VANCOUVER March 1, 2012 – Vancouver’s Parallax Film Productions has done everything in its considerable power to push the boundaries of real TV with their series “Battle Castle,” the new featuresque documentary airing on History Television. The show is an interactive, trans-medieval journey into castle engineering, bloody siegecraft, and epic clashes that transform mortals into legends. Hosted by UK celebrity Dan Snow, the show takes its viewers over six one-hour timeslots to Syria, France, Spain, Wales, Poland and England delving into the stories of six fascinating castles: Crac des Chevaliers, Chateau Gâillard, Dover, Conwy, Malbork, and Malaga.
We chatted with Tustian about his experiences at MIPCOM – and the state of 3D TV in general.
Here’s what he had to say:
Why MIPCOM was a must
A lot of websites (about 3D) really do focus on the technologies. I thought there was way too much of that and not too much of the actual content. So the idea was really to get to MIPCOM and see what was being created – if it’s being made in 3D, it’s likely you’ll see it there. In a nutshell that’s what MIPCOM’s about – content.
While Maija Leivo and I were in Europe for this year’s MIPCOM conference we went to dinner with a friend from Discovery Channel and got talking about overcoming fear of doing things that make us – in our minds – look foolish.
For some this can be triggered when walking through a crowded restaurant looking for a seat for one, for others it may be sharing cuts of your film for the first time. It’s about putting ourselves out there – and therefore the potential for looking dumb looms large – and that mucky feeling of emotional distress follows.
This brings us to the 3D debate that rages amongst those who are invested in having stereo monitors and content in every house and on every channel. They ask – what’s holding 3D back? I have heard it blamed on everything from the complex and expensive monitors to issues with accessing content to less-than-satisfactory 3D crippling consumer desire.
But there may be another facet to the debate worth considering. Simply put, people don’t want to look stupid. It’s that human condition where one doesn’t want to stand out.
For decades we have gone into stores and tried things on – shoes, headphones, sunglasses. It’s been made easy with familiarity and so-called expertise – but there is always that niggle of mindfulness that the potential of some person snickering and saying “boy, those look dumb”.
3D technology is in its retail infancy phase. That means it lacks the comfort associated with testing other, more established products. In order to check out a 3D TV for potential purchase we have to put 3D glasses on in public – and it’s not yet something we are used to.
The same goes for convincing all your buddies that your house is the best place to watch the super bowl with your new 3D TV – just have to put on these 3D glasses that make you look like Aristotle Onassis. This “new” experience seems to amplify self-consciousness – so it can be a tough sell.
While walking the floor at MIPCOM looking at other 3D vendors’ setups, I noticed that few potential viewers stopped to look at the visual spectacle that was on offer – mostly sports and a couple of soft-core porn vendors – but no one was lining up. If someone did stop and picked up the glasses, I could see they were actively overcoming their self-consciousness. Most just moved on because it looked like a hassle.
The lesson here is if we stick with what’s familiar, we often miss out. When people opt for their comfort zone instead of 3D glasses, they’re robbing themselves of a new experience. So next time you go into the 3D television section of the electronics store, try those glasses on. Snicker to yourself. And then enter the third dimension.
Here’s what’s going on this week in our current production, Battle Castle:
Battle Castle: host Dan Snow reveals how bad timing changed Chateau Gaillard’s history
Battle Castle host Dan Snow details King John’s attempt at thwarting the siege of Chateau Gaillard. The King of England, also known as John Lackland, planned a two-pronged attack, meant to triumph over Philip Augustus of France and his army, who were positioned outside English King Richard I’s stronghold in Normandy. Battle Castle: Gaillard reveals how Richard the Lionheart’s castle builders constructed the fortifications, which included securing the castle, an island fort, and the town of Petit Andely, and details the medieval weapons that the French used to attack it. Dan’s blogs will be released every Thursday on YouTube, unveiling details related to the stories that will be profiled in the Battle Castle shows .
