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Welcome to Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa!
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Episode Guide
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Adam, Little Joe, Ben and Hoss!
Bonanza: The Master Cut

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        The monumental task of assembling an episode of Bonanza is something so vastly engrossing and complicated a job, viewers should be thankful enough for just looking "inside the box" and enjoying it at home. Assembling one episode totalling a length of 4,500 feet-long requires a total of 18-days with the most talented editors, cinematographers, sound technicians, composer~conductor, producer, directors, actors and other crew members whose specialty is none other than filmmaking. Assembling a two-part episode takes 36 days, twice the amount of working on one alone.

        Starting with day one of filming on Monday at Paramount Studios and locally, at the end of the day, the driver takes the film to Consolidated Film Industries in Hollywood for processing in Technicolor. The original negatives are processed and a few dozen reprints are stricken off the master negatives. The next day on Tuesday, filming resumes and the driver brings back the first day's filmed scenes. This process continues through the last day of filming on Saturday. The original negatives are safely stored in the vault. The reprints are called "work prints" or "dailies". The cast and crew work with these everyday. The cast studies the work prints from the previous day's filmings, because they have to study them for more filmed scenes throughout the week and stay fresh with the storyline.

        The editor is assigned the job of assembling the daily footage, along with the producer and director. At the end of each day, the editor, producer and director view the work prints and they go through them in the projection room. On hand are the front office staff, the director, producer, the editor, and other interested parties. The dailies are nothing more then individual strips of film that represent the scenes shot the day before. These scenes include close-up, master shots, plus all of the "takes" shot for each scene. Thus, one scene might be viewed three of four times, depending on how many times the director shot it before feeling what he wanted. They use the filmed scenes they "feel" are right for the storyline. For example, the cast may have to do up to four takes of one scene, if the director is not satisfied with it, or if one of the actors make a mistake, which are known as outtakes. During the six day shoot at the studio and locally, the editor will visit the set and confer with the producer and director as to the right "feel" of editing the filmed scenes on the work print. If changes are suggested, the editor goes back in the editing room and edits as per wishes of the director or producer.

        The editor is the most important facet of assembling the film. If he is good, the completed product's storyline is wonderful. On the other hand, if the editor is not that good, the completed product's storyline can suffer terribly. The director while filming at the studio will work with the editor and assemble his "director's cut" in the editing room. In other examples, when one or more directors are filming far away on location for weeks at a time, many hours away from the studio, by the end of the filming shoot, his work is done and he moves on to seek other work the next week and the assembly of the work print is done as usual by the editor and producer after returning from location filming to the studio. A director's involvement with assembly of the work print is limited, depending on where the filming shoot takes place at, in brief.

        While the 6-day shoot's work prints are being assembled, the sound technicians are going through the daily audio recordings at the dubbing stage at the film studio. They play them back and check the dialogue for any problems such as muted dialogue, in one case where an actor may not speak loud enough and it's not picked up that well by the sound boom, or in another case, when on location, there is a loud noise, such as a horn going off or a jet flying overhead.

        The sound editor will cut out the ruined dialogue on the tape and then take it and match it up with a new blank piece and splice the new tape on the original tape. It's called a tape loop or looping your lines. The actors are notified and they come in with the script and recite their lines in the microphones on cue by the sound editor and the problem is solved. Also, when one or more actors is called in to do voice-overs, the sound editor will have them speak into the microphone and it's recorded onto an a separate audio tape and stored with the others until it's time for remixing and rerecording. Also, any artificial sound effects and natural sound effects the sound editor maintains a collection of are on hand to be used for the remix and rerecording of the soundtrack, to be continued below.

        Five days later, the next Thursday, the editor has the work print completed, which is called the "rough cut" or "final cut". It's the full story, as complete as the editor can get it. The final working cut contains all the filmed scenes at the set and locally. The editor maintains a library of stock footage, many from distant and local film sites, and other locations he selects from Paramount's film library. The film lab has reprints made from the negatives to be edited in with the studio and local footage on the work cut.The opening credits sequence are cut in later, which are reprints compiled of filmed elements and the Bonanza letters that "come out" of the map and "go back in", a camera trick of zooming in and out from the seven letters painted on a plastic transparency filmed, and optically printed together on the triple-head printer and are cut in the beginning of the filmed storyline and edited in joining with the opening title on the final cut of the work print when completed.

