The BSC Expo 2015
At GoKinema in january it was decided that the FSF should send two representatives to the BSC Expo. Andrés Rignell and I was selected for this.
First of all, let it be said that the BSC put on a fantastic Expo at Pinewood studios! A line-up of very interesting seminars in combination with a most impressive exhibitor’s area. There was almost too much going on simultaneously for the visitor to take it all in, but it was a rewarding experience.
Having been graciously invited together with a few FSF colleagues to Pinewood a few months earlier, courtesy of the SONY DMPCE, one quickly learned then that waving a stills camera around the studio lot was considered almost a capital offense!
So when now once more walking through the studio gates and seeing yellow construction cranes majestically reaching for the skies partially hidden behind studio buildings, my first reaction was one of frustration: ”I bet there’s this sensational shoot going on over there and absolutely no visitors allowed, much less any snapshots!”
Well, to my relief and excitement, as we invited guests wandered closer, it was apparent that these cranes were in fact part of the BSC Expo show! ”Dare I take some photographs now?” I wondered, and the first person I asked turned out to be John Crawford of Alpha Grip, whose answer was most welcome: ”no, go ahead and fire away, we need all the publicity we can get!”
John and his crew have worked on such blockbusters as ”The Dark Knight” and many others, and was very gracious in explaining the benefits of the items Alpha Grip had on display: a high-speed pursuit car and a telescopic crane.
This particular pursuit car is manufactured in Barcelona. It’s a 500 horsepower VW diesel, the crane arm can be built at different lengths and can do a full 360 turn in just over five seconds, and with the arm pointing straight ahead, it’s possible to shoot scenes driving at speeds up to 90 mph!
The main benefits of the Moviebird telescopic crane on display next to it, are that it has an amazing 60 foot reach, weighs in at about four tonnes, ships in one piece so the crew can arrive with a truck, get it in position and be ready to shoot within one hour.
This is very impressive, because if you want the Technocrane equivalent, it will give you about 50% greater reach, but it will also be considerably heavier and take about half a day to get into position… and then you don’t want to be wrong about where you put it. Since the BSC Expo, Alpha Grip have also introduced their Mobile Film Lab!
There were several indications at the Expo that 35 mm film is alive and well, but we’ll get to that a bit later in this article.
The yellow construction cranes next to the Moviebird help give three fixed points to a wire-operated remote head. The heart of the system consists of three powerful computer controlled winches that payout or reel in the cables enabling the camera to reach almost any corner of a really large area with a beautiful hotrod car as eye-candy in its centre.
Stefan Stankowski, camera operator on such recent hits as ”Exodus: Gods and Kings” and ”Edge of Tomorrow” generously explains how this setup from The Flying Grip & Camera Company works, and will even let you try for yourself: the pan, tilt and roll movements are wonderfully smooth!
I asked Stefan whether he preferred using the viewfinder or the monitor when operating and he said he would often work off the monitor when shooting video, but with film he’d always rely on the viewfinder. ”Exodus: Gods and Kings” was digital 3D and ”Edge of Tomorrow” was shot on 35mm film.
Entering the huge Richard Attenborough stage, you are almost overwhelmed by the actual exhibition area, where close to a hundred different companies offer their products.
One reoccurring theme throughout the exhibtion is a great emphasis on camera movement by any means imaginable: Radio controlled drones capable of carrying a RED Epic (and flying through tunnels!), cameras running on cables and even gyro stabilized cameras mounted on Radio controlled cars, reminiscent of the sort of robots bomb disposal technicians work with.
In the Cinemovers booth, anything you could dream of for a spectacular car chase scene is at your fingertips: car hood mounts and old-fashioned pipe car rigs, all supplied by Black-Tek Gmbh.
One product which deservingly attracted a lot of attention at the BSC Expo was Tony Holker’s wonderful invention: the FLYKA.
It’s basically a very silent, quite fast (30 mph) electrically powered tracking dolly.
