Loyalty, Progress and Art in Amsterdam

IBC in Amsterdam is the biggest video technology show in Europe, with the latest gear, superb screenings and fascinating presentations on the future of image-making. This year the ASC was very present at IBC, offering a superb cinematography panel, and creating a splash with its second yearly cruise of Amsterdam canals to mark the American Cinematographer magazine's upcoming centennial.

This was also the occasion for me to reflect about the ASC's motto.

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100 Years ASC Panel

ASC vice-president Bill Bennett joins IBC panelists Caleb Deschanel, ASC, Robert Legato, ASC, ASC president Kees van Oostrum, moderator Carolyn Giardina and Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC, in Amsterdam - (photo Benjamin B)

The ASC presented a fascinating panel as part of IBC's "Big Screen" program in the RAI convention center's giant 1750-seat auditorium with state-of-the-art projection in Dolby Vision. The program was introduced by ASC president Kees van Oostrum, who was followed by  Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC. Stijn screened beautiful video excerpts of his work, including the hit series Outlander, and discussed them with moderator Carolyn Giardina from the Hollywood Reporter.

Next up were ASC members Caleb Deschanel and Robert Legato who illustrated their discussion of the virtual cinematography of The Lion King with clips from the film, and behind the scenes footage. As Visual Effects Supervisor, Robert helped Caleb shoot the film with a virtual camera, enabling the cinematographer to move through computer-generated landscapes.

Caleb was surprised to discover that the virtual cinematography processes used familiar tools and concepts, and that he could quickly adapt and apply his cinematic ideas to the virtual world, by using for example, a handheld rig, a fluid head or a dolly to create virtual camera moves.

Although camera motion could often be designed instantly, Robert noted that lighting currently requires some rendering, but predicted that virtual lighting will soon become a completely real-time process with more powerful graphics hardware, adding an essential component to virtual cinematography.

(Note: See my colleague Michael Goldman's excellent article about the making of The Lion King in the LINKS below).

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ASC Amsterdam Cruise

Last year, the ASC's boat cruise marked the coming centennial of the Society, which was founded in 1919. This year, the ASC invited cinematographers and friends from the industry to mark the upcoming hundredth anniversary of the American Cinematographer magazine, first published in 1920. 

The cruise involved two boats filled with dozens of film industry notables, people who create or service the tools essential to cinematography: cameras, lenses, lights and accessories. The boats took us from the IBC convention center to the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam's harbor for a brief presentation by ASC president Kees van Oostrum, followed by a champagne toast and a return trip to IBC as night fell. There are photos at the end of this post.

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LOYALTY PROGRESS ART

At the Eye Filmmuseum, Kees van Oostrum reminded the mostly European audience that the American Cinematographer magazine will be a hundred years old next year. Kees added: "the ASC is not about 'America first', it's about loyalty, progress and artistry", citing the Society's motto.

After some thirty years as a journalist for the American Cinematographer, I confess that I was both proud and moved by the celebration of the magazine's upcoming centennial. I have been thinking these days about the ASC motto, and came across the cover from the bi-weekly magazine's second year (which can be bought on Amazon as a Kindle book):

The 98-year old cover offers an intriguing early version of the ASC seal and motto. Behind the seal is a quill in front of a sword, evoking the saying : "the pen is mightier than the sword". A torch symbolizes Loyalty and a painter's palette represents Art, they are separated by a strip of 35mm film, which could evoke Progress. A Latin sub-motto "Camera suprema est" tells us that the camera -- another kind of quill -- is supreme, which is imaged by a hand above the seal grasping a tripod and camera. This statement of camera supremacy indicates that early cinematographers were struggling to get recognition for the importance of their role.

LOYALTY. Looking back at my own career in the film industry, both at Panavision and at the American Cinematographer, it's obvious to me that the most important thing is the relationships I've had -- with colleagues, with cinematographers and with others in the industry. This is true of every industry, but is especially important in one that gathers people together for short-term productions and then disperses them.

Loyalty is what creates our community. Loyalty is what maintains and deepens our relationships over the years as we jump from job to job, or project to project, encountering familiar and new faces along the way. Loyalty is tested when things get rough, as they often do in this turbulent industry, and that's when we discover the relationships that matter most, our true friendships.

PROGRESS. Cinematography is a technological art form, and its evolution has been marked by the interplay between art and technology. Cinema has been transformed by the introduction of sound, of color, by the advent of television, by anamorphic lenses, by zooms, by DI, by 3D, by Fresnels, HMIs, Kinos and LEDs...

