By Mel Lambert
With its focus on sound and image acquisition, the annual Cine Gear Expo — now in its 20th year — offers attendees the opportunity to examine a wide cross section of systems targeted at the production and post communities, including capture, storage and delivery configurations that accommodate 4K and HDR workflows. Held last Friday and Saturday at the Paramount Studios complex in central Hollywood, a large number of companies showed off new innovations within Stages 31 and 32, in addition to outdoor booths located throughout the New York Street area. This year’s event reportedly attracted in excess of 12,000 attendees.
One highlight was a rare 70mm screening by Band Pro Film & Digital of Baraka, followed by a Q&A with producer Mark Magidson. Shot in 25 countries on six continents, the film includes a number of scenes that director Ron Fricke defines as “a guided meditation on humanity.” Originally released in 1992, Baraka was the first film in over 20 years to be photographed in the 70mm Todd-AO format, and reportedly the first film ever to be restored and scanned at 8K resolution. “Last year we screened Samsara in 4K at Cine Gear,” reports Band Pro president/CEO Amnon Band. “The response was huge, and we wanted this year to be just as amazing. Baraka is a film that deserves to be projected and appreciated on the big screen.” (As critic Roger Ebert once commented: “If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be Baraka.”)
Panavision/Light Iron showed test footage from director Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which was shot by Robert Richardson, ASC, in Ultra Panavision 70 and projected from 70mm anamorphic film at the Paramount Theater. The first production since Khartoum (1966) to be shot in Ultra Panavision 70, the anamorphic format is captured on 65mm negative stock to deliver an approximately 2.7:1 image that is described as “sharp but not clinical, with painterly bokeh and immersive depth.” Also shown in the Panavision/Light Iron booth was a demo of 8K footage shot on the RED Weapon 8K with Panavision Primo 70 lenses, PanaNet, a high-speed fiber network between Panavision locations for transferring media at up to 10GB per second; LightScan, a low-cost telecine solution that transfers ProRes UHD quality targeted at independent films, commercials and TV shows that prefer film optics; and Live Play 3, an iPad dailies app for Mac OS X.
Canon took the opportunity to showcase the new EOS C300 Mark II digital cinema camera. According to Joseph Bogacz, a Canon advisor on professional engineering and solutions, the Mk II is a completely new camera, and not derived from the original C300. “The Mk II offers more than 15 stops of dynamic range, with ISO from 160 to 102,400. We have also included 10-bit recording for 4K shoots, in addition to 10- or 12-bit HD/2K resolutions. The Mk II also offers internal 4K recording, for less complexity on a film or TV set.” The camera’s power system has also been beefed up to 14.4 volts, with Lemo connectors.
Also shown was the new portable DP-V2410 24-inch 4K reference monitor, which is designed for on-set use during 4K cinema and 4K/UHD TV/commercial productions. The monitor “delivers a consistent look throughout the entire workflow,” according to Jon Sagud, a professional marketing manager with Canon Imaging Technologies and Communications Group. “It connects via a single cable to the C300 MkII and also accepts HDMI sources.”
The RGB LED backlight panel is rated at 400 NIT light levels with several built-in waveform displays, and can be powered from 24V supplies. It can also de-Bayer live 4K RAW video from EOS C500 and C300 Mark II cameras, and supports 4K ACES proxy (ACES 1.0) to maintain a desired “look” throughout a production-to-post workflow.
The company also hosted a panel discussion, “A First Look at the EOS C300 Mark II with Gale Tattersall,” during which the acclaimed director of photography presented his first impressions of the new camera, together with reactions from first AC Tony Gutierrez, second AC Zoe Van Brunt and Steadicam operator Ari Robbins, while shooting Trick Shot, the first short to be shot entirely with the new system. “I was immediately impressed by the C300 Mk II’s wide dynamic range and output quality,” Tattersall confided. “I could avoid white-level clipping and hold shadow detail; you can go beyond the 15-stop range if you want to. We were working with a 50-1,000 T5 Canon lens, which is a perfect all-round zoom. With Netflix and other studios specifying 4K resolution, the MkII’s on-board recording will definitely streamline our workflows.”
Probably best known for his work as DP on Fox’s House television series, Tattersall currently is working on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie series, using a competitive 4K camera. “When you have [series principals] Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – ‘ladies in their seventies’ – wearing black against black backgrounds, dynamic range become a key factor! The Mk II offers outstanding performance down in the critical 15 IRE low-level range.”
