BATTERY INNOVATIONS POWERING THE INDUSTRY
WTF IS ACES? A deep dive into the industry’s most feared acronym
OSCARS 2021 Five DOPs up for a gilded statuette discuss their work
TALKING HEADS Latest gimbal tech for your remote working needs
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CHELSEA FEARNLEY DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley Covid-19 crisis. But what remains the same is the event’s power to shape the race for awards, building momentum for the actors, directors, producers and cinematographers hoping to ride the wave all the way to the podium at the Oscars. So far, we know that Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is in the running for Best Picture, with the film’s DOP, Joshua James Richards, also set to take home a prize. On page 4, we speak to Richards about how he shot the film’s unbelievably gorgeous cinematography, using an Arri Amira and a set of Zeiss Ultra Primes. Nevertheless, the race for a coveted Oscar remains changeable until all of the WELCOME T he Golden Globes, ordinarily the star-studded party that heralds the beginning of awards season, will no doubt look very different this year in the wake of the nominees are announced officially. On page 8, we’ve got mini interviews with four other DOPs in the running for a gilded statuette, including Phedon Papamichael for The Trial of Chicago 7 , Erik Messerschmidt for Mank , Martin Ruhe for The Midnight Sky and Sean Bobbitt for Judas and the Black Messiah . What’s more, we explore the weird and wonderful colour science that is ACES on page 20. And with that said, I’m going to be bold and say that we may as well just call this ‘The Academy Award’ issue. Enjoy!
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CONTENTS PRODUCT ION 04 ON THE ROAD
POST 20 WTF IS ACES?
DOP Joshua James Richards treads new and splendid ground during the shoot of docu-cine blend, Nomadland . Five DOPs in contention for Best Cinematography discuss the intent and the kit that’s made their work a triumph. GEAR With on-set social distancing restrictions still in place, we take a look at the companies making remote work a breeze. An insight into what’s new and innovative with the battery workhorses that make our industry tick.
Ok, maybe you’re not completely new to ACES. But did you know why it was created and why you should (probably) use it? GEAR REV I EW Leapfrogging its current 6K Pocket camera, Blackmagic Design has gone straight to 12K with the Ursa Mini Pro.
08 OSCARS 2021
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24 VIVA LA RESOLUTION!
13 TALKING HEADS
31 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings has had a refresh this month. Check it out to see what’s new and what the kit can do.
16 CREATIVE JUICES
COVER IMAGE Nomadland ©Netflix 2020
Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used
without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.
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CAPTURING NOMADS PRODUCTION | NOMADLAND
Nomadland’s cinematography may seem documentary-like in nature, but it displays all the cinematic quality of a carefully constructed drama. We talk to Joshua James Richards to learn more about the unique process
WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES D I SNEY
M uch Oscar speculation surrounds Nomadland and its director, Chloé Zhao. The slow-burning drama is as moving as it is unorthodox, and with Frances McDormand arguably delivering the performance of her career, there’s much to adore. Zhao herself became an interesting subject even before the film’s production, making certain steps towards becoming a subversive auteur, in addition to a foray into blockbuster territory with Marvel’s upcoming Eternals . This time, Zhao not only penned the script for Nomadland , based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction novel, she also produced, edited and directed it. When it came to cinematography, collaborator Joshua James Richards picked up the camera once again. The pair created their first two features together – Songs My Brothers Taught Me and The Rider – and share an obvious creative rapport. Ahead of the film’s UK release, Richards reveals all of the details behind this most unique venture. LIFE ON THE ROAD Like their two previous collaborations, Nomadland features a predominantly non- professional cast. The central characters
in a real slice of life. Her scenes with fellow professional, David Strathairn – who plays a character who is also called David – drive the loose narrative forward. “In Fern’s world with David, the set-up became more conventional,” says Richards. “There was a list of shots and diagrams for each scene, and these centred around the lighting. For example, at the RTR camp [Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, the annual gathering for nomads], we placed all the vans where we wanted them. Still, when they entered that camp, the nomads were free to do whatever they would ordinarily be doing.” Despite some moments being slightly more orchestrated, Richards and the crew were still very much dealing with people’s lives, and it was something they considered carefully. “For example, when shooting in [real-life nomad] Swankie’s van, you couldn’t simply enter her home and shove a camera in her face. We’d ask where she was comfortable and where she was happy for us to place the camera – there’s a unique etiquette involved with this type of film. “I can’t stress enough how that first part of the process that Chloé does – of getting to know them and forming trust and the relationships – really does influence the rest of the filmmaking.”
