Shortland Street gets an upgrade with the Panasonic VariCam 3519th May 2016     By: Panasonic Media

In the latest issue of New Zealand's screen industry publication 'Crewed', technology writer Peter Parnham talks about New Zealand's most popular TV series Shortland Street upgrading their cameras to Panasonic's VariCam 35 cameras.

Shortland Street Gear Treat

via Crewed Magazine

In a new world where free to air audiences are in danger of wandering off, it has to make sense to look after the show that earns the big dollars. The latest TVNZ advertising schedule shows Shortland Street way ahead in earning power, pulling about 60 percent more than, say, an advertising spot during TV One's 6pm news.

Hence the investment in a substantial quantity of new cameras, lenses, and lighting by producers South Pacific Pictures is a relatively safe bet. New gear doesn't by itself rejuvenate the look of the show, but the particular choices made break with the past and make the new look possible.

The switch to a new set of cameras is news among camera aficionados because of the decision to go with five Panasonic VariCam 35 cameras: three set up for studio, and two set up for location shooting. It is the first sale of the new cameras in New Zealand and probably the biggest number of cameras sold in one go since the last time Shortland Street upgraded to hi-definition in 2009.

It also represents somewhat of a comeback to high-end cameras for Panasonic and wins them immediate admission to the senior ranks of the 35mm digital camera club - a club which is getting rather crowded with its new and eager upstarts intent on disturbing the establishment.

With the Varicam 35 cameras, Directors call the shots and switch cameras much as they would do in a live studio broadcast. The VariCam 35 cameras will also happily shoot film style, as Shortland Street does on location, where the signal is recorded to memory cards for later ingestion and editing.

The switched approach allows post-production supervisor Dylan Reeve to take some whole sequences as more or less complete. However, for the last couple of years they've recorded both the line cut and the individual cameras - just in case.

Reeve says once they had selected which cameras to buy they could begin to exploit the other benefits on offer. Technically, the camera has an extraordinary optional native ISO 5000 setting.

"The new camera is three stops more sensitive than what we had, maybe even four stops, and has a low noise floor. We don't need as much light in the sets, we can play light and dark more than we used to," Reeve says.

Post-production supervisor Dylan Reeve expected punters to notice the visual transition and, for the dedicated fans, there was a Facebook post announcing the change.

"Shortland Street fans are incredibly vocal on Facebook but it drops away very quickly. When we make changes, you could ask them what is different and they wouldn't able to tell you, but they could tell you that something is different. At least that's been my experience," Reeve says, recalling the change from standard definition to high definition, from interlaced to progressive images, and from stereo to 5.1 surround sound.

It's worth investing, improving, and evolving. Yes, content is king and a show lives or dies on the drama and story, but check out early Shortland Street episodes on YouTube and you'll see technology and a visual style that would kill a show today. Most shows simply die off before they have any need to take on new generations of gear or a new look.

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About the Panasonic VariCam 35 4K camera/recorder

The VariCam 35 is an exceptional tool for high-end filmmaking, commercials and episodic production as well as live 4K events. The camera provides superb image handling in multiple formats ranging from pristine 4K RAW to more practical 4K, UHD, 2K, HD and HD ProRes capture. Several assets set the VariCam 35 apart from other high-end cinematography cameras, including dual native ISOs of 800 and 5000, allowing DPs to realise incredible image quality in dramatically low light situations; the ability to record three simultaneous video formats (4K + 2K + Proxy, or UHD + HD + Proxy); an optional high-speed 4K uncompressed RAW recorder (CODEX) that captures uncompressed 4K VariCam RAW (V-RAW) at up to 120fps; internal AVC-Intra 4K / 2K / HD recording to 120fps; support for an ACES workflow for full fidelity mastering of original source material; and in-camera Color-Grading via CDLs / 3D LUTs. LEARN MORE.

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