Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

The future of film post
will digital post wreck the craft/art of cinematography ?


I wonder how you feel about the idea of using Spirit or C-Reality for "normal" transfers of film to digital to release film.

This is for "ordinary" films not effects heavy ones.

This is becoming more financially viable and could lead to a huge increase in projected quality of movies shot on 16mm, then TK'd at 2000 lines, then output to 35mm.

Judging by the demo I saw 18 months ago of 35mm output to 70mm the gain made by doing this with a 16mm original would mean an end projection print of at least as good quality as a 35mm neg that followed the traditional route.

So, are we going to see more movies shot on 16mm or just much better 35mm release prints?

The only "expensive" stage of this process is the output to film from digital, the other parts of the process having dropped in price enough to be a serious option.

I believe that there are a number of developments due in the near future that will eliminate this final hurdle.

Hmm, shoot S16, Datacine, digital out to IB masters.......

Even better S35, Datacine, digital out to 70mm IB..........

Geoff Boyle


Geoff asked:-
>>I've wonder how you feel about the idea of using Spirit or C-Reality for "normal" transfers of film to digital to release film.<<

I've posed a similar question on TIG, but it'd be interesting to read CML views too: here's what I asked:-

Geoff writes:-
>>As I've said before I find the idea of having the creative control of the image that TK gives me for TV available for cinema almost enough of an incentive to stop making commercials for a while and join the film industry :-)<<

Given that a film grader will grade a feature film in a day or two, all within the cost of the answer print, and that I watch TVC telecine sessions with a committee agonising for ten minutes over the colour nuances of each shot, here's my question:-

How long would you expect to spend, and at what expense (ignoring for the time being the considerable cost of transfer and digital-to-film recording at the end of the process), on the video-like grading of a full -length feature film? And who would supervise this process? The DoP? still around at the end of post production?

Dominic Case


>How long would you expect to spend, and at what expense

As the colorist I'd be working with would be the one that had done my dailies and the Avid copies and was familiar with the material :-)

I'd expect to take around 50 hours, however, this time could be spent at a lower rez and the copies for approval would be made at this rez.

Once this approval was obtained output would be at Hi-rez to film.

I'd expect it to cost around the current price of $750 per hour but I'd expect a considerable discount for that length of booking :-)


>>This is becoming more financially viable and could lead to a huge increase
>>in projected quality of movies shot on 16mm, then TK'd at 2000 lines, then
>>output to 35mm.

Geoff, I really think you're "jumping the gun" a bit with regard to where current technology stands (the same mistake many in the U.S. Congress are making). The fact is that there is no real time 2K recorder that is by any means affordable at the moment, nor are there compact enough storage methods to allow for longform lengths of material that are 12 Megabytes per frame at 24 frames per second. If you figure this out, this works out to 288 Megabytes per second, 17.3 Gigabytes per minute, and over 1 terabyte per hour. And this is the SOURCE material.
Not to mention moving all that data around.
I also have no doubt that a few years from now (my guess is about 5 years) this will be possible. But it's not practical now. The reason I referred to the U.S. Congress is because they seem to be under the impression, tha`nks to demos by people like Sony, that a suitable infrastructure exists for digital high def television. They are overlooking the methodologies we use every day for creating "standard" res television that become useless in a high def scenario due to the same restrictions I've mentioned above. Production values of current television material are what they are at least partly because of the availability of cost effective digital equipment (from Macs and PC's on up to Infernos) to create high quality imagery. Current technology is (finally) "in step" with current technical demands. It is not in place to do these things at higher resolutions until (1) storage is much denser and faster and (2) processors are much faster and/or parallel processing becomes more commonplace.


At NAB Arriflex introduced a laser driven, digital image data -to- film printer that is cheaper to operate than anything out there so far.

They are proposing its use as the method to "squeeze" an entire motion picture shot in Super 35 to Anamorphic. They think the quality will be better than doing it on an optical printer with the traditional anamorphic printer lens.


From paul@rfx.com Tue May 12 23:52:18 1998

Their "AIM SPECIFICATIONS" sheet says: 5 seconds @ 4K, 3.3 seconds at 2K. They'll be beta testing in a couple of months, deliveries may start first of the year ('99).
It's modular and smaller than previous laser recorders (solid state lasers). Price depends on configuration, was not specifically quoted but rumored to be significantly less than competition. Shoots 5244, 4 perf. only; 1000 and 2000 ft. loads.


From John_Sprung@paramount.com Tue May 12 22:36:50 1998

Geoff wrote:
>>The only "expensive" stage of this process is the output to film from
>>digital, the other parts of the process having dropped in price enough
to >>be a serious option.

What may happen instead is electronic distribution. Projectors using the Texas Instruments DLP chips are approaching the quality of film. They're still working on getting more dynamic range, and on hiding the pixel boundaries. But when that happens, we'll have three great advantages:

1. All the power and versatility of telecine and tape to tape color correction will be available for theatrical release.

2. Because it's digital, the image won't degrade with repeated showings No more dirt, no more scratches, no more splices. The projector is focused once, and never needs to be touched again.

3. Because there are no dyes or chemical processes between color timing and release (and no CRT's), every audience gets absolutely accurate color.

> Judging by the demo I saw 18 months ago of 35mm output to 70mm the
> gain made by doing this with a 16mm original would mean an end
> projection print of at least as good quality as a 35mm neg that followed
> the traditional route.

