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AVENUE 5 Armando Iannucci’s multicam space comedy TALENT SPOTTING Are our skills keeping up with our content? KIT &
ALSO INSIDE BSC EXPO PREVIEW | RETAIL SUCCESS | SSDS FOR DITS JUST MERCY | ROSCO’S MIXBOOK REVIEW | CAMERA LISTINGS A DEEP DIVE INTO SEVEN WORLDS, ONE PLANET CONSERVATION
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A quiet two-header shot circa 2020 – capture evolves
I ’m coining a new phrase and it’s ‘capture’. OK, it’s a word not a phrase, but its meaning perhaps reflects how high-end TV and movies are dealing with high-resolution video with a VFX element. De-ageing was a theme last year with Will Smith’s younger self chasing him around Cartagena in Gemini Man , Samuel Jackson being smoothed over in Captain Marvel and perhaps the most newsworthy de-ageing of them all was of those mean Italian American actors, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci. The Jackson and Smith captures followed a well-trod path, but The Irishman had to think outside the box. Also, don’t forget the ‘capture’ of the cinematography in The Lion King production and the ‘face-off’ technique used in Welcome To Marwen earlier last year. It’s a collective word that encapsulates all the techniques that funnel into that moment when ‘Action!’ is called. With virtual production, however, capture can be extended to changing the moment through game engine efficiencies. Capture can also describe camera-tracking techniques, LiDAR scanning and photogrammetry. You can also include previs, post-vis and tech-vis; even blocking scenes with Unity or Unreal engines can be seen as capturing a virtual set, for instance. You can throw AR and VR in there as well. I think it’ll be a while before a director shouts ‘Capture!’ as opposed to ‘Action!’ but the worlds of cinematography and VFX are continuing to merge. WELCOME
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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.
FEBRUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 03
SET- UP 06 TITLE SEQUENCE
Production shot from movie Just Mercy , a classic courtroom-battle talkie.
08 RETAIL SUCCESS
One year on from CVP’s experiment with its five-floor retail showroom.
10 BSC EXPO PREVIEW
For your journey around the year’s first highly anticipated trade show. WI LDL I FE How technology and the art of field craft combined for Seven Worlds, One Planet . COMEDY Avenue 5 is a futuristic space comedy shot in a cinematic, multicamera world. FEATURES Discover the very latest cameras, the latest virtual techniques and the latest shooting platforms.
16 KIT AND CONSERVATION
32 SPACE BLAST
44 CAPTURE SPECIAL
54 MAD SKILLS
It’s great that the UK is experiencing a glut of content creation, but is there enough skilled crew to cope with it?
GEAR TESTS 63 ROSCO MIXBOOK
What if you could have a colour swatch book that actually generated light? It’s here.
66 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings now offer kit essentials and recommended accessories.
FEBRUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 05
06 DEF I N I T ION | FEBRUARY 2020
Actor Rob Morgan (left) and director/writer, Destin Daniel Cretton (right), on the set of Warner Bros Pictures’ drama, Just Mercy . Main capture gear included Panavision Millennium DXL2 camera, Panavision Primo Artiste and H Series lenses. Light Iron Digital dealt with the on-set colour. The DOP was Brett Pawlak.
FEBRUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 07
SET- UP | I NTERV I EW
ONE YEAR ON RETAIL REMINISCENCE We look at how CVP turned pro video retail on its head in 2019 by opening a five-storey showroom dedicated to first-rate customer service
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY
B efore Christmas last year, we joined CVP at its showroom on Newman Street, London, to celebrate the facility’s first birthday. Boasting five floors of production equipment from Sony, Canon, Arri, Red, Zeiss, Panasonic and Blackmagic, the Fitzrovia town house positions itself as a playground for filmmakers wanting to see, handle and test every single bit of kit required to bring their project to life. After the party (and once the champagne had worn off), we sat down with Jon Fry, sales director, to dissect the showroom’s triumphs one year on. Newman Street. It was a great space; it had an open plan, new loft sort of feel. But, because of its layout, it was never going to be what we wanted it to be: a multifunctional space. We found it difficult to sell in there, because there was less freedom to speak. If we had a seminar in there, it was no longer a showroom and it got complicated for the sales guys. If we were doing a demo, we had to rely on all the kit being there. There was no consistency and, consequently, it didn’t work. We wanted to have a space in London that facilitated the demand for First of all, how did the Newman Street facility come to be? We had a building on Gresse Street, just a stone’s throw away from
While giving customers an education, what did CVP learn? We learned that there is a need for people to share their experiences
