The recent NZCS workshop in Christchurch on 14th January was a huge success with 30 people turning up to learn composition and lighting techniques from Auckland based DP Matt Gerrand
Gerrand, who won a gold last year for his work on #DefendNZ, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share what he has learnt along his journey. “A lot of what I’ve learnt is through experience, so I’ve always wished there was a platform for DP’s with greater knowledge to pass on that knowledge, rather than people having to start from the ground up.”
A broad range of experience levels turned up to learn and mingle, with NZCS member and Canterbury University lecturer John Chrisstoffels doubling as a model for part of the workshop. “It was refreshing to hear him teach with such enthusiasm and confidence. People skills are also important. It was not lost on me, and I hope others noted the respectful way that Matt spoke to the talent and his crew. Attitudes can make a huge difference on set.”
Chrisstoffels, who has been a cinematographer for 30 years, has seen the ups and downs experienced by the region in recent years. With TVNZ withdrawing in the early 90’s and many of the big local brands relocating north, locally made national commercials all but disappeared. More recently the earthquakes, coinciding with technical changes in the industry, brought new challenges to an already thin local industry.
Winning a gold for his feature film Human Traces, Chrisstoffels has been part of a recent resurgence in local productions. “Feature film making has always been deemed too difficult by North Island producers despite stunning locations and predictable weather. Peter Jackson made 2 of his first 5 films here in the 90’s.” Other recent films that utilised the region include The Stolen and The Changeover which won Andrew Stroud Cinematographer of the Year in 2018.
Greater interaction between the regions is something local gaffer Zac Beckett-Knight wants to see more of. “Canterbury has some awesome offerings in terms of locations but often gets overlooked as productions can't find the necessary filming infrastructure to service projects. It is here, and it is growing. There is a ground swell within the local community to take things to the next level. And there is ever increasing interest from productions outside of Christchurch to bring projects here.”
Beckett-Knight provided his combo truck for the evening and can see a huge benefit in the NZCS workshops. “Every DOP has different wants/focus/styles due to their learning process or influences and it's fun learning how they operate and problem solve on set so, as a gaffer, we can anticipate and give them more of what they want.” The broad spectrum of experience was also welcomed, with Beckett-Knight saying “It's great to see the up-and-comings asking outside-the-box questions and thinking creatively about light rather than functionally.”
Gerrand also emphasised the importance of community in a job that can often feel isolating. “It can be quite a solo journey as a DP, so to have a platform to be able to share, and people to receive is very high up in terms of what's needed, not just in Christchurch but across the country.” Community is a sentiment echoed by Beckett-Knight, “The region gains huge benefit from these sorts of workshops. Not only do they impart new skills too cinematographers, but they bring the community together regularly for catch ups and to chat about recent projects, new purchases and let them hone their craft through discussion in person.”
Thanks to Christchurch based cinematographer John Ross for this write-up, organising this event at short notice and collaborating with the NZCS, Screen Canterbury and local suppliers to make it a most successful evening.
With more workshops planned for the region in the year to come, connectivity between regions will continue to strengthen the cinematography community within New Zealand.
Donald Duncan - NZCS Professional Development Manager
Photo credit: Andrei Talili
Set in a quiet NZ street “ The Legend of Baron To’a ” Is a New Zealand action film with a retro wrestling throwback vibe
For this film, the Producer Kerry Warkia and Director Kiel McNaughton wanted to set up a look that would help build a slightly heightened reality in keeping with the wrestling style action sequences.
Creating such a look for a film with mostly day exterior scenes and tight schedules was a challenge. Director Kiel was also keen to use wide lenses and long Steadicam shots when on our hero street set, to see as much of the world as possible because of the importance the street played in the film. To create our look, we employed the Hawk V-lite Anamorphic lenses and Arri Mini. The Hawks have loads of character and the feel we were after. ImageZone provided our camera package and landed us the very tasty Hawks from Germany.
Wide lenses and blocking that traveled vast distances restricted what we could do lighting wise, so we used lots of handheld negative fill. 12x12 and 20x20 solids along with bambollas and floppies were choreographed to slide in at crucial parts of the shots to add shape.