are real-life nomads, including some Bruder met when she wrote her book. Of course, these drifters turned actors were aware of the film’s small crew, so production treads an odd line between reality and narrative. “It’s probably more staged than one might expect,” explains Richards. “When we captured our scenes, it was something of a re-enactment of what might otherwise be a documentary situation. These moments all came from Chloé quite diligently getting to know these nomads and their lives.” There are clear narrative beats within the film and Richards explains that a form of script was shared among the nomads. “To that extent, they played a role, but it was a version of themselves,” he clarifies. “I usually got a single take but, overall, the scenes were conventional in many ways.” Certain moments stray away from that, however, and one in particular stands out for Richards. “There was a scene with a nomad called Grandma, who sat with Frances McDormand’s character and spoke about her ring,” he says. “Grandma had no idea who Frances was – she thought she lived in a van – so sometimes the connection on screen is very real.” McDormand takes on the character of Fern, a role that is nevertheless ingrained
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NOMADLAND | PRODUCTION
Every image needed to be adding some kind of emotion – that was our rule. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t even do the take
One major consideration involved the practicalities of what gear to use, alongside the desired look. Ultimately, they chose the Arri Amira with a set of Zeiss Ultra Primes. “Chloé and I worked with that combination on The Rider ,” says Richards. “I showed her tests with other lenses, but ultimately nothing topped the Ultra Primes for us. I worked with my AC to get the Amira body as small and as compact as possible, but when you get the batteries and the monitor on there, it still feels like the technology has a way to go.” Nonetheless, Richards was full of praise for the camera, particularly taking today’s high standards into account. “It’s exciting that cameras are getting smaller,” he adds. “With the kind of films I want to make, it means I can get into more situations that you rarely see in cinema.” Richards admits that there was perhaps a temptation to use filters to combat digital aspect. “But this time we questioned why that was and decided we liked that it felt modern,” he says. RIGHT In a moment that highlights the close quarters and intimacy of Nomadland, Joshua James Richards shoots handheld just feet from McDormand, as the director, Chloé Zhao, monitors the frame
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PRODUCTION | NOMADLAND
“It fits thematically with an older generation lost in a modern world, but it’s also about not putting anything between the audience and the film’s world. We tried some grain looks in post, but again that didn’t fit. I used a lot of internal neutral density and set the ISO around 1280, so that did offer slight softening, but it was primarily to prepare for low-light situations.” On the subject of lighting, Richards reveals that the crew relied heavily on what was naturally available, although they did manage to build all the camp lights themselves by filling them with bunches of LED Lite Ribbons from Litegear. “This avoided the harsh quality the lamps would have had,” he explains. “But besides some small LED panels, that was it for lighting.” THE AMERICAN WEST Of course, there’s more to cinematography than function and, simply put, Nomadland is a gorgeous film. It’s rich and serene – what Richards refers to as a “heightened naturalism” – and, at its heart, is the American landscape. “Chloé would joke on set and say: ‘Josh, you really need to make these images sing, because there ain’t much else going on in this scene’,” Richards recalls. “In reality, she was saying that she wanted the visual language to be very clear. Every image needed to be adding some kind of emotion – that was our rule. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t even do the take.” While a lot of films these days rely on trickery, Richards points out that there was no artifice involved in the filming of Nomadland – just the art of good timing and intention. “I do think shooting in harsher light conditions works against you when shooting digital,” he adds. “There can be a lack of latitude compared to film.” For Richard, this rendered the softer light of what he called the ‘ magic hour ’ IMAGES Frances McDormand alongside David Strathairn in Nomadland (top right); McDormand plays the central character, Fern (bottom right); Richards on set during the filming (below)
essential. “That’s when you felt the depth of the landscape and then it really came alive, with that nuanced light.” In preparation for filming, the pair also spent a lot of time looking at paintings by the Hudson River school, including artworks by Albert Bierstadt. “They are these paintings of the Old West and they always express some kind of decay in the foreground,” he explains. “But there’s also a luminescence in the distance that speaks of a promised land. So, we used that soft light to evoke a conversation between Fern and her surroundings – one of the past receding but also of opportunity on the horizon. I like that idea – seeing Fern move through decaying America towards something else.” He and Zhao went
to leave feeling like you’ve not taken a good gulp of the landscape.” With that said, it’s obvious the pair wanted the landscape to represent Fern’s own journey. “Ultimately, my job was just to give Chloé enough poetry for the edit and what she found there really blew me away. It’s a language that constantly propels you forward, but never rushes.” Through conversation, it’s clear that Richards values such a unique and creative experience, particularly working alongside Zhao. “I think every story should be approached in a different way, but sometimes filmmakers just get stuck in a model, repeating what’s always been done,” he says. “I’m not saying everything we did on Nomadland was groundbreaking, but it’s important to challenge the way we make films and I’m learning from the journey with Chloé as much as anyone. It’s scary when you’re doing it! But I think that’s a good place to be. It’s freedom really, and that’s quite a privilege, isn’t it?” NOMADLAND IS SET FOR UK RELEASE ON 9 APRIL
out of their way to make sure that every shot was intentional. “Chloé did a great job of scheduling ample time to shoot landscapes,” says Richards. “It was important to her. You don’t travel to these places
Ultimately, my job was just to give Chloé enough poetry for the edit
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PRODUCTION | OSCARS 2021
