Hollywood Scribe is the online home of veteran Hollywood entertainment journalist Michael Goldman. Explore this site to learn about Michael, his work as a book, magazine, and newspaper author/editor, and multimedia interviewer, as well as the writing/editing/podcasting/consulting services he offers entertainment and media publications, Web sites, and companies.

Sony Cine: Shot on VENICE 2: Pete Konczal Puts VENICE 2 Through Its Paces On The Colorful Short Film, Cowboy Currency

In-the-field narrative piece about cowboy life relied on the newest VENICE system for a project that involved location work, action, stunts, animals, wide vistas, drones, and a whole lot more.

By Michael Goldman, May 2022

When cinematographer Pete Konczal heard from his friend, director Jonny Mass, with whom he had previously made several commercials, that Mass wanted to collaborate with him on a new short film about the lifestyle of cowboys, he jumped at the chance. Mass was looking to create a visually stimulating short narrative piece that could help him pivot into the world of action-oriented feature films. So, he showed Konczal a proposal for a short film called Cowboy Currency, which in just under five minutes features a grizzled cowboy (Bryan Veronneau) guiding viewers through different stages of cowboy life, ranging from shootouts to cattle roping and herding, rodeos, horse riding, pioneer life, and frontier justice, among other themes.

Kodak Filmmaker Stories: Marcel Rév adopts an EKTACHROME approach for Euphoria in pursuit of a nostalgic view

By Michael Goldman, April 2022

After a pandemic-instigated hiatus of over two years between production of seasons one and two of HBO Max’s raw, controversial, and wildly successful high-school drama, Euphoria, it was inevitable there would be some changes in how the show was presented to its growing legion of fans. Without a doubt, the most fundamental and creatively impactful change was a switch in the format in which the show was filmed—an approach that had been contemplated since Euphoria launched in 2019, was experimented with during the hiatus, and was eventually executed in detail when the opportunity finally arrived to resume filming. That change involved switching the show’s acquisition format from the large-format digital cameras (Alexa 65’s with ARRI Prime DNA lenses) used in season one to an all-film format going forward—a stylized mixture of Kodak’s unique EKTACHROME 5294 format, reconstituted specifically for this show, and KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219.

American Cinematographer: Hoops Heaven — Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

Cinematographers Todd Banhazl and Mihai Malaimare Jr. employ multiple film and video camera formats to lend this period HBO sports series an air of authenticity.

By Michael Goldman, March 2022

The production of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — the new HBO series about the 1980s ascent of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team — traveled a particularly unorthodox visual path. According to Adam McKay, show executive producer and one of its directors, that path was designed to inject a true story with the tongue-in-cheek, sometimes-hyperbolic storytelling tactics envisioned by showrunner Max Borenstein and his writers. Painstakingly reproduced historical moments, involving dozens of real-life figures who contributed to the Lakers’ rise, are liberally woven together with comedic scenes that periodically break the fourth wall like backboard-shattering dunks.

Cinematography World: Cinematography veterans speak-out on the production industry’s ‘safety crisis’

Safety First & Foremost

By Michael Goldman, February 2022

The tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the feature film Rust last year in New Mexico made major headlines and led to calls for stricter protocols for handling firearms on set, or the removal of firearms from sets altogether in favor of CG alternatives. That’s not unusual, since the debate over what can be done to make film and television sets – which are, after all, essentially industrial work sites – safer is nothing new.

Industry veterans across the globe, who recently spoke with Cinematography World, vividly recall similar reactions over the years in the wake of other tragedies.

Cinematography World: Dark Deeds

Nightmare Alley: Dan Laustsen, DFF, ASC

By Michael Goldman, January 2022

Nightmare Alley represents the fourth collaboration between director Guillermo del Toro and Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen DFF, ASC. Unlike the outlandish fantasy stories that del Toro is well known for, his new film takes place entirely in the real world, although with a film noir flourish.

Cinematography World: Underwater Love

Take Scene Slate: Mike Valentine BSC

By Michael Goldman, January 2022

The passion for the discipline of underwater cinematography exuded by Mike Valentine BSC has not waned in the many years he has been working as a specialist camera operator/cinematographer.

Sony Cine: Shot on VENICE: Gonzalo Amat, ASC, Details His Recent VENICE Camera Adventures on Netflix’s Outer Banks

Shooting in low and natural light, running handheld in grueling environments, and more required a flexible camera and plenty of gumption.

Cinematographer Gonzalo Amat, ASC, has spent the better part of the last couple of years diving deep into the world of the Sony VENICE digital cinema camera system. For part of the first season of the Netflix action-drama, Outer Banks, and a big slice of the show’s second season (at press-time, Outer Banks had just been renewed for a third season), Amat worked on the series using the original Sony VENICE digital motion picture camera system. And recently, he was given the opportunity to put a prototype version of the brand-new VENICE 2 8K full-frame digital camera through its paces for a short film. His entire VENICE experience to date can be summed up by his use of the word “smooth” to describe how things went on all of his VENICE shoots to date.

Cinematography World: Action Lighting Evolves

Gaffer’s Cafe: Michael Ambrose

By Michael Goldman, November 2021

Few people have a better understanding of how rapidly and significantly the cinematic lighting universe has evolved in the last several years than veteran gaffer Michael Ambrose.

Sony Cine: Shot on VENICE – Eric Lin Visually Explores Environment, Moonlight, and Psychology in the Netflix Thriller, Intrusion

Cinematographer says the movie exemplifies how camera, lenses, and light can enhance a story’s central themes.

By Michael Goldman, October 2021

As big fans of the thriller genre, director Adam Salky and cinematographer Eric Lin were excited when the new Netflix film, Intrusion, landed on their desks. For this particular story, they quickly realized the environment where the tale unfolds would play a crucial creative role—a challenge they were eager to tackle. The movie, shot last year over 25 days near Albuquerque, New Mexico, probes the psychology, marriage, and secrets of a couple (Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green) who have their seemingly idyllic lives ripped open like a scab by a couple of mysterious break-ins in their architecturally stunning, but incredibly isolated home. What oozes out of that wound is the revelation of a stunning secret about one of them, and what exactly is, or is not, going on in a secret part of that home.

Cinematography World: DP Maz Makhani gets ‘up-close and personal’ on The Guilty

Cinematographer discusses collaborating with director Antoine Fuqua on a unique Netflix character study starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

By Michael Goldman, October 2021

Director Antoine Fuqua’s new film for Netflix, The Guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is a particularly unusual character study. For one thing, the entire movie takes place in real-time over a single morning inside a single location – a 911-dispatch call centre (an elaborate set on a stage in Manhattan Beach). For another, Gyllenhaal’s character, Joe Bayler, is the only primary character viewers see on camera – those he communicates with are heard over his telecommunications system, but not seen. Additionally, the movie was shot in just 11 days at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Fuqua, as director, isolated across the street from the set in a filmmaking van, due to a need to quarantine as a result of contact tracing issues.

Cinematography World: CineGear Expo and Mini Gear Report

Highlights from the leading cinema technology show’s September event in Los Angeles.

By Michael Goldman, October 2021

To a degree, late September 2021 might end up being remembered as the time period in which live, in-person film industry events started creeping back into relevance after the lengthy – and still ongoing – Covid-19 shutdown of such events. In no small measure, that’s because the Cine Gear Expo LA successfully went forward as an in-person event at the Los Angeles Convention Center in late September.

Sony Cine: Shot on VENICE: Pablo Berron Lenses Billy Eilish at the Hollywood Bowl for Disney+

Cinematographer explains how the singer’s “Happier than Ever” album was visually transformed into a stylized concert film.

By Michael Goldman, September 2021

When cinematographer Pablo Berron was invited to shoot singer Billie Eilish’s new concert film, Happier than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles, based on her studio album, “Happier than Ever” and now streaming on Disney+, he was overjoyed at the creative opportunity but simultaneously in awe of the project’s complexity. He was originally pitched on a film in which the young superstar would perform every song on her album in an empty Hollywood Bowl in a sort of classic Hollywood diva style. However, that approach quickly evolved, and in a big way. By the time the production got to the Hollywood Bowl for a week of principal photography this past summer, filmmakers were tasked with capturing Eilish singing 16 tracks accompanied by strategically designed lighting, blocking, and camera schemes thematically tailored to the specific nature of each song. During the shoot, she performed with her own band, solo, with her brother—songwriter/producer Finneas O’Connell—and on certain tracks with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, including famed conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Cinematography World: CineGear is Back!

By Michael Goldman, September 2021

A flurry of exciting equipment news has recently been percolating across the industry as production picks-up, and another big development was the fact that a long-respected industry event was finally returning to a live, in-person format – the CineGear Expo LA, slated for September 23-26 at the LA Convention Center.

Cinematography World: Noirish Nostalgia

DP Paul Cameron ASC explains his innovative, creative, and technical solutions in shooting director Lisa Joy’s debut Reminiscence

By Michael Goldman, September 2021

Cinematographer Paul Cameron ASC knew all about director Lisa Joy’s creative chops, having been a longtime colleague of hers on HBO’s acclaimed Westworld. But once Joy lured him into helping her turn her new spec script into a romantic, noirish, sci-fi feature thriller, called Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman and distributed globally, Cameron quickly realized her feature film directorial debut would pose a major challenge for his team.

Cinematography World: Ed Lachman ASC’s New Exposure Control System

Cinematographer Ed Lachman ASC explains his EL Zone System, already incorporated into Panasonic’s VariCams, which has the very real potential, the revered DP insists, to become the foundation of an eventual universal standard.

By Michael Goldman, July 2021

The question of how best to properly control exposure values on-set has vexed cinematographers for generations, and veteran cinematographer Ed Lachman ASC, was no exception. In Lachman’s case, however, he decided to do something concrete to help modern cinematographers address this challenge by coming up with a new exposure tool for digital camera systems based on an analogue approach to the issue. He calls it the EL Zone System, which he has patented and already got one major camera manufacturer–Panasonic–to incorporate into some of its digital cinema camera systems.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Sounds Like Family–How Skywalker Sound has Helped Boost Women’s Careers

By Michael Goldman, May 2021

At Skywalker Sound, women are making connections and that makes all the difference.

Danielle Dupre, a re-recording mixer and eight-year veteran at the famed Northern California facility, says she got her foot in the door thanks to the grace of another woman industry professional she had long admired.

“I emailed Leslie Ann Jones, now director of music recording and scoring at Skywalker [as well as a recording engineer and mixer], with no previous introduction,” Dupre recalled. “She got back to me right away and invited me to [Skywalker Ranch] to have lunch and meet some people. That’s how I met the guy who later ended up hiring me for an entry-level position that no longer exists–recordist. Leslie was so nice and made it obvious she wanted to help another woman in this industry.

Cinematography World: The Industry Lens–Course of Justice 

Fabian Wagner BSC ASC shoots Zack Snyder’s Justice League

By Michael Goldman, April 2021

When I originally spoke with cinematographer Fabian Wagner BSC ASC in 2017 to discuss the process of shooting director Zack Snyder’s Warner Bros. film, Justice League, he had not yet seen the final product. At the time, just as the film was originally releasing, Wagner knew there would be material in the movie he had not been involved with. That’s because Snyder ended up stepping away from the film before it was finished, due to the tragic suicide of his daughter, and Joss Whedon finished up at the helm. Wagner was likewise not involved in Whedon’s reshoots, due to a scheduling conflict, and so, his original participation essentially ended when Snyder’s did.

Cinematography World: The Vendor’s Voice, A Look at the Production Equipment Rental Group (PERG)

By Michael Goldman, April 2021

In the opinion of camera industry veteran Harry Box, the primary purpose of a good trade association “is to identify areas where there is difficulty or problems that affect everyone and address them as a service to the whole industry.”

Box ought to know ”“ he has served for over ten years as manager of the Production Equipment Rental Group (PERG) at ESTA (the Entertainment Services and Technology Association). Particularly considering challenges posed by the pandemic-ravaged last 12-plus months, Box suggests there are few entertainment sectors that need such support more than the equipment rental industry.

Cinematography World: WandaVision–Quirk, Strangeness, and Charm

By Michael Goldman, March 2021

The quirky nine-episode Disney+ show, WandaVision, has thrown some new and unexpected curveballs into the bloodstream of Marvel’s wider, cross property launch of the next phase of its film and TV empire.

American Cinematographer: News of the World–An American Journey

Dariusz Wolski, ASC helps director Paul Greengrass leave his comfort zone for this dramatic Western.

By Michael Goldman, March 2021

When director Paul Greengrass took on the first Western of his career, News of the World, he decided the material called for a departure from the “comfort zone” of his famed kinetic filmmaking style. Based on a novel by Paulette Jiles, the Reconstruction-era drama tells the story of a Confederate war veteran (Tom Hanks) who is traveling through Texas – reading newspapers to townsfolk to eke out a living – when he comes upon an orphaned white girl (Helena Zengel) who needs to return to distant relatives after spending most of her life raised by a Kiowa tribe. The rugged journey to bring her “home” across a harsh yet beautiful landscape, and the evolving relationship between the unlikely pair, form the emotional core of the story.

Cinematography World: The Industry Lens–Tenet DP Hoyte van Hoytema FSF NSC ASC Says the Big Screen is Best for Movies

By Michael Goldman, December 2020

The rollout of director Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi/action IMAX thriller Tenet has to be one of the most unusual in modern cinematic history, thanks to its arrival at precisely the same time the Covid-19 pandemic began ravaging the globe and, among other things, shutting down cinemas.

As a result, Warner Bros. postponed its summer U.S release before arranging an international rollout in select territories, and eventually, in the US, an even more limited IMAX or 70mm theatrical and pop-up drive-in rollout, where feasible.

At press time, the studio was debuting 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray sales of the film in the U.S. for those eager to finally see it at home. However, routine streaming of the movie for wide home viewing remained, as of press time, off the table at the insistence of Nolan.

American Cinematographer: Demons in LA, Penny Dreadful, City of Angels

John Conroy, ISC frames supernatural conflict on this Showtime spinoff series set in 1940s Los Angeles.

By Michael Goldman, July 2020

It’s early March, and night envelops the historic Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, nestled in the hills of Newhall, Calif. Cinematographer John Conroy, ISC moves about the exterior “graveyard” set, strategically placing yellow-dialed Astera Titan and Helios LED tubes behind grave markers and trees to create flicker effects designed to emulate elegant candlelight on a particularly warm Los Angeles evening in 1938. The scene takes place on Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Conroy’s camera team is tasked with shooting a crucial sequence of the new 10-episode Showtime series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. In the scene, Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) – in the midst of emotional pain – senses an evil presence looming behind him.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Life in the Pandemic, MPEG Members Speak Out

Career problems, financial hardship, even personal grief ”“ members have seen it all during recent stresses. Here’s how they have kept going.

By Michael Goldman, June 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic descended, entertainment professionals faced massive uncertainty regarding, among other things, what they should or should not be doing to make sure that the show, quite literally, could still go on. In a world of lockdowns and social unrest, home entertainment helped keep people rooted during a time of fear and uncertainty. So the post-production industry needed to figure out a way to navigate this new landscape-currently a huge area of focus for the editorial community.

