C-Mount Industries Rides on AJA Ki Pro Ultras for ‘Carpool Karaoke’
C-Mount Industries co-owner, Jason D Liquori, runs a successful production equipment rental outfit and is an experienced producer, video engineer and DOP to boot. While renting equipment to CBS’s ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden, he was brought on as a video engineer and car DOP for the venerable ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment.
Recently licensed by Apple for its new music streaming service, the series pairs celebrities like John Legend and Alicia Keys for a mobile sing-along adventure. Considering Liquori’s history with the series, ‘fullwell 73’, the production company behind the show, called on his expertise to evolve ‘Carpool Karaoke’ from an HD to a 4K series.
‘Carpool Karaoke’ was originally shot in HD using GoPro cameras, and ran 5-10 minutes. Liquori’s first task was to replicate that workflow for 4K delivery, and extend the format to a half hour. This required featured talent, Liquori and the production team to spend up to five hours sardined in vehicles with a swath of gear. Transitioning to 4K required large sensor 4K cameras and rugged recorders. The gear had to be able to run for an extended timeframe, withstand bumpy terrain and high temperatures, and capture ProRes XQ to SSD media for quick delivery to the post team. After researching a number of 4K recorders, Jason selected AJA’s Ki Pro Ultra Plus (KPUP) 4K/UltraHD/2K/HD recorder and player.
“Ki Pro Ultra Plus checked all my boxes: an AC/DC power supply, dual-slot recording, automatic rollover, robust media that could handle repeated road hazards, and the ability to take the heat, literally, with the temperature topping 100 degrees in the back of the car. I tested a lot of other large capacity 4K ProRes recorders, but they couldn’t keep up with recording 26TB a day,” he shared. ”Having a monitor output to display the recording is crucial when working with A-list talent, and you need to ensure things are going well without making frequent pit stops; we found that feature unique to Ki Pro Ultra Plus.”
Liquori’s production setup is extensive, with a combination of 12 cameras spread between the windshields and custom headrest mounts in the backseat of the main car. Each camera outputs a 4K 6G signal to twelve 4K SDI multiplexers which split each signal into four for input to 12 Ki Pro Ultra Plus units housed in a custom 18-inch rack in the back of the main car. Signals are then recorded at ProRes XQ at 4K 29.97 to AJA Pak SSD media. Every KPUP is networked via CAT5 for gang recording and has its own master for simultaneous start/stop recording. The KPUPs also down-convert the signals to 1080p for playout to 17-inch HD-SDI monitors mounted with wireless receivers in two additional cars. The monitors provide a preview of the picture on screen, timecode and VTR status line. Once each shoot wraps, the AJA Pak drives are handed off to the show’s post supervisor with AJA Pak Dock media readers which can be connected via USB3 or Thunderbolt to host computers.
“For the latest season, Liquori captured more than 48 hours of footage totalling more than 220TB, and the KPUP’s rollover recording and consistent power supply helped keep production on track. “Every minute in the car with the talent counts, and being able to continuously shoot and record to 12 Ki Pro Ultra Plus units without having to make frequent stops was vital to not disrupt the comedic flow. Ki Pro Ultra Plus’ compact, XLR DC-power supply also allowed us to carry out the production without requiring additional converters or jeopardising the car’s power supply,” he shared. “With less time spent troubleshooting technology bottlenecks and more time careening through the city, we were able to focus on making the segments look great.”
“Throughout production, Liquori found AJA support accessible and helpful.” He concluded, “AJA’s support team went above and beyond the call of duty, and are so well versed on their products and how they integrate with other tools. When we ran into issues with our cameras or multiplexers, they actually recreated the scenario in their office and provided troubleshooting suggestions.”