Christian Dunn from Blacklight gaffed the job and worked hard to keep our color palette, swapping out entire streets of LED street lamps for old-school Sodium lamps.
Because we had such limited control of lighting in the exterior day scenes, we pushed our look hard when we had control in sets. We wanted to take these opportunities to help build the look and the world we wanted to create.
I opted for an Arri Mini/V-lite setup knowing we would be doing a lot of gimbal work. We stayed in the Ronin 2 the entire film other than a few car hard mounts and a handheld flashback.
The R2 was great for switching between modes quickly. We would often move from crane or tracking vehicle to Dolly and handheld gimbal within a scene. It took no time at all with this R2 build. We did many very ambitious shots on this film, all made possible by our Key Grip Daimon Wright. One of our go-to builds was the scissor crane on a dolly. This was great for getting the camera anywhere onset and we would often cover an entire scene from one build.
The fight finale was captured with 2 Mini’s both in Ronins. One lived on the crane and the other operated “majestically” or held by grips and operated remotely. This was a great way to cover the fight beats because it allowed the actors some flexibility and the shots to keep flowing.
We had a great stunt team headed up by Augie Davis who Kiel and I worked closely with choreographing fights and coverage.
All the fights were lensed and recorded using Artemis finder in the stunt rehearsal space and cut together before we did the real thing onset, giving us a good understanding of what would and wouldn’t work. One of our goals going into this film was to have our lead Uli Latukefu doing as many of his own fights as possible. Uli trained hard with the stunt team and was amazing. It made such a difference having a lead actor performing the stunt beats.
One of my main challenges was the connection between interior set and exterior location. The main interior sets were in a studio and the script required lots of interaction between interior and exterior street. One-shot required a transition from interior set out the window onto a tracking vehicle and developed into the next scene. For this, we employed a rear-projected set extension from Big picture NZ. A 20 kilowatt 4K projected plate of our exterior street set provided very believable backgrounds and a wonderful ambient light source.
I had a blast shooting this film with a great cast and crew who were all excited about making a very ambitious action film with an NZ flavour.
~ Cinematographer, Drew Sturge
2nd Unit DOP and B Camera Operator - Nina Wells
One day this will be unremarkable, but right now it looks like milestone. The South Pacific Pictures production in conjunction with Shaftesbury in Canada, drama series The Sounds recently completed shooting in Auckland with a 50/50 female and male camera crew.
There were no special favours. The camera crew was hired on talent, capability, work ethic, suitability and experience. When you do that, the only thing stopping a gender balanced crew is availability.
Director of Photography David Paul NZCS and 1st AC A Camera Daniela 'Nani' Conforte
Thanks, in part, to the efforts of NZCS and the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity program, there were people like cinematographer Nina Wells ready to pick up the work. She will be credited as the 2nd Unit DOP and B Cam Operator – so far a rarity for Kiwi women, and was applauded for executing the job without missing a beat. What’s more congratulations are in order because Nina happens to be pregnant.
2nd Unit DOP and B Cam Operator Nina Wells with 1st AC B Camera Neal Wagstaff
Still, as an industry and a cinematography organisation we can’t sit back – even if day players occasionally pushed the female proportion on The Sounds crew to over half and half.
As an industry we need more female camera crew coming through, and camera crew mothers like Nina will need to know they will be welcomed back into the workforce where they left off.
1st AC B Camera Operator Neal Wagstaff
NZCS is working on that and with help and given time, a gender balanced camera crew will no longer be a milestone, it will be just another day on set.
Director of Photography David Paul NZCS and 1st AC A Camera Daniela "Nani" Conforte
THE SOUNDS - CAMERA CREW
Director of Photography - David Paul
2nd Unit DOP and B Camera Operator - Nina Wells
1st AC A Camera - Daniela "Nani" Conforte
1st AC B Camera - Neal Wagstaff
2nd AC A Camera - Jack Vincent
Camera Assistant - Laura Tait
Camera Assistant Laura Tait
2nd AC A Camera Jack Vincent
NZCS Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program Update
The NZCS is pleased to announce that another placement has been confirmed for the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program.
