Although Periscope editor Michael Thomas James got a year’s worth of sneak peeks at The Chi while finessing the show’s dailies during the wee hours of most mornings in 2017, he is still enthusiastic about the Showtime series’ premiere on Sunday night.
“When I first saw the footage, it got me super excited to be a part of this process,” he recalls. “There are beautiful shots and everyone’s performance really brings it to life.”
Described by IMDb as “the story of a young African-American man coming of age,” The Chi was written by Chicagoan Lena Waithe and executive produced by, among others, Chicago actor and musician Common.
James began “ingesting, syncing, transcoding, and delivering” daily footage straight off The Chi set almost as soon as it commenced filming at Cinespace Chicago studios and on-location throughout the city.
“Basically, we synced the footage by timecode and applied any color correction that was needed,” he says. “They would send a look-up-table that sorta made the images pop and gave the material a little more aesthetic.”
In addition to requiring some serious skills, the job demanded some serious flexibility.
“Dailies don’t really start until production wraps for the day,” James explains. “We put in super late hours to get everything ready by the following morning, so the editors can start working with the footage and the higher-ups can review it.”
Early reviews of The Chi praise its engaging cast and worthy story. The series premiere, which was posted to YouTube on December 15, has generated more than 858,000 views and 5,300 likes.
James says that the show deserves all the hype it’s getting.
“The characters are complex and they drive a really cool narrative,” he says. “The script is solid.”
Like many of the critics, he also feels that The Chi does the Windy City right.
“If you want to tell a compelling story about Chicago, you need to film in Chicago,” he continues. “The way they shot the city is a visual treat.”
Besides working on the dailies, Periscope handled a substantial quantity of ADR for The Chi as well. The processes link the post-production boutique, which is also located on the Cinespace campus, to a motherlode of knowledge about the series.
James handles the proprietary knowledge with the discretion of a pro. Not only was he among a select few with access to The Chi’s dailies, he also won’t give away any details about the story.
“From what I could tell and what’s already available to watch online,” he says, “it really sets up to be an interesting season right from the start.”
The job spanned several months — “the entire shooting length,” according to James — and ended with a party at a club in River North last fall.
“To see the actors in real life was an interesting experience,” he says. “You spend so many hours and overnights working on footage of these actors, and the chance to meet and hang out with them in person is sort of surreal.”
“The Chi” premieres Sunday, January 7th 2018 at 10pm ET/PT on SHOWTIME.