Definition April 2021 - Web

This April issue is packed with all the industry’s latest musings. We look at the cynical notion of restoring HD movies in 4K; plus, we’ve got the production story on Minari, the family drama reinventing the classic theme of incomers chasing the American dream – and which controversially won Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Golden Globes. We’ve also got a feature on celluloid, which, don’t worry, doesn’t go into the tired film vs digital debate. We actually look at how the medium is triumphing in the short-form and discuss its creative and practical potential. In terms of gear, we spotlight the ND filters putting you back in control over the light and colour of your scene, and review Rosco’s tiny but powerful new LED light kit. Don’t miss our unique camera listings for two great new bodies, too.

April 2021


SOUND OF SILENCE Emulating deafness with the audio designers on Sound of Metal

FEATURING FILM A close look at celluloid in the world of TV ads and music videos

You’re just creating pixels, it’s not an organic process


CHELSEA FEARNLEY DEPUTY EDITOR Chelsea Fearnley So, at a time for recognising and celebrating the art of Lee Isaac Chung, as well as the cast and crew, we’re discussing linguistics, race and discrimination instead. And, let’s not forget, the rules leading to acknowledgements and snubs for prestigious prizes have consequences that transcend the big screen. That’s especially poignant at a time when Asian Americans face increasing verbal and physical attacks. WELCOME I t’s great to see Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari emerge as a formidable contender at this year’s Oscars. The family drama – in this case, a Korean family – brilliantly reinvents and reinvigorates the classic theme of chasing the American dream. Interviewing the film’s DOP Lachlan Milne, he was still elated with the cast and crew’s Best Foreign Language Film win at the Golden Globes. Now, the production is up for not one, but six gilded statuettes, including Best Picture. That’s important. Minari missed out on Best Picture honours at the Golden Globes in controversial fashion – a rule stating 50% of dialogue must be in English. The decision simply ignored the fact that it’s an American-distributed movie, written and directed by an American man. Born in Colorado, Chung’s own experiences as the child of Korean immigrants formed the basis of the script. Cosmetic changes won’t cut it any more. The Golden Globes needs a major overhaul if it’s going to win back industry trust. A dramatic expansion of the HFPA would be a good start. The Academy did it after it was hit with #OscarsSoWhite criticism in 2016, growing its organisation by 10% since then. That doubled the representation of people of colour and women. In 2021, if you don’t grow and diversify, it’s game over.

EDITORIAL Deputy editor Chelsea Fearnley Content writer Lee Renwick Junior sub editor Jack Nason Contributor Adam Duckworth Editorial director Roger Payne ADVERTISING Group ad manager Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designer Emma Di’Iuorio Ad production Man-Wai Wong PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck Chief sub editor Alex Bell Sub editor Elisha Young



22 P ROOF THAT GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES We review the new DMG Dash from Rosco. The light kit features the same six-chip

DOP Lachlan Milne describes balancing beauty and authenticity in Minari , an Oscar-nominated, coming-of-age tale.

LED as its big brothers, but is now housed in a more compact form. 25 IS 4K RESTORATION OF HD A SCAM?


Instagram @definitionmags Twitter @definitionmags Facebook @definitionmagazine

We hear from the audio designers who recorded inside the human body to emulate deafness on punk drama, Sound of Metal .


Exploring the curious 4K mastering of early digital cinema, we compare it with the 4K mastering of film.

The film versus digital debate is tired. We discuss celluloid’s rise in music videos, as well as its creative and practical benefits. 18 M ASTERS OF LIGHT AND COLOUR

That leaves plenty of time to discuss the controversies.


With the sensitivity of digital sensors increasing, being able to control your lens’s light input is crucial. We cover the best ND filters to help achieve it.

COVER IMAGE Minari ©A24 Films 2021

Last, but not least, don’t miss the great new bodies featured in this month’s camera listings.

Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used

without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.

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ORGANIC FILMMAKING Oscar-tipped Minari pairs a heartfelt, coming-of-age story with beautifully understated cinematography from DOP Lachlan Milne


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LEFT Steven Yeun as Jacob Yi, and Alan Kim as his son, David, who has a heart condition

In addition, some of the most beautiful scenes in the film – in terms of imagery and performance – happened by chance. The shot of Jacob smoking a cigarette on his farm after sunset, for example. “We had some night scenes to shoot, so, while waiting for nightfall, I decided to get some B-roll images of the sunset. Steven was stood just behind me in the field, still in wardrobe and smoking a cigarette, so I pulled out my camera and started shooting,” he explains. “Isaac peppered it in at a really critical point in the film; a moment of reflection for the character, battling with the question of whether he’d made the right decision to leave the city and pursue the so-called ‘American dream’. But it wasn’t scripted. I just thought it was a nice image of a man, sweat-stained and smoking, in a huge, empty field by himself, as the sun was about to go down.” With shot framing, Milne mostly kept his lens wide, leaning into the beautiful location vistas and encouraging the ensemble performances. “Close-ups had to be earned. I don’t like shooting coverage