In January, NZCS associate member Bailey Mitchinson will join the camera crew on the Jane Campion directed film “The Power of the Dog”, for a shoot in Auckland and the South Island.
The NZCS will subsidise five weeks remuneration on the shoot, and the production will cover another five weeks and out-of-town costs, to ensure continuity over the 10-week schedule.
Bailey will be mentored as camera trainee by the camera crew under 1st AC (B Cam), Ben Rowsell. Cinematographer Ari Wegner, ACS, has long been a campaigner to increase the numbers of women working in camera, lighting and grip departments. She is fully supportive of Bailey’s mentorship and anticipates a very diverse range of circumstances on the shoot.
This placement will almost exhaust the current funding for the program which has been supported by a grant from the NZ Film Commission. The feedback has all been very positive and we await news of future funding possibilities when 2020 budgets are finalised.
We are actively seeking other funding partners for this project as we wish to maintain the momentum and pursue our objective of opening up more opportunities for woman in the camera dept at all levels – to help increase their skill levels and move towards redressing the current gender imbalance.
Please contact me if you are a producer with an upcoming production that could support a mentorship. We are specifically looking at encouraging upcoming female cinematographers who are at the level of operating camera and/or shooting second unit.
NZCS Professional Development Manager
2019 has been a cracking year for the NZCS, and it’s been very satisfying to see many of our strategic ambitions up and running.
This was the year that the NZCS rebranded, building on the original design by Dale McCready that served us so well for the first 10 years, and with the help of designer Robin Charles from Lotech, designed a fresh look that will lead us into and through the next decade.
This was the year that the NZCS implemented the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program that saw six female placements on significant productions throughout the country, including top end Productions The Luminaries, Sweet Tooth, Black Christmas and the upcoming Power of the Dog. It has been an important step for the NZCS to recognise the need to redress the gender balance within the Camera Department, and I am delighted that the Gender Diversity program has helped towards achieving that goal, resulting incidentally in a more than 200 percent increase in female members of the Society.
This achievement has been tempered by the unexpected loss of committee member and Gender Diversity instigator Cushla Lewis, who sadly passed away earlier in the year.
This was the year that the NZCS Awards shifted up a gear and into its new home at the Cordis Hotel. The standard of NZ Cinematographers keeps growing, and the Awards have grown with them. Big thanks to Amber Wakefield and Kelly Lucas for their sterling organisational work to get the awards up and running again with a minimum of fuss.
This was the year that the NZCS implemented its Professional Development program, after it was agreed that the focus of the NZCS should be firmly on our members and providing value for membership. Donny Duncan won the role of Professional Development Manager, and after some months of research and development, the year finished with our very first NZCS masterclass, a one day HDR workshop led by Ben Allan CSI ACS which proved very popular and most successful. We look forward to bringing you more masterclasses in the new year.
In addition to all those achievements the NZCS also hosted 16 evening events for our members, from underwater drone demonstrations to talks with legendary cinematographers like Russell Carpenter ASC, all with the aim of fostering knowledge and community within the NZ cinematographic scene and the wider industry.
Big thanks from me to our management committee who do a huge amount of voluntary work, our Executive Officer Amber Wakefield, a powerhouse of organisational skills and efficiency, and to our most excellent sponsors, without whose generosity and support we would not be in a position to provide this level of excellence to you.
I wish you all a loving and safe holiday season, and I hope that 2020 bestows us all with creative and financial prosperity.
Viewing test results in theatre at Dept of Post. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
After many months planning a strategy for our Masterclass program, the NZCS was pleased to facilitate an inaugural one-day session on HDR (High Dynamic Range) Grading, with guest cinematographer Ben Allan, ACS, CSI and colourist James Gardner from the Department of Post.
Despite a relatively short run-up time and a busy time of year, the attendance was robust at 20 – about the perfect size for the venues, and attendees comprised an interesting mix of cinematographers, colourists, post-production/editors, equipment suppliers, associate members and students.
