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Keeping Pace with Digital Production
August 1, 2000 – The use of digital cameras to shoot Episode II has been a time-saver on numerous parts of the production. Gone is the wait for film to be processed in order to view dailies. As a result, the production has been moving along at a brisk pace.
“Literally, the day we finish shooting a set, we can take it down,” says Production Designer Gavin Bocquet. “Because we’re shooting with a digital camera, there’s no real need for rushes. Everybody’s seeing the final reproduction precisely on a very sophisticated monitor. On the day of shooting they’re seeing actually what you see, rather than having to wait until the next day to see the rushes or the transfer from the film to tapes three days later. You get clearance on the set almost the day you finish it.”
The sets that crews have worked long hours to create, and that have been up and ready for three months, are struck down in mere hours to make room for new sets to be built. “So literally, the next day, the guys are in there with sledgehammers taking it down, which obviously can be a bit distressing from our point of view, but it’s inevitable. With the quick turnaround we’re having to do here, if everybody’s happy with what they’ve got, it comes down.”
After about five weeks of shooting, the production has reached its halfway point in Australia. “Which means we’re taking down the first wave of sets that we’ve built and quickly erecting the second wave,” says Bocquet. “Same sort of principle as last time, because of the amount of set work we have to do. On the first one we had about 54 studio sets of various sizes. I think this time we’re already have a total of 68.”
Episode II’s production schedule calls for a two-and-a-half month stint at Fox Studios Australia, followed by shooting in Tunisia and Italy. This is notably different from Episode I. “In Episode I we had planned a four week trip to Tunisia and Italy in the middle of the shoot, which gave us time to make those set changes back at the studio,” explains Bocquet. “We shot at Leavesdon for six weeks, went away for four, came back for four. Because we’re in Australia it’s not really possible to go to Tunisia and Italy and come back again, just because of the distances.”
Although his time is mostly consumed by overseeing the construction of the remaining sets, Bocquet is thinking ahead to Tunisia. “We’ve got five weeks more shooting here,” says Bocquet, “but I actually leave in two-and-a-half weeks with Peter Walpole, the set decorator, heading off back to Italy then Tunisia to get those ends ready. So another reason why my time is a bit busy here is because I’m trying to get all the information ready for the last two weeks of shooting here without us.”
In the compressed timeframe and the increased pace, the possibilities of missed shots is a reality. If there has to be additional shooting, and the set has been torn down, digital technology can come to the rescue. “There may well be pick-ups and things that we’ll have to do later. This time around, they’re comprehensively photographing the lit sets with a stills photographer,” says Bocquet. “They may well be able, for some pick-ups, to actually take a still and drop them into the background. That used to be done a lot in the old black and white days of filmmaking. The sets were photographed and if they had close-ups or inserts to do, they would just have a slightly soft still frame behind them, which was a blown-up photograph. That’s a very economic way of producing something. Obviously, in today’s day and age it’s simpler to do with this sort of digital technology.”