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION The nominees for this year’s Golden Globes have been announced, building momentum and shaping the race for the Oscars. In this Definition special, we speak to the DOPs in contention for a gilded statuette, teasing out the secrets behind their acclaimed projects
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES VAR IOUS
David Fincher’s brilliant Mank was always going to be shot in black & white. The film follows a Hollywood screenwriter, Herman J Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), as he wrestles with the screenplay for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane . It’s a sumptuous ode to the Golden Age of cinema, one that transports audiences to a place where they can understand and appreciate the homage. And yet, it’s littered with modern filmmaking techniques that fool nobody about the film’s release date. Fincher and DOP Erik Messerschmidt didn’t want to be confined to shooting on film or in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1 that was accurate for the period – not with Fincher’s digital prowess and proclivity for a widescreen format. “Filmmaking has always been a medium where we selectively employ the techniques that are available on the day,” comments Messerschmidt. Nonetheless, shooting in black & white demands creative courage and the cinematographer was conscious about being too seduced by the opportunity. “Before I had even read the script, I sent Fincher some images referencing the film noir genre of that era,” he says. “I soon ERIK MESSERSCHMIDT MANK
realised that, thematically, Mank is not a noir film. There are certainly elements that call for hard-lighting effects, such as the flashback sequences in the writers’ room or with Shelly Metcalf [a fictional test shot director friend of Herman’s] moments before his suicide, but I tried to ground much of it in realism. I didn’t want to draw audiences away from the storyline by being too dramatic, so I chose to light through windows and illuminate interiors with practicals.” When it came to choosing a camera, the only option for Fincher and Messerschmidt was a Red – the pair respectively direct and photograph the hit crime series Mindhunter using a Helium 8K. But whether or not Mank would be shot using a colour or monochrome sensor was always up for debate. “I initially thought that shooting in colour and correcting it to black & white would be advantageous, because it would give us more flexibility in post,” says Messerschmidt. “For example, we could do composites, grade in colour and adjust tonal contrasts between shades of colour. But, after side-by-side comparison tests, there wasn’t much to discuss. Clearly, the monochrome sensor was far superior,
Monochrome was paired with Leica Summilux-C lenses, also used by the duo on Mindhunter . But familiarity wasn’t the reason for their selection. “I went to Panavision in Los Angeles and looked at every lens,” reveals Messerschmidt. “We put them on a projector and assessed the resolving power of each lens.” In the end, they tested several hundred, but the very modern large format lenses prevailed. He adds: “We liked that the Leica lenses were flat and incredibly sharp, especially at the emphasised mid-range focal lengths we chose, which were 25, 29 and 30.”
with a depth of tone and dynamic range to it that just didn’t exist in the colour sensor.” The Helium 8K
CAMERA PACKAGE: Red Helium Monochrome & Leica Summilux-C lenses
ABOVE Director David Fincher takes a break on the set of Mank with actor Gary Oldman
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OSCARS 202 1 | PRODUCTION
PHEDON PAPAMICHAEL THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
The court case dramatised in The Trial of the Chicago 7 comes together like a jigsaw puzzle, interspersed with scenes of the peaceful-turned-violent protests and the political rivalry between activists Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden. It’s a satisfying marriage between the subject matter and showy talents of the film’s writer and director, Aaron Sorkin, who has carved out a space as America’s most renowned screenwriter over the past 30 years. But this is just his second film as director, and his technical inexperience demanded more visual heavy lifting from the film’s cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael. “Sorkin’s the first to admit how much he relied on me,” says Papamichael. “He’s all about the language and the rhythm of the words. For example, creating a cinematic crane shot in the park, where the protests happened, would be useless to him and useless to the script. I had to learn how to convey the moment in a matter of seconds; to create visuals that wouldn’t alter or change the pace of the script.” Papamichael used three cameras to capture as much as possible in the courtroom, and the same large format set- up he experimented with on Ford v Ferrari ( released as Le Mans ’66 in the UK): the Arri Alexa LF with expanded anamorphic Panavision lenses to cover the sensor. He recalls: “On Ford v Ferrari , I wanted to stay anamorphic because I love that aspect ratio – the slight anamorphic distortion really helps convey the look of that period. The only problem is they don’t cover the sensor
CAMERA PACKAGE: Alexa LF & Panavision expanded anamorphic lenses
In contrast to the designed shots of the courtroom, Papamichael was inspired by Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool documentary of the event and took a ‘cinéma vérité’ approach to shooting the riot scenes, which were scripted to function as rapidly intercut vignettes, interspersed with archival footage that had been processed in black & white. Nothing was storyboarded or shot-listed, and Alan Baumgarten, the film’s editor, used all of the footage from the four days spent shooting. “We would set the crowd, work out their beats and I would tell my two operators, who were shooting handheld, to immerse themselves and make a documentary about it,” says Papamichael, explaining the process. “The actual event had more than 10,000 people in the park, but we only had 200 extras, so we had to be smart about how we covered those scenes. It was helpful not to get wide.” For Sorkin, there was a visual beat that was important to hit, such as the throwing of a Molotov cocktail or the baton hits that caused bloody head injuries, but Papamichael felt it was also important to show the early tensions in the crowd, so he tried to capture key moments along the way. “It helps bring an energy to the film because, of course, my biggest concern was figuring out how to juice up the visual stagnancy of a courtroom drama.”
