If I had to chose a winner from the first day of the SMPTE Technology Conference and Expo it would be Shane Hurlbut, ASC and DSLRs, but I’ll explain that later.
Continue reading after the break.
I arrived late and missed Michael Guncheon “comprehensive overview” of large sensor cameras. But I’ll guess it might be summed up by saying there’s a lot of options out there when it comes to large sensor cameras. The first presentation I caught was “Understanding Image Science” from Larry Thorpe of Canon USA. Larry gave a detailed explanation of optics, de-bayering image processing, and went over the different characteristics of 3-sensor and single sensor cameras.
David Leitner’s presentation “Large-Sensor Motion Picture Cameras: How We Got Here and Where We’re Going” included quite a bit of cinema history and David pointed out that he’s not a fan of using the term “Digital Revolution.” An interesting camera David pointed out was the Debrie Sept, a French camera from around 1920 that shot both still pictures as well as motion pictures. Larry called it an early precursor to todays DSMC cameras like the RED EPIC. David compared the Sony F3 and FS100 to the Canon 5D MKII and pointed out that the F3 and FS100 have more active motion pixels on their sensor than the 5D. That translates to a sharper images and better rendering of motion.
Next up was a presentation on High Dynamic Range Imaging from Michael Safai and Alaric Cole of Soviet Montage Productions. They showed some footage shot using a beam splitter rig and two Canon 5D MKII cameras that they then manipulated in post to create HDR video. They’re still working to prefect the blending of the two images, but it was pretty impressive. If you’d like to shoot HDR Video on your iPhone, check out their app Flare.
After lunch Mike Most and Lou Levinson of Level 3 Post gave a run down of the ACES-IIF workflow which uses ILM’s OpenEXR image file format. Now, I’ve also seen it called IIF-ACES, so I’ll be asking around during the rest of the conference to see if I can sort out the correct usage. How ever your organize the letters, it stands for; Image Interchange Framework and Academy Color Encoding Specification and is intended to be “the digital replacement for 35mm negative.” As Mike and Lou put it, the goal is for the post pipeline not to be the limiting factor. Some key ingredients are; resolution independence, high dynamic range, wide color gamut, and the ability for images of different origins to mix easily together. Some of the big draws are; deeper bit depth and linear light interpretation, it requires no custom LUTs, provides accurate monitoring on supported devices and gives accurate color and greyscale interpretation as starting point for creative grade. Great skin tones and a graceful falloff that minimizes clipping are also selling points for the workflow and also has a theoretically unlimited color gamut to accommodate future display systems.
Now, back to Shane Hurlbut, ASC and DSLRs, whom I said was my clear winner for the day. Shane presented a “Case Study” on using DSLRs, specifically the Canon 5D MKII, to shoot the upcoming Navy SEAL action film Act of Valor. Now it’s not fare to expect a fact filled power point on “Understanding Image Science” to compete against Shane’s presentation filled with cool photos and action packed video of explosions, helicopters, and all manor of bad ass Navy SEAL tactics. But what really set Shane’s presentation apart for me was his excitement. The man was just plain amped. He didn’t sit down, he didn’t stand at the podium, he walked every inch of that stage. Everyone in the room was captivated by Shane’s enthusiasm for storytelling and his genuine enthusiasm for the DSLRs’ ability to capture intimate and visceral footage. Shane related how he was able to travel a complete 12 camera package around the world in the overhead bins and how the production was able to shoot a 29 page action sequence in six days, all because of the Canon 5D MKII. It’s rare when a presentation can fill you with a burning desire to just get out there and shoot, but Shane’s presentation did exactly that.
In comparison to Shane’s presentation, the final presentation of the day seemed almost stale. Curtis Clark, ASC led a panel that included Claudio Mirand, ASC, David Stump, and Jeff Cronenweth, ASC. Their panel was also a “Case Study” this time titled “Shooting with Large Format Cinema Camera.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge admirer of all of their work. Jeff’s work with the RED in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo looks amazing and I’m very excited to see Claudio’s work with the ARRI ALEXA in Life of Pi. But they just didn’t stand much chance following Shane’s presentation. While Shane left me with a burring desire to pick up a 5D MKII and hit the streets to make a movie, Curtis, Claudio, David, and Jeff only left me with some interesting facts. Claudio said to look and which camera is right for the job. A point that keeps