Kodak Cinematography Workshop - Roma

Published on website: October 04, 2010
Categories: 35mm , Chris Hart , Education , The StoryBoard Blog

In July of this year, Kodak Italy held a three day cinematography workshop in Rome for industry professionals. As in-house cinematographer for Kodak, I was the instructor for the workshop. The immense pre-production for the event was handled by Giovanna Rimoldi and Riccardo Di Tizio from Kodak Italy. Invited to the workshop were cinematographers, directors, and producers currently working in Rome. Also, two film students joined the workshop to work as crew for the grip and lighting needs. The group was a comfortable size of nine participants which allowed them several opportunities to shoot and direct portions of a short story. Although many of the attendees were more familiar with video and digital formats than film, everyone has aspired to shoot on film. Generally speaking, participants have always appreciated the Kodak workshops because they offer a stress-free opportunity to experience shooting with 35mm film.

The workshop was held at the Casa Del Cinema situated in the idyllic Villa Borghese which is the largest public park in Rome. All of the shooting took place at the Casa del Cinema and a café situated within the building. Although the temperatures climbed to over 90 F every day, the enthusiasm of the group was not diminished. One goal of the workshop was to give the participants an opportunity to shoot 35mm film in a 2-perf format. Interestingly, the 2-perf Techniscope 2.40:1 format was introduced by Technicolor Italia in 1963 as a low cost alternative to the CinemaScope 4-perf system. Techniscope was popularized by the “Spaghetti Western” genre and, most notably, the Italian director, Sergio Leone, and his Clint Eastwood “Dollar” series of films. In a PowerPoint lecture on the first day of the workshop, the features of the 2-perf format were discussed.  Some of the benefits mentioned were longer shooting times per magazine, reduced costs of the format, new finer grain V3 stocks which improve the look of the smaller format, and digital intermediate which has made 2-perf format more viable than the optical process of the past. As the group was soon to discover, 2-perf 35mm retains many of the inherent qualities of the larger 4-perf origination format.

The structure of the workshop allows each participant to function as a cinematographer or camera operator on several occasions. In this particular workshop, there were more directors than normal which was a bit like too many cooks in the kitchen. But it was a great chance for them to get behind the camera and appreciate the job of the cinematographer. Many of the scenes for the short story took place under a shaded table at an outdoor café. The main actor was sitting under a café umbrella away from the intense Italian sunlight. With some background areas being 5-6 stops over exposed and the actor wearing a black shirt, the setting was truly a lighting and exposure challenge. This adverse situation is a common problem especially for the participants who regularly shoot with video or digital cameras. Those formats would have been compromised by the extreme brightness range of these scenes. Typically, they would have had to increase light level of the foreground or change the shot somehow in order to capture the scene successfully. I made this point several times during the shooting. He mentioned that the bright highlights would be preserved with film and the detail brought out during the DI session later at Technicolor Rome.

In addition to the normal photography, the group experimented with a few unique camera “toys”. One device made by Arri called a Timing Shift Box created in-camera light streaking effects in the images. This effect is similar to what was created for the D-Day beach scenes in the film “Saving Private Ryan”. Effectively, the shutter is forced to run out of synch with the film pull down mechanism, so that the film is still moving in the camera gate during exposure. Another atypical in-camera tool, a Lensbaby 3G, was used to create a variable focus, blurry effect for a point-of-view scene in the short. This lens was originally designed for the still photography market, but it has been adapted with a PL mount for motion picture cameras. This tool has become popular in music videos and in feature films such as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”.

Each day, the film was processed at Technicolor Rome. There was not great amount of footage shot since the class used half as much film compared to shooting with a normal 4-perf camera. On the last evening of the workshop, Technicolor gave the group a tour of their state of the art facility plus a meet-and-greet with the Tech staff over food and drink. Earlier in the day, some select scenes from the workshop footage were scanned in order for the class to have a short DI session that night. For a few hours, the DI colorist eagerly demonstrated the creative potential of their digital suite. Among other things, the digital intermediate process helps to retain the qualities of film, allows for more creative color grading, and offers opportunities for grain management as desired. The DI process has genuinely opened the door to 2-perf as a viable alternative for filmmakers.

Most of the Kodak workshops held worldwide would not be possible without the generous support of industry partners. Camera and lighting equipment  as well as other services were graciously donated by Arri Italia, Movie People – Milano, Technovision, Casa del Cinema, and Technicolor Rome.