all of those things. And when we consider what Newman Street has become, it isn’t necessarily visionary, it was about identifying a location that had the ability to be partitioned, with many floors and many rooms. We then identified, because of this, that we could put many different things in there. What we then decided to populate those rooms with was largely driven by customer demand. In addition to this, we recognised there was a need from the industry, as well as from suppliers, to give customers the ability to see and learn about kit. This facility allows for that, albeit on a smaller scale than people are used to. One of the things we think has worked well for us, and one of the things we will continue to push forward with, is doing more educational sessions. But rather than running an event and measuring the success on how many people attend, we will do smaller sessions. This way, we get to drill down a specific want or need of an individual, rather than a collective where, if you have 100 people, 90 of them don’t talk to you. If you think about what CVP is, while we’re a stockist and a reseller, our value is probably none of that. Our value is about the people. CVP is a company of 140 people who have a vast amount of knowledge and experience, and Newman Street has allowed them to demonstrate that. Customers come through the door and have the same reaction of ‘Wow, I didn’t know this existed’
and get together. You know, our industry is all about relationships, it’s always been about relationships. It’s about creative people working with other creative people. Consequently, if you get a lot of creative people in one space, and they get talking to each other, they share ideas and work together. And what we’re trying to create is a little community that sits around that at Newman Street. We also looked at the industry as a whole and worked out where gaps are. There’s a vast amount of content that’s being created today and the requirement for all that content raises what we see as three headline issues: there’s a shortage of studio space, kit and crew. We can’t help with supplying studio space, because we don’t have a large amount of real estate, but we can help with supplying kit and we’d like to think we’re in a position to help with supplying crew. We’ve done a lot of training throughout 2019, albeit slightly reactionary. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there’s an opportunity for us to develop this in 2020 and refocus how we develop people and what we can do to not only train them, but give them an accreditation that enables them to have something they can pitch to their next job. Finally, we learned that there is a real need for this facility. We started this five years ago in Gresse Street and believed that there was a need for it, but never really got the opportunity to demonstrate and prove it in that facility. Customers come through the door of our Newman Street showroom and always have the same reaction of ‘wow, I didn’t know this existed’ and walk away knowing a lot more or having peace of mind about what they’re purchasing or might be using. For us, it’s reinforcement that what we’re doing is necessary and wasn’t something that was just a bit egotistical.
LEFT Jon Fry, sales director, CVP
08 DEF I N I T ION | FEBRUARY 2020
SET- UP | PREV I EW: BSC SHOW
PREVIEW 2020 Our first big show of the season is an important one where increasingly major product launches are happening BSC EXPO ONES TO WATCH
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On Vitec’s stand is Anton/Bauer’s range of Titon ‘smart’ lithium-ion batteries, a good choice for filmmakers on the move, powering a wide range of gear on-set or out in the field. Titon batteries are available in V-Mount or Gold Mount and 90Wh and 150Wh models. They use Anton/Bauer’s mobile power technology, regardless of battery mounting or charge choice. With the on-board LCD or through your camera’s viewfinder, you will know exactly how much runtime remains, down to the minute. Titon smart technology considers and calculates everything being powered, even devices powered by the high-speed USB and P-Tap ports, leaving crews free to focus on the shoot. The batteries are lightweight, reliable and travel-safe. And high-quality cells in a tough and rugged case deliver consistent power to even the most demanding users in temperatures ranging from -20°C to 60°C.
The big news for Arri at the moment is the huge impact its Alexa Mini LF has had, especially as the main camera for the movie 1917 . On its stand, there is going to be the new Mini LF and the Signature Primes – the combination that was used in the world war one film by DOP Roger Deakins. The renowned DOP often visits the BSC Expo if he isn’t working, so look out for that shock of silver hair bobbing around the show. Also on the stand is Arri’s new directional light unit, called Orbiter. The light has lots of firsts for the brand including the use of manually changeable optics, a new six-colour light engine called Spectra and its own operating system called LiOS (Lighting Operating System). Orbiter’s processor is four times as powerful as the SkyPanel’s with 125 times more memory. Get ready for plenty of new feature upgrades.
10 DEF I N I T ION | FEBRUARY 2020
PREV I EW: BSC SHOW | SET- UP
GFM has worked hard to become one of the leading manufacturers of high-end camera support equipment, catering to the needs of the international production community. With great passion, GFM produces its products in its own factory, which is based in Munich. This year, GFM returns to BSC to showcase its simple, yet elegant strap-bracing kit. On its booth you’ll see the GF-Multi Jib, GFM dollies, the popular GF-Slider System, shock absorbers and many more of its state-of-the-art products.
New for 2020 from Hawk-Woods is its Sony FX9 V-Lok camera mount 4x D-TAP. The VLM-FX9-15 is a 15mm bar adapter suited for the popular new camera from Sony, the FX9. Users have the benefit of 4x power-con (D-Tap) outputs 11-17 volts, allowing further equipment/accessories to be powered. A 1x 5v 2A USB is also available for powering or charging accessories, such as mobile phones. Power is provided via a short DC jack cable via the FX9’s DC input, which is regulated to 19.5v.
