Inspired by the Banff Mountain Film Festival – this issue we’re diving into the world of adventure filmmaking, transporting you to the furthest corners of our planet through the lens of creatives such as Keith Partridge and Michael Brown. We also find out what’s in store for EnergaCAMERIMAGE, chat to Lawrence Sher, ASC, and offer insights into the latest advancements in the world of filters.
BEHIND THE SCENES DOP MÁTYÁS ERDÉLY TALKS SCI-FI THRILLER FOE
LAWRENCE SHER, ASC THE HANGOVER & JOKER DOP SHARES HIS CV STORY
PUMP UP THE VOLUME! EXPLORE THE WORLD’S TOP VIRTUAL PRODUCTION STUDIOS
What’s new in the world of filters? Industry leaders reveal the latest technology
Discover awe-inspiring stories of filmmakers tackling the challenges of the great outdoors in our adventure special! HE I GHTS
EnergaCAMERIMAGE Spotlight Industry Trailblazers News & Events Must-Have Kit Camera Robotics Focus Underwater Drones in All Too Clear
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EDITORIAL Editor in chief Nicola Foley email@example.com Staff writer Katie Kasperson Chief sub editor Matthew Winney Sub editor Ben Gawne Editorial director Roger Payne firstname.lastname@example.org Contributors Adam Duckworth, Will Lawrence, Phil Rhodes, Sales director Sam Scott-Smith email@example.com 01223 499457 Sales manager Emma Stevens firstname.lastname@example.org 01223 499462 | +447376665779 DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Senior designer Lucy Woolcomb Ad production Holly May PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck Robert Shepherd ADVERTISING
I nspired by the Banff Mountain Film Festival – taking place this month in the Canadian Rockies – this issue we’re diving into the adrenaline-pumping world of adventure filmmaking. Prepare to be transported to the furthest corners of our planet through the lens of intrepid creatives such as Keith Partridge ( Human Planet , Touching the Void ) and Michael Brown – who has summited Everest with cameras rolling five times. A duo of natural history filmmakers share how deep- diving drones are bringing about a revolution in underwater filmmaking (page 44), while the team behind Alone Across the Arctic tell us about a remarkable solo expedition – and how they captured it all on camera – on page 37. Elsewhere, we discover what’s in store for EnergaCAMERIMAGE, the celebration of cinematography in Toruń, Poland. As part of this year’s festivities, the craft of the colourist will be spotlighted in the FilmLight Colour Awards. Leading the jury is Lawrence Sher, ASC, known for his work on The Hangover , Joker and Garden State – he reveals all about his career so far and ambitions for the future on page 18. We’ve also got insights into the latest advancements in the world of filters, a peek around some incredible virtual production studios, a glimpse into the transformative impact of camera robotics, plus a behind-the-scenes look at productions including Heart of Stone and Foe . Enjoy the issue and see you next month!
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. Bright Publishing LTD Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridgeshire, CB22 3HJ, UK
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This wintry love story posed serious practical problems 40 IT ALL COMES WITH THE COLD WATER An underwater drone illuminates Lake Huron’s most harmful species 44 ALL TOO CLEAR 49 EXPLORING VIRTUAL PRODUCTION STUDIOS Take a grand tour of these innovative VP spaces from around the world Say goodbye to fair-weather filming: this gear is good for any expedition 38 ADVENTURE SPECIAL: KIT
30 BANFF ADVENTURE FILMMAKERS SHOWCASE Two industry experts discuss the impact of camera robotics 26 ROUND TABLE What’s new in the world of filters? Our handbook has the latest 23 THE DEF GUIDE TO... We hear from Lawrence Sher ASC, who’s just wrapped the Joker sequel 18 CV STORIES This annual festival celebrates the best of cinematography 16 CAMERIMAGE We unpack Garth Davis’ dystopian marriage story 12 FOE Greta Gerwig, Formula 1, the world’s largest LED screen and lots more 06 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS A chat with adventure filmmakers Keith Partridge and Michael Brown 37 ALONE ACROSS THE ARCTIC One man, two cameras – learn how this tale of survival was made
The hit Netflix spy thriller with a killer colour grade 60 HEART OF STONE Jamillah van der Hulst talks inspiration and making an impact 63 TOOLKIT Our survey of the latest gear releases to get on your radar
This image is courtesy of The Banff Mountain Film Festival, which takes place this month. Find out more about the filmmakers involved in our adventure special ON THE COVER
IMMERSION ROOM GETS AN UPGRADE I mmersion Room has expanded its Toronto-based VP studio, moving into a new space in Downsview Park. The facility now boasts 23,000 sq ft – more than double its previous size – and allows for LED upgrades, keeping its VP capabilities up to date and fulfilling its ‘filmmaker-first’ mission. Having served over 70 clients in two short years, Immersion Room hopes to welcome more business and tackle challenging production projects. The company’s R&D department aims to develop new VP tech and solutions, giving it a creative edge and solidifying its position as an industry innovator. Immersion Room is beginning another round of fundraising after receiving initial seed money in 2020. “People keep saying virtual production is the future of filmmaking,” says Mike Boers, co-CEO. “To make that reality, we need high-performing, accessibly priced tech and services. That’s what we hope to bring to more filmmakers with a second round of fundraising.”
