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Arctic

I am left slightly speechless after three weeks of filming in the Arctic. Travelling on an Ice-breaker through the sea-ice revealed some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. Throughout our journey around Svalbard there was perpetual daylight... the hard, low sun never setting.

The clarity of the light was extraordinary and the bounce off the blue and white ice left everything touched with a coolness that is so distinctive.














The extended latitude of the Red Epic Dragon proved essential in holding the hard highlights and shadows. This as I shot regularly against the crystal clear, hard sunlight. We utilised Angenieux Optimo DP zooms on the Epic and the enormous Sigma 300-800 on the Red Scarlet B camera.









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My Deal With The Devil

Great to see this film is about to air!
It details the true story of errant trader Justin Paperny and his journey from stockbroker to prisoner.




I worked with director Chris Holt shooting across LA and London, predominantly hand held on a set of Cinevised Nikkor AIS primes... my favourite vintage glass from the stills world.

Drama cut here:
https://vimeo.com/126531009


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Ronin 4 Parkour

Shooting Parkour, the ultimate mix of urban physicality and heroism.
We wanted to shoot with considered, steady camera movement to evoke some of the gladiatorial majesty of the Traceur. 
The terrain we planned to track across and through was rough, uneven, obstacle ridden, broken concrete.
DJI's Ronin seemed a good choice. Here seen combined with a Serene arm and mounted with an Epic Dragon and a 20mm Ultraprime: 



                                       

                                          

What this rig gave us was the ability to float through and across these obstacles with a more measured photographic consideration. We achieved rock steady moves both with and against the seemingly reckless athletes, through concrete corridors and across jagged concrete obstacles.


The choreography of camera, bodies and concrete, orchestrated by director Luke Wiles.
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Master Primes

Shooting a beauty promo on Arri/Zeiss Masterprimes. Undoubtedly my favourite of the fast primes out there. Their performance at T1.3 (where we shot everything) is famously undiminished. Whereas most 'super-speed' options are noticeably different wide open (softer, chromatically compromised, distorted) the Masterprimes remain world class. Focus depth aside, they exhibit very little  optical difference between say T1.3 and T5.6 




Their engineering is also such that an AC can actually manage the sliver of focus that T1.3 offers. Their internal cams ensure that the focus does not overly accelerate as you approach minimum focus and the throw remains steady. We repeated a series of slow dolly moves towards our subjects on a 40mm... you cant really ask this focus accuracy of an AC on say a set of Super Speeds. 





Brendan McGinty




There is obviously an enormous amount of emotion that goes into lens description, many opting for the baked-in 'look' that some primes offer. I personally find its a better place to start sharp and undistorted, and then diffuse to taste rather than inherit an optical fog wide open. The lack of 'lens' in the look of a Masterprime, the absence of distortion , vignette, veiling glare and edge fall-of perhaps make them the most 'naturalistic' lenses out there... and the least nostalgic.


Production stills by Mauro Carraro
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Rainforest

Shooting motion in the Brazilian Amazon is always challenging, but the photographic rewards are high. 
We were there at the end of the rainy season and, true to form, it poured down regularly. This combined with high temperatures made for enormous, crushing humidity, a bit like filming in a sauna. Rain covers, poly-bags, dry-bags, silica gel, umbrellas... Of course without these conditions, it wouldn't be the Amazon.





Brendan McGinty


Brendan McGinty

Logistical challenges aside, the Brazilian jungle always provides a wealth of visual stimulus. This was the first time that I had taken the Epic Dragon sensor to a jungle environment. The extended latitude of the sensor was noticeably more responsive to the high contrast demands of shooting there. I was using the Low Light OLPF which dug deep into the shadows whilst still holding the occasional shafts of daylight that broke through the overhead canopy. The sensor's colour purity was also a marked improvement in the jungle. Here, on 8 or 10 bit camera systems, I have previously encountered a colour palate that would reduce to an unremarkable muddy green. But not with the Dragon's rich 16bit colour fidelity. Nuanced, rich gradations of greens, a wealth of fine texture and delicate occasional pops of saturated colours.












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Street Art

I have been soaking up the vibrant street art of San Francisco and London.



Banksy celebrates it:
"Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing"

David Lynch hates it:
"Graffiti is ugly, stupid and threatening – there's more creativity in crochet."

And Roland Barthes dissects it:
"We know that what constitutes graffiti is in fact neither the inscription nor its message but the wall, the background, the surface (the desktop); it is because the background exists fully, as an object which has already lived..."

Think I like it.

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Studio and Verite

Simultaneously prepping 'Studio' and 'Verite' Epic Dragon camera packages for a shoot.
The mechanics of the camera system determine so much of the language that they will be used for... primes or zooms, remote or operator focus, handheld or grip. Visual obstacles and possibilities in either direction.



I am reminded of the fascinating dialogue between Jean Luc Goddard and Aaton's JP Beauviala about the need for a 'Paluche'... a seemingly mythical, small, fully automated handheld camera that Goddard hoped would do everything:

https://cinemagodardcinema.wordpress.com/interviews/genesis-of-a-camera-jean-pierre-beauviala-and-jean-luc-godard/

Needless to say the Paluche never materialised.
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The American Road

No filming in the United States is complete without soaking up its intoxicating landscape of roads and cars.















Home of the Road Movie

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” 
Jack Kerouac, On the Road 

"I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object."

Roland Barthes, Mythologies

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Arri UWZ 9.5mm-18mm T2.9

Having a play with this extraordinary lens.

It's completely rectilinear even at 9.5mm, no distortion, no breathing and sharp as a tack.

As none of the usual wide-angle visual cues are present in its 'look' the visual effect is startling. A subject up-close to the lens looks flat and undistorted... as if shot on a much longer focal length.


It will cover a image circle of 34.5mm, so no problem with coverage on the Epic's 6K sensor... all the wider on the 9.5mm end too.
Its physically fairly big, 335.5mm from mount to front. It also flips the image upside-down by 180 degrees. Both of which suggest that Arri has employed some fairly unconventional optics to make it all work.
Cant wait to use it.

"I photograph what I see in front of me, I move in close to see better and use a wide-angle lens to get as much as possible in the frame"
William Klein



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Symmetry

Just completed what has been an extraordinary month of filming. A month of exacting, balanced, and largely symmetrical composition and camera movement.
Photographic symmetry has long been used by film makers to denote order, to foreground systems or patterns, to highlight cinematic artifice, or to underline the geometry of context. 







And to move the camera within the axis of symmetry requires Grip. This is not a style of framing given to verite camera work, but rather a more steady fluidity. Precise tracking shots, gliding slider movement and controlled jib moves. 















 We also made use of the Satellite Crane, courtesy of its inventor Tony Hill. Its a crane arm which rotates precisely/optically 180 degrees around a fixed point. Camera movement as a sort of rotational symmetry... its effects quite hypnotic.







A compelling visual journey, helmed by director Luke Wiles.

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