Canon’s BSC booth this year is featuring two new cameras, the EOS C500 Mark II and the very new EOS-ID X Mark III. You’ll also be able to see Canon’s other cinema products, including the recently announced Sumire Prime cine lenses – the brand’s first prime cine lenses with a PL mount – offering a delicate, velvety nuance when the aperture is wide open, subtly modifying the textural renderings of the human face close-up. Visitors will also be able to get their hands on the UHDgc series of portable zoom 4K UHD broadcast lenses, the CJ18ex28B and CJ15ex8.5B; and highly compact 4K camcorders, XA55/50/A40. As always, experts will be on hand to answer any questions about all the exciting products on show at the Canon booth.
Available exclusively at Red authorised rental houses, Ranger is an integrated large format 8K camera system offering an all-in-one system for production use. Available in a Gold Mount or V-Lock variant, it features all of the benefits of the Monstro 8K VV sensor within a less complex platform for filmmakers. Features like integrated I/Os, 24v power out, shimmed PL Mount and improved thermal performance offer great versatility, as well as peace of mind in challenging shooting environments. The camera ships complete with necessary rigging and support for improved set-up time. With dimensions of
40.96x21.60mm (diag 46.31mm), Red Ranger is designed for full- frame lens coverage and its 8K resolution offers creative flexibility for content creators everywhere, giving cinematographers the cleanest and most natural imagery with unrivalled creative options. Also, a potential first on the stand could be the first look of Red’s new Komodo 6K camera, but this was to be confirmed at time of press.
FEBRUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 1 1
SET- UP | PREV I EW: BSC SHOW
COOKE OPTICS cookeoptics.com
Cooke Optics is showing its full range of lenses, from the new full-frame models all the way down to the modern redesign of the vintage classic – the Cooke Panchro/i Classic, T2.2 to T3.2 prime lenses. BSC Expo visitors will see just what is meant by the ‘Cooke Look’ as the brand showcases the new S7/i Full Frame Plus T2 21mm, 65mm and 180mm prime lenses, as well as the new Anamorphic/i SF (Special Flair) zoom lens. Cooke has also announced that it has begun shipping of the Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus T2.3 40mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm, which will be joined by the 32mm, 135mm and 180mm later this year. The S7/i Full Frame Plus lens range is designed from the ground up to cover the emergent full-frame camera sensors up to the full sensor area (46.31mm image circle).
It is an ideal partner for the Red Weapon 8K, Sony Venice and Arri Alexa LF – all three are being featured on the booth with lenses for testing. For those unfamiliar with the ‘Cooke Look’, Cooke has curated an online motion gallery at shotoncooke. com (#ShotOnCooke), highlighting the use of Cooke’s acclaimed lens ranges across a variety of production genres from around the world.
Another Vitec brand at BSC Expo is Litepanels and it’ showing its range of new LED panels, such as the new Gemini 1x1 Soft RGBWW panel, which is an all-in-one, cine-quality LED light that is easy to transport and quick to rig in the studio or on location. Just like its bigger counterpart, the Gemini 2x1, the 1x1 is a full RGBWW soft panel, able to produce more than 16 million colours in addition to true daylight, with full- spectrum colour adjustment. Gemini 1x1 Soft is ideal for lighting talent with accurate colour rendition, perfect for all skin tones, and users are able to match a broad range of ambient lighting conditions quickly and easily. Gemini 1x1 Soft also provides an extensive choice of control options, with intuitive on-board controls, as well as remote control through wired, wireless DMX or Bluetooth. Users can quickly switch from AC power to battery operation – the small, lightweight power supply makes for easy rigging. Weighing just 5.31kg, with a maximum draw of 200W and flicker- free performance at any frame rate, the Gemini 1x1 Soft is one of the industry’s most agile lights.
LEE FILTERS leefilters.com
Lee Filters, a Panavision company, has been ‘masters of light’ for more than 50 years. At the BSC Expo, Lee is showcasing the wide spectrum of colours and diffusion filters available in the company’s renowned library of long-lasting and dependable lighting gels and filters. Lee Filters is also exhibiting its ProGlass CINE IRND filters, which eliminate infrared pollution and ensure colours remain absolutely accurate and true.
CURRENT RMS current-rms.com
Step away from the products and gadgets at BSC Expo, to discover Current RMS – a fully cloud-based rental management solution for the broadcast and production industry. It’s feature-rich, with a simple-to-use interface, helping you get up and running in less than 30 days. Easily create camera kits, send customised quotes out online for online approval with e-signature capture, track the availability of your stock, making sure your camera kit all comes back to your business, add items to the quarantine that come back from jobs damaged, or mark them as lost to keep everyone in the know, scan to book out and check-in your kit, plus track enquiries, schedule follow-ups and see all communication with potential clients that could win you the job.
12 DEF I N I T ION | FEBRUARY 2020
SET- UP | PREV I EW: BSC SHOW
Panavision is a world-class provider of end-to-end
solutions that power the creative vision of
filmmakers. Panavision’s comprehensive offerings include unparalleled optics, proprietary camera and lighting systems, and state- of-the-art post-production services. Driven by a passion for collaborative innovation, Panavision provides filmmakers and creators with the highest standard of quality and service.
