Filming Sicily with Aldo and Enzo

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This is being broadcast several times a day on GoodFood (Sky 247) weekdays this week and next, take a look.

I (Andy Walton) was employed by Trevor McCallum of red door tv to shoot and edit an ad funded cookery show in Sicily. The project took 2 years till we started shooting, a lot changed in that time. Originally it was to be shot for sd broadcast, I had 2 xdcam camcorders, a pdw-350 and a330, at that time they were approved for full hd production by Discovery. I planned to shoot in hd and hoped an hd version later might bring in more budget. In that 2 year planning and negotiating phase the dslr/large chip shallow dof revolution began, we also got the 50mbit bbc rules. The channel also now expected delivery in hd(so much for my plans to make a bit extra for an hd version). I had discussed the option of a smaller large chip option with Trevor, he liked the idea, at the time we were supposed to start shooting (early 2011) the only sensible option was a 101 with an atomos ninja, I already had a hacked gh1 so I had some nice lenses, 14-140, 7-14, 20mm pancake and some canon fd primes. The 101 it was, it arrived with a ninja ( both purchased from proactive). I wasn’t that impressed with my original test shots, it didn’t seem as sharp as my gh1 or my 350. I scoured the net for info and finally got some settings that helped with latitude and colour, it still never looked as sharp as the gh1! The chefs were Aldo Zilli and a Sicilian chef Enzo Olivieri.
We did a small test shoot a couple of weeks before the flight to Sicily, it showed we would need 3 cameras for the recipes, the 101 as main hand held with the 14-140 on, covering the 2 chefs and following the action, the 350 was on legs and would cover close ups of the cooking and prep, as a safety net we locked the gh1 off on legs as an oblique wide with a 14-42 on, it was operated by enzo’s son to try to frame me out of its shot.
The crew were Trevor as director/producer, arch Dyson as exec producer/ compliance, me as DOP, James styles as 2nd camera, Roberto as camera assistant/runner, mike Erander on sound. There were 2 production assistants who also doubled up as home economists. The 2 chefs also travelled with us, we were flying easyjet and had 1 carry on and 1 hold baggage, they couldn’t stretch to any more. I had 4 small peli cases, a large size pdw-350, a large kitbag with lights, grip and 2 tripods in it and a suitcase with a few clothes and all the small chargers and discs etc. It meant a military style plan with others having to share cases and hand bags so all the kit could travel within the allowance, we were still arranging bags as we checked in. We just made it!
We were away for 12 days inclusive of travel days, we had 10 shows to shoot in 10 different towns/ locations, 3 dishes per show and links, several of which involved boats or markets etc. we stayed in 5 different hotels, I had to transfer all the files as we went along (several sleepless nights).
We arrived in sicily late afternoon and picked up a van with local hero (Enzos brother Salvatori) and a car, we drove to a hotel in Taormina, after a brief break we set about filming a sequence with the 101 through the town to be used at the end of the episode, it turned out not being used as the programme had too much content for the 22 minute episode, a nights rest and the fun began with a sequence filmed on a boat along the coast, on the 101 with ninja, that went well and the footage looked great. We were filming in the grounds of our hotel which had the jetty to land the boat. A trip through the town where I filmed the GV’s for this episode and some long shots of Mt Etna for the next episode. We also filmed a sequence outside a shop and another unused sequence at the local amphitheatre. We returned to the hotel at approx 3pm to find the hotel had a wedding in the grounds, a small panic later we filmed on the shore with a very pretty backdrop, we had issues with wind and the setting sun but managed to get 3 dishes filmed before the shadows were too long. Each episode had 3 dishes, all filmed withe the 101 handheld with the ninja, my second cameraman James filmed on legs with the pdw-350 mostly doing close ups of the chopping and pans, we locked off the gh1 on a wide. It took the first couple of days to establish a pattern, our exec producer Arch Dyson was monitoring the 2 main cameras through a sony hd monitor, he was making sure we covered the important stuff and kept an eye on complience issues. I began to use my peripheral vision to see where James was pointing the camera and covered anything he missed, we had 2 chefs who at times were both cooking, we paused as little as we had to and rarely had to re take any cookery. That evening after our first full day shooting we moved to a hotel near to Mt Etna, our day 2 shoot. We filmed in a crater at high altitude, the logistics of moving all the cooking and camera kit was really difficult, really tiring and took ages. On route to the mountain we filmed an opening link on the sony and a shopping sequence on the gh1.