Dan’s blogs will be released every Thursday on YouTube, unveiling details related to the stories that will be profiled in the Battle Castle shows .
Battle Castle: Malbork — Middle Castle gate
The Battle Castle crew moves one of five gates that mark the entrance to the Middle Castle at Malbork, Poland. The gate is cobbled, with stone plates that marked the way for carts so that they didn’t damage the gate jams. Battle Castle: Malbork profiles the siege of 1410 when Polish and Lithuanian forces attacked the brick stronghold. The offensive, which was led by King Jagiello and Grand Duke Vytautas, occurred after the Battle of Tannenberg. The castle, historically known as Marienburg, was built by the Teutonic Order, crusader knights who occupied this area of the Baltic in medieval times.
Here’s what’s going on this week in our current production, Battle Castle:
Conwy — comparing Welsh castles
Executive Producer Maija Leivo reveals her impressions of the differences between Conwy, Caernarfon, and Harlech castles in Northern Wales. The Battle Castle crew scouted and shot at all three locations for Battle Castle: Conwy. The fortifications are part of the Iron Ring that King Edward I erected as part of his castle building campaign in what is now Snowdonia. In 1294 Welsh leader Madog ap Llywelyn challenged these strongholds during a medieval rebellion against the English.
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Battle Castle: Gaillard – fisheye’s view of the keep
The keep at Chateau Gaillard, captured through a fisheye lens, shot during the filming of Battle Castle: Gaillard with host Dan Snow. The French army, led by Philip Augustus of France, laid siege to English King Richard I’s stronghold in 1203-1204. The show reveals how Richard the Lionheart’s castle builders constructed the fortifications, which included securing the castle, an island fort, and the town of Petit Andely, and details the medieval weapons used to attack it.
As History Television prepares to air Super Stadium, the first episode of Blowdown Season II, Tuesday night at 7 p.m, here in house we’ve been talking about the groundbreaking triumphs – and inevitable agonies – behind the incredible shots that make these shows so undeniably explosive.
A high-stakes mission
After shooting, editing, and delivering eight episodes of the series, which follows Controlled Demolition Inc. as they tackle the world’s toughest implosions, I can say with certainty that there’s nothing like the rush we get when the crew returns to the production office after an implosion.
They may be on the road for weeks filming the prep work leading up to the demo, but everything rides on the footage they get on the last day, and there is little room for error and no do-over. It is the ultimate life lesson.
We call it demo porn and we pour over the shots as they come in.
The money shots
When we filmed Blowdown II: Spyship – the sinking of the Hoyt. S. Vandenberg off the coast of Key West, Florida – we mounted recoverable cameras and harddrives that filmed her as she sank. Listen to the sound as one goes down: it is utterly eerie.
In our mission to capture a potentially record-breaking drop for Blowdown II: Monster Tower, we mounted cameras on the top floors of the doomed Ocean Tower condominium project on South Padre Island. And amazingly, they actually rode the building down during the implosion.
We weren’t able to recover the cameras but here is the system we designed that protected our harddrives.
With the help of Controlled Demolition Inc. President Mark Loizeaux’s expert advice, it landed right on top of the rubble pile as predicted. And a 30-something storey drop later, the footage was all there. And it’s incredible.
Sometimes, after all this amazing footage hits Parallax Film HQ, we don’t even know what we’re looking right away at and only piece it together as we unravel the story … the wonder of these discoveries is really satisfying.
Getting the goods
One of the big questions for crew is whether to shoot big wide shots that allow you to watch the whole thing unfold, complete with the amazing microsecond timing. Or do you zoom in and witness the devil in the detail like the failure of expansion joints or payoff of pre-slicing concrete rings?
Sometimes it depends on the camera technology. We’ve experimented with high speed cameras at 300+ frames per second, and found that it worked best for those tight shots, rather than the wides which you just want to let run.
Time to explode
We’ve done some amazing stuff with cameras in this series – things that, to our knowledge, have never been done before.