A Technodolly workshop hosted at GripHQ has seen the "Share the Knowledge" programme successfully branch into the practical side of production. Held over five days spread across June, ten successful applicants learned the inner workings of the Technodolly from world-renowned expert Lee Buckley and New Zealand's own veteran grip Tony 'Spotty' Keddy.
In New Zealand for an upcoming Amazon project, Buckley has been involved with the Technodolly for roughly the past ten years and has seen many iterations over his career, watching the technology advance from a ceiling-mounted newsroom crane to what it is now. His work on films such as War for the Planet of the Apes and Altered Carbon push the boundaries of the rapidly advancing technology. "Camera control, repeatability, the Technodolly can take prebuilt moves and recreate them practically on set or a practical live performance-led camera move that is then ingested into Maya. Now there's greater integration with things like Unreal and real-time CG environments that actors can exist in."
There are currently about 30 Technodolly around the world, with three in New Zealand and developments to acquire a fourth. Keddy believes this to be a huge drawcard for productions looking at New Zealand as a filming destination. Drawing on his extensive experience with motion capture, Keddy suggests the modern audience has grown a lot smarter so it takes a lot more to sell the illusion of film making, the Technodolly being an ideal piece in the modern film making puzzle. "It's a more flexible and reliable tool than it's ever been, and for a digital world, it's the right time for it."
With each Technodolly needing a crew to operate, the number of knowledgeable operators is thin. While there's been a demand for quality training for a long time, given COVID 19 and many productions looking to relocate to New Zealand, that need has escalated dramatically. "The machine's just a machine, and it will attract productions, but we need to have skilled people running it." says Keddy. He believes there needs to be a culture change in the film industry. "The only way we can go forward is if we share the knowledge and get the whole level of filming up. There's a huge gap between the A crews and the D Crews, if you're not shown what to do, it's a long journey to work your way up. Whereas we can elevate people quicker and better with education."
"When starting in the industry, to get that job you need the experience, and then to get that experience you need that job." Says Buckley. "Whilst the training doesn't give you the experience of set and what you would do on set it does give you that experience and ability to see how it works in the real world."
Local cinematographer Christo Montes attended the course and gained an appreciation beyond the hands on experience. "[Seeing] Lee's insight of what an actual set with the Technodolly means. Especially the set dynamics and how those can be challenging in a lot of situations, for me it was definitely a benefit to know." The training featured elements of real-world situations requiring critical thinking and a steady composure. Buckley says "By applying pressure to give a sense of 'Yes you have the knowledge, but how do you now make that knowledge fit within a set environment.' And that's the key to training is to get people so they've got the base awareness and base knowledge, and then that gives them the tools to be able to implement them on set."
When comparing New Zealand to a heavily unionized North America, Buckley says the multi-discipline nature of motion control crosses so many departments, and it's an attitude of collaboration that allows Kiwis to excel. "New Zealand has that willingness to jump into different worlds and just muck in and help out. It's both challenging and rewarding." With the government earmarking significant funds for international productions, there's never been a more pertinent time to foster the development of skills within the New Zealand film industry.
~ John Ross, Cinematographer
The ScreenSafe/SWAG Screen Industry Professional Respect Training Project is back up and running. The initiative designed and implemented by ScreenSafe and SWAG, and with the financial support from NZ Film Commission, NZ on Air and Te Māngai Pāho.
Long time listener, first time caller. I'm not a DOP but I am your biggest fan. I am a colourist based at Images and Sound in Auckland, where, minus a couple of excursions to Australia and LA, I have been for over 12 years.
I was fortunate to start out when film was still quite prevalent in the industry and we were just starting to shift into digital, so am grateful for the opportunity to have seen that shift and the advantages and disadvantages that came with it.
I cut my teeth colouring as an assistant on shows like Outrageous Fortune and Power Rangers and can barely believe that I now get to sit in a room and collaborate with the people l looked up to and studied in Film School. (Hi AlBol).
These days I grade everything from TVC's and short films through to Long Form Drama Features, Television, Documentary and everything in between. Recent highlights include The Luminaries, Fresh Eggs and Mystic the young adult series I am currently working on for the BBC.
Throughout my time as a colourist I have been fortunate to work alongside and learn from many of you. Some of you being pretty instrumental in my progression (I'm looking at you Simon Raby).
The reason I joined NZCS was to try and mine you all for your expertise so that I can better serve you at the other end.
I look forward to meeting many more of you.
A production report by Marc Swadel BFE - Committee member NZCS.
