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'Cinematographers & Cinema' Presentation


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#1 Dan Hasson

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 09:20 AM

Hello,

 

I am with Ravensbourne University in London, England (http://www.ravensbourne.ac.uk/).

 

For a presentation I am giving, I have chosen to look at, 'How has digital cinema, presentation & exhibition has had an impact on cinematographers?'

 

This will be looking at new ways for audiences to watch films such as Netflix on an iPhone.

 

I would love to hear any of you cinematographers on here to give a response to some questions of mine.

 

I don't believe there are any right or wrong answers, I just want to hear some responses please :)

 

The questions are:

 

 

  • Starting with 4 digital projectors in 1999, now 98.2% of the worlds cinemas are digital. This has pushed many out of their jobs as projectionists (a good short documentary about this here: )                                                                                                       Are digital projectors & DCP’s a good thing for the industry?

 

  • The way for audiences to watch films is so varied now. Such as Netflix on an iPhone or watching on your TV. Has your process for your cinematography changed in any way, because the size of screens are now so varied compared to when the only way to watch a film was on a cinema screen?

 

  • When shooting a feature do you have any sort of talk with a director about how the film will look because the way for audiences to see them is so varied?

 

  • Is all this digital viewing a problem, would you prefer audiences to watch a film in the cinema? 

 

  • Different stories require different looks and feels through the cinematography, but do you have a preference to the whole film vs. digital debate?

 

Thank you,

 

Dan Hasson


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 12:21 PM

#1. If you are talking about consistency, digital projection has made the quality of projection a lot more consistent across the world.  Some might argue that now it is consistently mediocre of course but in general, you'll get the same experience at some old shopping mall cinema in the middle of nowhere as you would in the major cities. Shipping is easier now compared to using 35mm reels in cans, and it is easier for theaters to deal with multiple formats, trailers, etc. with a flip of a switch.  3D is easier to show digitally, and we have the potential for higher frame rates and high dynamic range images being used by filmmakers.  For small independent films, there is no longer the cost of doing a recording out to film for print distribution.  There may be some environmental advantages to not shipping heavy reels of 35mm film to theaters, shipping them back, and destroying a number of excess prints afterwards. "Good" for the industry depends on which industry you are talking about, it wasn't so good for Kodak or the labs financially.  And it is only with the emerging laser projection technology that we are getting back to the black level and saturation of a good film print.

 

#2.  You can't make decisions on framing based on screen size if it is just as likely that someone is watching on a 5" screen as they are a 50" monitor or a 50' wide theater screen (and even with cinema release, you don't know where every audience member is going to sit in the theater.)  You have to pick a visual language that works for a viewing scenario that you care about as a filmmaker.  I will say that for TV cinematography, the increase in the size of monitors has allowed some directors and cinematographers to work in shot sizes that are more similar to theatrical movies, there is no longer the attitude that TV is a medium of close-ups.

 

#3. When talking to a director, you have to pick some likely viewing scenarios and distribution methods, you can't consider all of them.

 

#4. I'd always prefer that something shot for the cinema be seen in the cinema with an audience, at least the first time.

 

#5. No, it's all about the individual needs of the project stylistically, logistically, and financially.  I just wish film was an option more often rather than being dismissed as being too expensive without actually doing some detailed budgeting.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 04:04 PM

I agree with David 100%.

One thing I will add though... it's not that easy.

When this moved from Film to Digital happened, everyone panicked. Fuji had just stopped making film. Kodak was in bankruptcy court and big labs like Deluxe and Technicolor were closing up shop's around the globe. The industry handled this move HORRIBLY and nobody thought about long term, they only were thinking about short term.

Now only a few short years after the big switch, we have less theaters in the country - though arguably more screens thanks to multiplexes expanding in heavily populated areas. We've also lost over 150,000 jobs around the world, from projectionists to shippers. Theaters have scrapped projectors, to the point where most theaters don't even have a SINGLE one left. The film infrastructure as a whole was completely depleted and now, people are starting to realize, holy shit, what have we done?

There are a few filmmakers who believe strongly in film projection, but not enough to make an impact. Warner has committed to releasing their big hollywood movies in 70mm, maybe thanks to Christopher Nolan. The rollout has been thus far, pretty successful however, with beautiful prints of Batman v Superman and Fantastic Beasts. Had Suicide Squad not had horrible re-shoot and post issues, they would have been part of that lineup as well. The 70mm screenings of these movies locally, have seen more attendance then the standard digital or even 3D shows. This is showing the studio's, hey... people want a unique experience and they are willing to pay for it. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, understand the necessity for making movies the old fashion way and projecting them, but unfortunately without infrastructure, there is no way it will be successful. Today we have "options", but only for the big hollywood movies, not for the little guys. This is in part thanks to the lack of talented projectionists, capable of doing a good job. Today's projectionists are technicians and most of them have zero experience working a film projector. Theaters are self sufficient and only have one full-time person in the booth at any given time, mostly loading shows and insuring shows start on time. So there is a lot more then mechanical infrastructure missing, it's also the people to run it.

So where we all want options, I don't think it's truly possible at this time. It would require a huge push from the major's and a crazy good deal for the theaters to pay for experts to run the shows and maintain the projectors. It's completely doable, but it's unfortunately nobody is really grabbing the bull by the horns and making it happen. A lot of films are still scanned out to 35mm and sent to theaters, so it's all very possible.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 04:19 PM

The film I shot, "The Love Witch", is being shown in a 35mm print in most of its art house screenings, which is great though I will say that at the opening Friday night screening for its Los Angeles release, I was there with a full house and many cast and crew in attendance, and when the first reel was over, the projectionist forgot to do the reel change.  The movie just ran out of the projector, screen went to white, and we waited about a minute for the projectionist to catch on.  The other reel changes were fine.