In my own career I have been fortunate to witness and participate in the digital revolution in cameras, post-production and distribution. 2019 was marked by three projects that give a glimpse of future cinematic technologies: the virtual cinematography of The Lion King (shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC), the immersive 3D high frame rate of Gemini Man (shot by Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS), and the virtual characters of both Gemini Man and The Irishman (shot by Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC). One thing is certain: there will be much more cinematic Progress to come, and that's what makes cinematography such a uniquely vibrant art form.

But Progress also has another social and political meaning. For years ASC cinematographers were mostly male and mostly white, and, to be honest, they still are. The ASC and others in the industry have begun to recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion, although there is still so much more Progress to be made...

ART. The modern ASC motto includes the word "artistry", which evokes workmanship. Some ASC members shy away from the "A word" -- Artist -- and prefer to call themselves craftsmen. In the past cinematographers were sometimes viewed as "below the line" technicians.

Thanks to the ASC, and to the American Cinematographer, many now regard cinematographers as artists. The art form of cinematography is by nature collaborative, it requires working with other artists and most especially the director. This art form is evolving to include virtual cinematography, but it will always require creative people who design moving images for storytelling.

Loyalty, Progress, Art. This 1920 motto was well chosen for cinematography, and has aged well. So too has the American Cinematographer, starting as a newsletter, and evolving into the preeminent cinematography publication in the world, published on paper and on the web, covering all aspects of this evolving technological art form. I am proud to be associated with it.

As we all did in Amsterdam, I raise my glass to American Cinematographer, saluting its 100 years and hoping for 100 more!

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ASC Cruise Photos

My friend and colleague Stephen Pizzello enlisted cinematographer Anna Gudbrandsdottir -- aka "Anna Iceland" -- to take photos of the ASC Cruise featured below.
Among the people appearing in the photos are, from top to bottom:

-- Frieder Hochheim (KinoFlo) -- Imago General Secretary Louis-Philippe Capelle, SBC -- Travis Sims (Atomos), Christina Williams (Red), AC Senior European Correspondent Benjamin B, AC Sales Director Sanja Pearce, Atomos CEO Jeromy Young, colorist Eric Weidt -- Sebastien Lumme (cmotion), Thorsten Meywald (Arri), Robert Legato, ASC -- AC Editor in Chief and Publisher Stephen Pizzello and Frieder Hochheim -- Wick Hempleman (J.L. Fisher), Seth Emmons (Tiffen) -- Erik Schietinger (Technological Cinevideo Services), John Fuller (Chimera Lighting), Sebastian Lumme (cmotion) -- Sebastien Lumme, Thorsten Meywald , Rob Legato, Caleb Deschanel, ASC, Howard Preston -- Forest Liu (Arri China), ASC president Kess van Oostrum -- publicist Vika Safrigina and Chris Marchitelli (Steadicam/Lowell at Tiffen) -- Caleb Deschanel frames the Prestons -- Ben Ross (Leitz), Paul Royalty (Litegear), Sanja Pearce -- Rob Legato and Caleb Deschanel -- Arri threesome Thorsten Meywald, Joerg Pohlman and Stephan Ukas-Bradley frame Kees van Oostrum -- Snehal Patel (Director Zeiss Cinema Sales) and Stephen Pizzello -- B and H's Michel Suissa and Stephen Pizzello -- Eric Johnston (Cooke Americas), Glenn Kennel (Arri) -- Erik Schietinger, Sebastian Lumme and Stephen Pizzello -- Sebastian Leske (Sony), Gerhard Baier -- Ashley Barron, ACS, Christina Williams, DP Eric Messerschmidt, Panavision CEO Kim Snyder -- Benjamin B, Kim Snyder, Naida Albright (Red), Vika Safrigina -- Jim Fisher and Wick Hempleman (JL Fisher) -- Michel Suissa -- Greg Smokler (Creative Solutions), Caleb Deschanel, Robert Legato, Franz Kraus (Arri)
-- DP Anna Gudbrandsdottir

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All cruise photos above by Anna Gudbrandsdottir
(except for the last one of Anna G by Benjamin B)

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LINKS

imdb.com: Stijn Van der Veken ASC, SBC

ascmag.com: Making The Lion King by Michael Goldman

amazon.com: American Cinematographer 1921 issue

annagudbrands.com: Anna Gudbrands page

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View from the Eye Filmmuseum at sunset (Benjamin B)

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