In the current climate, the lockdown and isolation, has hit the young, charities, and communities at risk, around the world hard. Which is why I am proud to be involved with a wonderful, positive initiative from the Roald Dahl Story Company: 'James and the Giant Peach - with Taika and friends'.
This loved children's book, is read over 10 episodes, narrated by Oscar winning director Taika Waititi, who is joined in the storytelling, by a fantastic bunch of friends, who have given their time and allowed us into their lives and living rooms, for a very good cause – they include triple Oscar winner Meryl Streep, Billy Porter, Cate Blanchett, Eddy Redmayne, Chris & Liam Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberpatch, Lupita Nyong'o, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Ruth Wilson, Ryan Reynolds, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde, Gordon Ramsay, Camilla, Princess of Wales, Yo Yo Ma, Governor Cuomo of New York, Kumail Nanjiani and Cynthia Erivo. An impressive line-up of star power – if you added up all the Oscar/Bafta/Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy awards and nominations between them – it is over 200!
It is all in aid of Partners in Health - a charity restoring social justice by bringing quality health care to the most vulnerable around the world. Roald Dahl Story Company have pledged to match donations dollar for dollar.
My role in this, was as a hybrid Technical Director and Cinematographer - working out how to make it work. It was challenging – the brief was the need to record from up to 4 time zones at once, needing to get isolated video and audio, for up to 6 people at once, as well as recording instruments and foley, and on top of that make sure everyone was able to set themselves up and be audible, framed and bright – from 4k webcams in home studios to iPads and iPhones in remote locations all over the world, live under lockdown, from the front room. With a week’s notice to make it happen.
Being a totally isolated project – I had to work out how to make it happen with the platform provided – Zoom. I had used Zoom, and had recorded before, for other client gigs – but nothing of this spec. This was the brand new COVID19 world – I could not find any other productions that had attempted this – and there definitely was nothing In the Zoom instructions that alluded to being able to do anything like it, in fact, talking to Zoom – they had no idea if it could be done. So, we had to work it out, and make it work.
How we made it happen, to cut a long story short – and bypassing a long-winded rundown on settings etc. we had to match the number of participants with a ‘Camera Operator’ who would ‘pin’ each of them full frame in Isolation as we recorded, and then ‘go invisible’ for the record.
Out of necessity, all involved – Lucy from The Roald Dahl Story Company, Michelle from Team Taika, Taika himself, Laura the Editor, and Maggie & Bee the U.S Producers, got stuck in as ‘Cam Ops’ and worked closely on the project, pre-record, to test, test and test!
For Taika, we had his laptop recording the normal down the barrel web cam shot, and set up a ‘B’ camera (his daughters iPad) as a higher resolution wide, that we could punch in on if needed. We bought a nice mic and lighting set up for Taika – but guess what? Due to the lockdown, it never arrived. Luckily Taika managed to find an SM58 vocal mic and we plugged it in direct, as a ‘B’ source of audio, and also for Foley.
For the participants, I wrote a Zoom settings manual, and a protocol to check through for both audio and video – framing, lighting, sound levels, making sure they are getting maximum bandwidth etc. and also made sure the communication channels were open pre-record, if they had any problems setting up.
Operationally – we had the routine down pat. We crew would join the meeting 30 mins before Taika + Participants, we would test record and check back on quality, we would identify who was recording whom, and we also had a comms channel outside of Zoom – a WhatsApp group where we could communicate freely, without distracting the participants. This was a really big point – we needed to be as ‘ghostlike’ as possible, and not get in the way of the flow of the storytelling.
Just before the meeting time – Taika’s P.A would join, and we would make sure things were good to go, and Taika would jump in. As the participants would arrive in the ‘waiting room’ and Lucy from Roald Dahl (who was the host) would meet and greet, and let them in, and we would say hi, introduce ourselves as the crew, I would talk to Taika and the participants if there was an issue ( for example, Meryl had a message alert beep on her desk top we had to sort, and we had a chat with Benedict had to sort his cell phone level) once all was good, and I had made sure Taika was recording, we would sound off that we were each recording, then say bye, and turn off our audio and video, and ‘go invisible’.
If there was any problem, say a garbled line, or a freeze - we crew had the WhatsApp group and would alert each other - and then Lucy would drop into the Zoom convo and ask for a re take. Working with such professionals – aside from tech issues – we could just leave them to it.
We would get ISO individual video and audio tracks, Taika would get the ‘Gallery view’ on his laptop, and the master wide on the side angle – which he would turn towards, and use for Foley when needed. Sounds simple… but..
