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In a World of Transmedia, Content is King

Posted By Andrew Mahlmann, Thursday, June 27, 2013
Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2013

At the center of the entertainment business is IP (intellectual property).  An idea, story, character, concept, something original that can hook audiences and build franchises. If you create a great story about a heroic ex-marine out for justice in his old neighborhood, that character can have his story told by Hollywood on the big screen, by interactive developers for computer, console, and mobile gaming, and even by marketers for viral campaigns across television, the internet, outdoor media, and more.  This proliferation of of IP through different "arms" or "channels" is often referred to as transmedia.

The video gaming industry has pushed the envelope of digital transmedia and dividends have been paid. In 2012, the video game industry was reported to bring in $67 billion.  Another part of gaming's success is its ability to tap into a vibrant and engaged audience that is bursting at the seems.

Right now it is conference season and that means that everywhere you turn there are events, expos, trade-shows, and any other kind of industry related showcase one can think of.  One of the biggest and readily recognizable is the Annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), held this year at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 11-13.  Since hitting the scene in 1996 with over 80,000 attendees, E3 has been a revered occasion representing the latest and greatest with anything having to do with video gaming hardware, software, accessories and game-related merchandise.  E3 is a magical place that surrounds individuals with the latest gaming related interactive technologies and tantalizes with dragons, wizards, soldiers, demons, super-heroes, puzzles, fantasy, mobsters, babes, racecars, wild animals, and just about anything else you can imagine.  

Yet for all of gaming's successes and achievements, motion pictures retain an eminence in entertainment's zeitgest.  According to Damian Lichtenstein (CEO, PAYDAY Productions) speaking at the Produced By Conference, the coveted demographic of male 16-24 year olds, which spends a predominant amount of their free time gaming and driving that 67 billion dollar number, actually lists "movies" as the number 3 thing that they are passionate about (falling behind "internet” and "music”).  Video games come in somewhat surprisingly at number 9. 

So what does this tell us about the creative process?  It all comes back to IP; it always has and it always will.  Original scripted entertainment has an indelible appeal to us that affords a deep appreciation for craft within storytelling.  As business people, however, producers must continue becoming increasingly savvy to engage audiences with transmedia.  You can thank the sharp and courageous minds of the PGA New Media Council for helping pave the way ;)


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Portraits of Diversity - Ali LeRoi

Posted By KEVYN FAIRCHILD, Monday, June 17, 2013

In this millennial generation, the collective power of diversity resonates more than ever throughout our broadcast spectrum. The Producers Guild of America East Diversity Committee is proud to pay tribute to producers of diverse backgrounds who have achieved excellence in our industry. Throughout the year, producers will share some of their insights on producing with an emphasis on a greater understanding of why diversity is so important in this global, multi-platform entertainment market.

Ali LeRoi is the Emmy Award winning executive producer/director of the syndicated hit TBS series "Are We There Yet?" Based on the film of the same name, Ali partnered with Joe Roth of Revolutions Studios, Ice Cube, and matt Alvarez of Cubevision, and developed the show for television in the ground breaking 10/90 production model. After an initial run of 10 on-air episodes, TBS was impressed enough by ratings to geen light a 90 episode pickup. Ali LeRoi is the only other producer/director other than Tyler Perry to have successfully produced a complete series on this model.

Ali is also the co-creator of the critically acclaimed syndicated comedy Everybody Hates Chris, a series inspired by the childhood experiences of the comedian Chris Rock.

PGA Diversity Committee East Presents: A Spotlight on Ali LeRoi

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#ProducedBy Conference on Twitter

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Many who couldn't attend the Produced By Conference this year were treated to cornucopia of Producing knowledge by following the #ProducedBy trending conversation on twitter.  Even attendees were finding invaluable nuggets from the sessions they could not attend.  Below are some selected tweets from the event, but of course you can check out #producedby on twitter to try and find the whole conversation.  Of course, the only way to truly capture the magic is to make sure you attend next year...

