Apple, Panasonic Key Production Of “House That Ruth Built” DVD
By John Rice
The 2008 baseball season will the final chapter in the 80+ year history of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. This week, Shout! Factory and MLB Productions are releasing an ambitious DVD chronicling the history of “The House That Ruth Built” that was put together with Apple Final Cut Pro and Panasonic VariCam.
With a running time of 156 minutes, “Yankee Stadium: Baseball’s Cathedral” chronicles both the history of the stadium and the personal stories of those who were part of that history – and those who witnessed it. “The challenge was to tell a story,” says MLB Productions Senior Producer Jeff Spaulding, who also served as lead producer on the project. “Tell about the stuff viewers are expecting to hear, and then try to bring them something that perhaps they didn’t know.”
Mixing new footage and interviews with archival material, Spauling says, “We really tried to design the show as a story-telling show, not so much a highlight show. We kinda went with a ‘less is more’ philosophy in terms of talking heads. We tried to get the people you expect to see, but also bring in some people that have first-hand knowledge of things that went on – people who are also really strong story tellers.”
Case in point: The show opens with archival footage from the history of the stadium interspersed with interview clips from former and current players and others. But a surprising and poignant moment (one of many in the program) is boxing historian Burt Sugar’s description of a moment during a 1927 boxing match, when the ring announcer – without a megaphone or microphone – told the crowd that Lindbergh was “in the air” on his flight across the Atlantic. A moment of silence was followed by a stadium-wide, unison “Amen”.
“We tried to design the show from a standpoint of not just storytelling, but also from a more visceral, emotional standpoint,” explains Spaulding.
While the Yankees are obviously the centerpiece of the DVD, the program includes boxing matches, New York (Football) Giants games, and three Papal visits and services that are part of the legacy of the stadium. “You get a sense of all the great things that have happened in Yankee Stadium and the vast amount of history,” says Spaulding.
Production on the project began in earnest in October 2007 and wrapped in April of 2008. More than 40 interviews were shot in HD, most using Panasonic VariCams. But because of the vast amount of archival material, the program was finished in 16:9 SD.
MLB Productions edited the program in house using Final Cut Pro. All graphics were designed and implemented on MLB Productions’ Flame. Audio was mixed using Pro Tools. Some of the archival material existed in MLB Productions’ archives, but “a large percentage” of film was re-transferred, according to Spaulding.
“Taking older 4:3 footage to 16:9 was technically pretty simple,” he says. “The (Final Cut Pro) software makes it a fairly straightforward thing to do.”
Spaulding and the team at MLB Productions are currently editing an abridged version of the program which will air on ESPN on July 16, the day after the All-Star Game, from 9 to 10 p.m. (EDT).
For Producer Jeff Spauling this project was “a labor of love – being able to tell the story of the place that I went to as an 8-year-old, and hearing people tell stories from an emotional level. It was nice to hear people who had similar emotions.”
The DVD, which also includes bonus material such as Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech and a commerative Final Season Ticket and Bronze Medallion, is being released nationwide by Shout! Factory on July 1.