ARRI RENTAL arrirental.co.uk
Arri Rental is showing its Alexa 65 large format camera, along with the current range of available 65mm format lens options at BSC Expo this year. These include six new optics for the exclusive Prime DNA series, developed in- house through collaborations with major cinematographers and now comprising a total of 14 lenses. Based on diverse and modified vintage optics, the Prime DNA range is an eclectic collection of characterful lenses, displaying unusual but highly creative image attributes. Joining the Prime DNA lenses on the stand are three other exclusive lens series offered by Arri Rental for the Alexa 65: Prime 65, Prime 65 S and Vintage 765 lens sets. Further prime and zoom lenses adapted by Arri Rental for use with the Alexa 65 are also going to be on display, including, among others, Leica Thalia and Cooke S7/i primes, and the Angénieux Type EZ-1 zoom.
The latest innovations for the DXL2 digital camera and all the new optics are going to be on its booth at the BSC Expo. Panavision’s portfolio includes the renowned brands Light Iron, Panalux, Lee Filters, Direct Digital and Island Studios.
Cineo Lighting, a NBCUniversal company, is expanding its presence in the UK and Europe to broaden availability of its digital lighting solutions for the motion picture, television and broadcast industries. Cineo is showing its digital lighting solutions at BSC Expo. The full-gamut product line includes the Standard 410, LB800 and Lightblade Edge fixtures. The Standard 410 is a 1x2 soft light with
a custom-formulated spectrum, variable from 2700-6500K, as well as a Rec.2020 saturated colour engine. The LB800 is a patented, multi-zone soft light, offering the same spectrum and saturated colour options as the Standard 410 in a 2x4in size, weighing under 25kg. The LightBlade Edge is a modular fixture that delivers the features of larger Cineo fixtures in a low- profile footprint, delivering more output per linear inch than any comparable solution.
The Panther S-Type is a must see at BSC Expo if you need some high- level camera movement. It’s the newest member of the Panther dolly family and the show is your opportunity to discover the advantages of different dolly concepts: scissors-arm and centre-column. Powered by an electro-mechanical drive system, the S-Type is the world’s first of its kind. Panther presents this new product along with its corresponding accessories range. Also on display, Panther’s PMT Mono Rail system, which has become extremely popular, including its expanding range of levelling options.
14 DEF I N I T ION | FEBRUARY 2020
ON LOCATION DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
Singing rhinos, skydiving walruses and jowl-thwacking seals. Producers Fredi Devas and Emma Napper reveal how they filmed the weird and wonderful for Seven Worlds, One Planet
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / PICTURES BBC
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SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET | DOCUMENTARY
FEBRUARY 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 17
DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
B efore Blue Planet II , BBC nature programmes had been criticised for treading too lightly around humanity’s damage to the planet. But the 2017 docuseries heralded a new urgency to the trendy blockbusters, helping transform popular attitudes towards waste and pollution with distressing images of plastic enveloping a turtle, and albatrosses inadvertently feeding plastic to their chicks. Likewise, Seven Worlds, One Planet , which is the BBC’s latest nature series, does not eschew these environmental messages. The first story about the impact of climate change comes just 16 minutes into the opening episode, which concerns our most hostile continent, Antarctica. Throughout, there are sequences that highlight the human actions – pollution, habitat destruction and poaching – causing the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. This shift in the BBC’s nature programming is a response by filmmakers to accusations that they have pulled punches in the past. The Antarctica episode producer, Fredi Devas, says: “I wanted, within that programme about Antarctic wildlife, to talk about the environmental issues that are threatening the natural world – and not just the natural world that
we know about because we see it, but the natural world that is very far away, and yet is being impacted by climate change.” Interestingly, when asked how technology helps convey this message to audiences, his response was: “Although technology is important, there is something more important when shooting in the Antarctic – and that’s field craft; working with teams that understand the environment, understand animals and are observant of animal behaviour and how best to capture it in the right conditions.” The importance of field craft is especially observed in Antarctica’s final sequence, which depicts life under the sea ice, where starfish, sea spiders and three million predatory worms carpet the ocean floor and sea anemones feast on jellyfish. Devas says: “This truly was the riskiest thing to shoot and required huge amounts of courage from the camera operators.” First, scientists drilled nine feet deep, then the team got into heated dry suits, dropped down and swam off to their filming
location, which could be a 20-minute journey. According to Devas: “The water hole appeared black from the surface, but was crystal clear once inside it – and this caused one of our camera operators, Espen Rekdal, to experience feelings of vertigo.” Despite the protective gear, the team’s faces were still exposed to the freezing water. They also had no assured way of navigating back to the hole, since GPS doesn’t work under tonnes of ice. Devas explains: “Decades ago, camera operators would dive with ropes tied around their ankles, but there were problems with entanglement, so that doesn’t happen anymore. Now they just use memories. We had this plan, whereby if someone wasn’t back in time, another person on the ice above would scrape out arrows with their boot, in the hope that the divers would look up and see them. It’s really low-tech.” He adds: “The sea ice is constantly moving with the tides and, if they didn’t time their return right, the sea ice could drop on to the seabed and block their access.”