“All the trade articles I’ve read about post-pandemic protocol have mainly discussed production,” said picture editor Shannon Davis. “But we have to make sure post is always in the conversation.”

American Cinematographer: To Be King–Making The Lion King

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, ASC and visual-effects supervisor Robert Legato, ASC team up in virtual space to shoot the photo-real reimagining of an animated favorite.

By Michael Goldman, August 2019

Society members Caleb Deschanel and Robert Legato sat down at the ASC Clubhouse on a Saturday morning in May to discuss their shared adventure that was the making of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, a photo-realistic reimagining of the classic Disney animated feature. As cinematographer, Deschanel employed revolutionary virtual-cinematography techniques; as visual-effects supervisor, Legato offered Deschanel the benefits of the many years he spent pioneering and then refining those techniques, starting with his work on James Cameron’s Avatar (AC Jan. 2010) and then Favreau’s previous feature, The Jungle Book (AC May ’16).

While The Lion King will undoubtedly have a profound industry-wide impact as it advances new methods of filmmaking, it will also further the paradigm first put forward by the production of Jungle Book, wherein the equipment, processes and philosophies that so-called “traditional” filmmakers have employed for decades are applied to animated imagery through a virtual-production workflow.

AC sat in on the filmmakers’ conversation and offers this edited transcript of their discussion.

Animation Magazine: The Mane Event–‘The Lion King’ Takes Pride in Virtual Production

By Michael Goldman, August 2019

One of the more surreal moments experienced by animation supervisor Andy Jones over the two-plus years he spent heading up the character animation work on Jon Favreau’s new version of The Lion King occurred following a screening of clips from the movie this summer. Jones ran into the film’s cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, ASC, who introduced him to his companion – famed actor Warren Beatty.

“Caleb introduced me and said, “This is Andy Jones, the animation supervisor on the show, and he was responsible for the performances you saw,’” Jones recalls. “Warren shook my hand and said he had never been that involved watching an animated film, that the performances were so compelling, and that he felt more for these characters than he has ever felt in an animated movie. That was such a huge compliment for our animation team.”

It won’t be the last compliment for the animation group at MPC, London.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Larry Jordan and the Many Joys of Editing Marlon Wayans’ Sextuplets

By Michael Goldman, August 2019

Director Michael Tiddes’ new improvisational comedy, Sextuplets, in which Marlon Wayans portrays seven – not six – different characters, exemplifies a couple of evolving industry trends. First, the movie, which debuts on Netflix in mid-August, is illustrative of the high-end production values and resources being poured into original feature films that reach audiences exclusively across streaming platforms these days. And second, the editorial workflow on the project was thoroughly intertwined with the visual effects workflow due to the nature of the material.

Emmy magazine: Passion and Purpose

A reporter seeks connections at the border and in life

By Michael Goldman, July 2019

Covering the border crisis in Mexico last year, MSNBC reporter Mariana Atencio, herself an immigrant from Venezuela, wanted viewers to know who the actual people caught in the calamity were, and why they were there.

“When you walk with thousands of people carrying whatever belongings they could salvage, with little babies, pregnant women – it shows you how physically grueling that journey was,” she says. “No one would go through that unless they felt they absolutely had to. They were doing it just to survive.”

Does Atencio’s passion clash with the notion of the dispassionate journalist? “It would be simply impossible,” she says, not to be moved by what she has witnessed, particularly on the immigration issue.

Emmy magazine: A Most Wanted Man

Ron Livingston savors success performing “close to who I really am.”

By Michael Goldman, June 2019

“Hurting yourself is easy, but living is hard.”

So says Ron Livingston, as Sam Loudermilk, to a fellow addict in episode one of Loudermilk, a comedy on the Audience Network. But this wisdom applies to both characters Livingston plays on TV these days. In addition to the recovering alcoholic and addiction counselor, there’s Jonathan Dixon, an apparent success who kills himself at the start of ABC’s A Million Little Things but appears in flashbacks.

Ironically, Loudermilk, despite his struggles, has a purpose in life, while Dixon, despite his many achievements, mysteriously packs it in.

American Cinematographer: Light Fantastic

Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS and Rob Marshall launch a new chapter for a cinematic icon with Mary Poppins Returns

By Michael Goldman, January 2019

In the mid-1930’s, as the “Great Slump” ravages London’s economy, the Banks family grapples with tragedy, looming financial ruin, and an almost complete disconnect from even the simplest of joys. With life getting more bitter by the day, their quiet desperation is sensed by a long-ago friend known for her skills with a spoonful of sugar. It’s been 24 years since the indomitable nanny completed her work with the Bankses and departed courtesy of her flying umbrella–and now, she returns to introduce the next generation to a host of new friends and magical, musical adventures.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Way Down Below the Ocean … Music Fit for the King of Atlantis

By Michael Goldman, December 2018

Although they are still in the frenzy of the final mix in early October, co-music editors Paul Rabjohns and J.J. George somehow find time to usher a visitor onto a Warner Bros. mixing stage to discuss their one-year-plus adventure editing the music track for a new superhero epic, James Wan’s Aquaman. The film, which opens through Warner Bros. December 21, is based on the long-running DC Comics character and features Jason Momoa in the title role as the grizzled, half-human scion of a legendary undersea kingdom known as Atlantis.

American Cinematographer: Homecoming: Broken Memories

Tod Campbell welcomes AC to the large-scale set of the Amazon series, where he and director Sam Esmail have reteamed to frame two disparate time periods and states of mind.

By Michael Goldman, November 2018

It’s March of 2018. We’re on a sprawling, two-story set constructed on Stages 24 and 25 at the Universal Studios Lot, where a busy crew scurries to make sure the opening tracking shot of the first episode of Homecoming – the new psychological-thriller series from Amazon Prime Video – works out exactly as visualized by director-producer Sam Esmail. The show, whose 10 half-hour episodes drop this month, explores the mysteries swirling beneath the surface of a Florida-based, state-of-the-art treatment center for emotionally damaged veterans of the Iraq War. The so-called “Homecoming” program is not all it seems, however, as the show’s main character, caseworker Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), will eventually discover as she struggles to assemble her experiences inside the facility into a coherent picture.

American Cinematographer: Global Pursuit

Rob Hardy, BSC, joins writer-director Christopher McQuarrie for the continent-hopping action of Mission: Impossible–Fallout

By Michael Goldman, September 2018

For the crew of writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible–Fallout–the sixth installment in the M:I franchise–the mission they accepted was likely the most complex international production of their careers to date. The movie tracks secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of Impossible Missions Force operatives as they travel the world to address the unintended consequences of a previous operation and neutralize the dire threat posed by spy-turned-terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and his acolytes.

Emmy Magazine: Taking the Wheel

Novelist Dennis Lehane is revved up over his other role, as a writer-producer for Audience Network’s Mr. Mercedes

By Michael Goldman, August 2018

When Stephen King dreamed up his first detective novel – a creepy cat-and-mouse game between a young psychopath and a retired cop – could even his storied imagination have foreseen how that book would affect another award-winning novelist?

Dennis Lehane, author of Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, Mystic River and 11 other books, has become central to Mr. Mercedes, the television version of King’s book of the same name. He says the role is part of “an on- going shift in my life” that began when he first got into television, writing for HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.

At press time, he was well into formulating the second season of the Audience Network show, which has been shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Space Farce: The Exploratory Workflow of “The Orville’

By Michael Goldman, August 2018

Despite being buried under various deadlines while cutting The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi dramedy series that has its second season premiere in December on Fox, the show’s core editorial team still found time recently to convey the zeitgeist of what they consider to be an exceptionally collaborative editing room. The show tells the sometimes serious and sometimes wacky story of a crew of misfits on a futuristic starship commanded by Captain Ed Mercer, played by MacFarlane. Virtually everything (12 first-season episodes and now 15 episodes for Season 2) is made on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles, including all work by the editorial group and most other post-production-related functions. And that, the editors suggest, is among the great joys of working on The Orville, even though the show, which has increased in episodes, has moved from three regular picture editors last season to two this year: industry veterans Tom Costantino, ACE, and Scott Powell, ACE.

American Cinematographer, Post Focus: Advances in Drone-Assisted Capture

By Michael Goldman, August 2018

Stephen Nakamura was color-correcting footage from Stefano Sollima’s new feature, Sicario: Day of the Soldado–shot by Dariusz Wolski, ASC, a longtime collaborator of Nakamura’s–the second in a series about federal agents on the front lines of the drug wars, when something unexpected occurred. The task at hand in his grading suite at Company 3 in Santa Monica, Calif., involved what appeared to be “typical aerial footage,” as the colorist describes, captured, he presumed, by the same Arri Alexa XT and Mini cameras used on the rest of the movie. He informed Wolski that this was his second drone-footage project in as many days, the prior having been some test material for an aerial photography reel for DJI, featuring footage captured by the manufacturer’s then-upcoming Zenmuse X7 drone camera system.

American Cinematographer: Across the Universe

Tobias Schliessler, ASC, joins an ensemble effort to realize director Ava DuVernay’s richly layered big-screen adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.

By Michael Goldman, April 2018

Tobias Schliessler, ASC calmly picks at his salad while taking a break from the grading on director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time at Film in Hollywood. His relaxed demeanor belies the fact that, in the face of the looming delivery deadline, his workday is far from finished. As he explains, this is the day “we absolutely have to be done with the first pass on the digital intermediate. I’ll be here until at least 2 in the morning.”

American Cinematographer, Online Exclusive: Blade of the Immortal: Samurai Cinematographer

Japan’s Nobuyasu Kita discusses the new period swordfighting epic he has photographed for genre master Takashi Miike.

By Michael Goldman, October 2017

When it comes to stylized, sophisticated and violent martial-arts films coming out of the realm of Japanese cinema, one of the long-established masters of the genre is director Takashi Miike, whose credits include Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassinsand Yakuza Apocalypse. For almost a decade, his filmmaking partner in crafting visuals has been cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita, who started working with Miike on the action sequel Crows Zero II (2009). The duo’s latest collaboration is the Samurai drama Blade of the Immortal, which is based on a famous Japanese manga comic book series of the same name.

VFX Voice: The Future of VFX–Industry Leaders Look Ahead

By Michael Goldman, October 2, 2017

As the visual effects community ponders what’s next for the industry, an ironic dichotomy colors the discussion. On the one hand, we are in “a Golden Age of visual effects, and we should take time to recognize that and celebrate it,” suggests Jim Morris, VES, General Manager and President of Pixar Animation Studios, and a veteran VFX producer and founding Chair of the Visual Effects Society.

American Cinematographer: Arri’s Second Century

Founded by August Arnold and Robert Richter, the equipment manufacturer celebrates its 100th anniversary and looks ahead to new innovations.

By Michael Goldman, September 2017

Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, ASC, AMC remembers cutting his teeth on a variety of Arri 16mm and 35mm film cameras as he came out of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s film school. He shot his first five feature films with them, and eventually fell in love with the Arriflex 35 BL-4, calling it “my favorite camera for many years. It was the best camera in its moment, my main tool.”

With the Arriflex 235, Lubezki felt he had found “probably one of the best cameras ever made,” he says. “We were at a moment when film cameras were just amazing.”

Then, at the dawn of the new millennium, digital acquisition began its ascent. “Everything suddenly went to digital very fast,” Lubezki recalls. “That was a scary moment, because most people were complaining about the quality of digital images at the time. We had an amazing image quality one minute, and then we just lost it.”

American Cinematographer: Great Escape

Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC teteams with Christopher Nolan to push large-format narrative filmmaking to new heights.

By Michael Goldman, August 2017

During a meeting to strategize how best to shoot aerial dogfighting sequences for the World War II epic Dunkirk–an entirely large-format film production–director Christopher Nolan and cinematographer HOyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC quickly realized that solving one problem had created another.

For these sequences, which were crucial to Nolan’s vision, the director was determined to use a 15-perf 65mm Imax MSM camera inside the tiny cockpit of a replica vintage Spitfire fighter plane as it engaged in actual aerial maneuvers. And thanks to a specialized periscope lensing system built by Panavision, the filmmakers solved the problem. However, it occurred to them that acquiring these “intimate angles” as van Hoytema calls them, foreshadowed a film-printing issue.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: The Del Spiva Experience–Music, Mobility, Mentoring

By Michael Goldman, August 4, 2017

Music editor Del Spiva chuckles when asked how he explains the job of a music editor to the uninitiated. For Spiva, explaining the job can be a Socratic experience; he throws challenges at his questioners until they comprehend the nature of his work.

“When people say they don’t understand what I do, I tell them to think of any song that is maybe three to five minutes long,” he explains. “And then, I ask them, “If you have a scene where you need to use that song for maybe 45 seconds, which part of the song do you use? Where does it start? Where does it end? How does it get from one place to the next? Why did you even use that song to begin with, and why in that particular scene? As a matter of fact, you have a choice of maybe 100,000 songs from which to choose. How do you choose?’

“Eventually, they say, “OK, I’m starting to get it,’” he continues. “There could be 70 places in a given film where those kinds of decisions are going to be made. That helps you see the level of creative work that goes into putting music into a film. Music editors are often the first and literally the last line of defense for any piece of music anywhere in a film.”

American Cinematographer: Dunkirk Post: Wrangling Two Large Formats

Detailing the photochemical workflow that combined 15-perf and 5-perf 65mm footage into a unified big-screen vision for the World War II epic.

Online Exclusive

By Michael Goldman, July 28, 2017

Christopher Nolan’s desire to make sure that Dunkirk proved to be “the highest resolution feature film ever made” – as the director says in AC‘s August cover story – required intense support from postproduction facilities Imax Post/DPK and FotoKem. Those companies were responsible for processing or manipulating hundreds of thousands of feet of 15-perf 65mm Imax and 5-perf 65mm motion-picture film and helping to shape it into a 1-hour-and-46-minute epic that has since been released in multiple formats – including, in about 100 theaters nationwide, 15-perf 70mm Imax.

Emmy Magazine: Welcome to Wonderland

For more than a quarter-century, Randy Barbara and Fenton Bailey’s World of Wonder has tacked closely to the cultural zeitgeist, embracing–as Bailey puts it–‘The unexamined and the unconsidered.’ Says Barbato: “Our work typically has a connection to people who feel marginalized or judged.”

By Michael Goldman, June (Issue 6), 2017

Rushing into the conference room on the top floor of the 1930s Art Deco building they own on Hollywood Boulevard, Randy Barbara and Fenton Bailey apologize for their lateness. They’ve just come from the edit room, where they locked the final cut of Menendez: Blood Brothers, a TV movie they coproduced and codirected for a June debut on Lifetime.

DGQ Quarterly: The Body and Soul of Live Casting

TV directors speak out on their role in the process even as remote online methods threaten to push them ‘out of the room.’

By Michael Goldman, Spring 2017

Veteran television director Rosemary Rodriguez recalls an uncomfortable situation not long ago in which she tried to guide a guest actor for an episode of a popular dramatic series whose casting did not involve her input. It didn’t take long to figure out the wrong performer had been chosen.

