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Challenges of

Contemporary
Cinematography
Dissertation submitted for the BA(Hons) Film and
Television Production

By Daniel McStay

University of Westminster 02.02.2009


Contents
Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 3

From Celluloid to Digital ................................................................................................................ 6

35mm and HD: The Chosen Formats ........................................................................................ 6

Creative Colouring: From Hand Painted Reels to the Digital Intermediate Process ................. 9

Traditional vs. Digital Workflow .................................................................................................. 13

Bloody Traditional: The Workflow in There Will Be Blood...................................................... 13

Halfway There: The Workflow in 30 Days of Night ................................................................. 15

Going All The Way: The Workflow of Sin City ......................................................................... 16

New and Future Developments in Cinematography ................................................................... 19

Aaton A-Minima and Penelope ............................................................................................... 20

RED Digital Cinema .................................................................................................................. 21

Digital 3D with RealD............................................................................................................... 22

Adobe Compound Lens ........................................................................................................... 23

The Problem with Contemporary Cinematography .................................................................... 25

Image Quality .......................................................................................................................... 25

Archiving.................................................................................................................................. 27

Conclusion ................................................................................................................................... 29

Endnotes ..................................................................................................................................... 31

Bibliography ................................................................................................................................ 36

Electronic Resources ................................................................................................................... 37

Filmography................................................................................................................................. 39

Personal Communication ............................................................................................................ 39

Appendices .................................................................................................................................. 40

Appendix 1: Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC ................................................................... 40

Appendix 2: Discussion with Roger Deakins ASC,BSC ............................................................. 44

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Introduction
There has been an ongoing discussion among cinematographers in recent years. The topic has
been digital motion picture cameras and the digital intermediate process. This is of great
interest to cinematographers and filmmakers because a fundamental change in filmmaking
practice is taking place. The standard cinematographic workflow is becoming obsolete and the
move towards an all digital workflow is inevitable. But the art and science of cinematography is
a vast and important area of filmmaking, it takes decades for budding cinematographers to
master the craft. Adversity to change is a natural response to this fact. The best
cinematographers in the world are currently being put in a position where they have to rethink
everything they have learned and adapt their skills to a new format. To some this is an exciting
challenge, but to others this is a source of fear.

The most fundamental change in cinematography is well underway. Digital distribution


and digital screening of motion pictures is the catalyst for motion pictures to move away from
a format that has been around for more than a century. And this is happening right now, more
and more cinemas are purchasing digital projectors and showing films digitally (1). As a
response to this more films are distributed digitally and also captured digitally, the latter being
the most significant of these changes, because it affects the cinematographer directly. The
motion picture cinematographers have already experienced some change over the last decade,
the Digital Intermediate process being the most significant of these. This new development
was a considerable change in the cinematographic process, but in the end it was a change in
post-production image work, so it affected the “timer”, not the cinematographer, most of all.
It is the move towards digital capture coupled with the digital intermediate process that is now
directly affecting the cinematographer. Later I will explain the digital intermediate and digital
capture in order to discuss how this is affecting the cinematographer.

A large part of the role and responsibilities of the cinematographer is built around the
knowledge of how celluloid film captures images and how to manipulate lighting to suit this.
The craft is based on this. The move to digital capture is therefore a fundamental reinvention
of cinematographic practices. This carries with it a hope of significant advancements, but also
the fear that the new technology will be utilised before its time and thereby decreasing the
quality of cinematography. Additionally there is the potential democratisation of the craft:
With costs going down, cinema-quality cameras will be affordable and cinematography, like

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photography, will become a more accessible craft. Whether this is positive or negative remains
for us to see and discuss.

I will show that the ongoing development in cinematography is much like what was
happening in photography almost ten years ago. Back then digital still cameras were expensive
and incapable of outperforming analogue film in terms of image quality, but year by year the
digital cameras became better and cheaper until they overtook film as the dominant picture
acquisition format around 2004 (2). Over time the digital still cameras have become
increasingly better, and it can now safely be said that the cameras supersede analogue still
cameras in almost every way (except aesthetic preference of course). The use of digital image
manipulating software, like Adobe Photoshop, developed alongside the digital still cameras
offers an array of different possibilities for a captured image. This is very similar to what is
called digital intermediate or digital colour grading in filmmaking. These developments made a
remarkable impact in photography, but also in society. We are now a far more image
conscious public than before, with a large portion of the general public taking pictures on a
regular basis. This has become all the more apparent with the increasing growth of online
social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Digital video is already a part of our lives
through television and the internet, it is only cinema that is lagging behind. There are many
reasons why cinema has not yet become a completely digital medium, but more than anything
else it is because the standards are much higher than in any other moving image medium.
Cinema has always been a step up from TV. When television was introduced with its square
black and white images, cinema had colour and a much wider frame. When TV got stereo
sound, cinema got surround sound. But what happens when there is digital TV with High
Definition content? The answer is in the works and will be discussed here.

Digital cinema cameras are being used to an increasing extent in major motion
pictures. This is being done for various reasons, which I will discuss later. I will posit that the
technology is too immature and still inferior to 35mm in many ways, which means that
shooting digital holds many repercussions. This puts the cinematographers in a difficult place.
One of the repercussions that will be discussed is the fact that the cinematographer has come
to rely on digital technicians to finish their work. This has become an issue for some
cinematographers in the digital intermediate process, because there they have to share their
expertise with the digital colour timer, or the “grader”. When working with an analogue
workflow, the timer was a film processing expert helping the cinematographer to achieve the

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preferred “look” when processing the film. This person was seldom mentioned or
acknowledged, at least not to the extent the digital colour timer is now. Maybe because a
digital grading suite is more inviting than a processing lab, or maybe because of the instantly
viewable possibilities of digital colour timing, the digital intermediate process has attracted far
more attention than the analogue process ever did. Therefore the digital colour timer has
become a more significant part of the crew and the digital timing process has come to include
more crewmembers, such as the producer and director (3). This can be a good thing, but it can
also cause a cinematographer to lose his say and be pushed out of an integral step in the
cinematographic process.

The question becomes: How long can 35mm survive in an all-digital workflow? Editing
and post production has unquestionably become digital realms. DVDs and BluRays have
already conformed the home video market to digital and digital cinema is growing steadily and
fast. With the acquisition format of 35mm soon remaining as the only analogue process in the
filmmaking workflow, it makes little sense for the industry to hold on to it. In effect, the only
valid arguments holding back a complete change to digital are aesthetic and archival reasons.
Most filmmakers still prefer 35mm in terms of resolution and look, and scientifically it has
been argued to hold more resolution than any digital format. In addition to this it also remains
the best format for archival purposes (4). 35mm film is more future proof than any current
digital format. Digital formats change every year and the older formats quickly become
obsolete. This means that a film shoot digitally today can prove to only exist on a dead format
in 15 years (5).

This paper will examine what has and will change in the specific area of
cinematography as we move into a digital age of cinema. I will posit many arguments that
might seem polemical, but they are all grounded in facts and widely recognised opinions. You
will find evaluations of the changes cinematographers face and discussions on what
implications these changes will bring. Inevitably, other aspects of filmmaking will be
mentioned and discussed, but only in a way which relates back to cinematography. This is not
a paper on digital cinema or digital filmmaking, it is a paper on the challenges of contemporary
cinematography.

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From Celluloid to Digital
The history of cinematography is in most respects the same as the history of cinema. Every
advance in cinematography has had a major impact on cinema and has therefore been covered
extensively. But to understand the significance of the change cinematographers now face, it is
important to know similar advances made in cinematography earlier in history. Some are well
known, like the change from black and white to colour and the use of cinemascope. Other
advancements are less discussed, as the use of hand painted black and white prints and the
emergence of 16mm. These, and more, are all important advancements that have affected
cinematography and their practitioners. In this chapter two historic advancements have been
chosen to explain and understand two current advancements. This will provide a perspective
on the implications of change and an understanding of what prompts it.

35mm and HD: The Chosen Formats

When cinema was first invented there were only cinematographers. They may have used an
assistant or two, but the film crew consisted of mainly these one or two people that followed
the process from building the camera, making a camera negative, shooting footage, processing
it and projecting it. These people were most notably Thomas Edison and W.K.L. Dickson,
Auguste and Louis Lumière and William Friese-Greene (6). Some cinematographers are still a
part of every one of these processes today. But back then there was no source of reference, so
cameras and film negatives differed massively in features and size. The process of
standardising this new technology marks the first major development in cinematographic
history since its invention.

During the end years of the 1800’s and the early years of the twentieth century there
was an ongoing battle to patent the new technologies of filmmaking. The result of these
battles was the standardisation of 35mm sprocket hole celluloid film. This was despite there
being many other formats circulating at the time. Brian Winston has a poignant explanation for
why this came to be:

The adoption of 35mm as ‘the standard of the art’ has less to do with utility
than with unexamined cultural prejudice – the elegant combination of an
Anglo-Saxon inch with 35 Gallic millimetres – as well as Edisons’s alliance with

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Eastman, a business arrangement which had the effect of protecting a patent
which was grounded on somewhat unsure originality claims. (7)

Winston is writing about the alliance between Thomas Edison and George Eastman. Eastman
would later be known as the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, which to date is one of
the largest manufacturers of photographic film. Edison and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson worked
with Eastman on producing the first strips of photographic film. The unsure originality claims
refers to Edison’s proposed use of the findings of fellow inventors. This includes the British
inventor William Friese-Greene, who was in touch with Edison while making a camera with
sprocket-holed celluloid film. Friese-Greene actually obtained a declaration that he owned the
master patent for cinematography and that several of Edisons claims should be set aside (8).
But because pursuing patent law requires a sufficient capital to be enforceable, Friese-
Greene’s declaration did not amount to anything. Winston also goes on to argue that most of
Edison’s ideas concerning the development of photographic film originated from his assistant
W.K.L. Dickson.

