Today I had a field trip to Universal Studios (the actual studios, not the amusement park) and we spent a day with a CSI actor and he showed us the ropes from the sound stages to the post-production building.
Some fun facts about CSI: Las Vegas and filmmaking in general at Universal Studios.
˙Stage 24 is where the offices in CSI are held and are permanent.
˙Stage 25 holds more permanent sets for CSI.
˙Stage 22 is where all the "extra" sets are held. The sets that come in and out of episodes.
˙Stage 23 is used only for construction. While we were there they were building a house, a basement for the house, a sitcom studio and a hotel.
˙They reuse the sets the make as much as possible and they tear them down immediately after every shoot unless the set needs to be used in a future episode.
˙They use Panavision 35mm film. We saw them shooting a scene in the offices with two cameras. One for a master shot and the other for a CU on the speaking character.
˙They used on key light and a back light for the office shoot.
˙200 people are on crew. The show is in pre-production, in-production and in post-production at the same time. Usually they do three episodes at time so while episode 813 is being finished up in-production, 814 is being finished in post-production and 815 is being written in pre-production.
˙They choose whether to shoot on location or on stage by whichever is more inexpensive.
˙They spend 7 days in pre-production, 9 days in production and 3-4 weeks for post-production which is completed the Tuesday before it airs for its Thursday episode.
˙The writers come for six weeks before the actors to rough out how the whole season will play out and then write three episodes at a time and I believe they try to keep a three episode gap from pre-production to in production.
˙They edit on Avid on Dual Processing PowerPC Mac G4s running through OSIX. Their reasons for not upgrading to OSX Panther or Tiger or OSX Leopard was because of all the bugs they said they have that have yet to be fleshed out, especially on Leopard. The second editor we spoke to (the guy next in line as being the head editor) told us they could upgrade to OSX if they wanted but it was simpler to stay with OSIX which had long since been worked out thoroughly.
˙The second editor also told us that Final Cut Pro was coming up in the industry because it was a lot more inexpensive and handled digital video a tad better than Avid. But, like the apprentice editor we spoke to, he preferred Avid.
˙The editors all had the same set up. Dual Widescreen Dell Monitors with a big screen preview television set.
˙Editors had a 10-14 hour day and are contracted for 50 hour weeks.
˙The actors bring in their own photos if they have to have a picture of their character as a younger person.
˙Inserts are shot separately.
˙They dedicate two days to ADR when needed.
˙For special effects some of the programs they sue are After Effects, Inferno, Maya, Photoshop, etc.
˙In film, director's make the final cut of the film that goes up in theaters but in television, the executive producers have the final say of what goes into the show before it airs.
˙We spoke to the writers and they say the first start with brainstorming with an actually crime scene investigator in the room to keep them grounded and true whenever they needed to be.