T he film Minari almost didn’t happen. Before directing the affecting drama about Korean immigrants making a new life on an American farm, Lee Isaac Chung was at a crossroads in his life – debating whether to continue as a filmmaker. A career that was, until recently, largely unknown outside industry circles. As you may know, Minari won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2021 Golden Globes. This was an achievement the film’s DOP, Lachlan Milne, describes as “phenomenal catharsis” for Chung, who is finally receiving the international recognition he deserves. However, Minari wasn’t without its share of controversy. Although it is an American film, directed by an American, more than half the dialogue is Korean. But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a conversation for another time, because this Golden Globe win has made Minari a leading contender for multiple Academy Awards, with six nominations. We’ll find out the winners on 26 April. Like Chung, Milne nearly didn’t get to work on the film. He had just finished Love and Monsters, when his US agent advised him: “Whatever you do, don’t go to the wrap party, don’t go out to dinner with everybody. Go home and read this script immediately – I’ve set up an interview for you with the director tomorrow morning.” Within weeks, Milne was on location in Oklahoma to film Minari . He recognised something special in Chung’s semi- autobiographical story about growing up as the son of Korean immigrants in rural Arkansas during the eighties. He recalls: “I’d been desperate for a film like this – purely script-driven, performance-based and simply executed. It was a quick 25-day shoot, but everybody who signed on was doing it for the right reasons and brought a lot of sweat and dedication.” When Milne says sweat, he is speaking literally, since filming took place in the middle of the day at the peak of summer.

“Because of the short production schedule, I didn’t have the luxury of shooting at the beginning and end of the day, as most cinematographers prefer,” he explains. “So, I decided to lean into the severity of the environment that Jacob [played by Steven Yeun], in particular, was trying to harness on his own. I kept the lighting harsh, I didn’t diffuse it or make it feel any more pleasant than it should have, because it was belting hot. Almost 40°C every day. When you see Jacob covered in sweat, he’s actually covered in sweat.” This honest, almost restrained approach to lighting is also how much of the film was executed. There are few cutaways with dolly or crane shots, as Milne was keen to make Minari feel like a single-camera shoot. “I’m a huge fan of holding shots for longer and minimal coverage, particularly if the performances are working as part of an ensemble, like they are in this film,” he says. “It’s an ideal way of controlling editorial pace and giving the viewer the opportunity to look around, picking up extra details in the background that are good for character development.”

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build, where it doesn’t matter how big or small your camera is, because you have the freedom to adjust the set and move around,” he says. “Most of my work is on the Arri Alexa these days, and I’m really familiar with the Mini, so that seemed like a great choice. Plus, it has internal NDs, which helps when you’re working with minors like Alan Kim [who plays David]. He’s really great, but often when you put glass filters on lenses, it can become distracting, especially for kids, since it automatically turns into a reflection.” Industry tricks like this also helped Milne when it came to lighting the trailer interiors: “I leaned on practical lighting as much as possible, so I could shoot wide, but also give Alan and the other actors as much freedom to do things on their own terms. In my experience, if you tell a child actor that they can only stand in a certain spot and look in a certain direction, it limits their ability to react and be fluid in their performance,” he explains. “I dressed areas of the kitchen, under the counters and around the bannisters of the hallway with LEDs. It’s hard to imagine life without them now. They have such a low profile and can be operated remotely, so my gaffer doesn’t need to be standing next to them and occupying space.” When reflecting on the fantastic performances in Minari , Milne says the

final argument between Monica and Jacob is his favourite. They walk out of a Korean supermarket – where Jacob has just secured a deal with its owner – and into beautiful, low sunlight, before Monica reveals to Jacob that she wants to part ways. “I had scheduled that scene for the blazing sun, so it would be glorious, despite being sad. But it was so hot that day, none of us could even stand in it. We looked around and found shade a few metres away from the back entrance of the supermarket. We got Monica and Jacob to walk over to it, and they end up having this amazing scene behind what is essentially a bland wall, in the interest of it not being so hot,” he says. “But creating that space between them actually worked out better. When the owner takes out some trash, he ends up catching them off guard a bit more, as opposed to almost bumping into them when he walks out, which is what was in the script.” Little moments like this are certainly refreshing, and while hopeful for an Oscar win, Milne is not getting carried away, given the strength of other films contending for best cinematography. He is just hoping Chung will be recognised. “I’m thrilled for Isaac and the success he’s getting, given how personal a story this is for him,” he concludes. MINARI IS NOW AVAILABLE TO RENT ON AMAZON PRIME

ABOVE Director Lee Isaac Chung talking to the actors on the set of Minari

for the sake of it, if it doesn’t work with the editorial of the film,” he says. “Only go in close when you want an exclamation mark on certain scenes to get the audience to sit up, which we did for key arguments between Monica [Yeri Han] and Jacob.” This meant lens focal range was crucial for Milne, and Panavision’s vintage primes, which sit between 20mm and 50mm, were perfect. “They’ve got some fantastic abnormalities, which also benefited the period nature of this film. They’re fast, low-contrast and, if you shoot at a wider aperture, tend to be sharp in the centre and fall out of focus around the edges, which we enhanced slightly for a few scenes,” he explains. Milne’s camera choice was also logistically driven, because – as well as the beautiful landscape exteriors – a lot of the film takes place in a practical trailer. “We weren’t able to pull the trailer’s walls, like you would on a studio set

