Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shooting the ‘SNL Digital Shorts’ in HD

George Winslow -- Multichannel News, 8/5/2008 11:51:00 AM

While the “SNL Digital Shorts” have been one of the most popular features of Saturday Night Live, the production of these popular segments, which air during the program between live segments and are also available online, poses huge production challenges. Typically, the scripts for segments aren’t approved until late on Wednesday night and they must be shot, edited and delivered in a completed form before the show’s Saturday night airing. Often, the crew must work long hours over two days or as much as 20 hours straight to meet the deadline.

Yet, John Rosenblatt, the principle of Rosey Media and the director of photography for the segments said the process of producing the shorts has actually become easier since they began shooting in HD with Panasonic’s AJ-HPX3000 P2 camcorders.

“I love the acquisition and I love the workflow,” he said about the move to the new cameras, which was made in late February, and the production process for the SNL Digital Shorts.

John 'Rosey' Rosenblatt with the Panasonic HPX-3000

Working with the new HPX3000 cameras, Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing system and MacBook Pro computers “has completely transformed the workflow,” he added.

Rosenblatt founded Rosey Media in 1997 -- the company now works for a variety of broadcast, cable and corporate clients. He began working for Saturday Night Live in 2000. He has been director of photography for the SNL Digital Shorts since they first became part of the show in the 2005-2006 season.

Over the years, Rosenblatt has distinguished his production services company in the crowded and highly competitive New York City market by emphasizing efficient, cutting edge technology, high-quality production techniques and quality control of it's personnel.

The company began shooting in HD about five years ago. Over the last 2 years the proportion of their production being shot in HD has grown from about 50% to nearly 100% today.

The company also relies on these newer technologies to offer clients more efficient production services.

“What we do [on the set in terms of shooting and lighting] is complicated with lots of parts and involves a lot of personnel with different talents...I often tell people I work for the circus,” Rosenblatt quipped.

The key part of their high-wire act, he added, is to make certain that this complexity doesn’t get in the way of the creative process at SNL.

“It is important that we allow the creative team to do what they need to do and not get in their way or slow things down in the way we work,” he said. “I offer very high quality production but if I’m slowing down production, in the way I’m setting up shots or lighting, I’m causing talent to lose their focus and not doing my job.”

Shooting with the HPX3000 camera, he said, allows the company to offer high-quality HD production and an very efficient workflow that fits in with the tight production schedule of the Digital Shorts. Using 32 Gigabyte P2 cards with the camera, they can easily copy the files onto the MacBook Pro and play back the shots to quickly see dailies, he said.

Recent SNL Digital Shorts shot with the HPX3000 camera include “The Japanese Office and The Mirror.”

While Rosenblatt is a huge fan of the camera, he cites two areas he’d like to see improved. He delivers 4 channels of audio to SNL but complains that audio channels 3 and 4 are “auto compressed,” which he contends limits their ability to tweak the sound.

He also does not like the fact that P2 cards must be formatted in the camera being used for the shoot rather than in the Panasonic 5 card reader.

New York Times Article on 'The Line'

A Summer Break of Comedy for the Web

Cast members of “The Line” in Brooklyn
Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: August 11, 2008

A minute into the third episode of “The Line,” a comedy about the passion and perversion of fans waiting 11 days for the premiere of a science-fiction film, the actor Joe Lo Truglio declares, “I’m going line crazy.”

His partner, the “Saturday Night Live” repertory player Bill Hader, promises to get water. Then the “SNL” writer and occasional actor John Lutz delivers candy bars for the theater and falls victim to the line, leading the theater manager (the “SNL” comedian Jason Sudeikis), to call the fanboys “animals.”

This is how much of the “SNL” cast and crew spent their summer vacation. Inspired partly by three months of picket-line-walking during last fall and winter’s writers’ strike, Mr. Hader and the “SNL” writer Simon Rich created a buddy comedy about the long wait to see “Future Space,” a vaguely described sci-fi drama. In May, when “SNL,” the NBC late-night sketch comedy show, went on summer hiatus, the “SNL” actor and lead writer Seth Meyers signed on to direct.


Watch "The Line"
Fred Prouser/Reuters Seth Meyers, “Saturday Night Live” actor and lead writer, directed episodes of “The Line.”

In July, for four steamy days in Brooklyn, the creators collected a veritable Who’s Who of the New York comedy scene to film seven short episodes for Internet distribution. “SNL” crew members operated the camera, made the costumes and handled hair and makeup. Three weeks after filming, the series started to unfold on, and other online video sites. The characters reach the end of “The Line,” figuratively and literally, on Tuesday when the final episode will have its debut.

The ability of “The Line” to attract name-brand talent reflects the increasing number of writers and actors who are showing interest in original Web video. “The Line” was the first straight-to-Internet series to be produced and financed by Broadway Video, the production company founded by the “SNL” executive producer, Lorne Michaels. But it won’t be its last: the company says it will produce other Web series created by and starring “SNL” cast members, and Mr. Michaels also intends to produce Web performances by Jimmy Fallon this fall, as that former “SNL” cast member prepares to replace Conan O’Brien on “Late Night” next year.

For the writers and stars of “The Line,” the Web was a proving ground. “We wanted to have an experience of shooting something on our own,” Mr. Hader said in an interview. “This is a good medium to do it in because it’s a very low-stakes medium.”

Mr. Meyers, best known as the co-host of “Weekend Update” on “SNL,” was lured by the opportunity to tell a tale with cliffhangers at the end of each episode, while still keeping each part to a Web-friendly four minutes. “On the Internet, it seems like things work better when they stand alone,” Mr. Meyers said. “The Line” is a test of whether viewers will come back for a serialized story. The first six episodes have drawn a wide range of views, from 15,000 to 158,000, on YouTube.

