Workflow is not just about digital technology – ones and zeros. It’s really about communication. And every single level of connection should be considered on a film or television set, on through to the ultimate communication goal (for the director of photography): what exactly are you and the director presenting to the audience? What are you trying to say with each scene, shot and moment on screen?
Communication that engenders a successful workflow reaches all the way down to the granular level. An example would be the DP being nudged by the director because he or she notices something on a monitor that will now take the story in a new direction. Or it can be a simple discussion between the DP and camera operator, or camera assistants, or DIT, all of which carry enormous repercussions for the entire project. These are all levels of communication that must go on every minute of every production day in order to reach our goals. The communication builds, like a rolling wave that culminates on-shore, which in our world is in the theater or at home with the audience.
I have always maintained that each production is its own workflow container, filled with people who have their own energy and psychology. That means it’s equally important to consider what you’re going to shoot as to how you’re going to shoot it in relation to your peers and colleagues. I speak from experience when I say the best “workflow” in the world is when the director of photography is surrounded by a confident, experienced team, all working toward the same unified goal with the maximum amount of communication – which, ironically, often is composed of a kind of shorthand where everyone knows what to do without having to say a whole lot.
At the end of the day, we’re all part of a show business “troupe,” a reality that becomes ever more important as one’s career progresses. And like any good troupe, it is the responsibility of each member to keep his or her skills and craft current – to learn each new level of technology as it is developed for our industry.
Right now we’re in a workflow renaissance, where cinematographers and their teams have coloring and deliverables done on-set, with relative ease and efficacy. But what happens tomorrow when cloud-based solutions are perfected? What happens tomorrow when more and more information is needed with 4K capture? What happens tomorrow when we’re asked to do high dynamic range or high frame rate? (My own personal taste is for high dynamic range to become more ubiquitous; however, I don’t feel that high frame rate is a good way to tell our stories.)
Even the way our images are seen is changing: all the way from curved 4K displays in the home to Barco’s Escape Theater Format, which uses two angled screens on either side to create a panoramic image (and will change our workflow once again).
Everything changes, except the consistent need to belong to a troupe, big or small. And when that troupe is filled with true and productive communication, thriving and succeeding together can be the best part of the whole experience.
Steven Poster, ASC
International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 600