Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NCIS: Los Angeles - surveillance video

From TV Technology: "CBS primetime drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" is using JVC ProHD camcorders to produce the "surveillance video" monitored by undercover agents who are on a mission to thwart criminals that threaten national security.

The visual narrative of the series relies heavily on this surveillance footage which, according to the show's writers, is procured by a variety of sources ranging from security monitoring systems in banks and parking lots to "spycams" worn by the agents and installed in vehicles. The video is regularly displayed at the headquarters of their "Office of Special Projects," making it an element that has to be on set, ready for playback during the shoot.

A dedicated playback unit was created to provide the surveillance video to the set. Footage shot alongside the first unit on location is processed into clips with graphics, text, maps and photo montages during the first part of the shoot. It's quickly prepared for the portions of the episode shot inside the "NCIS:Los Angeles" headquarters, appearing on video monitors that include a large translucent screen, a touchvision screen and a wallsized main screen.


During the show's first season (2009-2010), Director of Photography Victor Hammer experimented with a variety of recording devices, including some consumer-grade security cameras, to create different "looks" for the surveillance footage. But—in the interest of efficiency, quick turnaround and budget concerns—the process had to be simplified.

The playback unit's "Plan B" opted for footage from four small JVC GYHM100U HD camcorders that serve as stand-ins for any kind of surveillance recording device. JVC footage was degraded and otherwise altered in post production as needed. These camcorders output to dual SDHC memory cards formatted in Native Final Cut Pro. The playback unit also had a file-based in-house processing network built around Apple's Final Cut Pro editing system ..."

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