GV’s of the mountain were done by me and James while the cooking equipment was setup. A really efficient 3 dishes later we left the mountain for a hard earned meal in an amazing restaurant on route back to hotel number 2. Day 3 started with a trip to our next hotel and loccation, we filmed the opening link and GV’s on the sony, Day 4 was full on with a shopping sequence in a local market where we also filmed 2 of the dishes, we filmed under a red canopy which played havoc with the light, both colour and exposure, I had to do major 3 way colour correction in edius to desaturate the blown out highlights of the rear of the 101 shots. I found the issue of weird colours in blown highlights was salvaged by desaturating the highlights, edius is great at this and realtime which made the edit much quicker. we moved back to the town to film a sequence in an ice cream store, all on the 101 until the last part where the programme ended, this programme was hectic and required a lot of editing down to fit in to 22 mins, it did end up as our first programme so was felt to be strong by the director Trevor. We moved on to our next location that evening a spectacular vineyard, the chefs were staying on site the crew were demoted to a local guest house, we filmed a sunset and a never used interview with the director of the vineyard, an unusual night drinking beer from a mobile catering wagon next to our guesthouse was more fun that expected. A really busy day at the vineyard with opening links taking a couple of hours, more wind issues and a dance sequence after filming the cookery meant we finished at sunset, a pleasant meal courtesy of the vineyard and another long journey to our final hotel, which was on a hillside in Monreale overlooking Palermo, we were based here for 6 nights, issues with plumbing aside it was nice to be able to setup all my chargers and laptop for the last time. We filmed within an hour or so for the next 6 days, we had become pretty slick at the pattern by now, James would do GV’s while I filmed opening links. Th most noteable event in those last 6 days was a mad rush to film a sequence with an opera singer called Gary who had flown in from Bromley! We had half an hour to setup 3 cameras, sound and run 3 passes in an amazing amphitheatre before they closed the gates! In Palermo we broke from the show format and filmed in different locations including a sequence outside in the dark at a restaurant which cooked fish on a bbq, the 101 with the f1.7 20mm pancake was much better in the lowlight than the pdw-350.
I also had an original gopro which we used in a sequence in a really small car in Corleone. I had 1 recipe wher the ninja caused a problem, it locked up and refused to turn on or off, I was literally about to start the dish so elected to just use the internal recording, a battery recycle later I was up and running again, I only lost 3 shots during the entire shoot, it was some gv’s filmed on the 101 on the last day, I think I must have reused the memmory card before I realised  hadn’t copied off the footage. The ninja was amazing as was the 101, no issues apart from those mentioned. The sony 350 performed flawlessly and looked amazing despite only being 35mb and 1440 resolution. I was most amazed with the hacked gh1, it was sharp and after a little correction matched quite well.
I edited myself over a 3 month period using edius, the ninja footage was prores (110mb) the xdcam was native and the gh1 avchd (44mb), edius handled it all realtime, I extensively colour corrected to both match the cameras and enhance sky colours. I had to work hard with the 101 on the skintones, the chefs were both italian and tanned as we progressed, I had to do a 3way pass just to desaturate and reduce the red in their skintones, it ended up looking pretty good and I think most of the footage matched well. I had a big issue finding a format our sound guy could accept into his pc based protools system, so much so that we ended up doing the dub in edius, not something I was comfortable with but would be happier next time as I think it’s come out well. I mastered onto hdcam sr and apart from a few complience issues (involving product placement issues, Sicily as the sponsor of the programme was considered to be the product, so we had to edit out most of the comments the chefs made about the great location) the post process went really smoothly.

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