The Way Forward for Cinematography

First of all, don't bother reading this if you're a traditionalist of the kind that believes everything should be created in camera and that commercials cameramen are not true DP's because a lot of their work is done in post.

For those of you who are left...

We've reached a point where we have to look at what we do as DP's, the techniques that previously could only be used at the low resolution of TV and with commercials budgets are coming into the reach of us all.

Whether this is due to the higher resolution systems getting cheaper for both capture and output and therefore making extensive features use possible, or whether it's the low end systems that are as capable as the high end ones just much much slower, but that we can all afford, the change is coming.

No longer are DP' the sole/primary arbiters of what a picture looks like, it can be changed all along the process. It can be radically altered in TK/datascan, it can be even more altered in post.

Bits of several images are easily combined and altered in the combination.

You want to create several different looks but don't have time? easy! shoot it once fairly flat and we'll manipulate it to give us different looks later.

More and more we have to know more about the post production processes, we have to understand what can be done with our images and then not fight a rearguard action trying to preserve out photographic integrity but be out there from the start saying, well we can add this in post, alter this, how about combining it with this etc etc.

We need to become not DP's but DI's, Director of Images.

We need film stocks that are optimized for this, they're heading this way but the jolly yellow giant keeps being frightened off by the traditionalists. Be brave!

As a friend of mine said to the head of our union in 1980, and apologies to those who are offended by bad language, we were discussing the possible advent of direct sales of video tapes, satellite, corporate, cable and all the other ways our business has since changed since and our union totally refused to see what was coming.

The line was " If you insist on acting like an Ostrich and bend over and stick your head in the sand don't come complaining to me when someone fucks you up the bum "

Now if that doesn't offend anyone I've failed miserably.


Geoff Boyle

As long as Kodak offers the traditional film stocks, I don't see what the problem is with creating stocks optimized for digital manipulation. It would probably be like the Primetime stock, but maybe with an additional slow, fine-grain version for commercial shooters who want it. Kodak will do it if there's money to be made.

It seems the failure for Primetime to "take off" was partly due to the transfer houses, the ones that failed to learn how to optimize the image off of a Primetime negative - maybe this is also therefore a failure of Kodak for creating something that wasn't easy for the transfer houses to work with, or for not creating some industry-wide training session for everyone who would be using it. Many DP's just want to shoot something and walk into a telecine session and see something that more or less looks like what they shot - or better. Not worse.

Time for Kodak to start all over again? Another problem with Primetime was the 640 ASA speed - that's not a REAL problem, but it gives the perception that television shooters just want something really fast, cheap, and low-contrast. They should have come out with 200 ASA and 640 ASA versions and marketed them better as a way to get "high-quality" images for television - then made sure that every colorist out there was briefed on how to set-up their telecine's for the stuff.

David Mullen ASC
Cinematographer / L.A.

Name names Geoff!

After all, Alan Sapper's name could be so easily mistyped.

Brian Rose
Former secretrary, camera section, film production branch, ACTT

Kodak did come to transfert houses I don't think they can be accused of not talking enough with colorists, we are well aware of what to do when dealing with Primetime, we have Primetime TAFs to set up our telecines, frankly, it is no big deal: you just have to compensate the mask with your photomultipliers at the front end of the telecine (they are right after the dichroic filters like in a video camera), once you have done this, the rest is the same as with any other stock. In my opinion the main problem with Primetime is that it is grainier than 79, slightly under normal conditions but doesn't stand well contrast pushed in telecine as Geoff mentioned a while ago, and it is difficult to predict what will happen in a session, too many opinions to deal with, but this may be valid only for ads and music videos.

Best regards

My vision are that in the future on most productions, all scenes that will be used will be scaned to data. Edited, color corected, composited in the digital domain and then printed using a DIB (digital IB) system.

And why that?

With post-production enterily in the digital domain will save money for the production companys. Because everything that is associated with computers are always getting cheaper. And with DIBS, printstock without silver saves money and the print will more saturated colors, wider dynamic range and exceptional good control over the print.