Mr. Hader and Mr. Rich, son of the New York Times columnist Frank Rich, wrote the script during the strike (Internet work wasn’t forbidden under the strike rules) and shared it with Mr. Michaels’s production company. They were assembling a cast and crew when the strike ended and “SNL” resumed taping, putting the project on hold. But after the season ended, Broadway Video revived the idea. The series signed a sponsor, Sony Pictures, and integrated the posters for three new Sony films into the backdrop of the episodes.

The staging was rather simple: all the action occurs along a red concrete-block wall outside the Cobble Hill Cinemas in Brooklyn. But there were peculiarities nonetheless, Mr. Meyers said, like “waiting for the baby strollers to clear the lens.”

The series unfolds not unlike an “SNL” digital short. Mr. Sudeikis stands out as a manager who treats moviegoers as a menace. He often calls them “you people,” as in “You people need to start washing your bodies, or I’m going to call the police.”

Along the way, Liz Cackowski, a former “SNL” writer, appears briefly, and Paul Scheer, a recurring cast member on “30 Rock,” turns up as the spoiler who tries to ruin the movie for the fans. Everyone who was asked agreed to participate, Mr. Meyers said. “That was the fun of it for us — being able to work with friends.”

Mr. Hader and Mr. Lo Truglio, who also appear together in the new film comedy “Pineapple Express,” are the heart and soul of the episodes. “Eleven days of glorious, glorious ‘Future Space’ anticipation,” Mr. Lo Truglio announces in Episode 1, suggesting that the drama of the wait will rival any drama on screen. They fight sword-wielding fellow fans, grapple with the five-minute rule (as in, five minutes out of line forfeits your spot) and try to fulfill family obligations.

Mr. Hader knew the part he was writing. He waited in line for “about 20 hours” to see “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” in 1999. During that wait, he watched a woman break up with one of his fellow moviegoers, a fate that befalls his character in Episode 2 of “The Line.”

Mr. Hader also lined up for the two “Star Wars” follow-ups and for the three “Lord of the Rings” films, but he now sees films at more reasonable times — say, Monday at 2 p.m. for “The Dark Knight.” Why? He said, “Now I have a wife.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

YouTube now showing: 'The Line"!

'The Line', a great web based series directed by Seth Meyers and staring Bill Hader of SNL, is now being distributed on You Tube. John Rosenblatt acted as Director of Photography. Check out these funny video shorts at:

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Line Gets Press...

Checkout this posting on Reuter's on The Line.
Seth Meyers, Bill Hader & Simon Rich Create and Star in THE LINE on Crackle.Com
Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:00am EDT
Broadway Video's New Seven-Episode Series Integrates Upcoming Columbia Pictures Releases
CULVER CITY, Calif., July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- "Saturday Night Live's" (SNL) Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Simon Rich have created and will star in THE LINE, an original new comedy web series making its debut on  Produced by Broadway Video, the series was directed by Meyers, who has been a regular on SNL for eight years.
The seven-episode series features two friends, Josh (Hader) and Duffy (Joe Lo Truglio - Superbad), as they score the coveted first spot in line outside of a movie theater, 11 days prior to the world premiere of one of the summer's most highly anticipated films, Future Space.
The comedy webisodes are sponsored by Sony Pictures, which owns Since THE LINE takes place outside a movie theater, the studio has taken advantage of the environment and integrated three real-life Columbia Pictures releases, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, and The House Bunny, into the webisodes.
The three films are incorporated into the series through organic character integrations and film poster and T-shirt placements.  Hader and Lo Truglio both also co-star in the upcoming comedy, Pineapple Express.
"This integrated marketing opportunity with THE LINE feels like the most organic user experience that I've seen in a very long time," said Dwight Caines, executive vice president of worldwide digital marketing strategy for Columbia TriStar Marketing Group.  "It's always exciting to see a completely unique approach to sponsorship and for me, it was an easy decision to get involved with these incredibly funny and talented guys.  The project is so clever and will certainly resonate with our target audiences."
"Bill Hader, Simon Rich and Seth Meyers have created a hysterical new series that taps into the unique comedic sensibility they showcase week-to-week on SNL," said Sean Carey, senior executive vice president, Sony Pictures Television.  "THE LINE is content that we're thrilled to debut on Crackle."
THE LINE includes guest appearances by Jason Sudeikis ("SNL"), Paul Scheer ("30 Rock"), and Liz Cackowski (Forgetting Sarah Marshall).  The original web series was produced by Broadway Video, in association with NBC Universal, and was written by Hader and Rich.
Creative Artists Agency orchestrated the deal on behalf of Broadway Video.
About Broadway Video
Broadway Video Entertainment is a major independent producer of television and film entertainment. Founded in 1979 by Lorne Michaels, Emmy Award-winning creator and executive producer of the landmark television comedy "Saturday Night Live," its Broadway Video Enterprises division manages the company's extensive library of original and acquired entertainment content, distributing it to television and home video markets worldwide. Broadway Video Entertainment also develops and produces popular feature film and television entertainment through its motion picture division, Broadway Video Film Production, and its television production arm, Broadway Video Television.  In addition, Broadway Video provides award-winning video and audio production services, as well as duplication, encoding and DVD authoring services for leading entertainment and corporate clients. For information:
About Crackle 
Crackle, Inc., a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company, is a multi-platform video entertainment network and studio that distributes work from the hottest established and emerging talent on the web and beyond. Crackle's addictive channels and shows reach a global audience across the Internet, in the living room, and on devices including a broad range of Sony electronics. Crackle, in on-going collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment and other leading partners, discovers and promotes the stars of tomorrow.  Visit Crackle's site at
SOURCE  Crackle, Inc.