“I didn’t get to weigh in on the actor because they sent [online video links] to cast the role, and I was shooting, so they made the choice without me,” Rodriguez recalls. “The actor showed up on set for a recurring role that started in my episode, and he was nervous and inexperienced–he didn’t even know what a mark was. It was difficult to work with him, and it was obvious he was in over his head. I had to call the executive producer and suggest they rethink the idea of this being a recurring role, and the character didn’t continue past that episode.”

Rodriguez feels the situation might have been resolved differently had she been initially consulted. “When you take the director out of the equation,” she adds, “it won’t always be detrimental to the production, but it often will be.”

VFX Voice: VFX Supervisors at the Intersection of Technology and Character

By Michael Goldman

July 9, 2017 (Summer 2017 Issue)

If there is one thing notable about the orgy of tentpole, visual effects-driven motion pictures battling for eyeballs during the summer of 2017, it’s the fact that the glut of so many “big movies” with huge, impressive digital shot counts over a summer release season is no longer a big deal–it is expected.

VFX Voice: Vintage Creatures Revisited

By Michael Goldman

July 9, 2017 (Summer 2017 Issue)

Some of the huge VFX movies hitting big screens this summer feature iconic creatures we have seen before. The fact that Hollywood likes to revive stories and characters from books, comics, television, and older movies is nothing new, but in the modern era, putting a new twist on characters or creators of a fantastical nature, let alone ones with historical pedigrees, requires unbelievably complex visual effects work.

American Cinematographer: Shot Across the Bow

Paul Cameron, ASC, shoots the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, with an arsenal of new methods.

By Michael Goldman, June 2017

With a new creative team taking over production for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise on Dead Men Tell No Tales, one might expect a much different take on the series’ visual aesthetic. The project, after all, was directed by Norwegian duo Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, and shot by Paul Cameron, ASC, making it only the second of five Pirates movies to have been directed by someone other than Gore Verbinski and the first shot by a cinematographer other than Dariusz Wolski, ASC. The end result, however, pays significant homage to the series’ roots–but how the filmmakers got there is a different story.

American Cinematographer: CBS Digital Supports The Last Man on Earth

Post Focus

By Michael Goldman, April 2017

As The Last Man on Earth’s third season winds down, humanity’s last hope sits precariously in the hands of Phil Miller (Will Forte) and his pals–who might make viewers of the Fox comedy wonder whether humanity is worth preserving to begin with. At press time, shooting of the third season had wrapped and the final two episodes were entering the finishing stage at The Loft Post in Los Angeles. The series’ producers were still waiting to hear whether the show would return for a fourth season, but whatever Phil’s fate might be, the production methodology employed these past three seasons promises a hopeful future when it comes to visual effects–and specifically, virtual sets–for episodic television.

American Cinematographer: Love and War

Don Burgess, ASC reunites with Robert Zemeckis to frame the World War II thriller Allied almost exclusively on stage.

By Michael Goldman, December 2016

In reteaming with longtime collaborator Robert Zemeckis for the director’s latest effort, Allied, cinematographer Don Burgess, ASC found himself diving into a World War II-era romantic thriller. The movie tells the tale of two covert operatives–Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), an intelligence officer, and Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter–who meet in Casablanca, fall in love, start a family and live a normal life in London, until Vatan learns that it all may be a lie.

American Cinematographer: A Friend in Need

Oscar Faura teams with director J.A. Bayona to shoot a coming-of-age drama in a fantastical framework for A Monster Calls. 

By Michael Goldman, November 2016

Struggling to come to grips with his mother’s illness, a lonely, bullied British boy named Conor (Lewis McDougall) inadvertently summons a fantastical guardian–an ancient yew tree come to life (performed via motion capture and voiced by Liam Neeson). Depending on one’s interpretation of A Monster Calls, Conor is either tormented or assisted by his nightmarish companion, whose very existence is up for debate. Adapted by Patrick Ness from his novel, which was based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls represents the third feature collaboration between director J.A. Bayona and cinematographer Oscar Faura.

American Cinematographer: Questioning Reality

Film noir meets science-fiction in Meridian, a metaphysical short directed and co-written by Curtis Clark, ASC and shot in HDR 60fps 4k by Markus orderer, BVK.

By Michael Goldman, October 2016

Los Angeles, 1947. People have been disappearing – three, to be exact, and all on the same stretch of road along the Malibu coast. A witness saw the last guy literally vanish during a freak lightning storm, and LAPD detective Mack Foster [Kevin Kilner] has a feeling there’s more at play than mob hits or cliff jumpers. The hard-boiled cop sends his street-wise protégé, Jake Sullivan (Reid Scott), to check it out, and this time we get a glimpse of the particulars. A lightning storm, a mysterious woman (Elyse Levesque) in Sullivan’s rear-view mirror, then he’s gone too. Foster himself steps in to investigate, venturing through an ominous opening in a rock formation not far from Sullivan’s abandoned car, and soon finds himself in a place where the rules of conventional time and space do not apply.

Meridian is a noir, short-form, suspense-driven and enigmatic science-fiction project directed and co-written by ASC Technology Committee chairman Curtis Clark and shot by Markus Förderer, BVK.

American Cinematographer: Hostile Planet

Stephen F. Windon ASC, ACS joins director Justin Lin to bring digital acquisition, ambitious in-camera effects and frenetic action to Star Trek Beyond. 

By Michael Goldman, August 2016

Director Justin Lin and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, ASC, ACS faced a significant question upon stepping aboard Star Trek Beyond, the latest cinematic adventure of the starship Enterprise and its intrepid crew. With a mere 3 1/2 months before the start of production when they inherited the project, the new recruits had to decide quickly whether to retain the visual template established by director J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC on Star Trek (AC June ’09) and Star Trek Into Darkness (AC June ’13), or to move into undiscovered country.

American Cinematographer: Magic Acts

Peter Deming, ASC assists director Jon M. Chu in crafting a cinematic experience that adheres to the aesthetics of illusion for Now You See Me 2

By Michael Goldman, July 2016

When he took the reins for Now You See Me 2–the follow-up to the rollicking 2013 mystery-crime thriller Now You See Me–director Jon M. Chu gave careful thought to how the two films might diverge visually. Given that the sequel would have new blood at the helm–the prior picture having been directed by Louis Leterrier and shot by Mitchell Amundsen and Larry Fong, ASC–Chu sought a cinematographer with sensibilities similar to his own, and ultimately tapped Peter Deming, ASC to help design the continuing adventures of a team of maverick magicians dubbed the “Four Horsemen.”

American Cinematographer: Welcome to the Jungle

Bill Pope, ASC, pushes the boundaries of virtual cinematography for director Jon Favreau’s photo-real The Jungle Book. 

By Michael Goldman, May 2016

Director John Favreau is an ardent admirer of the 1967 animated Disney film The Jungle Book, but his new feature of the same name is more than just a re-imagining of that story. Favreau opted for an essentially unproven virtual-production methodology, and the result is an almost entirely digitally rendered and animated film that is intended to look completely photo-real. To realize this ambition, the director tapped cinematographer Bill Pope, ASC.

American Cinematographer: Left for Dead

Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC and Alejandro González Iñárritu brave extreme conditions while shooting The Revenant on location in the Canadian wilderness.

By Michael Goldman, January 2016

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC are keenly aware that their method of shooting The Revenant last fall and winter–in sequence and relying almost exclusively on natural light in the harsh Canadian wilderness–has been controversial. Now, after nearly five years of planning, and a brutal, extended production and post schedule, the filmmakers are eager to explain why they believe the undertaking was worth enduring such punishing conditions.

American Cinematographer: Wide Wide West

Robert Richardson, ASC, helps Quentin Tarantino revive, shoot, and present a classic 70mm format for The Hateful Eight. 

By Michael Goldman, December 2015

Quentin Tarantino’s crew is reconfiguring the set of Minnie’s Haberdashery, which has been transferred from a location in Colorado to a bone-cold soundstage at Red Studios Hollywood–artificially chilled to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity to make the cast’s exhaled breaths visible. Snug in a parka that’s been pinned with a sheriff’s badge, the director cheerfully greets visitors from American Cinematographer to the set of The Hateful Eight with a hearty, “Welcome to our super film set!”

American Cinematographer: Technicolor Turns 100

Technicolor celebrates its pioneering past and its continuing mission to influence the future.

By Michael Goldman, September 2015

Footage of beachgoers reveling in the California sun, shot by Daryn Okada, ASC, with Sony’s F65 camera, is playing on two side-by-side monitors. The image on the right is markedly superior. We’re at Technicolor Hollywood, and Mark Turner, vice president of partnership relations and business development, is demonstrating the Intelligent Tone Management plug-in. “The whole point of [high dynamic range] is to add contrast and brightness,” he explains, “but maintain all the interesting shadow detail without changing the creative intent of what the cinematographer originally wanted. [Clients] can’t spend a week [remastering old TV shows for Ultra HD], so we developed this algorithm to save colorists about 80 percent of the time it takes to move a shot into HDR space. It’s like getting a little Technicolor color scientist in a box – a damn good algorithm you can drop into your pipeline.”

“Color science remains the cornerstone of Technicolor’s legacy, and it is instrumental to our future,” says Tim Sarnoff, deputy CEO and president of production services. “As the industry transitions into next-generation video technologies, we remain committed to maintaining the integrity of the color pipeline with a holistic approach to each production, from on-set through distribution, bringing the creatives’ true artistic intent to the screen.”

ITM was unveiled in April at NAB, and in presenting the technology – which allows colorists to analyze video content in real time, and provides faster and more direct control of luminance in shadow areas, mid-tones and highlights – Technicolor is carrying on a pursuit of progress that has shaped moving-image technology for generations. From the day in 1915 when Herbert T. Kalmus, his MIT colleague Dr. Daniel Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott officially established the Technicolor Motion Picture Corp., to their revolutionary work in photochemistry in the decades that followed, to the birth and passing of the groundbreaking three-strip film camera, to the modern digital era and the dawn of the digital-intermediate process, and now into the realm of Ultra HD, Technicolor has been an ongoing force of radical advancement in the field of color science. This year marks the company’s 100th birthday.

Technicolor’s milestone anniversary brings its distinction into sharp relief.

American Cinematographer: Going Rogue

Robert Elswit, ASC details the production of Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, his second foray with the franchise

By Michael Goldman, August 2015

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his handpicked team of associates from the Impossible Mission Force must once again face down seemingly insurmountable odds in Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation. Behind the scenes, cinematographer Robert Elswit, ASC was likewise tapped for a return to the field after shooting the previous installment in the long-running franchise, 2011’s Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol. Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed Rogue Nation, had worked on the script for Ghost Protocol, so, as Elswit explains, “we had worked together indirectly on the last movie.” Between McQuarrie and producer-star Cruise, Elswit adds with a chuckle, “I guess they just decided it would be nice if I would shoot this movie.”

American Cinematographer: Picturing Tomorrow

Brad Bird and Claudio Miranda, ASC, picture a bright future for Tomorrowland.

By Michael Goldman, June 2015

Director Brad Bird calls his new movie, Tomorrowland, “a very unusual film,” both in terms of its look and how it was made. Inspired by the section of Disneyland with the same name, the film tells the story of a former boy genius (George Clooney) and a teenaged girl (Britt Robertson) who stumble into an alternate future reality built on secret scientific achievements.

In visualizing the screenplay he co-wrote with Damon Lindelof, Bird insisted on an image that would hold up to 4K digital projection. “I was looking for something that would have a rich look,” Bird says. “We figured 4K digital projectors would be the best way this movie would be exhibited. I thought maybe 65mm could be used to acquire the image, but we didn’t feel confident that the movie could be projected [in 70mm]. I also thought maybe we could shoot different formats – something I had done [on Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol] – but at the end of the day, it became too complicated to get everything mastered in 4K.” Helping Bird make the decision was cinematographer Claudio Miranda, ASC.

American Cinematographer: Accelerated Action

ACS members Stephen Windon and Marc Spicer help James Wan propel Furious 7 across the finish line.

By Michael Goldman, May 2015

When director James Wan stepped out of the indie world to take the helm of Furious 7–his first tentpole action feature and the latest installment of the high-octane Fast & Furious franchise–he remembers initially feeling “incredibly excited by the chance to play in a big sandbox with ally he cool toys and let my imagination run loose.” Two grueling years later, though, wan mainly wants to emphasize “the great crew, and the hard work and effort that went into making this film come together in the end. After all, we had to discover and feel our way along to make it work.”

In part, Wan is referring to the ramifications of the tragic death of one of the film’s co-stars, Paul Walker, in late 2013, before principal photography was completed. The event stunned the entire production and put it on an extended hiatus that altered many aspects of its schedule, staff and logistics when shooting finally resumed in April 2014. Even beyond that, the sheer complexity of executing the multiple action set pieces that the franchise’s audience has come to expect was, as Wan puts it, “unprecedented.”

American Cinematographer: A Wider World

With Insurgent, Florian Ballhaus, ASC helps director Robert Schwentke propel the Divergent franchise in new visual directions.

By Michael Goldman, April 2015

Picking up where last year’s Divergent ended, Insurgent continues the story of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a “Divergent” who does not fit neatly into the faction structure of the story’s apocalyptic society. Having escaped from the Big Brother-style government headed by the nefarious Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), Tris is now on the run with her comrade-in-arms and love interest, Four (Theo James).

Neil Burger was in the director’s chair for Divergent (AC April ’14), and while he remained attached to Insurgent as an executive producer, he passed the directorial reins to Robert Schwentke, who in turn called on longtime collaborator Florian Ballhaus, ASC to serve as director of photography.

American Cinematographer: Production Slate

Secret Agent Man

By Michael Goldman, March 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the tale of an ultra-secret British spy agency that recruits a young street punk (Taron Egerton) for its training program, just as an evil-genius billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) initiates a twisted plan to wreak havoc on the world. Director Matthew Vaughn invited cinematographer George Richmond to Munich in the summer of 2013 to shoot test, determined to find the right techniques to produce the classic-film feel he was after while shooting digitally.

American Cinematographer: Production Slate

Hunting Down Hackers

By Michael Goldman, February 2015

Directed by Michael Mann and with cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh, ASC, NZCS, the cyber-crime thriller Blackhat tells the story of a combined American-Chinese law-enforcement team’s pursuit of a mysterious group of hackers who have managed to blow up a power plant and spike the stock market. Mann readily asserts that the production’s 66-day shoot, which involved 74 locations in four countries, was “absolutely right up there” among the most complex projects of his career.

American Cinematographer: Questionable Circumstance

David Fincher and Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, embrace a new workflow to visualize Gone Girl.

By Michael Goldman, November 2014

Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl paints a dark psychological portrait of the married couple at its core. After Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing without a trace, her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), is squeezed by an unrelenting media circus as he works desperately to either find his wife or cover up the fact that he is responsible for her fate. The portrait’s shadings become clearer as the movie jumps around in time, spanning approximately a year as it cuts between Nick and Amy’s backstory and the present-day mystery.

The material is a perfect fit for director David Fincher, who once again teamed with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC. For this project, they opted to work with 6K-capable Red Epic Dragon cameras, which had not yet been put through their paces on a full studio feature. (According to Red, Transformers: Age of Extinction used the camera but used other cameras and formats, as well.) In turn ,the choice of camera pushed Fincher’s post workflow into a new realm; among other methodologies, Adobe Premiere Pro CC was used on new Nvidia Quadro K5200-equipped workstations to cut the movie in HD ProRes, and a special 6K DI data-processing pipeline was developed at Light Iron in Los Angeles.