Usually, something that makes 16mm better also makes 35mm better, so the gap stays the same. What I hear from a guy who has one is that the 16mm gate on the Spirit closes the gap a little because it has newly designed optics. 35mm won't benefit from that, because optics weren't the weak link there.

Mike Most wrote:
> nor are there compact enough storage methods to allow for longform
> lengths of material that are 12 Megabytes per frame at 24 frames per
> second. If you figure this out, .... and over 1 terabyte per hour.
> And this is the SOURCE material.

Ampex DST, the data version of DCT, puts 330 gigabytes on a cassette the size of a large D-1. At the rate Mike cites, that would be about equivalent to a 2000 foot reel of 35mm. A typical feature would fit on 5 or 6 cassettes. But that's uncompressed. We could easily use 10:1 compression and get everything on one cassette. ATSC uses about 60:1.
What I don't know about is the data rate they can get in and out of DST.
The TI guys are using D-5 HD to feed their prototypes.

> The reason I referred to the U.S. Congress is because they seem to be
> under the impression, thanks to demos by people like Sony, that a
> suitable infrastructure exists for digital high def television.

Right. Given the capital investment required, I'd guess we're at least five years away from having adequate plant in place to make prime timeTV. At least until then, all the capacity that exists will be consumedby new TV product.


From Dominic_Case@atlab.com.au Wed May 13 00:40:49 1998
John Sprung writes:-

>> 1. All the power and versatility of telecine and tape to tape color
correction will be available for theatrical release. <<

Yes, and this is the subject of the discussion up till now, regardless of the distribution medium.

>> 2. Because it's digital, the image won't degrade with repeated showings.
No more dirt, no more scratches, no more splices. The projector is
focused once, and never needs to be touched again. <<

Are we to understand that these wonderful digital projectors will maintain perfect alignment with no attention? Just like film projectors do now? Aw, come on. Get real.

>> 3. Because there are no dyes or chemical processes between color timing and release (and no CRT's), every audience gets absolutely accurate color. <<

There seems to be a belief here (and elsewhere) that everything chemical, optical or physical is inferior and uncontrollable, whereas everything electronic is superior and perfectly controllable. Can anyone justify this?

And finally, "digital" seems rapidly to be becoming a cornucopia, a panacea of all evils, a universal "fixit" like snake oil. If it's digital, it remains perfect and nothing can possibly go wrong. This is a very small element of fact inflated way beyond its worth. And despite my SMPTE "GO DIGITAL" sweatshirt, which after frequent washes has not lost a single 0 or 1 (digital) nor has it shrunk (analogue), I'm tempted to (mis)quote:

"When I hear the word digital I reach for my gun!".

OK, rant finished now ;-)


From feli@fa.disney.com Wed May 13 02:16:12 1998
>There seems to be a belief here (and elsewhere) that everything
>chemical, optical or physical is inferior and uncontrollable, whereas
>everything electronic is superior and perfectly controllable. Can anyone
>justify this?

I don't know, I do lighting and compositing for a living [but what I really want to to is direct ;-)] and have seen a lot of projectors that look REALLY GOOD, but I don't know... Haven't seen anything yet that looks as nice as film.
It just looks....great and I shudder at the thought that it might go away some day.

At the moment you need something like an ONYX2 with nearly 2.5 gigabyte a second bandwith to run a 2k flipbook in realtime, full resolution. Only problem is you would need a MASSIVE array with an amazing transfer rate to stream it off of, perhaps into a RAM buffer and then out to your display. But at 14MB per frame, uncompressed that would have to be one HUGE array (read EXPENSIVE). As far as compression goes, I'm not sure if there is anything out there at the moment that will decompress 2k frames at 24fps. My guess would be no. Maybe in 2-3 years. But yeah, DLT etc. is great for storage, but not a playback media.


From geoff@cinematography.net Wed May 13 07:03:49 1998


Well that seems to have kicked up a hornets nest!

A number of points.

I don't expect real time data out or real time transfer to film, that's why I mentioned grading at lower rez.

Digital distribution is a lot lot farther away for reasons I covered in a post a week or so ago (money)

I don't see 6 tapes in an uncompressed form as a problem.

Bill mentions one new output device/option, there are others coming as well.

As far as moving the data around from facility to facility we have "runner net" here in London and that's able to shift Terabytes from facility to facility in minutes.


From Dominic_Case@atlab.com.au Wed May 13 08:58:34 1998


The concept of non-film-print grading then outputting onto film again is full of questions. I'm especially interested in the techniques of -say- applying a "bleach bypass" grade, or a "preflash" grade. But equally I'm interested in the professional issues that "we'll fix the lighting in post" will raise when it's a top-end, award-winning feature in question. How will the BSC, the ASC, the ACS and others view the work of the cinematographer when it's had that much digital tinkering and then gone back to film? Who will ever know?


From geoff@cinematography.net Wed May 13 11:10:25 1998


> How will the BSC, the ASC, the ACS and others view the work of the
>cinematographer when it's had that much digital tinkering and then gone >back to film? Who will ever know?

Oh they'll probably do what they do now, ignore people working that way.

That's the argument they give for ignoring commercials cameramen.

It reminds me of a lovely line from a recordist I used to work with to the head of my union, we were both on the freelance committee at the time, "if you're going to bend over and stick your head in the sand don't come crying to me when you get ******* up the bum"

This was about whether we should be organising satellite and direct to tape areas in 1980, recordist and I thought we should everyone else thought no.

