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"The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions

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Mark Suszko
"The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 21, 2011 at 4:54:21 pm

I have been enjoying watching the new TV Series “The Chicago Code”: it has lots of locations I recognize, some "interesting" attempts at the Bridgeport accent, the lovely Jennifer Beals, and a nice, fast-paced narrative and visual style.

Watching a recent episode, a particular technique started jumping out at me that the show’s editor uses. I call it a live wipe, meaning, a live person walks thru the shot, obscuring the action being seen, and their body acts as the dividing line of a wipe transition to another camera, or the same camera, at a tighter, shorter shot. The first few times I saw it used on the show, it was so subtle I almost missed it and had to rewind to look again. Now, usually in my experience, this is a move used to transition into new sections of a story, or to bridge over a mistake where your camera coverage left you with jump cuts and no cover or reversals. I first noticed live wipes back in the days of the TV comedy “Home Improvement”, where they used cartooned stills of tools as the wipe element, these looked like exaggerated Video Toaster “kiki wipes”.

But I don’t think this is the case in Chicago Code, here, the effect is used with great subtlety and I think this is deliberate application of a repeated effect to replace a lot of quick cuts. If you watch one of these sequences, there’s no reason you *need* to hide jump cuts in some of them, so I think this is a stylistic choice.

I watched a number of setups where this technique was used in the show to make a dialogue scene play more kinetic, collapse time, and seem more active, without looking as jarring as jump cutting. I think, to me, it also gives a bit of a comic book effect or sensibility to the editing style, which can be great if used appropriately.

Anyway, I think I’m liking this in the show so far, long as they don't over-do it, and the way the effect is deployed, the masking on the people passing thru the shots makes it hard for untrained eyes of viewers to know this effect is happening. But I think you’ll see it, a lot, any time somebody crosses in front of the lens.

I’m interested in your take on this. Have you seen this show, do you like the effect they way they use it, do YOU use it much for anything in particular?


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Mark Suszko
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 21, 2011 at 5:06:38 pm

In a recent episode, in a scene set in a hospital waiting room, the cops are talking to some concerned parents while an extra, dressed as a doctor, is doing "business" in the background. The same actor is used for the organic wipe transition, covering a camera angle change. But he's still in the background of one half of that transition shot. That was what set off my alarm bell, subconsciously, and made me rewind to see the effect again. In one way, it's a "mistake". But in another, it's just artistic license. Like a famous scene in "downhill racer" where the editor re-cuts the sequence to make Bob Redford suddenly shoot way ahead of his competition.


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Mark Suszko
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 21, 2011 at 7:05:34 pm

I wonder if they call the actors back for some green screen sessions in post, when they decide to make the effect happen at a certain point, or do they hang a green scren on the set somewher and capture a few moves by the extras as insurance, all on shoot day? Seems like the smarter/cheaper option, since you can fit that in during slack time between takes of the principals, it is just MOS b-roll. Anybody who works with the show know?


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Shane Ross
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 22, 2011 at 7:02:01 pm

I like the show, but I DO NOT like that transition. Not the way they are using it. I have used it myself, as a way to cut from one location to another. But as a wipe within a scene? It was jarring. It was editing that made me take notice, and editing, in storytelling like this, needs to be invisible. If going from location to location, it is better. But within a moment...I was taken out of the moment.

Shane

GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 23, 2011 at 4:07:46 pm

I think this is definitely one of those things that can be overdone. I just watched the latest Monday episode last night and they used it WAY less than the week before. I get your point about edits pulling you out of the moment: because I was watching to hard for the next roto-wipe, I wasn't concentrating as deeply on enjoying the show. The previous week's episode about Gold-Coast prostitution, that one was using it A LOT. I think it will probably settle down over time as the show finds its rythym. Remember all the wacky effects sequences they used to throw around in "Ally Mcbeal?"

BTW, the theme music for the show is sung by Billy Corgan of Chicago's famous Smashing Pumpkins. I wish there was a full-length song version of this theme. Same guy that did the theme for "The Unit" did this one.


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Shane Ross
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:39:18 pm

I didn't notice it before the Gold-Coast episode. ANd I haven't watched this weeks yet. Nor have I ever seen any episodes of Ally McBeal. Sorry.

I was distracted by the jump-cutting style of HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS at first, but then it grew on me...made me think of it more like a reality show. Because, well, it was pretty realistic. Good show.