American Cinematographer: Production Slate–24 Returns

By Michael Goldman, September 2014

When Fox resurrected the 24 television franchise with the 12-episode special event 24: Live Another Day, the writers moved the show’s setting to London and gave battle-scarred Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) one of is most impossible challenges to date. A hunted fugitive without his usual resources, Bauer had to dodge the CIA, save London from bombardment by terrorists who had seized control of American drones, protect the president, ferret out a traitor, and confront old Russian and Chinese enemies who very much wanted him dead.

Despite a four-year hiatus, between season eight and Live Another Day, Bauer pulled off his return with both aplomb and solid ratings. His efforts were equaled offscreen by the crew, who, cinematographer Jeffrey Mygatt says, was tasked with producing “the exact same show that ran for eight years, but with an entirely new crew and [acquisition] format, while working overseas with almost no setup or rehearsal time.”

American Cinematographer: Capturing All 4 Seasons

Tom Stern, ASC, AFC and director Clint Eastwood transition to digital acquisition for the exuberant musical Jersey Boys.

By Michael Goldman, August 2014

When asked what director Clint Eastwood liked best about shooting a full-length feature with a digital camera system, the director’s longtime collaborator, Tom Stern, ASC, AFC, retorts that the answer should be obvious to anyone familiar with their working methods: Eastwood grooved on the ability to shoot longer takes for sustained periods without having to stop for magazine changes. Finding that groove proved crucial for Jersey Boys, Eastwood’s first foray into both digital acquisition and the musical genre.

American Cinematographer: Time Benders

Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, shoots in stereo for the time-traveling superhero adventure X-Men: Days of Future Past

By Michael Goldman, July 2014

In X-Men: Days of Future Past, the mutant heroes plot to circumvent an apocalyptic future by sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to partner with his teammates’ younger selves and alter the course of history. Shaking up the X-Men films via this time-traveling tale particularly appealed to director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC–who, along with director Bryan Singer, returned to the franchise for the first time since shooting X-Men( AC July ’00) and its first sequel X2 (AC April ’03). (Singer had maintained a producing role on subsequent films.) Beyond the narrative, though, Sigel was also inspired by Singer’s insistence that Days of Future Past be shot in native 3-D.

American Cinematographer: Production Slate

Scouring India for Baseball Talent

By Michael Goldman, June 2014

As the first day of filming Million Dollar Arm in the streets of Mumbai, India, wore on during a boiling hot day last May, director Craig Gillespie suddenly realized the enormity of the task ahead of him. based on a true story, the film follows a U.S. sports agent, J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), as he searches for Indian men who can be trained to become Major League Baseball pitchers. The first part of the story dramatizes the Million Dollar Arm contest, which was staged across India in 2007, and the filmmakers were shooting these sequences in May, near the end of India’s summer, to accommodate Hamm’s availability.

American Cinematographer: Outcast Power

Divergent, directed by Neil Burger and shot by Alwin Küchler, BSC, envisions a polished, utopian future.

By Michael Goldman, April 2014

In taking the helm of the first entry in the sci-fi action-adventure franchise Divergent, director Neil Burger faced a crucial choice about how to visualize the near-future Chicago described in the story. Based on books by Veronica Roth about a young woman who becomes embroiled in a government’s secret plans for maintaining its class-divided society, Divergent explores the tale of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and what happens when she literally diverges from established protocols for choosing what faction and life path she is supposed to pursue.

American Cinematographer: And She Was

Her, shot by Hoyte van Hoytema, FSF, NSC, and directed by Spike Jonze, finds poetry in a virtual romance.

By Michael Goldman, January, 2014

When Spike Jonze went looking four a cinematographer to help visualize his new movie, Her, and fill the spot previously occupied by longtime collaborator Lance Acord, ASC, who was unavailable, he hoped to find someone who would understand the romantic sensibility at the heart of the story, a technology-influenced character study set in the near future. Impressed by the work of hoyte van hoytema, FSF, NSC, Jonze called director David O. Russell, who had worked with the Swiss cinematographer on The Fighter (AC Jan. ’11). “David had as many amazing things to say about Hoyte personally as he did about the work, and that was really important to me,” says Jonze.

American Cinematographer: Boom and Bust

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC and Martin Scorsese discuss their approach to The Wolf of Wall Street, the true story of a stockbrocker run amok.

By Michael Goldman, December 2013

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC recalls feeling “amazing and excited, but also a bit scared” when he first met with Martin Scorsese to discuss the possibility of shooting The Wolf of Wall Street, which is based on a bestselling book about the rise-and-fall life of Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) during the 1990s. Belfort dived spectacularly into drugs, securities fraud and money laundering, and eventually ended up in jail.

With longtime collaborator Robert Richardson, ASC unavailable, Scorsese turned to Prieto because he had long admired his work, particularly Brokeback Mountain (AC Jan. ’06) and Lust, Caution (AC Oct. ’07). “In a sense, I would say Rodrigo’s lighting is more naturalistic, and his cinematography more invisible,” the director observes, corresponding with AC via email. “It has an impact on the subconscious [and] creates a kind of energy that nudges the audience in the intended direction.”

American Cinematographer: Prime Target

Roland Emmerich and Anna Foerster, ASC lay siege to the presidential residence for White House Down.

By Michael Goldman, July 2013

When director Roland Emmerich began prepping his action thrillerWhite House Down, one of his first calls was to Anna Foerster, ASC, the director of photography on his last feature, Anonymous (AC Sept. ’11). Emmerich calls Foerster’s work on that period thriller “stunning,” and says he was determined to bring her aboard White House Down. “I told her she could make an action movie like this really good looking, beautiful even,” he says. “The more we talked about it, the more interested she became, and eventually, she committed. And once Anna commits, all you can say is, “Wow!’”

American Cinematographer: Boldy Captured

Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC and J.J. Abrams combine anamorphic 35mm with 8-perf and 15-perf 65mm for Star Trek Into Darkness.

By Michael Goldman, June 2013

For Star Trek Into Darkness, director J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC initially planned to shoot digitally in 3-D, but in the end, their shared affection for the anamorphic format and their desire to maintain visual consistency with 2009’s Star Trek (AC June ’09) led them to choose film instead. Mindel likens their decision to a confrontation between the Enterprise crew and an intergalactic threat, recalling that it sparked “an epic battle.”

A Trailblazer’s Tale

Don Burgess, ASC, helps Brian Helgeland visualize Jackie Robinson’s dash past Major League Baseball’s color line.

By Michael Goldman, May 2013

At a crucial moment in 42, a drama about the period in which baseball executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) teamed with the legendary Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to racially integrate Major League Baseball, Robinson has simply had enough. Subject to racist taunts by Cleveland Indians manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), Robinson storms into the tunnel leading from the dugout to the locker room and vents his rage with a baseball bad on a concrete wall.

American Cinematographer: Hell on Wheels

Director Derek Cianfrance and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, BSC, meld a guerilla-filmmaking aesthetic with an epic canvas for The Place Beyond the Pines.

By Michael Goldman, April 2013

One day in August 2011, on location in Schnectady, N.Y., not long after forging an intense camaraderie with Sean Bobbitt, BSC, director Derek Cianfrance faced a troubling few seconds wondering whether Bobbitt had badly hurt himself during their joint pursuit of realistic visuals for the production at hand, The Place Beyond the Pines. 

American Cinematographer: Three hot shows prove TV is still a cool medium: Phil Spector (HBO)

By Michael Goldman, March 2013

The professional relationship between Juan Ruiz-Anchia, ASC and writer/director David Mamet goes back to House of Games (1987), so the cinematographer well knows what it takes to craft visuals to match Mamet’s writing style. Their latest collaboration is the HBO movie Phil Spector, which portrays events surrounding the first trial of Spector (Al Pacino), in 2007, for the murder of Lana Clarkson, and focuses primarily on his relationship with his attorney, Linda Kenney Baden (Helen Mirren).

American Cinematographer: The World’s Most Wanted Man

Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and shot by Greig Fraser, ACS, dramatizes the hunt for Osama bin Laden with a run-and-gun style.

By Michael Goldman, February 2013

Cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS emphasizes that director Kathryn Bigelow “really excels at the run-and-gun” method of filmmaking, and he experienced this firsthand onZero Dark Thirty, which documents the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden and the 2011 covert op in Pakistan that successfully ended it.

American Cinematographer: Natural Bourne Killer

Robert Elswit, ASC and director Tony Gilroy expand the action franchise’s visual style with The Bourne Legacy

By Michael Goldman, September 2012

One day in late June, as he wraps up a digital-intermediate session at Deluxe’s Company 3 in Santa Monica and prepares to head to a sound-mixing session at nearby Todd-AO, director Tony Gilroy pauses to confer with cinematographer Robert Elswit, ASC and colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, an ASC associate. Gilroy wants to know if an assassin’s skin tone appears too saturated during a brief close-up from an early sequence in The Bourne Legacy. It’s a short conversation – Gilroy almost immediately defers to Elswit, who shot the filmmaker’s first two features, MichaelClayton and Duplicity.

American Cinematographer: Web-Slinging in Stereo

John Schwartzman, ASC beta-tests the Red Epic to capture The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D

By Michael Goldman, August 2012

Rebooting a popular film franchise is risky enough, but walking a technical highwire along the way adds a whole new challenge o the mix. Cinematographer John Schwartzman, ASC, and director Marc Webb both concede they took on such perils to capture The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D, but they also agree that their choices paid off. “Of any movie material, Spider-Man seems to beg for 3-D treatment,” says Webb. “The only real issue was whether to capture in stereo or shoot 2-D and convert in post.”

American Cinematographer: Harsh Realms

5 Cinematographers contribute to the new season of HBO’s fantasy-adventure series Game of Thrones

By Michael Goldman, May 2012

HBO’s series Game of Thrones documents the political, military and emotional entanglements between rival ancient kingdoms on a fictional continent. As such, it’s a period piece, a fantasy piece, an ensemble piece and a production that relies heavily on location, design and camerawork to pull off the illusion. The show is so big that it has required the efforts of multiple cinematographers; three shot season one, and five shot season two, which began airing last month.

American Cinematographer: Stepping into the Shadows

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, shot by Tom Stern, ASC, AFC, puts an infamous American center stage, but not exactly in the spotlight.

By Michael Goldman, December 2011

It’s March 2011, and director Clint Eastwood is consulting with cinematographer Tom Stern, ASC, AFC; A-camera/Steadicam operator Stephen Campanelli; and gaffer Ross Dunkerley before making up his mind about a complicated Steadicam sequence for the period drama, J. Edgar. The men are standing in a corridor built on Warner Bros.’ Stage 16 that is designed to look like a hallway in the Department of Justice in the 1920s.

American Cinematographer: Home Invasion

Alik Sakharov, ASC helps Rod Lurie remake the 1970s classic Straw Dogs

By Michael Goldman, October 2011

When director Rod Lurie phoned Alik Sakharov, ASC, a couple of years ago and asked if he wanted to shoot a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s violent drama, Straw Dogs (1971), the cinematographer told him, “Rod, you  got some balls. That’s not something everyone would take on.”

American Cinematographer: Dangerous Beauties

By Michael Goldman, August 2011

In many ways, the risque Cinemax series, Femme Fatales, can be viewed as a prototype of how tightly budgeted television production can succeed in the era of digital tools and ridiculous turnarounds. Each half-hour episode is shot at a single practical location in the Los Angeles area with a single camera, a Red One (with the Mysterium-X chip). There are one day of prep and three days of actual production (and the occasional pickup shoot) per episode.

American Cinematographer: Ring of Power

Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS and his collaborators weave palette into plot for Green Lantern

By Michael Goldman, July 2011

Green Lantern is a movie that deals directly, intimately and constantly with the issue of color. After all, it’s a comic-book-sourced movie, and, as cinematographer Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS notes, “color is an integral part of the comic-book canon.” In this case, however, Beebe is referring to far more than the title or lead character (played by Ryan Reynolds), a common human who earns the right to wear a powerful, energy-emitting ring to fight the forces of evil as part of an intergalactic organization.

American Cinematographer: Scalawags in Stereo

Darius Wolski, ASC, tackles 3-D capture for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

By Michael Goldman, June 2011

Looking back, Dariusz Wolski, ASC, chuckles at his Steadicam operator’s plight while trying to capture Johnny Depp’s performance on an isolated beach in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, for a climactic scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Because the movie was being captured in native 3-D, Steadicam operator David Luckenbach was laboring beneath a heavy stereo rig, waiting for director Rob Marshall to call “action.”

“The rig was so heavy, and and we were on sand,” Wolski recalls. “David could feel his feet sinking all the way to his ankles. He couldn’t lift his foot when when they called ‘Action’ so he constantly had to stomp up and down to keep his feet free. That’s an example of how exhausting this shoot was.”

American Cinematographer: Warner Bros. MPI Facilitates Fast Finish for Red Riding Hood

By Michael Goldman, April 2011

Color is not only in the title but also at the core of Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, and the director worked with the film’s cinematographer, Mandy Walker, ASC, and colorist Maxine Gervais of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging to achieve what she had in mind. Hardwicke suggests the trio’s close collaboration was particularly crucial in light of the picture’s short schedule: 43 days of principal photography and 10 weeks less post time than originally planned.

American Cinematographer: Weekly Wonders

Cinematographer on the series Human Target discusses the work

By Michael Goldman, March 2011

Robert McLachlan, ASC, CSC, fondly recalls early “Alexa moments” late last year when he used the new Arri Alexa digital camera for the first time on Fox’s Human Target. The Vancouver production had just switched, late in season two, from shooting with Arri’s D-21 to the Alexa at the strong urging of McLachlan, producer/director Steve Boyum, and line producer Grace Gilroy. Those moments included immediate success using the Alexa in twilight for a day-exterior shot that he wasn’t initially sure the sensor could read adequately in fading light, but which ended up matching well. They also included a location scout where McLachlan overcame concern about shooting inside a poorly lit hotel.

American Cinematographer: Behind the Music

John Bailey, ASC captures a conflicted singer’s onstage and offstage lives in Country Strong

By Michael Goldman, February 2011

Shana Feste was only 4 years old when Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980) was released, but eventually, that film sparked her own desire to make movies that were character-driven dramas. It also led her to recruit Ordinary People director of photography, John Bailey, ASC, to shoot her first feature, The Greatest (2009). They recently reteamed on her second, Country Strong. “I’ve been very lucky to get John for my first two movies,” says Feste. “I trusted his setups to tell the story, and that allowed me to do my job as a director and focus on the actors. John has worked with lots of first-time filmmakers, and he’s particularly gracious.”

American Cinematographer: Tough Love

Hoyte van Hoytema, NSC, FSF mixes 2-perf Super 35mm and Betacam-SP for the period boxing drama, The Fighter

By Michael Goldman, January 2011

From the earliest moments that producer/actor Mark Wahlberg and director David O. Russell partnered to develop The Fighter, they had raw and uniquely American visuals in mind. Ironically, they turned to a European cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema, NSC, FSF, to get that job done. Russell was impressed by van Hoytema’s work on the Swedish feature, Let the Right One In, and on the black-and-white Swedish television show, How Soon is Now?

