President’s Letter – January 2012

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under President's Letter

My New Year’s Resolution? More change.

New years bring new thoughts about what lies ahead in the world of image capture and processing. And I think, in some ways, it will be a year of consolidation of services and transition to all things digital. The jury is still out however on how good this will be for the quality of motion pictures (notice I didn’t call them films).

Firstly, there’s the consolidation of 35mm laboratory services, like Technicolor and Deluxe, all over the world. If this means we will still have very high quality processing and daily services available then this will be a good thing. Technicolor has assured me that no matter where the film is processed they will still have their supervising eyes on it at all times.

The name most associated with film, Kodak, is consolidating as well. As the print business slackens, they’ve chosen to concentrate on their core businesses and future technologies. The company’s Laser Projection system sounds like a solution to the (huge) problem of 3D screens being too dark and completely inconsistent; and if that issue is not solved, we may well see a consolidation (shrinking) of 3D releases due to audience indifference. Kodak is also talking about releasing new emulsions, which I hope heads in the direction of higher speeds to compete with the low-noise, larger chip digital cameras due out next year. I’ve been asking them for 1000 EI film ever since I shot the entire (35mm anamorphic) movie Donnie Darko on their ill-fated 800 EI stock. (I don’t even remember the number of that emulsion).

Film, itself, is also consolidating, moving toward being an artistic choice rather then one where producers say, “we want you to shoot digital with this camera.” Choice of a capture medium for economic reasons is a concept that I think is quickly disappearing. When the mantra to make a movie was “this camera will save you money” (a false notion at best), cinematographers were often forced into the wrong choice for the look and the budget of the project. Now the choice of a camera equates one-for-one to the quality and look of the image, filling the same role the choice of film stocks once occupied.

One change I know we won’t be seeing in 2012 is an end to the fast and furious pace of new imaging technologies and new camera platforms on the market. Canon’s impressive new push into professional film and television capture will not stop at one camera; I think we will see some more exciting things coming from them in very short order. We will also see the release of the 8K Sony F65 into the market, which will raise the bar of image quality and dynamic range. And then there’s the long anticipated introduction of Panavision’s new digital platforms, expected in 2012.

Along with these higher quality systems the quality of lenses will need to increase as well. Ironically this will also call for new ways to “influence” these high acutance and sharp lenses and image chips. New quality camera filters and diffusion will be needed at the point of capture to help actors and actresses slip into their characters without audiences seeing every flaw and pore on their skin. Go to work Tiffen. We are going to need your help.

Also entering the marketplace are the so-called “Lab In A Box” systems that will allow Union camera crews to get deliverables finished on set before the end of a production day, in whatever format necessary for post. The director of photography and director approved color management notes will follow each frame of a movie through to the final digital intermediate as metadata. Hopefully, as I’ve been talking about for the last 20 years, this will mark the beginning of ‘end-to-end, device independent color management systems’ moving away from being a discussion and becoming a reality.

New Years and new ways of thinking subvert the old model of creating hard and fast resolutions to stick by. And maybe that’s a good thing; constant change is what makes 2012 such an exciting year to be working in the film and television industry.

Fraternally,

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

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