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The Academy and Cinematography


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#1 Greg Boris

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:34 AM

 

 

 

This isn't a rant about how certain movies may (or may not) have gotten shafted.  It isn't about politics or if your favorite movie/director/etcetc should or shouldn't have been awarded.  

 

Anyway, the last three out of four years the Academy Award for Cinematography has gone to films that not only rely on heavy amounts of visual effect supplementation but actually received Oscars for VFX.  I in no way wish to belittle the immense talent and dedication that these cinematographers have or downplay their skill or involvement in these projects (the live action elements still being very important) but I do wish to pose a question.  

 

I have many friends who watch the awards with no real knowledge of film history or the industry.  They hear that these are the films with the best cinematography and accept it; without any further knowledge why shouldn't they?  It seems often that the most "grand" spectacle or image is labeled as the best, regardless of whether or not there are actual photographic elements the cinematographer had control over.  Do you agree with the Academy's representation of cinematography?


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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:06 AM

urrrrrghhhh! I suspect this means...

 

Anyway I'm going to ignore it for the moment because I have stuff to do.

I'm still kinda gobsmacked by the Bafta's.

 

I notice Tim has removed the Oscar poll, presumably because it is embarressing in light of recent events.

Shame because I wanted to see the final poll results.

I know how he must feel tho, you start a thread in good faith and then things take a strange turning and you feel like "Oh dear, this really wasn't what I had in mind!"

 

I guess this stuff isn't just a UK thing.

 

I have a lot more to say about this, but I may do so when I'm calmer and have more time.

 

Freya


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#3 Freya Black

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:45 AM

This is currently doing the rounds on the internet:

 

An Open Letter to Ang Lee
by Phillip Ray Broste on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 6:47am ·
 
 

Dear Mr. Lee,

When asked about the bankruptcy of Rhythm + Hues, the visual effects house
largely responsible for making your film "life of Pi" as incredible as
it was, you said:

“I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough
business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very
tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and
development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They
all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not
[survive]."

I just want to point out that while, yes R&D can
be expensive and yes it takes a lot of technology and computing power
to create films like yours, it is not computer chips and hard drives
that are costing you so very much money. It is the artists that are
helping you create your film.

So when you say “I would like it
to be cheaper," as an artist I take that personally. It took hundreds
of hours from skilled artists and hard-working coordinators and
producers to craft the environments and performances in life of Pi. Not
to mention the engineers that wrote all of that proprietary code and
build the R+H pipeline. That is where your money went. I'd say,
judging from the night you just had, you got one hell of a deal.

Incidentally,
those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio
Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those
artists. And the same animated performances that helped win you the
best director statue. Nice of you to mentionthe pool crew, but maybe
you could have thanked the guys and gals who turned that pool in to an
ocean and put a tiger in to that boat?

It was world class work,
after all. And after a fabulously insulting and dismissive introduction
from the cast of the avengers, at least two of whom spent fully half of
their film as a digitally animated character, R+H won for it's work on
your very fine piece of cinema. And just as the bankruptcy was about to
be acknowledged on a nationally-televised platform, the speech was cut
short. By the Jaws theme.

If this was meant as a joke, we artists are not laughing.

Mr.
Lee, I do believe that you are a thoughtful and brilliant man. And a
gifted filmmaker. But I also believe that you and everyone in your tier
of our business is fabulously ignorant to the pain and turmoil you are
putting artists through. Our employers scramble to chase illegal film
subsidies across the globe at the behest of the film studios. Those
same subsidies raise overhead, distort the market, and cause wage
stagnation in what are already trying economic times. Your VFX are
already cheaper than they should be. It is disheartening to see how
blissfully unaware of this fact you truly are.

By all accounts,
R+H is a fantastic place to work; a truly great group of people who
treat their employees with fairness and respect. Much like Zoic
Studios, the fabulous company that I am proud to work for. But I am
beginning to wonder if these examples of decency will be able to survive
in such a hostile environment. Or if the horror stories of unpaid
overtime and illegal employment practices will become the norm, all
because you and your fellow filmmakers "would like it to be cheaper."

I for one won't stand for it. Please join me.

Warmest regards and congratulations,
Phillip Broste
Lead Compositor


Edited by Freya Black, 25 February 2013 - 10:48 AM.

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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:53 AM

Incidentally, those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those artists.

 

Seems like the VFX people out there share our concerns!

 

Actually I wonder how Claudio Miranda feels about it all. I mean obviously there are parts of the film that don't take place on the boat with the tiger, and they look quite nice but I'm sure that Mr Miranda must have shot work that he was much more proud of that was ignored by the Academy.

 

I would be annoyed if I was recognised for a film which was mostly keyed when I had worked so hard on so many more deserving films.

 

Dunno?

