COVER STORY: POSTING DISNEY'S 'HANNAH MONTANA'
BURBANK — For those of you who might not have pre-teens, teenagers, children of any age, a television set or computer, Hannah Montana is a Disney Channel show featuring Miley Cyrus as a teenage girl who leads a secret life as a rock star when not attending school and hanging out with her friends.
This show, which has become so much more than a show thanks to merchandising, a movie, a 3D concert film, live concerts and more, is in its third season. The look of the show is mainly dictated by The Disney Channel, which sets the standards for its series.
Hannah Montana is shot on Digital Betacam — although that may change to HD acquisition if there is a season four — offlined on Avid Meridien, onlined on Adrenaline and given the Filmlook process for final delivery.
According to Carla Myres, the show's associate producer, post production, Hannah Montana preshoots on Thursdays and shoots in front of a live audience on Fridays. "We preshoot the Hannah scenes as it is time consuming to set up because of make-up and wardrobe changes, so those shots, about half the script, are typically done on Thursdays."
Editor Kenny Tintori gets in early on Friday and creates an audience playback reel, so when the Friday shoot begins, the audience knows what they've missed and will be able to follow the story.
"What we shoot Thursday, we don't reshoot on Friday," explains Myres. "The scenes we can shoot in front of the audience on Friday we do live and that is interspersed consecutively with the Thursday preshoot stuff. So the audience is seeing the show in its correct order."
They try to do preferred takes on the floor. "The script supervisor will mark that for the editor, particularly for his Friday morning audience playback reel because we don't have time to go through it — the exec producers don't even have time to look at it prior to playback."
She says Tintori follows the script notes, puts it together and it's played back for the audience. "That takes up until 5pm, when we start our show."
Tintori, who edits on an Avid Meridien, gets his initial cut — of both the Thursday and Friday shoots — to one of the two executive producers (Michael Poryes and Steven Peterman), who does his pass and gives the editor his notes. Then the other exec producer does his pass and gives the editor his notes. They both look at it one more time before the first cut goes to Disney Channel.
"Disney Channel execs give us their notes and the exec producers decide what they agree with or disagree with, they discuss with Disney, and the editor implements those notes, sending a second cut out to Disney. After they have signed off on the picture, I go to Technicolor in Hollywood to online it," explains Myres.
The show gets a nonlinear online in Avid Adrenaline via editor Scott Cooper. "Working on the Adrenaline is advantageous to us," says Myres, "because when we send a cut to Disney Channel, they want to see it as complete as possible — temp music, temp sound effects, visual effects — so anything our offline editor can do temp he does. Anything that we want carried over is automatically reproduced in the online on the Adrenaline."
Cooper starts on the footage, which is digitized overnight, at 9am, and by 10:30am Myres sees playback. "Then we output the Digi Beta's we need to go over to sound and then we get our final video, which is what I send to Filmlook for them to do their process."
Disney Channel chooses Filmlook — which gives video-shot productions the "essence" of a film-originated work — for all of its shows. "The other Disney Channel series had established a look that Disney was happy with, so we just send it to Filmlook in Burbank and they know what to do. It's the way they color the show," says Myres.
Once the Filmlook master is done, Myres brings it back to Technicolor where she and Cooper title the show — opening titles and end credits.
"Laying back of the sound is the last thing I do, because I am waiting for Disney Channel notes to come in and I need to schedule time to implement whatever changes they want to make. That is the last step," she explains.
The show is mixed at Larson Studios. "It's just the mixer Josh Schneider, the laughs guy [sound re-recording mixer Jack Donato] and me," says Myres. "Once that session is complete, I have a DVD of the mix cut made and it goes back to Disney and the executive producers, and Disney gives one more round of notes… this time audio notes. That gives everybody one final time to sign off on it."
And what about those famous scenes where the Miley character is performing as Hannah Montana?
Myres says, "We'll use pre-recorded music, already established Hannah songs, or there will be scripted lyrics for Hannah songs and Miley sings that live."
If Hannah Montana gets a season four, the word on the street is that it will be shot in HD. "That is what I am hearing," she says. "I assume that will be the case, because all the new shows with Disney are being shot and posted in HD. And The Suite Life on Deck, which began as a Digi Beta show, started its new season by switching to high def, so I assume that would be the case for us if we come back."
Myres has worked with HD before and is excited about the idea of Hannah Montana going high def. "I think it will be great," she says.
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus in crystal clear HD? I can already hear the fans' screams of delight.