As pilot season winds down, everyone is waiting to see what new television shows will get the “green light”. To get the best look possible for new sitcom pilots, eight-time Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC, is many a producer’s first choice.
“Pilots are a lot of pressure,” admits Morgan who, last season, did a number of pilots while shooting Rita Rocks, including Alligator Point directed by actor Kelsey Grammer and 2 Dollar Bear for Mike Binder. “You have to establish a look, a style, catch the eye of the powers-that-be at the network and cable executive level – and sometimes work with less than optimal sets or locations. There are times when you don’t know where you are going, until you sort of get there. It’s important to have a support system that you know can go with the flow.”
As usual, Morgan’s first choice of support is Vinten, usually pedestals with Vector heads.
“My relationship with Vinten goes way back – before I was Director of Photography on Home Improvement,” he explains. “The Vinten equipment has always been reliable, precise, and excellent. They are really top of the line when you come to pedestals and heads. So far this year I’m doing two pilots for TV Land – a George Segal driven project and Hot in Cleveland. And, I’m about to start my third, The Pink House for NBC/Universal. All of them are supported by Vinten.
“Hot in Cleveland was a traditional three ped and a dolly shoot,” he explains. “It was much like last year’s series Rita Rocks. I’ve always found that my operators prefer Vinten because of the precise tracking of the pedestal in the four-camera environment. It’s more than the durability and lack of down time. Often, the outside guys have to turn, pull, lift, pan and tilt in moments because they have to get back to position quickly. The fluidness and ease to reset is very important and that’s one of the things that Vinten has always excelled in over the years.
“When we have inside cameras on peds, (master cameras), they are also active but with different types of needs,” he adds. “They move, push left or right, raise up and push in. Normally, when you use a traditional dolly, it takes three people to execute such a shot. When you use a ped, there’s only one operator. Vinten’s reliability allows a good operator to execute this difficult one-person move precisely and smoothly.”
Morgan is just gearing up for NBC’s The Pink House pilot and Vinten camera support will be there once again to help Morgan and crew execute the challenging moves planned by director Michael Lembeck.