Panasonic VariCam hits gridiron

Producers of “Facing the Giants,” a drama that opens on September 29th about a high-school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure off and on the field showed their own faith in Panasonic’s Varicam HD gear and veteran sports cinematographer Bob Scott to shoot the film.

Scott, an experienced VariCam shooter and owner, has served as Director of Photography for the official documentary retrospectives for the past several Olympics Games, produced by Bud Greenspan s Cappy Productions (New York, NY). Notably, Scott also shot football sequences for such major theatrical features as “Two for the Money” (as DP of second unit), “Any Given Sunday,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Too Fast, Too Furious” and “The Replacements.” While I ve shot any number of commercial spots and industrials with the VariCam, I d never shot a feature on HD before, Scott said. Familiar with my football work, Alex approached me and my partner, David Nixon (who ultimately served as “Facing the Giants ” assistant director). We felt that Alex and his associates came to the table with a great story, but their limited budget was not going to allow the production values we wanted, especially a lot of essential slo-mo sequences. So we opted for the AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera. Scott outfitted the camera with a Pro 35 lens adapter and Panavision lenses. I didn t want ENG lenses, he noted. We wanted to emulate a film look as much as possible, and those accessories gave us the same characteristics as 35mm from the lens standpoint, with a shallow depth of field and film-like grain. Apart from the VariCam, the equipment was modest. Lighting and grip-wise, I campaigned for a couple of small HMIs and a real film dolly for some very pivotal scenes,” says Scott. “We couldn t get a SteadiCam or a crane. Scott says he was anxious about enough light, especially at night, even with the 12K HMIs. “Initially, when we got into a night or day interior, I d start to light it, but as we progressed, I saw that I didn t need to bring in as much light,” he explains. “The VariCam was really seeing in that dark area.

In terms of off-speed shooting, Scott recalled, I didn t want to overuse slo-mo, but it was absolutely critical. We d use it to suspend moments that really only took three seconds. Time and time again, the variable speed rate proved itself a great tool.

The six-week shoot yielded over 25 hours of footage, which was edited down to a 110-minute feature on Final Cut Pro, inputting from an AJ-HD1200A DVCPRO HD deck. Panasonic s AJ-HDC27 VariCam replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition, including 24-frame progressive scan images, time lapse recording, and a wide range of variable frame rates (4-fps to 60-fps in single-frame increments) for overcranked and undercranked off-speed in-camera effects. The AJ-HDC27 VariCam also features CineGamma software that permits Panasonic s HD Cinema camera systems to more closely match the latitude of film stocks.

A production of Sherwood Pictures (Albany, GA), “Facing the Giants” is being distributed theatrically by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films in association with Provident Films.