DOES THE AUDIENCE CARE ABOUT ART?
ur colleagues in the American Society of
Cinematographers recently sponsored an interesting educational meeting for its members and
guests. There were discussions and demonstrations of 720-progressive and 1080-progressive
digital camcorders by Marker Karahadian of Plus 8 Video. John Gault of Panavision
discussed the status of the Panavised Sony 1080-progressive camcorder.
Previously, both companies demonstrated their wares for members of our Guild in Los
Angles. Neither Karahadian nor Gault made exaggerated claims. Both said that it required
an artful cinematographer and skillful crew to get the most out of these digital
camcorders. One demo compared film and HD shots on a sitcom set with flat, high key light
and a limited contrast range. The HD shots looked brighter and sharper from front-to-back.
The film had some texture and selective focus. Depending on the budget and preferences of
the producer, this show could have been taped or filmed with little effect on the outcome.
The final demonstration was made by Robert Weisgerber,
CEO of Super Vista Corp., a new company thats trying to introduce a different way of
shooting and projecting film. The new system uses a Panaflex camera to expose standard
65mm film at 48 frames-per-second. A prototype 70mm projector played it back at the same
elevated rate. The demonstration was literally breathtaking.
There were action shots with radical camera movement and
aerial images of the Grand Canyon with at least 12 stops of contrast in-between the
brightest rays of sunshine and the darkest shadowy areas. There was an intimate close-up
of a couple falling in love: you didnt need words or music to feel their emotions
it was like being there. Weisgerber said he wanted to provide a way for filmmakers
to involve the audience as participants rather than spectators.
It was an uplifting glimpse of one potential path to the
future. Then, one of the industrys most respected technology gurus volunteered his
opinion. In so many words, he said, forget it. There is no hope for success He
remarked that the studios wont pay to produce or distribute large-format movies
photographed and projected at 48 frames-per-second, and that exhibitors wont invest
in improving the movie-going experience. Whats worst of all, he insisted that the
public just doesn't care.
The room got very quiet. Time seemed to slow like
someone under-cranked reality. The audience included such consummate artists as John Toll,
ASC, Victorio Storaro, ASC Russell Carpenter, ASC, Steven Burum, ASC, Bill Butler, ASC,
Adam Holender, ASC
Jack Laskus, ASC and many others. It was like someone
telling Pablo Picasso and Leonardo DaVinci that from now on they could only paint on small
screens and neutral colors, and had to forget about creating contrast. It was like telling
them that the public doesnt care and that galleries wont buy bigger frames.
Our colleague Steven Poster, ASC broke the silence by
asking, Do you understand who is in this audience? It was a good-natured jibe,
which provoked a lot of laughs. The guru shut up, but the question he raised lingered. Is
the public indifferent? If Thomas Paine were alive today, hed surely observe,
These are the times that try mens souls. We are coping with run-away
production, the harmful impact of the SAG strike on commercial production, the possibility
of a writers and actors strike next year, and absentee management of the studios by
corporate bean-counters. But none of those problems mean that we should dream smaller
dreams that would make the world a much poorer place. We dont want to be the
generation that sold out and gave in to mediocrity. If you dont believe the audience
cares, you probably wasting your time.
As always, your opinions and suggestions are
|George Spiro Dibie, ASC