Close-ups had to be earned, I don’t like shooting coverage for the sake of it

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Living and working through lockdown has certainly thrown us some technical challenges, but the GFX100 promises to overcome those. It offers medium format in a stylishly compact package, while refusing to compromise on visual detail PERFECT STAGE FOR GFX100

BY NOW, DOPS will be used to the fastidious rules and restrictions that come as a bargaining chip for the blessing of still being able to work during lockdown. You need to adapt with much smaller crews and without the luxury of choosing from a selection of expensive LF cameras and lenses. This was certainly true for Jake Polonsky BSC, who wanted to create a short, but meaningful film about the challenges the arts industry has faced during the pandemic. That film is called 2020 Vision , focusing on a poem by Hussain Manawer. “I had been fortunate to meet Hussain on an Apple TV documentary about mental health, and thought he’d be the perfect person to write something about this past year and the effect it’s had on us,” Polonsky says. Polonksy’s portfolio includes the films The World’s End and Senna , and TV series Doctor Who , Hustle and Spooks . Plus, music videos for artists such as Lily Allen, Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse and The Verve. He’s no stranger to large format, and advocates its use because it “brings the opportunity to achieve a narrow depth- of-field on a wide-angle lens, adding a sense of three-dimensionality that was particularly crucial for capturing projects like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch ”, which he photographed on the Alexa 65. Getting his hands on a big-budget camera like the Alexa 65 to shoot the short film would have been tricky, not least because of the manpower required to operate it effectively. So, when Fujifilm announced the GFX100, with its almost 65mm sensor, Polonsky jumped at the opportunity to test it out for this project. Unlike other LF cameras from Sony, Red and Arri, the GFX100 and GFX100S

IMAGES Haris Zambarloukos (above, in grey) added cinematography genius to the production, while dancer Will Thompson (top right) interpreted the choreography of Maxine Doyle to perfection

started producing digital stills cameras, I was on board – starting with the beautiful X-Pro1, through to the X-T3, that I still have. The colour science was always good – I felt a special response to colour contrast that was extremely pleasing,” he explains. VISUALISING POETRY “The next challenge was figuring out how to make a film that wasn’t just an illustration of the poem, nor something filled with familiar images of lockdown,” Polonsky says. “I contacted the Music Venue Trust, hoping it might connect me with some of the venues that had been closed and struggling since March [2020]. It struck me that there was something interesting about those empty spaces that might make an effective visual companion to Hussain’s words. Many places were supportive, but none more so than the beautiful art deco Troxy in Stepney, which generously offered us two days of filming.”

cameras are significantly smaller and much more compact, and the sensor used for recording is actually bigger than the Alexa 65 in 16:9 mode. They both boast a 100-megapixel “Medium Format” CMOS sensor that is 44x33mm in size and allows for 10-bit 4K video to be output via HDMI, with a choice of 400Mbps, 200Mbps and 100Mbps bit rates. “Although it wasn't designed as a dedicated motion picture device, the GFX100 delivered beautiful images,” he says. “The larger-than-full-frame sensor, combined with Fujifilm’s excellent colour science, gave an interesting and original feel to the material that I thought would be appropriate for the film.” Polonsky shares a long history with Fujifilm, going back to the Fujifilm Scholarship days, which he won in 1996 while studying at the Royal College of Art. “I’ve always been a Fuji fan and its 500T emulsion was a firm favourite. When Fuji went out of the negative game, but

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He enlisted the help of old friend Haris Zambarloukos BSC – a world-leading expert on 65mm cinematography. Still, their plan was to keep things simple. “There was an element of improvisation to what we were doing. No dolly, no gimbals, an almost Bressonian simplicity, partly driven by necessity and needing to have as small a crew as possible for health and safety issues,” he explains. “No remote focus and no wireless video, not least because, to attach these, and power them via the GFX100, would have meant building out the camera to a degree that slightly defeated the purpose of using one this compact.” Fujifilm offers a wide range of native GF mount lenses for the GFX100 and GFX100S. With the use of a PL adapter, some Cine lenses, including the Premista range of dedicated Cine Zooms, cover the full sensor, giving DOPs some interesting options. “I’d hoped to get Hussain to the Troxy to film him, but when his schedule diverged from ours at the eleventh hour, I had to go to his studio on my own with a few lights and the GFX kit, and persuade him to spend a couple of hours performing the piece for me,” says Polonsky. “Being my own focus, grip and DIT was a challenge, but the fact that the GFX kit was so simple saved me in that situation. I’m very happy with the footage, which I shot using the Fujinon GF45mm and GF110mm still lenses. Although they are focus-by-wire, they still worked well in this shooting situation and rendered lovely, clean images with beautiful bokeh and focus fall-off.” Cue back to the Troxy, where dancer Will Thompson, choreographed by the brilliant Maxine Doyle, takes to the stage as a visual companion to Manawer’s words. Polonsky opted for Tokina Vista One prime lenses, attached via an Alpa PL adapter. “There was an element of improvisation to what we were doing, driven by necessity”

IMAGES With a large sensor and detailed colour science, Polonsky enjoyed the unique perspective offered by the Fujifilm GFX100

“The Tokinas are dedicated cinema lenses with precise focus markings and open up to T1.5. I had limited lighting at the Troxy, so fast lenses were a help,” he says. The resulting film certainly raises awareness for the struggling arts industries hit hard by the pandemic, and the dialogue engages the viewer about how this past year has affected our mental health. “We have all, to some extent, been prevented from doing the things we love, and for most of us, our livelihoods have been affected too,” Polonsky says. So, this film is an expression of our experiences this year and, in the end, a portrayal of one person managing to weather the storm and keep creating, just as we were able to with this film, with the GFX100.”


