Temperatures soared at Cine Gear 2013 as vendors, exhibitors and (one of our own ICG) panels kept Paramount Studios red hot with new gear and information

Local 600 Panelists (L to R): Cinematographer Brandon Trost, DIT Kevin Stanley, Steven Poster, ASC, Jeffry Jur, ASC, DIT Kevin Britton / Photo Courtesy of Tom Houghton, ASC

ICG’s near-capacity panel at Cine Gear, Precise Color Management Through On-Set Communication, was not indicative of the need to escape 100-plus temperatures that burned up the Paramount back lot a few hours after its early morning start time. The diverse mix of Guild members, film students, and industry professionals had all congregated to hear what panelists Jeffrey Jur, ASC (Dirty Dancing, Carnivale) and his D.I.T. partner on Dexter, Kevin Britton, and DP Brandon Trost (This is the End, That’s My Boy) and his D.I.T. partner Kevin Stanley on the upcoming feature Townies, had to impart about changing digital workflows.

Moderator and Local 600 President Steven Poster, ASC set the tone when he announced that, “we’ve finally gotten to the point where computing power and the skills of our members have given us a rare opportunity to provide a production with safe and efficient front end lab work on the set, while still assuring the director and cinematographer the high quality dailies they created. Our members are doing it ‘cheaper, better, faster,’ and saving productions thousands of dollars.”

Given how today’s workflows are uniquely designed for each project on-set, color management is no cookie-cutter process, as Jur and Britton discussed their “traditional” approach on Dexter. “I believe the Digital Imaging Technician position is essential to the process of professional digital cinematography,” Jur insisted. “A D.I.T. ensures the look and design of my work is originated and carried through all the steps towards final color timing. The D.I.T. also manages the now very delicate issue of assets – basically our day’s work. He or she oversees the complicated electronics and video distribution on set, and assists the operators and assistants who may not have the best view of the shot.”

Cine Gear 2013 Local 600 Booth on Paramount’s “New York Street” back lot / Photo by Bonnie Osborne

The longtime television shooter also emphasized how important it is “to find a D.I.T. who has a good photographic eye to help, set the DP’s preferred look. “We are all judged on these first impressions and the look has to be correct, right out of the gate,” Jur added.

For Dexter, Britton takes the ALEXA-captured image (camera system evolution on the show began with Sony F900 and then F23), works through ProRes and DP Lights on set, before sending files to Technicolor for dailies. “I meet with the timers and post and make sure what we see on set translates to the pipeline,” he explains.

The success of the partnership was well illustrated by a Dexter flashback sequence that had required integrating ALEXA imagery and footage from older cameras, revealing an ability to manipulate that clearly impressed the audience.

Guild Saturday morning panel: Precise Color Management Through On-Set Communication / L to R: Brandon Trost, Kevin Stanley, Steven Poster, ASC/ Photo by Bonnie Osborne

Trost and Stanley presented a different model, still based upon mutual trust and aesthetics, but one where everything remains in the DP’s hands. “Nick Stoller [director of Townies] didn’t want a studio look, he wanted it darker and gritty,” Trost said. “He also wanted ALEXA – and the gritty anamorphic full sensor.”

Trost brought Stanley a “look” he’d developed on other projects and put it into the pipeline the D.I.T. created. They had planned to manipulate, but it worked as was for Stoller. Stanley then built a cart and a way to run the workflow through Trost – dailies on the set, burn DVDs, set up screenings, and move the file based images, among other things. He was even able to show production how this kind of relationship could save upwards of $50,000 on an eight-week shoot, “even with the need to bring in a second D.I.T. when the change to anamorphic added 30 percent more for renders and storage,” Stanley remarked.

“The development of hardware, software and computing power has put us squarely in an era where we can now do all the post facilities work of preparing color corrected dailies on the set with more efficiency, with great quality for less money, which is a major breakthrough,” Poster concluded. “And if that wasn’t enough, the state of production equipment has taken so many leaps forward that it’s like a whole new exciting world of capturing and processing images.”

Fill-Lite Exhibit / Paramount Sound Stage / Photo by Bonnie Osborne

Attendees put form to Poster’s thoughts, meandering under the welcome cover of vendors’ tents as the summer heat began to dial up. According to sources, over 12,500 people attended Cine Gear 2013 – up dramatically from 2012 – due, most likely, to the many new exhibitors and products on display.

A sampling of Local 600 members who were at the show included these impressions: “On the camera side, I really reacted to the Paralinx HD transmitter/receiver (www.paralinx.net) set with the Crossbow HD-SDI adapter,” observed Roberto Schaefer ASC, AIC. “And on the lighting side, LiteGear (www.litegear.com) had some very interesting new LED ribbon solutions that are 100 percent color corrected with very nice dimmers and effects controllers.”