Dickson later left Edison and joined the Mutascope Company, which developed a new
camera using 70mm unsprocketed film. The 70mm film technology was the preferred
technology for theatres in the United States in 1897 because it was produced to suite the large
vaudeville houses with their larger screens (9). The Mutascope Company thereby became
Edison’s biggest rival. But because Edison had the Lumière brothers on his side, they also used
35mm sprocket-hole film, and Eastman, who produced the thinnest and thereby most suitable
films, he would come to dominate this battle. The battles between these companies became
so important that “the limitations of 35mm were ignored.” (10)

Edison’s 35mm film became a standard for cinema despite the fact that Edison never
intended the film for theatrical exhibition. Edison was working on a peep-show device called
the Kinetoscope. Other inventors had been using film as wide as 60 and 90mm, but the idea of
projection was only established later by the Lumières. It was with projection in mind the
Mutascope Company’s 70mm camera was developed, and several others came up with similar
film stocks for this purpose. But despite this, 35mm prevailed as the standard for theatrical
exhibition even though it was not a product of theatrical screening requirements (11).

It is important to keep this early development in mind when discussing the emergence
of digital cinematography. A new development in cinema technology does not automatically

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produce the best end product. The excitement of new discoveries can prompt hasty decisions,
and in the case of digital cinema, maybe not a suitable replacement for what is already there.
This argument becomes all the more viable when considering that HD cameras and HD cinema
is far from a new discovery. The technology was available for use as early as 1981, but it was
rejected by the filmmaking industry as an unsuitable replacement for celluloid. This is partly
based on the technology originally being developed for use in television, not cinema (12).

In April 1981 Sony unveiled a new production line of High Definition Television
equipment in Tokyo. Francis Ford Coppola was there with them stating “he would never again
make movies on 35mm film” (13). Coppola explained a month later that he had been testing
Sony’s new equipment during the shoot of the film One from the Heart (1982) and that he
would shoot his new film, Tucker, entirely on this High Definiton Video format. The film would
only be transferred to film for the release print. Sony relied heavily on the endorsement from
influential filmmakers to support their plan to introduce HD as an acceptable format in
Hollywood (14). Unfortunately for Sony, Coppola had been forced to bet his company,
Zoetrope Studios, on the success of One from the Heart. When the film flopped, Coppola no
longer owned his own studio and had to send the video equipment back. He was forced to
return to direct films in the technologically conventional way (15). Sony’s HD technology then
disappeared into obscurity, although a few theatrical films were shot on the format. HD would
not make a proper comeback until Coppola’s friend, George Lucas, took an interest in the
technology in 1996.

The HD technology brought out by Sony in 1981 was not adequate for cinema release.
The technology was originally developed for TV by the Japanese public broadcasting
organisation, NHK. It recorded its images in interlaced frames, which means that it recorded 60
half-frames instead of the film standard of 24/25 full frames per second, onto analogue tapes.
This produced a substandard image when transferred to motion picture film for distribution.
This is what prompted George Lucas to contact Sony in 1996. He asked if the company could
make a digital HD system which records, stores and plays back images in the film standard of
24 full frames per second (this is called progressive recording or 24p) (16). Sony responded to
this request and in co-operation with Panavision released the HDW-F900 24p CineAlta in 2000.
Lucas immediately went into production with this camera for his all digital Star Wars Episode II:
Attack of the Clones (2002). Many others followed Lucas and went into production shortly
after. At a convention in 2001, exactly 10 years after Coppola made his announcement, George

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Lucas stated: “I think that I can safely say that I will probably never shoot another film on film.
(17)” Although this time around, HD cinematography was here to stay.

Creative Colouring: From Hand Painted Reels to the Digital


Intermediate Process
The introduction of colour films in cinema will usually be said to have happened in the early
1930’s when Technicolor was first introduced. Although there is truth in this, colour films were
there from the very beginning. The Technicolor process actually captured colour, but before
this there were methods to introduce colour on black and white film stock. These methods
were called tinting and toning. Tinting was done by applying colour on to the actual strips of
film and toning was done by bathing the film in a colour which resulted in black and white
values of that colour. The toning could be done on the negative before the film was shot or
introduced later. The tinting was done by hand or by stencilling and was always done after the
footage was shot (18). By using these methods, filmmakers could, and very frequently would,
introduce colour in films that were originated on black and white film stock. James L.
Limbacher argues that by 1920 over 80 percent of all Hollywood feature films were being
tinted in some manner. He also lists a vast amount of films being tinted or toned before that.
The films rarely survived in their tinted/toned forms, which is why the few people who got to
see these films later only saw them in their black and white form (19).

The very first colour film made for projection was done in 1894. Soon after that
Thomas Edison released his Annabell’s Butterfly Dance and The Miracle, and Georges Méliès
released his An Astronomer’s Dream (1898) and the first version of A Trip to the Moon (1900),
all of them hand-painted in colour. Most of the early French films were released in both black
and white and colour (20). This too was hand-tinted colouring. They would do this by using a
group of 50 “tinters” who were each assigned one colour, and they would paint every
individual frame of the film. Only because of the limited running time of the films (usually less
than three minutes), the cheap labour and the fact that only a limited number of copies were
made, was this possible. As more exhibition venues opened and the length of the films
increased this method became impracticable and uneconomic (21).

The hand-tinting process did continue, but in a different form. The French company
Pathé invented a stencilling technique, which they named Pathécolor. While the earlier

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colouring methods had been crude and without resemblance to natural colour, the Pathécolor
process was very accurate and achieved great success. Limbacher wrote this in 1969 after
viewing a reduced and preserved 16mm version of an early Pathécolor print; “*It+ stands up
even by today’s standards. (22)” Examples of Pathécolor films are Cinderella (1909) and The
Life of Our Saviour (1914). However, most colour tints where mono colour tinted, this meant
colouring the whole black and white frame in one colour for selected scenes or the whole film.
Many of the films with this colour effect were tinted with a process invented by Max
Handschiegl. These include Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (1924) Cecil B. De Mille’s Joan the
Woman (1917).

Hand colouring in The Last Days of Pompeii (Italy, 1926) Tinted film base from The Freshman (USA, 1925)

In all instances of tinting and toning, it was done after the film was shot and without
involvement from the cinematographer. But after the advent of sound, tinted stock
disappeared for a while because it interfered with the soundtracks on the film. It was brought
back fast with the Kodak Sonachrome pre-tinted stock in 1929, but being pre-tinted meant
that this was now a consideration ahead of shooting and colour control was introduced to the
cinematographer. This was further enhanced by the introduction of Technicolor two-colour
process in the early 30’s and their three-colour process a decade later (23). Natural colour film
was born.

The digital intermediate was introduced as an advanced form of image control, a step
up from the analogue colour timing that had been around for a long time. The process was
spawned from visual effects departments and early examples of this digital intermediate
process were usually seen as visual effects. A good example of this is Pleasantville (Dir: Gary
Ross, 1998), one of the first films to use this new process. In the film, characters change from
colour to black and white and there are many scenes in which characters in colour can be seen

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in black and white surroundings. For this film the digital intermediate process was only used in
selected scenes. One of the first examples of an entire film finished with a digital intermediate
process was O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, 2000). This film was colour timed in a way
that would not be possible in a traditional timing process. The film looks like a variation of a
sepia tint while still retaining much of the colour. This was done by de-saturating the greens in
the image and giving it a golden look (24). Pleasantville echoes the first hand painted films with
its mix between colour and monochrome, and O Brother Where Art Thou? echoes the look of
colour tinted film stock. But unlike the tinting and toning process, the digital intermediate
started out as a tool for the cinematographer.

The digital intermediate process works by digitally scanning every image from the
edited film stock. The resulting digital images can then be manipulated in any number of ways.
This can be importing and integrating visual effects or adjusting colours and contrasts. After
completing this digital work the film can be scanned back onto a film print for distribution, or it
can be exported onto any digital format like DVD, BluRay or a hard drive. The digital
intermediate offers a plethora of possible image adjustments. This can be removing single
colours, applying any filter imaginable, making parts or the whole image brighter or darker,
boosting contrast or saturation and so on. This makes the process an amazing tool for the
cinematographer to find exactly the right “look”. But the problem many find with the digital
intermediate is the resolution the
film is scanned at. There is no
concurrence on how many pixels
of image information is available
on a single frame of 35mm film.
Most films are being scanned at Comparative chart of image resolution.
2K, which means 2048x1536 pixels for a full 35mm frame. Some are happy with this resolution
and say that a film print holds no more information (25). However, many cinematographers
feel that this is not good enough, and for that reason many films are now being scanned at 4K
which is now commonly referred to as the limit for 35mm. But there are a few
cinematographers who say that a single 35mm frame holds as much as 8K of resolution, which
is a huge leap from 2K (26). For a real world comparison, a full-HD television displaying a
BluRay disc is showing 1.9K (1080p) of resolution and a digital cinema projector displays 2K.
The problem comes down to whether the digital intermediate process is a mature technology
or not. If an original negative that has never been scanned in and printed out digitally holds 8K

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of resolution, and the digital intermediate process “degrades” the image down to 2K,
audiences are now watching a worse image (in terms of resolution) than they did 10 or even
20 years ago.

The digital intermediate is operated by the colourist (or visual effects supervisor for
the visual effects) under the supervision of the cinematographer and director. And here lies
the second problem with a digital intermediate process. Since the cinematographer is not
actually performing the image adjustments done in the digital intermediate, he is not essential
to the process. The work can be done without the cinematographer present. One would think
that since the cinematographer is the only one following the image from conception to print,
he would be essential. The range of possibilities in digital colour grading has created an
increased interest in the process which has in turn democratised the responsibility. The
colourist in the grading suite does not need the cinematographer to do his job, the
cinematographer is merely telling the “colourist” what he wants. Because of this some
cinematographers have been forced out of the digital intermediate process by producers,
directors and studio executives (27). So the digital intermediate could in a worst case scenario
strip the cinematographer of their main responsibility; image control.