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AURAL PLEASURE Nicolas Becker and Carolina Santana are the minds behind Sound of Metal’s groundbreaking audio design. The pair of melomaniacs discuss recording inside the human body and emulating deafness moving – it’s very physical. That was a big part of the film.” For Santana, a major challenge was

the marking of progressive hearing loss. “We spent a lot of time finding how to get to that moment where Ruben finally realises he can no longer hear,” she explains. A piano accompanies that pivotal juncture, after which Ruben receives cochlear implants. “Everything that follows that scene is what life sounds like when you’re forced to accept change. It becomes disconnected, broken and unmusical.” Ahead of the shoot, Becker and Santana performed lots of tests and simulations, mastering the exact sound of the implants. “It was such an important element of the design,” says Santana. Somewhat unusual backgrounds proved useful for both sound editors. Becker spent 25 years as a foley artist before becoming a sound designer. “I’d be in a room with microphones and props, creating material to emulate the sound of a monster, or an explosion outside a submarine. Doing that, you create a library and discover a lot when you’re curious.”


F ilms are often reduced only to visual elements – beautiful camerawork, the performance of a lifetime or revolutionary CGI. This leaves a production’s sound design firmly in the dark. Nonetheless, audio is always working away, influencing us consciously or subconsciously. Try and picture Psycho ’s shower scene without Bernard Herrmann’s piercing strings; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ’s three-way standoff devoid of Ennio Morricone’s swelling score; Jurassic Park ’s T-Rex lacking its chin-trembling roar. For Sound of Metal , supervising sound editor Nicolas Becker and sound editor Carolina Santana took things in an

altogether different direction. The film follows heavy metal musician, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), as he loses his hearing and is left to deal with a drastically changed world. But how do you even begin to craft the absence of something – let alone sound? It’s unimaginable for anyone who isn’t aurally impaired. The answer: it takes something that’s scarcely been done before. PICTURING THE INDESCRIBABLE Becker met Sound of Metal director, Darius Marder, a year before filming began. “I took Marder to an echo chamber in Paris that emulates total silence,” he says. “You can hear your heart beating, or organs

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Other unique tools in the pair’s kit included a waterproof lavalier mic from Voice Technologies, for use in the mouth. “You really get a feel of the cavity – it’s not like recording outside the body at all,” enthuses Becker. There was also a DIY microphone made from two LOM Usi Pros inside a stethoscope. Tiny and noiseless, the makeshift system recorded breathing and other noises from inside Ahmed’s body. Finally, the LOM Geofon was used to record vibrations at a tiny volume, while the DPA 4041-SP mic, recording at about recordings were synchronised completely. “That gave us this plasticity of moving from outside in, or even moving around different areas inside the body. Sometimes, you can barely hear it; it’s almost subliminal.” While the intricacies of these recordings are fascinating, they represent only half the battle. Post-production requires equally unique and skilled work to shape the viewer experience. “In post, I thought we should avoid 80x the sensitivity of the human ear, picked up truly microscopic sounds. Across all of these tools, sound using plug-ins modelled on the tools of the analogue world. I was more interested in applying modern tools.” As such, Becker employed digital, audio pitch correction software, Melodyne. “People simply don’t have a natural point of reference for sounds like these,” he explains. “I also never used the software as intended. With Melodyne, I created a weird time distortion. You can change the speed of a sound without changing the pitch. “A number of these unusual elements came together to form the sequence of processing – it was almost like creating Frankenstein’s monster.”

“While reconstructing these sounds,” adds Santana, “I was trying to find the best adjustments for each part. We kept two distinct layers: one processed and one totally naturalistic. That allowed the re-recording mixer, Jaime Baksht, to find a perfect balance. Processed sounds alone would have been tiring for the audience, and harder to understand at times – we also wanted some key sounds to be clearer.” Following such a unique process, the thought of returning to ordinary projects must be hard. In fact, it’s possible that similar experimental techniques will become more commonplace, thanks to their ability to suture an audience. “In film, information can be so discreet – it’s entirely for our own brains to process,” Becker sums up. “A book I love on phenomenology asserts that, in this sense, we’re our own director and our own actor when we watch a film. For me, that’s certainly true with Sound of Metal .” Santana agrees: “Working from memories and bodily responses was an emotional experience. The film is a transformative journey.” SOUND OF METAL IS SET FOR CINEMA AND AMAZON UK RELEASE IN SPRING 2021.