Problems. First big one – resolution. As we had a Zoom Corporate Plan, which mentioned 1080p recording (on request) and 720p as standard, we thought we would be fine. Problem was, 1080p was on request – which we did – but the HD tap didn’t get turned on in time for our records. 720p? well we managed it a handful of times on a few computers. Mostly we were getting… 360p.
Second issue – latency – loads! No fault of Zoom – recording live over the internet across 4 time zones – you are going to have a load of lag. Taika got on top of it and made sure lines were read individually if things got garbled due to lag. it did get interesting recording Yo Yo Ma and his cello – we recorded an ISO track, plus also his engineer recorded Yo Yo as well. We got an interesting echo across some of the other participants ISO tracks – so we just asked Yo Yo to turn off his Webcam mic – and problem solved.
There was also an interesting problem with Taika’s ISO track – when he played his guitar – it just blanked in and out. Not sure if it was an overload thing, or if Zoom optimises the audio bandwidth for the human voice – but it wasn’t good. Luckily, we had great audio on the ‘B’ Mic, into the iPad. Phew...
Aside from those hiccups – it went well. Once shot the turnaround was a week to TX for the first episode, on YouTube – then three episodes a week until the final, 10th episode.
Despite where we find ourselves currently in this moment – a team of people who haven’t met each other got together and made it happen for a good cause, and I am really happy the Roald Dahl Story Company had this bold idea and took the leap to make it happen.
One really good thing about a YouTube release – you can read the comments section from viewers – the joy and happiness this little project has brought, plus the donations and exposure for the Charity, have definitely made the Coronavirus blackhole I found myself in turn to a positive thing.
So grab the kids, sit down and enjoy the story!
David Paul was planning on a session with colourist, Paul Lear, at Images and Sound, on Friday 27th March 2020 to check out his tweaks on Episode 1 of “The Sounds” a new 8-episode drama co-production with South Pacific Pictures and Shaftesbury. Then.. level 4 Lockdown arrived virtually overnight.
Suddenly no more grading. I know there were also several other jobs being graded throughout Aotearoa that now have come to a halt. This surely is a spanner in the works for producers and any hopes of delivering.
But then to my surprise and delight, into our ﬁrst week of lockdown an email arrives saying Ep2 has been uploaded to view and so we’re back on. Images have set Paul up in his home bubble to continue grading the series.
So this became our ‘Level 4 / 3 normal’ for grading. Oﬀ-line was uploaded. I’d watch it a few times. Paul and I would then talk on the phone going through shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene discussing how we felt each needed treating. Lots of timecode checking with each other, so we know we’re talking about the same shot. The LUT’s I’d had built for our on-set monitoring were applied to the oﬀ-line, so I was able to see the show quite well in the zone of how we wanted it to look, as a base. Paul of course was grading from original master log footage. He’s graded a lot of my work and he knows my approach, so we have a head start. We’d talk through the episode, the feeling and mood of scenes, the characters, the why’s and when’s during our 90+ min phone chats.
As we are familiar with each other’s approach and tastes, we’d often subconsciously have a sort of shorthand dialogue about some scenes/shots and I’d know we were talking about the same thing. Having that pre-existing relationship with the colourist was important. During these phone sessions I’d double check - are we seeing the same thing regarding shadow or highlights detail or colour etc? Paul reassuring me the detail is there in the shadows, or the highlights are ok, the colour not too intense, as he is the only one actually seeing the real image on a correct monitor.
From this I came to realise what I'm seeing in the Moxion viewing platform was very close to what Paul was seeing. I was also pleased to see us being able to watch 1080p on Moxion. Previously I’d only used it for rushes at 720p. Through this regular checking with Paul as to what we each were seeing I was able to calibrate myself, my mind and eyes in a sense, to what I’m watching - otherwise myself and the Post Production Producer could be giving incorrect or uneducated notes leaving Paul scratching his head thinking we’ve gone a bit AWOL.
Paul would then do a ﬁrst pass after our phone chats. Images and Sound DMC would remotely upload the graded episode. Executive Producer / Post Production Producer, Chris Bailey, and myself, would watch it in our respective bubbles and comment. Being so used to being in the suite with the colourist, but now not being able to point at the screen and interact, I started to do frame grabs and draw, and add text with arrows all over them. Sometimes I’d do basic grade ideas myself on the occasional frame grab to try to illustrate my thoughts. I found that much easier to communicate ideas or thoughts than writing them in an e-mail.
