was NBC's sitcom "Friends" shot on film?
July 29, 2010 4:41 AM   Subscribe

was NBC's sitcom "Friends" shot on film @30fps? was/is that common practice?

based on this quote...
"there is another source of true 30 frames per second material which is more common than you might think: The proverbial sit-com such as NBC's Friends. These shows are shot with film at 30frames/ps and transferred to 60fields/ps video to give them a softer film like look."

posted by yosh to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The refresh rate of System M (NTSC) television broadcast material is 30 frames per second (well technically 29.97, but who's counting?). So by shooting on film at 30 fps, you get that richer film look (color, contrast, etc) without having to convert from the cinema-standard 24 fps. It's more expensive, but looks great. Which is why a lot of high-dollar TV shows shot on film and then converted to broadcast.

More to the point, "Friends" is shot on film according to its Wikipedia entry. I can't find a more authoritative answer, but from shows of that time, you can see the difference in quality between shows shot on video and on film.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:00 AM on July 29, 2010

yes, this is common. check out the Seinfeld reruns on TBS sometime. they've gone back to the film stock and are airing a 90s TV show in high def.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:57 AM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

These shows are shot with film at 30frames/ps and transferred to 60fields/ps video to give them a softer film like look.

Before shows started shooting directly on film, shows were recorded via "kinescope," which was basically a film camera pointed at a television screen. It looked like crap. Once shows like I Love Lucy started shooting on film, the could be rerun and syndicated for ever and ever. Seeing a good cash cow, the entire industry (except for ephemeral stuff like news, sports, soap operas, game shows, etc., which weren't ever expected to be rebroadcast) followed suit. Of course, once video tape came along, suddenly a lot of stuff was shot on that, and that's why All in the Family will always look like shit.

Shooting 30fps vs. 24fps is actually pretty trivial. It just requires an adjustment (or simple replacement) of the motor.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2010

(But to answer the question: Yes, Friends was definitely shot on film.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:08 AM on July 29, 2010

Interesting. I'm surprised they haven't begun transferring the old episodes to HD. The existing DVD sets are just OK in terms of quality.

Presumably, they shot on something a bit cheaper than 35mm? 35mm is frighteningly expensive to shoot on.
posted by schmod at 12:34 PM on July 29, 2010

35mm is frighteningly expensive to shoot on.

Not compared to the cast's salaries, it isn't.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:33 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Pretty much all TV was shot on film until the advent of HD, except for sports, news and soap operas.

We still shoot a lot of them on film, though the threatened SAG dispute forced many production companies to quickly switch to HD as it contractually excluded them from the the SAG issues and adhered them to the AFTRA contract.

Yes, film is really expensive to shoot and process, but it is what we know and it is a tried and true process. There was a lot of hesitation on using HD until very recently when the flood gates opened up with the advent of the RED camera, it is all a very long and convoluted story.

Three camera sitcoms such as Friends or Seinfled were very frugal in there film usage, they would rehearse a full day then shoot the morning of the Thursday usually, only doing one or two takes with the three cameras, but I assure you it was all film.

As to the 30 fps question, my memory is that it just made for an easier transfer and did not involve a drop frame situation as shooting in 24 fps for broadcast does. I have shot 30 fps for some commercials and for some rock videos in the past as well. I asked around on the set of the show I am currently on and no one really had a very good reason.

Our business is very fickle and often very consequential decisions are made costing millions of dollars without much knowledge or recourse. For a current perspective on the absurdity of how these things go go, take a look at this.
posted by silsurf at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Friends was shot probably on super 16mm, at 23.97. I can double check and email a buddy who was an editor on it, but I'm 99% sure it was super 16.

Likely, the transfer occured in SD, not in HD. Some shows are remastering, some aren't...some are willing to wait...and resell you the dvds (or blu ray...) for a special editing.

Most stuff was shot at 24 (23.97) transfered to video...and just edited and finished that way; probably during friends they didn't go back to 24...as the broadcast was going to be at 30.

Later, certain post tools permitted editing at 24 and finishing to occur easier.

Sopranos was shot on super 16, and later in the series telecined to HD....which is how most shows are shot 'with a budget' - but, for example, much of USA is shot on HD or on Red...and transferred to HD to be edited and finished.

The actual cost of film (vs. the actors) is nothing - the bigger expense is always time.
posted by filmgeek at 2:44 PM on July 31, 2010

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