Most who are Old Hollywood film buffs will recognize “Pickfair” as the name of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’ sprawling Hollywood mansion. In the mind and vision of John Earle, however, it also encompasses the idea that “cinema is an art form first and foremost and a business second.” He has formed the Pickfair Institute for Cinematic Studies with the goal of “the pursuit of excellence of motion picture art, science, and technology.”
The Pickfair Institute website is a treasure trove of projects, with something for the film preservationist and colorist, all the way to Stained Glass CIE charts and frame rate studies. Some other projects include, Digital Projection of Archival Films, Lens Metadata and Solid State Lighting. There are also interesting presentations on the Science of Color and Chromatic Chaos, and this is just a small sample of what’s available.
At AbelCine, we’ve always been proponents of the use of technology to further the art of filming. It’s great to see John Earle and his Pickfair Institute continuing to study and push the limits of technology in the service of art.
This year at NAB, AbelCine is exhibiting the latest technology in Phantom high-speed cinematography, digital cinema, broadcast, compact cine and high-end optics in our booth. In addition to this, we have launched two new departments, Digital Media Services and Training to better serve our clients. Watch our booth preview to see a sneak peek of some of the equipment we are showcasing. Stay tuned for more reports from the floor of NAB 2011.
Last year on this blog we discussed a number of feature films that were currently in production using the Aaton Penelope 2-perf / 3-perf switchable 35mm camera. Now, with several of these high-profile projects about to be released, here’s a recap of a few of Penelope’s credits.
The Fighter, directed by David O’Russell, is a film inspired by the life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. The production considered shooting on digital, 16mm and 3-perf with various cameras but ultimately decided to use Penelope because of the 2-perf cost savings and the easy handheld capability. Renting two cameras through Abel Cine Tech, the production worked fast, averaging 36 set-ups per day. Camera Assistant Gregory Irwin pointed out that the “Penelope camera is smaller and lighter than any other studio package,” allowing the production to get almost every shot hand-held or with a Steadicam – no need for tripods or dollies. For his part, DP Hoyte van Hoytema praised the camera’s “thoughtful design” and “human touch.” The Fighter will be in theaters this December and stars Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams and Christian Bale. Watch the official trailer.
…continue reading Aaton Penelope Projects Hit Theaters this Winter
When Aaton released the Penelope 2-perf/3-perf switchable 35mm camera, there was also talk that a digital back would be following for the platform. At NAB this year, Aaton is showing a working sensor prototype, as well as a design concept model of the new camera, christened the Penelope-Δ (that’s “Delta” for those not up on their Greek). It will capture “beyond 4K” in Uncompressed RAW as well as DNxHD to inexpensive DeltaPacks loaded with raided 2.5″ SSD drives. The CCD sensor was custom made for Aaton by Dalsa with a unique dual 800/100 ISO sensitivity. Penelope continues the Aaton tradition of ergonomic “Cat on the Shoulder” design excellence. Check out some of the clever features of the Penelope-Δ in this video.
Not all shoots take place on comfy sound stages. Currently in production, Thunder Perfect Mind takes place almost entirely on an ice-breaker ship off the coast of Antarctica. The movie is shooting on a pair of RED One cameras, as well as the Aaton Penelope 35mm camera, shooting in 2-perf. Much of the shooting is on the open decks of the ship, so the ASL Gear T-Bag is being used to protect the cameras from the salt water spray. At least one shot calls for the camera to start at the waterline pointing at the tip of an iceberg, and then dunk under to see the massive blue ice below.
The gear was rented out of Abel NY, and I built the package for the production to checkout. Putting the Penelope into the T-Bag worked beautifully. Here are some observations from that setup.
For the RED One camera, there’s a special enclosure that allows the use of the RED 5.6” LCD panel as a viewfinder. When the Penelope is in the T-Bag, the production will switch to the ASL Underwater 4” HD/SD SDI montior. We used a small AJA converter box to transform the Penelope’s composite video signal into a 4×3 SD-SDI feed. Everything is powered off of the camera’s batteries.
While the movie is mostly shooting on prime lenses, I took the opportunity to try out an Angenieux Optimo 15-40 on the Penelope inside the T-Bag (see picture below). There’s so much space inside the splash housing that the little zoom almost disappears! In fact, with a little wiggling we can even get the Angenieux Optimo 17-80 to fit.
Photo by Rebecca Sandulak
Mother’s Day, a dramatic thriller shot in 2perf, has recently finished production using the Aaton Penelope. Filmed in Winnepeg, from the Director of Saw II, III and IV, Mother’s Day is a heartwarming, bloodcurdling story of a sadistic family who return to their childhood home to terrorize the new home owners and their guests.
In an interesting twist on the industry’s trend toward digital, Cinematographer Joseph White explained how he and Director Darren Lynn Bousman chose to shoot film.
“We shot Repo! The Genetic Opera on Genesis with great results, but we felt that this film lent itself to a more traditional approach. We wanted a more dramatic, dark, stark look, and 35mm just made the most sense. Darren had done three of the Saw films on 35mm, and although we loved using the Genesis system (for a really stylized movie), we were both really happy to get back to 35mm.”
According to Joe, once they settled on 35mm film the decision to shoot 2perf was driven by two complimentary factors.
“The obvious budgetary reasons for sure,” he said “but being able to shoot around 22 minutes on a 1,000′ mag and 9 minutes on a 400′ mag is pretty amazing. With the finer grained film stocks today, it’s really hard to tell the difference between 2perf and 3perf, so in my mind it was a win-win for me and the producers.”
As for camera choice, Joe used both Panavision in 2perf, as well as Aaton Penelope, and found the Penelope perfect for portability.
“We used Panaflex cameras for our studio cameras, but the Penelope was just incredible when shooting handheld, steadicam, or even just putting it on a sandbag with a long lens to get another angle fast – it was an incredibly versatile camera and gave us so many shooting options. It is really the only compact camera that can shoot 2perf.”
“It really is an impressive camera” Joe enthused. “Gorgeous video tap, very quiet, a dream on steadicam and shooting in cars – many car shots would not have been possible without the Penelope. It’s just such a sexy little camera with every bell and whistle you could want, while still getting the fundamentals right. A camera with a real design sensibility – it has so many uses.”
We asked Joe how he’d feel about using Penelope again on his next film project.
“Absolutely, in a heartbeat” he said. “Penelope is my new favorite camera.”
Mother’s Day is Joseph White’s twelfth feature film. Other credits include Shelter, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Equality U, Open House and Café, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Joe graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received an MFA in Film Production from USC.
Mother’s Day stars Rebecca DeMornay and Jaime King. Joe’s crew on this project included operators Paul Suderman and Ari Robbins, along with AC’s Marcus James and Danny Quesnel.
Geoff Haley (left), First Camera Assistant Gregory Irwin
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has just completed principal photography on The Fighter, after a seven week production schedule, using Aaton Penelope cameras configured for 2-perf.
Perhaps the highest profile 2-perf movie since Sergio Leone pointed a Techniscope camera at Clint Eastwood, The Fighter is directed by David O. Russell and stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams. It is a drama about boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s unlikely road to the world light-welterweight title and was shot on location in Lowell, Massachusetts.
…continue reading Penelope 2Perf Feature,The Fighter, Wraps