        The first "rough cut" is viewed in the projection room by the director and the production staff. Usually changes will be suggested. If so, the editor attempts to make them, and the second cut is then viewed. Eventually the work cut is approved by the producer and NBC censors at a length of 48 minutes (4,320 feet). Another 180 feet of film, which is the beginning and ending credits, is added on, a total of 4,500 feet of film at 50 minutes. The film speed is at 24 frames per second that runs 90 feet a minute.

        The end credits are photographed weekly at the film studio for each and every episode. The first 10 episodes of season one, the end credits would be seen scrolling upwards with the Ponderosa map superimposed together. The last 41 episodes of the thirteenth and fourteenth seasons used the very last in the series of watercolor portraits, with the end credits scrolling upwards and superimposed together. This process is the combination of the map being filmed by the cinematographer on one piece of film, and the artists in charge of the titles, stencil and paint the featured actors and crew names, etc., on a long plastic transparency. It's filmed slowly on a track, with the camera going down the track, as it is being filmed from top to bottom and then optically printed onto the other piece of the filmed map, by the triple-head printer to be cut in with the work print negative.

        The episodes that display the brilliant watercolor portraits, spanning from episode 11 to episode 389 are the work of the NBC artists at the film studio. The names of the support cast and crew names, etc, are stenciled and painted on the transparencies. The next step is they are photographed separately in the studio and optically printed onto the already photographed watercolor portraits on another clean strip of 35mm film, with some editing performed. For example, the opening credits are a compilation of a filmed riding shot and filmed titles optically superimposed by the triple-head printer onto one piece of film, which is edited on the final work negative by the editor. The original watercolor portraits were made up by an unknown journeyman artist at NBC, under the supervision of art director Earl Hedrick. They rushed them to be photographed at Paramount in 1959 and after being filmed, they got lost, and were probably unintentionally destroyed at the studio. The journeyman left the network a few months later and to this day, he cannot be located, if he's alive. Fruitless attempts have been made to find this unsung artist who made these in 1959 at NBC, and with no successful results. A few other watercolor portraits for the location scenes portraits used in some seasons by another unknown journeyman, were lost as well, but at least they are all preserved on the master negatives, copy negatives, and the digital medium.

        The next step is the final work cut is given to composer and conductor David Rose to score the following Monday. He and producer David Dortort have the sound editor screen the episode in the screening room. They confer together and predetermine just exactly where the effects and cue music will go on the film, for every second as they watch all 4 acts over the day. David Rose with his sheet music, as he is watching the episode, writes or composes the music down, and additional notes for all 4 acts. He then has copies made for his 34 piece orchestra and they all come in to the scoring stage and first rehearse and play and record it, Tuesday through Friday of every week. The orchestra sits down on one side of the stage with a giant screen above them, and on the other side is David Rose, who conducts them. The theme cues including the main and end title music were recorded earlier in May or June. This is the time when the production starts filming the series. They are later edited in and around the effects music by the sound editor under the supervision of David Rose.

        The next big step is the sound technicians at the dubbing stage, who do a massive rerecording of all the sound tapes to all be mixed and re-recorded onto one master audiotape while the final cut is playing on a giant screen in front of them. Three men at the monitor-mixer board sit down and monitor and mix every audio track that has been recorded, as they play the audio tapes back from act one through act four of the storyline. The volume of every audio track is perfectly balanced and as the film is being screened in front of them, it's all recording over to the master tape. When the job is completed, the master audio tape is delivered to the optical house awaiting the master negative, where it is optically printed on the side of the 35 mm master print.

        The final step is in the hands of the editor~ the master negative. He takes the original filmed negatives out of the vault at the negative cutter and edits them all in together, and they have to match the final work cut perfectly, frame by frame. After the editor has assembled and completed the master negative, the magnetic audio soundtrack is optically printed on one side of the film at the optical house and reprints are struck from it, for all the NBC affiliates across the US for airing of one episode of Bonanza.

        Additionally, the preview trailer that is aired at the end of every episode, which is a brief preview of the next week's episode, is compiled from a work print, edited by the film editor and the sound editor has mixed and rerecorded various dialogue, effect and cue music onto a master tape, which then goes to the optical house and is optically printed on one side of the 35mm trailer clip. Reprints are struck off this and sent out, along with the weekly episode to NBC affiliates in the US to preview after the end of every Bonanza episode at the top of the hour concluding the presentation.

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