It was a very inter-active morning session beginning with capturing Raw test footage on an ARRI Alexa in the Unitec film studio. Rather than shoot the standard test charts and static model, Ben devised a short drama scene where our model interacted in an existing set. Lighting suggestions were invited from our DP’s on the floor, so anyone had a chance to include an element that they wanted to see tested – ranging from over and underexposure areas, to the inclusion of various practical lighting sources like mobile phone and desk lamp, and a variety of colour hues. A Rosco Softdrop loaned by PLS was used outside the set window to simulate the Auckland cityscape.
Ben Allan ACS CSI lectures on HDR. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
The afternoon session began at The Department of Post with a slideshow and introduction to the HDR process by Ben and James. This resulted in a very lively debate with many questions from the floor.
Viewing the mornings’ footage in the grading theatre on an SDR and HDR monitor side-by-side, with James Gardner at the helm was a very instructive and entertaining session, and Ben Allan got to explain in detail, how a much greater range of brightness and shadow detail was possible in the HDR version displayed on the HDR monitor.
Ben Allan ACS CSI taking light readings in studio with model Jade Tannen
Maile Dougherty’s input as a post-production producer, recently working on the Netflix film “The King” in Sydney, also lent a most valuable perspective, and she had first-hand experience with some of the challenges of this relatively new technology.
The day concluded with socialising over refreshments, and the chance for participants to swap notes with old and new acquaintances.
Maile Dougherty shares experience on "The King" . Photo credit: Jess Charlton
A summary of some of the basic lessons learned over the day:
HDR (High Dynamic Range Video) is a new post-production standard that accommodates an extended brightness range offered by a new generation of HDR-capable domestic TV’s and professional monitors.
HDR video should not be confused with digital stills HDR (which refers to layered multiple images with different exposures) If you are shooting with a high end professional movie camera, you are probably already capturing HDR capable images.
Major international networks are now specifying delivery to HDR specs but there are at least four different standards in use, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, Technicolor HDR and HLG (for live broadcast applications)
The vast majority of viewers will still see your show in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) so its very important to convince producers to budget in extra grading time for a “Trim Pass” to manually correct what will be automatically generated from the HDR master (and will not always be true to the original creative intentions)
James Gardner at Dept of Post. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
Feedback from some of the Masterclass participants:
“For me the biggest benefit was in being able to follow the whole process from lens to screen, and the input from the instructors as well as from the experienced professionals in the class was very valuable.”
“I’d been curious about the HDR process, and nits, amongst other aspects of the evolving technology involved with colour grading. Being able to sit in with a bunch of other curious members of our profession and get the low down with a variety of experts was very enlightening. I’m looking forward to the next masterclass. Pretty good value for money I reckon.”
“Great course, very well run - I walked away with a much better understanding of HDR . The price felt right too - very manageable, and everyone there was taking it seriously as only happens when you pay!“
“The one day format was excellent. It covered all the essentials a DP needs to be fluent in an HDR discussion with a producer and explained the tech very well”.
“I found it super interesting, was nice to have a course that was helpful in professional development & practical and not just a quick hands on look at new equipment”
“Interesting to see that HDR is not just "more" of what we already have, but a whole new can of worms”
“I finally got an understanding of what HDR is all about and where things are heading”
Camera crew shooting in Unitec studio. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
This Masterclass would not have been possible, without the generous help from the following sponsors in supplying equipment and resources:
- Metro Film for ARRI Alexa camera kit and Zeiss FF Supreme Prime lens set.
- ARRI Australia for contributing to travel and accomodation for Ben Allan ACS
- The Rebel Fleet for supplying DIT station and monitors
- Unitec Creative Industries for use of the studio
- Department of Post for supplying staff and facilities for the afternoon session
The NZCS plans to run a series of four masterclasses in 2020 and looks forward to collaborating with a variety of local sponsors. We will reboot another survey early next year to determine areas of majority interest for subsequent classes.
Thanks to the crew in the morning: 1st AC Ben Rowsell, 2nd AC Teresa Bradley, DIT Michael Urban, gaffer Adrian Greshoff, and model Jade Tannen.
Thanks to the following for helping publicise the event: Showtools, Film Crews, Crewlist, Directors and Editors Guild, Screen Guild and WIFT
~ Donny Duncan NZCS, Professional Development Manager
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, 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 Sarah Cook and Executive Producer Emma Slade for making this opportunity possible.
