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Weiter im Programm German television production in Whistler a complex technical and cultural undertaking By Oona Woods If you’ve noticed people toting serious looking broadcast equipment around the village saying "Entschuldigen Sie" as they nudge past you, that’s just Unterhaltungsindustrie, or showbiz if you prefer. ZDF TV, a national German television network has come to Whistler Village (by the way, Whistler Village is Pfeifer Dorf in German) to film a musical variety show. The crew has set up in the town plaza and have been rehearsing since Monday, Aug. 24. They will also be filming in and around Whistler for promotional spots during the broadcast, which will be seen by 7 million people in Europe — a coup for the resort. The successful show, Lustige Musikanten, just celebrated it’s 50th episode and usually films in Germany between nine and 10 times a year, with occasional outside broadcasts from locations around the world. Whistler joins South Africa’s Cape Town, Detroit’s Frankenmooth, Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria in hosting the show. Filming will take place on Friday and Sunday, Aug. 28 and 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with an unrecorded show on Saturday, Aug. 29. Up to 1,500 people will attend in the outdoor "studio" audience, and at press time there were only 20 tickets left for the general public. At least 600 of the participants are coming directly from Germany to see the show. Another 700 German-Canadians and ex-pats from all over North America are also expected in town. Millions more people around the world will see the Whistler broadcast when it airs on the German language channel Deutsche Welle in September. Lustige Musikanten loosely translates as funny musicians, musicians that are funny, or happy singing musicians, depending on who you ask. The main focus of the music is folk, with a bit of opera thrown in for good measure, so there will be a liberal dose of leiderhosen (song-pants) in the village over the weekend. Lustige Musikanten celebrates its location by combining Canadian talent with popular German groups. The Kwakiutl Band, The Carson Kids, Lisa Brokop and Prairie Oyster are all lined up to play alongside the Germans. Hugely popular German movie star and all round entertainer Freddy Quinn is one of the show’s stars. Producer Harald Müller says this production will be something of a homecoming for Quinn. "The German community will know him. The 65 year old singer has appeared in a lot of films and musicals. In fact he taped his first movie with Jane Mansfield in Vancouver." Another German performer that is no stranger to Vancouver is Siegfried Jerusalem. The opera singer lives near Vancouver for two to three months of the year. Slavko Avsenik will perform with die junger Oberkrainer. Avsenik is a Slovenian accordion player who Müller describes as being as popular as James Last. In fact his most recent record sold over 50 million copies world-wide. Other German performers include Alpenrebellen and Moonskirchner, who are described as two young folk rock groups. "This is a new trend in Germany," says Müller. "This folk rock." Also appearing are Stefanie Hertel and Stefan Mross, a singer and trumpet player who are hanging about at the top of the German charts. Joining them are army group Big Band der Bundeswehr, Otti Bauer & sein Orchester and singer Angela Wiedl. Even an RCMP band will be featured, through a pre-taped feed from Ottawa. Müller says the folk-music community is more down to earth and easier to work with than other types of musicians. "They are very much more gentle. There’s always time to talk to each other. Even when they sell a lot of CDs or LPs they are okay. Some people get famous and then they fly on cloud seven, they’re always two metres off the ground." The WRA is responsible for reaching out in Europe to facilitate the network’s visit to Whistler. A combined effort between Air Canada and the WRA made production in Whistler an attractive option. Speaking from the production room, a vortex of swirling paper that denotes the epicentre of the action, Müller says it would have been too expensive to produce this show without the WRA’s co-operation. "We are bringing a lot of fans from Germany to Whistler. This co-operation is good for both Whistler and us. We are booked out I think. We have only tickets left for Sunday." Müller has visited Whistler three times in the course of preparing for this weekend. He expressed surprise that the "Willage" was less than 20 years old. When pressed he describes the feel of the place to be somewhat Swiss. "In America it tends to be more Bavarian." Technical supervisor Hans H. Kamionka is in charge of an awesome amount of equipment and has been involved in planning this weekend’s operation for the last year. "We have had to cover every aspect of planning, from the facilities to lighting. Travel is not simple. We brought five tons of technical material over from Germany and around 40 or 50 production staff. We have also hired between 30 and 40 Canadian locals." Kamionka says that the combined cables used could easily stretch over 10 kilometres. "For filming we have six cameras, three studio versions — the big ones — and three hand-held. One will be on a crane, another on a shoulder and one on a special tripod. There is also a steadycam, you know this one? You can go everywhere and the camera is always still." The central control for the taping of the show is in the mobile. The monster truck was rented from Dome Productions in Toronto and has on-site recording and editing facilities as well as a video, audio and camera control rooms. "The mobile they had in Vancouver was too small for this show," says Kamionka. "They only had feeds from four cameras instead of six. We needed six." Ivar Boriss from Dome says that if the mobile had to be built again from scratch it would cost between $5 million and $6 million CDN. The company owns six of them, which they share with their sister company, TSN. "Between 50 to 60 per cent of the time the trucks are covering sports." The German film crew has moved in to the mobile bringing in their equipment to combine with the Canadian gear. The result is a mix between Canadian and German technology. One major difficulty in combining the equipment is the fact European video runs on the PAL system while North Americans use NTSC. The difference is in the configuration of lines on-screen. Kamionka says that during the recording process they will be simultaneously transferring the tape over to PAL but only for monitoring purposes. Sound engineer Andreas Rauh says it is not too difficult to work out the different systems. "They’re different but we know desks. This looks very complicated at first," he says waving towards what is apparently a map of meaningful spaghetti. "But once you stare at this sheet long enough it makes sense." In the audio room Rauh is in charge of sorting out any aural hitches. "There’s some problems with the NTSC standard. On outside shootings with playback and time codes." Rauh was busy making sure the microphones were responding even though the performers will be lip synching. "What we do here is we make a playback show," says Rauh. "We brought recording machines from Germany. We’ll pick up ambient sounds, different birds and ambient sounds from the audience. We put 15 microphones where we have the audience. The performers lip synch or you might call it here live to track. There are a few live numbers. We could do it all live but the music companies don’t want their artists to sing live. Maybe they don’t trust us. Maybe they nearly don’t trust their performers." The audio department is also using computer technology that is only a year old. "It is new. But we don’t get it straight away when it comes out because we wait for the computer technology to stabilize." The largest area in the mobile is the production room. This is the control centre Where anyone who’s a fan of E.N.G. will recognize the familiar wall of TVs. "This is where the producer and director are," explains Boriss. "And the switcher, or vision mixer sits here too. The director is in constant communication to the floor directors and the lighting director will be talking to the producer and director at the same time." Which describes just the tip of a scene that will be precisely organized mayhem on recording days. Weiter im Programm!