Hollywood-caliber ‘Darna’: Everything you need to know about ABS-CBN’s Horizon sound stages

Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2019 08:00 PM | Updated as of Jan 03 2019 08:35 PM

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ABS-CBN’s Horizon IT Park is notably surrounded by sprawling greens — a conscious decision in the construction of the sound stages. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main entrance leads directly to the doors to EL3 Stage and Stage 2, as well as the corridor lined with dressing rooms and other facilties. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main entrance leads directly to the doors to EL3 Stage and Stage 2, as well as the corridor lined with dressing rooms and other facilties. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main entrance leads directly to the doors to EL3 Stage and Stage 2, as well as the corridor lined with dressing rooms and other facilties. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main entrance leads directly to the doors to EL3 Stage and Stage 2, as well as the corridor lined with dressing rooms and other facilties. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main entrance leads directly to the doors to EL3 Stage and Stage 2, as well as the corridor lined with dressing rooms and other facilties. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Stage 1, or the EL3 Stage, is named after ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, the visionary behind the Horizon sound stages. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, the driving force behind the Horizon sound stages, gives a speech during the facility’s inauguration. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The EL3 Stage spans 1,500 square meters, with a floor to grid height of 30 feet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The EL3 Stage spans 1,500 square meters, with a floor to grid height of 30 feet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The EL3 Stage spans 1,500 square meters, with a floor to grid height of 30 feet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ABS-CBN COO of Broadcast Cory Vidanes demonstrates the signalling of the red light that indicates cameras are rolling inside the stage and that everyone should remain quiet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The EL3 Stage spans 1,500 square meters, with a floor to grid height of 30 feet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III inspects the sound stage named after him shortly after the inauguration. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Stage 2, like the EL3 Stage, spans 1,500 square meters, with a floor to grid height of 30 feet. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Among the ABS-CBN executives at the inauguration were (from left) president and CEO Carlo Katigbak, chief creative officer Charo Santos-Concio, chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, chairman Mark Lopez, former president and COO Freddie Garcia, and COO of Broadcast Cory Vidanes. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The main corridor is lined with dozens of rooms for program cast and crew, including 12 dressing rooms. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A look inside one of the 12 dressing rooms just beside the sound stages. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A look inside one of the wardrobe rooms just beside the sound stages. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

One dressing room is labeled with the name of actress Angelica Panganiban for “The Faithful Wife,” the first teleserye that will utilize one of the sound stages in 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

One dressing room is labeled with the name of actress Liza Soberano for the superhero film “Darna,” the first big-screen project that will utilize one of the sound stages in 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ABS-CBN executives pose for a photo with the team behind the Horizon IT Park. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

BULACAN — With the new year comes a new era in Philippine film production, as ABS-CBN finally opens here the country’s first sound stages, bringing the media giant’s small and big screen offerings at par with Hollywood standards.

Sitting on a 7.7-hectare property in San Jose del Monte, the Horizon IT Park is home to two state-of-the-art sound stages, each spanning 1,500 square meters with a floor to grid height of 30 feet.

Put simply, the sprawling production hub will “change the way we’re going to shoot our films and TV shows,” according to Grant Orbeta, head of ABS-CBN’s real estate and development group.

Come second quarter of 2019, Horizon’s pioneering productions will start rolling — the teleserye “The Faithful Wife,” and the superhero film “Darna.” Already, two dressing rooms here have been labeled with the respective lead star of the projects, Angelica Panganiban and Liza Soberano.

This month, ABS-CBN production groups will begin additional training — “guys from Hollywood will come in,” said Orbeta — to maximize the new equipment and facilities to cater to any creative vision.

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

The possibilities are endless, Orbeta pointed out.

“That’s the nice thing about shooting in the stages,” he said. “‘Yung creative freedom ng ating mga production designers, creative people, kung ano maisip nila, iri-recreate natin dito. Kahit anong klaseng ambiance, anong klaseng design, magagawa mo. Walang hindrance.”

Drawing a contrast with traditional film shooting, he explained: “Kasi on location, gusto mo ganito ‘yung mansyon, pero ‘yung narentahan mong bahay, ganito lang kaliit, masikip, so wala kang makuhang camera angle. Here, the lighting, the script, the set design are all produced together. So pagtayo ng set, alam na kung saan ang camera, alam na kung saan ang ilaw, so coordinated lahat.”

Both the EL3 Stage (named after ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, who led the enterprise) and Stage 2 are equipped to transform scenes visually, Orbeta said.

For instance, “‘Pag gabi, you can recreate a daytime scene here,” and vice versa. “There are going to be rails,” he added. “Kung gusto ng production ng green screen, blue screen, white, black, cityscape, kayang gawin.”

“The way it’s run is really one program per stage. The entire stage, they will build their sets. Bedroom man ‘yan, opisina man ‘yan, casino, or any scene. Pagkasyahin nila in one set, and dito na sila mag-shooting,” he said.

A production’s ability to control the environment extends to sound. The acoustic standards of the Horizon stages, according to Orbeta, allows for filming with zero interference from external factors.

“’Pag nag-shoot, quiet talaga. They can do all their audio sweetening and effects. Kahit umuulan, bumabagyo, wala kang naririnig, so tuloy-tuloy ‘yung shoot,” he explained.

‘MAPAGYAYABANG’

These new standards in film production translate to cost-efficiency, as well as security and safety for cast and crew, Orbeta noted.

Without any compromise in quality, “you can shoot more sequences in a day,” for one. That Horizon is a production hub also forgoes the “logistics of bringing the equipment, your stars, and your cast and crew kung saan-saan, and then babalik ka na naman sa Manila because may ibang sequence na naman.”

“Even ‘yung ating mga tapes, mga raw video footage, dadalhin pa sa head office, para gawin ng post-production. Ngayon, ‘pag nandito na lahat — equipment, tao, high-speed internet connection — ibabato na lang doon ang video, and nandoon na kaagad,” he said.

Pointing out that the Horizon IT Park is a gated property with strict security measures, Orbeta said the safety of the cast and crew is ensured more than ever, in contrast to shooting on location.

What remains to be seen is the result of future Kapamilya programs utilizing the sound stages, first among them “Darna” and “The Faithful Wife.”

“I’m sure ‘yung mga audience, ‘pag napanood nila ‘yung mga show, they can tell the difference talaga,” Orbeta said. “I’m sure makikita nila na iba na ‘yung lighting, iba ‘yung buga ng ilaw, iba ‘yung audio quality, mahahalata na nila.”

“This really catapults us to the international stage, because the quality of the output, mapagyayabang.”