Report from Mara Yambao:
"I was given the role of Video Intern/Camera Trainee on The Justice of Bunny King. My main responsibilities were to ensure that video village was set up during shoot days and assisting the camera department. I reported directly to Ben Rowsell (1 st AC), Rayne Mokaraka (2 nd AC) and Danny Burnett (DIT). Prior to this shoot, I’ve had no experience working with the DIT department, in specific, setting up monitors/ video village on set and so I found this pretty exciting to jump into. This role allowed me to gain new skills and help me gain personal professional development.
The main lessons I took away from this role:
Exponential Growth: This was my first foray into the video splitting world and I did not know how to operate the equipment (FSI, Apollo, Teradeks). During my prep week, Danny gave me a quick theoretical introduction and run down of the equipment. However the learning did not start until the first day. I learnt more about the FSI monitor, the Apollo, cabling and the Teradeks through hands on approach, I was pushed to explore the different functions of the equipment by using. Being on set forced me to apply myself, and be observant at all times, I needed to make sure that not only was I performing my tasks correctly but I also had to be attentive to the needs of the team, for example, if they needed help moving equipment, help with lens changes or slating. I enjoyed finding that balance and learning through practical applications.
Communication is key: If I was having issues with the equipment, and my attempt in resolving them were unsuccessful, I needed to communicate this immediately to Danny so that he could help with resolving the issue. Furthermore, this role allowed me to liaise with different departments. For example, from liaising with the 1 st AD where to put the video village to requesting a 4x4 floppy from the Gaffer to set up for the video village.
Making decisions and being pro-active: Ben and I have worked on a previous film shoot, so it was great to have Ben as my 1 st AC, as he was able to give me feedback on my work. Prior to the shoot he gave me a short brief of my role and responsibilities, aside from learning the equipment and being able to problem solve issues he wanted me to be more pro-active on set and think outside the box and make my own decisions with my role. This was one of the most valuable lessons for me, as it gave me the confidence to “own” my work and also pushed me to take initiative, as opposed to waiting for orders.
Overall my experience working on the set of ‘The Justice of Bunny King,’ was amazing and it was an absolute privilege to work with Ginny, Ben, Rayne and Danny. I am very grateful to have been given this valuable opportunity.
Report from Ginny Loane NZCS Director of Photography:
Mara Yambao was our Gender Diversity trainee on “The Justice of Bunny King” and was a super-woman extraordinaire. She was always calm and collected with the tornado-like energy of the film set swirling around her.
It was a pleasure to see her really taking command of the job and owning it.
Mara has a focus I noticed immediately when we first worked together. She is the first person watching and reacting when anyone might need assistance, and does what is required quietly with no fuss, and does it well.
Mara has come ahead in leaps and bounds with gear and got her head around cameras and vid split systems straight away.
I am really confident that Mara is ready to take on a second AC position and easily fulfil the requirements of the job.
Report from Ben Rowsell 1st AC:
On the recent production “The Justice of Bunny King”, Mara was assigned to the camera department via the NZCS Gender Diversity Program. I had previously worked with Mara on Disney’s “Mulan” where she was camera intern and PA to Mandy Walker ASC ACS, so I was interested to see how she would go on a smaller independent movie.
From the start Mara was given responsibility of running the onset video monitoring and playback as well as general camera department support, where she showed great initiative and focus in both areas. The setup was 2 cameras for approximately 50 percent of the shoot and after some initial support from our DIT operator Danny Burnett, Mara was keen to do as much as possible on her own.
Mara worked closely with Director Gaysorn Thavat, DOP Ginny Loane NZCS & Script Supervisor Kath Thomas, making sure picture was up and always standing by to record and playback.
Throughout the shoot 2nd AC Rayne Mokaraka assigned more responsibility to Mara and she was soon confident with slating, paperwork, lens changes & general assisting work.
Mara was a pleasure to have as part of the team and I was very happy with her work ethic - it’s not often you find someone who is so quiet and attentive on set. Mara made good progress with her ability and confidence during the job, and hopefully we’ll see more of her on set in the future.