As written earlier, the control of colour did not originally belong to the
cinematographer. The control was given to them by the introduction of colour film stock. Since
then the management of colour has become a large part of the cinematographic workflow and
is one of the key tools of conveying a story visually. It has been a long road from the hand
painted reels of the late 19th century to the digital intermediate process. But that does not
automatically mean that this technology is ready. The ambivalence surrounding the digital
intermediate process proves that it holds many restrictions as well as opportunities.

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Traditional vs. Digital Workflow
A change toward a completely digital cinematographic workflow is a long process. It has
already been almost 28 years since Francis Ford Coppola tried the first HD cameras. There are
small changes to be made all along the workflow, and it will take a long time before the norm
is a completely digital start to finish. To understand how much will change, one must look into
the details of the cinematographic process as it is now, but also what it has been and what it
will be. By doing this the motivation for change will also become apparent, along with the
understanding of why this is significant to the cinematographer and the people who are a part
of the cinematographic process. In this chapter I will go through the cinematographic workflow
of three films: There Will Be Blood, 30 Days of Night and Sin City. These are all recent films,
they are chosen because they represent different cinematographic processes. One of them
represents the traditional workflow, the others a half-digital workflow and an all-digital
workflow. Together they show that we are in a transitional period, some films are being made
with an analogue workflow and some with a digital workflow, but most land somewhere in the
middle. This middle ground utilises the best of both worlds and might prove to be the
preferred workflow for years to come. The purpose of this is to highlight the differences
between the different workflows and not explain them in full, most of the responsibilities that
remain all through the three workflows will not be discussed.

Bloody Traditional: The Workflow in There Will Be Blood (28)

There Will Be Blood was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson with cinematography by Robert
Elswitt. It was released in 2007. The budget was $25 million (estimated) (29).The film is set at
the turn of the 20th century and consists mainly of day exteriors. It is shot on anamorphic
35mm film with lenses dating as far back as 1910. This was to evoke an authentic period look
without any digital work. Anderson does not like the Digital Intermediate process and the film
was therefore shot and finished on film without any digital image control. Anderson explained
why in the American Cinematographer Magazine:

I’m either old-fashioned or quite stubborn, or maybe both. But at the moment I
don’t really like DIs, and I’m not sure what the advantage to the process is if
you’re shooting anamorphic. I have a hard enough time making up my mind

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about things without going into a DI suite; I don’t think I’d ever get out of
there. The process creates too many options, and at any rate, I don’t like the
way it looks. (30)

This is the traditional cinematographic process that in principle has remained the same for
almost a century. And up until a few years ago, this workflow was still the norm.

Pre-production: With a traditional cinematographic workflow the Director of


Photography (DP) is usually brought in about halfway or near the end of pre-production of a
film. Together with the director he decides on a “look” or “style” for the film, starts planning
out shots and discusses locations. With or without the director (depending on the director) the
cinematographer also conducts lighting tests, film stock tests, lens and filter tests. He also
consults with costume and set designers to make sure his lighting and shooting style fits their
plans and designs. At the end of pre-production the cinematographer has a plan of what shots
he is going to get, the lighting he wants and what film stock to shoot on.

There Will Be Blood followed this pre-production workflow, but there was a special
emphasis on lens testing on this film. Elswitt worked with a lens designer to adapt several 40
year old lenses, and one Pathé lens from 1910, to a current Panaflex camera. Together with
the lens designer Elswitt went through very extensive testing to get the “look” right with these
lenses.

Production: During the production stage the cinematographer is responsible for the
camera and lighting department. He makes sure the lighting is set up as he wants it and that
the exposure is set as he wants it. Some cinematographers operate the camera themselves, if
not he must explain to the operator what he wants. The cinematographer is responsible for
achieving the shots that were planned in pre-production in the best possible way. At the end
of the day the DP also goes through the rushes (dailies) with the director, producer and editor
to discuss and approve the shots. On There Will Be Blood they did not conform the rushes
digitally, they were printed and viewed on film stock. This is the traditional way to do it, but
has become very unusual since the inception of DVD and digital tape formats. For several years
it has been normal to view dailies on a digital format to save time and money, even if the rest
of the workflow is non-digital. This echoes back to Anderson’s preference to not include
anything digital to the process.

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Post-production: During production and in post-production the cinematographer
oversees the development of the film stock. He gives instructions to the developers if he wants
a certain look for certain scenes or the whole film. That can be to push the stock to brighten
the image and add grain or skip the bleaching process to give the film a de-saturated, silver
look. The film now goes to editing. After that the cinematographer oversees the final colour
timing to make sure the film looks its best on the final release print of the film. The answer
print of the film is now duplicated, and release prints are made from these duplicates. The
original print also has to be digitally scanned for release on DVD and BluRay.

There Will Be Blood went through this process exactly as described. They did not use
any significant timing effect, like the bleach-bypass, but every step of the cinematic process
remained photochemical. However, after the release print was struck they did do a digital scan
of the film and released it on DVD and BluRay. This is one step that cannot be done in a
traditional way, because the end-product is digital.

Halfway There: The Workflow in 30 Days of Night (31)

30 Days of Night was directed by David Slade with Jo Willems as DP. This was also released in
2007. The budget was $32 million (estimated) (32). The film was set in Alaska and consists
almost exclusively of night exteriors and interiors. The movie was shot on 35mm film, but
finished through the digital intermediate process. This cinematographic process can be
considered the norm in current cinematography, one studio executive told American
Cinematographer Magazine that they finished all but two films in 2006 with a Digital
Intermediate (DI) process (33). And the films finishing with a DI that were covered in American
Cinematographer Magazine in 2007 totalled 60 (34).

Because the film originated on 35mm, the pre-production and production phases of
the workflow were virtually the same as There Will Be Blood, but there are some practices that
differ. Jo Willems included a full DI colour grade and 35mm printout to his stock and light
testing. This helped him achieve the “look” he was after by choosing the right film stock and
the right digital colouring. In comparison to Robert Elswitt doing extensive testing on the
lenses they used for There Will Be Blood to get the “look” right, the DI colour grading was
where Jo Willems found his “look”. So although the night scenes in both films originated from

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the exact same film stock, Kodak Vision2 200T 5217, the method of acquiring the desired
aesthetic was completely different.

It is in post-production the differences between these two workflows really start to


appear. It starts with viewing rushes (dailies) during production. As mentioned above the
traditional way of viewing rushes would be to have them printed on film and viewing them in a
theatre. And although Willems and Slade viewed some of the rushes on film, most of it was
viewed on High Definition video. This meant that the rushes could be viewed in any number of
ways, from a laptop to a cinema. Willems said that he found it beneficial to view rushes in HD
because it was easier to see the focus and grain on the image (35).

After the shoot, when the film is in the grading suite, the DP and colourist work on the
image to get the “look” they envisioned in pre-production. In 30 Days of Night they went for a
de-saturated, silver look to enhance the night time images. In addition to changing the
colouring of the image, the visual effects department created snow, fire and other visual
elements they wanted to include in the final film. Since the colour scheme was tested and
determined in pre-production, the colour grading was assisted by the production design and
costume, which had been tailored to fit the chosen “look”. But because the colour timing is
digital, there was the option to tweak or change any part of the chosen colour schemes
completely right up until the final print out stage.

After DI and Visual Effects Before

Going All The Way: The Workflow of Sin City (36)

Sin City (2005) was directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, with Robert Rodriguez as
the DP and editor as well. The budget was $40 million (estimated) (37). The film utilised what
was available in digital technology to its full potential. The entire film was shot in one green
screen studio on High Definition video cameras, and the bulk of the movie was put together in

16
post-production. The workflow on this film is completely reliant on digital technology and is
thereby as far removed from the traditional cinematographic workflow as it can get while
being a live-action film. By going through the workflow from pre- to post-production, this
should become all the more apparent.

Pre-production: Rodriguez started out doing digital pre-visualisations of every shot in


the movie. This is done in a computer graphics environment where it is possible to try every
camera move or composition imaginable within a digital environment. This meant that when
planning the different shots and camera moves, Rodriguez could actually try them out in this
graphical environment to see how they would cut together. Although this is done in a very
simplified state without actors and a finished environment, it allows for much more meticulous
planning and thereby cuts down production time. Since the film was shot on HD cameras with
a zoom lens, there was no stock or lens testing, as one would see in a traditional workflow. On
a similar film with a different crew, the cinematographer would most likely test different HD
cameras and lenses to find the right combination. Rodriguez owned these cameras and their
lenses already, and had used them on two previous features, so he went with what he was
already familiar with. He did however, as one would in a traditional workflow, conduct some
quite extensive lighting tests. But these lighting tests were more eschewed towards visual
effects and how to make something easier in post-production, than to create a preferable
image going into the camera. In addition to lighting tests, very accurate lighting plans had to be
made. Since the lighting would emulate light sources from a computer generated environment
that would be added later, this had to be carefully planned in advance.

Production: Since this was shot exclusively on a green screen set and was later to be
imported into a pre-planned computer generated environment, the shoot consisted solely of
shooting the actors performances. This part of the production is similar to that of a traditional
workflow, but with some key differences. The camera shoots onto digital tapes, so unlike film
there is no need to pause and reload the camera every ten minutes or so. However, this can
vary on which HD camera is being used, some cameras shoot onto hard-drives or flash disks
that might require even more loading time than film. Since it was shot on digitally, the actual
footage is instantly viewable after each take. This means that the director and
cinematographer can view the take and make adjustments then and there, and thereby reduce
the need to watch rushes or have re-shoots. Because the raw footage is instantly viewable, the
cinematographer can also adjust the lighting according to how the end product actually looks,

17
instead of making a qualified guess. And as everything is being shot in the same studio, even
without sets, the set-up time for the camera and lighting crew are considerably shorter than
on a “regular” film. Since Sin City was a low budget feature (in Hollywood terms), this proved
to be a huge advantage. The green screen environment also enabled Rodriguez to shoot the
actors’ performances separately even though they appeared in the same frame in the final
film. He was able to composite the different performances together in post production and
thereby avoid the cost of keeping actors on the set for the entire shoot.