I wanted to talk about the environmental issues that are threatening the natural world
ABOVE A time-lapse reveals rich life under the Antarctic sea ice, from colourful starfish to spindly sea spiders
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SHOOT STORY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
His camera system had specialised components to stop it from freezing
ABOVE The art of field craft is invaluable when filming wildlife, such as this seal pup
The skill of field craft and hole carving was similarly crucial for the story regarding Weddell seals at the start of the episode. In the autumn, openings in the ice start to freeze over, so the seals create breathing holes, which they keep open by grinding their teeth against the new layers of ice. Devas says: “We couldn’t use existing holes to film the Weddell seals underwater, because they were using them, so we carved our own holes next to theirs.” In particular, the story follows a mother who had just given birth to her pup in a snowstorm. It can’t swim for the first ten days of its life and is completely dependent on its mother for warmth. “We wanted to see if she would leave her pup on the ice to retreat to the shelter of the water,” Devas explains. Thankfully, she didn’t, and the pup joined its mother in the water when it was able. He continues: “Those shots of the mother and her pup in the water are depicting the first time that the pup has felt water. For the mother to be comfortable enough to let her pup go into the water for the first time with a camera crew there shows they had an extraordinary amount of field craft. And that’s all about being careful of blowing bubbles – because male Weddell seals blow bubbles in aggressive encounters – and being patient about getting shots,
which in the cold water is a challenging thing to do.” It was not only the seal pup that had to endure the cold conditions without the accessible shelter of water – or, in camera operator John Brown’s case, a nice warm bed. “John had to withstand some incredibly cold conditions,” Devas explains. “It was -20°C and there was wind chill. His camera system had specialised components to combat this: the viewfinder was heated to stop it from freezing and, before the shoot, we sent to have the tripod head changed to have a fluid that wouldn’t freeze in those very cold temperatures. This is an exceedingly expensive process, because you wouldn’t use this type of tripod head on any other shoot, so it has to be changed back again.” VAIN SEALS Seals of different sorts are captured throughout the episode. Leopard seals hunt Gentoo penguins and, with glaciers crumbling more quickly due to climate change, appear to have the advantage. In this sequence, there is a fantastic split shot depicting the seal’s body as it writhes through the water. Above, its head bobs at the surface and colonies of Gentoo
penguins wait nervously on the rocks behind. A Megadome was used in Blue Planet II to capture a shot of a walrus, but this was done using something smaller. “It’s still a big dome, it’s ten inches. But it’s no Megadome. It’s much less wieldy; the Megadome requires two people or more just to get it into the water and when you’re getting into the water with leopard seals, you need something that’s going to be reactive. You can’t be spending hours getting the camera operator into the water, because the kit is so huge. You need to be able to get in quickly to get those shots and also be able to get out quickly.” Leopard seals have been known to kill humans. It’s rare, but something Devas had to take seriously. Despite all the preventive measures that might be whirling through your mind, cages, chain mail etc, the filmmaker’s protection was guaranteed by the peculiar fact that seals have a preoccupation with their looks. He explains: “We went with an experienced camera operator, Hugh Miller, who’s filmed leopard seals before. He knows that leopard seals are unpredictable; some will approach the camera, some won’t. When they do approach the camera, what they’re most interested in is their own
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DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
Our priority is that our drones have a successful flight and don’t interfere with animal behaviour
reflection on the dome. So, if you film with a buddy in the water, they’re more at risk. And sometimes, the seals will go up to the buddy and try to play with them.” Miller decided that the safest course of action would be a shallow dive alone. That way, there was no chance of a buddy being nibbled and he would still be able to communicate with the team on the yacht above. “And, if a leopard seal did come up to Hugh, he had the dome for the seal to look at its own reflection,” says Devas. INFLUENTIAL DRONES On St Andrews Bay, an island on the fringes of the continent, free from ice, but far more hospitable and crowded than the mainland, huge colonies of king penguins cover the land and elephant seals fight for territories. As Devas points out: “The best way to show the scope of this overcrowding was from the air. To fly a helicopter would require a boat that is big enough to fit a helicopter on to it and we weren’t going to do that, because we were on a yacht. “This is where drone technology really comes into its own. You can pack a drone
RIGHT Producer Fredi Devas gives a smile while standing among 500,000 penguins
into your rucksack and fly it whenever you need it. And what I find absolutely amazing about South Georgia is that when you land on the beach, you can look through a colony of 500,000 king penguins, up to mountains the size of the Alps, and the drone really is the best kit you can have to give you that kind of view, which takes you from the sea and then rises up over the hundreds of thousands of animals to reveal the mountains behind.” Drone technology has advanced enormously since Blue Planet II . They’re quieter, more portable and have longer battery lives. There’s also been research into
the potential effects they have on animal behaviour. Devas explains: “Scientists have flown drones above animals and observed the height at which they become disruptive to their behaviour – this is a fantastic piece of information for on location, because we can be confident the shots we’re getting are a true representation of life in the wild.” André Becker, DJI head of European product management, says: “Our priority is that our drones have a successful flight and don’t interfere with animal behaviour or bring them any harm. When it comes to wildlife documentaries, drones are indispensable. Not only can they capture