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The Producers Mark. What it means, where it comes from and how you can get it.

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On October 12, 2010, the Producers Guild released an "open letter” from 145 of the industry’s most prominent motion picture producers, addressed to their studios, distributors and colleagues. The letter read: "As PRODUCERS, we hereby place our full support behind the PRODUCERS MARK, as endorsed by the Producers Guild. In doing so, we wish to stipulate that our names when credited as ‘Produced By’ in motion picture productions, be followed by the distinctive mark: p.g.a.”

Less than two years later, the first Producers Mark appeared on The Magic of Belle Isle; the certified producers were two PGA members, Lori McCreary and Alan Greisman, and one non-member, Rob Reiner. A few weeks later, the second film bearing the Producers Mark, Lawless, was released with two of the film’s four producers — Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher — certified with the p.g.a. As the year concluded, the Guild celebrated the first animated feature to receive the Mark, Rise of the Guardians, and the first certified Oscar nominee, Silver Linings Playbook.

There’s more where that came from.

Early this year, the Guild announced that three of the industry’s six major studios — Universal, 20th Century Fox and Sony (under its Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems banners) — had signed agreements with the Producers Guild to implement the Producers Mark on their releases. DreamWorks Pictures and DreamWorks Animation likewise signed. While not yet a signatory, The Weinstein Company has demonstrated its early support by implementing the Mark on Lawless; and Silver Linings Playbook. As this magazine prepares to go to press, the Guild is finalizing its agreement with Disney to implement the Producers Mark on their films.

Make no mistake: The Producers Mark is going to be a regular feature on movie screens going forward. As the first new screen credit in a generation, it’s important for readers of this magazine and members of the producing community to learn what the Producers Mark means, how it came to be, and most important: how to qualify for and receive the Producers Mark on their own credits.

This represents only the third time in this magazine’s 13-year history that we have not featured a "Case Study” interview as our cover story. We hate to break precedent, but it’s not every day that our Guild makes entertainment history. Within our editorial coverage, we’ve included testimonials from some of the Producers Mark’s most passionate supporters. The pride and excitement of those prominent producers reflects our own; we are overjoyed to share it with our readers and our industry.

Making The Mark

The road to the Producers Mark has been a long and winding one. Produced by editor Chris Green talked to PGA Presidents Mark Gordon and Hawk Koch (the latter on leave of absence from PGA duties) and National Executive Director Vance Van Petten to learn how the Producers Mark became a reality.

So, what’s the story behind the Producers Mark?

MARK: Really, the story starts at least 20 years ago. The AMPTP made a decision in their negotiation with the Writers Guild to move the producer’s screen credit from the second position to third, so that the writer’s credit contractually would appear just before the director. Traditionally, that had been where the producer’s credit went. Producers were very upset, I think, for two reasons: number one, we wanted to retain our position; and number two, there was no consideration as to how producers would feel about this. No one picked up the phone, even on an unofficial basis, to ask how this was going to go over within the producing community. So a lot of producers, myself included, gathered at a meeting at Dick Zanuck’s house.

HAWK: I was there.

MARK: Every important producer in town was there. I don’t know why the hell they invited me, but I was thrilled and honored to be there, and I really listened. There was a lot of anger, disappointment and ultimately, frustration. At the end of the day, producers were left asking, well, what can we do? And the answer, really, was nothing, because we weren’t organized. It was very painful.

HAWK: We all felt that we weren’t being taken seriously, that we were disrespected. After all, we knew what we brought to the industry. But though there wasn’t a concrete solution that came out of that meeting, it was important because it got the ball rolling. I wasn’t a PGA member at that time. Very few of us were.

MARK: I wasn’t. Not until years later.