IMAGES In the film’s early scenes (left), live instruments deliver a real, physical experience. Sound of Metal forces the viewer to look inwards, aligning them with Riz Ahmed’s character Ruben (right) and audibly presenting the inner workings of his body

Santana has a music engineering background, enjoying more freedom than typical film sound design. This helped her approach intriguing sound in a more compositional way. For Becker, Ruben’s unique inner world of sound resembles a work in progress. “It’s work I’ve approached across various films,” he says. “In 127 Hours , there’s an element of journeying into the inner body, when climber Aron Ralston enters a trance-like state. In Gravity , the sounds inside the spacesuits took this further. We wanted to use the same tools on this film.” THE BODY AS AN INSTRUMENT While intention is one thing, reality is another. As filming began, it was time to turn abstract ideas into results. “I used the hydrophone a lot, because there are loose parallels between deafness and being underwater,” continues Becker. “Your ear doesn’t really work submerged, but bones and tissue still transmit vibrations. Our processes were based around similar feelings or memories.” The human physique also helped design sound. In one case, Becker recorded a drill in his hand with a contact mic, filtering sound vibrations through his body.

BELOW During post-production, Carolina Santana played on her musical background to approach sounds as if they were compositions

In film, information can be so discreet – it’s entirely for our own brains to process

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In the world of narrative film, there’s no time for delay and no margin for error. Thankfully, the Samsung Portable SSD X5 helps create results to be proud of, as Ben Law tells us

“I like to keep a fairly mobile set- up, meaning I edit on a laptop rather than a larger machine. The downside is you are limited on storage space and processing power. Across all the tools and programmes I’m using, most of my laptop’s space is taken up before I’ve even looked at any clips, meaning external storage is an absolute essential.” Law explains that it’s not uncommon for his other storage devices to slow down and freeze, a frustration many editors have to deal with. “I’ve seen a real improvement in terms of speed with the Samsung Portable SSD X5. It’s got the best of both worlds in terms of mobility and reliability. “Those advantages have an obvious element of practicality, but there’s also a creative knock-on for speed. With narrative films, unlike certain music videos, commercial projects or other short-form content, audio and video have to be extremely precise,” Law explains. “When I’m trying to sync the tracks or just make a very particular cut, I can now scrub through smoothly. I can’t express how helpful that lack of lag is. Ultimately, you can create a better end product.” Leaving impressive tech behind, Law turns to the portable drive’s physical design. Reinforced with magnesium alloy, it can withstand a 2m drop, and also

says Ben Law. “I mostly handle editing, but I do some more advanced sound design, colour design and other post elements when required. My real passion is narrative short films, but I also enjoy documentary work and creative commercial projects. “In the enjoyable time I spent with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, I put it to work as a scratch disk while editing a short. The professional software I use is very demanding, so this was a real test of its capabilities. It’s only natural to compare any new product to the kit you’ve used and know well, which includes a number of HDDs and SSDs. Straight away, I noticed the speed of the portable drive was considerably faster than anything I’d used before.” On the level of cold, hard specs, the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is impressive. Its Thunderbolt 3 connectivity delivers supremely fast bandwidth up to 40Gbps, with the portable drive itself offering read and write speeds of 2800/2300MB/s. But there’s nothing like some real-world testing. For most creative professionals, speed is highly desired, but for Law, it’s a necessity. He explains: “Working on this project, I was importing masses of files, which usually takes hours. That time was more than halved with the portable drive.

BELOW The Samsung Portable SSD X5 boasts fast bandwidth up to 40Gbps, and read/write speeds of 2800/2300MB/s

ABOVE The Samsung portable drive works for Ben Law, as copies of the footage are a rarity for him. He requires reliable, portable drives to ensure a high-end delivery of his productions

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“I slipped the Samsung Portable SSD X5 into my laptop bag and carried it around – I barely even noticed it was there”

elsewhere. So, having just one or two portable drives you can rely on benefits the whole production.” As well as physical safety, you can rest easy knowing your data is secure with the Samsung Portable SSD X5, thanks to robust password protection, based on AES 256-bit encryption. “Size is the other factor that really interests me,” continues Law. “I keep my set-up light and portable, so I can’t be hauling around a heavyweight drive. I slipped the Samsung Portable SSD X5 into my laptop bag and carried it around – I barely even noticed it was there. When asked about his lasting impressions of the portable drive, Law replies: “The speed is what I noticed most. “Time is a big factor for an editor like me. You have a set deadline and need to meet it. When you’re cutting down on aspects that don’t creatively benefit the film, naturally you can produce something better. If you want to, you can juggle more projects than you otherwise would – or really polish what you have.” He concludes: “There aren’t many instances at any stage of production where creatives have days to spare, but that’s exactly what happened when I was using the Samsung Portable SSD X5. I could go back and add those final touches, which made all the difference.”

features advanced dynamic thermal guard technology. What’s more, the matte red underbelly isn’t just an attractive splash of colour – it’s designed to prevent slippage when handling. Law says: “The shock resistance is a promising feature. Of course, nobody is going to throw their drive out the window to test that, but dropping an ordinary drive – even from the height of your desk – is a real worry. It’s going to take lots of time to get that data back, if at all. You just don’t want the double insult of losing your film and breaking a precious bit of kit.” He adds: “With the creative projects I work on, there aren’t many copies of the footage. There isn’t the capacity or resources to make many backups, like on a higher-end shoot, and buying or renting extra drives is money that could be spent