David Paul NZCS in his home office (aka bubble)
I’m viewing the grades on my 15” MacBookPro. It’s a long way from lovely, expensive calibrated monitors in a grading suite. I’d also watch it on my 24” iMac just to double-check. I found with screen brightness set to about 70% it sat in the zone, plus I did the Mac calibration of my screens - it’s under Displays in System Preferences. I found after calibrating though, it was near the same as my preferred Mac preset screen setting anyway. If you’re monitoring your blue light exposure don't forget to check if you have Night Mode On or Oﬀ, otherwise you may watch a very cool or very warm version of your ﬁlm which could cause confusion and tears.
As part of my own curiosity I did test/compare our footage in Moxion with a well-known publicly available on-line video platform, both at 1080p. My conclusion was, if looking at any technical aspects of your ﬁlm for grading, do not use any such consumer video platforms. They do not represent the grade correctly at all. Colours and levels are skewed too much for you to make any educated or correct judgement calls.
Here’s a few options:
Moxion (pronounced “motion”) is a secure intermediates/rushes viewing platform designed for the ﬁlm/tv industry…plus there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Other popular industry speciﬁc platforms for the same purpose are the fully-featured frame.io which I’ve experienced on other projects and works very well, and you can add notes to the videos, draw on a frame with arrows etc. Digital Pigeon is another platform.
I asked Hugh Calveley, CEO of Moxion why Moxion works for image accuracy.
"The key to maintaining colour accuracy is not to lose control of your render pipeline by outsourcing it. Keeping as much in house as possible, means that we can maintain QC and identify exactly where issues are arising.We make sure that all the source file information is translated accurately , your images , colour space or contrast for example , and carried through the entire process , using our own dedicated code to manage this transcoding and /or re wrapping of your files. It also helps that many of us are from the industry (ex DIT's, Editors etc) and have an obsession with image and colour. Hugh also mentioned they have 4k and HDR available."
After talking to Hugh, I realise the rushes/ intermediates story is bigger than a few lines as there is so much more to it and reasons why you should only be using industry dedicated platforms. That’s an article in itself for another day.
I touched base with Grant Baker, Head of Images / Managing Partner at Images and Sound, as I was curious and impressed by how they responded so quickly, keeping the show’s post schedule moving forward.
Paul's home bubble set-up
Grant Baker, Head of Images / Managing Partner at Images and Sound
"As an accredited member of the Trusted Partner Network (TPN) we need to have an approved pandemic plan in place - which at the time seemed like complete overkill and was something that we would just ﬁle away and never need, but 2 weeks prior to New Zealand going into lockdown (and before Covid was even a “thing" in NZ) we were advised to activate our pandemic plan - which even then seemed like a complete over reaction - but we started quietly preparing things in the background “just in case” they would be needed.
Baselight is our main colour grading tool, and they oﬀer a “scaled back” version which is perfect for a work from home scenario. Once the Covid threat started ramping up we scrambled to get a couple of portable solutions ready to go so we could carry on grading from home.
Our Digital Media Centre was able to work remotely to access servers and securely pass ﬁles back and forth to artists and clients and plus deliver broadcast ﬁles to networks and distributors once grades had been signed oﬀ
And of course working from home does also present some challenges for getting the lighting levels correct with some novel solutions needed to be “engineered” under the lockdown situation where nothing was available and you had to use whatever you had on hand.
Having worked with various Cinematographers remotely and having good relationships with them we were conﬁdent the grades that we were applying would translate to their laptops or viewing monitors at home - a lot of the grading work on The Luminaries was done this way."
Paul Lear, Baselight Colourist
"During lockdown, time seemed to stop, or it continued without my knowledge. Did anyone know what day it was? During the ﬁrst week, we had to come up with a new improvised schedule. At least there was a goal of when I would have a ﬁrst pass graded and the clients would expect an online version for review. Thankfully, we had already set the look and the ﬁrst episode grade was approved.
Once my graded pass was complete, it was then sent out for review. Even though this was called the ﬁrst pass, it was my second pass through the episode. One thing I learned during this process was patience. It would take overnight or a day to get the episode online for review. Then it would take a day or two (or a few) to get the ﬁrst email with grading notes. It was amazing how busy we all were during lockdown with nothing to do. Patience were also required when I wanted to call or text David a question. Not because of David’s availability , but the availability of my phone as my son was using it for voice chat with his friends as he was incredibly busy playing Mario Cart on our Nintendo Switch.