Post-production: In this film the majority of the image control was achieved in post.
The footage went through some very heavy colour grading and visual effects work. The
footage was turned mostly black and white, with some colours appearing at key moments. In
addition to this the contrast was given a massive boost. The lighting was also adjusted digitally
to make parts of the image brighter or darker. This film can be seen as an example of
something that has used digital image grading and visual effects to its full potential, far beyond
anything achievable in an analogue timing environment.

After grading and visual effects Before

We are at a turning point in cinematographic history. All the workflows above are
gathered from recent films and they are not significantly separated by budgetary concerns. It is
important to note here that the budget numbers for these films can be misleading. From these
examples it can be said that the budget increases with the amount of digital tools being used,
but the chosen cast and amount of visual/special effects should be considered as they are very
relevant in these cases. These films all represent current workflows being used in the industry,
but the techniques used to make these films are separated by a century of cinematic
evolution. The introduction of a digital cinematographic workflow is arguably the most
profound in filmmaking history and with it comes an array of new possibilities. It is the volume

18
of these opportunities that make this change inevitable. But in its current state the all digital
workflow holds many flaws. The technology is still brand new, but it is evolving exponentially
every passing year. And although the traditional workflow is a hundred years in the making,
the digital workflow has caught up with it and will soon surely replace it. In the meantime the
cinematographers will have the choice between either workflow and most will probably land
somewhere in the middle.

New and Future Developments in Cinematography


This transitional period in cinema is currently resulting in new and inventive technology
emerging in rapid succession. Because the age of digital cinema has only just begun, we have
yet to see the full potential of what it might bring. In camera technology there are several new
companies now competing with the larger names in the business. This is leading to a
democratisation of an industry that has until recently relied on a few major companies. This
means that the evolution of digital cinematography will most likely continue to move faster
and further than when it first started. The peak of that evolution would of course be a camera
and a workflow that greatly surpasses that of 35mm film in every way. When that happens
every cinematographer would have no choice but to embrace digital technology. But in order
for this to occur, significant improvements must be made in key areas as resolution, dynamic
range, colour rendition, security and archiving. The President of the American Society of
Cinematographers, Richard P. Crudo, wrote in 2005:

“(...) the highest possible photochemical standard must continue to be seen as the minimum
point from which to grow on all fronts.” (38)

In this chapter there will be examples of cameras and equipment that try to meet that
standard. Most are examples of equipment that has already been put to use, one is years away
from completion. But they all hold a promise to change the role of cinematographer.

19
Aaton A-Minima and Penelope
The A-Minima is a tiny super 16mm film camera
made by Aaton. This camera has been around since
2002 and has been a valuable asset to
cinematographers ever since. It weighs about 2 kg
and can be loaded with specially made Kodak 200 ft
film rolls. Aaton also developed a new gate and
viewfinder that supposedly increases sharpness and
contrast in the image (39). The compact size of the
camera gives the opportunity to find camera angles previously impossible, and inconspicuous
shooting becomes much easier. An interesting point to note about this camera is that it was
made especially for the digital intermediate process. It has therefore been marketed as “(...) an
invaluable tool for those primarily originating for film projection and HD video. (40)” This
marks a change in 16mm camera technology as it is consciously targeting a digital post
production workflow. This coupled with the camera’s size and ease of use means that it is also
competing directly with the ever growing range of digital cameras. This is an important step by
the analogue camera industry and it shows that analogue capture is still evolving.

The evolution of analogue capture is not


limited to Super 16mm either. Aaton recently
brought out a new 35mm camera called
Penelope (41). This camera marks a return to a
lost capturing technique called 2-perf, or
Techniscope. The technique involves capturing
images in a 2.39:1 ratio on to a 35mm negative
without using anamorphic lenses. This is done by
capturing each frame on to half of the full 35mm
frame (see picture). By doing this a
cinematographer can capture a “cinemascope” image while reducing film stock costs by 50
percent. The technique was first introduced in the 1960’s and was most notably used by Sergio
Leone. It was discontinued because the optical transfer to full-frame release prints yielded
unsatisfactory results in terms of image quality. The technique has been revived due to the
digital intermediate process which can extract the full resolution better than an optical process

20
(42). Since the Academy (4-perf) and Super 35mm (3-perf) are usually cropped to a 2.40:1 ratio
in post-production, the 2-perf technique offers the same image quality as regular 35mm
techniques. True anamorphic capture does however offer slightly better quality. Since the 2-
perf technique only uses half the frame space of a regular 35mm frame, the running time of
each magazine of film is doubled. This coupled with the cost savings clearly offers a 35mm
response to the emergence of high-end digital cinema cameras. Cinematographers will also
find that this camera is, like the A-Minima, smaller and lighter than its camera siblings.

RED Digital Cinema


The RED Digital Cinema company has
made a remarkable entrance into the
feature film industry. Their camera, the
RED One (see picture), was released in
2007 and has already been used in several
major motion pictures, with many more in
production. These include Jumper (Dir:
Doug Liman, 2008), Che (Dir: Steven
Soderbergh, 2008), My Bloody Valentine
3D (Dir: Patrick Lussier, 2009) and upcoming films Knowing (Dir: Alex Proyas, 2009) and Angels
and Demons (Dir: Ron Howard, 2009). It is a digital camera, capable of recording 4K of
resolution. As explained earlier this is perceived by many to be the resolution of 35mm film.
This resolution puts this camera in direct competition with only a few other digital cinema
cameras, with only one of these cameras capable of the same resolution. But there are certain
aspects of this camera that separates it from other high-end digital cameras. The camera is
capable of recording its footage on to onboard flash cards, which means it does not have to be
tethered to a hard-drive or computer. This means that like a 35mm camera it can be used
freely for moving shots without being limited by cables. And like the A-minima it is a small
camera, capable of being used in a different way than the other bigger and heavier digital
cinema cameras. The key difference with this camera is its price. The camera is currently
retailing at 17500 US dollars, which is a fraction of the price of other digital cinema and film
cameras (43). Since the camera is digital there are no stock or processing costs either. This
means that shooting on this camera will lead to huge savings in the cinematography

21
department. By using this aggressive pricing RED Digital Cinema is furthering the change to an
all digital cinematographic workflow in a big way. They are also removing a cost barrier that
has prevented new filmmakers to produce high quality images in their films. The camera has
become an invaluable tool for the low-budget cinematographer and will certainly make a
significant impact on the film industry in the coming years.

RED Digital Cinema has also got several other cameras in development and due for
release this year and in 2010. Their extended product range features 9 cameras with
resolutions ranging from 3K to 28K and a price range of $2500 (3K) to $53000 (28K) (44). This
means that on one end they will offer near-cinema quality images at close to consumer prices.
On the other end they will offer resolution far greater than any display or projection system
will be able to show in years to come. One can only speculate on how this will impact the
future of cinematography, but it will certainly make an impact.

Digital 3D with RealD


A new incarnation of an old invention could extensively add to the plentiful change
cinematographers faced with digital workflows. There has been a renewed interest in 3D
(stereoscopic) technology due to the emergence of digital cameras and projectors. A company
called RealD has introduced a new and cost effective way for cinemas to show digital 3D
movies. With minor adjustments, most digital projectors can now display stereoscopic films.
Earlier versions of stereoscopic cinema needed two projectors to work, but the added
flexibility in digital projectors make it possible to instead project more than six times as many
images per second on the same projector (45). This allows for more fluid and cost effective 3D
cinema. The 3D effect is further enhanced by the use of digital cameras instead of celluloid
film. Because celluloid is a less precise capturing format, cinematographers had difficulties
capturing two identical reels of film. For 3D to work one must capture a scene from two
cameras, one for each of the viewer’s eyes. Fluttering of the images or any inconsistencies
between the two cameras can cause discomfort for the viewer and interfere with the illusion
(46). Because of the preciseness of digital video, ironically often held as an argument against it
in 2D cinematography, capturing stereoscopic images becomes easier and better. This has
persuaded many major Hollywood studios to embrace the new technology fast. Both Disney
and Dreamworks have announced that all their future releases are intended for stereoscopic

22
cinema and at the time of writing every major Hollywood studio each have at least one
stereoscopic project in the pipeline (47). The reason why this development is moving so
quickly and is so well received by the studios is the potential gain that can come of it. With
stereoscopic cinema the audience will receive an experience that cannot be duplicated at
home, thereby alleviating the competition cinema is now facing with high definition television
and home entertainment. Stereoscopic films are also immune to pirate copying, as a 3D
projector is needed to view them (48).

The impact 3D cinema will have on the cinematographer is very different from the
changes posed by 2D digital workflows. Capturing a stereoscopic film requires more work and
additional considerations in the cinematographic workflow. In addition to the normal
considerations of cinematography, there is a need to consider screen size and audience
placement in relation to the screen because these factors can provide noteworthy differences
in the viewing experience. In addition to this the distance between the cameras, the
interocular distance, must be continuously adjusted to provide the correct sense of depth (49).
The sense of depth becomes a new cinematographic tool in addition to the normal repertoire,
and adds at least one more essential person to the camera crew. The cameras, or stereoscopic
capturing device, become a more complicated instrument than 35mm- or regular digital
cameras and the workflow is overall significantly complicated. 3D is, so far, only done in special
effects heavy big budget productions and animation. But with the release of R-rated horror
film My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009), director Patrick Lussier and cinematographer Michael
Wandmacher has shown that the technology is not limited to huge blockbusters.

Adobe Compound Lens


The Compound Lens is a prototype that was exhibited by the Vice President of Digital Imaging
Product Development at Adobe at a presentation for the French photography press in 2007
(50). It is important to note that a similar prototype was made by the Computer Science
Department at Stanford University in 2005, albeit using a different technique to produce
similar results (51). The lens is only a prototype and still very much at the development stage,
Adobe has not issued any statement on whether this will be an available product or not.

