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Castaways: Unscripted Reality TV Series

VariCam LT best camera for shooting unscripted reality TV programming for streaming or broadcast

Filming totally during the Solar Eclipse on the Snake River in Oregon/Idaho. Photo by: Neil Moore

ABC’s Unscripted Reality TV Series “Castaways” Shot with VariCam LT 4K Cinema Camcorders

ABC’s “Castaways,” which was shot and produced by Nomad Entertainment using VariCam LT 4K cinema camcorders, is a revolutionary series testing the human need for companionship under extreme circumstances as each individual learns there are other castaways out there but are unaware of how many, their locations or when they will be rescued. This visually stunning, new unscripted reality TV series follows 12 diverse individuals as they’re dropped alone throughout various islets in Indonesia and challenged to survive among washed-up luggage, scattered resources and abandoned structures. “Castaways” premiered on The ABC Television Network, and is available for streaming and on demand.

The only way to leave the remote islands is to persevere long enough to be rescued or to quit. As dramatic situations unfold on an expanse of islands in the South Pacific, the series flashes back to the real lives of each participant in documentary fashion, demonstrating haunting parallels to the lives they left behind. Grant Kahler serves as showrunner. The series is produced by Nomad Entertainment.

Panasonic VariCam being used to shoot multi-camera ABC network reality TV show called Castaways

Camera operator Dylan Conrad capturing beautiful light on top of a volcano. Photo by: Laura Lester

The contemporary action in the series was shot in a remote part of Indonesia, with the “home recall” documentary segments shot in New York, Nashville, Alabama, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State, Las Vegas, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

Director of Photography Neil Moore supervised multiple teams of camera operators who shot the mini-documentaries in parallel, with up to 12 operators then assigned to the Indonesian location work.

varicam LT camera operator on location of unscripted reality TV show for broadcast

Camera operator Jon Tucker deep in the Colorado landscape. Photo by: Sarah Pierpont

Moore had previously shot with the VariCam 35, and showrunner Kahler had used the VariCam LT. “The first two weeks of production we worked with larger cameras and bigger lenses, which just wasn’t conducive to our fast, cinema vérité style,” the DP recounted.  “The LT was a very appealing alternative, especially because of its dual 800 / 5000 ISOs. We had no time for lighting, and we were working with predominantly natural light with plenty of dark interiors and exteriors. The camera’s ISO 5000 setting is so clean, and you can switch easily without having to ride gain.”

Moore said he routinely used ISO 800 for daytime work in Indonesia, but with a significant number of “easy clicks over” to ISO 5000, for instance, for a nighttime scene lit only by firelight.

Panasonic variCam LT camcorder is the best camera for shooting reality TV run and gun footage in low light

DP Neil Moore shooting under the stars by firelight in Indonesia. Photo by: Noah Mathers

The series was shot in AVC-Intra 4:4:4 1080p. “We gathered an incredible amount of footage, with 12 cameras simultaneously shooting eight hours a day,” Moore said.


“The tropical humidity was pretty insane, but we experienced no overheating or stopped files with the LTs,” the DP added. “Beyond ruggedness and ease of use, other stand-out features of the cameras were the unique Focus Squares tool —a must, especially with the long lens work—and the on-camera control panel that can double as a monitor. The LT is, overall, a simple, intuitive camera.”

The VariCam LTs were outfitted with Fujinon Cabrio 85-300mm and Canon 17-120mm ENG-style lenses, with Sigma Primes used for some night work. The camera packages and lenses were rented from GQC Entertainment in Los Angeles, CA.

Are you ready to start shooting your unscripted reality TV show series and need a camera you can count on? Reach out to a Panasonic cinema camera specialist to schedule a demo today!