At a technology-centric event such as NAB, it is good to be reminded of both the users and the creative purpose of the products being displayed. The International Cinematographers Guild took a prominent role in making that connection through panels for the Creative Masters series at the electronic media show. ICG (IATSE Local 600) members work in film, television and commercials as directors of photography, camera operators visual effects supervisors, still photographers, camera assistants, digital ingest technicians, film loaders and publicists.
ICG’s ongoing activities include the Emerging Cinematographers Awards (ECA) which honor ICG members who have demonstrated exceptional skill even though they are not yet in the director of photography classification. Of the more than 100 films submitted last year, only 10 received the award.
ICG president Steven Poster moderated the panel, “Emerging Technologies and Toolsets: Emerging Cinematographers Talk with Technology Companies.” On the quality of the work being done by the new generation of up-and-coming cinematographers, Poster commented, “What I’ve noticed is the work is getting extraordinarily good.” Participating in the NAB panel, ECA 2012 honorees, Pete Villiani and Michael Allen Lloyd, shared their experiences with real-world applications of some of the latest technologies. Also on hand were Steve Tiffen of the Tiffen Company and Tim Smith of Canon U.S.A., sponsors of the ECA. ECA winners receive in-kind donations of Tiffen filtering software and Canon cameras.
Tiffen explained how his company supplies cinematographers with in-camera filters as well as software-based filtering – everything from gobos to Roscoe and Kodak gels. Poster remarked that the software contains, “every single filter ever developed.” He uses the software as a visualization tool that gives him the ability to show directors before-and-after looks. Tiffen shared a bit of his company’s history and how over time they have kept up their conversations with cinematographers – talks that focus on what the creative community needs, not what the company wants.
Canon’s entrance into the motion picture industry is relatively recent, beginning in March 2009 when Poster “opened up his phone book” and around 190 cinematographers consulted on the creation of a professional line of products. Canon’s development has been astonishingly rapid with the C300 coming out in November 2011 as an evolution of the company’s popular SLR cameras, and the upgraded C500 being presented this year. In the short time span of 18 months Canon also developed a number of other products including 11 cinema lenses, the C110, six prime lenses and two 4K compact zooms. Smith commented that Canon is working with filmmakers of all levels, from high school to major feature films. He noted that Canon is “not in this for two years. They are in this for 50 years.”
Llyod used the Canon C300 package in his collaborations with Film Independent directing workshop fellows, working both on scenes and short films. He liked the dial-in looks achieved during camera tests using the Tiffen software, which allowed him to experiment with different filters. Villiani noted that the Tiffen software had good latitude and created a clean image. He especially liked the Tiffen Sunset.
In concluding the panel, Poster questioned the emerging cinematographers as to what steps they had taken to advance their careers. Although Llyod and Valliani came from different backgrounds, what stood out was not only their desire to shoot, but the non-competitive and generous mentorship they received from other cinematographers who have shared their talents, time and even contacts with the newcomers.