Lighting caught Modern Family’s DP James Bagdonas, ASC’s attention as well. “The SourceMaker (www.lightingballoons.com) LED blanket is a concept I have been waiting for,” he told ICG. “A flat square light source. Can’t get any lighter, flatter than this light. To be able to diffuse it, dim it, and tape it to a wall will solve one of the most difficult lighting situations I come across so often these days with practical locations.”

Steven Poster, ASC loved the new Fill-Lite (www.fill-lite.com), telling us that, “there are so many manufacturers providing us with new, sophisticated, LED tools these days. With Fill-Lite panels, I was impressed with the even quality of the light in such a thin [form factor]. When I tried them on a production, I was impressed how easy they were to hide from the camera in a small location and how much punch they delivered.”

Visual effects cinematographer and 2nd Unit veteran Mark Weingartner told us that one of “the most interesting things in the entire show was the Cine Power Pack system from Grip Trix (www.griptrix.com), owned by Herb Ault. They had the power packs, the solar charging trailer, and really clean 3000-watt true sine wave inverter. This sort of system means never having to put a generator on a boat, insert car, or rooftop again. It can power Technocranes and Video Villages on remote locations silently, while recharging the power packs back at base-camp.”

Camera operator Alec Jarnagin said the Cinetronic 1 monitor [Cinetronics (www.cinetronic.com] has performed flawlessly for him in the past. “Now that I see the Cinetronic 2, I can see it is the most daylight viewable LCD monitor to date,” Jarnagin added. “It was built from the ground up to meet Steadicam operators’ needs. While it performs even better than the Gen 1, it is also smaller, lighter, and includes a frameline generator and an onscreen HD level. On top of all this, it’s very rugged and waterproof.”

Sumolight Exhibit / Paramount Sound Stage / Photo by Bonnie Osborne

Dan Kneece, SOC found much to his liking for future work. Key, probably, is finding out that “Fujifilm [www.fujifilmusa.com] is making a new small LUT box called the IS-mini, which looks very cool. It allows you to have Look Up Tables in a small package for production monitors in the field. Some of the new cameras can only put out one signal at a time and I like to monitor Log and REC 709 through two channels of the monitor, so the Mini looks pretty cool.”

The alternative to the hot and crowded back lot was the stages, where we found a few more lighting tools to our liking, including a new company called Skylight Balloon Lighting (www.skylightballoon.com), and their SkyBox – a balloon “boxed” to withstand Mother Nature’s challenges. Another new company offered a product simply called “The Light,” (www.thelight.com.es) a unique all-in-one portable lighting system that they say will replace tungsten and daylight units. From Ushio (www.ushio.com), came another new soft lighting system, the Pro-Panel LED, high output and flicker free for studio applications. And yet another new company called Sumolight (www.sumolight.net) displayed a super bright and natural element in the SUMO100.

Mat Towercam Exhibit / Photo by Bonnie Osborne

There were also some fun new support items. One from MAT-TOWERCAM® (www.mat-film.tv) looked like a snake crawling around the tower base – the new addition allows for the camera on live events, for example, to be over or underslung in various positions. In the Filmtools® (www.filmtools.com) booth, there was a GoPro® in a housing attached to a small bike – by the company’s new proprietary “accessories” – rods, connectors and everything in-between specific to the smaller cameras. The new arm from Camera Control (www.cameracontrol.com) saw plenty of traffic, as did the Innovision (www.innovision-optics.com) booth, where we found new products like the Polly Dolly and Manske Slider.

New lenses were everywhere – from the Sumicron series in Band Pro’s (www.bandpro.com) booth to interesting specialty lenses from LensBaby® (www.lensbaby.com). New dollies and sliders came from Matthews and the popular FloatCam DC-Sliders (www.msegrip.com), as well as a variety of support from Kessler Crane (www.kesslercrane.com). There were more than a few body mounts being paraded through the streets, from Glidecam’s new X-22 (www.glidecam.com) to MK-V’s (www.mk-v.com) new body stabilizer. Other new lighting elements came from industry-familiar companies like LRX (www.lrx-lighting.com) to Litepanels® (www.litepanels.com) and relatively new companies like Hive (www.hivelighting.com), BriteShot® (www.briteshotinc.com) or Barger-Lite (www.bargerlite.com).

GoPro Exhibit / Paramount Sound Stage / Photo by Bonnie Osborne

What was exciting about Cinegear 2013 was that it was not merely a re-hash of NAB, showcasing many new companies who opted to test the waters in the more intimate atmosphere that is (and we hope always will be) Cinegear. And, from the conversations we all had with them – they’d made the right choice.

In fact, for those overwhelmed by the plethora of product and the cacophony of sounds at NAB, Cinegear 2013 was a welcome respite. Yes, it got a little hot outside – but visitors could easily escape into one of the many highly relevant panels or air-conditioned exhibitor stages – and find even more new and interesting gear. Our recommendation for those who considered this year’s show, but stayed away: put it on your radar screens for 2014, as many pleasant surprises are guaranteed.

By Pauline Rogers