ABOVE Outdoor productions are always a challenge, but the solid, shock-resistant design of the Samsung portable SSD means it’s a practical choice, as well as technically excellent

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The film vs digital debate is tired. It’s time to use old and new in harmony, maximising creative and practical potential. We speak to DOPs, Miles Ridgway and Spike Morris, about celluloid’s rise in short-form video BOYS ON FILM


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gone. We didn’t have playback with that small crew, either. In circumstances like that, when the camera starts rolling, everyone becomes intensely focused.” He adds: “You also have to consider the similar costs when shooting digital. Large file storage isn’t free, and on projects with just a few rolls of film, like this one, that cost somewhat balances out. Film camera packages, like the Arri 416 I used, tend to be cheaper to rent.” Without playback, ensuring you’ve captured a perfect shot is a real challenge, and certainly a daunting prospect to many. So, where does attention lie? “It goes back to that added pressure and the heightened awareness that comes with it,” Ridgway says. “You must have faith in the skilled technicians on your set, but it certainly keeps you more decisive. It makes the results more interesting – at least in the sense that it’s organic.” However, when there’s a monitor, it can be tempting to rely on it. “When there isn’t one, you just have to capture the moments you’re given. Shots are set up in the same

e’re 20 years on from the dawn of digital cinematography in mainstream feature film.

Save for a few directors fighting to keep the old ways alive, it’s safe to say digital’s taken hold. On smaller projects, though, film never really went away – it even looks like there might be a resurgence on the cards. In the worlds of music videos, television advertisements and beyond, spools are being loaded and cameras are whirring away. But why? QUIET ON SET The limiting factor with any production is money. So, it may seem like a strange choice for smaller shoots, such as the music video for Arlo Parks’ Black Dog . “It is an extra cost in relation to that budget,” agrees DOP, Miles Ridgway. “But that makes you more economic with your shooting. We only had three 400ft rolls for Black Dog . Each records about ten minutes, so that’s not much in total. “It’s not that we’d have shot much more on digital – the project is still the project. There’s just an awareness that once it’s gone, it’s

ABOVE Ridgway and crew prepare the Arri 416 for a take while on location for the Arlo Parks Black Dog music video

way they always have been, but you don’t get to choose precisely how they look in quite the same way.” In the Black Dog video, there are no telltale signs of celluloid, save for a few snippets. No strong grain, a subtle colour palette and reasonable sharpness. With much of the appeal of film lying in its look – in stark contrast to more modern offerings – this nuanced approach is interesting. Ridgway explains: “The Kodak 250D allows for that – we wanted to avoid an overdone look, so we didn’t underexpose and push process, and we didn’t shoot at wide open apertures. We still made the most of the subtleties 16mm offers, like the slight softness and halation you get with highlights. For us, that look was certainly part of the draw, but the philosophy and energy it brings to set really is an important factor.” COMMERCIAL INSIGHT In the world of commercial advertising, things are no less


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exactly how an image looks. “It comes down to weighing the many pros against that one con – and assuring them we are trusted professionals,” says Morris. to capture results you ordinarily wouldn’t with monitoring, and that focus is present in a way it isn’t elsewhere. I shot a documentary, Levante , with my Bolex H16 closed off in an underwater housing. We had no true idea of what we were getting, but the results were fantastic. That’s an extreme example of that process, but a successful one.” All the visual benefits described by Ridgway are there for Morris, too, but there are more. “You tend to get fast frame rates elsewhere for these smooth, clean shots, but film is almost always 24fps. That traditional touch can take you back to what film originally was – a dream world.” Considering the use of celluloid on short format and feature films, “I do agree that film allows you

complex. There’s a lot to consider and, as with any aspect of filmmaking, there’s no correct answer. “Every project requires its own unique tools,” confirms Spike Morris, a DOP who has worked on ad campaigns for the likes of Adidas, as well as creative music videos, including Moses Boyd’s Stranger Than Fiction . “I love the fast feedback loop of digital, with its ability to monitor and adapt, but celluloid is slower and more considered. “Adverts are a strange one in terms of budget, because the money they make is so indirect. Some brands offer a set budget and ask for something that really represents them – something they can be proud of. That could be an extremely sharp set of product shots, but sometimes the softer, more organic – even abstract – approach of film is best.” The lack of precise monitoring can also be a hard sell. It’s only natural for clients to want to see

Morris adds: “There’s also a strong association to those Hollywood classics. Narrative film is similar at any length and the slower approach fits very nicely.” It’s clear that this isn’t a ‘one or the other’ choice. Particularly in the world of short productions, film and digital are mutually beneficial tools. “We used a mix of footage in the Adidas Running commercial I shot. That’s a less narrative-driven approach, but for products like this, that mix is great for big energy and an eye-catching result. An eclectic look was the main focus, and this is one way of achieving that,” Morris says. “There was some VFX work done on the Stranger Than Fiction video, but it was handled quite similarly to digital. When using film, you also try to capture some of these stranger effects in-camera. In this case, the blown-out look was because we painted our performers in reflective paint and overexposed massively. Again, though, we were only able to do that thanks to extensive testing on digital.” So, with tools that could well be relics in a modern era, what’s the lasting draw, particularly outside the world of feature film? A distinctive look that tells a story? Certainly. Organic results that can sell an idea? Often. Perhaps what it all boils down to is very simple: more creative choice, using everything at our disposal, old and new.