I wanted to start making the grading tweaks right away, but I held out for a second or third email before changing the grade. While David and Chris’s emails would rarely contradict each other there were subtle changes to the grade that would have been missed if I didn’t wait for the next emails. Then the process started over again. The graded version with notes was sent out for approval as I continued my work on the following episode and waited for more emails.
Since we had worked together for many years, there was a trust between us. His notes asked for changes, but he also prefaced it with the trust he had of me and wanted to be sure that I agreed with the changes because we were seeing things on diﬀerent monitors, in diﬀerent locations."
With the arrival L2 we all re-convened in Baselight 2 at Images and Sound to view our successful Lock Down Grades of several episodes. We got through four episodes in lockdown but it was reassuring to do a sign oﬀ of our most recent ‘Lock Down grade’ in person .
This was a welcome and fun distraction during L4/3 and kept the creative juices ﬂowing, but I am very happy to be back in the suite with Paul for the remaining episodes. Even though we managed to carry on , it doesn’t compare to being in the same space as the colourist, looking at the same image on the same monitor where we can bounce ideas around and discuss in real time.
~ David Paul NZCS
I’m very grateful to have been asked to come to New Zealand at the start of the year to work on a documentary series for Amazon Studios.
I’ve been based in the UK until 2018 and have worked internationally for many years. In 2019 I set a new personal record - filming in 21 countries and travelling to them 50 times. The thought of not taking another plane for a while is rather appealing to me!
I began my career collaborating with artists on short films and video installations with the core of my training being in observational documentaries. I graduated from the National Film & Television School and have specialised in shooting commercials and documentaries. I’ve developed my ability to tap deep into the sensitivities of working with actors, cultivating a space for them to deliver their best performance and I am constantly aware of the eye of the observer - making myself part of the scene as a conduit for the audience. I had the opportunity to shoot my first feature last year and feel closest to stories that inspire a sense of belonging, that provide windows into the human psyche and allow us to grow.
I’m an advocate for diversity and always strive to have a well-rounded crew. I have taken great care in mentoring individuals who wouldn’t typically be represented in the film industry. Nurturing their talent and different perspective on the world is really important to me. Living with dyslexia has offered me an opportunity to see things differently and given me the ability to overcome limitations that the world labels you with.
I’m really excited for what the future holds here, I’ve been welcomed and made to feel at home more than any other country I’ve lived in. I can only wish to give back the opportunities that I’ve already been given and share my knowledge.
~ Sebastian Cort
Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program:
These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without funding from NZ Film Commission, and the hard work and backing from the productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding (and in cases like this one, more than halfway), but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank Line Producer Chloe Smith for making this opportunity possible.
Report from Bailey Mitchinson:
I was given the role of ‘Camera Trainee’ on the film The Power of the Dog, with Jane Campion directing and cinematographer Ari Wegner ACS, and quickly stepped up as a truck loader/2nd AC which was incredible.
Some of my responsibilities were to make sure all our camera gear was packed each day, stored and maintained. I put in slates, coordinated with Kath Thomas (script supervisor/the best), set up monitors and handsets and worked with the lighting department to get colour temperature readings to ensure consistency of location shots outdoors to studio. It was also important to me to always be identifying how I could support everyone in my team, which took priority.
Ari was constantly busy, though is so open in the way that she works - clearly, calmly and respectfully communicating with Jane, grips, lighting, art, etc. - that it made learning from her very accessible, just from being welcome to be a part of communications that I would normally not be involved in. My team allowed me to neglect a lot of my menial responsibilities (the truck was a mess), which is rare, to allow me to get the most on-set time, learning all the nuances that you could never pick up otherwise.
I was able to build on my existing technical skills, Dan Foeldes (A Cam 1st AC) and Ben Rowsell (B Cam 1st AC) were always willing to pass on their knowledge and go into depth with how everything works and why, and I especially appreciated Ben coaching me with practical hands-on skills (filter changes, camera builds, etc). Nick Willoughby (A Cam 2nd AC) and Jimmy Bollinger (B Cam 2nd AC) encouraged me to step in for them on a regular basis, becoming ‘my trainee’. I love them.
I’m sure there’s always a strong sense of camaraderie on away-jobs, though both my personal and professional development benefited from the way the crew bonded within, and across departments. It was exceptional. The open and supportive culture that we had was an environment that fostered huge development for me. This included the warmest, constructive feedback from other departments as well as my own. I intend to do everything I can to contribute to creating an environment like this going forward in my career.