of the LF. So, I turned to Dan Sasaki, the lens guru of Panavision, and he told me he could expand them.” Chicago 7 is set in a similar time period and the story is not too dissimilar, either, with its themes of togetherness and friendship. “Expanded anamorphics lean into those themes, because even a close-up doesn’t isolate other characters. That’s because they’ve got a widescreen aspect ratio with classic anamorphic lens vignetting, so you get a beautiful fall-off in the background,” elaborates Papamichael.
The slight anamorphic distortion really helps convey the look of that period
ABOVE The courtroom was placed inside a light box to help convey the trial’s lengthy duration
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PRODUCTION | OSCARS 202 1
SEAN BOBBITT JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
could help him emphasise that. “Shooting in the 2:39:1 aspect ratio lends itself to strong compositions of groups of people, which is a recurring image in film,” he says. “But equally, the shallow focus inherent to large format cameras can also be used in close-ups, isolating the actors from the background to great dramatic effect. In the more intimate or powerful moments, this is a very effective and emotional tool to help draw the viewer’s eyes solely to the person who’s talking.” Bobbitt combined the Alexa LF with Arri’s DNA LF lenses, which also helped him reference the period without having to shoot on anamorphic. “They’re kind of funky,” he quips. “They hark back to the anamorphics of that era, but are actually a lot more stable.” The breadth of colour information in Arriraw from the Alexa LF also gave Bobbitt more leeway when it came to the grade. This was especially crucial for this film, where it was important to maintain true-to- -the-flesh tones of each individual actor. “We had a broad range of flesh tones, from very dark to very light and, because of the LF’s fantastic dynamic range, were able to accurately represent those.” No particular scene stands out as Bobbit’s favourite to shoot, but he notes that the most important scene – the one that needed to be right – was the assassination of Fred Hampton. “We shot that on a set, because the structure department was very specific about the way the police attacked the inside. So, it was important for us to impart historical accuracy – but, at the same time, it had to be terrifying, just as it would be if your door was suddenly kicked down and the police rushed in, firing more than 80 rounds in under two minutes.”
ABOVE Director Shaka King with cinematographer Sean Bobbit on the set of Judas and the Black Messiah
A fiercely watchable and passionately performed drama from director Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah is about the Chicago Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton. In 1969, at the age of 21, he was shot at home in cold blood during an FBI raid. Like The Trial of the Chicago 7 , its cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt – who lensed 12 Years a Slave , Widows , Hunger and Shame – was committed to evoking the look of that period, without making the film feel like a period drama. Bobbitt explains: “When I first met King, he had several hundred photographs of Chicago in the sixties, which were
bursting with the Kodachrome colours of the period. He called it ‘panther green’, and it was a colour that became a running motif across all art departments, including mine, costume, hair and makeup. It’s very evocative of that era.” As well as wanting to recreate the look of a late-sixties Chicago, complete with cool tans and greens, the film’s pace harks back to some of the more stylised productions of that period. “The idea was to have strong, composed frames, with little heavy cutting or camera movement. We wanted audiences to be able to feel that moment in time and have a sensory experience,” he explains. Bobbitt chose the Arri Alexa LF for a number of reasons, but primarily because the film, although based on factual events, is not a documentary or docudrama, and the widescreen format of this camera
CAMERA PACKAGE: Alexa LF and DNA LF lenses
JOSHUA JAMES RICHARDS NOMADLAND Head to page 04 for our special production story on this film. RIGHT DOP Joshua James Richards joined a tiny crew that shot real-life nomads, as well as a professional cast
CAMERA PACKAGE: Arri Amira and Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses
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OSCARS 2021 | PRODUCTION
In The Midnight Sky , George Clooney stars and directs Mark L Smith’s screenplay adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, Good Morning, Midnight . He plays Augustine, a terminally ill astrophysicist based in an Arctic research station on a dying Earth, as he tries to make contact with a spacecraft crew unaware of the planet’s devastation. Clooney envisioned combining the lost-in-space grandeur of Gravity (2013) with the gritty, survivalist drama of The Revenant (2015). Despite referencing these films, Clooney wanted to bring something fresh to the visuals of The Midnight Sky . And with this in mind, he called upon friend and cinematographer, Martin Ruhe. “We read the script, talked about our references, and decided to put those away and create something of our own,” explains Ruhe. “From our talks, we knew immediately that we didn’t want to have a giant hunk of metal floating around space; we wanted the structures to be organic and futuristic, yet still based on factual science.” Ruhe’s camera choice was largely informed by the scenes that take place on Earth, and many of these were filmed on location in Iceland. “While bitterly cold, Iceland has a stunning landscape, and I wanted to be able to capture that on camera,” says Ruhe. “I thought the Alexa 65 would be perfect for that reason, because it offers so much detail in big vista shots. MARTIN RUHE THE MIDNIGHT SKY
