Cinematographers Warn That Actors Don't Want to Be Lensed in "Razor-Sharp" Formats

At Wednesday's HPA Retreat, topics included 4K, high dynamic range, virtual reality and drones.
Michele K. Short/FX
A scene from 'American Horror Story'

Offering comment on technical developments such as 4K and high dynamic range, American Horror Story director of photography Michael Goi warned that actors "don't want to be shot with razor-sharp anything. There has to be a bridge between the technology creation and the artistic intent."

Wednesday at the Hollywood Professional Alliance (the rebranded Hollywood Post Alliance) Tech Retreat in Palm Springs, director of photography Steven Poster, who is also president of the International Cinematographers Guild, echoed the message that artistic intent needs to be maintained as these capabilities bring more opportunities to manipulate images. "With these new tools, it's going to be essential that the director and director of photography are involved in postproduction," he asserted. "There are so many choices, the initial concept of the cinematographer needs to be followed through."

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Commenting on 4K — or four times the resolution of HD — Poster pointed to efforts to make the images less sharp. "Look at the rise of legacy lenses," he said. "Panavision [is bringing out older] lenses so that we can have a more pleasing, artistic look to some of the 4K. Filters are being designed to work with 4K because the actors don't want to be seen [in higher resolution]."

He added of the aesthetic look of the recent Golden Globes broadcast (which was not 4K), "If we are supposed to be selling glamour in Hollywood, that was the worst [example] I've seen."

Poster asserted that he's also not a "big fan" of high frame rates (HFRs). "There might be some uses," he added. "But I don't thing they pertain to suspending disbelief."

During the day, retreat attendees previewed some developing royalty-free test material for use with next gen cinema technologies that support HFRs, 4K and/or high dynamic range. This is a project of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Science and Technology Council.

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The material, a project dubbed "The Affair," was directed by Howard Lukk and lensed by director of photography David Stump. The Council is seeking feedback about the footage before it continues to create additional test material.

Also during Wednesday's program, Thompson Coburn partner Jim Burger related that a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on drone safety regulations can be expected any day. He added that the FAA is expecting tens of thousands of comments.

Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drones, have been generating growing interest in Hollywood as something that can be used in TV and feature production.

In the technology demonstration area, post industry vet Lucas Wilson showed some virtual-reality content that he produced, featuring the 21-piece a cappella choir Naya Zamaana at United Recording in Los Angeles. "The market is going to explode," he projected, adding that 500,000 Samsung VR Gear headsets and one million Google Cardboard VR systems have already been sold.

Wilson has been building full production workflows for VR content. He also works with post equipment maker Assimilate, and reported that Assimilate's Scratch software is now capable of real-time image manipulation for the Oculus Rift.

Jim Whittlesey, an alum of Digital Cinema Initiatives and Deluxe, arrived at the retreat with a new job. He's been named chief technology officer at Eikon, a U.K.-based postproduction and content mastering startup launched by a group of former Deluxe employees.