VERSTAPPEN’S CAR TAKES VIRTUAL DRIVE R ed Bull Racing, in partnership with Final Pixel and XPLOR, have created
Vegas, Austin and Miami, past the Kennedy Space Station and ultimately into New York City. The car, which was being used under strict confidentiality rules, couldn’t be seen by anybody on-location. “Not only did virtual production methods aid the sustainability initiative of a net zero carbon production,” begins Michael McKenna, CEO and director of VP at Final Pixel, “but it also solved numerous pain points that were rendering that initial creative brief – a road trip across America – impossible.”
Formula 1’s first virtual production (VP) shoot with Max Verstappen’s latest vehicle. The racecar – which had driven Verstappen F1 championship victory earlier this October – was taken on a short trip to Wakefield’s Production Park in West Yorkshire. The resulting short film shows Verstappen’s car – an Oracle Red Bull RB19 – make a cross-country journey through America, combining both real footage and computer-generated imagery that was created partially by Unreal Engine. The film takes audiences over the Nevada desert, through Las
Search on YouTube or use the link for a short BTS video youtu.be/SD2PFo2OcPM**
SHORT TAKES 1. Las Vegas debuts largest LED screen Las Vegas just opened its latest venue, the Sphere, which features the world’s largest LED screen. The $2.3 billion, 366ft high circular arena was designed for the ultimate viewing experience, immersing audiences in movies, sports, concerts and other live events. Half of the 20,000 seat space includes 4D effects like tilting, shaking and changing temperatures. 2. Terence Davies dies at 77 Legendary Liverpudlian filmmaker Terence Davies died peacefully on 7 October 2023. Considered one of the greatest talents in British cinema, Davies’ career spanned over four decades, with nine features, one documentary and five shorts under his belt. He’s perhaps best-known for Distant Voices, Still Lives , which expertly captured working-class life in 20th- century England. Davies released his final film, Benediction , in 2021. 3. Vaudeville Sound Group renews deal with Warner Bros Vaudeville Sound Group has extended its agreement with Warner Bros. Television Production UK (WBTVP), continuing their 11-year partnership. Vaudeville supplies full-service audio post-production on all WBTVP shows, including the BAFTA-winning Who Do You Think You Are , The Choir , Repair Shop and many more.
DAVID YATES RECEIVES RAINDANCE ICON AWARD D avid Yates received this year’s Raindance icon award at the festival’s opening night party. He
and the two-part instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows . Yates won his first BAFTA for BBC miniseries The Way We Live Now , and a second for Sex Traffic . He also received the Directors Guild of Great Britain award for outstanding directorial achievement for State of Play , earning another nomination just a year later. Yates supports up-and-coming talent by funding West London’s Bush Theatre, Cambridge University’s Watersprite Film Festival and the National Film and Television School.
sits among industry excellence, with previous winners including Sir Michael Caine, Jude Law, Olivia Colman and Ken Loach. Best known for his directorial work on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, Yates has made valuable contributions to the British film industry. Picking up where Mike Newell left off, Yates directed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
GRETA GERWIG TALKS PROCESS AT BFI T his year’s London Film Festival, hosted by the British Film Institute (BFI), included a series of ‘screen talks’ featuring the industry’s brightest writers, directors and filmmakers – Greta Gerwig being among them. Hot off the critical and commercial success of Barbie , Gerwig – with Peep Show and Succession creator Jesse Armstrong moderating – discussed her impressive career and her creative process. Gerwig began as an actress, working in theatre before switching to film. “Independent films were opening up in a certain way because of digital – being able to shoot pretty good-looking things on digital cameras,” she explained. “Also, Final Cut was on computers. You could make a movie with less.” Gerwig is also an experienced dancer, giving her a unique perspective on cinematography. “I started seeing the camera as another person that was dancing in the space,” she noted. “With Lady Bird , I made rules about how I was going to move the camera – or not move the camera. I thought of everything as a presentation within a frame.”
© GETTY IMAGES
ON TOP Greta Gerwig discussed her recent successes at the BFI’s London Film Festival
With Little Women , Gerwig had “the opposite feeling”, instead wanting the camera to be “alive and curious” like the characters themselves. Gerwig’s third film, Barbie , more closely resembles Lady Bird , again being “presentational, but drawing from a different aesthetic, which was more like a soundstage musical,” she described. “How the camera is breathing and moving and interacting is as important in blocking as anything. It is less a machine and more of a person.” Gerwig is also a talented wordsmith, being the writer (or, in Barbie ’s case, co-writer) on all three of her directorial endeavours. Although she described writing as a painful process, it’s also the most flexible. “As I started in independent film, you can spend ages working on your script, and it’s free. You can try to get very
precise with it, so that you know what you want to shoot,” she said. Gerwig often sits in with her editor, Nick Houy. “He’s very calm, very rigorous. He takes notes and feedback and really leans into it,” she beamed, noting that “a lot of cuts I have, I write in. Most of my movies are pretty close to the scripts.” Although all three of her features have been well received, Gerwig’s not always confident they will be. “I don’t know if something’s going to be a good idea,” she said. But with Barbie , she described the filmmaking process as being “so joyful, I thought: ‘If I can make a movie even a quarter as fun to watch as it was to make, then maybe we’ve got a shot.’”