HAWK: I’d been in the Directors Guild for a long time, and the DGA always looked out for its members. I didn’t feel like there was anybody looking out for the rights of producers, and I thought, "You know? This is something I’d like to do.” And so I joined and I was recruited to be Vice President. But within a very short amount of time, we realized that in order to accomplish anything, we needed not just a small cadre of producers who’d been doing it for a long time, but we needed fresh blood in the Producers Guild. Our Executive Director, Charles FitzSimons, was retiring, and I was part of finding and hiring Vance.

VANCE: After I took the job, I spoke to all of the Board members, all of the producers I could, really, and I asked them their number-one priority. And by a substantial margin, the answer was "credits.” We’re a more diverse membership now, so we have more priorities, but there was a mandate to address the credit problem from the very beginning.

HAWK: Once Vance came on board, we worked well together. I was very supportive of bringing Kathy [Kennedy] in as PGA President, and her mantra was about the need for job criteria. The only way anybody was going to understand what a producer does is if we listed all the criteria. A short time later, we all went up to Kathy’s house on a weekend, and literally sat down around a table and asked, "Alright, what do you do as a producer?” There was a TV section over here and a features section over there, and we talked everything out and wrote it all down. It was like the First Continental Congress of producing!

MARK: We had to make it clear from our perspective, from the Guild’s perspective, what a producer is and what it is that qualifies a person to receive a producer credit. So the first order of business was to create a code of credits. That was step one. Step two was to enforce that code at our own Awards, to be able to say that we at the Producers Guild believe that these are the people who truly produced our nominated features and TV shows, that this is what it takes to be a bona fide producer.

HAWK: Not long after, I was fortunate enough to be elected to the Board of the Motion Picture Academy. Kathy was on the Board; I think Larry Gordon was the other producer on the Board. And as we started to arbitrate our Producers Guild Awards, we saw naturally that if we could get the Academy to use our arbitration system, that would really give it some teeth. The executive committee of the Producers Branch of the Academy saw that the Producers Guild was doing a good job arbitrating and giving out awards only to the people who actually produced the movie, even though other people may have gotten producer credit. So eventually, the executive committee decided to use the PGA arbitration system to inform and guide the Producers Branch as to who they thought were the right people to be nominated for an award. We got a lot of traction through the Academy.

MARK: I think we felt emboldened to the place where we thought that if we can make the determination for the Academy, we should be able to arbitrate credits on screen. And so on both a formal and informal basis, we began having conversations with the studios. It became very clear to us that although we felt that we were right in what we wanted to accomplish, we were not going to be able to persuade the studios to allow us to determine who would get "Produced By” credit on a film.

HAWK: A number of prominent members — including Kathy, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Dick Zanuck — came with us to meet with the studios. And although they were hesitant to say so in the room, at the end of the day, the studios’ answer was always no. It wasn’t gonna happen.

MARK: It was met with such universal rejection that we stopped for a moment and went back to the drawing board. A couple of years earlier, Vance had proposed an idea, which was effectively to put a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on producing credits. It would be some- thing like a trademark that would appear on screen to distinguish between the producers who really did the work versus producers who were given the credit but did not qualify, based on our standards, as bona fide producers of the movie.

VANCE: It was clear that the studios were not going to give us control of the "Produced By” credit. So what we needed was something that we did control. A certification mark could be "trademarked” and controlled by the Guild, and licensed out to distributors or copyright owners for use in screen credits.

HAWK: Mark and I were elected as Guild Presidents in 2010. Not long after, Vance came back to us with the idea for the Mark. Studios could control the credit. But only the person who did the work could get the Mark. Mark Gordon and I realized, wow, this is a way we can do it. We saw the light, and we started to use our contacts in the business to try and make it happen.

VANCE: Early on, we determined that the Mark should be the initials of the Guild, but rendered in a way that was distinct from our logo. Clint Eastwood was actually a pivotal voice in those early talks; he persuaded us that the Mark shouldn’t indicate "membership in the club,” but should apply to every producer who did the work, regardless of whether or not she or he was a Guild member. So that was how we arrived at the lowercase p.g.a. The biggest hurdle after that was making sure that there wasn’t a conflict with the Professional Golfers Association. But we’ve always gotten along very well with the "other” PGA.

