Ahead of The Curve”

There are more reasons to attend premier gatherings for independent filmmaking, like the Sundance Film Festival, than to just ski and go to parties. (This may be an unpopular notion, but I’ve never figured out why falling down a mountain on two boards is a smart idea!) You can always spend your time seeing indie movies, of course. But from the perspective of Local 600 members, one of the most important functions of Sundance (and some of the other conclaves I reference below) is to be there when new technologies are introduced to the non-technical participants in our industry. For example: for the last two years, virtual reality (VR) has been a huge focus at Sundance, with dozens of projects premiering at the festival.

And it’s exciting to see, in person, the application of these new technologies at a place like Sundance, an event built around the discovery not only of new filmmaking talent, but of the means and ways of how new directors, cinematographers, producers, etc. get their projects up before an audience. I recall how, in 2012, I was at the IBC Convention in Amsterdam, scheduled to give a talk about furthering the involvement of cinematographers in the digital intermediate process. Walking through the main hall at IBC, I saw two funny-looking toy helicopters doing computerized acrobatics up above. There was even a show special selling them for $275.

My first consideration was, “How amazing will it be when they put cameras on these things?” My second thought was, “I want to buy one of these just to mess with my cats!” Either way, there was a feeling of discovery, as if being part of a secret that allowed Local 600 to be first to the table when drones emerged as another tool in our kit.

At Sundance we’ve seen discussions about VR, 360 video, drones with cameras, HDR, super-sensitive cameras for low-light scenarios, and ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System that is fast becoming the standard for color space management. Last year, Local 600 Business Representative (and technology expert) Michael Chambliss appeared at Sundance on two different drone panels, and the feedback was tremendous. It not only raises our prestige within the industry to ensure directors and producers know that new and emerging technologies are already in the domain of Local 600, but it also functions as a visible marketing tool to show that our members are involved in every aspect of image creation for the entertainment industry.

We are also active at other key industry events where new technologies dominate the conversation: the Hollywood Production Alliance retreat in Palm Desert, CA (the name was changed from Hollywood Post Alliance in no small part due to our participation), NAB in Las Vegas, and the ever-growing NAB gathering in New York City, where we had a booth and panel on drones just last month. Many people already know we have a huge presence at Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles, with a large booth and, this past summer, a major panel discussion on VR. Carrying on with virtual reality, we have also been active with the DGA’s Digital Day, attended by production managers, producers, directors and assistant directors. We organized all of the VR teams and equipment for a demo at that event, also this past summer. Just within the last two months, Local 600 has participated at Drone World Expo in San Jose, CA, and at Camerimage, in Bydgoszcz, Poland, the only film festival devoted to cinematography, where we brought our Emerging Cinematographer Award–winning short films to screen for attendees.

We also continue to interface regularly with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific-Technical Council and its annual Sci-Tech Awards, presented just before the Oscars, as well as the ASC’s Technology Committee, which was formed during my tenure as president of the ASC, and which has had a major influence on our industry. Local 600 members continue to act as leaders on that very important committee and its various subcommittees. The Guild maintains an active presence with technology considerations put forth by the VES (Visual Effects Society), as well as with SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers).

All of these events and groups ensure Local 600 has a voice in how emerging technologies will be applied and implemented in our industry. As new technologies are introduced and begin to mature, we will be there every step of the way, preserving access to the knowledge and training required to remain the image-creation leaders we are today. It is that combination of early adoption and deep immersion that allows us to grow our craft and our Guild.

 

Steven Poster, ASC
National President
International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 600