Union ignored them, nowadays almost no union

Still "if we don't learn from historys' mistakes we're condemned to re-make them"


From WalterNY@msn.com Wed May 13 15:57:32 1998

>> How will the BSC, the ASC, the ACS and others view the work of the
>>cinematographer when it's had that much digital tinkering and then gone
>>back to film? Who will ever know?
>
>Oh they'll probably do what they do now, ignore people working that way.

All of this "new" digital technology will be a knife in the heart of cinematographers. As we make film easier to shoot (e.g. Negative, TK, forgiving stocks) we allow those who didn't work their way up in the ranks to begin to enter the "film" arena by technological default. I know it is a bad analogy but a good example but the porn industry was destroyed in the US by video tape in the late to early eighties. Prior to shooting smut on tape there were about 300 porn's released each year. All shot on 16mm and some on 35. They actually had storylines. But with the advent of video, everyone and his bother could (and did) begin to shoot video. There was even an outcry by the top smut filmmakers of the time who said that they would never shoot on tape. As they put it "we are filmmakers". I even saw a weak but accurate reference to this in the movie Boogie Nights. But video tape did begin to pilfer the industry and those that did not move with it were out of work.
Today amateur is the only thing that sells. This all did two things. First it raised the number of releases in two years form 300 to 1100. Needless to say many of these new r`eleases were lacking considerably in quality(they basically eliminated any story). The effect was to weaken the overall quality of the porn industry. Eventually it adjusted, but the quality has never gone back to the old days. I know what some of you are saying, "screwing is screwing, what quality", but for those in the industry, it is a different story.

Now take a look at the film business. Here you have what was once an art that you really had to learn for years before anyone would trust you behind a camera let alone on a set. The advent of the indies(for example) were originally looked at as avant garde filmmaking, definitely not mainstream but when the right story was behind it, all the bad shooting and lighting in the world couldn't prevent a low budget feature from gaining success.
After a number of these the word indie was born. Little did we realize at the time that the indie was actually lessening the standards for filmmaking.
Eventually critics no longer scolded the lack of quality of the indie as the did originally, but instead attributed the sparse lightning and lack of locations to "art". It was the lack of quality of the film that helped make it so good as I have seen critics say. Eventually as more and more indies were made and anyone and everyone and there mother had a film festival, there was a bit of difficulty in determining what was an indie and was a "regular" feature and the word indie disappeared only to become mainstream movies. In fact you began to see mainstream movies trying to make film that looked less than perfect for effect. Oliver Stone(perfect example).
Anyone can now take a weeks course at Rockport and call themselves a filmmaker and many do. I know of a company in NY that was nothing but video for years. They purchased an Aaton and an Arri, took the one week course and have since created a huge niche for themselves in all of those network promotions that you see. What made it easy for them to make this initial move? You can over/under expose film by five stops and a colorist can still make it look good nowadays. Imagine someone who has shot a major film project for the first time. He has a light meter and knows nothing more than the E.I. of a film is 200 and sets his meter for that exposure. In all of his set ups he will be in the range of todays modern film "safe" latitudes.
He knows nothing about the nuances of the stock or how to tweak it, but he doesn't have to (thank you Kodak). Imagine the fear when he does his first transfer, knowing nothing about the process as he sits in the room quietly as the transfer is done or asks questions which to the trained ear would tell you that this person knows nothing about filmmaking. But the colorist will do his best to saturate colors, adjust exposure variances and basically make what this person shot look good. Imagine the smile on that persons face as he leaves the transfer and says to himself, "hey this stuff is easy".
That person by technological default is now a filmmaker, like it or not. And it is happening more and more. The reason is because of this technology that some of you praise so much. It is that same technology and the need to do productions at a cheaper rate that is going to make the word cinematographer become less and less important as time goes on.

I remember someone complaining once because American Cinematographer wasn't devoting enough time to film making but every issue seemed to be about SGI.
The reason was simple. Video is more a part of filmmaking today that is the cinematography. The art of creating everything in the lens is lost. Titanic is a perfect example. Titanic is an Alien or Terminator with all human characters. We have the standard modern science fiction story going on there. Let me explain and you'll realize its nothing more than Alien in sheeps cloths. First we are going to have a normal day doing something that is normal. In this case we are going on a cruise ship. What could be more normal. Just like the Abyss or any of the other movies of this genre where the characters are going on an ordinary mission. But two unknown things are going to happen. First and most importantly there is going to be a natural disaster (something completely uncontrollable) that is going to put a time
limit to our lives. In this case the Titanic sinking. Add to that one more element-an alien that is going to hunt us down even though we have a limited time to live. What is the alien in titanic you say? The Fiancée, the mother and the bodyguard of course. How ridiculous it is that as they run in six feet of water at the end, the fiancée chases them shooting and trying to kill them. Why Cameron even had sparks and the like in the corridor like all the scifi movies do. Probably could have intercut Terminator scenes in there and no one would notice. What you had in Titanic was simply the movie Alien or Terminator or the Abyss(or any other formulatic films) set to a real disaster. Quite weak. But what was the success of TItanic? Was it the cinematography? By that I mean was what was shot by itself through the lens the thing that made the movie look so great? No it was the special effects (e.g. the video). Of course the major promotion and that song helped even more. The cinematography only filled in the holes in this film. As I think about the 2 hours that Cameron cut from the flick I wonder if in the last scene when Dicaprio is hanging on the board in the ocean if there wasn't a scene where just as they realize there end is near, if the fiancée doesn't suddenly appear from the deep and grab him and pull him under. Don't laugh.
It probably crossed Cameron's mind.