MARK: There was a lot of conversation about how people would feel about the Mark following their name. It was something that the community had seen with the ASC, the ACE, the CSA, and so on, but those were membership designations, indicating that a person belonged to an organization. The Producers Mark was different — it was specific to an individual film, and would indicate the nature of the work performed on the picture, not what group you were a member of.

VANCE: In fact, the biggest reason that our members didn’t embrace a certification mark 10 years ago was the worry about how a producing credit would look with those initials after the name. Maybe the biggest change we’ve seen in the last decade is that the PGA really has become an organization that more people are actively proud to be a part of. Those letters after your name are now a positive, something you’re proud to be affiliated with and certified by.

So how did it all come together? I remember the work that went into putting together the "open letter” that pretty much every major film producer signed on to.

HAWK: Honestly, I just picked up the phone and started calling everybody. I walked them through it, I read the letter to them and said, "I need your name on the list.” I personally talked to a majority of those people on that letter, and I told them, you’ve got to do this. You are a producer and you gotta do it for your profession, and for the producers coming down the road.

Did the producers grasp what the Mark was trying to do?

HAWK: Absolutely! They got it. They were asking me, "Do you think this can help?” They were all struggling with how nobody wanted to listen to them. And I said, "This is the way we can make this happen.” We sent the letter to every studio, to every executive at the studios. We put it in the trades. And then Mark and I went to work, behind the scenes, at all the studios.

MARK: It helped that our proposal was not asking to change who studios would be willing or not willing to give producer credits to. By the way, one of the things that was also heartening for us is that even though we weren’t able to get the studios to allow us arbitrate screen credits, over the last five or six years, studios have cracked down very aggressively on "Produced By” credits. They do not give out those credits with the frequency that they used to. That is a direct result of the aggressive work that the Guild has been doing for the past 10 years in arbitrating eligibility for the awards shows, and our "Campaign for Fair Credits,” which was led by Marshall Herskovitz. We had already seen the positive result of our work, and we had already come quite a long way, but now we wanted to put the finishing touches on it to say, "These producers really did their work.”

HAWK: This proposal had meat to it. The studio still could give credit to another producer who had negotiated it. They just weren’t going to get the Mark if they didn’t do the work. If you do the work, you get the Mark!

MARK: We went to every studio, and we went again and again and again, and it was not easy.

VANCE: There were all kinds of obstacles. One studio actually requested that we obtain a Business Review Letter from the Department of Justice, confirming that there would be no anti-trust concerns as a result of the Producers Mark. This is not an easy thing to accomplish. At the time we submitted our request, in the summer of 2011, the Obama administration had only issued five such letters — just five letters over 2 1⁄2 years. But we succeeded. And not only did the Department of Justice confirm that there would be no anti-trust implications to the Producers Mark, they stated an opinion that the adoption of the Mark would be a positive development for the industry and for the public. An ironic postscript: the studio that requested that we obtain this letter still hasn’t signed on to support the Mark.

MARK: But we also found champions in the community. It was a very brave thing for these guys to do. No one likes change. No one likes to commit to something that takes their time and reduces some flexibility. But three studios signed agreements to certify their producing credits with the Producers Mark, starting with Ron Meyer at Universal, and then Michael Lynton at Sony; the third studio to come in was Fox, thanks to Jim Gianopulos. They agreed to do this because they felt that this was the right thing to do — that it was fair, it was appropriate, and that it should be clear who really did the work of producing a film. Because the job of the producer has so many functions, screen credits can be misleading. Producers credited onscreen can be everything from someone that just wrote a check, to someone’s manager, to the actual person who developed the script and saw it all the way through from beginning to end. Without the Mark, those people on the screen all look the same, so to be able to distinguish between those names is a very, very powerful thing.