23
The compound lens offers some
revolutionary features that will greatly impact
cinematography if it ever reaches that far.
Currently adapted for still-photography, the
compound lens captures 19 images within one
compound picture. The focus and framing of
each image is slightly different, producing a
mosaic similar to what an insect with compound
eyes might see. When this image is uploaded to
a computer, a variety of unique options become
available. Each image within the one capture has its own focus depth, which means that it is
possible to select which part of the final image you want in focus after the picture was taken
(52). Effectively this means that focusing while capturing becomes obsolete. If it were ever
adapted to cinematography, it would remove the need for a focus puller and supply the
cinematographer with the option to select the focus after the footage has been shot. This
means that no shot would ever have to be out of focus, and using focus for dramatic effect
would become a post-production tool. In addition to adjustable focus planes, the lens also
offers the opportunity to slightly change the angle of the image after it is captured. More than
just re-framing the image, it allows you to physically move within the space where the image
was captured. This would be a useful tool in documentary photography, where one would be
able to reposition the image to avoid unfortunate framing without retouching the image. In
cinematography this could be used in exactly the same way.

24
The Problem with Contemporary Cinematography
The problem with contemporary cinematography, as I see it, is that it has lost its standard.
35mm film and the workflow that comes with it has been a standard for such a long time it has
in most ways been perfected. Any digital format good enough to completely replace 35mm in
an instant is a pipedream. Digital cinematography is a young technology and it needs its trials
and errors to grow, just as celluloid film had. It will of course be a much speedier process than
it was with celluloid because the foundation has already been laid, but it is still a process. And
that process is what we can see in cinemas today. The importance remains to not provide the
audience with less than what they are accustomed with. In its present state this importance is
arguably not being upheld. Certain challenges need to be met for cinematography to again
become a stable and reliable part of filmmaking.

Image Quality
Image quality has been become almost synonymous with image resolution when discussing
35mm and digital video (53). There are many other considerations to be made, like dynamic
range and colour rendition. But resolution is an easily comparable and technical consideration,
other aspects of image quality can be read as preference and that can easily cause confusion
and false statements. Resolution represents the information found in the image and these are
easily comparable numbers. It is important to note that when resolution is mentioned in
relation to images, they represent how much information the image holds in a digital form. It is
a way of measuring digital image information, they cannot be used to describe celluloid film in
their native form. So when mentioning the resolution of 35mm, it is a description of how much
information it is possible to digitally scan from each frame. The cut-off point is when a higher
resolution scan provides no more information. The problem with this is that the cut-off point is
far from what digital cinema or digital cameras are now providing.

Several cinematographers have strong opinions on the case of resolution in


contemporary cinema. In a recent issue of American Cinematographer Magazine John Bailey
states that he will continue shooting with a traditional anamorphic, non-digital, workflow for
as long as he can because he finds it problematic to degrade the image to a 2K or 4K digital
workflow (54). Roger Deakins answered these statements 3 months later in the same
magazine stating that he believes that a printed 4K Super 35mm holds more resolution than an
internegative, optical copy, of the same original film (55). Although Bailey was referring to an

25
anamorphic workflow, which holds slightly more information than Super 35mm, these are
clearly opposing opinions. In an interview I conducted with Oliver Stapleton, he stated that
doing a Digital Intermediate is a sacrifice because what was an 8K negative is in most cases
reduced to a 2K print which means a massive loss in quality (56). However these discussions
are limited in how they relate to what a general audience actually sees on their local screen.
The discussion revolves around digitally printed master negatives and optically produced
answer prints, which are only seen by the filmmakers themselves. To find the effective
resolution an audience perceives on the screen, we must consider other factors.

In a report entitled “Digital Cinema Resolution – Current Situation and Future


requirements”, Matt Cowen researched the specific area of resolution in distribution prints
(57). One key area mentioned is the generational loss in a non-digital workflow. When the
resolution of 35mm is discussed, it is the original negative that is being referred to. The print
the audience sees in the cinema is different. Of the original cut negative a duplicate copy is
made to avoid damage to the original negative. Of this duplicate an interpositive is made based
on the colour-timing values applied by the cinematographer and an analogue timer. The prints
are usually copied by aligning them frame by frame and running them through a light source
which effectively projects the image from one negative onto the other. From the interpositive
an internegative is made. The internegative can be seen as an exact duplicate of the original
print and it is this print that is used to make releaseprints. There are usually several
internegatives made to be able to supply a large amount of releaseprints as one internegative
is considered worn after creating 800 to 1000 releaseprints. It is the releaseprints that
audiences get to see in their local cinema (58). So the print being shown to audiences has
suffered from 4 generations of duplication and has therefore suffered generational loss in
resolution. As the report shows the generational loss is substantial. This is backed up by a test
done by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) being referred to in the report. In
this test a black and white resolution target was passed through a standard film replication
process to achieve a release print. The result of this test showed that a release print holds as
little as 675 by 450 lines per picture height (59). That is 0.675K of resolution (!). It is important
to note that these findings are widely discredited in the film community, but none of the
discredited parties have published any test results that show better performance.

In a digital intermediate workflow the original negative is scanned into a digital


environment at 2K or 4K. The finished film is then printed out at 2K or 4K of resolution, which

26
is called a master print. Internegatives are duplicated off this master print and releaseprints
are made from them. This process results in 2 generations of loss on to the release print.
Although there are no tests published, it is worth considering what the effective resolution of a
film going through the digital intermediate process, or the 2K digital cinema cameras, would
be. If the original resolution of 35mm film is 8K, and the master print from a digital
intermediate is printed at 2K, this would certainly (as Oliver Stapleton stated) lead to a
“massive loss in quality” (60).

The solution to this problem is digital cinema. Digital cinema projectors are currently
displaying 2K of image resolution on the screen, with a small number of cinemas displaying 4K.
Since the digital files are exported straight from the digital intermediate, there is no
generational loss. But while digital cinema is growing rapidly, the number of screens only
recently passed 7900 (61). The number of cinema screens worldwide is estimated to be over
100 000 (62). The number of feature films finished on with a digital intermediate is however
well over half. This means that a contemporary audience are most likely to experience worse
image quality now than what they have come to expect. And this will continue for years to
come.

Archiving
35mm film has been a very durable storage media. Colour negatives of 35mm has been proven
to hold at least a century, Kodak promises several hundred years if in proper storage
conditions, and up to 500 years for black and white separations (63). Black and white
separations, or separation prints, are made by printing each primary colour from the original
film frames separately on to a new black and white film print. The separation print thereby has
three separate frames, which represent the three primary colours yellow/magenta/cyan, per
frame of the original print. The separation print can be used to create a new full colour print
later (64). However, digital formats change every year and it is highly likely for a film captured
digitally to not be readable at all in 20 years, the deterioration of digital media is well known. A
hard drive can fail anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 years, which means the media has to be
constantly migrated to new formats. The library of congress found that the best storage media
for digital video, magnetic tape, can be depended on for one decade (65). The solution could
be to print it out to 35mm stock and keep that as the standard archive media. But here we

27
discover another problem. 35mm film has already proven to provide additional information
when scanned at 8K. If the release print or intermediate stock is archived when being printed
out at 2K or 4K, the resolution of the negative would be less than an original camera negative.
If shot on film the original camera negative can be stored in this case, but if the capture format
was digital there is no such back-up. As screen and projection technology gets better, lower
resolution footage will continue to look worse. Since original camera negatives are successfully
scanned at continuously higher resolutions, 35mm is a future proof format. Digital formats are
not.

On the subject of archiving, John Bailey mentions a report done by the Science and
Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The report explained
the high cost process of archiving digital files and that to ensure safe storage the files need to
be “migrated” every five to seven years to guarantee their integrity, and to avoid them being
imprisoned in a dead format (66) . Bailey goes on to explain that this should be a major
concern for filmmakers finishing digitally, especially those that were not big box-office earners.
Oliver Stapleton elaborated on this by saying that there are no immediate solutions to the
archiving problem, except for separation prints which are only done by the major studios (67).
In his response to Bailey, Roger Deakins completely overlooks Stapleton’s viewpoint by writing
that any number of negatives and separations can be recorded from a digital finish. He also
writes that there has always been a disregard for preservation and that he does not see why
there should be more concern for a film finished digitally (68).

So the problem with archiving is the disregard for films that cannot afford to print out
separation prints. But it is also the disregard for the limiting nature of films being finished in
what will soon surely be low resolution prints and files. Many films will also miss the
opportunity of preservation at all which, as Deakins wrote, has always been a problem.

I referred to a quote earlier by Richard P. Crudo that sums up exactly what is lacking in
terms of progress in contemporary cinematography. Crudo wrote that “the highest possible
photochemical standard...”, referring to the traditional workflow, “...must continue to be seen
as the minimum point from which to grow on all fronts” (69). To give this statement its due, a
replacement for a traditional photochemical workflow should exceed that workflow, at its
best, in every way. The rapid adaptation of new technology in filmmaking has not, in its

28
current form, followed this example. I have mentioned image quality and archiving as
examples. This is affecting the audience experience of cinema and the cinematographers
experience creating cinema. However, the core of this statement is to step forward, not
backwards. And this is what the troublesome change to digital cinematography is about.
Unfortunately, progress has taken one step backwards in order to be ready to leap forward.
Fortunately, this means that what audiences see today will most likely be the worst they will
ever see.

