Behind the Camera: News from the Filming of Rick Steves' Europe
|Rick and his crew have been working hard to bring the wonders of Europe into your living room.|
By Rick Steves
I just saw my director and cameraman off at the Munich airport with the raw footage for the final two shows of our upcoming season of Rick Steves' Europe. We are running down the home stretch to get all 11 shows finished for our fall 2006 national release. As we've ramped up our "new series every two years" tempo, we've been pretty busy in the TV production department. Here's the latest:
New Shows: Our newest season of 11 shows hits the airwaves this fall. We shot episodes in North Wales, Bath/York, and Edinburgh in 2005, and five Italy episodes in April and May of 2006 (Naples, Amalfi Coast/Capri, Italian Hill Towns, Tuscan Lifestyles, and Milano/Lake Como). In July, we wrapped it up by shooting episodes in Vienna and Salzburg/Hallstatt. These new shows boast stronger scripts and higher production values than ever. We are producing the new shows in high definition and in the 16:9 widescreen format from the get-go. (This means those with old 4:3 screens will see the shows "letterboxed" — with thin black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.)
The Making of: A fun extra for 2006 is a special episode called "The Making of Rick Steves' Europe," in which a second cameraman (our longtime TV editor, Steve Cammarano) filmed our crew as we shot an episode. We hope fans of the series will enjoy this candid, behind-the-scenes look at how our shows are made.
Christmas: Our Rick Steves' European Christmas special, first broadcast in late 2005, will air nationwide again this holiday season. Showing off the holiday celebrations of seven different European cultures, this special appears in two forms: as a two-hour pledge special (with exciting new yet to be seen footage) for early December, and a straight one-hour Christmas celebration. It is also available in high-definition.
High-definition: While we've been shooting our shows in high-definition (HD) for several years, we had only been "post-producing" in standard definition. Hi-def is expensive, and the audience, while growing, is still pretty small. But in 2005, we bit the beautiful bullet and finished off the HD post-production. Now public television stations are broadcasting 26 episodes in high definition, using the new widescreen format (16:9 aspect ratio rather than 4:3 — explained below). If you have an HD television, be sure to see these shows in their full glory...high definition is absolutely breathtaking.
DVDs: From a teaching point of view, I love to make the shows available in inexpensive and densely-packed DVDs. With 70 programs to mix and match (plus lots of fun DVD "extras"), our new generation of DVD offerings will include a mammoth eight-disk anthology and individual disks that cover each region very thoroughly (generally 7 or 8 episodes per $20 disk).
Classics: A couple of years ago I purchased from Small World Productions the rights to my original Travels in Europe TV series, 52 shows produced back in the 1990s. Our goal: to retire the dated and redundant episodes and spiff up the better, more current ones. From that came a new series we call Rick Steves' Europe Classics — 16 old episodes given a makeover to have a new lease on life and fit more smoothly with the current series. These episodes were the ones I personally liked that we didn't want to redo (such as Israel, Egypt, and three Turkey shows) or episodes that are of a style and freshness that still fits our more recent shows (Alps, South Spain, and Scandinavia). This updating process took lots of time and energy, but it was worth it. Stations no longer need to run two overlapping "Rick Steves" series. Instead, we now have a total of 70 episodes on the air that feel like they belong to the same cohesive family.
Vodcasts: This summer we began offering free 2-4 minute video clips from my shows online, and they've really taken off. Through the end of September, these "Rick Steves' Travel Bites" had been downloaded more than 800,000 times, mostly via iTunes. We load in a fresh one every week...they can be habit forming.
As long as we've got our talented crew (the hardworking spirit of producer/director Simon Griffith, editor Steve Cammarano, and cameramen Karel Bauer and Peter Rummel), underwriting support from American Airlines (for which we are very grateful), and the support of our traveling viewers...we've only just begun. Stay tuned for more much more Rick Steves' Europe. Happy travels!
For lots more information on all of Rick Steves' TV shows, don't miss the Rick on Public Television section of our website.