The Screen Industry - Sexual Harassment Prevention Project
At the global The Power of Inclusion (POI) summit on Friday 4 October 2019, ScreenSafe/SWAG announced a pivotal new initiative supported by NZ On Air (NZOA), New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and SPADA.
SWAG was set up in Aotearoa New Zealand, in response to the global #MeToo movement, that shook the entertainment industry and demanded a higher standard of workplace care. They partnered with ScreenSafe, the screen industries Health and Safety initiative with the aim to contribute significantly toward ensuring safe, creative, respectful, and happy workplaces are the norm in the screen industry nationwide.
Co-founding member of SWAG, Emma Slade partook in the panel at The Power of Inclusion summit, #MeToo – Where Too?, alongside global leaders Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Nasreen Alkhateeb and Kirsten Schaffer.
In response to feedback from successful pilot training courses, there will be a one-day Professional Respect Training Course primarily for Heads of Departments but open to anyone from the screen sector. Offered from early 2020, the course will address prevention, definitions, disclosures and respectful behaviours in the workplace.
NZOA and NZFC will be contributing funding and alongside the industry guilds are supportive of these courses as essential to Health and Safety in the screen industry.
ScreenSafe/SWAG will also be rolling out a Respect Online Module from early 2020 that will address Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Bullying for all practitioners in the Screen Sector. This course can be undertaken at any time.
ScreenSafe/SWAG is looking for support from all the guilds and industry organisations to encourage their members to undertake this enhanced training.
Here are the resources currently available on ScreenSafe and SWAG’s
- website: www.screensafe.co.nz or swag.org.nz
- Screen Sector Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and Reporting Form
- Bystander Intervention Poster and Guidelines
- Onset Daily Verbal Briefing
- Sexual Harassment Definition Poster (‘What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?’)
- ‘Receiving Disclosures’ pamphlet
- Intimacy Coordinators and Crew Briefing for Sex Scenes
- Sexual harassment reporting form
- Professional Respect HOD Training – upcoming dates in early 2020
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 the hard work and backing from the Productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, 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 Chloe Smith. Without your help, placements such as this would not have been possible.
Report from Zyanya Jackson
This winter I was lucky enough to be the camera trainee for the 6 week shoot of “Black Christmas”, an American feature film from Blumhouse Productions, filming in the South Island.
I joined the crew in Dunedin for the first day of production and spent the first week getting to grips with the camera equipment, processes and observing how the crew in the camera department worked as a team and as part of the production as a whole.
It was important to me to make the most of my time on this placement and get as much hands-on experience with the camera gear as possible. Fortunately for me my 1st AC’s Pete Cunningham, Kirsten Green and Roger Feenstra, and 2nd AC’s Declan Cooke, Jake Stanton and Nani Conforte , were always more than happy to answer any question I had and gave me every opportunity to be involved with builds and to spend time getting to know everything we had to work with.
As this was my first time working on this level of production, there was something new to learn every day, from start to finish, and my second week was definitely a steep learning curve performing 2ndAC duties for the C camera when it came into play. It was a great opportunity to really get involved and get used to working on set - knowing where to be and when, set etiquette and how to work efficiently as a camera assistant alongside the rest of the crew.
The second half of the shoot was spent in Alexandra and the Waitaki Valley. Dealing with the logistics of filming on location vs in the studio, and the way this affects how we functioned as a department was a good lesson in on-the-spot trouble-shooting and adapting quickly in different environments. Night shoots on location really gave a sense of how well prepared you need to be for working out in the elements, whether the conditions were real or created by SFX.
Something I really enjoyed was working alongside all the other departments on set. Being a horror movie it was really interesting to see how our director Sophia Takal and DP Mark Schwartzbard worked together to set the tone for each scene, and from Art Dept and Lighting to Sound and Continuity, it was pretty amazing to watch how each different faction comes together once a take is called. I was very lucky to have such supportive crew around me as I got more and more involved in the production.
My placement on “Black Christmas” has been invaluable. I was definitely expecting to spend more time observing from the side-lines as a trainee, so I’m really grateful to everyone I worked with in the camera department for the generosity they showed me with their knowledge and patience and for taking the time to train me and get me involved in the job. I feel like I’ve gained so much from working with such experienced crew that I can hopefully take with me into future projects.
