Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New PBS Shows

I taped two more shows yesterday afternoon in Harrisonburg for WVPT. I wonder if these shows are for WVPT Cooks or if they will air during a pledge drive, simply because we shot 15-minute segments rather than the usual 22 minutes.

I like shooting these shows because I can just show up when I am told, prepared for a specific length segment, and with minimal set up (mic check, white balance, lighting check) we start filming. It's better for me this way; I have enough to worry about in running the restaurant day-to-day. I understand how these TV chefs do it: there is no way that they can do the TV that they do without leaving the cooking at their restaurants to someone else.

The two segments we taped yesterday were both outdoors, using Tassie Pippert's really awesome outdoor built-in grill, the first outdoor segment that I've done in about three years since we last taped on the balcony at the WVPT studio overlooking the lake at JMU.

Even though we were under a shaded pergola with ambient temperatures in the low 80s and a nice breeze, the combination of the lights and the smoking hot grill made for a really sweaty experience. I tried to refrain from wiping the sweat off my face with my towel as much as possible. At one point, I got sweat in my eye: I hope that didn't translate on camera as I tried my best to ignore it. At least I wasn't wearing make up for this shoot, so nothing to run. ;)

It really takes a lot of preparation on my part to make these segments happen. I have to run through cooking the food in my mind and fit it to the allotted time frame and think about camera shots and sequencing, which is a bit difficult because I don't know how many cameras there will be and where they will be placed until I arrive on the set. I also have to worry about filling time while things are cooking.

You cannot exactly stand around and watch a piece of meat grill. Well, you can, but it makes for very boring TV. So I spend a lot of time thinking through these fills and so forth.

Also, I don't have a prep crew to set up for me. I cook the dish in my mind and I make a list of everything that I will need, right down to the towels with which I will hold the hot pan handles. But this isn't so different from what I do in the kitchen in setting up the line every night. What is different is that once I'm on camera, I cannot leave the set to retrieve something I have forgotten.

I cannot leave the set because we shoot live to video, which means if we are shooting 22 minutes of air time, we shoot 22 minutes of running video. The cameras never stop rolling once we get going. This minimizes production time and cost, because the only post production is merely to cut from one camera to another.

In years past, the video editing has been done on the fly in the control room as we were filming, a tricky business indeed (this is what they do for live events such as football games where they cut from camera to camera in real time). Live to video means there is no such thing as a screw-up: there are no retakes and no voice overs.

I enjoy shooting live to video in that it is a lot more spontaneous and much more like doing a live demo, except that the audience is a bunch of cameramen or women, maybe a still photographer, and maybe a floor director. Doing it this way, we can film a 22-minute segment in about 45-minutes, versus the 2 or 3 hours it takes to set up shots, walk through them, and film a couple takes of each. I don't have a lot of tolerance for overly scripted TV.

Yesterday, I cooked three different dishes: Grilled Tuna and Asparagus Salad; Grilled Tuna with Edamame, Pickled Ginger, and Seaweed Salad; and Grilled Hawaiian King Prawns with Grilled Pineapple Salsa and Rum-Black Pepper Sauce.

I will post these recipes over the next few days. Stay tuned.

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