HAWK: Putting up money is not producing a movie, that’s an important thing to say. Financing a movie is not the same as producing a movie. You want to know what a producer does? Look at our Code of Credits. Look at our criteria. If you do a majority of those things, you qualify for the Producers Mark.

So what’s the next step? How will the Guild encourage producers to request the Mark?

HAWK: I think that like everything else, it starts small and it starts to happen. As movies start to come out and that Mark is on it, the other producers say, "I want that Mark on my movie, because I’m a producer!” It starts to snowball. What should happen now is that every producer, no matter if you’re doing a little movie or a big movie, should insist on the Mark.

Do you remember the first time you saw the Mark on a film?

HAWK: The first time I saw the Mark was on Lawless, after Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher’s names. I was so proud. We’ve made a difference in the lives of real producers. I’m as proud of this as just about anything I’ve ever done.

MARK: This was a very, very important issue for Hawk and me. We went about this with the fervor of getting a movie done, which is: We cannot fail. We will not fail. We must accomplish this. We will not take no for an answer. Fortunately, we had some terrific men at these studios who were willing to change our culture. It was a very wonderful and heartening thing in this day and age, when everything is so business-oriented and corporate. But these guys did stand up and say, "This is the right thing to do. We are going to stand with you.” These men made it happen and our debt to them is enormous.

HAWK: Over the whole process, my only regret is giving up that argument over what the certification should be called. This thing could have been "the Producers Hawk.”

MARK: Nice try, pal.



How Do I Get the Producers Mark

by Nikki Livolsi

When the Guild first proposed that we could provide a mechanism for arbitrating producing credits, the industry was skeptical. The Guild was told that it would never be able to get producers to fairly arbitrate and evaluate their peers’ contributions. As PGA National Executive Director Vance Van Petten observed, "[The industry] thought that producers were too independent and self-interested. What none of the naysayers took into account was the growing outrage within the producing community surround- ing deceptive credits. Producers may be fiercely independent, but they readily recognized that this was a collective problem that required a collective solution.”

Here we are, more than 10 years later, and the determination process has not only survived, but thrived. First utilized for the 2001 Producers Guild Awards, the eligibility process was created to determine which producers on a film should receive producing honors for their work on a motion picture. Through the years, this process has been revised, fine-tuned and made applicable not only for awards consideration, but has been extended to determine which producers on a film are eligible to be certified via the Producers Mark.

Over the years, this process has gained such credibility that several major studios have agreed to submit every one of their releases for Producers Mark certification. Those companies include 20th Century Fox Studios, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, DreamWorks Studios and DreamWorks Animation. The Guild is currently in negotiations with the industry’s other major studios and companies. We’d like to take this opportunity to lead you step-by-step through the determination process as it applies to motion pictures that are submitted for Producers Mark certification.


The process begins at the start of post-production on a motion picture, when a studio or production company decides to submit one of its productions for Producers Mark certification. This decision is communicated to the PGA by submission of the "Notice of Producing Credits,” a two-page form listing names, titles and contact information for all major creative and executive contributors to the project. The studio or production company in charge of submission of the Notice of Producing Credits Form must also submit the film’s proposed or actual Onscreen Credits list, as well as the Crew Member Contact list. Companies are encouraged to utilize the easy-to-use, online Notice of Producing Credits Form via Once that Form and the attachments are received, the serious work begins.


After the Notice of Producing Credits is received, the PGA emails Eligibility Forms to all eligible producers. For motion pictures, only those who have received the "Produced By” credit are eligible. The Eligibility Form itself is the most essential component of the process. Three pages long, it lists the many varied duties of a producer, from development through pre-production, physical production and finally, post-production and marketing.

