The Man Who Filmed ‘I Love Lucy’, Tells Us How It Was Done.
By: KARL FREUND, Director of Photography
The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz show was a challenge from the start. It was decided that, for the first time, TV cameras would be replaced with three motion picture cameras to allow more flexibility in editing and to improve the photographic quality over kinescope recording.
This, I felt, was a legitimate approach to the situation. I expected very little variation from the ritual of photographing regular motion pictures — but I had not taken into consideration the unique problems involved. I was soon to be faced with them.
First of all, a live show requires an audience. This necessitated a regular studio sound stage equipped with bleachers to hold some 300 people. Above the stage a series of directional microphones and loud speakers had to be installed.
To give the audience a clear view of the program, and to allow the cameras total mobility without interference from floor cables, the lights for the sets had to be placed above the stage.
It became obvious almost at once that the overhead light placement was hardly flattering to the photographing of the performers. While the print value seemed up to par when projected in a studio projection room, they showed too much contrast when viewed over a closed TV circuit. Thus, we were faced with the fact that the greatest difference between standard motion pictures technique and TV films is the subject lighting contrast, which is required.
The immediate question was what method we should use to obtain the desired compression in the positive print. The solution was fairly simple. After careful survey, we selected a method that would involve no departure from standard practice in processing laboratory operations. That is, in exposing the original negative, use a subject lighting contrast considerable lower than that normally used for conventional black and white motion picture photography and process both the negative and print in the normal way.
It requires four days to line up each weekly show of “I Love Lucy” and “Our Miss Brooks.” Two of these days are for rehearsals. At the end of the second day the cameraman sees a run-through during which he can make notes and sketches of positions to be covered by the cameras and instructs the electrical crew as to where lights are to be placed. The last two days are occupied by rehearsals with cameras.
Since a show with audience participation must go on at a specified time, this schedule must be religiously adhered to by everyone concerned, including the cast. An hour and a half is the actual shooting time.
To film each show we use three BNC Mitchell cameras with T-stop calibrated lenses on dollies. The middle camera usually covers the long shot using 28mm. to 50mm. lenses. The two close-up cameras, 75 to 90 degrees apart from the center camera, are equipped with 3″ to 4″ lenses, depending on the requirements for coverage.
The only floor lights used are mounted on the bottom of each camera dolly and above each lens. They are controlled by dimmers.
There is a crew of four men to each camera: the cameraman, his assistant, a “grip” and a “cable man.” Unlike TV, where one man generally handles the camera movements and views the results immediately, this technique requires absolute coordination between members of the crew.
Every movement of each dolly is marked on the floor for every scene. And since all the movements of the camera are cued from the monitor box, the entire crew works from an intercom system.
As for myself, I utilize a two-circuit intercom. This allows me to talk separately to the monitor booth and the camera crew on one; the electricians handling the dimmers and the switchboard on the other.
Retakes, a standard procedure on the Hollywood scene, are not desirable in making TV films with audience participation. Dubbed-in laughs are artificial and, consequently, used only in emergencies. Close-ups, another routine step in standard film-making, were discarded since such glamour treatment stood out like a sore thumb.
Thanks to http://www.lucyfan.com/freundfilming.html for this information. Great site for Lucy fans.