For me the greatest value of a placement like this is having that wider support-net. It’s hard to navigate contracts and gain confidence in what you’re entitled to as someone less experienced. It’s hard to ask for a wage that represents your role and skill set accurately. It’s been such a privilege to have had that on this job, thank you. I’d also love to thank in particular; Chloe Smith, Tanya Seghatchian, Libby Sharpe and Moira Grant - for the opportunity, for taking the time to regularly check in, and for being real good to me.
Report from Line Producer Chloe Smith:
The production has extended Bailey's tenure beyond the NZCS/NZFC contribution and this should be taken as further affirmation of her positive experience, positive presence and contribution to the on-set team and this production. We fully support the NZCS gender diversity initiative, and the memory of Cushla Lewis who was such an important protagonist in establishing this opportunity.
Report from Ben Rowsell, B Camera 1st AC:
Bailey Mitchinson joined the camera team under the NZCS gender diversity program. Bailey & I first met at the airport en route to the South Island location, and I was relying on her NZCS affiliation and reputation with camera crew from previous jobs.
The camera team was headed up by Cinematographer Ari Wegner, ACS, who travelled with her regular 1st AC Daniel Foeldes, and LA based Kiwi Grant Adams, SOC, as Operator & Steadicam Op. Bailey quickly settled into her role working alongside local 2ndACs Nick Willoughby and Jimmy Bollinger to provide valuable support for the on-set shooting crew.
The main set operated primarily as a single camera shoot, with Ari calling in A or B camera teams depending on the requirements of the scene. Bailey quickly had a comprehensive understanding of our equipment and was able to support either camera team as required. When not required on the main set, B Camera would splinter off to shoot additional content, and having someone as competent as Bailey to shuttle gear between sets was invaluable.
Director Jane Campion and 1st AD Phil Jones wanted to run an intimate set, and Bailey was quiet but attentive, always on hand to help with the gear, assist with blocking, etc.
When we returned to Auckland for the studio set work, Bailey was able to step up when one of our 2nd ACs was absent, and did an excellent job. At the end of her term Line Producer Chloe Smith generously agreed to extend Bailey’s contract to the end of the shoot.
In March 2020 along with many other productions in New Zealand and around the world we were cut short by the Covid-19 lockdown, with a block of the film still to be shot. With the intent to complete the shoot later in the year I'm looking forward to having Bailey back again as part of the team and hope to see her in the future on other jobs.
TPOTD shot with Alexa LF & LF Mini Cameras, and Panavision Ultra Panatar 1.25 X Anamorphic Lenses from PVNZ.
I started with an Arri 2C with a varo pot motor gip, built and modified it with a regulated battery pack to shoot sync then I brought a sync flat base, I love geared heads so much I brought one too (my old faithful Moy which still comes on set with me regularly). After finishing a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree I took that geared head and Arri and I began my career in filmmaking photographing as many short films and music video as I could (over 150 music videos back then) all with the intention to get involved in miniature effects… And along came the RED ONE… and everything changed S-8, 16, 35 became a memory… It was cheap, immediate and the directors and producers I worked with loved that.
Much has changed technologically over the last 20 years yet my love for lighting and framing has remained regardless of the tools be it film, digital or even phones! Lighting is still lighting and that's what I love most (and I still want to shoot miniatures…) Now my craft involves not just on set photography but it has extended into lighting design and pre-vis lighting rendering to virtual production.
I have been a member of the NZCS in the past, Kevin Riley asked me to be involved in helping with the NZCS when it formed in 2008 which was a step NZ cinematographers had for a long time deserved. NZ Cinematography in its formative years built from whats on hand to a sophisticated industry with global respect and skillsets that surprise even the best. Nice work, deserving of letters after ones name. It’s good to be back on the list.
~ Richard Harling
Deserted Brussels. Photo: Marc Swadel
The schedule was three days of IMAGO activity, with representatives from countries all over the globe, and it was to be a triumphant meet up – with The ASC officially joining, Uruguay as well, a vote for a new President, and of course the IMAGO International Awards for Cinematography – the only peer voted awards of its stature anywhere.. in short – a testament to how great things were going in the world of Cinematography.
I arrived into Brussels, from London on the 11th March, and wandered over to the venue from the train station. I was looking forward to catching up with old friends, Ron from the ACS, and also meeting Denson Baker, who was up for an award at the bash on Saturday night. Walking into the meeting room, it was in full flight, I quietly sat down at the back, as the IAGA business was being discussed, and at a juncture In the proceedings was welcomed in –‘ ‘And we welcome Marc Swadel from the NZCS – all the way from New Zealand!’ Which is a standing joke – as usually I just hop on the train over from London. Except this time, I HAD flown in from NZ the day before! Louis-Philippe Capelle SBC, who was chairing the meeting, said ‘ Oh.. well you have come a long way for some bad news ..’ the bad news being, just 10 minutes before, they had agreed to cancel the entire she-bang – due to the ensuing COVID-19 shitstorm that was starting to engulf the continent.