ABOVE Actor and director, George Clooney, with his cinematographer and friend, Martin Ruhe
When we eventually tested it out, we realised it’s also a very intimate format for shooting faces, and we had a lot of talking heads, so it was just the perfect tool.” Nonetheless, shooting with a big camera, such as the Alexa 65, comes with its difficulties, especially when working in a compact spacecraft interior. “It was quite a challenge,” Ruhe admits. “We relied a lot on LED lighting to make room for shooting 360° angles. And in some sequences, where we needed to get into very tight spaces or shoot some action, we even had to switch to the Mini LF.” Ruhe had tested Hasselblad’s 65mm lenses, but found they didn’t match his and Clooney’s vision for the film’s look. “Before we chose the Alexa 65, we had thought about shooting on IMAX because we wanted to create a big cinema look. The Hasselblad lenses were too pristine; they also had f/stops that demanded more light and that didn’t work for me technically. So, we also tested Arri’s DNA lenses. These were perfect because they’re built for
Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back , but luckily there weren’t any problems shooting in the less than pleasant Icelandic conditions. Nonetheless, it was still very dangerous and very cold. “On one occasion, we had to stop shooting and de-ice Clooney’s face, because he had formed icicles on his eyebrows. It was very tough for everybody, but especially the actors, as their faces weren’t protected. When the weather got particularly bad and we started losing daylight hours, we transitioned to the studio. And this scared me a bit, because I wanted to make sure it felt real – I think we pulled it off,” he concludes.
CAMERA PACKAGE: Alexa 65 & DNA lenses
modifications. We detuned them, and this added the character that we initially had envisioned the IMAX camera would give us.” We’ve all read the horror stories that came with shooting the scenes on
The Alexa 65 offers so much detail in big vista shots
MARCH 2021 | DEF I N I T ION 1 1
REMOTE HEADS | GEAR
Remote capabilities have quickly become an essential part of production. Fortunately, these capable companies were ready to propel the change REMOTE RESPONSE
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY & LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES VAR I OUS
XM2 PURSUIT If you chat with CEO Stephen Oh about the use of drones and helicopters, the passion for his team’s work becomes apparent instantly. Alongside this enthusiasm, he also loves a good analogy. “You could be the best driver in the world at Ferrari, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to win a Formula One race. You need a good team, a good workflow and a safety protocol. It’s a harmony, and that’s what we specialise in,” he says. XM2 Pursuit consists of 33 people worldwide and the team includes highly specialised pilots, camera operators, engineers and technicians deployed in the most logistically and challenging destinations around the world. “This recipe of talents creates something quite unique,” enthuses Oh. “Unlike a lot of aerial vendors, XM2 Pursuit is able to design, manufacture and fabricate materials to deliver bespoke products.” As an aviation company, it’s expected that a lot of its remote heads are used on aircraft, but all of XM2 Pursuit’s remote heads have been designed thoughtfully for use across an array of vehicles, such as helicopters, drones, bikes, boats and cars – without breaching the parameters of their capabilities. “This design strength has been especially valuable with the new on-set Covid-19 safety regulations – namely, reducing the number of people present – because it’s always the same crew operating the remote head, whether it’s on a bike or drone,”
explains Oh. “It also saves time and costs, and that proves an attractive prospect for any production.” XM2 Pursuit’s first foray into remote heads actually began with the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, where its crew successfully operated the drone flight of an Alexa XT for the first time. “What we brought to the table was a new paintbrush, and how this paintbrush could be applied. We weren’t just using the drone for big, high and wide shots; we were using them very close up to be intimate with the subject in very delicate operations,” outlines Oh. Since then, XM2 Pursuit has been at the forefront of innovating gear for demanding productions. Just recently, the company developed a five-camera stabilised gimbal array, an impressive piece of equipment that might be the first of its kind. Oh clarifies: “Although there are companies that have applied five cameras to existing systems, this is the first purpose-built system designed to carry five camera arrays. It’s like adding four drive tires to a Sedan and calling it a four-wheel drive. It’s not that simple.” In fact, there’s only one reason you’d add five cameras to a remote head. According to Oh, much of the company’s R&D is driven by demands from VFX crews, whose job is becoming even more complex now that filmmakers are exploring LED volume further. “It is worth pointing out that, as a filmmaker, you don’t need to