MOVIELABS SHOWCASES 2030 VISION M otion Picture Laboratories (aka MovieLabs) – a joint R&D venture between Disney, Paramount Pictures,
Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Discovery – recently released its ‘2030 Vision for the Future of Media Creation’. Ten companies which have embraced the 2030 Vision are participating in the 2023-2024 Showcase Program, illustrating the potential benefits of adoption. MovieLabs’ 2030 Vision lists ten criteria for the successful evolution of media creation, including automation, high security, adaptability and iteration. The ten participating companies are: Adobe, Avid Technology, Ateliere Creative Technologies, Gunpowder, Hammerspace, Light Iron, Pixelogic, Sohonet, Universal Pictures and Yamdu.
AI Creative Summit On 16 November at BFI Southbank, experience this brand new, one-day conference exploring AI’s impact on the media and entertainment industries. The event will cover the latest AI-powered products and creative tools, host an AI debate and offer talks with leading experts in the industry. Raindance Film Festival Between 25 October and 4 November, Raindance – the largest independent film festival in the UK – returns to London. Officially recognised by the BAFTAs, BIFAs and the Academy, the 11-day event includes screenings, panels and networking opportunities. London Film & TV Career Expo Head to the Bromley Picturehouse on Saturday, 25 November for the London Film & TV Career Expo, helping professionals find their next industry breakthrough. Be sure to bring your CV, as employers, recruiters and agents will be on the lookout for new talent. American Film Market The American Film Market (AFM) – held annually in Santa Monica – runs from 31 October through 5 November. If you’ve got a film up for grabs, we’ve got good news – the AFM sees more than $1 billion in deals close every year. Leeds International Film Festival The Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) returns to West Yorkshire from 3-19 November. LIFF 2023 celebrates the re- opening of the iconic Hyde Park Picture House, the festival’s leading venue. DIARY DATES
SHINFIELD STUDIOS COMPLETES PHASES ONE AND TWO S hinfield Studios – the latest UK production hub based in Shinfield’s Thames Valley Science Park – is now partially open, with 13 stages finished and a further five due to complete by 2024. Shinfield will offer nearly 1 million sq ft of space to film and TV productions, furthering the UK’s reputation as a production force to be reckoned with. Once completed, Shinfield Studios will house 18 soundstages, a workshop and mill space, a post-production facility and contemporary office areas, as well as a nine-acre backlot. Each stage is a different size, making Shinfield suited to productions of various magnitudes. It’s positioned to become one of the largest studio complexes in the UK with a sister campus in Atlanta, Georgia owned by the same parent company, Shadowbox Studios. Shinfield Studios is a short train from central London or a 30- minute drive from Heathrow Airport – with plenty of on-site parking.
Learn more and stay up-to-date at shinfieldstudios.com
PRODUCTION FOE Uncanny WORDS Will Lawrence Grappling with AI doppelgängers, climate catastrophe and the nature of humanity itself, Foe is a sinister speculation on what the near future might hold. Cinematographer Mátyás Erdély takes us behind the scenes VAL L EY
THE AREA FELT FROZEN IN DEATH, LIKE POMPEII – it’s powerfully spiritual ”
S o long as you don’t point your camera at the lighting truck, you immediately have an amazing shot,” smiles DOP Mátyás Erdély. He is recalling his time shooting in the almost alien landscape of Australia’s Winton Wetlands, a unique ecosystem occupying more than 20,000 acres a few hours northeast of Melbourne. This land had once held a man-made lake which, when decommissioned in the 1990s amid environmental concerns, invited the deserts to sweep in. Around 150,000 now-waterless eucalyptus trees were left to perish. Their skeletons rise eerily from the sand, stretching in all directions. It was here that director Garth Davis elected to shoot his most recent film, Foe , an adaptation of the best- selling novel by Iain Reid. “The area felt frozen in death, like Pompeii,” says Davis, whose directorial feature debut, Lion , was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture. “It’s powerfully spiritual.” This powerful location is integral to Foe’s story, tone and design, prompting Davis to seek out a director of photography who would relish shooting in such an unforgiving environment. He had chosen to work with Greig Fraser, who scooped an Oscar last year for his work on Dune , but when scheduling conflicts arose, he turned to Erdély, the Hungarian cinematographer who shot the Academy Award-winning Son of Saul . “The wetlands are a real gift,” continues Erdély. “You look at them and they are just unreal. And the natural
DARK DAYS Saiorse Ronan and Paul Mescal star in this dystopian drama – which is receiving praise for its visuals the not-too-distant future to life in a mesmerising manner. Here, Hen’s life is laced with melancholia, the farmhouse wrapping around her; a suffocating shawl that lays heavy on her otherwise light and creative spirit. Whatever the overriding critical opinions of the film, none deny that Ronan’s performance is exquisite. The lighting is amazingly intense. The idea was to create a contrast between this claustrophobic house and this amazing dying landscape.” The “claustrophobic house” is a farmstead, which the production built out in the wetlands, and later recreated in the studio. It is home to a couple called Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal), who live a few decades in the future, struggling in a world beset by severe drought. Stubbornly holding out at their dustbowl farm, which is set somewhere in a decaying American Midwest, the couple work dead-end jobs by day and limp through their fractured relationship by night. When an uninvited stranger (Aaron Pierre) shows up at their door with a startling proposal, the stitching of their life together begins to unravel further, the story unfolding as an intense three- hander that raises questions about the nature of humanity, as well as AI, bringing
