Cine Gear Opens With Focus on HDR, 4K and Drones

Panavision - H - 2014
Carolyn Giardina

Numerous companies are exhibiting cameras mounted on drones this weekend at Cine Gear Expo, amid news that use of these unmanned aircrafts for production in U.S. airspace might soon be legal.

Currently, in order to conduct a commercial operation (such as filmmaking) with an a drone, users need a certified aircraft, licensed pilot and FAA approval. But earlier this week, the FAA said it would consider a request by seven aerial production companies for a regulatory exemption to allow for the domestic use of these systems for filming.

“It’s amazing news,” Willis Chung of drone maker DJI said as Cine Gear got underway Friday afternoon at the Studios at Paramount. “[Expo attendees] are asking a lot of questions [about the technology.]”

The seven production companies that made the request to the FAA -- some of which are at Cine Gear -- include Aerial MOB, Astraeus Aerial, Flying-Cam, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, Vortex, and Snaproll. A representative of one of these companies declined to comment on the topic while the request is under review.

Cine Gear is an annual camera equipment exhibition and event that attracts thousands who want to check out the latest production gear, catch up with colleagues and discuss the latest trends.

Among those trends is some growing interest in high dynamic range, which effectively means a wider range between the darkest and brightest colors that can be reproduced on a display. Prototypes of Dolby’s reference monitor with support for its HDR Dolby Vision format were being used at the Cine Gear exhibit stands of Arri and Codex.

"There's interest from the studios and creative community to create better pixels, not just more pixels, and support high dynamic range," said Arri's president and CEO Glenn Kennel. "I think it's the right way to go from a creative standpoint and also to make the content more impactful for the consumer." At Cine Gear, Arri was showing live demonstrations of Arri Alexa camera footage displayed on the prototype Dolby monitor.

Daryn Okada, director of photography on upcoming Dolphin Tale 2 and past president of the American Society of Cinematographers, already lensed an independent short, titled Emma, that will be finished for the Dolby HDR format. “It makes a big difference,” he said of HDR. “This is what will really revitalize the big screen experience, though it will probably hit the home first." (Set manufacturers Vizio, TCL and Sharp are expected to release Dolby Vision-supported TVs as early as the end of the year.)

Arri is also showing its new Amira camera, which uses the same imaging sensor as its Alexa, and at  a lower price of $40,000 is targeted at uses such as documentary filmmaking. The shoulder-mount camera supports 14 stops of dynamic range and can capture up to 200 frames per second. Cinematographer Buddy Squires (who was Oscar nominated with Ken Burns for documentary The Statue of Liberty) gave the Amira high marks during a presentation at which he screened some documentary-style images that he shot with the new camera.

The Canon exhibit includes its C300 and 4K-capable C500 Cinema EOS cameras and 4K reference monitor, as the company emphasized its ACES (Academy Color Encoding Specification) proxy support. Canon’s Tim Smith said the C500 is being used for both 2K 12-bit photography as well as 4K. Recent and upcoming C500 work includes Amazon’s Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle (which is also using the Alexa), as well as the parts of Homeland season four for shooting on location in South Africa.

Sony demonstrated its line of 4K-capable cameras, and presented a screening of Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die In the West, which was photographed in 4K using Sony's F55 models.

In lighting, Vitec Group’s Litepanels previewed its new Astra 1x1 bi-color LED panel, which the company said would offer a light output that is up to four times brighter than its traditional 1x1 bi-color fixture, and also has user-selectable active or passive cooling modes. Beta versions of the panels have already been tested by cinematographers including Kees Van Oostrum, who used them on series The Fosters. It’s slated to be available this summer for $1,500.

The day concluded with an opening party during which Cine Gear honored director of photography Adam Greenberg with its Cinematography Lifetime Achievement Award. His credits include Rush Hour, Ghost and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. Other honors included the Cine Gear Technical Lifetime Achievement Award, which was awarded to Servicevision founders Andres Valles and Alfredo Valles.

During the party, Panavision, in celebration of its 60th anniversary, exhibited the actual Panavision camera system that was used to shot David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, as excited attendees took turns posing for pictures with it.

Others celebrating anniversaries during Cine Gear were Birns & Sawyer (60 years), Band Pro (30 years), Airstar (20 years), as well as ?IATSE Local 728 Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians, which marked 75 years.

The Cine Gear exhibition wraps Saturday.

Twitter: @CGinLA