The Eligibility Form is literally the result of years of research into standard industry and production practices, based on input from hundreds of producers. As any reader of this magazine knows, the job of the producer is fundamentally multifaceted. The Eligibility Form captures a full and comprehensive range of a producer’s potential duties; for each of those duties, the eligible producer is requested to indicate her/his level of responsibility — minimal, substantial or final. The Form also includes "free response” questions, inviting the producer to describe the nature of her or his involvement with the project.


As Eligibility Forms are distributed to the credited producers, Third-Party Verification Forms are sent to non-producorial contributors to the project — the writer(s), director, casting director, costume and production designers, director of photography, UPM, production supervisor,assistant director, associate producer(s), production manager, visual effects supervisor (if applicable), editor, composer, and post-production supervisor. These forms are far simpler, and merely ask the respondent to indicate which of the eligible producers they interacted with over the course of their work. At no time are studio executives invited or required to be a part of the process; apart from the initial submission of the Notice of Producing Credits, the entire undertaking takes place wholly outside the studio auspices.

All Eligibility Forms and Third-Party Verification Forms are kept strictly confidential. The success of the process is absolutely dependent on the respondents’ willingness to be candid in their testimony, and the only way to promote such candidness is to maintain the strictest confidentiality in every case. All completed forms are sent directly to the PGA, and go immediately into the production’s file. In the rare event that they are shared, it is only in confidence with other reputable organizations for the sole purpose of making award eligibility determinations.

It takes a lot of work to assemble this documentation. Most producers are busy enough on their current projects that they’d understandably rather not take the time to complete several pages of additional paperwork. As a result, getting the completed forms back often takes a few polite, persistent reminders.


Once the documentation is assembled, a date is set for the determination panel. Such panels typically consist of three experienced producers (though never less than two), each with numerous credits in the genre of the production in question. Those three producers are drawn from a lengthy list of potential panelists. Prior to the commencement of the arbitration, all eligible producers are sent that list, and have the opportunity to strike any name, for any good faith reason, if a producer feels that a panelist might demonstrate bias. So while producers whose projects are being arbitrated don’t know the names of the panelists conducting the arbitration, they are assured that any panelist who might display a conflict of interest will not be a part of the proceeding.


The determination proceeding itself is completely confidential. Over the course of the determination, panelists examine and debate sensitive questions that will determine producers’ eligibility. Apart from the PGA Administrator(s) offering summaries and clarifications on the rules, no one apart from the panelists is present during the proceedings.


Once the panelists have arrived at a clear understanding of every producer’s contributions to the project, it’s their job to weigh those contributions according to the guidelines laid out by the PGA. In motion pictures, the Guild suggests that contributions to the development of the project are weighted at 35%; pre-production is weighted at 20%; physical production 20%; and post-production and marketing are, collectively, weighted at 25%.

The rationale for this weighted system is simple. Because the producer’s job is so wide-ranging and has become increasingly complex over the past 10–15 years, it’s unrealistic to expect a producer to have final responsibility over every producing function listed on the Eligibility Form. In order to qualify for Producers Mark certification, a producer must demonstrate responsibility for a majority (more than 50%) of the functions. Thus, a producer who was deeply involved in development (35%) and pre-production (20%), not involved in physical production, and partially involved in post-production or marketing (some portion of 25%), would be certified. Conversely, a producer with no involvement in development, heavy involvement in pre- production (20%) and physical production (20%), but no further involvement following principal photography, would not qualify, as the producer’s demonstrated responsibilities only totaled 40% of the overall producing functions.

In terms of assessing the level of contribution within a given phase, it’s important to note that not all job functions are weighted equally. Hiring the director, for instance, will nearly always carry more weight than participating in location scouting. A producer who hired and consulted with the visual effects team will be considered differently if the project in question was an effects-heavy studio tent pole release as opposed to a smaller independent feature with sparing use of visual effects. In all cases, the arbiters rely on their considerable experience and perspective to arrive at a decision appropriate to the individual project.


