Moline’s Silver Oaks shoots 5-camera HD Christmas concert for PBS

Moline-based Silver Oaks Communications undertook an ambitious project for its first HD production: a five- camera shoot of the 14th Annual First Presbyterian Church Christmas Concert in neighboring Davenport, Iowa.

Silver Oaks shot the renowned choir’s concert Dec. 20-21, then had two days of post to get the hour-long program, “Sing We Now of Christmas: A Festival of Carols,” on the air Christmas Eve on the Quad Cities’ PBS affiliate WQPT.

“We have no HD edit suite at Silver Oaks, so we down-converted to DV in real time, switched live from our truck, and that was our rough edit,” said director Martha Renk-Weitzel. “We’d pre-produced all the graphics and titles and credits, and the 3D animation for the opening.”

In the coming year they’ll do a full offline edit, then find an HD post house to online the show for national PBS broadcast in 2004. The company’s award-winning production of the choir’s 1999 concert ran in 240 markets in 47 states in 2000, through a deal arranged by WQPT station manager Rick Vest, who is also working closely with Silver Oaks on this year’s show.

The five choirs of First Presbyterian Church, under the direction of Steven Jobman, perform the annual concert in the 100-year-old church’s Victorian sanctuary, accompanied by a full orchestra composed mostly of members of the Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra.

“Sometimes all five choirs sing simultaneously and you can’t believe your ears, it’s so beautiful,” Renk- Weitzel said. “The church is an absolutely stunning backdrop and it makes for beautiful television, with all these deep purples and greens and golds.”

Silver Oaks’ biggest challenge, beyond the accelerated post schedule, she said, was to maintain the performance’s candle-lit atmosphere while still providing enough exposure for HD.

“We found that the HD cameras require considerably more light than the DV cams we ordinarily shoot with,” Renk-Weitzel said. “We did hang a light grid, and utilized some house lighting that we hadn’t done before. The trick was to achieve a look that was lit but still look candlelit.”

Silver Oaks rented the five-camera package from Zacuto Films. Three of the cameras were Zacuto’s own, and Light It and Roscor provided one camera each.

Greg Scott founded Silver Oaks in Rock Island, Illinois in 1983 as a video production company. It moved to Moline in 1990, and has expanded to a full- service multimedia company with a staff of 55 and offices in Nashville and Reno.

See ? by Ed M. Koziarski,