same is true of the way in which Erdély and Davis have textured her tale. “The contrast between the house and the landscape immediately creates this amazing tension,” Erdély says. “That was already written in the visual structure of the film.” Erdély’s primary challenge when creating the stifling feel of Hen’s life in the farmstead was to ensure the light remained consistent throughout. “You might have a five-minute scene shot over the course of a few days, and I have to think about what natural light I can use and what I have to fight. “For example, if you’re in a room and the sun comes in in the morning but it goes away in the afternoon, then I need to block the direct sun coming in so it’s consistent throughout the day. You have to have an understanding of what you’re dealing with because then you have to order certain equipment to make sure you can do it.” The equipment can be high-tech or low. When moving to Melbourne’s Docklands Studios, which housed the first floor and basement of the farmhouse interior (along with the chicken farm and the space installation, OuterMore), Erdély needed equipment that would help create a seamless transition. He went “old-school,” he says. “We had to be really smart about how to connect these shots. We would cut from a shot that was captured on location to a shot that was in the studio, and we kind of went old-school with this by using Translites. That gave us control on set over the colour and the amount of light that is reaching the lens. Patrice [Vermette, the Academy Award-winning
production designer] really fought to make sure they were perfect, and that was a massive help for us.” The time spent on set at Docklands was just as intense as the time spent on location, the nature of the film requiring Erdély and his team to shoot very close to the three actors. “Obviously, we want to make sure that whatever we do, we do it in a way that’s the least intrusive to the actors as possible,” he says, “but occasionally the camera has to be incredibly close to someone’s face or to their performance. “You do not want to compromise your vision. If I feel that I have to physically put the camera across the actors, then I would always talk to the actors, talk to the director, and make sure that they’re OK. I think the biggest influence or inspiration for me was watching these actors at work. They are a really amazing cast and they were one of the reasons I wanted to work on the movie.” Ideally, Erdély would like to have captured the amazing cast on film, but was hindered by the dearth of film labs in Australia. “It is a sad thing there are no
HIGHLY DECORATED Erdély also secured the Camerimage Bronze Frog for Son of Saul
film labs in Australia anymore. How is that is even possible? I think that’s something that needs to be fixed. And please quote me on that.” He turned to the Alexa 65. “We were able to get that camera system to Australia, which, I would say, is the best digital format there is. It has the biggest chip and an amazing format. It is the most cinematic, or most filmic, of all the digital formats, I think, and it’s actually really, really beautiful.” Erdély likes its heft. “The camera physically is nice and big and heavy, which I really like. It’s great for handheld work and it’s always nice to have toys like it. I always enjoy the big, big cameras.” Later this year comes Erdély’s next film, Iron Claw , which looks into the life of professional wrestler Kevin Von Erich and features Zac Efron in the lead role. “Just be very excited,” laughs Erdély. “Watch this, watch that – the same guy shot it. I really hope that it is different. It’s the opposite of Foe in many ways, but there are also a lot of similarities, because it’s also a very emotional film.”
THROUGH THE LOOK I NG GLASS This one-of-a-kind festival salutes the finest work in cinematography, with three extraordinary decades under its belt
H eld annually in Toruń, Poland, to recognise films based on their ‘visual, aesthetic and technical values’, differentiating it from more traditional film festivals and award shows. EnergaCAMERIMAGE is a friend to filmmakers both new and experienced, providing a platform for students to learn and explore techniques. Over its 30-year history, the festival has welcomed some exceptional talent, including editor Thelma EnergaCAMERIMAGE is an international festival of cinematography. The event claims Schoonmaker, cinematographer Bradford Young and filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Quentin Tarantino. This year’s festival takes place from 11-18 November across Toruń. Films will be assessed in eight separate competitions: Main, Polish Film, Film and Art School Etudes, Documentary, Debuts, TV Series, Music Videos and European Funds in Focus. EnergaCAMERIMAGE’s Main Competition recognises winners with the Golden Frog, the festival’s most prestigious and well-known award. Many competition winners go on to receive other accolades, including Oscars, Emmys and BAFTAs. Entry cards are now available for EnergaCAMERIMAGE, which entitle guests to film screenings, seminars, workshops, press conferences, exhibitions and the festival market, which showcases the latest in film equipment. To purchase an entry card and experience everything EnergaCAMERIMAGE has to offer, visit portal.camerimage.pl
DYNAMIC DUO P eter Zeitlinger and Werner Herzog will receive the cinematographer- director duo award at the 31st edition of EnergaCAMERIMAGE. The award recognises two greats in their respective crafts but whose best work comes from working together. Zeitlinger studied cinematography at the Vienna Conservatory before entering the world of arthouse film. Since then, his genre-spanning credits have included Losses to be Expected , James Franco’s Future World and The Angel in the Wall . Herzog – a director, screenwriter, producer, actor and poet – is considered a pioneer of German New Cinema. His first feature, Signs of Life , brought him into the critical foreground, and he’s since made over 60 films. Together, Zeitlinger and Herzog have enjoyed nearly 30 years of collaboration, co-creating 13 documentaries – including the Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World –
and six features. Their 2010 documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams , exploring the world-famous Chauvet Cave in France, was a contender in EnergaCAMERIMAGE’s first-ever 3D Films Competition alongside Gravity , Avatar and The Great Gatsby . Both Zeitlinger and Herzog will be attending this year’s festival in person to receive their joint award and meet with other attendees.
