By Jack EganDalsa, the Ontario, Canada-based manufacturer of one of the cameras vying for a piece of the high-end digital image acquisition market, will soon be distributing its product in Woodland Hills, Calif., right in the backyard of industry stalwart Panavision. Dalsa’s new facility, close to the locus of cinematographers and production companies in Southern California, will open in January, 2005.The maker of the Dalsa Origin, the world’s first 4K digital cinema camera, plans to start renting the camera for $3,000 a day early in the year. “That’s a fraction of the rental cost of an ordinary, non-digital cinema camera, and will be a big part of its appeal,” said Patrick Myles, director of corporate communications for Dalsa Corp.“When we started the development of the camera three years ago, we incorporated the views of the cinematography community in developing its functionality,” Myles told Below the Line. “But we recently realized we’d need a suitable distribution company that was in touch with as many cinematographers and production companies as possible. And that’s why we’re opening in the Los Angeles area.”The relatively low rental cost is intended to make the camera accessible to DPs shooting on low-budget productions. “But the camera has an appeal across the board and we think we’ll be seeing it used in many high-budget productions as well,” Myles added.To speed its entry into this market, Dalsa, instead of constructing a new facility, is buying the assets of Woodland Hills-based Broadcast Plus, a video equipment and services provider presently doing business with broadcast and HDTV productions.Bob DaSilva, who founded Broadcast Plus in 1980, has been appointed general manager of what will now be known as the Dalsa Digital Cinema Center. He’ll also be joining Dalsa’s senior management team.“Bob has a fantastic track record with established credentials among producers and directors of photography in Hollywood,” commented Dalsa CEO Savvas Chamberlain, an inventor and scientist in the technology of CCD chips, which turn an image into an electrical signal. He founded Dalsa in 1980. The publicly owned company is known for its expertise in chipmaking for advanced imaging, along with other electronic pursuits, and its shares, listed on the Toronto Exchange, are up some 300 percent in the last three years.Dalsa’s imaging technology has been prominently used for space-mission cameras like the one on the Mars Rover and on the satellite that flew by Jupiter and its moons. Other customers include corporations, especially those involved in medical-imaging.Dalsa is also known for making advanced chips for state-of-the-art digital still cameras. For example, the company, based in Waterloo, an hour outside Toronto, has come up with a 22-million pixel chip now being used by topflight professional photographers.This imaging-chip technology background positions Dalsa differently than other firms presently developing digital cinema cameras, like Woodland Hills-based Panavision and Germany’s ARRI, both of which have had longstanding commercial relationships with the moviemaking community.Digital capture of images by cinematographers is in an evolutionary state. Most still prefer to use film cameras. But the technology committee of the American Society of Cinematographers has been evaluating new products to see if they meet or exceed the proven capabilities of cameras utilizing film, and are equally easy to handle.“We don’t believe it’s an all-or-nothing issue of whether the future for cinematography will be film or digital,” said spokesman Myles. “But we’re definitely in the age of digital imaging and there’s no stopping it. We have what we think is by far the best camera for digital capture. We’re working hard with the cinematography community and with the workflow community and now with Bobby DaSilva. We see a nice commercialization of the product in 2005.”Dalsa’s Origin camera has been designed for cinematographers for use with existing 35mm cine lenses and a through-the-lens reflex viewfinder. “No other digital camera provides 4K output, but more importantly for cinematography, no other digital camera comes close to delivering as much exposure latitude,” the company said in its announcement.“The Dalsa Digital Cinema Center and the Origin camera are poised to change the landscape of the Los Angeles camera rental market,” said DaSilva. “The Center will be the first ‘all digital’ camera rental facility with the capability and broad line of products and services to satisfy the diverse needs of today’s producers and directors of photography, whose everyday productions range from reality television programs to feature-length motion pictures.”DaSilva will be responsible for building the sales team and professional services group in Los Angeles and executing the operating plan. To jumpstart the deployment, the Center is planning a series of open houses and in-house seminars to give members of the motion picture community a hands-on opportunity to see the camera and learn how it fits into the 4K workflow.
Written by Jack Egan