How SNL Filmed Their Opening Title Sequence

Saturday Night Live has become an American institution spawning the careers of some of the most famous actors and comedians of all time. Alex Buono has been the director of photography for SNL now for over 10 years. Back in 2009 the directors wanted to film the opening sequence throughout New York City instead of the typical single location. In this video, Alex recalls how he was able to use the Canon 5D Mark II to film sequences that would have otherwise required the crew to close down streets in the city and bring in large lighting rigs. It's pretty amazing how ground breaking DSLR video has been especially since there are so many photographers still resisting the feature. The second video below is an extended interview with Alex about shooting for SNL, and you can watch the final SNL intro here.

Short Interview:

Longer Interview:

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6 Comments

M's picture

The short review left something to be desired, but once I saw the full length interview I didn't mind so much :P

I really wish Nikon would release something to compete with the 5D Mk II, it always made me cringe a bit and think of switching to Canon *shutter* when they got spanked right after the D700 was released.

Heck, even with a D4, I'd consider a D700s type MK II competitor, although it would have to be priced under 2.5k.

Michael Carney's picture

This is the reason I switched. I shot Nikon from the get go, I had a nice lens setup and I was quite happy with my gear and its results. I got so fed up with the video, though, I called it a day. I sold all of my nikon and nikkors (boxing my 70-200 was a sad day) and switched camps.

Now I've got a canon 60D (I knowingly dropped to a more "consumer" camera from my D300s to buy better glass) and some L glass. Photos look just as good and the video is about 100 times better, IMO.

Sorry Nikon, a simple firmware update would have kept me as a customer, but your refusal to really accept DSLR video - I couldn't live with that.

Back to the topic, It's always interesting to see/hear how professional videographers find out about, and decide to use, new equipment. Especially a radically different piece of equipment and someone who was classically trained at USC.

Lee Morris's picture

Wish NBC had allowed them to actually use the footage he is talking about as an example in the video.

Marvin Hagemeister's picture

I agree with that. Although it's easy to follow him, some examples would have been nice...

Sideshow Rob's picture

I agree. I met Buono at Creatasphere in NYC a few months ago. He is very talented and knowledgeable, especially in the use of HDDSLRS in Cinematography.

Tim Woodard's picture

I think the Canon makes for a nice video camera and this was an awesome interveiw and very interesting to learn about the how they put the title sequence together.

The whole canon vs. nikon issue gets so old. Who really cares if Nikon has not stepped up their game for Video. Canon can not compete with the image quality that Nikon has when it come to super high ISO. Both companies make great gear. They both have good and bad things about them. Its our descison to figure out what works best for you as a photographer and go with that. I own Nikon SLR but I have a sweet little Canon point and shoot. If I shot video I would probably shoot with Canon.