We got the IMAGO meeting all done in one day - as countries around the world were closing down the borders - and many had to leave throughout the day to avoid being stuck at the border. I had to get the earliest train out the next day for the same reason.
The Awards were cancelled/postponed. Denson was poised to come on over, but just sat it out in London - which was a real shame! Would have been nice to have seen him get the limelight :)
Like the NZCS, through good management and stewardship - quite healthy. BUT with the Awards being canned/postponed - a potential very large financial hole opened up. Luckily, as this year the awards etc. are in Brussels, the home territory for IMAGO and the SBC. Louis-Philippe, who is the key organiser, is busy trying to defer venue and hotel bookings and get credit notes towards possibly holding it at a later date, or for next year..
A New IMAGO Logo
A new logo has been designed - which was meant to be unveiled - but he UK design company couldn’t make it over to present.. so it will revealed at a later date!
New IMAGO Office
IMAGO has a new office in the same building as FERA - the European Directors federation - whom IMAGO have joined with to fight for Authorship rights in the EU, and the building also houses the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) and La Maison Européenne es Autrices et des Auteurs (MEDAA) – the Writers Guild. This is a really positive move – there is a strong European ground swell to get more royalties and rights recognised for the creators of film and TV in Europe – and if this fight can be won, then it will hopefully be a condition of funding for any film or co-production funding from within the EU.
Application for EU funding
Elen Lotman ESC is putting together an application for EU funding for IMAGO, for this coming fiscal year.
IMAGO Fees/New Members
One thing that was discussed, was the fact that many smaller societies can’t afford the 22 Euro per member levy for IMAGO membership. We looked at how the fees work, a suggestion was to make a minimum of 100 Euro for smaller societies, so they can come onboard. I suggested that the bigger societies 'sponsor' a smaller one into the organisation - as many smaller societies don't have much $$ to play with - case in point - Estonia - which pays 600 Euro - which is 80% of their member society dues!
And here are the winners, and the nominees:
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in FEATURE FILMS:
Winner: 1917 - Roger Deakins BSC ASC
Nominees: The Spy / Spionen / Anton Mertens SBC
Blizzard of Souls / Dvēseļu Putenis / Valdis Celmins LGC
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in TV DRAMA:
Winner: Patrick Melrose 'Bad News' - James Friend ASC BSC
Nominees: Liebermann / Vienna Blood - Xiaosu Han / Andreas Thalhammer AAC
Victoria - “Comfort & Joy” - Denson Baker NZCS ACS
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in DOCUMENTARY:
Winners: Honeyland / Medena Zemja - Fejmi Daut MSC and Samir MSC
Nominees: By the Name of Tania - Virginie Surdej SBC
Sidik and the Leopard (Sidik en de Panter) - Roy van Egmond NSC
Anthropocene - The Human Epoch - Nicholas de Pencier CSC
In conclusion, a real shame those nominated did not get their night in the spotlight, and we as Cinematographers did not get to celebrate what we do.. but cancelling was the right decision. It just wasn’t worth the risk – the last thing we would want is attendees going home to all corners of the world and potentially bringing the virus with them! In the month or so since that weekend in March – this decision has been shown to be a wise one. A total lock down, and a freeze on work globally, which has bought everything to a grinding halt. Due to a decisive PM – NZ is looking a whole load better than most countries, and hopefully gets to slowly climb back into a semblance of normalcy over the coming months – which could bring a large number of inward productions to NZ – as most of the rest of the world will still be in worse shape..
Whatever happens – keep safe and keep healthy!
~ Marc Swadel, NZCS Committee Member
Monday 16th March was just one day of the year but a significant day as a few NZCS members mobilised to shoot short films for various indigenous directors for Native Slam short films.
The NATIVE Slam is an international Indigenous collaboration challenge. Each year, in the days leading up to Māoriland Film Festival, Indigenous filmmakers team up in New Zealand to make a short film.
A NATIVE Slam team is made up of one Māori filmmaker host and two international Indigenous filmmakers. They have just 72 hours and no budget. Since its inception in 2016, seventeen short films have been created that have played in film festivals around the world.
WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia and Naylah Tarei
NZCS Cinematographer members David Paul NZCS, Jess Charlton and Mike Jonathan with Richard Curtis; plus Associate Member Ray Edwards, all shot for their respective directors in different parts of Aotearoa.
