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November 2014
Issue: February 2006

GEARING UP FOR REALITY

By: Randi Altman

The reality TV business isn't really showing signs of slowing down, and while these shows aren't curing cancer, they are giving our industry a much-needed boost.

Wexler Video (www.wexlervideo.com) in Burbank knows about the realities that pop up while producing and posting unscripted TV. CEO Chris Thompson reports that they "do a lot of this type of programming," in fact, it's 50 percent of their business. The other 50 is scripted programming such as House and Las Vegas. Wexler, which was working on 20-plus unscripted shows at press time, builds IT and editing infrastructure, supplying the gear for these reality clients.

"In our reality space, our customers do a lot of acquisitions - thousands and thousands of hours of material - so post becomes so much more important than in other spaces," explains Thompson. "These guys have to be able to winnow through all the material, log it, transcribe it, describe it, show it to everyone, create a list of cuts and then they give that material to an editor and say, 'Go to town.'"

Wexler made a very large investment in Avid systems and recently added Siemens Colledia, formerly a BBC Technology product, to its arsenal. "We've been working diligently to create a bunch of workflow products that we could give to our customers so they could do the logging, transcriptions and all this pre-editorial stuff faster," says Thompson. They chose Colledia, which was created by the BBC. "What we've done is created a collaborative workflow where not only the people that are logging but anyone on the physical site can look at the material simultaneously and do what they need to do."

Wexler recently got a hands-on look at Sony's XDCAM HD optical disc camera. "This programming challenges every aspect of post and production," says Thompson, "that is why the XDCAM HD is going to be so significant, we feel, for that space." But, he says, getting people to shoot HD has been one of their great challenges. "They've been shooting standard definition for a long time and the workflow is well understood, and at the end of the day no one wants to give anyone any more money to shoot HD."

That said, Thompson says Wexler will pick up a couple of XDCAM HD cameras. "We've had optical SD cameras for about two years and we can't take them out of our customers' hands. Once they start shooting optical, they realize that's what they needed to be doing for years. The medium itself is so bulletproof and so compact. At the end of the day you want to have something to walk away with."