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DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
Helicopter propellers replicate the sound that bees make, and elephants are afraid of bees TINY TECHNOLOGY
Drones weren’t the only new technology to dazzle the wonders on Earth’s seven extraordinary continents. The Laowa 24mm Macro Probe lenses, which may just be one of the strangest looking lenses on the market, enabled cameraman John Aitchison to create perspectives that would not have been possible with mainstream lenses. For example, when an albatross chick is rejected and ignored by its father after falling from its nest. Cold on the ground, its only chance of survival is if it can get back on the nest. But, as Attenborough narrates: “Albatross do not recognise their chicks by sight, sound or smell. They identify them by finding them on the nest. These violent storms have created a problem that these albatrosses are not equipped to solve. If it is to survive, the chick will have to get on to the nest itself.” Aitchison used the Laowa lens to give the appearance this was all happening from the chick’s perspective – a harrowing watch – but Devas reveals that actually getting to this point of capture took a lot of patience from the skilled cameraman. “John arrived on Bird Island and walked around the colony to see which birds were tolerant of him. So, if any birds looked anxious or wanted to move away, then he would need to get out of sight immediately. When he found some that didn’t mind him being there, he started filming from a few metres away. Then, slowly, over a matter of weeks,
IMAGES Using drones meant aerial footage of elephants could be captured, as they are usually afraid of the noise from helicopters
able to capture the holy grail of wildlife filmography: an aggregation of great whales. Over 150 humpback whales feasted on krill off the coast of Elephant Island in one of the biggest feeding frenzies ever caught on camera. The footage, which shows the whales blowing bubbles that rise up in a spiral to trap their prey, is now being used to inform a scientific study. Advances in drone technology also mean that drone image quality now matches that of other high-end production cameras. The Inspire 2 uses the DJI Zenmuse X7 Super 35 6K camera, which has a colour profile that is especially close to Arri Alexa LUTs. Becker explains: “We didn’t want to create our own camera with our own look, we wanted to have a camera that complements other footage.” The Arri Alexa was one of the show’s workhorses, alongside the Red Helium and, in low-light situations, the Sony AS7 Mark II.
nice-looking images, but also deliver crucial elements of a story that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with helicopters. Animals are frightened by the sound of helicopters and the frequency of their propellers can be felt from relatively far away.” He adds: “Elephants are very sensitive to helicopters. Even if the helicopter is at a large distance, elephants will run away. The propellers replicate the sound that bees make, and elephants are afraid of bees.” New DJI drones, which introduce low-noise propellers and special ESCs that promise to reduce the sound of the propellers by 60%, were used to augment the scale and powerful impact conveyed by the rest of the footage the teams obtained. In particular, the Inspire 2, which has a rumoured flight time of up to 33 minutes and integrates a heating system that allows it to fly in -20°C, was used in Antarctica. This drone, alongside the Mavic Pro 2, was
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DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
John would inch closer to the birds to get those probing shots.” He enthuses: “John is an exceptional cameraman, because he could just sit still in the cold for two hours without looking at or filming the birds. Only when he felt that they were comfortable would he do this.” Curious camera angles can also be observed in Asia, which is the second episode in Seven Worlds, One Planet , produced by Emma Napper. This episode includes Sumatran rhinos, of which there are fewer than 70 left. In ten years, they may no longer exist, so they’re kept in a secret location behind fences within the Way Kambas National Park. Napper reveals: “We wanted to tell the story of her [the rhino] singing and then reveal that she’s in captivity. The Asian jungles are so dense that if these rhinos want to find a mate, they have to sing. It’s like a song of a whale, an amazing, haunting sound. There had been just one recording made of them singing before. But when we got there and got out of the car, it was the first thing we heard – and it was loud.” Filming this confined animal wasn’t as easy as you’d expect. She’s heavily protected, so the crew weren’t just able to wander into the fenced area with her. Napper says: “We could film her from outside the fence, if she decided to come close, but we wanted to get lots of different shots of her walking through the forest to create the image that she was searching for a mate. To do that, we built a camera system that was a bit like the spider cams they use for broadcasting football matches. It was a cable dolly that could fly through the forest, We built a camera system that was a bit like the spider cams they use for football matches
but also go up and down. Most cable dollies are rigged quite high and that wouldn’t have worked, because she’s an exceedingly tiny animal.” She jokes: “I’m 5ft 2in and she’s shorter and a bit hairier than me, so a big cable dolly would have looked ridiculous.” Napper also worked on the Australia episode, which captured the continent’s most elusive and much-persecuted wild dog, the dingo. A mother dingo is seen hunting kangaroo on the wide-open grasslands to provide food for her pups. But Napper reveals that these chases can cover many miles and are often unsuccessful. “It’s really hard to film dingoes and filming them hunting has hardly ever been done before, because they’re such skittish animals. They’re so afraid of humans. It took us 18 months to just find somewhere where we might have been able to capture dingoes hunting. And then weeks and weeks and weeks in the field of trying to get these dingoes to accept us, to be near enough to film them, and it all came down to this one animal – which I always find quite strange, to be so reliant on one animal, because obviously that animal doesn’t care about our pursuit of success. Anyway, she chose to accept us close enough for us to film her and I almost feel grateful for that.”
