A web series about training dogs to sniff out accelerants? Smells good to me! For the show Arson Dogs, famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell called on Atlanta’s Biscardi Creative Media (BCM) to post 10 episodes of the series, which tells the story of how dogs get trained to sniff out things like gasoline and propane at potential arson sites. It runs on Stilwell’s Positively website.
The series was shot in Maine, where State Farm’s Arson Dog Training Program trains handlers and working dogs. These specially trained animals are a huge part of a fire investigation team, working alongside law enforcement officials to alert their handlers to the presence of accelerants.
Stilwell and her crew spent five days at the school capturing many hours of raw material on up to five different cameras: the Canon C100, Canon 70D, Sony AX2000, Sony FS700 and GoPro. While post on the show is on-going, a trailer was completed on a tight deadline — they had about a week to craft it from over 3,500 raw clips. BCM founder Walter Biscardi Jr. led the edit with assistance from BCM editors R. John Becker and Kylee Wall.
“Victoria’s team uses the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, as do we at BCM, so we worked with them to show how best to log and organize the materials so we could use their notes to quickly turn the project around,” explains Biscardi (@walterbiscardi). “They did a beautiful job logging and organizing the bins in multiple ways so we could cross reference. Everything was loaded into our Small Tree Shared Storage system which proved a major key in the quick turnaround.”
Walter Biscardi at work
As you might expect from a show like this, the most challenging aspect for the post team is the sheer amount of footage, including a lot of sound on tape, either interviews or on-the-fly bits. “There was no sound technician for the five days of shooting so the audio is spread around the multiple cameras,” reports Biscardi. “There are times when one camera is showing an area of action while the audio is from someone in a completely different location. Syncing up all the audio correctly and then quickly locating the correct microphones is definitely one of the larger challenges we have.”
Editor Wall is working off one-line descriptions for each six-minute episode, reports Biscardi. “There are no guidelines beyond the one sentence and the pre-edit meetings with all of us, so it’s really all on Kylee to build each episode in the suite. There are notes in the logs, which are a good starting point, but obviously editors see and hear things differently than the producers. Of course, there are times when something is heard in the field but we may not necessarily have the audio that corresponds to their memories when we listen to the playback.”
Having the same footage and the Adobe suite in the Positively offices has been a real plus because BCM can make requests of Stilwell’s team and “they can not only tell which clip or clips we might have what we want, but even tell us the bins and sequences the clips are located in. If need be, they can even string out some clips in a sequence and email us the project file or vice versa.”