Issue: September 1, 2006


If you watch the offbeat NBC sitcom Scrubs, you know they like to do things just a little bit different than the rest, and the way they capture and post is no exception. First, they are one of the few sitcoms not going with an HD finish. Second, they shoot on Super 16 film. Third they online and offline edit on Apple Final Cut Studio.

Why Super 16 and not 35mm? “Super 16 was a budget consideration, but it has turned out to be a blessing in the mobility as well,” says Scrubs producer Randall Winston. “Lighter loads make it better for our Steadicam shots and a great film look. We have a fantastic cinematographer in John Inwood, and the show needed a great film look and a solid negative. I have seen our show projected at the DGA and it really holds up.”

After five seasons of posting and broadcasting in SD only, Scrubs took a dip in the HD pond last spring when they posted their season finale, “My Transition,” in high definition. For the HD episode, explains Scrubs’ post supervisor, Abe Park, “we shot Super 16 and transferred to D-5 1080p. The editors got a standard def DVCAM, full frame 4x3, and we protected for 16x9 while shooting.” Digital FilmTree, which does the show’s dailies, digitized into native DV QuickTime files. Scrubs gets it on a FireWire hard drive and the assistant editors load it onto the Apple Xsan.

“For SD we transfer over to Digi Beta and we are ready to go,” continues Park, “but with the HD, we decided to go D5 1080p because it’s easy for us to extract whatever elements we needed. I felt it was a great master to work from. NBC’s requirements for HD delivery is 1080i/60, and we extracted that master for NBC, and we extracted the 4x3 center for the standard def master that we normally deliver.” 

“Transition” was directed by show creator Bill Lawrence and offlined edited by Rick Blue and Daniel Russ.

Scrubs is the first network show to online in Final Cut Pro SD, and was the first network show to HD online on Final Cut Pro,” reports Park. “We did the HD online with Ramy Katrib over at Digital FilmTree, where we do our normal online. I don’t think we’d be able to do what we do without Digital FilmTree.”

So does that mean that viewers can expect and HD Scrubs in the future? According to producer Winston, no. “After a lot of teasing, yes, the HD was an experiment, for everyone really,” he explains. “We will not be doing anymore HD — there is a cost that no one is interested in covering and there is debate, not among us here at the show, about how the quality stands up. I don't think that we can get the look that the show is designed around [by using] tape.”