Some of the first films shot on negative film but post-produced entirely in the digital domain are already here (but not with DIBS): 'Pleasantville' and the swedish feature film 'Zingo'.

'Zingo' had a post-production cost of $150k, that is 1/10 of the films whole budget. In the cost are also expences for digital restoration of dirty camera negative (about 100 hours).

Anders Dahnielson
BlackBurst Imaging

Can you explain this in some more detail, or point us to some info ?



Look in the 'SMPTE Journal' Number 10 1998, p.884 - 887. The articles title are 'Digital Dye Transfer'. There was also a correction in number 12 1998, p.1141 with a better graphic and summary.

The DIBS are developed by Chromax. The system propose a modern dye transfer process that icorporates the attributes of digital technologies.

In post-production the camera original negative are scaned to data. In computers CGI, compositing, image manipulation, color management, separations & LUTs, film recorder controls and soundtrack formatting are made. You print the image separated to Monochromatic

Matrix Filmstock with a Digital Monochromatic Laser Filmrecorder.
Then you do a dye transfer using the matrix.

Anders Dahnielson
BlackBurst Imaging

What's the difference between a PA (runner) and a Producer?
Two years

Mark H. Weingartner

I think Geoff is absolutelly correct when he says the future of film making lies in the electronic manipulation of the image in post production. As a fairly recent voyager in the electronic waters, it is still amazing to me what can be accomplished just in telecine. I think there is a danger however, in relying on this to make up for poor craftsmanship in the filmmaking process. We see a lot of film that has been badly exposed, inconsistient in ratio and balance, blown out, dark, pushed 1/2 stop for no reason, etc., and the DP expects the telecine operator to 'save him'.

I think it is often so easy to correct these mistakes, that many DPs, who may have limited telecine experience themselves, do not know the mistakes they are making. TK operators routinely correct out the blemishes, and the DP thinks he is a genius. How many Cameramen, (especially in TV Commercials with the Client breathing down everybody's necks at the monitor) wants to see true one lights?

I sometimes joke that if we did real one lights, half the guys we transfer for would never work again. But all kidding aside, as we move toward more and more digital post production, there is still room for well shot film, properly exposed and filtered. After all, if we are to start mucking about with the image, don't we need a good image to start with?

Ed Colman

SuperDailies - Great Looking Dailies

Here in Oz, we've always done one-lights for film dailies. Many DoP's have noted how wonderfully it concentrates the mind on getting exposures right! Although in the days when even TV commercials had film rushes, they were always graded - agencies don't understand (!) and I still remember once when a reshoot (with a new DoP!) was nearly ordered because the print was a little green.

Of course one-light transfers are a much bigger ask, and nigh-on impossible. But Ed Colman is right - having an excellent negative is the easiest way to get an excellent result.

>the DP expects the telecine operator to 'save him'

Or more accurately, I guess, the producer expects the telecine operator to 'save him money'. No time to light the scene properly - or to gel the windows - or fill the shadows ? Power Windows - here we come. Of course sometimes it _is_ a more practical solution: but where does cost- or time-efficiency and smart use of technology stop, and sloppy workmanship begin?

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

Is there another way of getting dependable dailies!!!

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Montreal, Canada

I've recently been experimenting with a Digital Vision DVNR (with noise reduction and color correction) on all sorts of low end video, from ancient 8mm tapes, to Hi8, to DV.

Amazing what you can do applying inappropriately expensive technology to cheap formats! You can take some cruddy, noisy, and dark video shot with a first-generation 8mm Handicam and make it pretty watchable. You can take gray-looking infrared video shot with a Nightshot DV camcorder and get very pretty B&W from it. You can tweak stuff just like you would in telecine (where this box is usually found).

I am very very happy with this device. (I got it at an auction, pretty cheaply... could never afford one new.) And doing it in real time is much more pleasant than having to render it...

Jeff "still waiting for an A-Minima, though" Kreines

I love one-light dailies -- the last thing you want it the lab trying to interpret how you want something to look.