After a panel’s decisions are handed down and distributed to the participating producers, aggrieved parties may file an appeal with the PGA, suggesting that the panel was not in possession of important information that would have changed the outcome, or was in some manner derelict in its duty. After collecting any additional information, the PGA Administrator will convene an appeal panel, including one panelist from the original panel and two new panelists, who will approach the issue with fresh eyes. The panel first determines whether or not the grounds for an appeal are valid. If not, the prior panel’s decision is re- instated. If there are legitimate grounds for the appeal, the panel will review all documentation in light of any new information, and render a new decision. After an appeal decision is handed down — either re-instating the initial panel’s decision or offering a new list of certified producers — there is no further recourse.

That’s all folks — the story of the Producers Mark determination process made easy. It is the most accurate and successful system to date to determine which producers actually performed a majority of the producing functions on a project.

Nikki Livolsi serves as Director of Legal Affairs & Arbitrations for the Producers Guild.

-Click here to submit online
-Click here for more details about the mark


The Producers Guild of America is the owner and sole licensor of the Producers Mark. Any unauthorized use of the Producers Mark in a motion picture’s credits – by a PGA member or non-member – will not be permitted and legal action may result from any unauthorized use. To utilize the Producers Mark in your film’s credits and advertisements, you must apply for usage by completing a Notice of Producing Credits form, which can be found by clicking here.


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They Want To Take You Higher: The High Frame Rate 3D Promo Shoot Showcases Top PGA Talent

Posted By Andrew Mahlmann, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013
PGA members, back row, left to right: Leo Vezzali, David Scott Van Woert, Gregg Katano. Front row, left to right: Steve Schklair, Michael Sarna, Salvy Maleki

With the success of The Hobbit and the launch of cinema in 48 frames per second (fps), the industry is all abuzz. What is high frame rate (HFR)? What does it mean for me as a producer? Does it take more time? Is there special equipment needed? Who works in HFR?

These questions were all answered recently during an HFR 3D promo shoot hosted by GDC Technology and RED Digital Cinema. PGA member Salvy Maleki, producer and EVP at GDC, was in need of original HFR footage to use in a promo to showcase the company’s HFR Integrated Media Block (IMB), only to find that there was no content available to license. So, she took the initiative to organize a live-action, special effects shoot, shot in HFR 3D, to really show off different frame rates, comparing 24 to 48 and 60 frames per second.

"This was a dream project to produce. It was a great opportunity to work with some of the industry’s greatest innovators in 3D and cinema technology. It made the experience even more satisfying to work with fellow PGA members. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon for the opportunity to be a part of this evolution that is taking place,” Maleki explained.

Maleki contacted Brian Henderson and Ted Schilowitz at RED Digital Cinema to partner with on the shoot, and then contacted fellow PGA member Michael Sarna, CEO of Inmotion Entertainment and a renowned action director, for his expertise in action/stunt scenes. A soundstage on the RED Studios lot in Hollywood was the location for a two-day shoot in February.

What is different about an HFR 3D shoot from any other 2D or 3D shoot? According to Sarna, when shooting action sequences on traditional film at 24fps, the shutter opens and closes 24 times a second, capturing only 12 frames per second of useable footage. When shooting at 48fps or 60fps, the camera captures two to three times as much information, thus avoiding the closure of the shutter. So in shooting at these higher frame rates, a producer or DP guarantees complete capture of the action sequence. When filming digitally, quickly panning the camera (as is often required in action sequences) commonly results in warping or bowing of the image. But the higher the frame rate, the less warping is experienced.

Ted Schilowitz of RED Digital Cinema commented about the ambitious nature of the shoot and the ease of how it all went during the production days.

