At the November 15 meeting...

From Film to Digital to Film

How did we get here?

By John Gates

Over 72 S.M.P.T.E. members and guests made their way through Boston's Big Dig construction project to the Fidelity Images Production Studio in the World Trade Center on Boston's waterfront. Before the meeting, they got to see not one, but two Sony CineAlta HD 24P camera systems graciously provided by two local vendors; Boston Camera Rental Company and Rule Broadcast Systems.

Section Chairperson John Gates started the evening's program with a few insights into the emerging digital "film" production technology and the concerns of the traditional motion picture film world. Tom Talbot of Rule Broadcast Systems followed with a brief tutorial on HDTV technology and an overview of Sony's 24P HDW-F900 camera and their HDW-F500 deck. Tom quickly compared and contrasted the 1080i/24P system with other video & film systems.

Uta Briesewitz (Director Of Photography) and David Collins (Producer - Scout Productions) spoke of their production experiences on "Session 9", a horror "film" by Brad Anderson ("Next Stop Wonderland") that had recently wrapped shooting in the eastern Massachusetts area. Uta and David gave an insightful discussion of how they arrived at the decision to shoot with the Sony HD 24P camera system as they shared what they had learned in their pre-production testing and in actual shooting. They both have a wealth of experience in film projects and they measured their HD images against their previous film experiences. They screened some terrific looking (down converted) footage of "Session 9" to underscore their presentation. ("Session 9" is currently in post-production.)

In the lively question and answer period that followed, two crew members from "Session 9", the First Assistant Cameraperson Joe Christofori and the Soundperson Tom Williams, joined Uta and David to answer specific technology and production method questions from the audience. The digital film was shot using traditional film production methods and typical independent film crew size with a typical independent film budget. The bottom line answer, when all was said and done, to the question "Why was this project shot in HD?" was that the distributor wanted a "digital film".

Lloyd Forcellini (DuArt) handled the second part of this program discussing the process of getting these digital images out onto motion picture (negative) film using products like the Arrilaser. The Arrilaser uses three solid state lasers (red, green & blue) and some high tech optics & electronics to "write" the image line-by-line across each frame of film. Lloyd spoke about this evolving technology and his work with the original image creators like Uta and David, covering many of the similarities and differences in working with a traditional "answer print" process.

A Big Thank-you to Fidelity Images for hosting this meeting and their staff that worked to make everything perfect. And thanks to both our vendors for providing the camera systems we discussed.

You might want to read this material for more insights on shooting digital "film":

Related Web Sites:

John Gates is Principal of Gates Service Group, which provides lighting expertise for all applications. He can be reached at 508-651-7886,

Posted: 2 December, 2000
Robert Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor