Todd A. Marks has been a Computer and Video Playback Supervisor on over 30 feature films including: FLIGHT, The Internship, Team America, Blades of Glory, Constantine, The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, Hall Pass, Abduction, Deep Impact, The Lost World:Jurassic Park, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Todd, along with Graphics and Video Engineer Jeb Johenning, share their experiences during the making of this Will Ferrell and Steve Carell comedy.
My team had a large set of tasks. The biggest, was to build a functioning 1980 style cable news style studio, and create the featured (and background) videos throughout the Newsroom, and News Studio sets. This included shooting original content, acquiring stock videos, creating both still and animated graphic elements, compositing and editing… THEN… during production, we ran it like a real studio. Live cameras, live switching, graphic overlays, roll-ins, the whole deal. We were creating more content throughout the process as the director and writers thought of new things to add.
Much of the gear was at least 15-25 years old some even older. We were constantly having to fix and tweak the gear so that it would make it through the entire 2 weeks of being used. The technical and creative challenges were present everyday, but we worked hard and prevailed. I had a team of 7 during our time in the studio. Besides myself, Perry Freeze: Content Coordinator/Graphics Styling & Designer, Jeb Johenning: Graphics and Video Engineer, Ben Betts: Supervising Engineer, Shawn Noushinfar: Globecaster Engineer, Phil Britton: Technical & Engineering Support, Chris Adams: Technical & Engineering Support
For the most part, other than the stress of having to do so much in such a short time, we had a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughing, and great camaraderie. We worked closely with many other departments to make sure everything got done. I had worked with Will Farrell on a few films before this one, but I had never worked with Adam McKay. He was a great director; very appreciative and complementary of all the hard work my team did. We surpassed his expectations many times throughout the project, and he was thrilled.
I oversee the creation and playing back of the computer and video content on all the screens that appear in the film. This includes speccing, installing, and operating the playback gear, configuring the monitors to expose correctly, and to be color corrected. My responsibilities often include managing a team of designers and technicians who implement computer/video playback systems, playback content creation & acquisition, product placement, and technical script consulting.
In the case of Anchorman 2, we had lots of old TV’s and computers a little over 150 CRT’s in our TV studio. Plus and assortment of screens throughout the rest of the film.
For Anchorman 2, a key point in the script was the creation of a 24 hour news channel. This meant that in the movie everywhere a TV monitor was seen, we needed to create unique, believable, original content.
To do this we created dozens of believable International "News Feeds" of on-air newscasters from around the world. Our team created this content by video recording many different actors dressed in vintage 80's wardrobe, placed in front of a green screen background. We placed the GS background indoors and outside for different lighting effects. We then assembled 30 or 40 vintage, standard definition, stock footage sequences of international landmarks to use as background plates.
To make this look believable, we used PHYX products. PHYX KEYER tools enabled us to create instant composites of our Actors. PHYX CLEANER helped match the look of the standard definition BG with the high definition foreground. This helped us standardize and cleanup the look of the footage so that our final composites looked more believable. Finally, PHYX DEFOCUS gave us the appropriate depth of field to our footage. PHYX simplified a normally tedious job. We used PHYX on almost every composite to separate the "newscaster" from the "scene" he was reporting on, such as standing in front of the Taj Mahal. We used the PHYX filters with After Effects and Premiere Pro.
Green screens are commonplace on film sets so there not much reaction to that technology. What was cool, was being able to place an actor dressing in "period" clothing and drop him in front of a background from around the world, and make it look believable. PHYX made that possible for us within the tight shooting schedule we had.
Certainly. We are under very tight deadlines, we can’t mess around with flaky hardware or software.