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Seinfeld in 35mm, Curb Your Enthusiasm in Video.


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#1 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 09:07 PM

I'm glad Seinfeld was shot on film. It seemed like the right choice.

Having just OD'd on a 24 hour marathon of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO, it seems like they too made the right choice by shooting on video. I hear that a lot of scenes have the basic premise scripted but that the actors can ad lib, even ad flub, as long as the basic point is being made.

What is it about Curb your Enthusiasm that makes it seem right that it was shot on video, and what is about Seinfeld that makes it seem right that it was shot on film? The classic argument of shooting video on a set and shooting film on location are not in play, in fact one could argue that it is the opposite that is in play here.

Would Seinfeld have worked as well if it had been shot on video? Would Curb have worked as well if it had been shot on film?
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#2 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 09:40 PM

I believe that lots of improvisation would make it more practical to shoot video for the actors' performances.
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#3 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 11:27 PM

It seems to me that Seinfeld was a more "created" bubble of a world which is meant to be ever so surreal where CYE is more as if it is a reality style doc than a film, of course both are highly "created" it was funny to see some early curb shows which were more doc (dsr500 ? ) and less polished...

-Rob-
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#4 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 05:27 AM

I believe that lots of improvisation would make it more practical to shoot video for the actors' performances.



So do you think they do a lot of takes of each scene? It almost feels like they do minimal takes. Perhaps a decent amount of rehearsals, but few takes.

The real genius of the show story line seems to become more evident if one exposes themselves to the entire series all in a row. I didn't see every show over the past 24 hours because I fell asleep, but the final story line arc with his estrange wife Cheryl is really fascinating.

Cheryl sort of turned into this "I'll just sort of do my own thing and spend as much of your money as I can", kind of women. It's really disconcerting to see her sort of turn into a "a self absorbed judgemental wallflower gold digger". Many feminists might argue that she finally asserted herself and said enough is enoug and separated from Larry's character. But she didn't get a job. Instead she just spends Larry David's money and is taking her time finding out how to make herself happy. Her inactions have a very creepy tone to them because it's the very reason guys are afraid of marriage, the gold digging that comes at the end of it. Plus, Cheryl never really stood up to anyone of Larry David's nemesis, yet we see in the season finale how his new squeeze defends David tooth and nail against Susie. It's really a very disturbing turn of events to see such a classy, intelligent women sort turn out to be basically worthless. I don't see how they can resurrect Cheryl's judgmental and pointless existence next season.
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#5 Ernie Zahn

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 08:23 AM

In an interview I believe Larry said they do minimal takes. But I bet video serves as a great safety net if they never need to do several. But the real reason is to get that docu-style look as you said Robert. The original "Curb" (by original, I mean the 1 hour TV special that came out before they intended to make a series out of it back in '00 or '01) was shot in video so they also wanted to keep that consistent. Sure there have 35mm docs, even in modern day but in this age, video is most widely used for Reality and docs, plain and simpe.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 06:32 PM

I think shows shot on film do better in syndication. I think the Cosby show fizzled in syndication specifically because it was shot on video.

Shooting Curb on film would not have been a budget buster. However, I think it plays well in reruns even though it was shot on video. I think shows like Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld and Friends benefited by being shot on film, especially in syndication. What is it about Curb that makes it work so well after the fact?

I guess I'm implying that some of the older video style of productions fade away in syndcation quicker than the filmed shows do. I suppose the newer HD shows won't however.
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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 08:00 PM

A colleague of mine, Warren Yeager, has been one of the operators on Curb for a few years. I'll see if he'll be willing to answer some questions here.
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#8 Dominic Cochran

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 12:15 AM

Cheryl sort of turned into this "I'll just sort of do my own thing and spend as much of your money as I can", kind of women. It's really disconcerting to see her sort of turn into a "a self absorbed judgemental wallflower gold digger". Many feminists might argue that she finally asserted herself and said enough is enoug and separated from Larry's character. But she didn't get a job. Instead she just spends Larry David's money and is taking her time finding out how to make herself happy. Her inactions have a very creepy tone to them because it's the very reason guys are afraid of marriage, the gold digging that comes at the end of it. Plus, Cheryl never really stood up to anyone of Larry David's nemesis, yet we see in the season finale how his new squeeze defends David tooth and nail against Susie. It's really a very disturbing turn of events to see such a classy, intelligent women sort turn out to be basically worthless. I don't see how they can resurrect Cheryl's judgmental and pointless existence next season.



I don't think anyone could really blame her for not wanting to be with Larry. What makes the show funny is that he's pretty much a sociopath. Doesn't really seem like they're portraying her to be a gold digger either. To me some of the funniest scenes in the series are when Larry is being completely outrageous and she hardly reacts and just gives him some hilarious glare. Case in point, the scene this season at Danson's party when he gives the "Freak Book" as a birthday present.
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#9 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 01:07 AM

That's why the show was so good this year (it's been every year actually). Some people think it's a "will she take him back scenario" set up for next year, and others think that Larry should leave her behind and move on.

The scene in the amusement park with the fireworks going off in the background, I thought that was designed to show Cheryl degenerating into a self absorbed, puppy love state of mind with Larry trying to catch up. I think Larry is being portrayed as a guy getting younger by the episode and Cheryl aging in a not too graceful way.
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#10 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 01:10 AM

A colleague of mine, Warren Yeager, has been one of the operators on Curb for a few years. I'll see if he'll be willing to answer some questions here.


That would be amazing. I'm starting to think Curb is one of the all time great shows.
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 04:53 AM

A colleague of mine, Warren Yeager, has been one of the operators on Curb for a few years. I'll see if he'll be willing to answer some questions here.

