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October 2014
Issue: January 1, 2007

HD STORYTELLING

By: Marc Loftus
This issue looks at both independent filmmaking and the affect lower-cost HD tools have had on a producer’s ability to tell a story. Dr. Paul Cahill is one such storyteller. Now retired, Cahill taught filmmaking at Cal State/Sacramento, and has also produced and directed PBS programming, promos and commercials over the past 25 years, initially shooting on 16mm film, Sony’s Trinitron camera and Ikegami broadcast models, and more recently, on Mini DV.

Cahill is currently in the process of producing his own doc — The Long Goodbye — which details the conditions, adulation and unfortunate abuse that Thailand’s native elephant population experiences. He purchased his own HDV camcorder — the JVC GY-HD100 — and spent 30 days in Thailand, shooting interviews and visiting a sanctuary where he learned more about the animals. He plans a return to Thailand next spring to shoot footage of wild elephants and also hopes to interview experts in the US.

The film is being edited by Cahill — on the boat where he lives — using a 17-inch Mac PowerBook G4 and Final Cut Pro HD. And while there is no hard deadline to get The Long Goodbye finished, Cahill says he feels a strong sense of urgency. “I’m riding on the crest of an HD wave,” he says, noting the current demand for high def programming. Cahill is shooting in 720p and hopes to ultimately deliver a 1080i upconverted master. “People want to see this product [now]. Two years from now, [HD] might be, ‘ho hum.’”

Also helping to meet the demand for HD content is NYC-based Voom HD Networks, a service of parent company Rainbow that brings 15 commercial-free channels of 1080i content into viewers homes — currently by Dish satellite, and likely, says GM Greg Moyer, by cable in the not too distant future.

The majority of Voom HD’s 15 channels — including Rush HD (extreme sports) and Rave HD (music) — broadcast original content produced by each network. While crews often use Sony’s higher-end HDW750 and HDW-F900 cameras, they also have a number of Sony’s much less expensive HDV cameras, allowing DPs to get shots in the most challenging conditions.