invest in the development of our products to get the results you want. Our Sierra drone is perfect for capturing images displayed on LED walls. It carries three cameras and does all the photogrammetry needed to create 3D renderings that ensure the illusion is kept hidden,” explains Oh. Circling back to the company’s thoughtful designs, every single one of its systems has versatile controls. “Most new remote systems are based on joystick control, but traditional cinematographers can’t use joysticks because they’ve grown up operating cranes with wheels,” Oh says. “So, we’ve developed our systems in a way that ensures they can be used intuitively by anyone in the world, whether by joystick, wheel or transmitter.” XM2PURSUIT.COM
BELOW The Sierra drone & Manta remote head, which can carry three Alexa Mini LFs in a toe out orientation
MARCH 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 13
GEAR | REMOTE HEADS
Remote cinematography comprises of many more elements than just remote heads, and that’s where brands such as Creative Solutions come in. Employed regularly by the company, the Teradek Orbit PTZ and the Small HD OLED 22 4K reference monitor are a strong pairing when it comes to remote solutions. The Orbit takes a third-party pan-tilt- zoom (PTZ) camera and delivers completely wireless potential. Within a 1000ft line of sight, uncompressed HD or 4K can be transmitted with less than one second of delay. This goes beyond the capabilities of IP systems and makes multicam operations far easier. Sony Visca and Panasonic AW camera control commands can be passed over the same wireless link, enabling the operator to monitor and control PTZ cameras using the same transmitter and receiver system. Monitoring such a feed requires a screen with adequate specs, and the OLED 22 certainly has them. It boasts 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 10-bit colour depth and 350-nit brightness. When it comes to the monitor’s build, there are various input and output options, with eight 12G-SDI and two HDMI 2.0 ports that enable 4K signal processing. For added convenience, and to adapt to varied workflows, the monitor has 36 1/4in-20 mounting points, a removable handle and weighs just 4.2kg. Overall, it’s an integral part of remote shooting and it’s optimised by the tools that are now coming to the market. CREATIVESOLUTIONS.IO
Mark Roberts Motion Control is another highly trusted name in remote operations. The brand’s range of robotic rigs can fulfil virtually any need on set, from the extremely far-reaching Titan to the compact, track-driven Talos and the highly adaptable Modula. Lately though, it’s Motion Control’s broadcast tools that have proved really popular. With many instances of reduced or prohibited spectators, many live events have been putting resources into making video coverage better than ever. In that capacity, MRMC can certainly assist. Each camera is compatible with any product in the range and each head can be managed by IP from any controller, opening up truly versatile options. The AFC head is compact, rapid and extremely useful for sporting events or action-packed shows. Its fastest setting reaches speeds of 180°/sec with a high payload, and there’s unlimited pan rotation. For even more remote use, the Robotic Pod system is the go-to choice. Its Nikon FX full-frame sensor captures pleasing images and it can be used as either an SDI or IP feed for broadcast. Its zoom, focus, exposure and more are controlled remotely.
The Robotic Pod M2 boasts many of the same features, but has the added potential to house various third-party cameras and lenses. The package is connected via fibre optic and the housing is cleverly designed to offer plenty of protection. The PTA-1 robotic arm is designed for similarly robust outdoor broadcast use. It can carry a larger payload, supporting rigs up to 25kg, and can be used as a standalone system or in conjunction with MRMC’s Polymotion Stage mobile studio for volumetric capture or broader applications. For longer periods of use, the platform can be fixed in position and the camera can be attached and detached with little fuss. MRMOCO.COM
BELOW The Robotic Pod system is designed to capture new angles with ease
14 DEF I N I T ION | MARCH 202 1
REMOTE HEADS | GEAR
THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO MAKE GOOD USE
Remote support provider Opertec provides a variety of tools designed for live events, broadcast and film. Nonetheless, its hero product, the Milli Max remote head, really steals the show. It’s a highly versatile three-axis gyro-stabilised head, primarily for use in cinema. Built to support a payload of up to 30kg, the Milli Max can accommodate a wide variety of modern cinema cameras, including sizeable IMAX bodies. With larger rigs in mind, the head is built with more room than Opertec’s smaller offerings, particularly above the camera. This allows the head to tilt significantly, even with additional accessories, such as mics and monitors, mounted to the camera. A lens control system is also fitted for full remote functionality. In this capacity, an operator is able to control varied cinema lenses from a distance. Despite its capacity for such a significant load, the Milli Max itself isn’t especially sizeable, measuring 72.1x57.6x24.5cm. Nor is it difficult to construct or balance,