I worked with Warren on a show last year and he told me a little about how they shot Curb, but it was mostly in relation to how we were shooting the show we were on (it was improv'ed as well). Unfortunately, I don't remember that much about what he said. Getting old I guess....
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#12 Tim Partridge

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 12:43 PM

I'm pretty sure that not all of CHEERS was shot on film. I remember rather vividly seeing at least pickups/exterior establishing shots done on smeary NTSC video. Looked like newsfootage that didn't cut with the rest of the show!
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#13 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 05:01 PM

I'm pretty sure that not all of CHEERS was shot on film. I remember rather vividly seeing at least pickups/exterior establishing shots done on smeary NTSC video. Looked like newsfootage that didn't cut with the rest of the show!


I would assume that all the bar scenes are film and that was at least 95% of the show.
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 04:16 PM

I would assume that all the bar scenes are film and that was at least 95% of the show.

Probably way over 99% film -- maybe a dozen video shots in eleven years.



-- J.S.
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#15 K Borowski

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 11:43 PM

Probably way over 99% film -- maybe a dozen video shots in eleven years.



-- J.S.


Well, they were probably at the mercy of whatever stock footage wasw available of the city Cheers was set in (Sorry I forget). I doubt there's much more than NTSC footage available of Cleveland, so if there were some big-budget 35mm sitcom shot here (hah!), I"m sure they'd occasionally have to resort to smeary NTSC out of necessity now and again, or go and hire a 2nd unit, which doesn't seem likely for a sitcom.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 26 November 2007 - 11:44 PM.

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#16 Josh Bass

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 11:52 PM

Can I cut in here and ask a question that's bothered me for a long time (that wasn't it, by the way)?


Okay, so some of these sitcoms (not the single camera comedies) are shot in front of a studio audience. So how does that work? It's not like they just perform it as a play, 22 minutes straight through, and that's what airs. I mean, there are retakes if someone flubs, I know they have to (or did, not sure which sitcoms are still film) change mags. So, if the cast/crew shoots for an eight hour production day (Patricia Headon mentioned this on a talk show as a perk of why she liked sitcoms), does an audience sit there for eight hours, or what? Don't get it. Thanks.
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#17 Charles Papert

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 12:38 AM

"Cheers" was set in Boston (the exterior was the Bull and Finch pub on Beacon St. near the Boston Common, which for many years has milked its fame with tourbus groups passing through and merchandise galore), and there were indeed a number of 35mm originated establishing shots (can't explain the "smeary NTSC" look that Tim recalls, these were definitely shot on film). It is pretty standard practice to have 2nd unit establishing shot work done in the city represented by a given sitcom, not a big deal to gather as can done with as little as a 2-man crew.

To answer your question about the sitcom audience Josh--yes, the audience is supposed to sit there all day. That's why when you come to the tourist sites in LA, you are inundated with people recruiting audiences for these shows. Some scenes may be reshot after the audience is released, and inserts or specific gags may be done at that time also.
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 06:40 AM

I'll add to what Chas said, which is right on.
Sometimes they also do "roll in's", which are previously shot scenes that they roll on monitors to the studio audience at the corresponding time in the show, so that the whole show is shown to the audience. I'm not exactly sure how common that is or not, but I know it's done sometimes. For example, I worked on The New Adventures of Old Christine for a day, and that was a day that they were shooting outside on the lot at Warner Brothers, not in front of an audience. So I assume when they did the studio audience bit they "rolled in" that scene. Years ago I worked on another sitcom that did this as well.
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#19 Tim Partridge

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:01 AM

"Cheers" was set in Boston (the exterior was the Bull and Finch pub on Beacon St. near the Boston Common, which for many years has milked its fame with tourbus groups passing through and merchandise galore), and there were indeed a number of 35mm originated establishing shots (can't explain the "smeary NTSC" look that Tim recalls, these were definitely shot on film)


Nah, these were definitely video shots that I recall seeing. As John Sprung notes there were very few of them, but there were at least a handful from the 1990 episodes (the ones with Robin Coulcard). They weren't even running at 24fps, interlaced for sure with bad colour bleed. They really stuck out like a sore thumb, as if someone had taped a bit of Boston local news over the episode. What was even more hard to understand is that various other exterior transitional shots from the same episodes were clearly shot on film.

Admittedly, I haven't seen CHEERS for years, so it's not fresh on my mind, but I' m pretty positive about this (I'm 95% sure I'm not confusing the video shots with something else). :)
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#20 chris dye

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 01:22 PM

Can I cut in here and ask a question that's bothered me for a long time (that wasn't it, by the way)?


Okay, so some of these sitcoms (not the single camera comedies) are shot in front of a studio audience. So how does that work? It's not like they just perform it as a play, 22 minutes straight through, and that's what airs. I mean, there are retakes if someone flubs, I know they have to (or did, not sure which sitcoms are still film) change mags. So, if the cast/crew shoots for an eight hour production day (Patricia Headon mentioned this on a talk show as a perk of why she liked sitcoms), does an audience sit there for eight hours, or what? Don't get it. Thanks.


Yes, though I think it's more like 6 hours for the audience, depending. Some of the audience is paid to do this. I watched a few sitcoms for $6.00/hr a few years back. I sat in the audience for Dave's World (which was shot in 16mm). I also sat in on Third Rock from the Sun before it even debuted. I don't think popular shows on the air have to pay the audience though. I think sitcoms shot on (35mm) film use 2000' magazines which can last 22 minutes, so there's minimal magazine changing.
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