So get mad at me for what I say, but some day you'll realize that our industry is quickly going to evolve and the art of cinematography is not going to be what the great filmmakers envisioned it to be. Of course everything evolves but is what we do going to turn out for the better. In fact in the next ten years, expect to see "first time' Cinematographers making films that get acclaimed. Say "no" now but just wait.


From Georgesr6@aol.com Wed May 13 19:08:21 1998


I'm one of the tinkers although I still feel my film roots. Electronic cinema will come sooner than later. I saw yet another demostration by Texas Instruments at my local AMC in Burbank last week.

Did you know that ALL of the major studios have at least one person on a Vice Predential level working on electronic cinema? The economy of the hardware change over barely effects their spread sheets.

As far as Cinematographer's loosing control, I disagree, just like Visual Effects has become a real department in the production crew and not not just a blip in Post, I think it's time for the cameraman to take ownership of the imge through release, if they don't the producer's adjenda will be further re-enforced on the image.


From samw@voicenet.com Wed May 13 23:53:08 1998
>Walter writes:
>After a number of these the word indie was born. Little did we realize at
>the time that the indie was actually lessening the standards for filmmaking.

I can't agree with a blanket statement like this.
Have you seen the work of DP's like Jean de Segonzac ? Jim Denault ? Maryse Alberti ?

With 1000 (or whatever it is) "independent feature films" per year, sure there will be some films lacking in cinematic craft. But I think some really good work is and will be coming out of this movement - as well as from videos and commercials - think of Harris Savides for eample -
And some of our CML'rs as well..

As for the newbies shooting features before they're ready, ok, it happens, but I think out of this are going to emerge some new and good things.
I'm actually amazed how many budding young filmmmakers want to shoot on film. I think this in itself is a good thing, yo I hope it continues to motivate our friends in Rochester, don't you ?

Do you really want a return to the 1970's 644 days ? Come on, hiring Gordon Willis was a controversial move at one time.. Leave it up to that mentality and Gordon Willis would've been an AC in 1971 instead of shooting The Godfather..

Look, I too am amazed for instance at some of the postings I see on usenet for example - people shooting for blowup to 35 with _no clue_ about grain structure, aspect ratios, dof, etc... but I can't make a blanket dismissal of this movement based on lowest common denominator examples.

Easy to use materials ? Well I shot my own feature on "no latitude" Tri X !
And I've decided I'm gonna picket EK if they extend the range of color negative stocks any further - my slogan will be: I'VE GOT AN ATTITUDE: NO MORE LATITUDE !

I was discussing Sven Nykvist once with some crew people. Someone wondered if there were not quite a few DP's that could light and frame with as much skill. My response, my defense of Sven Nykvist's unique genius was that it is not exactly in the mechanics of his work, but in the sensitivity of it - for instance as for many years he translated the dreams, the mind, the soul of Ingmar Bergman to celluloid. This kind of skill will never be obsolete.

And thanks for your analysis of Titanic - that's a keeper !


From pumpkin@ulster.net Thu May 14 02:50:33 1998
At 11:53 PM 5/13/98 +0100, stw wrote:
>>Walter writes:
>>After a number of these the word indie was born. Little did we realize at
>>the time that the indie was actually lessening the standards for filmmaking.
>
>I can't agree with a blanket statement like this.
>Have you seen the work of DP's like Jean de Segonzac ? Jim Denault ?
>Maryse Alberti ?

>..from videos and commercials - think of Harris Savides for example -

I tend to agree with Sam on this issue. Harris once said to me that everyone should shoot. I believe that it only helps cinema to have so many people pursuing it. Many times innovations occur by the breaking of the rules, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Harris often said when I gaffed for him, "Don't show me what you know, let's do something that we don't know".

I don't believe that this freer creativity (or lessening of standards depending on your POV) evolved from 'indie' features but rather the advent of the home video camera. Suddenly everyone in our culture could record moving images. Kids were taking their parents Handycams and making videos that expressed ideas. The standards of contemporary cinema are much broader and much richer than ever due to this phenomenon. And the future is exciting as can be.


From jpentecost@easynet.co.uk Thu May 14 03:10:08 1998


Hi Everyone,
Funny that I should come home to a mailbox full of the very subject I have spent all evening talking to my friend about (John Pardue if you know him).

His point of view was pretty much the same as the those given here. That is that "digital" has taken all the skill out of cinematography. He also said that "The Golden Age of cinema is dead". This to me is a red rag to a bull !!!

Firstly cinema never had a golden age. There have always been good movies and bad movies. So what if now there are more people shooting film? Good luck to them. If they don't have a clue what they are doing then yes they are wasteing their time. But it is their time. What Walter seems to be saying is that because they can get an acceptable image from a badly exposed negative they are "stealing" work from people who are talented and experienced. This is such a silly argument. Surely it's still a level playing field ? surely a talented cinematographer will still make way better images regardless of the technology involved. The most wonderfull thing about cinema is that it is continuously evolving. If you take the new technology into account when you are shooting then your images will more beatifull than if you don't. If people start to move away from useing post production to fix problems and start to use it to make good negatives better.

