"HOW DID YOU DO THAT?"
When people ask us, 'How did you turn Robert Krulwich into a 750-square
foot-correspondent towering over New York City's Times Square?' we like to say,
'we threw a tape in the machine and walked out to the street to film it as it
But here's how it really worked:
The idea was to illustrate Mr. Krulwich's observation that
Yahoo is the Times Square of the Internet -- meaning it is a crossroads where
people gather and head off to other locations, and therefore an excellent
place to position an advertisement. As he peers into his computer screen, he
sees Times Square. From the perspective of people in the Square, the Sony
Jumbotron was the portal through which he was gazing.
The Jumbotron is a 23.5 x 32-foot digital
display built at a cost of $5 million and owned by Sony Video 1. It hangs
four stories up the side of One Times Square -- home of the New Year's Eve
ball drop -- sucking up 70 kilowatts of electricity an hour. An estimated
870,000 people pass by it every day. It was erected back in 1990, after it was decided that drivers
and pedestrians attempting to navigate the chaotic intersection of Broadway,
Seventh Avenue and 43rd Street were in desperate need of an enormous television.
Permission was obtained to use the Jumbotron for fifteen minutes (you can use it,
too, but there is a fee). The producers then went to Times Square and
diagrammed the location of the ads Mr. Krulwich would be able to "see" from
his point of view. The script was written accordingly.
On October 9, FRONTLINE filmed the scene when Mr. Krulwich sits at his
computer discussing Yahoo. After he leaned towards his screen, the camera
stopped and repositioned itself just inches from his face. Resting his chin
on a box to prevent his head from moving too much, Mr. Krulwich did several
takes of the Jumbotron sequence, using carefully positioned crew members as
reference points for the ads he was supposed to be looking at.
The next morning the best takes were edited onto a second tape, giving the
producers a repeating sequence two minutes long. That tape was given to
technicians in the Jumbotron's control room who kept in contact with the
camera crew using walkie-talkies.
The reason Mr. Krulwich's physical gestures were so exaggerated is that,
unlike most things in Times Square, the Jumbotron makes no sound. His
eye-rolling and head-turning allowed the crew to follow what he was saying
and move the camera accordingly.
The two-minute sequence was filmed seven times from different perspective,
and edited into the seamless narrative you saw in the documentary. The audio
tracks from the original tape were mixed with the sounds of traffic to create the
appearence that Mr. Krulwich's words could be heard in Times Square. One
shot, however, did not work. Right before Mr. Krulwich mentions the Claudia
Schiffer ad below him, there is a wide shot from the west side of the Square
that was beautifully framed, but the camera jiggled during the part we
needed. This was solved in post-production by using a different shot from
the same perspective. But his words and his image were no longer in synch.
A shot of Mr. Krulwich talking, taken from a different perspective, was
selected and run through a machine called a DME-3000. The image was cropped,
shrunk, twisted around a layered on top of the first shot. Bet you didn't notice.
Finally, you may wonder - how did the thousands of people in Times Square react
during our Jumbotron shoot? During those fifteen minutes on October 10,
Robert Krulwich's smiling visage towered over this world famous intersection.
But typical of New York, no one appeared to notice. Our camera crew recording
the event attracted a small crowd. But nobody looked up at the object of their
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