ABOVE Shot for Adidas Running, this commercial was created with a mix of digital and film, using the Arri Alexa Mini and Bolex H16

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With the increasing sensitivity of today’s digital sensors, controlling the light that passes through your lens is crucial. We ask industry experts for their pick of the NDs that put you in charge LIGHTBRINGERS



candidly on films or television shows, but one that leads to greater innovation and industry collaboration,” says Musgrave. Their most recent development, the Firecrest ND Kit, went through this process with great success. Rather than dyed resin, these filters are coated with a rare-earth material, creating a hyper-neutral ND across all spectrums. The filters come in a set of three, covering seven to ten stops, and are made from 4mm Schott Superwhite glass, with a multi-coating that’s bonded in the middle to increase scratch resistance. DOP Alex Metcalfe, known for his work on The Lighthouse , is a fan. “When you’re putting a piece of glass between the lens and your subject,

Formatt-Hitech has been designing and manufacturing cinema lens filters in the UK for over 20 years. The brand serves filmmakers internationally, and values the feedback from professionals. The company’s marketing executive, Louise Musgrave, explains: “We have an open- door policy for operators and cinematographers to visit and discuss the development and creation of their projects, especially when a production intends to do more in-camera than in post.” Formatt-Hitech refines its products multiple times before releasing them, relying on industry insight to figure out what filmmakers want. “It’s a slow process, lending products to filmmakers to test out


A variable ND filter serves the same purpose as a normal ND filter: it reduces the amount of light entering your lens by a given amount of stops. However, instead of just limiting you to stops, variable ND filters have a rotating element. If shooting outside in changeable lighting conditions, a variable ND filter can be an absolute life-saver. Hoya’s Variable Density filters can be rotated infinitely, thanks to a built-in, double-ring design. This enables the outer ring to rotate and control the ND effect anywhere between 1.5 and nine stops. This includes the ability to control depth-of-field by using a wider aperture, and to create and control motion blur by choosing slower shutter speeds. The design of the double-ring is also thin, reducing the chance of vignetting with wider-angle lenses. Intro 2020 general manager, Keith Ruffell, explains: “This is an especially useful tool when creating motion blur in moving water, and capturing moving vehicles or congested city traffic to create a blurred panning effect. The subject – a runner, cyclist or car – is clear, but the background is blurred from the camera following its movement.” He adds: “It saves money and time – on location or on set – by reducing the need to change filters to switch-up the effect. You just turn the filter.” Perhaps the only downside is the range of sizes, which starts at 52mm and stops at 82mm.

quality and consistency are everything. The Firecrest ND range is particularly

fabulous, with no noticeable colour shift across all densities. They’re a really great tool.”

LEFT Formatt-Hitech Firecrest ND filters are coated with a rare- earth material, making them hyper-neutral

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Manufactured from 4mm, optically flat, scratch-resistant glass, and edged with a metal rim, the filters not only prevent focus shift, but are durable and long-lasting. Having been used on a number of major feature films and TV dramas, the ProGlass Cine range is already endorsed at the highest level in the movie industry. The filters are available in seven different densities (one to seven

The Lee Filters ProGlass Cine IRND range of neutral-density filters has been designed to meet the exacting needs of all cinematographers – whether shooting digitally or on film. They are remarkably neutral, eliminate infrared pollution and ensure all colours remain accurate and true. This simplifies workflow, saves time and enables cinematographers to focus on their creative goals.

LEFT Lee Filters ProGlass Cine IRND filters are known for durability – available in a range of strengths and sizes

stops) and in two sizes: 4x5.65in and 6.6x6.6in. Jonathan Jones, multi-Emmy award-winning DOP and creative director at Ember Films, says: “I love Lee’s ProGlass Cine IRND filters, because you can absolutely trust them. No matter what type of project you are making, the ability to have perfectly matched ND filters across all densities, with absolute colour rendition, means you don’t have to stress about filtration. It’s accurate at the point of capture and, for me, that is everything.”


buy is specific to the lens filter thread you want to use. The magnetic attachment makes these filters much easier to attach and detach, but we suggest getting the largest size and using Kase’s magnetic step rings for lenses that have smaller threads. Kase head of marketing, Matt Holland, says: “When it comes to controlling light and having an effective and quality product, the Kase Wolverine Magnetic circular filters are ranked some of the best for optical clarity and colour neutrality by many filmmakers. “These toughened filters are shatter resistant and should withstand a drop or two. Plus, the hydrophobic coating helps with wiping away any water on the lens.”