She continues: “For the hunting, in order to keep up with that and be able to get any shots, we had to get a helicopter crew in. Dingoes are far too fast, and they move far too far for our team to be able to keep up with the hunts from the ground. But that was nice, because the scale of that landscape is a part of the dingo story – they have to be so fast and so strong to be able to cover that distance. Showing her, from the air, with all those wide shots, is what her life is all about. Somewhere, in all of that area, she’s got to catch up with kangaroos that can see her for miles and are faster than her.”
MORE THAN A POST FROM FILMS AT 59
Films at 59 provided camera kit and advised location teams, particularly for specialist requirements. It rigged the GSS systems, which were commended by producer Fredi Devas, because they enabled his team to capture albatrosses flying above waves as they were sailing the Drake Passage. “It’s the roughest sea in the world. We had water spraying over the sides of our yacht, which was buffeted about, but our camera operator was still able to get stabilised shots with the GSS.” For the post, Films at 59 provided Avid cutting rooms, Baselight grade and Flame finishing, which included noise reduction and picture enhancements. It also created and QC’d all of the 100+ masters in both HDR and SDR for UK TX and BBC studios distribution. George Panayiotou, business development manager, says: “With 170 shoots over three years, it was a challenging yet rewarding production to be involved with.”
IMAGES Producer Emma Napper on location in Asia
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DOCUMENTARY | SEVEN WORLDS , ONE PLANET
IMAGES Camera hides were used to get close to cassowaries, the world’s most dangerous bird
If you surprise cassowaries, they could kick you to death with that claw
Another sequence showing an animal looking after its young is the story of the cassowary. This bird lives in the deep jungle in the north of Australia, which is the oldest jungle on Earth. It was once walked by dinosaurs and, when they became extinct, cassowaries took their place. The females stand 6ft tall, the males 5ft, but they rear up above head height and have claws on their feet longer than a velociraptor’s. Napper says: “If they could see you, they might not be a problem. But if you surprise them, they could kick you to death with that claw.” They’re also quite shy, which is why – alongside the knowledge that they could kill – Napper decided to lay camera traps to see which trees they liked to go to before sending in a film crew. “The camera traps came back with the information that there was a male cassowary who had two tiny chicks. It also revealed which trees he was likely to go to, so we set up hides around the jungle at those points. It was a bit of a stake-out to get that sequence actually.”
A MESSAGE TO VIEWERS We couldn’t finish this feature without including the most distressing moment of the series, where walruses are seen unwittingly throwing themselves off large cliffs and are met with a gruesome end. On the coast of northern Russia, in the Arctic, is one of the biggest concentrations of animals on the continent. Almost the entire population of Pacific walrus – over 100,000 of them, are crammed on to a beach no more than a few hundred metres long. These large congregations are becoming more frequent as climate change causes sea ice – where they would normally spend time – to retreat. The location is so remote that it took the crew over a week to get there. It had also never been filmed before, so there was very little that Napper could do to plan. “Before
we left, the extent of what we knew was that, in order to show both the scale and the behaviour of these walruses, we would need two camera systems: the drone was needed to show the scale and the ground system was needed for close-ups, to capture moments of behaviour.” Polar bears also occupy the beach, as they find their sea ice resting spots start to disappear as well. They’re no match for an adult walrus and rarely succeed in killing them, but there is another opportunity for the polar bears to enjoy a blubbery meal. The beach is backed by cliffs and some of the walruses climb up high to escape the crowds below. Drone shots were able to capture the polar bears approaching these precariously placed walruses and reveal for the first time the strange behaviour that followed. Spooked by the polar bears’ presence, the walruses throw themselves off the cliffs to the expectant safety of water, but are instead met by the rock’s sharp edges. The polar bears were then able to feed on the carcasses of the walruses that had died. Napper concludes: “I wanted to open the episode with this story, because it shows somewhere that I think is unexpected for Asia. When I think of Asia, I automatically think of south-east Asia and certainly don’t think about it having walruses. So, I think that was quite surprising for viewers and hopefully quite the spectacle, too.” A spectacle it was. Let’s just hope this new profound method of storytelling resonates with the public. We live on the same planet as the animals and, like these animals, are not immune to the ever-more- apparent effects of climate change. SEVEN WORLDS, ONE PLANET IS NOW ON BBC IPLAYER AND BBC AMERICA
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ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | SAMSUNG
The Samsung Portable SSD X5 is known for its speed, robustness and portability – and now it can add lifesaver to its USPs, as DIT Thomas Patrick discovers LIFESAVER FROM THE FUTURE
THE WORLD OF the digital image technician was created by digital
