Originally published in Markee 2.0 Magazine
By Mike Fickes
Have you noticed that content doesn't change when a new medium comes on the scene? Books, magazines, newspapers, radio and television all present fundamental forms of content: fiction, non-fiction, music, art, games, entertainment, advertising and public relations.The Internet delivers the same kinds of content, too. The difference is that the Internet's immediacy and interactivity make it possible to deliver content in more powerful ways. Three evolutionary projects tailored for the web demonstrate how content creators are mastering the Internet's potential.
The LXD Boasts Extraordinary Quality
Director (Step Up 2 The Streets; Step Up 3D) and screenwriter Jon M. Chu doesn't believe that television programs, feature films and Internet entertainment should have quality differences."In the future, online will compete with television and movies," Chu says. "As long as the entertainment is compelling, it will attract an audience." The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD), Chu's new online effort, is proving his case. The series, distributed by Paramount Digital Entertainment and launched on Hulu, revolves around stories of an ancient and secretive order of superhero dancers. In this year's first season, Chu directed five episodes ranging from 7:29 to 13:40 in length and produced 22 clips providing background on the characters.
"Dancers have extraordinary physical abilities," says Chu, describing the series' back-story. "Those abilities enable them to tie into energy that surrounds them. When dancers learn to focus this energy, they can use it to move things, and the ability to dance becomes a weapon. The better the dancer, the more powerful the weapon."
Chu and Director of Photography Alice Brooks shot The LXD at locations around Los Angeles using a RED camera with the new Mysterium X Chip. "It is a full-frame chip," Chu says. "It can detect more light in darker spaces, and that enables us to play more in the shadows." "The lenses were Zeiss Super Speed with a Schneider Classic Soft Filter," adds Brooks.
Instead of lighting from shot to shot, Chu and Brooks lit the entire location at the beginning of the single shooting day scheduled for most season-one episodes. "We didn't have time to relight," Brooks says. "So we used large sources like light through windows. We also used lots of lens flares and blown-out highlights."
Brooks managed a full camera crew with a first and second assistant camera operator, Digital Imaging Technician (DIT), gaffer, key grip, best boy electric, best boy grip, four electrical technicians and four additional grips. About 95 percent of each story was shot by Nick Franco using the RED in Steadicam mode.
The full-size crew reflects Chu's interest in producing material comparable to good television. "That's the goal," says Brooks, "to be as good as a television program. It's all entertainment, and entertainment requires a certain level of quality."
That, of course, is easier said than done. While good budgets don't guarantee quality, they make quality possible. And web-based entertainment has yet to evolve a business model that generates budgets comparable to television let alone feature films.
However, one of the innovations that The LXD is bringing to web entertainment is the development of a business model. Chu works with Los Angeles-based Agility Studios (www.agilitystudios.com), a company that produces Internet-based entertainment. "My job is working with a new generation of creatives who understand the Internet and enable companies like Agility to tailor business models to content — instead of tailoring the content to some idea of a business model," says Agility CEO Scott Ehrlich.
He inked the distribution deal for The LXD with Paramount Digital Entertainment and has broadened the dancers' reach with performances on the Academy Awards special, on So You Think You Can Dance and with the Glee tour. "The LXD is well on its way to becoming a well-established brand," Ehrlich says.
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