LOOKS MATTER EnergaCAMERIMAGE is the festival that focuses on aesthetics, with films being recognised for their cinematography
ONCE IN A LIFETIME P eter Biziou BSC will be honoured at this year’s festival with the lifetime achievement award, given to those who’ve distinguished themselves as having an exceptional impact on film. Born in Wales during the World War II, Biziou grew up under cinema’s umbrella, being raised by single father and cinematographer Leon Bijou. He studied engineering, machining and technical drawing at Paddington Secondary Technical School (now Quintin Kynaston School) while accompanying his father on film productions. Biziou’s career started with commercial projects, fashion shoots
and shorts, working regularly with photographer Robert Freeman. He garnered acclaim for Another Country , winning best artistic contribution at Cannes. He later shot Pink Floyd: The Wall , The Truman Show and Mississippi Burning , which won him an Oscar and nominations from the ASC, BSC and BAFTA.
On The Truman Show , Biziou drew from his commercial work, selecting wide-angle lenses that were popular in that particular sphere. The film has become a celebrated classic, not only for its story but also its style. Biziou will attend the festival to receive his award, with presentations of his finest work also on offer.
INTERVIEW Nicola Foley
Lawrence Sher ASC is an American cinematographer and film director best known for his work on Joker, The Hangover and Garden State. He’s recently completed filming Joker: Folie à Deux, and is president of the 2023 FilmLight Colour Awards jury
Definition: How did you get into filmmaking, and what was your route into the industry? Lawrence Sher: It started with a small interest in photography via my dad. He was a doctor, but had a real passion for still photography. He lent me a camera once for a school trip – I took a bunch of pictures, and I was emboldened by the fact they didn’t stink! It was exciting to look through a lens and think about composition and creativity through that
medium. When I went to college, I took a class there that really re-lit that spark – and then it was off to the races. I felt 100% that I wanted to be a filmmaker – and due to my interest in photography, cinematography felt like a natural place for me. I graduated as an economics major, moved to LA and tried to find my way into camera departments as a camera assistant. I took any chance I could to work on sets and to learn on my
own – I was always taking pictures and trying to teach myself cinematography, finding chances to shoot. I was taking any job, trying to figure out how to do this thing that I was really passionate about – and I just sort of worked my way up. Def: What would your top piece of advice be for somebody hoping to break into the industry? LS: It’s really two things: it’s perseverance and it’s patience. The people I know that
have found success and continued to succeed in the industry, frankly, just never gave up. It’s hard, and you’re going to go through a lot of ups and downs. It’s never going to happen as fast as you want it to happen either. So if it’s really the thing you want to do, you will persevere. Be kind to yourself, and remind yourself it’s going to take time. You’re going to see some people go places faster than you, and that’s going to be hard, and it’s going to feel unfair – but you stay on your path. Your journey is going to be your own journey, and you need to be as patient as you can with yourself. I also believe that enthusiasm and attitude will beat skill every time. As long as you can stay positive and be a good source of energy on set, you’ll find people to work with and you’re going to find opportunities. Def: Looking back on your career so far, what are you most proud of? LS: It changes. It sometimes follows the success of the movies, because those movies become the things that get you other opportunities. Garden State was the first film that got me a bit of attention,
and that allowed me to get into different types of projects. I was really proud of that movie; I’m from New Jersey, so it felt very personal – and I just really enjoyed working on it. After that, there was the success of the first Hangover movie, which was the most important movie of my career at that point. I was obviously very happy with the way it turned out, and when you have a movie that’s very successful like that, it definitely gets you more opportunities. And then there’s Joker – just to be working on that was a dream come true, even without the awards and everything else. Then of course, there are movies that didn’t do well, but were still some of my greatest experiences. I made a movie called The Big Year – nobody really saw it, but was one of the best experiences making a movie that I’ve had in my career. Def: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your career and how did you overcome them? LS: Every movie is a series of challenges, and that’s one of the things I love about the movie business. The crews are basically the greatest problem solvers in the world – and not only that, but they love having problems to solve! They relish in the process of figuring things out. In terms of specific challenges I’ve faced… I once directed a movie that didn’t do great, and got beaten up by the critics. That served me because I stood back and thought, what am I supposed to learn from that, that I can take forward
HEAVY HITTER Sher first found acclaim with 2004’s Garden State, and received an Oscar nomination for 2019’s Joker
THE PEOPLE I KNOW THAT HAVE FOUND SUCCESS IN THE INDUSTRY, FRANKLY, just never gave up ”
