While many people know me as a writer and tech evangelist, one of the things people don’t know is I actually spend a good deal of my time working on and around film and television production sets on a regular basis.
Last fall, while prepping for the 10-week second season production schedule for the half hour comedy Sirens being shot in Chicago for the USA Network, the show’s Director of Photography, Billy Nielsen, reached out to me to discuss the gear we would need and what, if anything, we could to do to streamline our production. Since Sirens is shot mostly on location or in moving vehicles, it necessitates that the camera department be active and mobile.
Billy was clear he wanted a simpler monitoring solution. Utilizing a “handheld look” style for Sirens, the camera operators work largely without the support of a dolly or sticks, so every extra ounce of weight on the camera adds to the strain on the operators.
As both the DP and A Camera operator, Billy needed a monitoring solution that would allow him to view other camera angles simultaneously while still operating. For this second season, he was also planning to add a Canon C500 on a MOVI rig for some shots, in addition to the Arri Alexas we used as the main cameras. One of the conditions for adding the Canons to our production was that we needed to deliver those files in Apple ProRes to match those from the Alexa. There was really only one solution that offered a high quality HD display, Multi-Stream viewing of multiple input signals at once, recorded Apple ProRes, and was light enough to be hung on the side of a handheld camera. It was Convergent Design’s Odyssey7Q.
There was really only one solution that offered a high quality HD display, Multi-Stream viewing of multiple input signals at once, recorded Apple ProRes
Billy’s decision to go with my suggestion of the Odyssey7Q (we ultimately used seven of them on Sirens) allowed the camera department to move, setup and work faster. Riding around on the insert car (the tow vehicle used for the driving shots), my setup went from three 17 inch monitors to a single Odyssey, matched to what the DP was using. “The Odyssey7Q’s compact design and bright OLED display allowed us to maintain a consistent multi-camera monitoring solution between Camera, DIT, and the Director, whether we were on set in the sun or driving around on the insert car in the rain” remarked Billy Nielsen. “The Odyssey’s are my onboard monitor of choice from now on.”
The director’s monitoring solution decreased in size from a cluster of three 17 inch displays together in a tent, down to two Odyssey7Qs mounted side-by side on a standup cart or just a C-stand in some places. The high contrast of the OLED displays allows for an ambitiously wide angle of viewing, even in bright light, without the need of much more than a “courtesy flag” to black out reflections behind the director.
The OLED displays on the Odyssey7Qs are some of the most accurate small monitors I've worked with.
The OLED displays on the Odyssey7Qs are some of the most accurate small monitors I've worked with. I felt comfortable using the Odysseys mounted on the director’s setup while controlling the camera exposures at numerous locations where my 300 lb. DIT cart was left behind due to limitations of the location. By the end of shooting the second season of Sirens, I had ended up using the Odyssey7Qs as my main monitoring solution nearly ⅓ of the time we were in production.
Billy’s affinity for working with the Odyssey7Qs necessitated the purchase of an additional 7 units for the first season of Denis Leary’s new comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll for the FX Network, for which Billy is also the DP.
Showing the DIT Odyssey Setup for work on the Insert Car, note the iris controllers are mounted below the monitor...
Multistream monitoring on the Odyssey7Q...
Using the Odysseyfor HD monitoring while side mounted on an Ambulance.
Actors Kevin Bigley and Kelly O’Sullivan highlight this beauty shot of the Odysseys on set.
Director of Photography Billy Nielsen on the NYC set of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll...
Director Richie Keen using multiple Odysseys while shooting on location at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for Siren USA.
Showing the Insert Car Config when using the Odyssey as a multi camera viewer on A Cam.
This is called the Insert Car, it’s a tow vehicle that allows us to shoot people riding/driving around the city in a controlled environment, here it shows one of the actor’s truck, but we also work with Police cars and the main Box style Ambulance that is featured on the show.
Special thanks to Gary Adcock for this article and the accompanying photos.