesn't anticipate going to HD next season, "but beyond that, who knows!"