During a panel discussion organized by Sony, cinematographer Rob Hardy, BSC, shared details of his work on director Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, using a F65 CineAlta digital camera. Because of his prior experience shooting 35mm film for commercials, “I wanted to retain the same operator workflow,” Hardy concedes. “During pre-production 4K tests [in the UK at Pinewood Studios] we compared the look of Red Dragon, Arri Alexa and Sony F65 cameras, with new and old glass [lenses]. I needed to capture in the camera what I was seeing on the set; skin tones became a key parameter across a range of interior and exterior lighting levels.
“We opted for Xtal Express anamorphic glass on the F65, a combination that offered everything I was looking for. The resultant images had the depth that I needed for the film; the F65 ‘read’ the glass perfectly for me at T2.8 or T2.3 apertures.” UK-based Joe Dunton Cameras supplied the Cooke Xtal (Crystal) Express anamorphic lenses, which are derived from vintage Cooke spherical lenses that, in the eighties, were rehoused and modified with anamorphic elements.
Turning to other booth displays at Cine Gear, Amimon demonstrated the Connex series of 5GHz wireless transmission units that are said to deliver full HD video quality with zero-latency transmission over distances up to 3,300 feet, which are targeted at feature films, documentaries, music videos and other production applications that need realtime control of a camera and drone. A built-in OSD provides telemetry information; commands can also be sent via Futaba S-Bus protocol to a drone’s gimbal; the unit supports simultaneous multicasting to four screens.
Audio Intervisual Design (AID) showed examples of recent post-production design and installation projects, including a multi-function dub stage and DI/color grading suite for Blumhouse Productions, which has enjoyed recent success with the Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Insidious and Sinister franchises, in addition to Oscar success with Whiplash and Emmy success with HBO’s The Normal Heart. Also shown at the AID booth was an Avid S6 Console surface for Pro Tools and examples of IHSEusa’s extensive range of KVM switches and extenders, plus DVI splitters and converters.
GoPro demonstrated application of its free-of-charge GoPro Studio software that imports, trims and playbacks videos and timelapse photo sequences; edit templates offer music, edit points and slow-motion effects. Video playback speeds can also be changed for ultra-slow and fast motion using the built-in Flux app.
G-Tech showed the new G-Drive ev ATC with either Thunderbolt or USB3 interfaces, designed to withstand life while on hostile locations. The ruggedized, watertight housing with tethered cable holds a removable hard drive and is available in various capacities. The ATC’s all-terrain case is compatible with the firm’s Evolution Series, with a durable 7,200 RPM drive that is said to leverage the speed of Thunderbolt while providing the flexibility of USB. A 1TB USB drive sells for $179 and $229 for a 1TB Thunderbolt model. Also shown was the RAID 8-Bay Thunderbolt 2 storage solution designed to support multi-stream compressed 4K workflows at transfer rates up to 1,350MB/s
London-based iDailies offers 35/16mm processing and 35 mm printing, together with telecine transfer and color grading; only two such film-processing facilities currently exist in the UK. “We are handling all of the processing for [Walt Disney Pictures’] new Star Wars: Episode 7–The Force Awakens, which is being shot entirely on film by director J. J. Abrams,” explains the firm’s senior colorist Dan Russell. Reportedly, the facility has processed every studio film shot in the UK since March 2013, including Spectre, Mission Impossible 5, Cinderella and Fury, together with The Imitation Game and Far From The Madding Crowd. It also supports the majority of film schools, to help “encourage and enable the next generation of filmmakers to discover the unique attributes of film origination.”
Sound Devices showcased the PIX-E Series on-camera video monitors, which includes 1,920-by-1,080 five-inch and or 1,920-by-1,200 seven-inch LCDs, with integral monitoring tools, SDI and HDMI I/O, plus the ability to record 4K and Apple ProRes 4444 to mSATA-based SpeedDrives. PIX-E monitors feature compact, die-cast metal housings and Gorilla Glass 2. Also shown was the 12-input Model 688 production mixer with 16-track recorder, offering eight outputs plus digital mixing and routing and the MixAssist automatically drops the volume of inactive inputs and maintains consistent background levels.
Studio Network Solutions (SNS) showcased practical applications for ShareBrowser, a file/project/asset management interface for OS X and Windows, and which is included with every EVO shared-storage system. “ShareBrowser lets post users search, index, share, preview and verify all assets,” explained sales manager Steve McKenna. “More than a file manager, the app enables automatic project locking for Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier, Avid Pro Tools and other editors, as well as Avid project and bin sharing, and allows search across all EVO storage as well as local, offline and other network disks.”
Cine Gear photos by Mel Lambert