Thursday, September 22, 2005

Never Believe Anything I Say.

At the last minute, I got added on for one more day.

Since I've been the "up high guy" for the whole rig - running cable, dropping out power where they need it, etc., the gaffer insisted that they keep me on for the first shoot day, just in case they needed me. I didn't do too much work (well, setting up my hammock was work), but the day was kind of fun anyway. Three camera shows are new to me. I've rigged and wrapped them, but never been there on a shoot day.

They work much differently than single camera shows*.

The cast came in at call, rehearsed all day, and then, about 7 pm, the audience came in and were seated in the bleachers. A 'warm-up' act (some stand up comedian) kept the people laughing while we finished getting ready for the shoot. Then, they introduced the cast and started shooting.

What seemed so strange to me is that they shot it in sequence - like a play. They'd start the scene and run it to the end. When it was time for them to move into the next room (the sets are end to end with the open sides facing the bleachers), the director would yell "Reset!" and the camera operators would push the cameras (they're on these big wheeled platforms) to the front of the next set where they'd do the next piece. If there was any amount of down time between scenes (such as a big wardrobe change or a set redressing, the comedian would come out and 'work' the audience. He'd tell jokes, give away t-shirts, and generally distract the audience from whatever boring technical shit was happening. When they were ready again, the bell would ring, the AD's would call 'rolling', and they'd do the same weird thing all over again.

Freaky.

In movie world, you start on one set, shoot until you're done, and then move on - relighting every time the camera angle changes. To see something shot in sequence like that was odd..

Oh, the show's called "Lucky Louie" (airing who-knows-when on HBO), and the lead actress is also the voice of Bobby Hill.

TIP: should you ever be in the audience of a sitcom, bring a sweater. As soon as the cast walked onto the stage in the morning, the AC got cranked up to 'frozen tundra'. I had the heat rising off the lights to keep me warm, but I saw a few of the audience members shivering (the other crew members, being 'three camera' veterans, had all worn sweaters into work).



* Sitcoms are called "Three Camera Shows" (although this one has four), and are shot in front of a live audience.

"Single Camera Shows" (although most use two cameras) are shot more like a movie, and never, ever have an audience. One hour dramas are "Single Camera".

2 comments:

foreign agent said...

So you mean there's an actual audience, actually laughing there?

It's only that I read from a book - by some terribly intellectual person of course - how the canned laughter is all prerecorded years and years ago, so what we're actually hearing is dead people laughing. You know, the kind of irony terribly intellectual people (who don't watch too much television) like to dwell on.

But thinking back on it I don't find it very believable that tv-deprived intellectuals would know jack about tv-productions.

Jean-Paul Cardier said...

"It's only that I read from a book - by some terribly intellectual person of course - how the canned laughter is all prerecorded years and years ago, so what we're actually hearing is dead people laughing. You know, the kind of irony terribly intellectual people (who don't watch too much television) like to dwell on."

A: I've been part of the "live studiod audience" before. Damn, how incredibly tedious. And it happened to be for a show I liked! Too many takes to be entertaining.

B: From what I understand, laugh tracks from the dead (called "classic laughs") are still in use today. But mainly as fill, to sweeten jokes that otherwise fall flat. They are mixed in after the "live studio audience".