so the standards of on-set efficiency remain extremely high. Diving deeper into the Milli Max’s specs, there’s a clear potential for more extreme camera movements. It offers a roll range of 72°and max angular speeds of 270°/ sec for panning, 270°/sec for tilt and 100°/sec for roll. At a movement’s maximum capacity, the head features soft limits that guarantee smooth shots. There is also the option for lock-off shooting and unique limits can be programmed for all of its axes. When it comes to controllability, the head can be connected via a cable or a wireless link at 900MHz. Opertec also offers all of the expected physical control options, including hand wheels, joysticks and pan bars. These enable the system to fit seamlessly into varied workflows. OPERTEC.TV
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RIGHT Opertec’s arm and remote head, Milli Max, offers extreme roll ranges that enable maximum movement
“AT A MOVEMENT’S MAX CAPACITY, THE HEAD HAS SOFT LIMITS THAT GUARANTEE SMOOTH SHOTS”
AERIAL CAMERA SYSTEMS Aerial Camera Systems has a proven track record of remote operations in virtually every setting imaginable, from Marvel films to royal weddings. There are a few core products that serve as real highlights. Naturally, the company
The F1’s specs are also impressive elsewhere. It features six-axis gyro stabilisation and look-down capability, highly advanced automatic or steerable horizon tracking, fibre-optic data transfer for 3GHz video and real-time operator feedback. When a more compact remote solution is required, in particular for live productions, ACS’s SmartHead range is one to consider. The remote head primarily fits Sony HDC-P50 and Sony HDC-P1 cameras and supports Canon and Fujinon serial digital lens protocols. It’s a system that’s optimised for multicam operations with a dedicated control integrated router. As such, the SmartHead Control Desk is
an incredibly useful option, equipped with force-sensitive joysticks, an OLED touchscreen, a pan bar system and all the other traditional controls. Capable of varied mounting options, the SmartHead is a single- fibre cable system that can position camera and head up to 15m away from the case. A wide range of mounting hardware also ensures this, meaning the SmartHead can be grounded or mounted on a self-supporting stand from 0.5m to 4m. For a whole host of remote options, ACS is a great port of call.
has a special aerial offering, with a dedicated unit of helicopters, drones and even its EyeFlyer blimp. This department houses most of the company’s cinematic potential with its range of advanced robotic heads. However, these are just as effective on land vehicles, cranes and more. The most recent addition, Shotover F1, provides massive flexibility when it comes to payload, with 120 camera and lens combinations available.
MARCH 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 15
GEAR | BATTER I ES
Batteries may not be glamorous, but they are an absolute essential. Here are a few recent innovations powering our industry
profile holds a lot of potential for streamlined products. At less than 4cm deep, it can fit quite seamlessly onto monitors, remote tools, LED panels and more, so where space or portability are key factors, it could be the perfect solution. The SL 90 will power the popular Gemini 1x1 soft panel at 75% for an hour, for example. In addition to the 95Wh version, there’s a 143Wh option, the Titon SL 150, which suits longer use, but comes at the moderate cost of a slightly larger, but still very low- profile size of 5.2cm depth. Both capacities are available in Gold Mount and V-Mount for use with a range of products. Additional features include USB and P-Tap inputs for accessories, a smart LCD display which shows power remaining down to the minute and a durable design for
– as we’ll soon cover – it seems size is the key focus, and with smaller and smaller cameras appearing every day, it’s no surprise. Cinema cameras such as the Arri Alexa Mini and Blackmagic Pocket 6K are all about form factor, while smaller, consumer-level bodies – including the recently announced Sony A1 and Fujifilm GFX100S, Canon’s R5 and the Panasonic S1H – are becoming more viable on-set options with each release. Anton Bauer’s larger, more powerful cine options have been a mainstay for quite some time, while the Titon range has been geared primarily towards broadcast and smaller-scale shoots. Now, its potential goes much further. The lithium-ion Titon SL 90 provides the same 10A power as other batteries in the Titon series, but its exceptionally low
WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES VAR I OUS
BELOW Slim, light and powerful, the SL 90 is a welcome addition to the Titon range
n a field of gorgeous, flare-y lenses, supremely high-resolution cameras and powerful LEDs that
paint our performers one colour or another in all their cinematic lustre, the humble battery can be overlooked. Certainly, they aren’t creating the images we see on screen directly, but they’re integral to absolutely any shoot. In powering our cameras, lights, mics, monitors, wireless transmission devices and more, batteries make filmmaking possible in the most practical sense. Beyond that, better batteries mean more power for longer; ergo, a faster and more cost-effective workflow, and an uninterrupted creative process. So, there is plenty to get excited about! POWERED BY BAUER Industry constant, Anton Bauer, has just released its biggest range of batteries ever. Here and elsewhere
16 DEF I N I T ION | MARCH 202 1
BATTER I ES | GEAR
EASY BEING GREEN In another recent announcement, Hahnel has made its packaging plastic-free. The new battery containers are 100% recyclable and biodegradable, made of cardboard and soy ink. It’s also much more space efficient for transit. Hopefully, this is one of many steps our industry will take in a greener direction.