Conclusion
In this paper I have tried to shed light on the challenges currently found in the area of
cinematography. The various formats and workflows available make this an unusual age in
cinema. As I mentioned, cinematographic change is synonymous with cinematic change. So by
looking at the specific area of cinematography, one can get a sense of the current state of
cinema as a whole. Democratisation, abandonment of core values and techniques, new
territories and responsibilities and nostalgia – these are all symptoms of the cinematographic,
and cinematic, revolution we are now in the middle of. One can argue that this is over-
dramatisation and unsubstantiated fear. Principally it is just the acquisition format and the
tools that are changing; the act of filmmaking remains the same. On the other hand you could
say that this means the death of the cinematographer. And, to some degree the
cinematographer, with its traditional job description, is dying. Fundamental techniques and
responsibilities are changing. The cinematographer is no longer just on set and in the
processing lab. A large part of cinematography is increasingly becoming a digital post-
production job. There is no longer a plan, light, shoot and print workflow. In order for the
cinematographer to evolve and survive, he must embrace the new post-production tools and
control the image in every step of this new process. The new role of cinematographer will be
different, but as it is the only role that follows the image from conception to print, it will
always be needed.

Of the recently announced Best Cinematography Nominees for the 81st Academy Awards, two
films are captured digitally: Slumdog Millionaire (Dir: Danny Boyle, 2009) and The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button (Dir: David Fincher, 2009). This is the first year any digitally captured film
has been nominated and thereby marks somewhat of a crossroad in cinematographic history

29
(70). It shows that both cinematographers and the industry as a whole have accepted digital
capture as a valid acquisition format. The digital cinematographic revolution is nearing its end.
In a general sense; filmmaking will not change much, audiences will not notice much
difference, but cinematography will never be the same.

[Word count: 10,876]

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Endnotes

1. Taylor, Richard ‘Cinema meets digital technology’ at


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/5262456.stm

2. Musgrove, Mike ‘Nikon Says It’s Leaving Film-Camera Business’ at


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2006/01/11/AR2006011102323.html

3. Bailey, John ‘The DI Dilemma, or: Why I Still Love Celluloid’ in American
Cinematographer Magazine, June 2008 Vol. 89 No. 6 p. 94

4. Ibid

5. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. 116

6. Winston, Brian Technologies of Seeing (BFI, 1996) p. 10-32

7. Ibid p. 59

8. Ibid p. 19

9. Ibid p. 20

10. Ibid

11. Ibid p. 59

12. Ibid p. 88 and 107

13. Ibid p. 88

14. Ibid

15. Ibid p. 105

16. McKernan, Brian Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Postproduction


and Distribution (McGraw-Hill, 2005) p. 28

17. Ibid p. 30

18. Limbacher, James L. Four Aspects of the Film (Brussel & Brussel Inc., 1969) p. 2

19. Ibid p. 3-5

20. Ibid p. 2

31
21. Neale, Steve Cinema And Technology: Image, Sound, Colour (Macmillan Education Ltd,
1985) p. 115

22. Limbacher, James L. Four Aspects of the Film (Brussel & Brussel Inc., 1969) p. 4

23. Neale, Steve Cinema And Technology: Image, Sound, Colour (Macmillan Education Ltd,
1985) p.118-119

24. Fisher, Bob ‘Breaking the Chains’ at


http://www.cameraguild.com/interviews/chat_deakins/deakins_o-brother.htm

25. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. 52

26. Appendix 1 Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC

27. Bailey, John ‘The DI Dilemma, or: Why I Still Love Celluloid’ in American
Cinematographer Magazine, June 2008 Vol. 89 No. 6 p. 93

28. Factual information in this section was found in: Pizzelo, Stephen ‘Blood for Oil’ in
American Cinematographer, January 2008 Vol. 89 No. 1 p. 36-55 and Burum, Stephen
H. (ed) Selected Tables, Charts and Formulas for the Student Cinematographer from
the American Cinematographer Manual (The ASC Press, 2005) p. 8-12

29. ‘Box office/Business for There Will be Blood (2007)’ at imdb.com


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0469494/business

30. Pizzelo, Stephen ‘Blood for Oil’ in American Cinematographer, January 2008 Vol. 89
No. 1 p. 44

31. Factual information in this section was found in: Gray, Simon ‘Night Terrors’ in
American Cinematographer Magazine November 2007 Vol. 88 No. 11 p. 62-73

32. ’Box office/Business for 30 Days of Night (2007)’ at imdb.com


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0389722/business

33. Longwell, Todd “Dollars and Sense” in Authoring Images, Part II August 2007
supplement to American Cinematographer, August 2007 Vol. 88 No. 8 p. 11

34. Bosley, Rachael K. ‘The State of the Art: An Update’ in American Cinematographer
Magazine December 2008 Vol. 89 No. 12 p. 74

35. Gray, Simon ‘Night Terrors’ in American Cinematographer Magazine November 2007
Vol. 88 No. 11 p. 70

32
36. Factual information in this section was found in: ’15 min Flick School’ on Sin City –
Unrated (Two-Disc Collectors Edition)(Recut & Extended) (Dimension Home Video,
2005)

37. ‘Box office/business for Sin City (2005)’ at imdb.com


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401792/business

38. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. Xvi

39. ‘A-minima’ at Aaton Official Website


http://www.aaton.com/products/film/aminima/index.php

40. Ibid

41. ‘Penelope’ at Aaton Official Website


http://www.aaton.com/products/film/penelope/index.php

42. Milford, Nathan ‘Why 2-Perf?’ at Abel CineTech Website


http://www.abelcine.com/articles/index.php?Itemid=34&id=26&option=com_content
&task=view

43. RED Digital Cinema Official Website: http://www.red.com

44. ‘Scarlet. RED Epic. An extreme case of multiple personalities...’ at the RED Digital
Cinema Official Website http://www.red.com/epic_scarlet/

45. Shea, Cam ‘Real D: The Future of Cinema’ Page 1 at IGN.com


http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/784/784033p1.html

46. Argy, Stephanie ‘An Eye-Popping Adventure’ in American Cinematographer Magazine,


August 2008 Vol. 89 No. 8 p. 60

47. Shea, Cam ‘Real D: The Future of Cinema’ Page 2 at IGN.com


http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/784/784033p2.html

48. Keegan, Rebecca Winters ‘3-D Movies: Coming Back at You’ Time/CNN Article at the
Real D website: http://www.reald.com/Resources/BreakingNews/Time.pdf

49. Argy, Stephanie ‘An Eye-Popping Adventure’ in American Cinematographer Magazine,


August 2008 Vol. 89 No. 8 p. 62

50. Shankland, Stephen ‘Adobe shows off 3D camera tech’ at cnet.com News:
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13580_3-9793272-39.html?tag=mncol;txt

51. Levoy, Marc et al ‘Light Field Photography with a Hand-held Plenoptic Camera’
http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/lfcamera/

33
52. Original Adobe presentation video at Audioblog.fr:
http://audioblog.fr/archives/2007/10/02/adobe-dave-story-future/

53. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. 52

54. Bailey, John ‘The DI Dilemma, or: Why I Still Love Celluloid’ in American
Cinematographer, June 2008 Vol. 89 No. 6 p. 92

55. Deakins, Roger ‘The DI, Luddites and Other Musings’ in American Cinematographer
Magazine October 2008 Vol. 89 No. 10 p. 82

56. Appendix 1 Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC

57. Cowan, Matt ‘Digital Cinema Resolution – Current Situation and Future requirements’
p. 1 at Entertainment Technology Consultants website:
http://etconsult.com/papers/Technical%20Issues%20in%20Cinema%20Resolution.pdf

58. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. 31-32

59. Cowan, Matt ‘Digital Cinema Resolution – Current Situation and Future requirements’
p. 8 at Entertainment Technology Consultants website:
http://etconsult.com/papers/Technical%20Issues%20in%20Cinema%20Resolution.pdf

60. Appendix 1 Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC

61. DiOrio, Carl ‘Paramount to pay exhibs for digital play’ at The Hollywood Reporter
website:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/technology/news/e3if92d25
379ebd69314f2a628fc74ee3e6

62. McKernan, Brian Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Postproduction


and Distribution (McGraw-Hill, 2005) p. 161

63. ‘Nestor Rodriguez, senior principal scientist for Kodak Entertainment Imaging division,
answers questions about 35mm color negative film’ at Kodak website:
http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Hub/nRodriguez.htm

64. ‘Color Separations’ at the Film Technology Company website:


http://www.filmtech.com/Separations.htm

65. Same as 63.

66. Bailey, John ‘The DI Dilemma, or: Why I Still Love Celluloid’ in American
Cinematographer, June 2008 Vol. 89 No. 6 p. 94

67. Appendix 1 Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC

34
68. Deakins, Roger ‘The DI, Luddites and Other Musings’ in American Cinematographer
Magazine October 2008 Vol. 89 No. 10 p. 82

69. Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005) p. xvi

70. Conclusion reached by cross referencing between The Official Academy Awards
Database and technical specifications of each nominated film after 1990 at imdb.com:
http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/BasicSearchInput.jsp and
http://www.imdb.com/

35
Bibliography

American Cinematographer Magazine, May 2007 – September 2008

Barclay, Steven The Motion Picture Image: From Film to Digital (Focal Press, 2000)

Burum, Stephen H. (ed) Selected Tables, Charts and Formulas for the Student Cinematographer
from the American Cinematographer Manual (The ASC Press, 2005)

Figgis, Mike Digital Film-Making (Faber and Faber Limited, 2007)

Hanson, Matt The End of Celluloid (Rotovision SA, 2004)

Hayes, R.M. 3-D Movies: a history and filmography of stereoscopic cinema (McFarland &
Company, 1989)

Hoffman, Thomas Elsaesser and Kay Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable? (Amsterdam
University Press, 1998)

Keane, Stephen CineTech: Film, Convergence and New Media (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Limbacher, James L. Four Aspects of the Film (Brussel & Brussel Inc., 1969)

McKernan, Brian Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Postproduction and


Distribution (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

Neale, Steve Cinema And Technology: Image, Sound, Colour (Macmillan Education Ltd, 1985)

Rabiger, Michael Directing (Focal Press, 2003)

Showreel Magazine, May/June 2006 – May/June 2007

Swartz, Charles S. (ed) Understanding Digital Cinema (Focal Press, 2005)

Willis, Holly New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image (Wallflower Press, 2005)

Winston, Brian Technologies of Seeing (BFI, 1996)