Stunt action sequence: Camera underneath performer pulled out and replaced by mats before fall."We shot with three 3ality TS5 rigs,” he reports, "with Angenieux zooms, one on a jib, one on a dolly and one floating on various high hats and sticks to get as much coverage as possible. We executed the shoot at a base frame rate of both 48fps and 60fps, and within those project rates shot high speed, up to 120fps. We did a lot of experimentation and learning on the set thanks to an amazing crew of experienced EPIC shooters and on-set techs that were all there to learn with us. We walked away with vast amount of footage to learn from and view on the big screen in both 3D and 4k at 48fps, 60fps and an extraction to 24fps. "The thing that was most telling,” he continues, "was that a shoot like this took no longer to execute than doing a shoot of the same sophistication with 2D cameras shooting at the normal 24fps. We never waited on camera setup any longer than working in 2D, and we had some very big stunts that could only be executed once or twice, so we had to be ready to get all the coverage we wanted at all these various frame rates. We were able to invite the crew to view the fruits of their labor right after shooting, and instantly screened the big fire gag stunt, some high falls and gunfights on a giant screen directly from the EPIC 5k files, in the nearby 4k theater.”

From an equipment perspective, HFR doesn’t require any different equipment than that of any 2D or 3D shoot, added Steve Schklair, PGA member and CEO of 3ality Technica, who supplied the stereoscopic 3D production team, equipment, cameras, lenses, software control systems and all the acquisition equipment as well as technical management of the workflow. Frame rates are a function of having the right cameras and recorders on set more than anything else. "Once a frame rate is selected,” notes Schklair, "it gets plugged into the system, no matter the speed. Switching between multiple frame rates, as in this shoot, took a few minutes longer as we had to change settings to switch back and forth between takes, but even so, the shoot went easily and was very efficient. HFR is a normal evolution of the system; it doesn’t take any extra effort from S3D equipment standpoint, and we are very supportive of it.”

HFR 3D action shot features Michael Rintoul, (stereographer, 3ality Technica), David Morizot (stunt coordinator), Chip Mefford (stunt talent, center, on fire), Dawn McElhare (right, not on fire)Sarna advises from a director’s point of view that "the main difference in working in HFR is the consideration needed for post-production. I was fortunate to have consultants all around me as I directed each scene. While I concentrated on the storytelling, Josh Wexler, our stereoscopic/VFX supervisor, helped me during each shot, pointing out considerations in the stereo space, while post-production supervisors David and Leo were on set during production, to make sure that all media was being captured correctly.”

Discussing with the post-production/visual effects team, it seems that working together is the key. David Scott Van Woert and Leo Vezzali (both PGA members as well) of Identity FX, worked alongside fellow member Gregg Katano of Hi-Ground Media to provide post-production and 3D visualization services on the promo.

"We were heavily involved from day one of preproduction and on set to help shape the processing of the data, so there was not a mountain of information at the end,” remarked Van Woert.

"HFR 3D demands integration on set between pre, production and post,” adds Katano. "With higher frame rate comes double, triple, quadruple the amount of data that we must now sift through in post, under the same time and budget constraints as 24 frames.”

"Salvy is a true filmmaker at heart, and did a fantastic job as producer in guiding this shoot, as we all discovered just how to work together,” touted Michael Sarna. According to Maleki, "This shoot probably was the most expensive five-minute promo ever shot, once you add up the overall value of talent and services. It started as a crew of 10 and quickly grew into a crew of 77, with 22 stunt guys, a fire gag, gunshots, two dollies and a crane.”

This promo will be seen at upcoming trade shows and industry events to which PGA members will be invited.


Photos courtesy of Michael Q. Martin
-Top: PGA members, back row, left to right: Leo Vezzali, David Scott Van Woert, Gregg Katano. Front row, left to right: Steve Schklair, Michael Sarna, Salvy Maleki
-Middle: Stunt action sequence: Camera underneath performer pulled out and replaced by mats before fall.
-Bottom: HFR 3D action shot features Michael Rintoul, (stereographer, 3ality Technica), David Morizot (stunt coordinator), Chip Mefford (stunt talent, center, on fire), Dawn McElhare (right, not on fire)

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