Macs Help 'Webisodic' Show Break New Ground

LAS VEGAS -- Dan Myrick, who co-created the hit low-budget film The Blair Witch Project, looks forward to breaking boundaries once again with his "Webisodic" series The Strand, which relied heavily on Macs during production of its first three episodes. He was at this weekis National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show to promote the series and premiere the first episode, which was shown at the TV Worldwide booth on Tuesday.

TV Worldwide is a Web-based global TV network that provides alternatives to traditional network programming. Dave Gardy, CEO of the company, said in a statement that "The Strand is a veritable asteroid aimed at the planet of conventional content distribution." While TV Worldwide is providing the first episode for free, plans call for a 99-cent charge for each subsequent episode, which Myrick thinks will be released monthly.

Return to Familiar Territory

"I did the initial cut [of the first episode] on my 17-inch PowerBook, which was so liberating," Myrick told The Mac Observer. "I was able to offline all my content to an external drive and use Final Cut Pro to edit it on my laptop during vacation."

Macs also featured prominently during the production of The Blair Witch Project, although Myrick said he used Avid on a Mac to edit it because Final Cut Pro didnit exist at the time. For The Strand, he returned from vacation with his edited footage and moved it back to his 1.8GHz Dual Processor G5, where he employed Adobe After Effects, Soundtrack and other applications to complete the work.

Dan Myrick does an interview with TV Worldwide during NAB.

He also used DVD Studio Pro to create a master DVD that was copied for distribution within the entertainment industry. If the show is successful, he expects to produce DVD compilations full of higher-resolution versions of the episodes, along with directoris commentary and such extras as behind-the-scenes footage, which two editors are currently working on off-site with Macs.

Like many NAB attendees, he canit wait to get his hands on the new Final Cut Studio announced by Apple on Sunday. "I wish I had that a few months ago," he said, "but certainly the next few shows will be cut with it. I can see us doing everything with it."

A 21st Century Soap Opera

Myrick describes The Strand as "a 21st century soap opera modeled after Robert Altmanis movie Short Cuts." It takes place in Venice and follows the stories of a wide variety of characters, from a has-been movie star played by veteran actress Katherine Helmond (the TV show Soap, the movie Brazil) to a group of always-stoned skaters to yuppies living along the canals. Their stories run parallel to each other, but sometimes they intersect.

While The Blair Witch Project received a lot of attention because it was presented as real video shot by a group of friends who have terrifying experiences in the woods, Myrick said that this series is "more traditional. What I tell people is that the hook is its authenticity." He noted that the cast also includes real Venice inhabitants.

Myrick also plans to hook viewers with some form of audience participation, he said. "Because we can shoot an episode in a week to eight days, we want audience input as far as what they want to see in the next one. Since this is a Web-based show, why not let them participate?"

The Strand, live at NAB.

His company, Gearhead Pictures, is looking for partners who will fund the creation of three to six more episodes. Myrick said he could "do the show forever" if he can get 200,000 to 300,000 streaming downloads per episode. Given that TV shows with audiences of three million viewers get cancelled, he thinks thereis room for niche programming that the networks canit take on because it doesnit fit their financial model.

Efficient Workflows with Macs

Of course, Macs will continue to play a role if The Strand sees success. Eyeing Panasonicis new video camera, which can shoot straight to a disk, Myrick said: "We can then throw the footage onto Macs and edit right there. We can get a rough cut that will help us see what we have and condense our production turnaround."

He said that such efficiency is why he uses Macs. "My Mac, my iCal -- it all talks to each other and it works," he explained. "Itis like a Ferrari versus a Chevette: You pay more for the Ferrari, but you get the service. I had a PC laptop for a while and I wound up downloading patches that were more problematic than the viruses they were supposed to prevent."