Fall TV: CBS's <i>MacGyver</i>
Issue: October 1, 2016

Fall TV: CBS's MacGyver

His mullet may be gone but low-tech solutions are still the signature of the 21st century MacGyver. The original series featuring the secret US government operative wrapped almost 25 years ago, but Angus MacGyver is back on CBS, demonstrating his flair for creative problem solving in today’s high-tech world.

The team from the long-running reboot of Hawaii Five-0 is behind the new MacGyver. “They coined the term ‘reimagining,’” for their revived shows, says producer Peter Tassler. “ MacGyver keeps the central identity of the people and the heart of the concept but retools it for another generation. The nature of TV today is a little more sophisticated than it was 25 years ago. The look is slicker and much more cinematic — there are more explosions and jeopardy in Episode 1 than in full seasons of many shows. The first episode, from Furious 7 director James Wan, could be shown in any theater as a big action movie. But MacGyver is still all about the story and the characters — Mac takes us along for the ride.”

The show is shot in Atlanta, which doubles for southern California and the world. It’s captured on multiple Arri Alexa cameras plus GoPro, the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera and Alexa Mini as the action adventure scenarios dictate. Post production is based on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles.

At Company 3 Atlanta, Nicholas Winkelmann performs the dailies color correction. The synched Avid DNx 36 files are sent via Aspera to LA, where editors Mark Manos and Thomas Mitchell cut in HD on Avid Media Composers V.8.4 with Avid ISIS shared storage. They’re up and running the day after Winkelmann completes the dailies.  

“We don’t feel the distance at all,” Tassler reports. “I’ve spent seven years with Hawaii Five-0 — a show shot in Hawaii and posted in LA, so I’ve been able to make that my template for MacGyver.”

The editors tap Sapphire and Boris FX to add different grain patterns and enhance the looks of the international locations, all shot in the Atlanta area. Executive producer Peter M. Lenkov, with whom Tassler works on Hawaii Five-0, works closely with the editors.  

“Peter is a very savvy about the post process,” Tassler says. “He’ll sit with the editors and talk about what he wants to see, how to convey the mood and vibe of where in the world MacGyver is in any given episode. We do a lot of research with reference footage to make sure our color palettes are true to the location — Atlanta doubling for Prague, Venezuela, Brazil, the Philippines — so we no longer feel we’re at home.”

Ideally, the director will also spend time with the editors on the director’s cut, but this is often done remotely for reasons of time. Assistant editor Scott Little is dedicated to managing the show’s large number of visual effects shots created by Encore VFX and RapidVFX. “We had 360 VFX shots in the first episode, from signage to more complex sequences,” Tassler explains.

Online editor Diana Cruz Hiatt conforms the show on Avid Nitris at Encore Hollywood, where colorist Laura Jans Fazio grades on FilmLight Baselight.  

Adam Sawelson and Kurt Kassulke mix the series at Technicolor Sound; Kelly Cabral is the sound supervisor. The series features a substantial amount of music, which is often used to “flavor” the international locations, Tassler notes. Each locale has its own soundscape, with appropriate vehicle noises and sirens, too.

Atlanta’s own summer soundscape of loudly chirping cicadas could betray the show’s real location, so audio post has “learned how to dial them out and mask them with certain sound beds,” Tassler reveals.

The first episode of MacGyver was the most-watched show in its Friday-night time slot in 14 years.