But then again, I grew up shooting color reversal, and you HAD to get it right when you shot it...

Jeff "shut up, grampa!" Kreines

I guess I'm arrogant enough to think that onelights would be a wonderful idea precisely because it would mean that half my competition would never work again


Geoff Boyle

Within my limited shooting and Ac'ing experience I do wish I could see a real one light of every thing I've ever shot. How else can you evalute what you have done?

The couple of Music videos I've shot I didn't even get to attend the transfers at all and wonder what the footage actually looks like.

Bret Lanius - Camera Assistant - Atlanta GA, USA

I've always found that the best way to get a handle on the where your work is 'at' in regards to transfers for TK is to arrange to sit in at the dalies. If you have a good relationship with a transfer house it helps. I do it as often as possible especially on tricky shoots. It helps with my piece of mind and everyone elses especially when the video dailies arrive at the set to be screened on some awful monitor (that warm Sony one springs to mind).

The only drawback is how early you must be at the session.

Jim Sofranko

On this note, anyone know of "open house" opportunities at Flame/Henry/Inferno facilities in NYC? I'll be sitting in on a Flame session this week for some footage I've shot but would like to learn the different options available in these different machines. I'm someone who likes the changing nature of the film industry, the gear, stock, processing changes are all part of this great formula which also consisists of post.

The only danger, in my very lowly opinion, is those who will forsake all the old valuable knowledge (day for night in B&W etc...) thinking they'll never "need" it. Then that shot will come along and they will just send it to post, costing production needless thousands and (this is going to be melodramatic) letting the honor of our craft suffer from techno-snobbishness.

I have met DP's who use the onslaught of more powerful video end tools as an excuse to not have a fine tuned approach to shooting. They may never shoot film to film, but it just rubs crews who have worked for more exacting DP's the wrong way. This, of course, is supposing one cares if a crew is smart and self-motivating. I do, and this crew sees a person who may gain industry "fame" for a certain look, but has no respect (too strong?) for that which has come before.

Any thoughts on this?

Patrick (little rant) Cady

It is a fine line. When shooting commercials, if I know that allowing something to be "fixed in post" will save the production company hours of rigging time on set, and I discuss it fully with the production company and the agency, I have no qualms about doing it that way and speeding up production. It seems that these days, cinematographers score more points for getting it done quickly with a good look, that getting it done "right". What was "right" 15 years ago, may not be "right" these days.

But at the same time, I agree that we can't become sloppy cinematographers with the knowledge that anything can be fixed later, given enought time and money.

Bill Bennett
Director of Photography

As one who has worked in the (digital) special effects industry for four or so years, I have seen many many crappy negatives from DP's with the "fix it in post" attitude (even without an 80A!!). And, in some cases, I know of good DPs/FX photogs who get pushed with insane schedules by the Line Producer to get the shot and move on - never mind the bluescreen exposure, you can pull anything in Ultimatte, right? Well, for the most part, yes.

But at what cost to edge detail?

Producers don't understand this. Mighty Joe Young, while a less-than-par film, offered us some very difficult challenges with edge detail. In fact, Kodak worked with us to create a new camera stock - SFX-200 (Not for printing, but gives nice edges). The FX DP, I forget his name, often spent an entire day pre-lighting to ensure good BS exposure. This seems to be an exception, not the rule.

Yea, many DPs are probably getting more laxed on their technique. And with the advance of DV (it's close to film, right?), this will ony get more prevalent.

Just like with SFX - any kid with a desktop and AfterEffects is all of a sudden an "FX Artist", anybody with a DV is a "shooter". Don't get me wrong.

I think the advance of this technology and dropping proces of off-the-shelf software is great for making this stuff accessable to all, but it also allows more room for shlock (sp?).

D o u g D e l a n e y
Pacific Title/Mirage

This sounds very reminiscent of a letter I wrote not all that long ago stating that every Dick and Harry, who buys themselves a camera or takes a "course" at Rockport affects us. For everyone that (way) undercuts the job, they affect us.