Last night I was in a Harry suite with the DP of a pop video I had Focus Pulled on. The director wanted a "1920's" look. The DP lit it wonderfully, the grader graded it in keeping. All the harry operator had to do was to add a little bit of vignette and make up some matts and scratches. Now on this particular job myself and the DP and done some testing including having Arri SR magazines modified so that the back plate pressure was heavily out fo tollerance in an attempt to get genuine weave and instability. Given that it was apparently impossible to get it run anything but rock steady it was decided to put in all the camera artifacts in post. The eminent contralabilty of post makes it so mach better for this kind of work. However it would still not have looked anything close to as good if the DP had not made it look so good in the first place.

As for the idea that post production means that people can be DP's without "paying their dues" and working their way up. Whats the problem? One of the wonderfull things (IMO) is that it respects only one thing TALENT.
If someone can be a DP at 21 and shoots beautiful pictures and can get work then whats the problem ? Yes there are lots of people out their who know nothing about cinematography and call themselves DP's so what ? The best people will still rise to the top. Recently I have started to work with DP's who are younger than me and who have never been camera assistants. As I am a career assistant I knew this would happen eventually. The fact might be that by "standards" I am more "qualified" to light than they are because I have been in the industry longer than they have. This is of course rubbish. The pure facts are that they can light they have built a showreel which persuades people to employ them ...
none of these things I can do .. thats why they are DP's and I am not.

Like sound and colour post production advances can only strengthen our industry . Post production is a double edged sword I agree. It can become like Video Assist Ie:- everything has to be approved by a commitie before it is allowed to pass. But like video assit it allows us to do things we never dreamed of being able to do before.


From Dominic_Case@atlab.com.au Thu May 14 05:40:48 1998
Once, it took years to learn the CRAFT. Till then you had no CONTROL. If you had CREATIVITY, it would be discovered during that time, and you'd get CONTROL.
Result: well-exposed, inspired images.

If you couldn't learn the CRAFT, but still had great CREATIVITY, you might be OK, and get propped up by your team.

If you learnt the CRAFT but had no CREATIVITY, you remained an assistant. Maybe supported the creative guy above.
Result: well exposed, inspired images.

Nowadays, you can learn the CRAFT overnight.
No-one gets to find out if you've got CREATIVITY. But you get CONTROL anyway.
Well, for one film anyway.

If you have got CREATIVITY, we get to see it before it gets crippled by the "rules" you used to learn.
Result: well-exposed (or fixed-up), sensationally inspired images.

If you haven't got CREATIVITY, we get to see CRUD. Well, for one film, anyway.

The people who are sensitive to this are the ones with half a lifetime's craft experience which is now worth nothing.
But we've got half a lifetime's life experience as well. And rat cunning.


From LewDouva@aol.com Thu May 14 09:16:17 1998

<< Look, I too am amazed for instance at some of the postings I see on usenet for example - people shooting for blowup to 35 with _no clue_ about grain structure, aspect ratios, dof, etc... >>

I received an email the other day from someone wanting to make their first feature film and wanting to purchase *all* of the needed equipment from me. This person was planning to shoot on Super 8 and blow up to 35 for theatrical release. After I explained that this probably wasn't the best game plan, he decided he would shoot on 16 and blow up to 35. He then told me he wanted me to set him up with *all* (he asked for "cameras, audio, lights, editing and anything else necessary for shooting the film") of the equipment
necessary to make the film, and his price range was $2500-$3500. I resisted the temptation to tell him to crap in one, wish in the other, and watch to see which one filled up first, and after politely explaining to him what it would take to make a feature film, he finally decided not to make one. In another similar example, I bailed from a sinking straight to video, marshal arts film a few weeks back which was absolutely the most absurd excuse for a production I have ever been on. The director actually approached me at one point and asked if we could cut costs by shooting on Hi8 video. This "director" was a *B* actor, and I put a very strong emphasis on (and maybe a minus sign in front of) the "B," who had been in a few straight to video marshal arts films prior this. He kept trying to sell people on his movie using inaccurate facts about previously succesful indies (i.e. "Robert Rodriguez shot El Mariachi on a home video camera."). There are a lot of good independent films being made, but there are also a lot of people with no filmmaking experience going off half cocked. A lot of them get really excited after hearing very condensed versions of stories like the Rodriguez/ El Mariachi story (a wonderful story, but my stomach turns every time somebody brings it up), and they never bother to find out the whole story. In my opinion, if it weren't for these types of people making such low quality films, the line between indies and studio films would be much fuzzier.


From LewDouva@aol.com Thu May 14 09:32:39 1998

I'm going to go with the "freer creativity" theory on this one.
When I was a kid, I was lucky if I got to use my dad's old super-8 camera for a total of three minutes a year (and don't think I didn't beg). When I was in junior high, my dad purchased one of the early "camcorder" style video cameras, and I had taken control of it within a week of the family unveiling.
He had a warranty, and tape was cheap and reusable, so it didn't matter how many horrible short films, errr videos, I made. I taught myself stop motion, match dissolves (minus the dissolve), and many other techniques with that camera. I think, if anything, the advent of the home video camera has simply sped up the learning process. Admittedly some people try to use it as an inefficient means of skipping several steps in that process, but you just have to accept that with any art form, there are going to be hack imitations.
There's always the kid who wants to play Stairway to Heaven before Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or paint landscapes before still lifes. (Insert appropriate French, or Latin if you can think of one, phrase here.)