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 25 February 2013 - 10:57 AM.

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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:04 AM

And the award for the most evenly lit green screen goes to....


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#6 Vadim Bobkovsky

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:50 PM

I guess old movies with painted backgrounds shot on sound stages and with use of rear-projection screens should not be mentioned in public, because it's "fake" too, right? Only if it's shot on glorious motion picture film, on location in broad daylight, only then it counts, right?


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#7 Chris Durham

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:55 PM

those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio
Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those
artists.

 

Not sure a cinematographer can rightly take credit for any sunset -- they didn't exactly hang the thing themselves.

 

This is such a hard topic because we need to acknowledge that cinematography now involves so much more than the camera department, while at the same time understanding that the more that happens outside the camera department, the less the cinematographer can be credited with. Life of Pi really is an outstanding accomplishment in cinematography -- in the strictest sense if "drawing with motion." What I'm uncertain of is how much involvement Miranda had in the off-set aspects of that "drawing." If he was involved intimately in the lighting, framing, movement of digital elements, then perhaps the award is somewhat warranted.

 

One thing is certain, though, and that's the short shrift given to the armies of VFX people making these movies happen. I think most of us would be much happier if there were real acknowledgement of these folks and something more than empty overtures made at improving matters.

 

I was really pulling for Deakins on this. Skyfall doesn't do a whole lot that feels new, but every shot has such a master's touch. 


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#8 Tobias Marshall

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:40 PM

Vadim Bobkovsky

 

One hole, in your argument regarding the use of rear projection and glass plates, ... they all happen in camera.


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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 05:44 PM

This is such a hard topic because we need to acknowledge that cinematography now involves so much more than the camera department, while at the same time understanding that the more that happens outside the camera department, the less the cinematographer can be credited with. Life of Pi really is an outstanding accomplishment in cinematography -- in the strictest sense if "drawing with motion." What I'm uncertain of is how much involvement Miranda had in the off-set aspects of that "drawing." If he was involved intimately in the lighting, framing, movement of digital elements, then perhaps the award is somewhat warranted.

 

I'm not sure we do. I mean is a Pixar movie or Micky Mouse cartoon cinematography? It certainly fits your "drawing with motion" idea?

 

I don't think we need to expand cinematography to include just anything, and there is a tradition of other crafts having their own awards etc, and rightly so.
 

 

One thing is certain, though, and that's the short shrift given to the armies of VFX people making these movies happen. I think most of us would be much happier if there were real acknowledgement of these folks and something more than empty overtures made at improving matters.

 

There is a really good article about what happened at the Oscars here:

 

http://blog.sfgate.c...e-vfx-industry/

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 25 February 2013 - 05:44 PM.

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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 06:30 PM

Also backstage, DOP Claudio Miranda (also a winner for Life of Pi)
made particular mention of the visual effects teams. He said, “I would
hope that we could really support our VFX companies so they are not just
right on the hairy edge of profit. Because these guys did an amazing
job on PI; that tiger looks amazing and I really feel we should support
those people a little bit more if we can.” He indicated he had worked
closely with Rhythm & Hues on the film, and had worked previously
with Digital Domain.


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#11 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:50 PM

I wanted Deakins to win, but Claudio miranda did outstanding work on life of pi, and is very deserving of the award.

shooting bluescreen can be just as complicated as shooting a set or landscape, and life of pi had all 3


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#12 Chris Durham

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:18 PM

I'm not sure we do. I mean is a Pixar movie or Micky Mouse cartoon cinematography? It certainly fits your "drawing with motion" idea?

 

Well, I think about the value that was added to Wall-E, on which Roger Deakins acted as a consultant to tell the story more cinematically (actually he's apparently consulted on several animated flicks). Obviously he shouldn't be credited as a cinematographer on this, in the traditional sense, but the film was enhanced by his bringing to bear traditional disciplines on a "new" medium. 
 
I guess my point is that technology is a substantial component of cinematography and technology is progressive. While the discourse over it is healthy, the difficulty is determining where to draw the line. Since so many movies rely so heavily on VFX element -- even movies that aren't effects-driven -- at what point between wire removal and fully digital sets does it stop being cinematography and start becoming effects?
 
Perhaps it's best to narrowly define cinematography as what happens in and in front of the camera. I say narrow in the sense that it's narrower than seems to be accepted by the academy and my devilishly-advocated position above. 