For every video guy who suddenly says "yea, now we are doing film", our industry is degraded and homogenized. You may not believe they are affecting you, but they are. For every stock that Kodak produces which makes exposure easier, they affect us. Everytime you say, "we'll fix it in the transfer", you are hurting us.

There are a hundred people out there with instamatic cameras now all taking the same pictures. And you know what?

People are buying them and liking them. Some agencies are getting 6000 (yes six thousand) reels a week. This industry is not on the way to being
bastardized. It is bastardized as we speak.


lfi stationaryi've some mixed feelings about all this ...

on the one hand, the technology has homogenized or is homogenizing the process of shooting ... so many idiots with video cameras ... still cameras and stock's have been simplified to the point where the concept of "point and shoot" doesn't necessarily result in rubbish ... i set aside my nikon for an olympus stylus some time ago ... i'll get "serious" again, prob in the form of a contax T though, but for now the camera takes wonderful pix, because i take a little time to care about what i'm doing.

is kinda like the software mania of "buy illustrator, become a designer ... buy photoshop, become an artist ... buy premiere, edit a feature" ... there are more shitty images, more shitty sounds being laid down than ever before by lots of folks who expect the gear to do all the work ... we're known for delivering film for transfer that's exposure is dead nuts on ... sure, the film has the latitude to look good at just about *any* exposure anymore (at least going to video) ... but it's the care in exposure, focus, composition, movement that makes the difference ... we all know that ... in some ways starting in video is a good thing ... it's such a limited canvas, from a contrast ratio and resolution standpoint, that, my feeling is that if you can make video images that look great ..... really great ... the film stuff will probably look pretty primo as well (assuming adapting for all that film is ...)

lot's of technology excites me right now ... hi res flat displays ... DV mini cameras (got one!) ... real desktop non linear editors (like Edit) ... the Aaton aminima ... even hi def tv, but what concerns me most of all is how truly culturally ignorant *audiences* have become ... arts and music education has been almost non-existant for a generation and our advertising and film work reflects that ... it's not that some of the new "video" shooters don't know or don't care ... it's that they geniuinely wouldn't know good work if it bit 'em on the ass. and that goes for music and photography and design and ... the level of quality ... of skills expected or assumed today is much lower, i feel, than it once was ... because folks don't care, and don't know ... it's a sad thing. blaming technology for this sad ass state of affairs isn't the solution ... i'm not sure what is, but that's what this fun little forum is for, yes?

Sorry about the stream of consciousness, but, what the hell!

Hope you're all off to a good year!!!

Jeff Lynch

Here! Here!


I always felt I was responsible for my own REAL education ...especially my own asthetic education.

I also feel that there are plenty of striking, original, powerful and wonderful visual images all over the movie screens and in TV commercials...maybe more now than ever before. Studying the classics is great, but I think we absorb and build upon the images we see on a day-to-day basis.

Tom Loizeaux

Some wonderful thoughts. It's a shame the dribbling, idiotic, sheep-like masses don't know or care anything about it because the American way is to tell a person what is good and what is bad and what "should" be of interested. I guess, I'll know that your children will probably be making a difference. At least there will be a few left in a world of Truman.


I think the art is survival for me is still in the rigours of feature film production. Since this is my main work, I have to be right the first time. I can have the luxury of bracketing exposures with talent before the camera. No monitor to show the boss what it's going to end up looking like, nor waveform monitor to tell me that it's all correct. I cannot change the contrast nor do any of the myriad spasmotic, limitless manipulations that electronics do in transfer and post on video when shooting for film. This is a discipline that keeps one honest. Or, on ones toes at least. As for rubbing 'exacting' crews the wrong way, I don't quite get that. Most of the folks I know on a set just want to hear the word "wrap".

But, having to be right every day for 32 to 65 days in a row when dailies are projected is a thing that can make one feel very alone on a set sometimes.

