In this strange, unpredictable time in both our world and our industry, we are offered so many products, ideas, and visions that are described as “completely new” (some of which really are) that we almost can’t recognize what’s beneficial and impactful, even when placed right before our eyes. Gatherings like the Consumer Electronics Show, held in early January in Las Vegas each year, always present new technology trends that promise “the most innovative methods for storytellers” in the history of the entertainment business. The hype is always about innovation that is so “new and revolutionary,” first adopters (many of whom are camera professionals) simply must have it all. Now.
Such temptations barrage us daily and the questions that need to be asked are: “Are these technologies really new?” Some perhaps are. “Are they adaptable to our world?” Some perhaps yes. “Are they going to take over in the next twelve months?” Mostly no, but it’s the way the people that manufacture and market technology want us to think. Of course in the world of commerce, that last point is not necessarily a bad thing; those desires – to create or ride the wave of a trend – are part of what help sustain the economics of production. Just look at how many resources are being put into the development and demonstration of VR.
But these new technology tools don’t often take into consideration the art and craft of moviemaking under the kinds of budget and time restraints that are now so typical of the film and television industry. These new tools also impose a sharp learning curve for our members to find that next artistic cog in the gear that will help them tell a story. In point of fact, I’ve found there hasn’t been any visual tool that I could not approach, and, after a short period of development, learn how to use to manufacture complex and beautiful imagery. It was simply a matter of knowing what the extremes of that technology were and how to work in between those edges. This process was how we learned what the empirical limits of any emulsion or any imaging system were. I’ve also found over the years that any “rules” associated with new technologies are made to be broken. How many times had I been told that I was outside the “limits”? That’s the most fun, actually, to find our own way of working with these tools. No matter how much I would share my own methods with another cinematographer, for example, that person would always find a different and unique way to utilize that same tool in their own work. The point being: individuality is essential (and inevitable) in this new world of ultra-fast digital industrialization.
How does all this relate to a camera crew working on set to implement new technology? No matter the amount of “newness” hurled our way, camera department technicians and artisans must find a way to come together to finalize some concept of an image and memorialize it to whatever media is being recorded. And no matter how many new tools we are presented with to make our working lives easier, it always becomes much more complex than any of us would imagine. That’s why we spend so much time training and educating this membership in new products, processes, and workflows.
Steven Poster, ASC
International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 600