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#13 Simon Miya

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:48 AM

onm


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#14 Robert Mojica

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:54 AM

Saying Claudio Miranda didn't deserve the Oscar or saying that he doesn't appreciate the VFX team is ridiculous. Yes, the VFX companies are not payed enough. Yes, they shouldn't have cut off the mic. That was all wrong and unfair, but Claudio Miranda had nothing to do with it. He did his job and in the opinion of the academy, he did it better than anyone else. Though he was not filming actual sunsets, he still had to mimic the look of a sunset with his lighting. He had to mimic the look of Day, Night, Sunrise, Sunset and more, all while being limited to shooting in a water tank. A DP has to overcome a lot of obstacles throughout a production and sometimes having VFX-heavy shots make the job of the DP more difficult rather than making it easier like most people think. His job was to make those scenes look believable even though they are being shot in a water tank on a blue screen. I think he not only accomplished that, but also made the cinematography of Life Of Pi memorable.

 

And this is coming from a huge Roger Deakins fan haha


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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:03 AM

Perhaps it's best to narrowly define cinematography as what happens in and in front of the camera. I say narrow in the sense that it's narrower than seems to be accepted by the academy and my devilishly-advocated position above. 

 

I think the issues has only really come about since the arrival of digital photography which has caused people to question more the whole issues of "what is photography" and by extension what is cinematography...

 

I do think it is appropriate to draw a line and say that stuff rendered inside a computer, that has never seen real light is not cinematography, no matter to what extent it has been cleverly modeled. I don't think we should consider EVERYTHING to be cinematography that involves moving images.

 

...and I don't think it's relevant that someone was a consultant on something.

You could consult Roger Deakins on the light in your new oil painting but it wouldn't suddenly be cinematography.

 

I notice theres a lot of people trying to skew the words and actions of major cinematographers to try and redefine cinematography.

 

Freya


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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:14 AM

Saying Claudio Miranda didn't deserve the Oscar or saying that he doesn't appreciate the VFX team is ridiculous. Yes, the VFX companies are not payed enough.

 

I don't think they were going as far as saying he didn't deserve the Oscar but I guess the VFX team felt they weren't being recognised for their contribution, especially in light of what was happening.

 

In fact Claudio did actually say a fair bit on the subject backstage as I quoted earlier and appears to be very sympathetic to the situation. (I liked what he had to say)

 

I think a lot of the anger is being directed at Ang Lee for expressing that the VFX should be cheaper at an obviously difficult time.

Probably an offhand remark from Ang without thinking.

 

 

Yes, they shouldn't have cut off the mic. That was all wrong and unfair, but Claudio Miranda had nothing to do with it. He did his job and in the opinion of the academy, he did it better than anyone else. Though he was not filming actual sunsets, he still had to mimic the look of a sunset with his lighting. He had to mimic the look of Day, Night, Sunrise, Sunset and more, all while being limited to shooting in a water tank. A DP has to overcome a lot of obstacles throughout a production and sometimes having VFX-heavy shots make the job of the DP more difficult rather than making it easier like most people think. His job was to make those scenes look believable even though they are being shot in a water tank on a blue screen. I think he not only accomplished that, but also made the cinematography of Life Of Pi memorable.

 

Apparently the big thing he found difficult on the movie was handling the 3D stuff.

 

And this is coming from a huge Roger Deakins fan haha

 

Well I think it should be about the films, not the personalities.

For me the work of Seamus McGarvey on Anna Karina was breathtaking and I didn't take into account the man himself or his prior art.

...but hey that isn't what this thread is supposed to be about, which is more what the academy seems to think is great cinematography these days.

 

Freya


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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:22 AM

Since so many movies rely so heavily on VFX element -- even movies that aren't effects-driven -- at what point between wire removal and fully digital sets does it stop being cinematography and start becoming effects?

 

Incidently, for me, wire removal is definitely effects. It doesn't stop the stuff the cinematographer shot from being cinematography tho, just as the bits that Claudio Miranda shot in "Life of Pi" are still cinematography. The bits that were generated in the computer by the effects team were VFX. I think that's quite straightforward.

 

Freya


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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:14 PM

I just want to point out that I used REAL animals in, Against The Wild.  Ok back to your debate now, thank-you.  :)

 

R,


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#19 Mark McCann

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 03:45 PM

Poor Roger Deakins, Thats ten nominations now without a win...


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#20 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:43 PM

Inexcusable and unbelievable.........

A re-post from Facebook from Peter Green, son of Jack Green, ASC....

"As many of you may already know, there was a very inexcusable mistake made during the Academy Awards Sunday night. While the Academy was honoring the members who had passed away since the 2012 awards. They used a picture of my father when they were honoring his mentor, friend and accomplished DP, Bruce Surtees. As horrible as it must be for Bruce's family, I would like you all to know that my father, Jack Green, is still very much alive and quite healthy! To the Surtees family, I speak for my family in saying we are truly sorry for your loss as well as the indignity of not identifying Bruce correctly! We all lost a member of the camera family. He was kind, talented, admired and selfless. We all appreciated, loved and adored Bruce! He deserves a correction and an apology from the Academy. Please help by contacting Oscars.com. Thank you all."


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