and do better next time? It’s all part of the journey; part of pushing yourself and taking chances – not just taking the path of least resistance. Whenever you do that, you’re going to risk failure. Something I appreciate about Todd Phillips – who I’ve done seven movies with, including Joker – is he’s always taking risks. We’ve got the new Joker coming out next year and we’re just finishing up post-production on it. This movie is a big swing and it’s going to be really surprising to people. I’m so excited for everyone to see it. Def: What career ambitions would you still like to fulfil? LS: I want to direct again, definitely – I’ve continued to refine that skill so I would like to revisit it. From a shooting standpoint, I want to find things that scare me, things that feel like a creative challenge, and to work with really interesting people. I’m going to continue to seek out those opportunities. I’ve also got a venture called ShotDeck, which is a really incredible database of imagery for filmmakers. Starting that has been a really fun challenge, feeding that economics brain of mine that went to college, and doing something more entrepreneurial – I’ve learned a whole bunch of new skills and that I didn’t even know I had to learn. It’s really fulfilling, and it’s become really a great tool for filmmakers, students and for people across all creative industries. It was something that needed to exist, and it’s great to see it succeed. Def: Is there anything you’d do differently in your career if you had the chance? LS: It’s such a good question. And it’s funny because I really can’t think of anything – I take all the ups and downs, and even if something didn’t feel great in the moment or I felt I failed in some
ONWARD AND UPWARD Sher on set (above), The Hangover (below) and Asteroid City, nominated in the Colour Awards (right)
way, I usually learn something. There are so many things you can’t control; all you can do is continue to work on yourself as a human being. Def: What motivates you? LS: For me, now, it’s all about taking some level of risk, and feeling inspired by the work that I’m doing. That’s it. Whenever I’m presented with something, I have to find that thing that makes me feel challenged and excited and inspired. And if that’s present, then it’s worth doing – and it gets me excited about that project from beginning to end. Def: What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry as a whole at the moment? LS: Obviously, there are things like AI – I’m not as worried about it as others; I feel like it’ll have a place, but time will tell how that looks. The big one for me – since 90% of what I do is make movies for the theatre – is to make sure this generation continues to embrace all the things that make the theatre great. The Barbie and Oppenheimer thing was great, and those things get me excited. I want to make sure the whole experience of going to see a film on a big screen, with popcorn and other people, doesn’t falter; that it lives on. Covid-19 scared the hell out of me for that reason, but it’s been nice to see people return to the theatre.
FilmLight Colour Awards Sher discusses his seat on the panel for the awards, which celebrate the art of colour in film and TV “I was really excited to be asked to be part of the jury for the awards. I know it will be an immense challenge to help filter all the other jurors’ opinions into consensus winners. Colour is complex and subjective, so my goal is to allow an open forum in which we can express our thoughts on the work of the artists. When it comes to judging, first and foremost, I will be looking for entries that show point of view and skilful execution of an idea. As with all filmmaking endeavours, the art needs to work seamlessly with the piece.” The 2023 winners will be announced at EnergaCAMERIMAGE. For the latest on the FilmLight Colour Awards, visit filmlightcolourawards.com
THE DEF GUIDE
WORDS Phil Rhodes
WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF FILTERS
Despite all the progress made in post- production and VFX, many prefer to do things in camera. We catch up with some leading manufacturers, to talk all things optical filters
lancing over the range of filters on the market, it’d be easy to get the impression that filter manufacturing involves two distinct methodologies. One involves a
precision optical lab, capable of creating consistent, flawless pieces of glass and coating them with microscopically controlled filter media. The other is more of an experimenter’s playpen, in which more or less anything can be gleefully sandwiched between a couple of optical flats and put in front of a lens. Esoteric optical effects are something people have been pushed to by the sheer excellence of modern cameras and lenses. It’s difficult to complain about things being too good, but this immense quality demands filters be both interesting and precise. Combining this in a single piece of glass is something
THE DEF GUIDE
FILTERS ALWAYS WORK WITH THE infinite variety of light IN THE ENVIRONMENT”
IB/E Optics has been doing for a while, building hardware for the aerospace and medical sectors as well as devices for the moving-image world. The company’s catalogue is replete with pieces of precision glass, and its work on cinema optics consistently pushes the boundaries – as seen with Angéniuex’s Optimo Prime series and the more experimental Tribe7 lenses. There are also a series of filters made from what we might call innovative materials, things like dandelion seeds and mesh fabrics. To an extent, it’s reminiscent of the sort of filters people may once have improvised, albeit to a much more reliable, convenient and repeatable standard. These now range from subtle to bold, striking effects which seem to have found a lot of use in commercials and other short-form content that needs to establish its intent clearly and quickly. IB/E’s Manuela Seidl reports that the company’s success in the world of custom optics has grown significantly. “It’s because the softer lenses aren’t always available that camera crews use these approaches. We regularly develop products that produce certain reflections and flares or other effects. That might mean certain coatings that we can produce in-house, or mechanical parts that make a difference. We can also offer customers effect filters and, to a certain extent, customised filters.”
