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Header image for article Jax Media Chooses ALEXA LF for Colin Quinn's CNN Special

Jax Media Chooses ALEXA LF for Colin Quinn's CNN Special

Comedy is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of CNN, but when the cable news network decided to do something different on Memorial Day, it was comedian Colin Quinn they turned to. In the hour-long special that aired at the end of Memorial Day Weekend, Quinn performed a version of his recent off-Broadway show, Red State Blue State. To produce the special, CNN turned to Jax Media, the production company behind Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Jax Media has previously worked with AbelCine's rental teams on both coasts, but for this project they opted to check out of our NY facility. Their great working relationship with Mike Nichols and Alex Kurze, in NY's Rental management, was a big part of that decision. "Every job has unforeseen needs. I can always count on [Mike and Alex] to accommodate my camera team, even the last-minute, day-of requests," says Morgan Howard of Jax Media.

Jax Media Checks Out ALEXA LF at AbelCine NY Rental

In a move that might seem unusual for a project like this, DP Adam Kimmel opted to shoot on the ARRI ALEXA LF and Signature Primes. The ALEXA LF features a sensor slightly larger than full frame, which delivers an immersive, larger format aesthetic. Paired with the Signature Primes, which are fitted with ARRI's LPL Mount and optimized for large-format sensors, this setup yields cinematic images and pleasing skin tones.

Adam had experience shooting commercials with the ALEXA LF and Signature Primes. When he got involved with the project, he had the idea to set it up as theater in the round. He explains, "I didn’t want people who were seated right on the stage and 5 or 6 feet away from Colin to be distractingly in focus, so I started to consider shooting on prime lenses and with larger format cameras.

"It’s not the typical way to shoot a live stand-up show. Usually you want the versatility of zooms but my feeling was that the content and style of what Colin was doing and what the show is about leant itself to staging it with him much closer to and surrounded by the audience and with a more fixed and observational camera style. Because of that and the benefit of the shallower focus, I took the chance on limiting us without the flexibility of zooms.

"I was very thoughtful in my placement of cameras and choice of focal lengths as I didn’t want to be changing prime lenses in the middle of the show. Also because we were shooting 360° and I didn’t want to see other cameras, it made sense to keep the profiles more compact and the cameras more fixed. In the end, we were all very pleased with how it feels and looks."

Shooting with the ALEXA LF gave Jax Media more flexibility in post. Adam says, "With fixed focal lengths and five cameras, I felt it was important to be able to make minor framing adjustments in the edit, so I created custom 16x9 frame lines that were about 10% inside of the actual 16x9 sensor. There was no issue at all with the resolution and it gave me the flexibility to make the cuts more matched and cohesive once I saw how they were being put together."

To complete the cinematic feel, Adam chose not to use the follow spot look and instead used soft, overhead lighting. "I needed the lenses to be more kind and filmic in their renderings of faces," he explains. "I’m finding the skin tones and textures on this system are really beautiful, and I had no interest in studying one person’s face in high resolution and extreme detail for a 70 minute show."

Jax Media Checks Out ALEXA LF at AbelCine NY Rental

Adam concluded, "I’ve been to the demo of the ALEXA Mini LF and can’t wait for that camera to be available, but I have to say I’m really pleased with how this all went and with Mike and AbelCine’s support. It was a lot to ask on short notice, and I felt really supported and love how the show turned out."

Morgan agrees, saying it was the first time Jax Media had used the camera and lenses. The production required five ALEXA LF's and two sets of Signature Primes. Accommodating that many cameras and lenses might have been a challenge, but Morgan says, "Abel came through and, as a result, I think the show looks better and different from most comedy specials out there."

 

About Jax Media

Founded in 2011, Jax Media has helped to create and foster some of the most talked about film and television projects in recent years. Jax has created a production model that allows talent to maintain control of their content, and the results have been answered with award nominations and critical acclaim. Providing comprehensive production from development through post, Jax has a staff of highly experienced in-house producers who implement the unique Jax Media model.

About Red State Blue State

Colin Quinn's Red State Blue State is a CNN Original Series Special Presentation written by and starring stand-up comedian Colin Quinn. In the hour-long presentation of his critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway show, Quinn brings the funny tackling the absurdities, hypocrisies and calamities on both sides of the political divide.

 

Quotations have been lightly edited for space and clarity.

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