Kase Wolverine Magnetic Circular Filters are the newest addition to their filter line- up. Offering the same renowned quality and confidence as the Wolverine 100mm square filters, but in a much smaller form factor. The filters come in various sizes, with three kits of 77mm, 82mm and 95mm in the pr0-consumer range. The kit includes a magnetic ring, circular polariser and different strengths of fixed ND filters, from three to ten stops, with optional filters to add on, including UV, combination CPL+ND, or a 16-stop ND filter and magnetic filters for night or astronomy shooting. The filters thread on to your lens with the magnetic ring, and which size filter you

BELOW Kase Wolverine filters are easy to use, thanks to their magnetic attachments

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RIGHT The Rhodium Full Spectrum ND filters use a high-tech approach for amazing results


The Schneider-Kreuznach Rhodium Full Spectrum Neutral Density (FSND) filters feature an extremely thin neutral density layer between two layers of crystal-clear glass, manufactured to the finest flatness/parallelism specifications. The result is images that are free of distortion or anomalies, with resolution of the finest details. By encapsulating the interlayer between glass, rather than on the surface, Rhodiums are better protected from abrasions and the other rigours of production. “Major advancements in 4K, 6K and 8K digital camera sensors have resulted in fewer infrared (IR) leakage problems compared to earlier digital products. However, these imaging sensors can still suffer IR leakage in the far-red visible spectrum, as well as the near IR,” explains Piet Thiele, head of business unit photo/cine at Schneider-Kreuznach. However, the company’s Rhodium Full Spectrum ND filters aim to reduce the amount of light across all the spectrums, so there is no colour cast in images, from the lowest density (one stop) to the highest (ten stops). “In the lab, Rhodiums are the first filters to undergo tristimulus scanning – a more critical colour measurement than previous methods for measuring filter quality. This verifies neutrality by using a colorimetric algorithm that compares samples to perfectly neutral light. The result is unprecedented accuracy,” says Thiele.

TIFFEN Tiffen has provided breakthrough filter technology since 1938 and is one of the best in the game. Since the advent of digital sensors for video capture, Tiffen’s Natural ND filters (named after founder Nat Tiffen) have been addressing common issues DOPs face with ND filters, such as colour shift, IR contamination, full spectrum light coverage, longevity and durability. Tiffen content creator, Justin Hartney, explains: “Natural NDs maintain neutral colours, even at higher stops, so images you create match what you see with your eyes. Lots of NDs shift images by adding green, grey or blue tints, but these allow you to capture exactly what is in front of the camera.” Today’s ultra-sensitive digital sensors are calibrated to capture a full spectrum of light, including a balance of IR and UV light that gives rich red tones and a balanced image. But if you couple that with older ND filter technology, you can end up with unwanted colour shifts. “By blocking light in a full spectrummanner, blocking IR, UV and visible light evenly, the Natural ND filters maintain a harmony that creates a full and beautiful image,” says Hartney. “IR contamination is caused by an imbalance between

visible light blockage and IR light, common with older ND technology. This is avoided by using Natural NDs, which have a unique, dual-layer system for reflecting IR light, while absorbing visible and UV light.” The Natural ND filters also use Tiffen’s award-winning ColorCore technology, laminating the filter effect between two pieces of water white glass, so the effect won’t scratch off or fade over time. “Our Natural NDs have helped the images of ASC Director of Photographers, drone operators and photographers, so it’s no surprise the filters have won an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,” concludes Hartney.

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Featuring the same six-chip LED set as its big brothers, Rosco’s new light kit packs all the good stuff into a smaller form factor ROSCO DMG DASH PR I CE £ 2 1 9 / $279


In each corner, small magnets stick firmly to the matching magnetic pads. The units also stack together, enabling, for example, the use of the grid on top of the gel holder. The light has standard 1/4in threaded holes on the rear panel, bottom and left side to suit different mounting options. A magnetic plate with a soft rubber cover is also included. This screws into one of the mounting holes, before magnetically attaching to a flat steel panel, such as a metal handrail in a building. Nonetheless, it’s probably not strong enough to risk using on a fast-moving car or motorcycle. The kit is packed in a custom-fitted protective case. To operate the light, the rear control panel has three buttons and an LED screen with different

ABOVE There are various accessories included, such as a gel holder for additional Rosco gel

ighting expert Rosco is set to shake up the market for small, pocket-sized LED lights,

yet pumps out 320 lux at 1m/39in. Its light output has CRI95+ and TLCI90+ ratings, guaranteeing consistency and accuracy. Each light comes with a complete set of beam-shaping accessories, including a flat diffuser panel, dome diffusion panel, plastic eggcrate grid and gel holder for additional Rosco gels or diffusers.

with its professional DMG Dash Pocket LED kit. It brings a huge spectrum of colours to a portable, handheld unit, using the same six-chip LED set found in all of the company’s larger Mix lights. As such, the Dash can recreate more than 130 colours that match Rosco’s famous colour gels. In addition, it displays white in all colour temperatures and hues, plus there’s colour matching to the most popular light sources. While many small LED panels are made of plastic, have dubious build quality and possess lighting that is anything but precise and matched between units, the DMG Dash is a solidly built piece of kit – weighing 367g/0.8lb, despite being housed in a rugged, all-weather aluminium body. The unit measures just 128x80x28mm/5x3.1x1.1in,

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