When I shoot commercials or music videos I tend to know how lazy, or forgiving, or how wide an envelope I have and everyone on the set has a similar view of the perameters. Because I started my career in film, the invention of the Rank Cintel has been a phenomenal freedom, an indulgence but, I'll never lose sight of what I will always have to go back to when shooting film for film. I think any cameraman who isn't cognizant of this has either learned their craft shooting film-to-video (never having had to deal with the reality of film-to-film) or, maybe they just aren't that sharp at their craft.

But, I've seen alot of really badly shot films that made a ton of money, so?

For what it's worth.

Eric Edwards--

I'm sorry, have missed the point?

> so many idiots with video cameras

There are no idiots in film?

As if a videographer does not think of these points. If contrast and res. are your only two selling points, you might want to start looking over your artistically burdened shoulder. There is now a ccd with 67 million pixels. It takes less than 8 million to equal film.

>it's not that some of the new "video" shooters don't know or don't care's that they >geniuinely wouldn't know good work if it bit 'em on the ass

sounds like a lot of time spent hanging aroung the local department strore video counters. An absurd post. As if cinematographers are the only ones who know what they are doing.

Sounds a lot like one of the dinosaurs escaped the Yukatan Penninsula impact.

Gregory David Stempel

Gregory you're flat wrong..

Kodak assigns _12_ million pixels per frame as the rate for Cineon work, each carrying 30 bits of color/density data. at 24 FPS, 35mm neg will yield 960 megs per sec. NTSC video is 27 megs per sec. umm...

but my reaction to your post is So What. its still 67 million pixels of VIDEO. kinda like eating a filet minon at a fine hotel while some chap offers you not just one chili dog - but a whole box car full of them. thank you, No.

personally my aversion to using video for fictional work, or any work that calls for beauty is not a resolution issue- far from it.

Caleb "living in a world of my own, by design" Crosby

67 million pixels could well be the way forward.

Tell me more about what I've been missing in film-land. Is this a "photo CCD" (meaning very slow and impractical for 24fps imagemaking) ?

Who makes it ? What size is it ?

3 CCD array through prism or a color CCD ? Or B&W ?

Has the contrast/latitude improved ?

Mark Doering-Powell

I've used the latest Ike and Sony (not the Hidef) Beta cameras. I haven't a clue how many pixels per frame they capture but I know the info I can put on the S16 neg far outstrips all of them.

Please tell us more about this ccd camera. If it can capture 8x the info of a 35mm neg I would love to use it on my next job.


Shangara Singh

Lighting Cameraman | London

Let's see. Ballpark figures here. If a 35mm frame of film is worth 50Mb (viz Cineon 4K), then this camera is producing 400Mb per frame. At 24fps that's 9.6Gigabytes per second. Apart from getting it down a wire, I guess you are going to run out of storage medium quite fast.

Somehow I don't think this is a motion imaging camera - if it's real at all.

Shangara if you want to capture 8x the information maybe you should consider Imax

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

With regard to pixel output...

At what point do the non-moving pixels, which in my opinion are the main drawback of video pixels vs. film grain, become so small you don't "see" them?

To put it another way, the video pixels don't change position (correct?) so persistence of vision allows you to feel the "grid" of the video gun where as film grain dances, changing from frame to frame, revealing the picture within.



Yes. This is the main difference between video "grain" and film grain and the reason I don't like upping the gain on video cameras to achieve that "film" look. I'd rather add "grain" digitally in post.

I love the look of color film grain because of the way the grain "dances", but I find black and white grain somewhat distracting though not unbearable.

Also, the video "grain" (aka, noise) of plumicon tubes is more organic looking, much like film, whereas CCD "grain" is more of the way you've described above. I love the look of good tube video cameras as opposed to CCDs. CCDs, while a step forward in reliability, are a step backward in image quality. It would be interesting to see the image an HDTV plumicon tube camera would produce. But of course you can't shoot bright objects with tubes for very long without burning them.

Just some thoughts,

Layne Uyeno


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