What Russell hired van Hoytema to shoot was, at its core, a gritty, reality-based drama. Wahlberg stars as Boston boxer “Irish” MIcky Ward, who learns how to be a champion from his half brother, Dickie (Christian Bale), even as Dickie battles drug addiction.

American Cinematographer: Romantic Chemistry

Steven Fierberg, ASC helps Ed Zwick visualize Love and Other Drugs, the story of a pharmaceuticals salesman who finds his soul mate.

By Michael Goldman, December 2010

Love and Other Drugs is a romantic tale about a relationship between a free spirit, Maggie (Anne Hathaway), and a Pfizer pharmaceuticals salesman, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal). With its close focus on an intimate story, it’s a far cry from the movies writer/director Ed Zwick has made in recent years, including Defiance (AC Jan. 09), Blood Diamond, and The Last Samurai (AC Jan. 04), but he maintains he has “always been interested in relationships in my movies, even in the more muscular ones.”

American Cinematographer: A Modern Romance

Tom Stern ASC, AFC Helps Clint Eastwood exploit the latest technologies on the supernatural drama Hereafter

By Michael Goldman, November 2010

Clint Eastwood’s 32nd directorial effort, Hereafter, certainly backs up  his oft-stated preference for making unorthodox films and not repeating himself. The supernatural romance tells three stories, in diverse locations, about unconnected characters who are linked by their growing obsession with the afterlife. The movie begins as one of those people–a Frenchwoman named Marie (Cecile De France)–has a near-death experience and briefly glimpses the hereafter. The narrative then jumps to London, where we meet a lonely little boy named Marcus (Frankie McLaren), who years to communicate with his recently deceased twin brother. Both characters eventually find themselves drawn to George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a San Franciscan with paranormal abilities who can commune with the dead by touching their loved ones.

American Cinematographer: With Friends Like These …

David Fincher and Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, help beta-test Red’s Mysterium-X chip on The Social Network, which chronicles the founding of Facebook.

By Michael Goldman, October 2010

Director David Fincher declares that his team employed “a righteous workflow” for The Social Network, a digitally captured feature that details the development of the Facebook website by Harvard University students in 2003. According to Fincher, his team, which included cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, managed to simplify while significantly advancing the data-based workflow methods employed on Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (shot on high-definition video and 35mm; AC Jan. ’09) and Zodiac (shot on HD video; AC April ’07).

American Cinematographer: War Horses

Director Sylvester Stallone enlists Jeffrey L. Kimball, ASC to capture outlandish action in The Expendables.

By Michael Goldman, September 2010

Despite spending decades making iconic, testosterone-infused imagery, Sylvester Stallone insists he has never directed an action picture that compares to the macho pedigree found in front of and behind the camera on his latest film, The Expendables. The movie, which stars Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham, among others, tells the tale of a band of aging mercenaries who are lured into one last mission in a fictional South American Country, where they tangle with a corrupt dictator, pirates, traitors and rogue CIA operatives, among others.

American Cinematographer: True Colors

David Boyd, ASC reteams with director and fellow ASC member Aaron Schneider on the nuanced period piece Get Low.

By Michael Goldman, August 2010

By design, strong connective tissue links Get Low’s plot with the story of how the independent feature got made. Set in Tennessee in 1934, the tale has a vintage feel that directly influenced the filmmakers and their methods. Five-plus years of development went into the character study of an old, mysterious hermit who decides to reveal a shocking, long-held secret by inviting everyone in town to his funeral party–which he plans to stage while he is still alive. The nature of the story, combined with the project’s resources and the aesthetic preferences of director and ASC member Aaron Schneider and his cinematographer, David Boyd, ASC, took Get Low down a very traditional production path. Schneider, who made the transition from shooting to directing with the Academy Award-winning short film, Two Soldiers, also shot by Boyd, says he is overwhelmingly happy with the results of his labors: a charmingly quixotic tale built almost entirely around Robert Duvall’s performance, supported by players of similar caliber, including Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Lucas Black.

American Cinematographer: Crowning Achievements

Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC details his his award-winning work on The Tudors, a lush period piece he captured digitally, first with the Sony F900, and finally with the Panavision Genesis

By Michael Goldman, July 2010

Upon launching his four-year adventure shooting Showtime’s The Tudors, cinematographer Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC rapidly found his thoughts turning to the subject of light. After all, when one endeavors to bring 16th-century England to life on-screen in a realistic fashion, one has to face the fact that the only period-correct artificial light sources will be candles, torches, fireplaces, and the like. Rawi notes that when he signed onto The Tudors in 2006, Sony’s HDW-F900 was the acquisition tool, and the camera is “ultra-sensitive to anything bright. And yet I needed brightness for my frames, because I intended to use candles as primary sources as much as possible to enhance realism.”

The Tudors recently ended its 38-episode run, and after color-timing the last episode at Technicolor Toronto (with colorist Ross Cole), Rawi finally had time to reflect what he and  his colleagues had achieved on the series.

American Cinematographer: Desert Storm

John Seale, ASC, ACS and his collaborators conquer daunting logistics on the period adventure film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

By Michael Goldman, June 2010

Adapted from a video game created by Jordan Mechner, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time follows an adventurous prince, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who joins forces with a princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to prevent an ancient dagger with magical powers from falling into villainous hands. The project, which director Mike Newell calls “a gigantic undertaking,” was in production throughout much of 2008, incorporating, at times, four or five separate units working on four desert locations in Morocco and on 10 stages at England’s Pinewood Studios.

American Cinematographer: Down the Rabbit Hole

Dariusz Wolski, ASC adds dimension to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a blend of live-action cinematography, visual effects and 3-D post techniques.

By Michael Goldman, April 2010

As Tim Burton’s team plowed down the home stretch while finishing the 3-D fantasy Alice in Wonderland, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, ASC waxed philosophical about having a somewhat atypical role on a strange project that some might consider a distant cousin of Avatar. “This is one of those modern movies that makes it really hard to define the role of the cinematographer,” he observes. “It’s a film that really defined itself during preproduction. When we started, we had no idea exactly how we would make it.”

American Cinematographer: Redesigning Dollhouse

By Michael Goldman, February 2010

It had already been a high-stress morning for cinematographer Lisa Wiegand and the rest of the crew and cast of Fox’s Dollhouse by the time Joss Whedon, the show’s creator/producer, gathered them for a sit-down on a soundstage in mid-November. The team was not yet even halfway through another long filming day, with the entire cast participating in the final scene of the episode at hand, “The Attic.” Whedon announced that 20th Century Fox had decided to cancel the show. Production on “The Attic” and the final three episodes would continue, he added, and the entire second season would air.

Cinemontage/Editor’s Guild: Raising the ‘Genius’ Bar

Online Exclusive

By Michael Goldman, April 2017

There probably isn’t a more iconic 20th century figure than Albert Einstein, given that his scientific work literally changed the course of world history and how humans view the universe. At the same time, until now, there may never have been a major historical figure’s life story harder to neatly package up and dramatize in a narrative format than Einstein’s. He’s been the subject of numerous books and documentaries, of course, but it took literally decades of studying his private correspondence before it finally became clear that his personal human story was even more dramatically compelling than his scientific story.

Cinemontage/Editor’s Guild: You Want It ‘Darker’

Music Editors Angie Rubin and Bill Abbott Craft the Soundtrack for ‘Fifty Shades’ Sequel

By Michael Goldman, February 2017

Listening to singer-songwriter Halsey’s new single, “Not Afraid Anymore,” as it pulsates through a fresh Dolby Atmos mix on a stage at Universal Studios in the company of music editors Angie Rubin, MPSE, and Bill Abbott can be a bit of an unsettling experience. The track is accompanying an erotic sequence, known as the “Red Room” scene, in the new Universal Pictures film, Fifty Shades Darker, which opened February 10. Rubin and Abbott, after all, played key roles in helping to select and edit the song – and all the others in this sequel to the 2015 adult drama Fifty Shades of Grey, for which they also served as co-music editors.

Cinemontage/Editor’s Guild: Jerry Greenberg’s Long Love Affair with Editing

By Michael Goldman, Winter 2016

Asked to reflect on his many career achievements and adventures while he’s sitting in his Los Angeles living room on a warm October afternoon, Oscar-winning editor Jerry Greenberg, ACE, briefly hesitates. “I don’t want to give the impression that I’m going toward the end of my professional life knowing that the only thing I’m doing is telling anecdotes,” he explains. “I’ve told many of them before, after all, though the older I get, I realize they are entertaining and an indicator of what my experience may have been.”

This time, however, Greenberg seeks a way to adequately express how much in love he is with the artform of cinematic editing, a relationship that began when he was a young man and escalated to the point where he now calls editing “my mistress, my distraction, the thing I always wanted in my life.” To do that, he patiently explains that he “backed into this business” originally and became attracted to “the rhythm and thought process” that goes into editing.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: The Wide, Wide West

Editor Fred Raskin on Tarantino’s ‘Hateful Eight’ in Ultra Panavision 70

By Michael Goldman, Fall 2015

When director Quentin Tarantino visualized his newest revenge Western, The Hateful Eight, as a 70mm widescreen production, sold it to distributor The Weinstein Company as such, and eventually upped the vintage widescreen aesthetic further by unearthing vintage lenses at Panavision and filming it in a format that Hollywood had not even attempted to use in almost 50 years–Ultra Panavision 70–his intent was to make a piece of cinema that was a throwback to the rich, special-event theatrical spectacles of the analog era.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Everything’s Coming Up ACES

New Color Management Standard’s Impact on Editors and Colorists

By Michael Goldman, Summer 2015

Lately, the buzz surrounding the arrival of the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) as a standardized, device-independent, color management and image interchange system meant to be applied to present-day and future workflows has ramped up in intensity. The ACES project began over 10 years ago when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gathered industry experts together to develop, essentially, “a common digital interchange file format suitable for long-term archiving,” explains Andy Maltz, managing director of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, which heads up the ACES effort.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Editors of ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’

The Series’ Superheroes of Post Surmount Formidable Challenges Weekly

By Michael Goldman, Spring 2015

As Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. races to its second season finale May 12, the ambition of the series’ approach to the current generation of ensemble, superhero-based, action dramas was becoming increasingly clear. The ABC show’s layers include an ever-growing cast of characters who periodically change allegiance, winding plot lines that are often linked directly or indirectly to the rest of the Marvel media universe, curveballs that often hit the show straight out of the Marvel movies, a need to show respect to a sometimes fanatical fan base of comic book aficionados, some particularly sophisticated visual effects elements by network television standards, deep writing that includes elements from multiple genres, and a whole lot more. Consequently, making Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. work just right is no easy feat. At the center of making this gargantuan effort succeed each week is the program’s picture editorial department and editing methodology.

CineMontage/Editor’s Guild: Oscar’s Favorite Film Editors

By Michael Goldman, Winter 2015

The Academy Award nominees for Film Editing this year exemplify the importance of the collaborative role of the editor in shaping a director’s vision. William Goldenberg, ACE, won an Oscar and an ACE Eddie Award for Argo in 2013, and has now been nominated five times for each award after this year’s honors for his work in partnership with Norwegian director Morten Tyldum crafting the nonlinear, low-budget, English indie film, The Imitation Game.

The other previous Oscar nominee is Joel Cox, ACE, Clint Eastwood’s longtime editor and also a former Oscar winner and now a three-time nominee, to go along with four Eddie nominations and one victory (Cox’s Oscar and Eddie were for 1992’s Unforgiven). Cox partnered with Gary Roach, ACE, a first-time Oscar and Eddie nominee, to cut American Sniper the controversial adaptation of the memoir penned by late Iraqi War veteran Chris Kyle.

Editor’s Guild magazine: When Uncle Walt Met Mary Poppins

Mark Livolsi Edits ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

By Michael Goldman, January-February, 2014

Fittingly, the evolving cinematic relationship between editor Mark Livolsi, A.C.E., and director John Lee Hancock continues bringing other, notable real-life relationships to the public’s attention on the big screen. The two first got together when Hancock, according to Livolsi, hired the editor “off a phone interview, sight unseen” to cut the huge hit he generated in 2009, The Blind Side. That movie depicted the emotional story of the actual relationship between a homeless football player and an aristocratic Southern wife and mother who helps guide him to a better life.

Now, the release of Hancock’s current film, Saving Mr. Banks, which tells the tale of the making of Disney’s famous film, Mary Poppins, puts the spotlight on an even more unlikely pairing in many respects. That relationship is the tense one that percolated for two decades before reaching a head in the early 1960s between Walt Disney himself (played by Tom Hanks) and the cranky and mysterious Australian creator of the original Mary Poppins books and characters, P.L. Travers, (played by Emma Thompson). The film opened December 13 in limited release, before going into wide release December 20.

Editor’s Guild magazine: Editorial ‘Argo’-naut William Goldenberg

by Michael Goldman, January-February 2013

William Goldenberg, A.C.E., enjoyed his stint on Ben Affleck’s Argo as a comfortable return to a budding collaborative relationship that he began with Affleck in 2007 on the filmmaker’s first movie, Gone Baby Gone (2007). His schedule didn’t permit him to work on Affleck’s second directorial effort, The Town (2010), but Goldenberg was ecstatic to reunite with him for Argo.

Editor’s Guild online exclusive: The Girl With the Digital Workflow

by Michael Goldman, 1/19/2012

Editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter on the Data-Centric ‘Dragon Tattoo’

From an industry point of view, one reality emerging from the production of David Fincher’s new film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is the fact that the director and his team have grown enormously confident about – and dependent upon – their unique, data-centric, digital filmmaking workflow and its ability to handle exponentially larger volumes of data and complex imagery.

Editor’s Guild magazine: Let Reality Play

How the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Editors Manage to Keep in Step

By Michael Goldman, September-October 2011

The editors who put together ABC’s Dancing with the Stars each week readily concede that they have a massive job on their hands.  Indeed, the seven offline editors who cut reams of story packages together that get rolled into two different types of live DWTS broadcasts each week–a performance show and a results show–use terms like “mammoth beast,” “pressure cooker” and “runaway train,” among others, to describe the volume of material they juggle and the timeline they operate under while cutting various pieces together in time for air on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

On the other hand, the DWTS editing team is smaller than on many of today’s similar reality performance shows.  But the show’s editors suggest that the producers’ decision to stick with a deeply experienced team of union editors has made the pressure cooker a smooth and cohesive operation.

Editor’s Guild online exclusive: Star-Spangled Soldier

by Michael Goldman, 7/18/2011

The Superheroic Effort to Bring Captain America to the Big Screen

Filmmakers behind the new Marvel/Paramount superhero extravaganza, Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston, had a series of compelling aesthetic and creative challenges to grapple with as they constructed the movie, which opens July 22 through Paramount Pictures.  For one thing, the venerable super-soldier and living symbol of America’s might goes back almost as far as Superman in the annals of comic book-dom; the Man of Steel debuted in 1932, while Captain America bowed during World War II in 1941.  Therefore, Cap’s origin story is well known and admired by genre fans, requiring the feature film to pay a certain level of homage to the origin story and the comics medium.  It also meant making the movie a period piece, albeit a somewhat fantastical one.

