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That '70s Set
Working on his first feature film, Adam McKay also had the benefit of experienced collaborators behind the scenes. "The main thing for me was the collaboration with these people who were so incredibly good at their jobs,” the director states.

Heading up the creative and production teams were co-producer and unit production manager David Householter, cinematographer Thomas Ackerman, production designer Clayton R. Hartley, costume designer Debra McGuire, editor Brent White and composer Alex Wurman.

Teaming with Thomas Ackerman, McKay says, "He's fast, he's funny, he gets it, and as a first-time director I couldn't have a better guy at my side.”

Given the improvisational atmosphere on the set, the cinematographer had to be especially fast on his feet since a scene could be done any number of times, each in a different way. Ackerman notes, "In this kind of comedy, a moment lost may be gone forever. I mean, Will can keep coming up with stuff endlessly—it's mind-boggling—but at the same time, we wanted to be sure that that one perfect take winds up on film.” 

Meeting with McKay for the first time, Ackerman recalls, "It was clear this was not a comedy where the camera would be an idle participant. Adam really wanted to take the imagery into a direction that was pretty extreme. It's Ron Burgundy's world and Adam tried to maximize opportunities to make that world live on film.”

Although the time frame of the story is ostensibly the 1970s, Ackerman asserts, "We weren't mimicking the ‘70s in a very buttoned up way. In other words, we weren't being so fastidious that if something manufactured in 1983 happened to wind up in the frame we stopped production. This is not an historical re-creation, but it does have the flavor of the ‘70s in terms of the look and the attitudes.”

Capturing the overall look of the 1970s, production designer Clayton Hartley was able to have some fun with the retro tone of Ron Burgundy's pad, but chose to "play it straight” with regard to the set of the Channel 4 newsroom. The designer secured old tapes of news reports and visited several local newsrooms, knowing "it wouldn't be accurate to the period, but just to get the feel of it all.”

Hartley designed the studio in more monochromatic shades of gray, black and white, while giving the news desk area more color. The entire news station set was built from the ground up at the historic Seeley Furniture Building in Glendale, California. Hartley created the space with sliding panels between each of the offices that could be closed for a shot or opened to accommodate different camera angles. To light the "bullpen,” the largest of the sets, Thomas Ackerman installed a 30 square-foot piece of Lighttex—a soft architectural lighting material—on the ceiling. The Lighttex could not only light the set, but at the same time, be photographed from any angle and seen in reflections, which opened up the camera angles considerably.

Locations in and around Los Angeles and Long Beach, California doubled for San Diego. Hartley and his team were responsible for dressing the contemporary locations to approximate the look of San Diego some 30 years ago.

By contrast, Hartley had a lot more creative freedom with the décor of Ron Burgundy's bachelor pad, giving it a colorful, nautical theme. "Ron's apartment was a little wacky, a little left of center, much like Ron himself,” he offers. "So we were able to play with that world a little bit more.”

Costume designer Debra McGuire gave Ron's wardrobe a color palette that borrowed from his last name. "I loved the idea that his name was Ron Burgundy and decided that the color burgundy would be a good place to start in his costumes,” she says. McGuire created a signature burgundy suit for Ron, but also dressed him in purples, blues and other bold colors that made a statement about the character. 

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