compared to how these cameras may function alone. SMALL BUT MIGHTY Examining recent offerings from Hawk-Woods, Hahnel and Bebob, that common thread of an ever- shrinking size is certainly present. For Hawk-Woods, the recently announced Sony FX6 has been the primary focus. The camera was met with fairly universal approval just a short while back, thanks in particular to its outstanding low-light capabilities, size and price. It would come as no surprise to see the compact powerhouse follow its older sibling, the Venice, onto higher-end film sets – either where cost or form factor are of primary concern. Following Hawk-Woods’ popular VLM-FX9 adaptor which launched in 2019, the brand has leveraged one of its existing products to create the VLM-FX6. The adaptor fits directly into the Sony FX6’s battery port and uses the mini V-Lok system, powering via DC input. The VLM- FX6 also features two Power-con outputs for accessories. Hahnel, too, has provided new options for the Sony FX6, with its HL-U35 and HL-U70 batteries replacing the Sony BP-U35 and BP- U70. Both cells provide 14.4V, while the smaller of the two has a 39Wh capacity and the larger 98Wh – both higher than Sony’s standard. The brand has also offered up new power for Canon’s line of compact, but high-quality cine cameras. Compatible with the EOS C70, EOS C300 Mark II and beyond,
rugged conditions, capable of working from -20°C to 60°C.
Not quite so slim, but certainly tiny, Anton Bauer’s next new addition is the Titon Micro series. With 47Wh, 94Wh and 140Wh versions, and availability in Gold Mount and V-Mount once again, there’s real versatility here. Just like the SL models, the Micros provide a continuous 10A draw, save for the smaller Micro 45, which offers 8A. At 10cm in height and 7.5cm in depth, the Micro 150 will power the Red Komodo for over three hours on a single charge. There’s also the option of the Dual Micro Plate, which allows for pairing of two of the Micro batteries. Up to 300Wh of power can be had in the same space as a typical 14V cell, or batteries can be hot-swapped for continuous shooting. Anton Bauer’s final new offering is the Titon Base, designed for consumer bodies and the smallest of cine cams, like those mentioned above. The 68Wh, 14V, 8A lithium- ion mounts under a camera to align with the design of more compact bodies, featuring a quick-release plate and integrated ¼in-20 mounts for ease of use. Power comes by way of a single cable. In many ways, the Base really unlocks the potential of cameras like these, allowing their impressive specs to be used in more professional settings. Offering around five times the runtime of standard manufacturer batteries and a much more accurate display for measuring remaining charge, it’s a vastly improved workflow
ABOVE The Bebob
the HL-A30 and HL-A60 batteries offer the same 14.4V with 49Wh and 98Wh, respectively. Munich-based Bebob has gone full power. The new V200micro compatible, respectively) offer the smallest footprint in their class. At a high 196Wh capacity and 12.4V, the batteries measure just 7.5x10.1x8.1cm. Both batteries feature a few convenient touches, including an integrated LED flashlight, a 5-step power indicator and support for through-the-finder protocol from Arri, Red and Sony, plus weather- proof D-Tap and USB connection points. The batteries can also be re-celled after years of use. and A200micro batteries (V-Mount and Gold Mount
V200micro offers convenience and handy features – they can also be re-celled
“INDUSTRY CONSTANT, ANTON BAUER, HAS JUST RELEASED ITS BIGGEST RANGE OF BATTERIES EVER”
MARCH 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 17
ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | SAMSUNG
POST PERFECTION Filmmaker Greg King possesses a varied post- production skill set, but can the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch take his work to the next level?
ABOVE The Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch functions at an impressive speed straight out of the box, propelling creative projects forwards
Typically, the very basic animation of shapes or text may not be too demanding on storage, but for King’s project, the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch’s great read/write speeds proved attractive. He was faced with more advanced video, image and textural elements as part of the project, which could all prove significant challenges for some portable drives. However, King felt the Samsung portable drive passed each test with flying colours. “I was pulling a lot of data through the drive. Usually in cases like this, a lot of time is wasted, and this has an effect on your creative flow. With the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch, there were no such delays,” he reports. And delays needn’t be a worry with the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch. Through a combination of USB 3.2 Gen 2 connectivity and the portable drive’s powerful embedded technology, read
use the drive with a monitor/recorder to capture data to as well, but I was limited to post-production for now.” A versatile workflow requires storage that’s quick enough to keep up. But what did King think on that front? “Straight out of the box, the speed of the portable drive was very noticeable,” he says. “In the past, I’ve been stuck using HDD storage, but with this, simply having an immediately workable environment as soon as I opened my project and programs was a novelty.”
NEVER HAVING SETTLED for just one speciality, Greg King is happy doing a bit of everything visual. “Videography, editing, motion graphics,” he reels off. “I tend to work alone, so I handle each stage of the projects I’m involved in, including each step of production.” On a recent project, King made use of the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch. “It was my primary storage device and a scratch disk to work from. The project itself was a mix of editing and animating. In more typical times, I’d be very keen to
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