Newark, NJ—ABC’s Castaways was shot and produced by Nomad Entertainment using Panasonic VariCam LT 4K cinema camcorders. The reality series tests the human need for companionship under extreme circumstances.
The series follows twelve castaways. They must survive among scattered resources and abandoned structures on islets in Indonesia. They know there are other castaways but do not know their locations. The only way to leave the remote islands is to persevere long enough until rescue, or to quit.
As the situations unfold in the South Pacific, the series flashes back to the real lives of each participant in documentary fashion. The contemporary action was shot in a remote part of Indonesia, with the “home recall” segments shot in New York, Nashville, Alabama, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State, Las Vegas, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Director of Photography Neil Moore supervised multiple teams of camera operators who shot the mini documentaries in parallel. In addition, 12 operators shot the Indonesian location work. Moore had previously shot with the VariCam 35, and showrunner Kahler also had used the VariCam LT.
“The first two weeks of production we worked with larger cameras and bigger lenses, which just wasn’t conducive to our fast, cinema vérité style,” Moore recounted. “The LT was a very appealing alternative, especially because of its dual 800/5000 ISOs. We had no time for lighting. Moreover, we were working with predominantly natural light with plenty of dark interiors and exteriors. The camera’s ISO 5000 setting is so clean, and you can switch easily without having to ride gain.”
Moore said he routinely used ISO 800 for daytime work in Indonesia. And with a significant number of “easy clicks over” to ISO 5000, for instance, he shot nighttime scenes.
“The tropical humidity was pretty insane, but we experienced no overheating or stopped files with the LTs,” the DP added. “Beyond ruggedness and ease of use, other standout features of the cameras were the unique focus squares tool—a must, especially with the long lens work—and the on-camera control panel that can double as a monitor. The LT is, overall, a simple, intuitive camera.”
Furthermore, the VariCam LTs used Fujinon Cabrio 85–300mm and Canon 17–120mm ENG-style lenses. Sigma Primes also shot some night work.
Panasonic VariCam LT
The VariCam LT camcorder inherits the same super 35mm sensor and imaging capabilities of the award-winning VariCam 35. However, it features a significantly reduced size, weight and price.
Incorporating the identical imaging “DNA” in a more compact rendition, the VariCam LT delivers 14+ stops of dynamic range with V-Log. It also employs cinematic VariCam color science. In addition, it adopts the VariCam 35’s dual native ISOs of 800/5000.
Moreover, it offers new features. They include an EF lens mount, hot swappable batteries, IR shooting capability, a 23.98 PsF output, cinema-style file naming, as well as image presets.
The camcorder weighs just under six pounds. In addition, it is suitable for handheld, SteadiCam, jib, crane, drone, gimbal and cinema verité work.