IMAGE Examples of IB/E filters and their impressive results
SHIFTING PARADIGMS For decades, the goal of lens
wants to achieve a special, more organic, analogue look. Diffusion filters, like our Hollywood Black Magic or Radiant Soft, are very popular and in demand.” With such a lot of choice, Thiele recommends an iterative approach. “First you choose the lens, then the filter. Your favourite filter does not necessarily harmonise with the selected lens. It’s a constant trial and error for the best combination for the desired result.” The philosophy of that choice is informed, Thiele goes on, by the technical reality that filters know no limit – to all practical purposes – for dynamic range or resolution. “We think that despite all the developments in software, filters still have a clear benefit. Filters always work with the infinite variety of light in the environment. Once an image has been recorded, an interpretation has already taken place. Whether or not you can conjure up the same results in the computer as with the optical solution, that’s the question.” With that in mind, Schneider’s development people have been busy
manufacturers was to create lenses which made as little impact on the image as possible, though it’s been a while since that was the goal of cinematographers too. IB/E’s work on the Tribe7 lenses is an example of the counter-reaction, and one that James Friend used for night scenes on the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front . The effect, as Seidl puts it, is visible without being noticeable. “Tuning lenses and other tools that create effects are very popular. But if you ask people about the effects after the film, they usually can’t remember any of them, but only say that it looked good. People from the industry usually see these effects straight away, while the average person usually doesn’t notice.” At Schneider-Kreuznach, Piet Thiele reports similar experiences with some of the company’s best-known designs. “Filtering is a big thing that is becoming more and more popular with amateurs and high-class DOPs alike. Everyone
The new Formatt Hitech custom diffusion kit allows cinematographers to craft their own custom looks that can then be manufactured into a single filter
THE DEF GUIDE
on projects, including one based on the popularity of the company’s dioptres. Thiele describes the upcoming range: “Our dioptres, whether full, split or our new Spot versions, are incredibly in demand. Spot is a dioptre with a flat- ground area in the centre. It blurs and distorts the edges of the image while keeping the centre point in focus. We’re also working on new generations of diffusion filters. Some will be more subtle, but will still have a significant effect.” FILTRATION FUNDAMENTALS Despite all this, the basics of filtration remain, as Formatt Hitech’s David Lutwyche says. “The shift has been more toward diffusion effects and filters that can’t be replicated in post, such as polarisers. ND is still important, and our most requested filter, but more and more people are working with internal ND, despite the drawbacks in quality from most systems. Variable ND still struggles with infrared contamination, and that includes some of the newer
digital systems. UV and protection filters are still very common, as it’s a cheap and effective way to safeguard your investment in lenses.” Beyond those fundamentals, Lutwyche concurs that the drive for new ideas is insatiable. “Cinematographers are asking for unique looks. Black mist is a classic, but more and more cinematographers want special filters. We’re working on multiple ways to do this through a custom diffusion kit, due to launch at the end of the month. We can combine effects as well as change colour tones, dependent on the end user’s needs. Then there are stacked filters, such as ND, polariser and diffusion in a single filter, which avoids ghosting and saves a lot of weight.” Coincident with that push for optical originality, the birth of virtual production has given cinematographers another reason to reach for in-camera optical effects – to enhance what amounts to in-camera visual effects. “Virtual production is a big thing for filtration,” Lutwyche confirms. “We’re working
to develop filters exclusively for use with volumetric and virtual production screens. They often need a way to blend the real world elements and background, and also to create unique looks. Virtual production is great, as you can use any filters you normally would. On green screen, diffusion might negatively effect the process – it’s not impossible, but it’s more difficult than shooting clean.” Schneider-Kreuznach’s Thiele reports much the same. “Virtual production is something we’re already dealing with. An LED wall is a direct light source, as opposed to a real scene, where light is usually reflected off of objects. We work with DOPs who share their experience, because we’re curious about the results ourselves.” On or off the virtual production stage, though, the push for real-world effects in camera seems just as powerful as the audience’s desire for practical effects and photochemical origination from filmmakers like Nolan. And, as Thiele concludes, “post- production costs time and money. So do it in the camera!”
ROUND TABLE CAMERA ROBOTICS
IN THE FRAME Lensmaster, a real-time animation software by Camerabotics
TRACK I NG THE FUTURE IN DISCUSSION
Elias Brassitos, co-founder of Camerabotics, and Karen Walker, VP camera motion systems at Ross Video, discuss how camera robotics are shaping filmmaking
Definition: How has integrating robotics impacted filmmaking in the past few years? Elias Brassitos: From pre-production to post-production, filmmakers are spending less time dealing with the technical, time-consuming workflows of manual filmmaking – and more time on production and creative work. This is made possible with the capabilities of robotics, which range from new camera movements, re-calling and applying new lens settings, performing automated follow-focus control and target tracking, and finally to controlling studio sub- systems like lighting and sound.
