Magazine article American Cinematographer

Digital Derring-Do and More: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Digital Derring-Do and More: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Article excerpt

David TattersaL is anxiously keeping watch over a locked-down Arriflex 16SR-2 pointed in the direction of a sumptuously iced slice of cake. Eight slinky showgirls strut around the quartered confection as a Gershwin tune swells in the background. Any Busby Berkeley fan worth his spats could tell you whaf s wrong with this picture: the patisserie shouldn't just be big, it should be spectacular, and the ladies legion. By the time the "New York 1920" episode gets through electronic postproduction they will be. Welcome to the wonderful world of The young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where there's as much adventure behind the camera as there is in Indy's world.

The ABC series hit the airwaves with a splash this past spring, creating an industry buzz with its globe-trotting locations, top international directors, and the audacious decision by producers Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Television to capture the sweeping vistas of Kenya, China and Spain on 16mm. This derring-do was topped by the demand for the latest in digital postproduction effects, including the elaborate digital compositing that will turn the aforementioned New York scene into a high energy extravaganza.

When the shot comes out of the oven at San Francisco's Western Images, that single layer of cake filmed on a North Carolina soundstage will be digitally replicated and stacked four high. Filmed in multiple passes, the eight dancers will approximate a high-kicking chorus of 100, strategically placed along the perimeter of each counter-revolutionary tier.

"That cake will be 80 feet high when we're through," says producer Rick McCallum, who estimates that it would have cost between $50,000 and $60,000 to create a scale model, sans dancers. In addition to the digital duplication that will take place in a Harry suite, the 16mm footage captured by Tattersal in North Carolina will be matted into a 35mm plate of the house interior of Prague's National Theater, doubling for New York. 'It's very opulent, like New York theaters of the Twenties," McCallum notes.

Indeed, the crew got a lot of mileage out of the atmospheric Czech city. Prague has stood in at one time or another for Paris, Vienna and St. Petersburg, McCallum relates from the Young Indy production offices in WiImington. That small southern town will make its Broadway debut in "New York 1920," which finds a collegiate Indy working as an usher in a Jazz Age dance hall and falling for a leggy dancer. A local theater was used for backstage and audience shots that will be matched or matted into the sequence.

The second season started with stateside filming that included creating the "bookends," short segments that flank each episode and feature veteran-actor George Hall, doing his best eye-patched John Ford imitation, as the older Indy. Sean Patrick Flanery plays the 16-year-old Indy and Corey Carrier portrays our hero at 10 in the hourlong weekly adventures, which are presented as flashbacks in which the youngsters explore some of the more interesting times in recent history, mixing it up with the likes of Mata Hari and Albert Schweitzer.

By early September, McCallum and crew were off to adventures of their own, touring through Ireland, Italy, Africa, Turkey and Israel. The group also made another pit stop in Prague during April before heading off to Greece and Russia in late spring.

The locations and Tattersal's inspired camerawork combined to give the show the exotic look to which executive producer George Lucas aspired. "When I hired David to shoot the series I told him I didn't want it to look like a television show. I wanted it to be artistic, and to have more of a European look," says Lucas. The show's creator didn't want the series to be locked into one overriding visual style, preferring to have the cinematographer play off each director/location/storyline combination.

"I wanted David to take a lot of chances, and he's done a spectacular job of meeting my hopes," Lucas adds. …

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