Digital Alchemy Cruises with JVC
Regional car show Cruisin' Ohio with Jeff Phelps is shot primarily at classic car shows in and around Ohio. Broadcast on Fox Sports Ohio, the show is produced locally by Digital Alchemy PDA of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a company of five staffers established in 2003 primarily to create original Web content. Since Phelps and Digital Alchemy principal John Stealy created Cruisin' Ohio and sold it to Fox Sports Ohio two years ago, the show has managed to land three regional Emmy nominations.
In order to achieve the immediacy the show required, its creators assembled a production team of five with live truck and event shooting experience. "That's very valuable when shooting quickly, in and out, for Cruisin' Ohio," says Stealey, who, in addition to running Digital Alchemy, works as a director for Fox and other networks on football and basketball games.
Digital Alchemy on location at Sugar Creek Car Show in Sugar Creek, Ohio.
L-R: Dan Wagner, videographer; Jeff Phelps, producer/host; Robert Shipman,
associate producer; and John Stealey, producer/videographer/editor
"Most of the car events are 'cruise-ins' that we shoot with one camcorder. Classic cars just show up at a given place for three to four hours in the late afternoon, early evening." Crews then use two cameras for the "Under the Hood" segments, in which an expert discusses the details of a particular engine.
Stealey purchased two JVC GY-HM700U camcorders to shoot these weekend antique and classic car events. The ergonomics of these cameras helped make the decision. "We like the JVC camera because it is a shoulder-mount, full-sized camera with lenses that are interchangeable," explains Stealey. "I like the very nice 720p images the JVC delivers. The camera will shot a variety of frame sizes and rates. We picked 720p and 30 for our frame rate and the picture looks great!"
Some of Stealey's colleagues at stations in his market were using smaller cameras for similar purposes, but he found that these were harder to hold for long periods of time and required a lot of effort to achieve proper balance as a shoulder-mount unit. Sometimes the gear needed to balance these cameras ended up making them heavier than the JVC units.
For postproduction, Digital Alchemy uses Apple Final Cut Pro 7.0.3 running on a Mac Pro 8-core with 32GB of RAM. His editors use Cinema 4D for animation elements.
Requirements for the show had Digital Alchemy shooting HD but delivering SD for broadcast the first season. The delivery spec expanded to include an HD and SD master for the second. "Shooting in HD and releasing in SD 4:3 was pretty nice," Stealey recalls. "I could reframe shots and create pans in Final Cut Pro because of the smaller, SD frame size."
Though Digital Alchemy produces a number of regional commercials, industrials and some digital signage, Cruisin' Ohio has a special place in its creators' hearts—both because it is as yet their only product for broadcast TV and because of the subject matter.
"Jeff and I don't know anything about cars," Stealy admits. "We just have an appreciation. We're fans of classic cars. Jeff has five classic cars and I have one Mustang I bought in Santa Monica that I'm hanging on to so it becomes a classic car. It's not there yet."