Shane

GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Nick Griffin
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:26:07 pm

[Shane Ross] "I was distracted by the jump-cutting style of HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS at first, but then it grew on me...made me think of it more like a reality show. Because, well, it was pretty realistic. Good show."

While the jump cuts stayed as part of the show for its 8 (I believe) seasons the camera work evolved from nearly un-watchable shakey-cam to a much smoother, but still handheld look.

From a camera / DP point of view I find Breaking Bad to be one of the most impressive things on TV today. It is 90 to 95% handheld even when longer lenses are used and the "you are there" realism that brings is extremely powerful. The POVs that their DPs utilize are also remarkable.


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Mike Cohen
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 26, 2011 at 2:58:19 pm

I have not seen any of these shows...just set my DVR...but I will agree that shows and commercials seem to find a gimmick which is cool or effective in moderation, and then overdo it.

Something we see a lot now is 3D extruded text comped into scenes. Fringe started doing this and now you see it everywhere. It is nice, but it can call attention to itself also. That being said, I am going to try it first chance I get!

I never liked the shakey-cam in dramatic tv. NYPD Blue used a dolly for the shakey cam which was really perplexing, but it obviously caught on.

We just started watching Carlos, the 5 hour miniseries about Carlos the jackal. It is shot mostly handheld with some pretty long takes. That plus the subtitles makes for shorter viewing sessions than normal, but it is very well done.

Mike Cohen


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Nick Griffin
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on Mar 26, 2011 at 8:59:36 pm

[Mike Cohen] "NYPD Blue used a dolly for the shakey cam which was really perplexing"

This discussion would probably be more appropriate in the Cinematography COW, but wasn't the NYPD Blue looked achieved with some form of spring mounted head or other kind of "floating" device on a dolly so it could find the shot and then kind of keep drifting around? I seem to recall that it was fairly unique at the time (as was showing Dennis Franz butt) and not copied very much. (And thank God no one was copying the showing of Franz butt!)


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Mike Cohen
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 5, 2011 at 1:53:23 am

The Chicago Code is now one of my favorite currently airing shows. It is somewhat like Hawaii 5-0 in Chicago in that there is a special task force solving a crime each episode, although it is better in that the ensemble cast operates in separate efforts in each show, yet they are all related somehow and there is no eye candy.

I hope it lasts.

They seem to have reduced the organic transitions, which I think is good. The last one I saw looked like it was done in post making me think they are all done that way. For a 1-2 second shot it would not be a lot of work for a skilled compositor. Perhaps they export each cut point and ship out to an effects house.

Google does not produce any results, and in fact sends me right back to this thread!

Maybe editor Jordan Goldman will google himself and find this thread, and give us the answer!

Mike Cohen


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Mike Cohen
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 11, 2011 at 2:30:21 pm

Well, as expected, the Chicago Code has been cancelled. Too bad as it is a great new show. Maybe it will go the way of Southland, and a cable network that appreciates good writing will pick it up for more seasons.

Mike Cohen


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Shane Ross
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 11, 2011 at 5:08:23 pm

The show was too good for network TV. That's the problem. Networks want formula...they want the break out hit. But then again, their budgets are higher and the need the numbers to attract advertisers. Still, if THE SHIELD was on network TV...it wouldn't have lasted more than 1 season. Leverage either... and as we saw, SOUTHLAND.

I hope it finds a home on Cable. It was one of my favorite shows.

(Psst....USA. This show has CHARACTERS)

Shane

GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 11, 2011 at 5:22:36 pm

NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Dis was a grate show, had a good narrative arc, great photography and editing, Interesting actors and scripts.

Does network wiseguys need to be taken out back and given a little tune-up.


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Shane Ross
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 11, 2011 at 5:23:59 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Does network wiseguys need to be taken out back and given a little tune-up."

The CHICAGO way...

Shane

GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: "The Chicago Code" and use of live (organic) wipe transitions
on May 13, 2011 at 4:21:41 pm

I would love to see this show picked up by Netflix or USA Network. You can make a pretty long list of successful shows FOX canceled too early, that either got put BACK on FOX or picked up elsewhere.

The FOX execs are too in love with Neilsen numbers to see the bigger picture. I watch the show religiously, but never in the live time slot. We DVR EVERYTHING we watch, because watching Tv should not be like a job you have to punch a time clock to attend. But the Nielsen numbers don't reflect that ever-growing reality. The FOX execs have a record of killing off great shows in infancy. Short attention span.
They want everything to be an instant mega-hit from episode one. The result is all FOX programming is going to end up like this:







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