36
Electronic Resources

‘A-minima’ at Aaton Official Website


http://www.aaton.com/products/film/aminima/index.php

Behar, Michael ‘Analog Meets Its Match in Red Digital Cinema's Ultrahigh-Res Camera’ at the
Wired Magazine Website: http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/16-
09/ff_redcamera?currentPage=all

‘Color Separations’ at the Film Technology Company website:


http://www.filmtech.com/Separations.htm

‘Commentary by director Robert Rodriguez’ on Once Upon A Time In Mexico DVD (Columbia,
2004)

‘Commentary by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller’ on Sin City – Unrated, Two-Disc Collectors
Edition, Recut & Extended (Dimension Home Video, 2005)

Cowan, Matt ‘Digital Cinema Resolution – Current Situation and Future requirements’ at
Entertainment Technology Consultants website:
http://etconsult.com/papers/Technical%20Issues%20in%20Cinema%20Resolution.pdf

DiOrio, Carl ‘Paramount to pay exhibs for digital play’ at The Hollywood Reporter website:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/technology/news/e3if92d25379ebd6
9314f2a628fc74ee3e6

Fisher, Bob ‘Breaking the Chains’ at Camera Guild Website:


http://www.cameraguild.com/interviews/chat_deakins/deakins_o-brother.htm

Fisher, Bob ‘Hybrid Filmmaking Shifts Into High Gear’ at Kodak Website:
http://motion.kodak.com/motion/uploadedFiles/US_plugins_acrobat_en_motion_newsletters
_p3_407.pdf

Keegan, Rebecca Winters ‘3-D Movies: Coming Back at You’ Time/CNN Article at the Real D
website: http://www.reald.com/Resources/BreakingNews/Time.pdf

Levoy, Marc et al ‘Light Field Photography with a Hand-held Plenoptic Camera’


http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/lfcamera/

Milford, Nathan ‘Why 2-Perf?’ at Abel CineTech Website


http://www.abelcine.com/articles/index.php?Itemid=34&id=26&option=com_content&task=v
iew

Musgrove, Mike ‘Nikon Says It’s Leaving Film-Camera Business’ at Washington Post Website:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2006/01/11/AR2006011102323.html

‘Nestor Rodriguez, senior principal scientist for Kodak Entertainment Imaging division, answers
questions about 35mm color negative film’ at Kodak website:
http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Hub/nRodriguez.htm

37
Original Adobe presentation video at Audioblog.fr:
http://audioblog.fr/archives/2007/10/02/adobe-dave-story-future/

‘Penelope’ at Aaton Official Website


http://www.aaton.com/products/film/penelope/index.php

Real D Official Website: http://www.reald.com/index.php

RED Digital Cinema Official Website: http://www.red.com

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC Website forum: http://www.deakinsonline.com/forum2/

‘Scarlet. RED Epic. An extreme case of multiple personalities...’ at the RED Digital Cinema
Official Website http://www.red.com/epic_scarlet/

Shankland, Stephen ‘Adobe shows off 3D camera tech’ at cnet.com News:


http://news.cnet.com/8301-13580_3-9793272-39.html?tag=mncol;txt

Shea, Cam ‘Real D: The Future of Cinema’ at IGN.com:


http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/784/784033p2.html

Taylor, Richard ‘Cinema meets digital technology’ at BBC News website:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/5262456.stm

The Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/

The Official Academy Awards Database Website:


http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/BasicSearchInput.jsp

‘Why Film?’ at the Kodak Website: http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Hub/why1.htm

’15 min Flick School’ on Sin City – Unrated (Two-Disc Collectors Edition)(Recut & Extended)
(Dimension Home Video, 2005)

38
Filmography

Che (Dir: Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

Jumper (Dir: Doug Liman, 2008)

My Bloody Valentine 3D (Dir: Patrick Lussier, 2009)

O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? (Dir: Joel Coen, 2000)

One from the Heart (Dir: Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)

Pleasantville (Dir: Gary Ross, 1998)

Sin City (Dir: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, 2005)

Slumdog Millionaire (Dir: Danny Boyle, 2009)

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Dir: George Lucas, 2002)

There Will Be Blood (Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

30 Days of Night (Dir: David Slade, 2007)

Personal Communication

E-mail Interview with Oliver Stapleton, BSC. Conducted between 12th and the 21st of December
2008. Can be found in Appendix 1.

Forum discussion between Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC and myself. Done in the Forum section on
Roger Deakins’ Website. Took place between the 11th of December 2008 and 23rd January
2009. Can be found in Appendix 2 and at :
http://www.deakinsonline.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=222&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=15
and http://www.deakinsonline.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=701

39
Appendices
Appendix 1: Interview with Oliver Stapleton BSC
The following is a direct transcript of an e-mail interview between Oliver Stapleton BSC and me
between the 12th and the 21st of December 2008.

1. Can you briefly explain the workflow of one of your most recent films? I am interested in
how the 35mm to DI workflow differs from analogue timing and printing from a
cinematographers point of view.

One of the features of modern film-making is that the workflow is different in each case. This
is partly because the technologies change all the time, but more because each post-house has
its own machinery and way of doing things. This makes life a lot more complicated for the
Cinematographer because you have to adapt to each situation as it arises. Furthermore, the
"salesman" at the post company will want to push you in a certain direction, whereas the
timer/grader may have different opinions, as might the Cinematographer.

In the last two movies - one at Technicolor NY and the other at De Luxe Hollywood, the
dailies/rushes have been delivered in different ways. On the former the production did not
want to spend the money on HD rushes so they were delivered on CD and watched
(individually) mostly on laptops. This means the DP has very little control over what is seen.
For myself, I take my laptop into the lab and calibrate to approximate what the timer is seeing
so that at least I know what he is seeing. On the LA production, the Editor was editing in HD
and was able to supply me with pro-res Hard drives which I firewired to my Mac and the
increase in quality over CD viewing was very marked. This is about as good as I have seen on a
Laptop screen.

2. Has the DI been a welcome addition to the filmmaking process for you?

In the sense that it has greatly increased the amount of freedom one has for "the look" the DI
process has been amazing. However, and it is a big HOWEVER, this has come at some sacrifice.
These are the following:

Control of the image potentially is "democratised", passing into the hands of all kinds of
people: Colorist, VFX supervisor, Editor, Producer etc.

The neg has around 8K of resolution: currently this is reduced to 2K in most DI's - massive loss
in quality only perceived on the biggest screens.

What used to take 2 days now takes 2 weeks and costs $150,000 plus... all money well spent??

"Fix it in the DI" has become a bi-word for on-set laziness and is mostly uttered by people who
don't know what they are talking about.

40
3. Have you ever shot anything on digital? How do you think digital (in its current state)
compares to 35mm?

I have so far avoided shooting Digital because I have not seen any need for it in the films I have
been shooting. It compares to 35mm quite favourably in certain situations and not so well in
other situations. Personally I love the rhythm and secrecy of shooting on film: it's my world
and only I understand it! The whole "black tent" thing that goes with high-end digital, as well
as all the technical delays, are annoying to me - I like to keep the technology to a minimum
when I shoot and concentrate on getting the scene right, lighting it well and shooting it quickly
and simply. Digital has a tendency to make the lighting harder as well as increase the time
spent "grading" on set, which I prefer to do later. It also increases the size of the crew, the
cameras are more cumbersome, heavier and less reliable.. this will change and when it does I
might become more interested.

In the medium to lower budgets, cameras like the RED and the SI-2K (Slumdog Millionaire) are
obviously changing the way images get made.

4. Steven Soderbergh became his own DP at the same time he started using the DI process.
Robert Rodriguez became his own DP when he discovered HD cameras. Are the
advancements in digital cinema a threat to the cinematographer?

I don't think so: Rodriguez makes interesting visuals but should spend more time on the script
and directing the actors - maybe he'd get back to making a good film. Soderbergh is another
"avant-garde" film-maker because his films became so unsuccessful that (like Mike Leigh) he
found a niche to get into that would be "arty". This is OK with me, but a couple of ex-Directors
deciding to shoot themselves does not impact on the mainstream of Directors who would like
to relate to a "real DP" and use the collaboration to enhance their ideas. Some Directors get
burned by DP's who make a "big deal" of the job and then decide to do it themselves and I
can't blame them for that.... but a good DP will always contribute in all sorts of ways to the
making of a film, and many of those ways are not about lighting and camera, but providing a
leadership and focus on the set that happens whilst the Director and Actors are in their
trailers.

5. You mentioned the "democratization" of image control in the DI. Something John Bailey
also mentioned in a recent issue of American Cinematographer. What is the typical DI
session like for you?

Not sure what a "typical" session is because they are all so different! Each post house has not
only a different way of making the "workflow", but the individuals concerned also have
different attitudes.There is always the "sales person" who is polite, often accompanied by a
pretty girl, or is a pretty girl, and they make sure you are "looked after".. which, roughly
translated means: Would you like tea of coffee? They "fade-out" as the session gets under

41
way and then you just sit with the Grader/Timer. These people are sometimes very skilled and
entertaining and sometimes neither of these things. That is why some "big deal"
Cinematographers insist on transporting their own colourists around the world so they can
make sure they work with someone who knows what they are doing. I prefer the slightly more
hit-and-miss approach of working with a "local" and then expressing my dislike if it all goes
wrong - which doesn't happen too often. Occasionally a Director or Producer will "drop-in"
and very occasionally a Director will elect to do the session themselves (if they have fallen out
with the DP) or sit-in alongside the DP. Some films have removed the control of the DI from
both the CInematographer and the Director and then the Colourist along with the Producer
makes the choices...

But to get back more to the question. For me, a DI session is a matter of just finding the image
I was looking for in the first place. The process means that the image can very easily look
nothing like what you had in mind, because the stages ie Scanning, Bringing into the Colour
Space you are working in, Adjusting the "look" and then OUTPUT to Film and Digital and DVD..
etc. All these processes can easily spin out of control and then the image looks too grainy, too
soft, too sharp, too contrasty, too colourful etc etc. Trying to find out why this is happening
can be very hard and that is where a good technical team will "sort-it-out" all the time
muttering about things that are meaningless to me. This is also the reason why i try to make
the Dailes/Rushes as close as possible to what I am intending so that there is a reference to
work from - what in the old days was called the "work print".

