The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents January 2011 Return to Table of Contents
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC
Short Takes
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up

As the new year kicks into gear, there is a lot happening in the industry: more new digital cameras, higher-resolution post workflows, 3-D proceeding full steam, and more sophisticated virtual production. How is a humble cinematographer supposed to keep up with all this? Because the production and distribution of feature films, television programming and Web content are a global business, it is more important than ever that we all be on the same page at the same time on technology, and that we understand where the craft of cinematography is going.

For this reason, the ASC will host an International Cinematography Summit Conference from May 2-5, 2011. Every cinematography society in the world has been invited to send a representative to this milestone event. This is not a film festival, nor is it a trade show. It is a work group of the leading practitioners of our craft designed as a means to discover where our differences and common ground lie; it is an opportunity to learn from the tools and techniques that are being used on the other side of the world; and it is a forum to establish more open communication among those who have chosen cinematography as our life passion.

The conference is especially significant at this moment, although it has been in the planning stages for almost 18 months. When Mauro Fiore, ASC won the Oscar for Avatar last year, it seemed to amplify speculation about the future of cinematography. This conference will address where we are going and, more importantly, help all of us understand how changes and trends in our profession affect our countries’ industries. It is the necessary next step in coordinating our common goals.

Part of the conference will be devoted to demonstrations of current technology, such as virtual production and 3-D, and there will be a detailed analysis of various film and digital archival methods used by innovators in the preservation field. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a new capture-medium/post paradigm designed to enable the maximum input of a camera’s resolution and color-space capabilities into a common post workflow. Leading developers of digital cameras and film emulsions will speak about what is coming in the next five years, not from a marketing perspective, but with an emphasis on stabilizing the industry.

But the most important part of the ICSC will be the dialogue it will create among cinematographers worldwide. We’re not inviting people to come and listen to a bunch of lectures; we want to hear what everyone has to say. There are issues and concerns in some countries that other countries have already resolved. Let’s share that knowledge. Though we exist in a global industry, we tend to work in an insular way. The extraordinarily innovative artistry that many of our fellow lighting masters have accomplished, and the means by which they have achieved their results, may never be seen by the world or acknowledged for its originality. If we are to live and grow as artists, and harness the potential that new technologies offer us, we must open our eyes to what our fellow craftspeople are doing in other parts of the world.

I have been traveling a lot recently, speaking to cinematographers and students in many countries, and I have been amazed by the common elements of our aesthetic approach, regardless of region, and by the bold visions of those who see the world from a different perspective. Festivals such as Camerimage and the efforts of organizations such as Imago have kept the flame of visual artistry burning brightly for many years. And the bond that the Korean Society of Cinematographers and the Japanese Society of Cinematographers have shared over the last 25 years is truly inspiring. The artistic interchange that results from simple communication between countries opens the door for all of us to learn and grow, to reach for new forms of visual expression.

For the ICSC, each society has been asked to bring a five-minute reel of the best work its members have produced, spanning the entire history of their industry. All of these pieces will be screened as part of our welcome dinner on the first night of the conference. If that evening has even a fraction of the magic I felt when I watched a young student’s cinematography during my trip to India, this will prove to be a most magical gathering.


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