<< Walter seems to be saying is that because they can get an acceptable image from a badly exposed negative they are "stealing" work from people who are talented and experienced. >>

I made a similar argument a couple of years ago when "new" water ski and snow ski (two of my big sports) designs were released into the market place. Everyone was trying them and saying that you could ski like a pro in your first weekend. I was enraged that those of us who had spent years perfecting these skills now had nothing more to show than these weekend warriors hitting the slopes and lakes for the first time. In expressing my anger to my father who was an expert water and snow skier back in both sports' early days, he was quick to pull a couple of old wooden skis like he had learned on, out of the attic. His point was made. Technology will always evolve. Those of us with experience in our fields must learn to evolve with it.

All facets of human endeavour are littered with bitter and twisted critics wittering on about how great things used to be in the halcyon days and lamenting the coming winds of change. Nostalgia is a wonderful and necessary sentiment but it aint gonna pay the bills. I believe in strong debate about the goods and evils of technology but closed minds usually end up as dust in the cracks of history.


From StevenASC@aol.com Thu May 14 10:05:00 1998
>> How will the BSC, the ASC, the ACS and others view the work of the
>>cinematographer when it's had that much digital tinkering and then gone back to film? Who will ever know?
>
>Oh they'll probably do what they do now, ignore people working that way.
>
>That's the argument they give for ignoring commercials cameramen.


Geoff,
I beg to differ with you. The ASC remember was the first organization to start the HDTV fight with ACATS and the FCC. We were the Davids. It was said that we lost the fight. Except now 'they' have come back and declared us the winners because everything we fought for is now the (future) accepted de facto standard.

We are also always trying to stay on top of the rampageing emerging technologies. We have various committees and alliances in place to keep us involved, both in development and the political side of things. Very soon on our web site you will have the opportunity to hear a round table discussion with our members and members of the VES (Visual Effects Supervisors) about the things that concern us about Authorship and cooperation in the digital world.

And we have never 'ignored' Commercial Shooters. The fact that our charter states that our organization is based on the Narrative Motion picture form. Even so there are few of our active members that don't make a substantial portion of their income from commercials. And we have programs, discussions and demonstrations about this work very often.

I don't know about our colleagues in Britain and Australia, but I do know that we have been involved in these areas for over ten years now.
Steven Poster ASC


From StevenASC@aol.com Thu May 14 10:05:03 1998
> His point of view was pretty much the same as the those given here. That
>is that "digital" has taken all the skill out of cinematography. He also
>said that "The Golden Age of cinema is dead". This to me is a red rag
>to a bull !!!
So right you are Justin.

There will always be a BIG need for taste in Cinematography. And if we don't roll over now we still can be the arbiters of good taste in our
chosen Art.

FILM IS DEAD! FILM IS DEAD! FILM IS DEAD!
Something I've heard since I first got into the Biz just a 'few short years ago'. Isn't that true Jeff Krines?

And by the way, I started to shoot when I was around 21 without ever being an assistant. And I was resented then for it then just like some of us older guys resent the young'uns doing it today.
Being an assistant does not in any way qualify one to be a good shooter.


From jeffkreines@mindspring.com Thu May 14 10:36:40 1998
Case Dominic

>The people who are sensitive to this are the ones with half a lifetime's
>craft experience which is now worth nothing.
>But we've got half a lifetime's life experience as well. And rat
>cunning.

And that life experience tends to make for better films, better art, better conversation... even better postings.


From geoff@cinematography.net Thu May 14 10:50:30 1998
Steven,

My comment was not meant as an attack on ASC involvement/lack of involvement with digital.

It was an over-reaction to me to hearing for the umpteenth time that work that was digitally worked on wasn't valid cinematography.

It's an attitude that I come across so often that I always react to it, almost as badly as to the mention of 16BL's.

Unfortunately the DP's that attack it most tend to be the.....I think I'd better stop now :-)


From JayHolben@aol.com Fri May 15 12:04:19 1998
In a message dated 5/14/98 2:24:09 AM Pacific Daylight Time, LewDouva@aol.com
writes:

> I wonder if painters originally felt threatened by photography?

Absolutely they did. Some painters like Degas even took the concept of the "snap snot" into his work, adapting the idea of a moment in time instead of a composed shot... Painters were as threatened and opposed to photography as filmmakers were to television, and video and digital cinematography... it's all the same idea. I'm sure that cave painters were threatened when people started to paint on rocks that they could carry around - as much as painters were threatened by painters who used colors to represent reality... Artists will always be "threatened" by the evolution of technology. The ideal is to understand the technology to make the artist a necessary commodity and not an obsolete relic.


From cdixon@wvu.edu Fri May 15 15:47:09 1998
>Now take a look at the film business. Here you have what was once an art
>that you really had to learn for years before anyone would trust you
behind
>a camera let alone on a set. The advent of the indies(for example) were
>originally looked at as avant garde filmmaking, definitely not mainstream
>but when the right story was behind it, all the bad shooting and lighting
>in the world couldn't prevent a low budget feature from gaining success.
>After a number of these the word indie was born. Little did we realize at
>the time that the indie was actually lessening the standards for
filmmaking.

So when did this horrible "lessening the standards for filmaking" begin?
Was it Godard and the French New Wave? Perhaps it was De Sica and the Neorealism movement. No, no, no, it had to be the Americans fault; let's blame it on John Cassevettes.

We could enter a philosophical discussion on the essense of the filmaking/ film viewing experience, but it don't think that is the purpose of this list. However, this commentary compelled me to say that there will always be a place in this industry for mastercrafts persons, people who know how to tweek and finely sculpt an image (reguardless of the incessant evolution of the meduim), but there will also be a place for someone who has a story to tell and a style that it dictates.


From gamma1@loop.com Fri May 15 20:04:09 1998
"The art is the shortest way from human to human."
Claude Rua

With a great interest I followed " Advent of TK and the weakening" discussions about role of cinematography in today's filmmaking process.

The original, "the scream of the soul" posting of "WalterNY" <WalterNY@msn.com>, reflects sincere frustration many of us, unable
often to explain in the rational terms to themselves and others what is our profession all about. What make us, cinematographers, in the same time:
1 craftsmans-technicians, accountants and shepherds for a crew, then often
2 "seeing" dogs for visually disadvantaged collaborators and then, some time, often or never 3 artists (in opinion of critics and friends ) , which means we were participants, collaborators and /or authors of memorable images , which are different from usual chewing gum for eyes .

The importance of sorting all these things out became even more important now, when exposure, chemistry, sensitometry and other traditional skills of cinematographers became much less nesessary than before due to the obvious progress of technologies and high demand for increased amount of progarmming to feed cable and othjer behemots .

Will we be replaced in not too distant future by some computers, who can much faster as any DP to calculate exposure, depth of field, to set lights, choose style and framing for camera?

Kasparov vs IBM is a good sample of creative computing. And looking at some shows makes you wonder if computer can make it not only faster but maybe even better. The primitive framing, flat light - really you don't need to be a genius programmer to create such an algorithm for a computer, which can imitate such a result.

But what way we have to go? How we can avoid fate of dinosaurs and not only survive but overcome " a new brave world."

The answer is trivial, but there is the only one - to be creative, to reeducate and retrain ourselves creatively, to learn how to evaluate what we are doing and not from the only technical point of view, but from creative one also.

Every year hordes of new cameramen coming into the industry orbit. They coming from schools, from Europe, from Asia and Australia. If they are better? Some, sure yes, some not. But if they preferable? Yes, because they have a fresh, contemporary visual ideas, visual concepts brought from latest trends and studies, from the recent interest in the contemporary culture and arts, painting, photography and theatre. And this creates an immense reservoir of new ideas for a hiring hand -director. Let's do not forget, as my odl teacher said: "We not grooms, we are braids..."

We live in the situation of the very competitive market place, where often new vision and visual ideas take superiority over proven and more traditional approaches and experiences. In many areas of the science and industry retraining and upgrading the skill is a very valuable and some time the only option to stay on competition.

The film industry does a lot to upgrade the technical skill of cinematographers, but it isn't a time to give to the cinematographer
profession new tools for survival, aesthetic tools?

For many years cinematographers contribution to film and film language was overlooked. Neglect of cinematographers is due to lack of understanding how the cinematography works and what it specifically contributes to the film, beside the mention of the "beautifu llandscapes" and "handsome portrait.

There are almost unchattered, murky and dangerous waters of "artistic' side of our profession. While many books are written about cinematogarphy, a very few dealt with aesthetic specifics. Authors were forced to describe cinematography at the worst in the terms of content and plot, and in the best in the terms borrowed from traditional visual art and painting. The most essential part of cinematography, the visual communication in time was completely neglected. And this is not suprisingly, if we will look at cinematography as a traditional form of aesthetic activities.

There is an existence of a few kinds of human activities, known as aesthetic activities, i.e., mastering the world through the art methods, by creating images and concepts.

The lower kind of aesthetic activities is a primitive art. The form is dictated by utilitarianism. The appearance-image and concept are in total unity. In our time the object of such an activity is an industrial design. Where image and subject non separated?

The next, higher step is a folk art. Here we start to see a gap between image and subject and the development of decorative and ornamental forms are clearly visible.

The professional art is a highest form of aesthetic activities. It is highly subjective, individualistic and therefore the concept of authorship is a cornerstone of this kind of activities. In the professional art the most evident the gap between image and subject and between conventionality and unconventionality.

Cinematograhy does not belong to either of these kind of aesthetic activities. Neither camera movement, nor lighting, optical prospective, color, contrast or other specifics cannot create the wholeness of the what we can call artistic representation of the reality. The cinematographer cannot create it and to be author of it simply because he creates only the part of what we know as the art of film, a unique sensation.

As we all know the art of cinema itself comes into existence as result of the synthesis of previously existing arts and creates it's own image and concept based on (artistic) aesthetic qualities of its own structural parts such as drama, acting, music, camera, sound, etc.
Each of creative participant of film making, including cinematographer uses their own methods of work. But all these methods have a few specific things in common:

1 they are only a part (and better be an organic!) of the whole film concept;
2 they have originated and been adopted from other, more traditional kinds of aesthetic activities and have been applied specifically to the given concept
3 they all use means of mass production and depends on technology for it manufacturing and distribution.

All these traits characterize new and modern form of aesthetic activities, informative. And cinematography is a part of this.

We probably will feel satisfactory to our supportive role in the whole concept, and certainly we are trying to hold on the control of technological parts of our images. But for us is most crucial is
paragraph two - what tools to choose, what style to select for proper images which will communicate the (script ideas) to audience?

