Sharing the Love”

There are many exciting things going on in our world of cinematography, and almost daily events vital to our membership’s interests in ways that can be hard to calculate.

Case in point is my recent participation in the International Cinematographers Symposium, hosted by the ASC ­– a week of meetings, discussions, and demonstrations centered on our craft and art that incorporates both new and old technology and the ongoing journey for more and better tools as well as deeper understanding and control of our entire process. This year’s event featured dozens of cinematography societies from around the globe – Mongolia to Denmark to South America, and everywhere in between.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to spend this kind of time with our international colleagues, but more importantly, the discussions that took place about our different working methods were a revelation. DP’s from one nation (which shall go nameless) said they can only work eight-hour days, and the film community is fighting for 10-hour days. They said the government-controlled film board would agree to 10-hour days, but only on a four-day week. Seriously! And they do a lot of production.

Variant working conditions aside, by far the most exciting discussions involved representatives from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the ACES workflow – the first major step toward implementing an end-to-end device-independent color-management system that I and others have been talking about for more than 20 years. Studios like Universal have announced that all their productions will use ACES by 2018, and those of us at the ASC conference felt certain it would not be too long before ACES is adopted industry-wide.

Another tremendous event for the cinematography community was last month’s Cine Gear Expo at Paramount Studios. Both days of Expo were extremely busy and featured a level of camaraderie that simply is not found at any other equipment trade show or conference. (Kudos goes out to Expo for yet another year of growth and relevance.)

Cine Gear’s ICG-sponsored panel on virtual reality (VR), moderated by Local 600 Business Representative and New Technology expert Michael Chambliss, was truly enlightening. Ideas for how VR will be implemented are coming at us all very quickly, but whether VR ever becomes a sustainable tool for narrative filmmaking is still in question. As an imaging tool for gaming, education, marketing and other diverse sectors, VR may well be unparalleled. But it’s one of those tricky technologies that appear to be craft-proof – anyone can turn on a bunch of cameras, but will audiences be compelled to put on a VR headset to watch mediocre images and ambiguous storytelling? (I highly doubt it.) As the Cine Gear VR panel showed, the Guild is out in front on this issue – Local 600 members on the dais shared their many knowledgeable thoughts about how to make VR a viable tool for our industry. There’s some very interesting VR work being done; some of the best by our members. 

For me the highlight of this year’s Cine Gear Expo was Panavision’s new Millennium DXL camera system. This is an 8K, 16-bit system that offers 15 stops of dynamic range and weighs just 10 pounds. Its sensor is a 35.5-megapixel CMOS. (Measured diagonally, that’s a whopping 46.31 mm.) The camera accepts a new series of motorized lenses (Primo 70) that can be wirelessly controlled, and offer any look imaginable, from ultra-sharp modern glass to re-barreled vintage lenses that are now so popular (particularly when coupled with an ultra-high-resolution sensor). The back end of the DXL is supported by Light Iron color science, which should ensure superb flesh tones and rock-solid color rendition right off the chip.

Cine Gear served up a tantalizing demo reel of short films, shot on the DXL with minimal post correction by a handful of Local 600 cinematographers. And the excitement for me was that the imagery was not just about more resolution or a larger chip. The DXL footage was clearly about Panavision providing cinematographers with a tool that marries the best of old- and new-school technology – lenses, sensor, color science, and form factor.

Indeed, walking around Cine Gear (and the ASC conference) harkened back to an era when cinematic image quality was paramount above all else; whether it was legacy lenses being retooled for contemporary cameras from companies like Hawk, Cooke, Panavision and others, new diffusion filters from vendors like Tiffen designed to make 4K sing, or ways to move the camera that never existed before, like the Freefly MōVI or DJI’s drone systems, it’s just an incredibly exciting time to be part of the camera department.

That’s why my advice to all Guild members is to share the love – reach out, reach in, and broadcast all that excitement with our peers and colleagues. Our community, our family is damn good at that.

 

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