A trend in recent years in this industry has been how competing technologies ”fight over turf” –digital replaces celluloid, MöVIs threaten Steadicams, etc- but the FLYKA seems to me to be the brilliant new toy that none could feel threatened by. Simply hold on to your Steadicam, MöVI or whichever you favourite stabilizer may be… and then get onboard this quiet, fast moving vehicle for ultra smooth rides over lawns, beaches, pavements –you name it! The FLYKA pretty much begs you to stage scenes with elaborate step-offs etc. What’s not to like about that?
There are obviously massive amounts of digital cameras everywhere, and the other reoccurring theme here is ultra-high resolution. Many cameras offer 4K resolution, some even higher. The AJA CION is AJAs first video camera. It shoots 4K and has a super 35 sensor and retail price is about USD 9000. AJA have put a lot of thought into ergonomics when developing this camera, which is evident for instance by the built-in suede shoulder pad.
The ARRI Alexa 65 is another animal altogether: not for sale even if you theoretically could afford it! Instead it’s available through ARRI Rental. It’s a 6K camera and will (with an adapter) accept the lenses originally developed for the ARRI 65mm 765 motion picture camera, as well as a range of re-housed Hasselblad/Fujinon lenses. Two-time academy award winner Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC, recently chose it for the film ”The Revenant”, his latest collaboration with director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
There’s a fair size crowd in the exhibition area, and you can tell by the flow of people when a particularly interesting seminar is about to start! One that drew a really large crowd was ”From Indie to Epic”, a panel debate moderated by Ron Prince (editor of BSC Magazine). The panel consisted of five major cinematographers: Billy Williams OBE BSC, Sean Bobbitt BSC, Barry Akroyd BSC and Haris Zambarloukas BSC. They freely shared their experiences from working on projects both large and small (hence the name of the seminar) during a truly worthwhile and inspiring discussion, and afterwards when the applause finally died out, it was heartwarming to see these distinguished BSC members take their time to listen to, and share their knowledge with, the many audience members who would queue up to talk to them.
Once more entering the exhibition area, a third impression one gets is a sensation of wandering about in a boutique filled with extremely expensive jewelry, an impression further cemented by the fact that you only get to see many of the most exclusive ’goodies’ on display inside locked glass cabinets! Such is the case with the ARRI 65 lenses and certainly also with the new anamorphic lenses from Cooke. These lenses have all the wonderful traits one has come to associate with classic anamorphic lenses as is evident from the demonstration video in the Cooke booth. The prize for most humorous advertising must however go to Dynamic Intl who specialise in worldwide deliveries: they offered a card labeled ”don’t panic –call Dynamic” which had a packet of Aspirin (!) attached to it, offering to alleviate the headache both ways…
Cinelab London is the UK’s only full service film laboratory and at their booth you could pick up a most useful promotional 35 mm film strip demonstrating their services. These strips were so popular with the BSC show attendees that Cinelab ran out of them after only a few hours, despite having stocked up nearly 500 strips! Luckily the film lab is only a short drive from Pinewood Studios, so they printed a further 2000 strips to last the rest of the weekend.
In the Panavision booth -one of the largest in the whole exhibition area- Hugh Whittaker explains a new trend in the world of high-end film projects: he had two Panaflex Millenium cameras painted black for director J. J. Abrams’ eagerly awaited ”Star Wars 7”, and similarly, another Panaflex was painted entirely golden for Robert Elswit, BSC, on ”Mission Impossible 5”. Reflecting that there are several projects shot on 35mm film right now, Hugh exclaims: ”it’s wonderful!”
”The Millennium Falcon”, jet-black A-camera on the first unit of ”Star Wars 7” glows mysteriously in the Panavision booth – I bet the Force is particularly strong with this one!
Steadicam, Skycam… and now Waitress-cam! Left to right: Marie Jansons – Gothenburgstudios project manager GoKinema, Andrés Rignell FSF, Alexandra Magnusson, Steve Calavitis – Camera Nordic AB, Per Mellqvist and Mattias Andersson Pallin – Kameraten AB, Lars Pettersson FSF