The Gospel Music Channel has completed production on its first HD version of the talent show Gospel Dream, which will debut on June 24.
While the channel has not yet launched an HD feed and the six-part series will only air in standard-definition, the move to an HD production is part of Gospel Music Channel's plan to build up its HD library for its eventual launch of an HD simulcast. In April, GMC also had the Gospel Music Association's 40th Annual Dove Awards program shot in HD.
"These kinds of shows can be extremely expensive to do on all levels," said Paul Reeves, executive producer of Gospel Dream and the owner of the Nashville Tennessee production company Tangible Vision that has overseen the production of the show for the last four years. "We had wanted to move to HD for some time, but with budget considerations it just didn't make sense. The channel is, however, trying to build up an HD library and we felt this year was the year to make the move."
The talent show, which is kind of an American Idol for the Christian music world, includes both reality behind-the-scenes elements and music performances in front of a live audience.
Reeves notes that they shot the reality sections with Sony's PMW-EX1 XDCAM EX Camcorders and PMW-EX3 XDCAM EX Camcorders, using four to six crews, each equipped with two cameras. "I wanted to shoot in HD not only because I had a lot of confidence with the ability of the Sony EX1 and EX3 to work well in any lighting, but also because it would give me the ability to turn footage around quickly and know that I wouldn't have any problem with digital management," he said.
This is particularly important in reality fare, where producers are creating huge amounts of footage. After each day's shoot, "the producers and writers were able to come back at night to review footage and be able to respond to it the next day," Reeves said. "It really allowed us to move quickly in a complex schedule."
For the series' music performances that were shot before a life audience at the North Star Studios in Nashville, Reeves hired Camp Digital, which had also provided trucks to the GMC's production of the Dove Awards.
"A lot of trucks were really designed for sports and audio is an afterthought," Reeves said. "Camp Digital really thought about audio long and hard. Camera-wise they did great stuff and it was a great music truck but not outrageously expensive."
Tom Gregory, vice president of business relations at Camp Digital, noted that when he and the other owners began putting together the company and designing their truck, they wanted to position it as a lower cost alternative.
"A lot of companies are loading up their HD trucks with everything so they could do any kind of work and obviously you pay for that," Gregory said. "When you're sitting in one of those trucks you'll see a lot of equipment that isn't turned on. We thought that 99% of the work we do is music and entertainment. We wanted to build a truck that was more in the budget range of a flight pack and fill a gap in the marketplace between a $30,000 a day 53-foot HD production truck and a flight pack."
Their primary vehicle, the 36-foot Journey HD, which went into operation in December of 2008, is equipped with Sony HDC1500L cameras, Fujinon lenses, Sony HVR1500a VTRs, Echolab's Overture 2MD multi-format switcher, Soundcraft's Vi4 digital audio console coupled with a 64 track Pro Tools system, a Harris Panacea 8x8 digital video and audio router, Evertz VIP Multi Imager and Sony HD monitors.
The rate card for the Journey HD truck is $9,950 a day, which is competitive with a flight pack, but provides producers with a truck that provides a better production experience than a flight pack, Gregory said.
"The downside to a flight pack is that you never know where you're going to have to set up," Gregory said. "You might end up in a bathroom or a storage closet."
He also noted that their smaller 36-foot truck is much easier to move into facilities, making it possible to operate in a wider range of venues than the standard 53-foot HD truck, and uses much less power.