HD keeps budgets in control, execs say

Format can reduce single-camera show price tag

While single-camera comedies are more expensive to produce than traditional sitcoms, the widespread adoption of digital production is making the production technique a bit more affordable.

Typically, single-camera comedies cost more to produce because they require five to seven location days rather than the one- or two-night studio tapings of traditional sitcoms. In fact, according to the estimates of several TV producers and studio execs, using 35mm film to shoot a single-camera half-hour show could easily result in a production budget in excess of $2 million an episode.

With network license fees for single-camera half-hours ranging in the neighborhood of $950,000 to $1 million per episode, according to these same sources, the deficit financing on the front end of such an expensive production is quite a bit for a studio to bankroll.

Shooting in the high-definition TV format, however, can reduce per-episode costs by as much as $300,000, according to Gavin Polone, who’s Pariah production outfit shoots HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Fox’s fall-premiering “The Ortegas” with 24-progressive HDTV cameras. Since shoots using 24p cameras have little use for traditional lighting grids, set-up time is reduced, Polone adds. Film acquisition and processing is also eliminated.

“It’s a savings of $5 million to $7 million over a show’s full season (of 22 episodes), which is definitely a positive in helping the studio reduce (production) deficits,” he says.