A huge thank you to the NZCS and the NZ Film Commission for creating these opportunities, and to Line Producer Chloe Smith and Unit Production Manager Annie Weston for such a great contribution to the ongoing success of the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program.
For the first time ever, New Zealand has officially played host to a President of the American Society of Cinematographers, courtesy of a Masterclass in Auckland, facilitated by ARRI Australia.
Simon Raby NZCS President and Kees van Oostrum ASC President
A group of local cinematographers and camera rental managers gathered for a day and half to learn more from Kees van Oostrum, ASC, about the ARRI Large Format camera system, the brand new Alexa Mini LF camera and the ARRI Signature Prime lenses. Also on hand to collaborate in the session was Thorsten Meywald, Product Manager, Optical Systems, ARRI, Germany, with first-hand knowledge of the development of these lenses, designed specifically for Large Format and digital capture, and Sean Dooley, ARRI Sales Manager from Sydney.
Alexa Mini LF with Masterclass participants
After an overview from Sean, demonstrating the new features of the just-released Alexa Mini LF, Thorsten lead a presentation covering the objectives of the design process for creating the new lenses – specifically: lower contrast than traditional film lenses, a smooth natural fall-off in out of focus areas, the ability to cover the larger sensor area of the LF format, and a new stronger and larger LPL lens mount to replace the 37 year old PL mount system. All 16 lens in the Signature range were together in Auckland for the first time anywhere. Most interesting was the new 12mm (angle of view comparable to 8mm in Super35 format) which has some remarkable design features, including internal rotation of the image to allow for smaller front diameter, shorter protrusion of the back element and a stop of T1.8.
Kees van Oostrum ASC, sets up multi-camera format comparison
The session with Kees began with a practical exercise, comparing a standard Super35 format Alexa Mini, an Alexa Mini LF and several sets of traditional lenses up against the Signature Primes. Some of the objectives of the side by side testing were as follows:
1/ To demonstrate the visual appeal of shooting in Large Format, with reduced depth of field for a given angle of view, and increased resolution, and compare this with Super 35 spherical and anamorphic formats.
2/ To analyse the “clean, natural” look of the Signature primes but then detune the lenses to match the look of various vintage lenses, including Master Primes, Cookes, and Superspeeds. This detuning was specifically achieved with rear element filtering on the Signature lenses with the new magnetic filter holder and a wide variety of nets and standard eyeglass diopters especially cut to fit.
3/ To test the extended usable ISO range of the LF format. More photo-sites in a larger sensor means the noise floor is less apparent when the sensor is pushed to the limits of light capture, and it certainly appears the LF system is faster and can push to 3200 ISO if needed.
One of the highlights of the day was provided when Kees produced his 1919 Taylor-Hobson 110mm, 4x5 stills camera lens (with LPL adapter mount) which produced a surprisingly sharp, if flared out, image. The challenge was to find a rear lens filter pack to emulate that vintage 100 year old look on the brand new Signature lenses – mission achieved very successfully with a #1 Soft rear filter.
100 year-old Taylor-Hobson lens on Alexa Mini LF
The day ended with a demonstration of the Trinity hybrid camera stabiliser that combines classic mechanical stabilisation with advanced active electronic stabilisation – essentially a Steadicam-type system, mated with a gimbal rig.
The second day was a viewing and grading session at the Department of Post, where the true 4K DCI Christie Lazer Projector was used to split screen images for comparison, in the optimum viewing environment, and conclusions were debated and reached on the merits of each test.
Crighton Bone NZCS, Aaron Morton NZCS, Simon Temple, and Simon Raby NZCS check out the Trinity camera stabiliser rig
The NZCS intends to embark on a series of Masterclasses and workshops in our Professional Development Program, in the near future, and it was great to observe how this class ran and take lessons from the experience. It was a real pleasure to have Kees van Oostrum ASC, and the team from ARRI in town and thanks must go to Brett Smith, ARRI Australia’s General Manager, for having the vision to bring the ASC President to Australia and NZ to share his insights into the craft of advanced image capture.
~ Donny Duncan NZCS
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