 

There was black dirt in the print because it had been screened before, and I got right up to the screen as the credits were rolling for the Q&A after the screening, and I could see how much jitter there was as the white letters played on the screen, a sort of bouncing smear.

 

Someone in the audience asked me what software app I used to get that retro film look -- I told him he was seeing a print right off of the cut negative, so there were no digital tricks involved at all.  In some ways, the projection & print flaws played into the retro feeling at least...


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#5 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 05:12 PM

There was an issue watching The Love Witch at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg Brooklyn a few weeks ago.  It was a DCP but something tripped on the slide projector and the film stopped 2/3rds of the way in.

 

Everyone was having a lot of fun though so nobody good too upset.   I highly recommend everyone see The Love Witch in a theater with an audience. Whether it's a DCP or 35mm.  It's definitely a film to see with an audience that can appreciate camp and ironic absurdity.   I can totally see it developing a Rocky Horror cult type following to it.  With audience participation etc.  

 

Was that Anna's intention?  Will she release a set of guidlines for performers?


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 05 December 2016 - 05:14 PM.

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#6 Dan Hasson

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 06:56 PM

David, Tyler & Michael - thank you very much for these informative responses. 

 

I understand your point David, 'You can't make decisions on framing based on screen size'.

 

However one of the things that started me on this topic was a British cinematographer, Ed Moore saying in THIS article, "Consider the average size of modern televisions when planning shot sizes." (This is point no. 21).

 

I'm not saying that either of you are right or wrong, I am glad to hear two different opinions as you have hugely helped me out!


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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 08:32 PM

 

However one of the things that started me on this topic was a British cinematographer, Ed Moore saying in THIS article, "Consider the average size of modern televisions when planning shot sizes." (This is point no. 21).

 

 

You should consider the size of the screen in whatever is the primary distribution. If you're shooting for TV, then of course, you pay attention to the size of modern TVs. If you're shooting webisodes, then you have to be aware that a large number of people will be watching them on their phones, or maybe tablets.

 

I think David's point is that you cannot cover all eventualities, so you have to pick the most appropriate framing for the project's intended audience.


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 12:16 AM

Sure I think a lot of us think about how it will look at home on a 50" flatscreen but the truth is that people sit at different distances from the TV screen; I think most cinematographers are actually thinking of how they personally will be watching at home.  Another thing is that most people on the set are watching a 17" or 24" monitor, but standing fairly close to it.  Basically there is less science and more gut feeling involved when it comes to shot size.

 

Also, you set-up a language for each individual project. If you consistently frame most close-ups in a chest-up size or an even looser elbows-up size, then that becomes the cinematic language of the project whatever sized screen it is later seen on.  I mean, we watch old 1.37 Academy movies on TV that were framed for cinema with a minimal use of tight close-ups and just get used to that shot size style while we are watching.

 

So my feeling is that when you are shooting, you aren't thinking much about typical TV monitor size or viewing distance when deciding how to frame the master, the medium shots, the close-ups, etc. Instead you create a language for that shot size and then follow your own rules.  The only time I really talk to a director on a set about whether a tight shot is tight enough, etc. is when there is information that has to be read in order for the shot to work -- i.e. will most viewers be able to see "X" story element when it pops up in a wide variety of viewing sizes, is that sign big enough, is that prop big enough, can we read that print, can we see that change in expression, did we catch what the actor just did with their hands when they hid the gun, etc.  If you shoot a big macro insert shot of course it will probably read fine but sometimes you want to see this detail in a wider shot without having to cut into it, that's the main reason you might discuss typical viewing size and distance when framing the shot or deciding whether you need a closer angle.


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#9 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 12:53 AM

is that sign big enough, is that prop big enough, can we read that print, can we see that change in expression, did we catch what the actor just did with their hands when they hid the gun, etc.

Yes, this is one of those times where you have to consider the size of the screen. I've watched a couple of movies recently at home where shots with important detail (usually text) that probably played just fine on a 60'  movie screen were much more difficult to read on a 48" TV screen. You often see the reverse in TV movies, where every important detail is shot in ECU. My own tendency these days is toward looser framing, even with TV destined material, but ultimately it's about finding a happy medium that conveys the information successfully, yet doesn't break the stylistic rules that you've set for yourself.


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#10 Dan Hasson

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 06:35 AM

Sure I think a lot of us think about how it will look at home on a 50" flatscreen but the truth is that people sit at different distances from the TV screen; I think most cinematographers are actually thinking of how they personally will be watching at home.  Another thing is that most people on the set are watching a 17" or 24" monitor, but standing fairly close to it.  Basically there is less science and more gut feeling involved when it comes to shot size.

Thanks David, you have been hugely helpful!

Thank you, Stuart, Michael & Tyler also! This has been very insightful and useful.


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#11 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 12:01 AM

Just out of interest, what's happened to all the old cinema film projectors? Did cinemas tend to keep them in a backroom, or against the back wall of the projector room, or did they sell them on ebay, or give them away/throw them away? It's incredible to think of the numbers of 35mm projectors there must be sitting idle.


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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 12:57 AM

Just out of interest, what's happened to all the old cinema film projectors? Did cinemas tend to keep them in a backroom, or against the back wall of the projector room, or did they sell them on ebay, or give them away/throw them away? It's incredible to think of the numbers of 35mm projectors there must be sitting idle.


Theater chains dumped them to auction houses to recoup. There are TUNS of them sitting in warehouses. I bet older one's were literally dropped into dumpsters for insurance money.

I'm sure some theaters have them tucked into a corner of the booth. I've seen platter systems still setup, even though there is a gaping hole where the 35mm projector use to be.

Here in Hollywood, the big chains no longer have film projectors, but the smaller theaters do. The newer complexes never had them! :(
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