Editor’s Guild magazine: The Editor as Cosigliore

Dan Lebental Partners with Director Jon Favreau for Sci-Fi Western

by Michael Goldman, July-August 2011

Through several TV projects and five feature films, the relationship between editor Dan Lebental, A.C.E., and director Jon Favreau has evolved to the point where Lebental views himself as Favreau’s creative consultant when it comes to helping the director figure out exactly where his movies are going.

This was certainly the case, both men say, during their collaboration on Favreau’s latest feature, Cowboys & Aliens, opening July 29 through DreamWorks and Universal Pictures.

Editor’s Guild online exclusive: When Eddie Met “Alice’

ACE Crowns “Social Network,’ Others with Awards

by Michael Goldman, 3/11/2011

As award season madness reached fever pitch, editor Kirk Baxter chuckled that about having a “strange” experience this year–earning his industry’s highest honors for his editing work.

He and Angus Wall, A.C.E., his co-editor on The Social Network, are more used to sitting there and not winning, Baxter said, chuckling, a couple days after they took home an Eddie Award for Best Edited Dramatic Feature Film from the America Cinema Editors’ 61st annual Eddie Awards in mid-February.  About a week later, both men found themselves hugging in front of the whole world on Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre stage as they took home this year’s Academy Award for Editing–two steps further down the glory road than they were in 2009 when they were nominated for the same two awards, but failed to win, for their work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Editor’s Guild magazine: BOXING PAMELA

Editor Martin Goes the Distance on ‘The Fighter’ and Scores a TKO

by Michael Goldman, January-February 2011

If ever a single feature film illustrated the painstaking effort editors go through to bring disparate parts together to create a greater whole, David O. Russell’s The Fighter would be that film.  The movie, after all, details the story of real-life boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), but it also tells the story of his troubled brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), their giant family (their mother, father, and seven sisters all play key roles), and a love story between Ward and his girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), among other story elements.

Editor’s Guild magazine: Tech Support

The Guild’s Newest Craftspeople are Versatile and Passionate

By Michael Goldman, November-December, 2010

The recent merger to bring IATSE Local 683’s 1,100 film and video laboratory technicians and cinetechnicians into the Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700, was more than just a strategically sound business move for both locals, although it was certainly that.  After all, putting all post-production classifications under a single IATSE umbrella was probably overdue, given the industry’s digital revolution.  Thus, the merger happened with an eye toward making Local 700 “an all-post union,” in the words of Scott George, 700’s new Western Assistant Executive Director and formerly 683’s Business Representative.

Editor’s Guild online exclusive: Editorial Friended by “The Social Network’

Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter on Cutting David Fincher’s Facebook Film

by Michael Goldman, 9/27/2010

Much of the buzz surrounding David Fincher’s new film, The Social Network, is about the timely subject matter, since it concerns people and events behind creation of the famous Facebook social networking site.  The film screened opening night of the New York Film Festival, September 24, and opens nationally October 1, through Columbia Pictures.

On the production side, there has been much discussion about the fact that Fincher shot the movie on RED One cameras outfitted with Beta version RED Mysterium-X (MX) 4k sensors, and recorded mostly to 16-gigabyte CF cards.  But, from a picture editing point of view, the project is notable because Fincher’s data workflow, the role of the assistant editor in managing that data, and the project’s virtual method of handling dailies as well as allowing editors to collaborate virtually with the director were all on the bleeding edge of the industry’s evolving digital filmmaking paradigm.

Editor’s Guild magazine: MUSIC ON DEMAND

Online Libraries, Publishers Offer Many Options for Music Editors

By Michael Goldman, September-October 2010

Online music libraries are nothing new, but as the Internet matures, data ascends over physical media, and markets and applications for music placement expand, such libraries have become more essential than ever before for music editors.  Indeed, in addition to traditional music library services, almost every significant entity in the music business remotely interested in licensing product for media exploitation”“”“from giant labels and studios to garage bands and boutiques”“”“offers some kind of online library these days.

Ventura Boulevard Magazine: Summer Bonding

Last Word

Day trips, alfresco dinners and family vacations are great, but if you want to really connect with your kid this summer, offer an opinion about things like who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk.

Written by Michael Goldman, June 2017

Last year, on the final night of the NBA season, my teenage sons and I unintentionally woke my exhausted wife with shouting. When she wandered in to ask what the racket was about, we explained that Kobe Bryant, in the final game of his career, was on the verge of scoring 50 points in an otherwise meaningless season-ending game. We sternly warned her not to touch the crystal water glass sitting on the middle of the hardwood floor directly in front of the TV, as we precariously jumped around it. She took no offense at our superstition. If she moved something, then maybe Kobe’s miraculous final game would suddenly go south. So she left it there, sat on the couch, smiled, yawned and watched the rest of the game with us. Kobe ended his career with 60 points; our entire family went to bed satisfied.

Ventura Boulevard Magazine: Opening Pitch

Chasing Dreams, a new exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center examines how baseball has connected immigrant communities to the American experience for as long as the national pastime has existed.

Written by Michael Goldman, March 2016

At first glance, the scrap looks like no more than what it is–an old receipt for newspapers purchased in a French hotel in the 1920s by Moe Berg. But who was Moe Berg, and what was he doing in that French hotel?

Berg was a Jewish professional baseball player–a solid fielding catcher with a mediocre bat. After his rookie season for the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers), he decided to spend the offseason studying at the Sorbonne. That was just one of his many academic pursuits; Berg also studied at Princeton University and Columbia Law School, mastering Greek, Latin and Sanskrit.

And although some of the specifics are still in debate, he was a spy for the United States during World War II and worked for the fledgling CIA after the war. He has long been considered one of the most mysterious and eccentric players in baseball history. No wonder “he kept to himself and read voraciously,” according to Cate Thurston, assistant curator at the Skirball Cultural Center who gave Ventura Blvd an exclusive sneak peek at the museum’s new Chasing Dreams exhibit that includes Berg.

“When he read a newspaper, he would not let anyone else touch it because he considered it alive until he dropped it,” she explains.

Moe Berg’s 1923 receipt is among the dozens of intimate artifacts on display at Chasing Dreams, which examines the sport’s connections to immigrant communities, race and cultural identity, while highlighting links between baseball and the Jewish immigrant experience in particular.

Ventura Boulevard Magazine: A Long Time Ago in a Warehouse Far, Far Away

As Star Wars continues to dominate the box office, industry vets wax nostalgic about making the original movie in the Valley in the ’70s.

Written by Michael Goldman, January 2016

While the rest of the galaxy kvells over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its humble beginnings trace back to a nondescript industrial warehouse in Van Nuys. That warehouse, located at 6842 Valjean Avenue, is today home to an architectural signage company. But back then, a little-known director named George Lucas was the tenant. Lucas filled the building with a group of young visual effects wizards and set them loose pioneering new techniques for the original 1977 classic Star Wars.

Ventura Boulevard Magazine: Full Circle

A nearly 50-year friendship between director Mark Cendrowski and actor/comedian Dave Coulier survives and thrives in the Valley.

Written by Michael Goldman, Holidays 2015

As Mark Cendrowski and Dave Coulier usher you into Mark’s cozy Studio City living room, ostensibly to discuss their almost half-century friendship, it doesn’t take long to realize that the two Michigan transplants and sitcom veterans enjoy reminiscing primarily because it gives them a chance to crack each other up.

For example, after revealing their secret handshake–they slide two fingers together whilst saying, “give me some ski”–they giggle upon realizing the handshake’s origins have disappeared into the haze of their relationship’s early years.

Ventura Boulevard Magazine: Change Maker

He may be known as an über-successful Malibu developer, but a major focus for Richard Weintraub in recent years has been a Valley landmark.

Written by Michael Goldman, November 2015

As the portraits of long-gone luminaries, such as Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, John Wayne and others, hover over him during lunch at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Patio Café, Richard Weintraub is eager to discuss the hopes, dreams and frustrations surrounding his ongoing efforts to remake the Studio City landmark property where such Hollywood legends used to cavort. As we enjoy our meal on a hot summer day, one can’t help but recall that era’s vibe: movie stars, goldfish swimming in channeling waterways, politicians visiting and historical meetings happening.

Weintraub is intimately familiar with that history and visited the hotel often as a child and teenager with his mother, longtime LA school board member Roberta Weintraub. But now he says it’s time for an updated twist on a more classical form of a retail center … and not the “mega mall” that some folks seem to think he is pursuing. It’s a center catering to the area’s expanding, younger, affluent demographic in particular.

Produced By Magazine

ACES MATTER–The Academy’s Color Management Standard Belongs on Producer’s Radar

By Michael Goldman, February/March 2017

From Glenn Gainor’s point of view, the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) is a topic producers of all categories need to include in their dossier of technical subjects worth understanding for the simple reason that what used to be called “filmmaking’ is now a multi-format, multi-platform art form. Therefore, he suggests, those responsible for assembling the people and resources necessary for generating quality content for delivery on this new industry landscape–producers–need every advantage they can get in terms of literally getting everyone on the same page.

Promax Brief Magazine: Size Matters

Tim Burton Scales a Wonderland of Epic Proportions

By Michael Goldman, Summer 2010

While much ado has been made about the 3D aspect and strong box-office performance of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the film’s visual effects may have the biggest lasting effect on the creative community. That’s because Burton designed the movie to make size, scale, and perspective alterations to human actors central to the narrative. A prime example of this approach involves a sequence in which a tiny Alice (Mia Wasikowska) travels on the chapeau of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)–a sequence that liberally mixes and matches animation and live action.

Promax Brief Magazine: Grand Opening

Titles Discover Renewed Renaissance

By Michael Goldman, Spring 2010

Saul Bass’s classic kaleidoscope opening sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” immediately submerged the viewer into a dangerous, exciting world, Pablo Ferro’s mod color panels set the tone for “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and every James Bond film has its own distinct title design that manages to be both unique, but familiar. Recently, the television industry has made its own impact in the titles domain as the opening to AMC’s “Mad Men” introduced audiences to a life that isn’t all it seems, HBO took “True Blood” fans deep into a Southern landscape full of decay, and Showtime’s “United States of Tara” pop-up book opening won an Emmy right along with its title actress.


Converting theaters big and small to digital projection involves a complex mix of standards, art, money, technology, and logistics.


As has been well-documented, the rollout of digital projection systems into theaters was, for years, notoriously slow getting off the ground, largely due to financial roadblocks. Nevertheless, once the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI – a consortium of seven major Hollywood studios) unveiled its DCI specification standard in 2005, designed to assure interoperability of digital files for major Hollywood movies at all cinemas, this rollout began picking up steam. Indeed 2007 might well go down as the year the trend really accelerated. During the last year, several major exhibitors launched digital screens, started installation projects to revamp their infrastructures for digital cinema, or announced plans to do so in the near future.

Los Angeles Times: László Kovács, Vilmos Zsigmond: Fade in on a friendship

By Michael Goldman

November 15, 2009

It’s a tale of friendship and survival that has become legend in Hollywood.Two young Hungarians meet while studying cinema in Budapest and become swept up in the abortive Hungarian Revolution of 1956, risking their lives to film scenes of violent Soviet repression.After a harrowing journey secreting the footage out of the country so it can be seen by the rest of the world, they end up in Los Angeles, where they toil anonymously in B-level biker films, wandering into Roger Corman’s orbit. Soon after, both men flash to prominence filming several classic movies, playing important roles in the New Hollywood movement of the late ’60s and ’70s.

Los Angeles Times: A head for comedy

Former Playmate Jenny McCarthy wrote and stars in ‘Dirty Love.’
September 22, 2005|Michael Goldman, Special to The Times
In July, Jenny McCarthy and John Asher appeared fully in sync as they explained their journey into independent filmmaking. Married nearly six years, the two finished each other’s sentences and clucked at anecdotes as they told the story of their film, “Dirty Love” — written by and starring McCarthy, directed by Asher and jointly produced by both. (The film is being released Friday by DEJ Productions and First Look Films in L.A., Las Vegas, New York and Chicago.)

Impressions, of course, can be deceiving. About a month later, McCarthy announced she and Asher were filing for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

Los Angeles Times: Boy seeks girl, gets distribution deal

The festival darling ‘My Date With Drew’ grew from an aspiring filmmaker’s quest to date actress Barrymore.

July 24, 2005|Michael Goldman, Special to The Times

According to those who know him best, Brian Herzlinger hasn’t changed in the 2 1/2 years since he took his place at the center of a small, quixotically charming phenomenon known as “My Date With Drew.” He’s still the guy “everyone loves instantly,” according to Brett Winn, his childhood friend from New Jersey, college buddy and co-director/editor/producer — along with their other old pal, Jon Gunn — on the documentary that hits theaters in limited release in five cities Aug. 5

Los Angeles Times: Keeping their focus under fire

The International Combat Camera Assn. fights for recognition for its members.
July 20, 2003|Michael Goldman

Despite his exploits capturing historic motion picture footage during the bloody battle of Tarawa a few months earlier, it wasn’t until Norm Hatch found himself cowering beneath a furious, Japanese artillery barrage at Iwo Jima that he realized the incredible risks he was taking as a combat photographer.

Combat photographers help document the ongoing history of the armed forces, including the U.S.’ war with Iraq

July 20, 2003|Michael Goldman

B. Sean Fairburn may have been sent to Iraq to shoot combat footage, but there was no doubt in his mind on April 7, as he gazed into the viewfinder of his high-definition video camera, that he was a Marine first that day. What he saw was an Iraqi truck speeding toward tanks from the Delta Company First Tank Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division, shortly after they crossed the Dejalah River, entering outer Baghdad.

Los Angeles Times: “Movie!’ Takes Liberties With Hoffman’s Life

But ‘compressions’ of time, events and people have the support of those portrayed in the film who were close to the antiwar activist.


Like its subject Abbie Hoffman, almost everything about the independently financed “Steal This Movie!” is unorthodox, both in terms of what ended up on the screen and how it got there.

The film offers a quasi-documentary look at the complex Hoffman–mixed with historical footage of key events from the 1960s and a protest-era soundtrack–that filmmakers freely admit “compresses” time, events and people. Testimony of an FBI informant during scenes about the famous Chicago 7 trial, for example, combines portions of testimony from several informants, according to producer-director Robert Greenwald. Likewise, a fictional journalist, attempting to write a magazine article on Hoffman’s years underground evading arrest on a drug charge, is based on what Greenwald calls “bits of several journalists” Hoffman encountered over the years.

Los Angeles Times: Viewing War’s Horror Through Young Eyes

From Rwanda to Northern Ireland, children caught in conflict’s cross-fire tell their heartbreaking stories in an HBO documentary.


Alan Raymond recalls standing in line at Rwanda’s Kigali airport in 1995, nervously waiting to explain to an army officer why he was visiting Rwanda a little over a year after that nation’s bloody civil war.

“All the windows were shot out in the terminal, and there was debris everywhere,” Raymond says. “I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. Later in a cab on my way to my hotel, I saw what was going on in the city of Kigali, and I remember thinking this location might be too challenging for what we wanted to do.”

