ELECTRONIC CINEMATOGRRAPHY

For a few years now we've been translating film thinking into the digital realm, going past the HD format and calling it Electronic Cinematography. The Red One brought that idea through finally and yes, we now use light meters with the Red, the F35, the Panavision Genesis, the Arri D21 and new Alexa line - all because these cameras record RAW wavelet data as opposed to old style DCT compressed-to-hell HD.

OPTICS: There are two kinds of Electronic Cinematography Cameras: ones with 35mm optics and ones with 16mm optics - it's all about the size of the chip. The F35 has a 35mm sized chip using 35mm lenses and the F23 has a 2/3rds inch chip and therefore has a smaller optical pathway, similar to 1/2 inch chips cameras which uses 'HD' or 16mm lenses. When you shoot Red at 120 frames, you choose the center of the chip and go from 35mm optics to 16mm optics - what that means is you might be shooting on a 50mm at 24 fps on 35mm format, switch to 120 fps and you have to use a 25mm 35mm lens to get the same sized shot! It's ok, you don't have to remember that stuff - that's my job.

PIXELS: Another definition of Electronic Cinematography is that it starts at a pixel level above the High Definition 1920 x 1080 pixel format (16:9 aspect ratio), intially to 2k which can be 2048 x 1024 (or 2048 x 1080 - 2:1 aspect ratio), right up to (presently 8k) at 7680 x 4320 pixels (though this again is 16:9 because it's originating ina tv environment). If you have a look at the interview with David Stump (who chained together 8 Dalsa Origins for the last Bond Shoot) and Scott Billups (advisor to David Lynch) you'll see from the exchange that 8k is way below what the developers are working with: Stump and Billups. With Elctronic Cinematography we can shoot any aspect ratio including 2.35:1 - and shoot anamorphically too.

RECORDING: I've shot a lot of standard HD, where HD refers to 1920 x 1080 and very often much of the data is thrown away by the recording mechanism - HD cam records 1440 x 1080 pixels for instance - in a compressed form. Even lesser forms of HD, HDV and P2 systems tend to have a chip that is only 965 pixels wide. All DSLR's use GoP structures and very compressed recording albeit at a higher pixel level than standard P2 stuff. But do rememeber that everything gets compressed - though Red uses Red wavelet Raw, it is compressed too.

One other thing is, if you really want to go for it photographically and push the highlights - Electronic Cinematography is still limited in what it can do - one answer is therefore to shoot film - which I am more than happy to do, before going through to a digital intermediate - for film or video out.

CREWS: If a DP tells you they don't need a focus puller on an EC shoot - they're talking out of their backside. It's 35mm optics and if you want the benefits of narrow depth of focus - then you need a focus puller. In terms of preserving data for post, Red is fairly easy and if it's a really low budget shoot and edit, FCP on Mac's can do it up to a limit of 2k - though you can shoot 4k, make 4k quicktimes and import onto a 4k or 2k timeline (again though FCP will originate a 4k timeline its processing is capped currently at 2k). Other formats require post houses to have the right bits of kit.

If you shoot 4k, though Red is compressed, beware of shooting too much, because you generate big render problems in post (it's more costly to post at 4k too due to longer render times). With the advent of RedRocket, an octocore mac can now vastly accelerate the render times - but try to think interms of film, shoot what you really need, print what you really need. In that last 'formula thare are possibilities if you want to shoot a lot - get a DT (which I'll explain below) then you only really need 'print' or render certain takes. I can help advise on the purchse of HD post kit which may be cheaper than renting a post-house. For about £12 - £13,000 you can have a full on post kit that will finish your movie - if you get the right stuff.

DT OR DiT (digital imaging technician): Depends on the shoot. If it's fast turnaround you need someone watching the patheway between camera and storage. A good camera assistant, or even clapper loader, if trained, can manage this route - but a DT is more than just a data wrangler - they also know a degree of engineering and if you want to work in the interior colour matrices, you need a proper DT. Equally, there's a rare breed of DP that knows this stuff too. Plus a DT should understand post pathways. Green or Bluescreen is fairly basic and DP's are ok with that. If you're doing Special FX for compositing into a programme like maya, then you need an SFX Supervisor to come on set to make sure they also get what they need, especially if you're doing motion capture. As for 3D - that's a whole other story and we'd need to talk about that. Contact me.

If you really want to begin to understand HD, Electronic CInematography and the digital realm, have a look at the set of the uncut interviews I've been doing with people involved in the digital realm: The Verbatim History of HD

Below are a set of red shoots (not the traditional commercials or promos I'll introduce these in a bit - there's a lot of shoots where I can't yet get hold of the footage too - it'll come).

In Re Ansel Adams Angenieux optimo 24 - 290mm, daylight 30 fps
Portraits of the Somerset Carnivals Zeiss 50mm, night exposure
Portraits of Glastonbury Tor Red 18 - 50mm, daylight 30 fps
Ritratti di Cannaregio

Red 18 - 50mm, daylight 30 fps
Un Tempo, Una Volta Red 18 - 50mm, daylight 30 fps
Portraits of Bristol University's Centenary Red 18 - 50mm, daylight 30 fps
The Unfurling Red 18 - 50mm, daylight 120 fps

Making low budgets work

Showreel

Other movie clips