WHAKARONGO: Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia
I, David, headed to Whakatane to shoot WHAKARONGO or Nicholas Riini, Ngai Tuhoe (known to many of you as a top gaﬀer but a talented director/writer in the making plus a fantastic chef if you’re ever lucky enough to enjoy his kai) and, Alaskan native, Salmon boat owner/captain, Artist, Film director, Anna Hoover from Naknek, Alaska, and Saami native Reindeer herder/ Filmmaker/Journalist, Aslak Pallto from Sapmi, Finland ( via facetime catch ups as Covid -19 stopped Aslak making it to Aotearoa).
WHAKARONGO: Directors Anna Hoover and Nicholas Riini co-directing
NZCS Associate member Daniela “Nani” Conforte Vasconcellos joined us in Whakatane, smashing it on the 1st AC front.
WHAKARONGO: Nani and Joey sorting a wee technical.
Each team had to go hard to shoot their ﬁlm in one day. We shot until after the sun had set, which meant, as we had the wonderful Sony Venice camera from Imagezone and the dual ISO 500/2500 up our sleeve, it was dark, but not for the Venice.
ATUA: DOP Jess Charlton framing up a shot.
Nicholas must have put his gaﬀer hat on overnight as we woke to a beautiful soft light day with a huge ½ silk covering the sky all day ( a consistent veil of high cloud). With the Venice and the lens / ﬁlter combo and diﬀused sunlight, we had gentle, sort of pastel-like images of our actors in the surrounding beauty of Ohope beach and estuary where we shot.
WHAKARONGO: Actors Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia, David Paul NZCS
Being a fast turn around ﬁlm, although I was keen to use the full sensor on the Sony Venice but not give the editor 6k ﬁles to deal with, I set the camera to 6k / 2.39:1 so we utilised the full-frame sensor width but recorded to 4k XAVC300 (10 bit, 4:2:2) for manageable ﬁles and all footage loaded into Premier Pro seamlessly. In doing that, we set our own boundaries as well, with the native 2.39:1 aspect ratio in the Venice. No room for re framing in post if we didn’t like the composition. The frame was the frame.
WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia (Dop: David Paul NZCS). With no lighting allowed the natural approach was removing light when shooting interior to create shape. So I was lighting , but not using any lights. Adjusting the curtains in a room or opening / closing a door , can even use where crew may stand ( very still ) during the shot to create subtle shadows. Left of frame whilst operating I’m also deliberately blocking some window light from bouncing oﬀ the wall preventing too much ﬁll and Joey ( soundie) was also happy to stand to the right of the window whilst still booming / recording sound. I used his position to soften / reduce some light coming in on the right.
One of the few rules of Native Slam is no lighting allowed, which I certainly relished and am sure, as did Jess and Ray. Our grip gear was near non-existent also. Options were handheld or tripod.
Ray, also supported by the Imagezone team and Jess using her Panasonic EVA-1 camera kit were in diﬀerent regions shooting their ﬁlms with their respective indigenous directors, no doubt in their element enjoying the creative freedom that oddly the imposed restrictions often create.
As cinematographers and crew, we also beneﬁt, as we get to share, discover new voices, learn new ideas and interpretations which can only enrich our work.
ATUA: Co-Director Chantelle Murray, Dop Jess Charlton, Co-Director and actor Bailey Poching, AC Mike Potton and Co-Director Brown Bitty (not in photo) filming at Hokio Beach
As Nani and I drove back to Auckland, we chatted how fantastic our weekend was. We thought of the other teams knowing they’ll have also had a great time, learned new things, made new friends and shared their experience. It was the very heart and soul of ﬁlm making about whanau ﬁrst and collaboration. Diﬀerent cultures and voices, merging into one story, yet each being heard, sharing ideas and learning from each other.
ATUA: Dop, Jess Charlton
I look forward to seeing this happen more often with greater support for Maorilands and Native Slam. It’s about developing our indigenous ﬁlm makers which NZCS is fully supportive of and looks forward to welcoming more indigenous members coming up through the ranks, as they will do, to be part of leading New Zealand cinematography into the future.
I’m also sure some new acting talent has been discovered. I can attest that the two wahine taitamariki in our ﬁlm were amazing, never been in front of a camera before, but they owned it.
Ariel Camera LimitedCR Kennedy NZ Ltd
Māui Virtual Production Ltd
Prices include GST© 2008- 2021 New Zealand Cinematographers Society