6. Commenting on digital cameras and digital cinema Richard P. Crudo ASC says "The highest
possible photochemical standard must continue to be seen as the minimum point of which
to grow on all fronts." Are the digital cinema cameras and digital intermediate processes
being used today good enough?

That is an excellent comment made by Mr Crudo and one which is consistently ignored. 90%
of what is on todays Cinema screens looks less good technically that it did 5 years ago. This is
because the "8k" neg is reduced to 2K through the DI process and the resulting drop in quality
is often apparent. Many would dispute this and of course there is no real way of measuring
"quality" because it is all about an aesthetic judgement. So "high standard" can mean many
things and a multi-million dollar success pays scant attention to image quality - who cares?

So I would say that NO, today's Digital systems are not good enough and a lot of work must go
into making them better. This is happening quite naturally as competitors continuously strive
to make products that look better than their rivals. When people ask me whether I would
consider shooting on Digital I have two questions:

1. Is it going to result in a better-looking film?

2. What is your plan for archiving the film?

42
The first point can be endlessly debated but the last point is a real problem to which there is
no immediate solution other than making photo-chemical separations of the finished movie
which is only something that is done by the major studios. I consider it part of my
responsibility to have a shoot that is not held up through technical problems (which rarely
happens on film but happens all the time on digital) and also make a film that can be seen in
the future... and not re-digitised 50 times until there is nothing but pixels.

7. Do you think the role of the cinematographer will diminish because of technological
advancement?

YES, but only in relation to the role that is had in the past. There is a new role which is very
technical and involves a lot of management/political skills. It's quite different but is not really a
lesser role, just a different role. The image is no longer a "secret" so the DP has a bigger
challenge to maintain his or her authority over the image and guide it through all the turbulent
water on its way to the CInema. Some DP's might see their role as "diminished" and I have
written words to that effect in the past. However, I now see that it's more of a challenge, the
gloves are off and DP's need to rise to the occasion and control the image in the face or a more
vocal, better paid and increasing number of "interested parties". By this I mean the Editor, the
VFX supervisor and the Production Designer who are all now prepared to comment, suggest
and generally "add-to" the debate about how the film should look. Give people a $2000 Nikon
SLR and Photoshop and suddenly everyone is a Photographer!

My greatest fear is that it is now so easy to "take a picture" that few will bother to learn the
skills to "make a picture" which is a completely different thing. The number of badly lit,
shabbily made commercials that I see on TV is shocking: you pay for what you get. However, in
the long run, when this period of change has settled down, the DP will continue to make
Feature Films in the same way as before with Digital Cameras becoming high quality, reliable
and some kind of agreed system for storing the results that can be re-visited by the next
generation.

43
Appendix 2: Discussion with Roger Deakins ASC,BSC
These are transcripts from a discussion I had with Roger Deakins on his online forum. This can
be found in its complete form at:
http://www.deakinsonline.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=222&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=15

and

http://www.deakinsonline.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=701

by daniel on Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:48 am

Hi Roger.
(...)
I will open with some questions (...):

1. How are advancements in digital technology changing the role of the cinematographer?
2. Will RAW format digital cameras and advancements in DI/post production move decisions
on visuals to the back-end of production?
3. As John Bailey suggested, is it possible for the colorist to phase out the DP from the grading
suite? Is this a legitimate fear among cinematographers?
4. Do you think more convenient technology will lead more directors to work as their own DP?
5. Do you consider digital motion picture cameras to be a benefit or a nuisance to filmmaking?
6. Is a change to digital filmmaking more fundamental than earlier changes in the
cinematographic process (colour, widescreen, scope)?

If you can answer any of these questions I would be very grateful.

by Roger on Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:07 am

1. Just one example of the use of Digital manipulation/enhancement/CGI is that it has allowed
me to shoot scenes with lamps in shot, which were then replaced with natural light sources.
Just take a look at the night work in 'Jarhead'.

2. No. Just what do you think a cinematographer does? I sometimes take stills with a Leica M6
and sometimes with a Leica M8. One camera is digital and one is film. Perhaps, in the near
future I will only take digital stills. What is different. Are my pictures any better for being taken
with an M8?

4. No.

5. Film is certainly an old technology but one that is proven and one that works. On the other
hand I see no reason not to use digital capture. What's the big deal?

6. It is a fundamental change but it's not as if we are going to be getting rid of scripts, actors,
frame lines or lenses.

44
by daniel on Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:48 am

Thank you for a swift reply and interesting answers. I hope my questions did not offend you in
any way.

Assuming the questions you wrote back were not completely rhetorical, I will try to answer
them.

Roger wrote:

2. No. Just what do you think a cinematographer does? I sometimes take stills with a Leica M6
and sometimes with a Leica M8. One camera is digital and one is film. Perhaps, in the near
future I will only take digital stills. What is different. Are my pictures any better for being taken
with an M8?

Continuing to refer to photography. I think a picture from your M6 would be held in higher
regard by most. Because digital cameras and picture editing software has become so common
that a photograph, especially a digital one, has lost its impact value. The general public know
how easy it is to take a picture, import it to a computer, reframe it to create better
composition, put a black and white filter on it, crank up the contrast and call it art. Many also
know about the process behind a 35mm photograph, and if you have developed it yourself I
think that they hold that in much higher regard. Are the pictures from your M6 better than the
ones from M8? I don't believe they are, but I think the pictures from both cameras are less
interesting now because of digital cameras, like the M8. I think amazing photographs, like the
work of James Nachtwey or Joachim Ladefoged are not held in as high regard as they should.
And I think this is partly because of digital photography. Which brings me to your next
question:

Roger wrote:

Film is certainly an old technology but one that is proven and one that works. On the other
hand I see no reason not to use digital capture. What's the big deal?

In terms of filmmaking, I do not think there is a big deal. Film is a story-based medium and will
work with any visual capturing device. But in terms of cinematography, I think it might be a big
deal. When high resolution cameras like the Scarlet from Red Digital Cinema are available for a
small sum of money and "anyone" can shoot 5K video and grade it at home, will high end
cinematography not suffer from this? Maybe not, but I think it is a development worth writing
about and discussing.

by Roger on Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:11 pm

If, as you say, it is now so easy to take a picture and 'call it art', then why is there only one
James Nachtwey? I fail to see the difference between one form of image capture and another
with regard to what the photographer or the cinematographer actually does. If, as you say, the
photographs of James Nachtwey are no longer held in such high regard as they once might
have been it is, sadly, because of a much more general change in our culture. Just go to

45
Wikipedia and compare the films made during 1969 to those of 2008. Has any
cinematographer bettered the work of Lucien Ballard on 'The Wild Bunch', Conrad Hall on 'Tell
Them Willie Boy is Here' and 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', or Phil Lathrop on 'They
Shoot Horses Don't They'? I rest my case!

PS. The Red Camera is nowhere near 5K yet but the manufacturer is promising 28K by 2010!!
Even if they achieve 100K it will still remain an inert machine without a human eye.

by daniel on Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:45 pm

I completely agree that what has happened with photography is due to a general change in our
culture. But I believe digital photography has played a large part in triggering this change.

As for there only being one James Nachtwey. He was a well respected photographer working
for Time long before digital photography came about. I don't like saying this, but if he was
coming of age today, it may be fair to say that because of the general change in our culture he
would be one of many.

And I think what happened to photography is now happening to cinematography. If the


general opinion becomes "anyone can shoot nice looking footage", as the general opinion now
is that "anyone can take nice photographs", is there a point to having a cinematographer on
every film? Soderbergh stopped using a DP when he started using DI. Rodriguez stopped
working with Guillermo Navarro(!) when he discovered HD cameras.

The cinematographers that lost these jobs are not in trouble, because they (like you) are
already big names and will never struggle to find work. But on the lower end of the film
industry I doubt the story is the same.

by Roger on Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:53 am

I couldn't agree with you less! Perhaps the general standard of image making has risen just as
the standard of aircraft building has risen. But that's is just a technical advance. A James
Nachtwey or Sebastian Salgado would still be head and shoulders above the crowd if they
were starting out in the profession today with a box brownie! What has changed is the public's
interest in images that reveal the truth about the world we live in. Where are the outlets for
photographers of their standing? We are living in a world of video games and American Idol
and in such a world 'nice looking images' are good enough.

by daniel on Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:11 pm

I completely agree with you about Nachtwey and Salgado, without a doubt.

But my point was that I think most people don't agree, or even care. Is this a result of
videogames and reality tv? Yeah, I think so. Is it a result of the mass produced imagery
spawned by digital technology (in a more general sense this time)? Yeah, I believe so.

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But maybe this has always been the case, I guess in any art you have to (at the very least) have
an interest in it to truly appreciate it.

Relating back to cinematography/cinema. Beyond any technical advancements: Is


cinematography not suffering the same loss of public interest?

Thank you for your continued replies. I really appreciate it.

by Roger on Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:57 am

(...)

Is cinematography suffering from a loss of public interest? I think my personal idea of a good
film is suffering from a loss of public interest so it follows that I think cinematography is
suffering too. But no technology invented itself. Computer games were created because there
was a market for something that distracted from the every day not in order that people be
distracted, though that is an interesting plot line.

by daniel on Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:08 pm

Hi Roger.

What do you think about the renewed interest in 3D filmmaking? It seems Hollywood is really
embracing it. Is this the way of the future?

by Roger on Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:08 am

I find both IMAX and 3D have something more in common with a fairground ride than a means
to tell a story, but that's not to say they are not the future. I don't see 3D working so well on
television or on a computer screen and that might be the biggest drawback.

Personally, I like films to have a flat surface so that they are like looking into an animated
painting.

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