The film creates its own time and space. For us, cinematographers is very important to remember that the cinema is a spacial art. The space is our main form of expression. We can be called "engineers of communicative images." The original functional attitude to the profession of cinematographer was to deliver images technically
acceptable, reproductive and transferable. But how communicative they are?

We all know that in different times the same images emit different emotion, allusions and symbols. It is all depends, beside the individual's aesthetic and general experience, from the complicated interwoven factors of the common and cultural trends in the society.
If for example pop art or hyperrealism or collage are unknown art trends, so there is no point to look at them as a way of communicating of ideas.

But moreover certain traits in graphics, photo-montage and assemblage animation of 1960-es created style in designs of LP covers, which in turn made possible to creators of new wave of rock video of 1980-s to "adopt" the proven and successful style appeal for their audience.

The term "adoption " used here as term in a system of informative aesthetic activities and has no any pejorative connotations. The history of visual elements in cinema is a history of adoption of elements from the professional art.

It is not a difficult to see that there are similarities in development of perception of visual forms and space in painting and in the cinema. We can say the cinema it is condensed history of painting, repetitiously following the stages in development of sense of space and form in the traditional painting.

If we will look at the paintings of Gotto, Ucello and other masters of Quattrocetto, Italian Renaissance and compare it with frames from Melies and Lumiere films we will see a striking similarities. The space has a three dimensions, and limited by height and width of the frame, and in the depth by enclosed background. The space is only the background for action and does not have any artistic value. The same way actors in these films and personages in the painting stand facing spectators. Many scenes from "The birth of the nation" and "Alexander Nevsky" are motivated by Paolo Ucello

The classical and romantic school of oil painting master the space, make it freer, less "theatrical" and more subordinate to rigid rules of prospective. And if we will look again from this point of view on the films of the peak of the age silent films and "Golden Age of Hollywood" we will find very strong following and adoption of aesthetics of the classical and romantic painting in films of 1930-40. Especially I want to note amazingly cinematic style of lighting in the paintings of George De La Tour.

When Impressionists started to break the classical prospective and the space in their paintings ceased to have shape and depth. The unusual prospectives and point of view appeared. If we look at the painting of Dega " Absent" it is hard not to notice cinematic framing and composition, In one of the painting of Renoir Sr. "Place Pigal"(1880) we can see deep focus composition that became later a sign of in a film shot by Orson Welles & Gregg Toland and many others. In a film history it is also a period of "freedom" of camera, unusual angles and complicated travelling shots, and visual style of "Caligary" ," Metropolis" and " The Last Man".

With appearance of cubists and later an abstaract expressionists traditional space in painting became a two-dimensional. And use of tele-photo lenses not as magnifying glass, but as tool for condescension of a space, so effectively used in French and Italian films in the 60s and especially in film of Pontecorvo " Battle for Algeria just confirms again the spiral-like relationship between paintings and film.

But if painting until 1960-s was the only sourses of adoption, the trends in photography and especially in advertising photography and computerized animation made themselves adoptable for cinematic Moloch.
And on another turn of spiral the films of "film-noir" style, adopted from the German expressionists school , became another source of transfigurations.

I don't know whether this posting will sound as an elementary or quite opposite, too complicated, but in either situation it seems to me necessary for cinematographers to start to think about place of our profession at the present and to try to look in the tomorrow, with feeling of the history and with some kind of systematic approach.

It will be wrong to establish some kind of rules, especially when all existence of cinematography went among technical experiments and
aesthetic breackthrougs. The evolution of our profession continues under influence of the three main factors:

Technical - the new developments in optics, chemistry, electronics , etc. determine the aesthetic progress. Wide angle lenses permitted to
design the deep focus scenes; the new film technology opened for us a natural light; electronics helped to create " Steadycam" .

Social - in the way of demands of public seeing or being pressed to see certain genres and types of film and tape production .

Aesthetic the necessary factor which is destined to be under control of cinematographers, because only by keeping alive the urge of invention of new means of expression and visual communication we can prevent to be replaced by computers.

We are now in the beginning of the next stage of our professional evolution, let's do not miss the chance.


From davil@aei.ca Fri May 15 22:22:13 1998
----------
> From: Chris Dixon <cdixon@wvu.edu>
> However, this commentary compelled me to say that there will always
> be a place in this industry for mastercrafts persons, people who know how
> to tweek and finely sculpt an image (reguardless of the incessant evolution
> of the meduim), but there will also be a place for someone who has a story
> to tell and a style that it dictates.

Fascinating thread this TK and industry stuff.

IMHO, at some point we can either get hung up on the medium or just enjoy shooting good scripts with good directors, good crew, good cast. Within reason, I have long stopped worrying about the medium. And I choose my projects based more on content then just what will be on the tripod.

About this thing of having to work your way up and new stocks being to forgiving: I think that producers/directors choose someone not just based on the end result but at how one gets there also. Is this person fun to work with? professional attitude, respects schedules and budgets. Just making, or not, a good picture is not, sadly, what keeps a career as DP going. Around here in Montreal, probably everywhere else too, a lot of guys make very average work (to put it politely) and they are still around anyway.

Like Chris Dixon says, there will always be a need for talented people to make images, no matter the support. I wilI be participating in some tests here next week with the new sony HD camera, side by side with film, split screen, tape to film, film to tape etc. etc.... It's all very interesting but I know before hand that even this new HD will not replace 35mm. But I won't shut any door. If you want to get hung up on the medium, well that's another story.:-)