Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Phantom Debut

Chelsea Baker is a 13-year-old girl whose knuckleball baffles the boys of Plant City, Fla.

Producer Ben Houser wanted to tell her story – of crossing baseball’s gender line with a signature pitch she learned from the late Joe Niekro – in a special way.

“How do you represent the knuckleball visually?” Houser asked himself. “I wanted to see it coming off her fingers.”

He decided to throw the high-tech version of a knuckleball – the Phantom HD Gold Model camera– at E:60 viewers, for the first time.

The Phantom shoots in extremely slow motion – 1000 frames per second as compared to the normal 30-40. It also shoots in a 1080p resolution, which is presently the highest HD TV video format available.

Because of its speed and resolution the Phantom requires “a ton of light”. It also requires more planning than usual.

“You can’t do it on the fly – it has to be directed like a movie,” Houser said.

Shooters Joel and Jesse Edwards and Bill Roach helped Houser conceive several Phantom shots that tell the story in gorgeous slow-motion metaphor.

One is of a fluttering butterfly – captured for the crew by Baker’s brother.

“I put it in front of the lens and let it go – we shot it for maybe 1 ½ seconds before it flew off,” said Jesse Edwards.

The Phantom turned it into six seconds of air time.

The crew purchased glass panes and had Chelsea throw baseballs through them. Shards of glass explode before the viewers’ eyes.

“We put Plexiglas in front of the Phantom so as not to damage it,” Houser said. “That’s a $300,000 camera we rented for a day.”

Posted by Steve Marantz, July 20, 2010

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