Keeping a hit television show that’s been on the air for 14 years fresh and interesting is a demanding challenge. As scripts get bigger to sustain audience interest, budgets inevitably get smaller. “When a show reaches syndication, it has primarily done it’s job of crossing the finish line of making money for a very long time,” says CSI: Las Vegas cinematographer Crescenzo Notarile, ASC. “So, why spend more when the networks, at this point, don’t have to. It’s a creative challenge to keep the audience coming back with what we have. It’s not making more – it’s making the freshest.”
“Working with O’Connor and its support equipment, it keeps us cameramen perpetually perfecting camera movement and striving higher to express a story. Each week we try to creatively surpass what we did in the previous episode, and in our own way, raise the bar – if not for the audience, for ourselves as filmmakers. And, I can always count on OConnor to be there to help me make this possible,” Notarile says.
While Notarile shoots on the street of Los Angeles for CSI, he must constantly make his shots look and feel like Las Vegas. “Color schemes, straw-like heat of the Las Vegas desert, the kitsch of characters and locations, the retro designs of the past – all juxtaposed against a very slick world of our CSI’s,” he explains, is relentlessly in the forefront of his creative brain and imagination. “It’s a visual challenge we surmount every day, – as a collective crew and as a creative family. We shoot with ARRI Alexa cameras with Panavision Primo lenses – and our trustworthy OConnor support.
“When wrapping your arms and hands around an OConnor head, and spontaneously reacting to your actors physical choreography within the set and their ‘marks’, it is truly a feeling of a tango dance,” Notarile says. “The versatility of an OConnor head is why it has truly become a workhorse for a cinematographer on the set.
“One of the subconscious visual strengths of CSI is the use of long lenses – squeezing the depth-of-field into a shallow, nail biting zone, where the subjects are cleanly chiseled out from their out of focused backgrounds,” Notarile explains. “With this visual approach the OConnor head becomes critically important to operate this methodology of long telephoto lens and critical focus. It helps us execute a shot with such perfect smoothness and precision. It’s like trying to follow a fly in the air with keeping a laser beam perfectly on it’s back the entire time, without losing it from your frame.”
“For a person operating the camera, the OConnor’s tension gears, paddle locks, weight and size as well as ergonomic feel gives it a perfect balance – like playing a Stradivarius,” he continues. “The extreme ends of operating the delicate precision of following a ballet dancer on stage, to an actor in a heated argument in an apartment room pacing back and forth, ready to throw a punch, to a car racing around a corner and into an alleyway – all can be done perfectly with an OConnor head for support without the embarrassment of asking the directior for another take because you missed the shot.”
“I recently executed a shot where our lead actor, Ted Danson, walks up to a crime scene and leans down to see a drop of blood on the ground,” he recalls. “I had the camera mounted on a riser of our dolly, using a periscope lens. The shot started high in his eyes, then boomed down to worms eye view to the drop of blood puddled on the ground, with police car flashers reflected in the blood. It was the smoothness and uncomplicated physical mobility of the OConnor head that made the shot so efficitely executed.”
Notarile just finished the 300th episode of the hit series CSI, “and OConnor has been by my side in the cinematic trenches all the way,” he adds with a proud smile.