With the calendar increasingly crowded with expos keen to blandish us with toys for the discerning production geek, BSC Expo can be quite refreshing in its modest size and focussed selection of exhibitors. Taking place on a single stage at Warner‘s gleaming new Leavesden facility near Watford in the U.K., the show nevertheless boasts more than 80 exhibitors from around the world, and the attendees tend to be what we might refer to as the more “selective” part of the film and television production industry.
As such, there are more ARRI Alexas than GoPros and Tiffen‘s Steadicam exhibit consists mainly of the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to carry around for more than a few minutes, although their new, more rigid vest design, (which I briefly tried), is another reasonable step in the probably-endless quest to make it easier to carry a very heavy weight and do precise things with it. There is, inevitably, a slew of LED lighting, although as we might expect, this show involves fewer inhabitants of the bottom end of the market. ChromaQ showed a promising new battery-powered remote phosphor type, but perhaps most significantly, Rotolight was talking about a refit program that’s actually quite surprising in its generosity. Having designed its Anova flood light just before a significant increment in the underlying technology, which is currently advancing incredibly quickly, the company is now offering a very modestly-priced upgrade service which will, according to the company’s own literature, increase output by 350% by replacing the emitter array.
Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC launched his new book The Art of Cinematography on Saturday, providing the keynote for a rich program of seminars over the two days. Particularly of interest was Tiffen’s complete filter demo, including 4K reference material of all the company’s diffusion and warming filters shot by cinematographer Stephen Murphy on the Sony F55 and introduced by Carey Duffy, who’s possibly the U.K.’s single go-to reference for filters and currently employed as Tiffen’s consultant for motion picture and television applications. Thirty-four minutes of filter/no-filter comparisons aren’t necessarily anyone’s idea of electrifying cinema, but it’s nice to see these things done. In future, though, the expo should try to provide a blacked-out tent with proper projection facilities for critical picture evaluation, as the best way to watch the demo wasn’t at the seminar, but later, on the booth, at a monitor, with a black flag over your head.
Sony’s own attendance was perhaps surprisingly modest compared to the city-state booths of Panalux and ARRI, although really the F65 pictures speak for themselves and the electronic global shutter of F55 provides it a unique selling point that’s unlikely to be challenged by many big-chip cameras until Blackmagic gets its 4K Production Camera to market. The Blackmagic camera is priced in an entirely different league anyway (the only global-shutter pretenders currently are F65, F55, and mechanical-shutter Alexas – plus the digital Bolex, if you like). The monochrome Alexa, a new arrival this year, will doubtless also find a niche among cinematographers anxious to avoid a nervous producer reneging on the decision to go black and white during postproduction, but with only three bodies in existence, it’s clearly a bit of an experiment at this stage.
The collaborative presence of Kodak alongside lab and transfer facility iDailies reinforces the idea tha there’s life in the old dog yet. With healthy numbers from last year and a list of top-flight productions shot on Kodak stock, the guarded opinion that Technicolor might be kicking themselves for pulling out of the U.K. lab trade entirely isn’t difficult to understand. Even so, the Panavision Millennium XL being used as a demonstration article by Matthews Studio Equipment‘s beautifully engineered slider (which was, to be fair, out last year) is starting to look a bit archaic with a motion picture camera with its 1000ft magazine in place.
My only real concern of the whole show was the numbers being used by some LED lighting people to describe their products. Attempts to convince the author that an LED array of 40W real power consumption has the same output as a 1KW light – at least, a 1KW light of the type actually used by the film industry – were not very successful. The efficiency benefit of the new technology is on the order of four or five times, not twenty-five times. These inflated numbers come courtesy of the LUMEN Coalition, which is really an organisation designed to help homeowners choose reasonable low-energy replacements for household lighting in the face of ever-increasing efficiency rules. Within that field, the standard assumption that each watt of power in a normal, non-halogen incandescent lightbulb liberates 16 lumens of light into a spherical area is reasonable. It is not, however, even remotely reasonable to use those numbers to talk about “thousand-watt” film lights, which in the minds of most people mean something like an Arri or Mole-Richardson 1K fresnel, which benefits from both a more efficient tungsten quartz halogen bulb and a reflector with collimating optics. The benefits of LED lighting are clear and worthwhile – four or five times better efficiency than tungsten – but overselling it like this helps nobody because it risks creating a very negative impression of LED lighting performance.
Overall, though, the exposition seemed well-attended and rumblings of economic recovery – which we detected at BVE last year too – might seem well founded. The NAB show is of course the granddaddy of film and TV expos, and is in just under eleven weeks at the time of writing, with BVE inbetween. We’ll be there.