How do you handle the showís day exteriors?
Charters: We silk when we can, but it becomes a question
of how far the actors are moving. Vision Expression is great for
this; it has enormous latitude in the shadows, and I basically
donít need to fill. If I can see it with my eye, it will be there
on film. I usually donít elect to keep it that way in the online
color timing ó I want to crush it a bit. We tend to treat day exteriors
with an Antique Suede #2. By degrees, the production was either
comfortable or not too comfortable with that. During the first
season, we went a lot further in that direction, but we pulled
back a little in the second year. This year, for sequences set
in Mexico, I left more Suede in the final timing, and I think that
With all the possibilities that digital color-correction affords,
you still choose to put glass in front of the lens?
Charters: Yes, just to embed our intent in peopleís minds.
They can easily get rid of it or they can easily add it, but at
least with it there, people [who see the images later on] will
say, ĎOh, thatís interestingí ó especially if I pull it out and
put in a gray scale every now and again. Both Dan Boothe III, the
dailies timer, and Larry are aware of what our looks are, and the
looks are consistent for three or four episodes. They give me a
DVCam copy at the end of the day, and Iím able to run it at home,
where I have a broadcast monitor and a Final Cut Pro setup. I can
make a very accurate assessment with that. I have an Epson Olympus
printer on the set, and I can punch out a little frame. If Iím
doing something radically different, Iíll just send the print in
with the dailies to show them what I want.
Even with your tight schedule, you attend timing sessions?
Charters: Yes, but I say that broadly, because once I establish
a look for an environment, I donít have to sit there for the timing
of every shot. The timer and I will just do the bold strokes, timing
one shot from one scene. I love blue-green fluorescents that are
not appropriately color-temped, and weíll shift our own lights
accordingly. Iím rather fond of full tungsten and a Full Blue fill.
When we want tension in a certain area of a scene, tension in the
lighting helps to sell that. Itís all intended to keep the audience
Since you have to keep track of two cameras, do you stay back
and watch the monitors?
Charters: I have to be at the monitors to see whatís going
on. Iím totally confident about what the operators will give me,
but at the same time, I might not be sure they gave me something
in that pass that they could do differently in the second. Weíre
always changing it up. Collectively, we have an enormously successful
team that does the photography. Guy and Jay have to be their own
bosses, and the dolly grips have complete autonomy to move the
frame; when they see the frame falling apart and they can physically
move that dolly to make it better, theyíll do it. The focus pullers
have to make adjustments without thinking. Rack speeds and frequency
of racks are very critical to what we do.
By production standards, it seems unique to have so many contribute
to the shot on the fly.
Charters: There are no circumstances where anyone gets
to say Ďcutí because someone has taken it upon himself to do something
instinctive. There are times when weíve got what we want, and [the
camera and dolly crews] can change the shot. Sometimes thatís when
the most exciting stuff happens. With my blessing, Guy will suddenly
go 180 on me with a handheld camera. Thatís another set of eyes
looking at the scene. David, key grip Mike Reyes and I and will
put the scenario in place, knowing that there are better areas
and angles, and weíll encourage those to be used, but itís all
fair game. Our chief worry is getting a camera shadow.
How do you handle large night exteriors?
Charters: The Musco is an extraordinary light. We generally
have a nice six-head on an 80-footer, and Iím able to paint by
flooding and panning. We go clean on some heads, but on others
weíll use Half CTS. Weíre increasingly putting diffusion and even
NDs on some so we can deal with the foreground yet still punch
through to the background. In the cityscapes, we use Condors with
narrow-beam Par 64s, our favorite light. Weíll put six of them
on a Condor to spot up little areas. I like the green-blue and
mix in some tungsten and car headlights.
How do you approach the numerous driving and flying sequences?
Charters: Most people have no idea how we shoot those.
One thing Iím particularly proud of implementing is digital playback
for plate work. What weíve done from the beginning is shoot plates
with four PAL Sony PD150 cameras mounted on a car. We overexpose
the plates so that they already have that hot quality. All of our
day and night driving stuff is shot on stage. We also have our
own chopper mock-up. We have powerful 10,000-lumen Eiki XT 3 LCD
projectors, so we donít have any sync problems and have ample light
to project onto 20-foot screens.
Though the show is broadcast in the 4x3 aspect ratio, the DVDs
of the first two seasons treat viewers to 16x9 [1.78:1] presentations.
So we gather youíre shooting for 16x9?
Charters: Itís absolutely 16x9. In the U.S., Fox transmits
the show in high-def using a blowup from the standard-definition
digital master. Cable, however, only gets the 4x3. The rest of
the worldwide audience gets 16x9, and I think that the format has
contributed to 24ís success overseas, especially in Europe, Japan
and Australasia, where 4x3 TV sets are no longer sold.
We are encountering more and more fans who prefer to wait until
the season comes out on DVD, where they get better picture quality
than what is available on cable or satellite, and get it in 16x9
with 5.1 surround sound. We pride ourselves on knowing that weíre
making a 24-hour feature.