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‘Horace and Pete’: Building the Workflow for Louis C.K.’s Web Series

“Louis is very forward-thinking in terms of technology, and it was more or less a given that we’d shoot 4K but there wasn’t enough time for a full 4K workflow."

Described by its creator as a tragedy, “but with hope,” Horace and Pete is a web series created, written and directed by Louis C.K and released through C.K.’s web site (www.louisck.net) earlier this year. This one-season, 10-episode show follows cousins Horace (C.K.) and Pete (Steve Buscemi), the owners of Horace and Pete’s, a run-down, family-owned Brooklyn bar. Recurring guest actors include Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Steven Wright and Laurie Metcalf.

Shot by director of photography Paul Koestner, the series was captured with Panasonic VariCam 35 4K cinema camera/recorders. There was less than a week between the recording of each episode and its release online. This rigorous schedule was one of the reasons the team chose VariCams to shoot the show, according to postproduction technical advisor Troy Thompson, colorist at New York’s Running Man and longtime C.K. collaborator.

From left, episode 1’s Alan Alda (Uncle Pete), Jessica Lange (Marsha), Louis C.K. (Horace), Edie Falco (Sylvia) and Stephen Wallem (Randall).

“Louis is very forward-thinking in terms of technology, and it was more or less a given that we’d shoot 4K,” Thompson recalls, “but there wasn’t enough time for a full 4K workflow. Each week we had less than two days to edit and deliver an episode ranging from 30 to 60+ minutes in six different formats for various streaming and mobile platforms.”

The team’s solution was to take advantage of the VariCam 35’s multiformat recording, simultaneously shooting a 4K master on the main recorder and AVC-Intra 4:2:2 HD on the sub-recorder. “Essentially, my job was to test and verify the workflow, and ensure that we could fulfill both dictates [4K and HD] with one camera,” Thompson says.

“The VariCam 35, with its remarkable color science, has come a long way and surpassed other workflows since the first time I worked with it,” Thompson continues. (He was colorist and technical advisor on Amy Schumer’s 2015 HBO comedy special, also shot with VariCam 35s.) “The live multicamera workflow was seamless with Avid. We were able to work with great time efficiencies to rewrap, edit and finish the deliverables for weekly release.

Photo by Nicolas Giaquinto.

“The transition from the HD proxies to 4K was likewise seamless: we would reconnect the HD EDLs in the [Digital Vision] Nucoda color grading system and conform back to 4K prior to archiving.”

Koestner, another longtime C.K. collaborator (Louie, numerous C.K. stand-up specials), explains that Horace and Pete was shot on two primary sets—the bar and the apartment that Horace and Pete share—with several pick-up sets. Three VariCam 35s, outfitted with Angenieux zooms, were used in studio configuration with Vinten pan-and-tilt heads. A fourth VariCam 35 was mounted on a Jimmy Jib.

Koestner says, “The cameras matched quite well, and the color looked really good without a lot of post time.”   

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