Karen Walker: The integration of robotics in film production has expanded significantly. When cameras started to move to create more dynamic shots, stability was an issue. Robotics addressed this – with automated, smooth moves, and with stabilisation options for dollies, cranes, cameras and more. Over time, and with every stride forward, its application in the filmmaking industry has grown. Remote-controlled dollies and three-axis-stabilised gimbals are just some examples of how they have become an increasingly significant part within the movie industry today.
Elias Brassitos Co-founder and managing partner, Camerabotics
Karen Walker Vice president camera motion systems, Ross Video
CAMERA ROBOTICS ROUND TABLE
Def: Can you share some examples of how new robotic technologies have been used in recent film productions in order to enhance creativity and efficiency? EB: Our innovative robotic systems were used on several major blockbuster films involving high-speed action sequences or split-screen techniques, where one actor is duplicated within the same dynamic scene. We make this possible with the whopping camera speeds available in our cinema robot arms, which are also fully repeatable and simple to control on set. KW: Spidercam allows filmmakers to create very unique shots – 360° shots around the action, a mix of aerial shots like a drone and close-ups like a steady-cam, capturing scenery and surroundings then swooping in for dialogue and emotions. And all that while being perfectly quiet and stable. The Spidercam also has the advantage of speed, keeping up with fast-paced action, and while the stabilised head provides the action shots, there are additional safety features to support the camera crew, giving the actors more freedom to move around without obstruction. The additional tracking allows Spidercam to provide its position in space, giving the possibility to, for example, add impromptu CGI for visualisation options. Def: In what ways have robotics and AI-driven technologies changed the landscape of visual effects and CGI in the film industry? EB: Camera robotics have partially replaced the need for CGI in many filmmaking applications. This is primarily
EB: Yes. There has been a shift in job roles and responsibilities in the industry where we’ve seen many camera operators and videographers transitioning into motion- control operators. At Camerabotics, we provide full training and one-on-one support for industry professionals that are coming to our platform, so they can make the most out of it and keep up with the latest technologies on the market. KW: Every sector changes with new technology. The film sector generally embraces new tech, and specialists for robotic cameras are now a common part of film productions. Robotic solutions have their own requirements for operations and maintenance (plus occasional troubleshooting). Another aspect is safe operation: remotely controlled or fully automated movements require delicate handling, and finding the right balance between ‘the best shot’ and keeping the risk of collisions to a minimum. Def: Looking ahead, what are the emerging trends and future possibilities for robotics in the film industry? How might this technology continue to evolve in the coming years? KW: Robotics will continue to enrich the filmmakers’ tool set. The next logical step is the merge of various technologies. Robots and CGI are already working hand in hand, but not to their full potential. Robot automation is another promising feature. You could create paths for your robots in an editor and have the system recreate them perfectly for every shot. Or – using the same editor – utilise keyframes to change speed, path or camera orientation. Or do it manually – automation to make everything plannable, and manual input to retain maximum creativity. EB: We believe the industry will evolve in many exciting directions over the next few years, with many capabilities geared for real-time production in both filmmaking and live broadcast. Robotics will continue to accelerate production speeds and fuel creativity by making the filmmaking process more efficient and flexible for directors and DOPs – allowing them to make on-the-fly commands on set and seeing results instantly as they go about content creation.
due to it being a lot faster and a lot cheaper compared to CGI in many use cases. Additionally, camera robotics produce more realistic and real-world footage that simply can’t be done with CGI, such as dynamic scenes involving liquids, fire or human beings. KW: Flexibility and freedom to capture what could have been impossible shots. Robotics allow the camera to get closer to the action and, depending on the outcome, support shots where the actor’s view of the scene is required. Most robots – including Spidercam – need to know their position in space for their own operation, so the info of the camera position is already available. Combined with the camera orientation and camera functions, you can easily get the full set of tracking data in order to place CGI accurately. Plus, as this data is available live, it can also be utilised to generate a pre-visualisation of a CGI shot – adding perspectively correct graphics in the pre-production. Def: What challenges and limitations have filmmakers encountered when incorporating robotics into their projects, and how have they overcome them? EB: With all the powerful capabilities that robotic technologies have been able to bring to filmmakers, there also came certain challenges and limitations with the practical implementation, such as a relatively large cost for smaller outfits, plus logistical limitations – involving adequate studio space, power availability as well as portability for on- location shoots. KW: Most robotics are customised to the individual film; often the rigs have to be mounted on moving cars or specific buildings in order to get the right shot – which takes time to set up and then several takes to get right. There are also limits to what a robot can do: a maximum speed or range, plus not every system works with every camera/lens set-up, etc. Our recommendation is to always have a system specialist on site. Def: Has the use of robotics in filmmaking led to shifts in job roles and responsibilities within the industry? How have professionals adapted to these changes?
RUNWAY ROBOTICS Spidercam in action for CHANEL at Fashion Week spring/summer 2024
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