The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

World Premiere Camera Assesment Series Ushers in Filmmaking’s Digital Era, Unites Hollywood’s Top Experts

April 8, 2009

Thanks to a groundbreaking joint initiative of The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and Revelations Entertainment (which funded the project), industry professionals—for the first time ever—will be able to use a side-by-side assessment of the current generation of HD digital motion picture cameras and one 35mm camera to decide which one is right for their projects.

The results of the watershed Camera Assessment Series (CAS) will first be unveiled at the PGA’s inaugural Produced By Conference on June 6, representing a landmark moment in the history of HD camera technology.  Spearheaded by ASC Technology Committee Chairman Curtis Clark, ASC Camera Sub-Committee Chairman Dave Stump, ASC Workflow Sub-Committee Chairman Al Barton and Revelations co-founder and PGA member Lori McCreary, the Camera Assessment Series featured teams of PGA members and DPs “road testing” eight of the best cameras available, including top models from Sony, Panavision, Arri and RED. Cameras were put through their paces simultaneously over the course of a weekend on the Universal lot—including setups at “Jaws Lake” and Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane sets—allowing for a true “apples to apples” evaluation.

The breakthrough study represents a true turning point in the industry’s embrace of digital cinematography, introducing entirely new research about every aspect of the cameras’ capabilities, including not only relative strengths on set, but extending to ease of use in postproduction and digital workflow.

The ASC Technology Committee conceived of the CAS four years ago and partnered with Hollywood’s top experts to produce the event.  “We had been planning the technical aspects for a long time,” Stump said.  “But it was so critical to have producers actually pulling this together and managing the logistics.”

McCreary noted, “The CAS could only be realized in a true collaboration between the master cinematographers of the ASC, over 200 top technicians in every area of production, and producers possessed of the logistical skills to execute such an elaborate shoot, as well as our unions, from whom we received full support, and several vendors who donated much-needed equipment.  We are all looking forward to presenting the results in June.”
The ASC found its producing partners in Revelations and the PGA, but finding time to bring these many professionals together proved a challenge.  Revelations was in pre-production for its untitled Nelson Mandela Project directed by Clint Eastwood and only had a narrow window of time before it was scheduled to begin shooting in South Africa.  Despite these obstacles, Revelations and the PGA were able to schedule shooting 48 scenes – six scenes on eight different cameras – in just two days.  Fortunately, the ASC was able to line up the industry’s most advanced cameras and recruit over 25 top Directors of Photography over the same time span that the producers mobilized a 250-person crew.

All the groups involved in the collaboration hope to establish a free library of information available to filmmakers.  “You can now get research about hardware for your movie without having to take every camera out for a test drive,” Stump said.

The premiere will address scenes shot at the iconic film and television sets, as well as highlight various budgetary, physical production and workflow-related topics as they pertain to each camera.

The CAS will showcase the following cameras:  Arri D21, Panasonic HPX3700, Sony F23, Sony F35, Panavision Genesis, Thomson Viper, the RED ONE, and the Arri 435 film camera – representative of the traditional celluloid medium.

Each digital camera was configured to meet a set of technical workflow specifications commonly used for digital intermediate post finishing.  The aim was to provide a consistent baseline from which to assess imaging characteristics, along with lighting needs and on-set ease of use when each camera system was pushed to its limits.

The Camera Assessment Series is one of 30 panels at the Produced By Conference, designed for both established and aspiring producers, focusing on film, television, and new media content and production. The Produced By Conference is presented by Plymouth Rock Studios and hosted by Sony Pictures Studios.

About the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC):  
The ASC traces its roots to the dawn of the motion picture industry in 1913, when the Cinema Club in New York and the Static Club in Los Angeles were organized by the first generation of cinematographers, who were inventing a new language. Fifteen members of those two clubs organized the ASC in January 1919. They wrote a charter that dedicated the organization to advancing the evolving art and craft of telling stories with moving images. There are currently some 300 active members of ASC who have national roots in some 20 countries, and 150 associate members from allied sectors of the motion picture and television industries.

About Revelations Entertainment: 
Revelations Entertainment is currently in production on the untitled Nelson Mandela Project directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.  The company also produced THICK AS THIEVES starring Freeman and Antonio Banderas.  In 2008, MGM released the Revelations co-produced FEAST OF LOVE which starred Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, and Selma Blair. Revelations also co-produced the Yari Film Group’s LONELY MAIDEN with William H. Macy’s Dog Pond Productions and Paris Film Inc. Revelations production credits include 10 ITEMS OR LESS, written and directed by Brad Silberling and starring Freeman and Paz Vega, which was released theatrically by ThinkFilm.

About The Producers Guild of America (PGA):
The Producers Guild of America comprises 4000 members working in all areas of film, television, and ancillary production. The Guild’s leadership, guided by its President, Marshall Herskovitz, is committed to just treatment for members of the producing team, from rigorous enforcement of workplace labor laws to fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits.