How 'Legendary' Director Rik Reinholdtsen Broke the TV Dance Competition Mold
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A cinematic look finds its way to the reality competition.

Rik Reinholdtsen is no stranger when it comes to live television. He is one of the best creatives in Hollywood who has completed thousands of hours of production in dozens of popular programs, not to mention directing musical performances for Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lauren Hill.

When he heard about Legendary, a reality competition show where the brightest stars compete against each other, he was given the opportunity to do something visually different. A style that authentically impresses viewers like no other competition program on television.

The series is now streamed on HBO Max and Reinholdtsen sat down with No Film School to explain how the crew behind the show turned their vibrant colors and moody shadows to create a cinematic look.

NFS: What made you start watching live TV at the beginning?

Rik Reinholdtsen: I thought I wanted to be advertising and music video director when I first came into the business. As a man from Seattle, I had to find my way around and set up a video projection for a company that made major television and film productions. Because of this and with all of these live productions, I realized that my best skills were live television. Sitting in a TV car with 14 cameras. This is really interesting for me.

NFS: Why did you want to do the show?

Reinholdtsen: It was a rare opportunity to meet with a production company, Scout Productions, and they wanted to do a competitive show that evolved the genre and broadened the boundaries of the content and the development of the competition. Rob Eric (Scout & # 39; s Chief Creative Officer) is a very visual and very creative person and they wanted to make Legendary a "matte show".

NFS: How gritty?

Reinholdtsen: Yes. They call these dance shows shiny because the floor is really shiny and everything is smooth. With Legendary we wanted to stay true to the world. The ballroom culture is kind of underground and we wanted the audience to feel part of it in a very authentic way.


"Legendary"

NFS: The series deals with different styles. It is partly documentary, partly reality and partly competition. Did you have a general idea?

Reinholdtsen: We wanted to push the boundaries and look for technologies that could help achieve a cinematic look and attract the attention and visual experience that is really big and great. The great thing about HBO is that they are known for creating shows that evolve genres.

NFS: Film and live production are usually not synonymous.

Reinholdtsen: No they are not. Legendary was unique because we wanted to do all of the background stories and on-site stuff with one camera. Then when it was time for production, we would use more than 16 cameras for the live show.

NFS: Did You Avoid Traditional Broadcast Cameras?

Reinholdtsen: In a way yes. Everyone has a 4K result. When you start researching what's out there, broadcast lenses aren't very flexible. You can limit the depth of field and all the things I wanted to do to create a warm picture. In the end, we used several Canon C700 FF and C500 MK II cameras with Sumire Prime lenses and the cine servo 17-120mm zoom.


"Legendary"

NFS: So the same cameras were used for both field and live recording?

Reinholdtsen: Yes. My wish was that we use the same cameras for the reality part and then click them into a fiber system of the TV truck for the live show. As a result, production could only be carried out with one camera.

NFS: This is great.

Reinholdtsen: Yes, with the single camera elements we only ran through the city with natural light, but then all we had to do was switch to the fiber system. We had 3 sets of 3 cameras for the reality elements that would take 100 hours of footage a week, and 2 sets of 3 cameras that did live interviews with another 100 hours of footage.

NFS: That's a lot of data.

Reinholdtsen: Managing all of this was something that producers and production had to consider. Recording the Canon XF-AVC codec helped immensely as it is about half the size of ProRes. Using the same cameras for field and live parts also helped keep production costs down.


"Legendary"

NFS: Have you tried to differentiate between reality and live parts visually?

Reinholdtsen: We shot reality and interviewed everyone in full screen. Then we shot the live production anamorphically with one harvest. We used a combination of spherical and anamorphic lenses, but everything was kept in 24p.

Everything was recorded in log so we could access the 15 levels of dynamic range, and for the live show we basically added a LUT to the system where the video controller still has control over the iris and iris. The lighting designer could then adjust the levels based on that. The LUT allowed the network to familiarize itself with the looks until we went to the post.

NFS: Did Log shooting help or was it overkill?

Reinholdtsen: The ability to record live on tape in Log gave us a lot of flexibility. It gave us the luxury of restoring scenes that may have been in low light and creating a unique and beautiful look. The costumes, the makeup and the production numbers are really unprecedented.

NFS: Was the 17-20mm zoom enough for a live production?

Reinholdtsen: The hardest part was making sure that all the cameras were physically in the right place to get the most out of the zooms. These 17-120 mm give you just enough. At 4K, vignetting can occur on the edges, but the lenses held up well.


"Legendary"

NFS: How many weeks did you end up shooting?

Reinholdtsen: We shot 9 episodes in 5 weeks. We did a live show every 4 days. We had 40 participants and 8 different houses. We would do reality and interviews for 2 days and then back to the live show. It wasn't time for anything.

NFS: Are there setbacks to risking a non-traditional workflow for the approach?

Reinholdtsen: No. The credit goes to everyone who worked on the show. It is really important to have talented people who know their job well. The skills that the participants in this show have are unreal. When these moments occur, you cannot return. Especially at a live show.

NFS: Let me get you to that. What advice would you give someone who wants to go live TV?

Reinholdtsen: When you come to live television, there are variations. Understanding editing is a very important skill. It all comes down to pre-production, no matter what type of business you are in. Live or single camera … or multi-cam. You have to be prepared. Look at things. Treat your crew with respect and create an environment in which people like to be there. You have to rely on them. But being prepared is the most important thing. Once you've made all of your recordings, you're ready to start experimenting.

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