The trip was to plan logistics for Raymond’s return to Rwanda with his wife, Susan Raymond, to film portions of their latest documentary, “Children in War,” which HBO will show Monday night at 10. They wanted to document the price paid by children worldwide for the various ethnic conflicts that have plagued the latter part of the 20th century. To that end, they interviewed children in remote areas of Rwanda, Bosnia, Israel and its occupied territories, and Northern Ireland during 1995-99.

Los Angeles Times: Bozos on the Y2K Bus

Legendary Firesign Theatre returns with its surreal take on millennial madness.

September 05, 1998|MICHAEL GOLDMAN, SPECIAL To The Times

Welcome to Radio Now, a monolithic service offering the final radio broadcast of the 20th century: a countdown to the millennium (“a.k.a. the end of the world”) in a place called Fun-Fun Town, not far from Great Satan’s Village. Owned by mega-corporation U.S. Plus (“We own the idea of the idea of America”), the service routinely changes from formats like “weirdly cool, perpetrator’s playground, rebel family radio” to “extreme, no-sense-of-humor, aggressive, in-your-face radio” every few minutes.

Hosted by DJ Bebop Loco (“the Suspect, the Outsider”), the broadcast airs in a surreal future in which “two sacred cows pulling the Ark of the Covenant” can cause a traffic jam, advertising icon Joe Camel reacts poorly to his fall from grace, the “death” of a doll called Princess Goddess leads to a feature film advertised as “a morbid exploitation of the freshly dead,” and the alleged year 2000 computer crash poses a grave threat to the making of coffee.

Such madness can be found on “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death,” the first studio album from the legendary comedy troupe Firesign Theatre in 17 years. The new CD will be released Tuesday on the Rhino Records label.

Los Angeles Times: Preserving Hollywood’s History

Many tales of filmmaking’s past remain untold. Before the voices are stilled, the Screen Actors Guild and other groups hurry to record it.


Buddy Ebsen chuckled when interviewer Daryl Anderson asked him for a Louis B. Mayer story. Ebsen, 90, then acknowledged that “I burned my bridges” with the legendary MGM studio boss as a young man by refusing to sign a long-term contract binding him to the studio.

“I told him I didn’t want to be a piece of goods on his counter,” Ebsen told Anderson during a recent taped interview for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation’s Legacy Documentation program. “They kept me for two more years, until I got sick doing ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ After that, I ended up going back to vaudeville for a fraction of the money and freezing up in the Poconos. But I’m glad I did it.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: After 35 years, cult comedians break into TV

By Michael Goldman, FOR THE INQUIRER, 2000

The road traveled by the Firesign Theatre to national television is so circuitous that not even the four members of the legendary comedy group know exactly how they finally arrived at PBS for Weirdly Cool, a one-hour special instigated and coproduced by Philadelphia’s WHYY, where it premieres exclusively at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Variety: Single-Take Concept Helps ‘Birdman’ Soar

By Michael Goldman, February 12, 2015

Alejandro G. Inarritu’s concept of shooting “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” as if it were a single, continuous camera take was not exactly met with encouragement by his peers. The late Mike Nichols, for one, told his fellow director last year that he was “running toward disaster” and should stop.

Even Inarritu’s d.p., Emmanuel Lubezki, fresh off his Oscar-winning logistical triumph on “Gravity,” initially begged off. “I was just finishing “Gravity’ and we had a lot of very long shots that were incredibly difficult in that movie,” he says. “But I agreed to read the script, because he is my friend. I liked it very much, but I still didn’t want to do it.”

Variety: Period pics invite wide spectrum of styles

Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, Dec. 12, 2011

From Tom Stern’s bloodless, monochromatic palette on Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” to Janusz Kaminski’s vibrant, painterly images in Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” filmmakers took radically different approaches to capturing historic periods in their work this year, whether based on real-life figures or simply grounded in a certain time and place.

Variety: ‘127 Hours’: Too Close for Comfort

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, Dec. 11, 2010

Mantle faced a challenge in filming

At first, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle jokes about the challenge of shooting much of Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” in an ultra confined space. It was actually two spaces — the actual, isolated canyon in Moab, Utah, where the hiker who inspired the film survived a harrowing ordeal trapped in a crevasse, and a cramped set built on a stage to emulate the location. Mantle, co-d.p. of the film with Enrique Chediak, says the set was strategically built without movable or opening walls, and was even more restrictive than the actual site. Shooting in those spaces, he says, was like shooting “in a public lavatory.””We did the best we could in the confined space, but it was all exaggerated by the fact that we could barely move our buttocks four inches to the left or right, depending, of course, on the size of our buttocks,” he adds with a chuckle.

The experience Mantle and Chediak shared is echoed by other cinematographers who shot a spate of films this year built around claustrophobic themes, or laden with sequences shot in tight, often uncomfortable spaces.

Variety: To be accurate or not to be, designers wonder

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, June 2, 2010

Designers on historical dramas live with an ever-present danger: sharp-eyed viewers ready to pounce on any anachronisms — real or imagined.

Production designer Tom Conroy chuckles over criticism from a British blogger objecting to what appeared to him to be radiators visible in the chambers of King Henry VIII during an episode of Showtime’s “The Tudors.” “We placed columns behind the king’s throne that were fluted and painted gold,” says Conroy. “They resembled radiators from a certain angle.”

Conroy’s experience is typical for designers on TV’s handful of period shows, including “Tudors,” Starz’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” HBO’s “The Pacific” and AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Variety: Photoshop’s proud papa

20 years ago, ILM’s Knoll turned his hobby into a hit

By Michael Goldman, February 5, 2010

Twenty years after its debut, Photoshop is an indispensable tool for digital photography, publishing and even movie vfx. But few in the biz realize its origins go back to the day a young motion-control assistant at Industrial Light & Magic, John Knoll, dropped by ILM’s nascent computer graphics department and decided software development might be fun.

Variety: Tom Stern

‘Changeling’ and ‘Gran Torino’

By Michael Goldman, December 31, 2008

Like “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” two years back, Tom Stern shot two Oscar-contending features for Clint Eastwood a few months apart using the same basic production methodology honed by Eastwood’s team over the years to produce two wildly different results. First came “Changeling,” which visually strives to be a classic 1930s-era period mystery, followed by “Gran Torino,” a stripped-down, contemporary morality play.

Variety: Topicality resonates in politically pointed pics

They have issues

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, December 14, 2006

Regardless of their Oscar chances (“Road to Guantanamo” is ineligible due to its TV debut in the U.K. prior to its theatrical release), the following topical features have generated debate for tackling politically charged issues in styles that range from docudrama to black comedy. A rundown:

Variety: CG pics are winning big, but 2-D can still hit a Homer

Hand-drawn down, not out

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, December 13, 2006

Last year, all three best animated feature Oscar nominees were 2-D films — two stop-motion affairs and the hand-drawn “Howl’s Moving Castle.” A year later, the feature world has witnessed a massive CG parade, so much so that only two of the 16 contenders were created in the traditional hand-drawn style.

Could this mean studios are abandoning hand-drawn animated features, their former bread-and-butter?

Variety: Five pieces easy?

Hand-drawn down, not out

Animation category could swell if hybrids qualify

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, November 7, 2006

For only the second time in the animated feature category’s six-year history, Academy voters are likely to have a full five nominated films to choose from — unless a single pic falls out of the race, bringing the count back down to three.

Academy rules require at least eight submissions to hold the race at all (otherwise, the committee can recommend a single “special achievement” award be given in the category). If more than 15 qualify, the pool grows from three to five nominees.

Variety: CGI gets unreal

CAF showcases diverse styles

By Michael Goldman, July 26, 2006

Not many years ago, any CG-animated film would have been cutting-edge simply because it was CG. And since the resources to make such films generally lay with big companies, such industry leaders as Pixar and DreamWorks defined the style of CG animation.

Judging by the films accepted for Siggraph’s Computer Animation Festival, those days are gone.

Variety: Staying in character–whatever the era

Emmy expected to favor rich aesthetic offered by historical pieces

By Michael Goldman, July 19, 2006

This year’s Emmy nominations for costume design do not diverge much from historical patterns, industry veterans say.

Once again, in both the series and miniseries/movie/special categories, there is a stark contrast between lush period or fantasy work, such as “Rome,” “Elizabeth I” and “Bleak House,” and contemporary shows such as “Desperate Housewives,” “The Sopranos” and “Everybody Hates Chris.”

And once again, many industry pros expect Emmy to favor the rich aesthetic offered by historical pieces.

Variety: ASC deems Omens presidential

Presidents Award recipient hopes judo will aid fund-raising mission

By Michael Goldman, February 26, 2006

A quick glance at Sherwood “Woody” Omens’ resume reveals a deceptively selective list of credits. He cut his teeth as a d.p. in television before working with two celebrated bigscreen funnymen: multihyphenate Mel Brooks on “History of the World – Part I”; and B.O. kingpin Eddie Murphy on a trio of films that began with 1998’s “Coming to America” and ended with 1992’s “Harlem Nights.” The credits appear to end there, but not the work.

Omens, as anyone who’s met him will attest, radiates warmth and civility, which makes him a born educator and mentor. His d.p. resume would no doubt be longer had he not decided to dedicate himself to teaching, and it’s this selflessness that has earned him the ASC’s President’s Award.

Variety: Shrink’s malady affects everyone

Emmy’s new breed: Huff

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, June 15, 2005

The last thing on Bob Lowry’s mind when he created “Huff” was the notion that he might actually sell the show to a network, let alone that viewers and critics might like it enough for it to earn Emmy consideration.

After all, Lowry, the show’s creator and executive producer, says he created “Huff” as a spec script/writing sample to show his chops, since “my agent asked me to either write another ‘West Wing’ or something brand-new, and I didn’t want to channel Aaron Sorkin.”

Variety: Rough stuff on ‘Huff’ suits her well

Worthy of attention: Blythe Danner

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, June 9, 2005

When Blythe Danner was offered the part of Izzy Huffstodt, mother of “Huff’s” title character, Dr. Craig Huffstodt (Hank Azaria), she accepted so fast that she even surprised herself.

There was none of her usual “hesitating until the idea sits in a comfortable place for me,” she says. This time, the veteran thesp responded immediately to Izzy and the writing in the pilot for the Showtime series. Quite simply, she liked the idea of “getting permission to be bad.”

Variety: The house that George built

Lucas helped USC film school gain respect, Dean Daley sez

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, June 8, 2005

Woody Omens distinctly remembers the first time he met George Lucas, but his memory is fuzzy on when and why the neophyte filmmaker first made an impression on him. All he knows for sure is that his awareness of Lucas’ formidable skills preceded their initial meeting at USC film school in 1965, when Lucas showed up in Omens’ classroom to inform the young adjunct instructor that he would be enrolling in his course, Filmic Expression.

Variety: The spin cycle

‘Fahrenheit 9/11’s’ cutters maintain Moore’s vision without sacrificing their own

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, January 6, 2005

In Kurt Engfehr’s opinion, selecting an editorial team for a documentary is similar to the process of casting actors for a narrative film. In both cases, filmmakers must find people who can help make their vision obvious to filmgoers.

Engfehr, one of three editors on Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” along with Christopher Seward and Todd Woody Richman, made the analogy while discussing the role editing played in helping the doc on its way to headline-grabbing status.

Variety: Honoring the invisible art

Even for those in the profession, choosing ‘best’ is subjective

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, January 6, 2005

Determining what constitutes best editing on a motion picture is a tricky proposition. Since editing, by definition, is considered the invisible art — a discipline many practitioners feel should not call attention to itself — there are no empirical guidelines. As in most categories of cinematic merit, best is what works for the individual voter.

Indeed, says Alan Heim, president of the American Cinema Editors and the winner of guild, Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy honors during his career, “the whole thing is almost entirely personal.”

Variety: Visual gatekeepers: Lensers nurture the dramatic look

Show’s look is a constant work-in-progress

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, August 26, 2002

HOLLYWOOD — Episodic TV cinematographers work under much different circumstances than their feature film counterparts, often grappling with ridiculous deadlines and rotating directors.

To find out how d.p.s design and execute compelling visuals to entertain viewers and get onto Emmy’s radar screen, Variety recently asked lensers on five of this year’s nominated shows (“The West Wing,” “Six Feet Under,” “Ally McBeal,” “Alias” and “American Family”) to discuss key issues and explain their show’s creative approach.

Variety: Major investment bears fruit

Nick adds animation on MTV Networks’ buck

By Michael Goldman, November 17, 1997

The results are coming in following last year’s announcement by MTV Networks that it would pump $420 million into the creation of original animation. Most of that – about $350 million –was earmarked specifically for kids cabler Nickelodeon. As a result, Nick is building a state-of-the-art animation studio in Burbank and has doubled the amount of animation it broadcasts, with more increases planned.

Variety: Comedy Central takes a wild walk in ‘Park’

By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, November 17, 1997

Considering it’s a latenight, animated cable program that advertises itself, both on-air and in its official press kit, as the best place on television to find “anal probes and flaming farts,” it’s hard to think of Comedy Central’s “South Park” as a classic Hollywood success story. Yet, given the show’s origins and current hit status, a success story it is, albeit a rather peculiar one.

Online Ozzie Elf stuffs Will Vinton’s stocking

By Michael Goldman, November 17, 1997

There have been dozens of animated Christmas specials on television over the years, but only a small handful have become perennial classics. This holiday season, another contender takes center stage: Ozzie the Elf. Only time will tell if Ozzie – who will star in ABC’s “The Online Adventures of Ozzie the Elf” in late December – has seasonal star power, but certainly the character has a strong pedigree, springing to life thanks to the efforts of such heavyweights as former NBC programming executive Brandon Tartikoff and stop-motion animation pioneer Will Vinton.

Variety: Dramatic context key to f/x


By Michael Goldman, November 2, 1997

Considering its subject matter, a show like “The X-Files” would seem the perfect vehicle for jaw-dropping special effects of every possible variety. “X-Files” has indeed earned critical acclaim and award nominations during its first four years for making those phenomena seem realistic via the use of sophisticated digital effects and special makeup and prosthetic work.

However, the philosophy since the show’s pilot has always been, “Be subtle, don’t try to be a million-dollar effects show,” according to Lori Kallsen-George, the show’s visual effects supervisor.

Variety: Legend leaps to life

By Michael Goldman, September 15, 1997

HOLLYWOOD – Veteran videogame designer Rick Dyer has reason to breathe a sigh of relief as his new interactive, video computer game, “Shadoan,” finally hits store shelves this month. After all, he’s been hoping to get the game to consumers for 18 years, since he first thought up the concept in 1979.

What Dyer calls the “odyssey” of getting “Shadoan” developed, produced and distributed, however, may well have been worth the wait if it sells as he is expecting it to.

Variety: ABC hopes for a virtual success

By Michael Goldman, September 15, 1997

Emmy-winning animation producer Peter Hastings admits “I didn’t really know what I was talking about” when he suggested to Walt Disney and ABC officials early this year that ABC utilize virtual sets as the foundation of its Saturday morning cartoon block.