cinematography, but not by filmmaking. From this skewed start it became a crew job that defied categorisation, vilified by some but supported and nurtured by others. Now there are calls for more standardisation and accredited training as DITs look to practise their art further up the signal chain. The role of the DIT starts with the camera – working with the DOP and camera team to ascertain the objectives they have in choosing the specific camera system they’re planning to use. This includes assisting with camera set-ups, inspecting the images coming out of the camera, recording the data, making back-up copies and ensuring the right metadata is captured – checking all through the process that all the media recorded is in good order and correctly logged – it’s all part of what the DIT does. CATS MOVIE Thomas Patrick is a very experienced DIT and works on a mixture of movies, high- end television shows and commercials. One of those movies, Cats , is currently on worldwide release and was a very complicated shoot with terabytes of data being recorded and wrangled. Production took place at Leavesden Studios between December 2018 and April last year with cinematographer, Christopher Ross BSC, shooting with multiple cameras, and DIT Thomas Patrick working alongside him. Alec Garner and Patrick King operated the digital lab near-set and a digital service company supplied VFX pulls to the many companies around the world working on the visual effects. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Samsung Portable SSD X5 with me on the Cats shoot, but now I’m using it and love everything about it. I will definitely get some of these; it’s a great form factor,
looks very futuristic and is lightning fast,” says Patrick. The Samsung Portable SSD X5 design is actually inspired by a supercar, emphasising its performance and elegance through its dynamic and streamlined shape. With technological synergies between NVMe and Thunderbolt 3 technology, the Samsung portable drive offers incredible read/write speeds up to 2800/2300MB/s respectively. These are 5.2x/4.5x faster than Samsung’s SSD (SATA) and up to 25.5x/20.9x faster than a standard HDD. Patrick is also impressed with the security available for the Samsung Portable
SSD X5 as this is very important for a high-end transfer drive such as this. With Samsung’s portable SSD software, the product securely protects your data. It provides optional password protection through its AES 256-bit hardware encryption. LIFESAVER As the DIT on-set, Patrick has a vital ‘quality control’ role during production and is relied upon to flag up any problems with what’s being recorded. A thorough knowledge of cameras, recording formats and back-up systems is, therefore, essential, as is a full
IMAGES DIT carts are rugged and mobile for on-set use, such as for colour grading, and is a home for high-end drives like the Samsung Portable SSD X5
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SAMSUNG | ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE
IMAGES The Samsung Portable SSD X5 was the fastest way Patrick could transfer his rushes
“The Samsung Portable SSD X5 was a lifesaver. I’ve decided to get at least one of these drives”
Patrick is also happy with the Samsung Portable SSD X5 thermal management technology. Featuring Dynamic Thermal Guard, the portable drive maintains optimal temperature by operating speed. Its heat sink prevents overheating while the portable drive is in use, keeping the surface temperature below 45°. FUTURE-PROOFING Patrick can see that the Samsung Portable SSD X5 would be of major use as an almost instant transfer of rushes to heads of departments. “We have to understand that the effects of different kinds of compression is important, too – knowing what can be used in certain applications – and what must be avoided. So we know which files and at what resolution have to go to people like the DOP,” he explains. “Selection of rushes takes a while, so to quicken that up with such a fast, portable drive makes you look impressive, especially at the end of the day.” Whatever Patrick goes on to next, whether it’s commercials, movies or TV shows, you can bet the smart-looking, secure and superfast Samsung Portable SSD X5 will be there with him.
was a lot quicker to move them and do them on another system than to just go slower on the original one. “These were big camera original files, which normally would have taken a while to move over and would have the client waiting to review them, which is never a great feeling. But with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, I was able to make a back-up and then move the files over to the new system very quickly. It definitely was a lifesaver and got me out of jail. You also then have a happy client, which is very important. “To add to the drama, I needed to get out of the location very quickly so without the Samsung portable drive it would have been an issue. This moment alone has made me decide to get at least one of these drives.”
understanding of the science of image capture, in terms of spatial and temporal resolution, how colour space works and can be manipulated. As we all know, you have to expect the unexpected in a production environment, but fortunately for Patrick he managed to come out of a recent highly stressful moment on a commercial shoot looking like the hero – and it was down to the Samsung Portable SSD X5 . He explains what happened: “I was using a system to transcode files and at the last minute the client on a commercial decided they wanted higher resolution files for review. To make high-resolution files for them, I had to move some rushes over to another system that was much more powerful and quicker to transcode from. It
MORE INFORMATION: samsung.com/uk/portable-ssd
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COMEDY | AVENUE 5
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AVENUE 5 | COMEDY
When DOP Eben Bolter got the job on Armando Iannucci’s new space comedy, he went from his normal single-camera drama to multicam cinematic improv SPACE BLAST
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES HBO
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