“Disney and ABC had been looking for a way to frame Saturday morning to make it look different and set it apart from programming on other networks,” explains Hastings. “I thought of basing the show on the concept that Saturday mornings were different from the rest of the week, with each day represented by a special building. They liked the idea, but then I said, why don’t we use virtual sets? Later, I thought, what was I talking about? I realized I didn’t really know very much about virtual sets.”

Variety: Superhero makes 3-D splash

By Michael Goldman, September 15, 1997

HOLLYWOOD – Three decades after his birth, the tortured poet/philosopher of the super-hero set finally has earned his own animated TV series. When the first 13 space adventures of “The Silver Surfer” bow domestically on the Fox Kids’ Network in the first quarter of next year, and around the world by the fall of ’98, they will be significant for several reasons.

For Fox and producer Saban Entertainment, “Silver Surfer” is the first rollout of a high-profile Marvel Comics-based show since Fox, Saban and Marvel all jumped into bed together in the past year.

Variety: ‘Kombat’s’ digital army

By Michael Goldman, May 8, 1997

“Mortal Kombat Annihilation,” the sequel to 1995’s “Mortal Kombat” slated for release from New Line in early August, is one summer film promising an unusually heavy digital dosage. Even by the industry’s normal standards, “Annihilation” will be an ambitious f/x effort, with approximately 300 completely digital shots. That’s close to 100 more than in the original “Kombat” and far above the average for films in “Annihilation’s” $30 million budget range.

Event founder’s dream springs to life

By Michael Goldman, March 23, 1997

Putting the World Animation Celebration together has been a yearlong marathon effort requiring the cooperation of hundreds of individuals, studios, sponsors and organizations from throughout the toon world. But festival director Leslie Sullivan says the event never would have happened without the glue that stuck those various elements so tightly together.

Variety: A toon freak’s paradise

By Michael Goldman, March 23, 1997

If things go according to plan, this week’s World Animation Celebration will be exactly what its name implies: a celebration of animation’s importance on the entertainment landscape. The comprehensive event, which runs today through Sunday at the Pasadena Civic Center, is a direct descendent of the four Los Angeles Intl. Animation Celebrations that took place in 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1991, but it also is much more than that. Featuring a unique format that consists of different “modules” circling around the major animated film festival at its core, organizers are hoping to make the event an annual fixture.

Variety: Timing is everything for studio’s program

By Michael Goldman, March 23, 1997

Walt Disney Television Animation is adding a new chapter to the recent industry trend of luring and training new talent to keep up with growing studio workloads. The company announced this week that it will start what is believed to be the first formal training program for animation timing directors. The program, called the Animation Directors Workshop, is specifically aimed at increasing the studio’s number of skilled timing directors, and will offer qualified candidates a 10-month salaried position to train in the discipline, with top performers earning jobs at Disney TV.

Millimeter: Format Wars

Sep 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael GoldmanThe end of film for TV production?

To Dean Devlin, it’s all straightforward: Episodic TV production not only should move toward all-digital production and acquisition, it must and it shall. From his perch as executive producer/writer/ director on TNT’s Leverage, Devlin is doing all he can to promote the notion that film–and if he has his way, videotape–should depart the TV production scene permanently. Now in its second season, Leverage is among the first hour-long dramas on American TV to be produced exclusively with an all-digital, tapeless workflow built on the foundation of the Red Digital Cinema Red One camera recording to hard drives, and it’s the first to maintain an entire postproduction infrastructure inhouse, adjacent to its stage.

Millimeter: Winging It

Aug 10, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Davis Guggenheim and team on the improvisational style for It Might Get Loud.

After directing Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth and Barack Obama’s official biography film, A Mother’s Promise, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was plenty used to following famous people around and trying to get them to open up for his camera and microphones. When he came up with a rough concept to make a new film to pay homage to the electric guitar and to do it by spending intimate time with rock stars, however, he soon realized he was entering an entirely different world. For one thing, he had no idea how to structure his story or with whom to tell it, and for another, he desperately wanted to stay away from the traditional rock-documentary concept at all costs.

Millimeter: Shooting Enemies

Jul 8, 2009 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Michael Mann on making a period piece digitally.

Racing from one Hollywood postproduction facility to the next in the wee hours one night in early June, director Michael Mann and his colleagues wrangled the last major chore related to the theatrical release of Mann’s new gangster picture, Public Enemies–the story of John Dillinger’s rise and fall. That chore involved taking the painstakingly crafted digital images Mann created for the movie and translating them to film space in order to strike film-release prints that would meet his expectations, closely emulating the stylized video look of the movie.

Millimeter: Ron’s Empire

May 15, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Ron Howard builds his own Vatican.

The schedule and the technical complexity of Angels & Demons were among the most challenging of Ron Howard’s directorial career. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Howard calls the time he spent making the movie “a particularly fascinating creative period in my life.”

Millimeter: Back on Trek

Apr 20, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
How J.J. Abrams led the Star Trek revival.

When J.J. Abrams was handed the keys to the Star Trek kingdom, he boldly went where no Star Trek filmmaker had gone before: into prequel land. The decision to tell the story of how the legendary characters of the famous TV-and-film franchise got together originally meant the project would require both story and visual connections to the original 1960s-era Star Trek TV series.

Millimeter: Making History

Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Ed Zwick defies the forest.

Director Ed Zwick says he gravitates toward period pieces (Glory, Legends of the Fall, and The Last Samurai, among others) simply because “historical moments are a particularly good place to find circumstances where the dramatic stakes are so high in compelling stories. That was certainly the case with Defiance.”

Millimeter: Performance Enhancing

Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Darren Aronofsky’s team strategically highlights Mickey Rourke’s work in character-driven film.

Director Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Wrestler isn’t so much a story about the title character as it is the wholesale documenting of a character who is, in fact, the entire story. The film, which buzzed through the Sundance Film Festival this year because of Mickey Rourke’s star turn as washed-up wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, is so completely a character study that virtually every aspect of the filmmaking process was designed to highlight Rourke’s performance above all other factors.

Millimeter: One for the Record Books

June 11, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Speed Racer is the latest volley in a growing post-is-first production genre.

As Speed Racer hit theaters, there was much debate about the reasons for its disappointing first-weekend box office take (only in Hollywood could $18.5 million in three days be considered disappointing). On the question of the look of the film – the so-called “photo-anime” design and color scheme – however, everyone seems to agree: This is one tripped-out movie. Kim Libreri, Digital Domain’s co-visual-effects supervisor for almost 500 of the more than 2,000 visual-effects shots in the movie(BUF Paris, Industrial Light & Magic, and Sony Pictures Imageworks were the other major vendors on the project), in fact, refers to Speed Racer as “the most blinged-out movie eye candy yet.”

Millimeter: Next-Gen Indy

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
New techniques deliver traditional looks on the latest in the Indiana Jones franchise.

The long journey to bring a new chapter of the Indiana Jones saga to the big screen during the last 18 years has been well documented, but the end result is only now available for evaluation. In Steven Spielberg’s view, that result adheres firmly to the original vision, philosophy, and look behind the franchise. As Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got ready to hit theaters, Spielberg insisted that what he calls “the old-fashioned B-movie mentality” and the production methodology behind that mentality both remained intact.

Millimeter: The Morris Microscope

Jan 1, 2008 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Errol Morris mixes media in a documentary examining the Abu Ghraib photos.

In 1997, millimeter Senior Contributing Editor D. W. Leitner respectfully accused director Errol Morris of “transgressing the canons of documentary dogma” while writing about Morris’ then-new documentary Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. Ten years later, the Oscar-winning filmmaker (for 2003’s The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara) is at it again, toying with the whole concept of what exactly a documentary is or isn’t as part of his newest work: Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P.) from Sony Pictures Classics.

Millimeter: Old-Fashioned Filmmaking

Nov 1, 2007 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Paul Thomas Anderson’s team keeps There Will be Blood ultratraditional.

As he releases his dark character study about the rise and fall of a turn-of-the-century oil baron, Director Paul Thomas Anderson proudly touts his strict adherence to traditional filmmaking techniques while making Paramount Vantage’s There Will Be Blood.

“We’re Luddites,” he recently told millimeter. “Dinosaurs a little bit. I’m always trying to stay away from the word “digital,’ that’s for sure.”

Millimeter: Wild Ride

Sep 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
On the road with Sean Penn and his team.

When Sean Penn’s long-held desire to make a movie of Jon Krakauer’s novel about iconoclastic adventurer Chris McCandless finally came true, the question became, “How, exactly?” The true story, after all, revolves around a solitary figure tramping through the remotest hinterlands in three countries and dozens of states, eventually disappearing, living off the land, and dying in Alaska. McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, ages and loses massive amounts of weight in the course of the story – transforming physically and spiritually during his journey.

Return of the 3D Duke

Jul 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Hondo restoration illustrates complexities of reviving stereoscopic films.

One day in 1953, Michael Wayne invited his then-girlfriend, Gretchen Deibel, to attend a 3D screening of Hondo, a new movie by his father, John Wayne. It was one of the earliest screenings of the Duke in 3D before the stereoscopic version was released across the nation. It turned out to be the only 3D film of John Wayne’s career, and within a year, the 3D craze had started to peter out. After 1954, Hondo was only seen as a traditional 2D picture, built out of the original left-eye negative, and in the decades since, it has been seen in various home-video and broadcast versions as a standard 2D movie.

But seeds were planted that day 44 years ago to some day return Hondo to its 3D glory.

Millimeter: True Colors

Jun 9, 2007 1:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
A look at color grading and cinematography on Ratatouille, Shrek the Third, and Surf’s Up.

According to Tim Peeler, few constituencies are more devoted to the growth of digital cinema and the maturation of the digital intermediate process than the animation community. Peeler ought to know – animation people are his primary constituency. As a digital colorist at Technicolor Digital Intermediates, Burbank, Calif., Peeler has probably digitally color graded more animated features in the last several years than anyone – dating back to Disney’s Tarzan in 1999, one of the first digital cinema releases. He recently performed digital color correction for the digital cinema and home entertainment versions of Shrek the Third, and at press time, he was working on Enchanted; doing tests for Bee Movie, which he expects to work on later this year (see sidebar on p. 18); starting The Simpsons Movie; and preparing for Beowulf.

Millimeter: Digital Acrobatics

May 30, 2007 10:28 AM, By Michael Goldman

Inside Imageworks, Spider-Man effects veterans discuss the franchise’s visual effects evolution.

At Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City, Calif., as work on Spider-Man 3 winds down, many of the key players behind the film’s visual effects extravaganza (just less than 1,000 shots) are finally starting to contemplate life without the spider. Some, such as Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Stokdyk, have been involved in the franchise in one way or another for more than seven years–since planning for the first movie got underway.

Millimeter: 24/7 Workflow

Mar 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Exclusive on-set look at the finely tuned pipeline for 24.

With two episodes and pickups for a third being shot on two different stages and three episodes being edited simultaneously for Fox’s hit drama 24, production of the show is proceeding at an unusually frenetic pace – even by 24standards – at the show’s production headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif. But one morning in early January, the mood is confident and relaxed. So much so, that while DP Rodney Charters, ASC, scurries off to set up a scene, his colleagues are eager to good-naturedly tease the crew’s designated technophile behind his back. The topic of conversation: Apple’s announcement of its much-ballyhooed iPhone.

Millimeter: Clint Goes Digital

Dec 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

How Clint Eastwood Blended Film and Digital Workflows for Twin Iwo Jima Epics.

Clint Eastwood’s reputation for economical, straightforward filmmaking is a bit out of date – at least in the opinion of Clint Eastwood. During a recent chat with millimeter, the director pointed to his twin World War II movies, Flags of Our Fathers and the upcoming Japanese-language, English-subtitled Letters from Iwo Jima, as proof of this assertion (at presstime, both were among The National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films for 2006, with Letters winning Best Film). Both films were shot back-to-back at faraway locations under grueling conditions, both involved experimentation by Eastwood’s team with digital cameras, both required far more extensive visual effects than Eastwood normally deals with, and both brought the filmmaker into the digital intermediate process for the first time.

Millimeter: Exclusive: Scorsese: Gangster Style


Oct 1, 2006 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
The director and his team explain digital workflow techniques for a modern noir.

Like many intense relationships, Martin Scorsese’s love affair with what he fondly calls “gangster pictures” never quite ends. Occasionally, he moves into colorful epics like his last effort, The Aviator, but sooner or later, Scorsese always returns to the dark, violent world illustrated in his newest movie, The Departed – a tale of cops and Irish gangsters in modern-day Boston.

The story, look, and feel of the new project, of course, differs dramatically from The Aviator in just about every respect, with two basic exceptions. First, Scorsese once again assembled the same team (with his longtime collaborator, DP Michael Ballhaus, ASC, stepping into the cinematography role once more) that made The Aviator with the strategic intent of, among other things, incorporating a wide range of digital techniques into the filmmaking process. It was a strategy designed to allow Scorsese to more efficiently bring his traditional vision to celluloid using modern tools.

Millimeter: Robert Altman: Filmic HD

Aug 26, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Altman and Lachman Push for Digital Performance.

Director Robert Altman, now 81 and fresh off receiving an honorary Academy Award for years of filmmaking excellence, says his primary reason for suddenly embracing high-definition acquisition technology in recent years is the fact that its nature suits his preferred style of filmmaking. That style, of course, involves running cameras as long as humanly possible without stopping, while capturing long, sweeping takes and reams of improvisational material in ensemble situations.

Millimeter: Going Tapeless

Aug 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Director David Fincher Spearheads a Hard Drive-based Data Workflow for Zodiac.

Director David Fincher insists he has deleted videotape from his professional life for good. “I’ve hated tape for a long time – all the nonsense that comes with tape,” he declares. “I wanted to shoot HD since we made Panic Room[2002], but at the time, Sony Pictures warned us that HD wasn’t reliable enough to shoot a major feature – which I thought was ironic, since their parent company makes HD cameras used to shoot motion pictures. We couldn’t get them to provide HD projectors to do dailies [at the time], because we shot three-perf and telecined everything, and ended up getting our dailies on HD VHS tape. That’s how far back that was. But it’s probably just as well, because now we can do it without tape altogether, which is far better anyway.”

A couple of years ago, Fincher concocted a strategic plan to R&D a tapeless workflow built around Thomson Viper FilmStream cameras recording to D.Mag Digital Film Magazines (from S.two of Reno, Nev.) on a series of five commercials. He has now applied lessons from those projects to a full-length feature film for the first time with Zodiac, a look at the men and the media circus surrounding the hunt for the famous San Francisco Bay Area serial killer in the 1970s.

Millimeter: HD Heroes

Jun 1, 2006 12:03 PM, By Michael Goldman

Striving for a Unique Filmic Look in Superman Returns with Genesis

When, at press time, Superman Returns rolled into the digital intermediate phase at Technicolor Digital Intermediates (TDI), Burbank, Calif., it was very close to a complete movie, awaiting only the completion of a handful of visual effects shots. As that was happening, director Bryan Singer paused to express great satisfaction with his workflow and the resulting content. Singer gives part of the credit for these results to the choice he and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, made to deploy the Panavision Genesis digital camera system for the film’s image acquisition needs.

Millimeter: Exclusive: The Lasseter POV

Apr 1, 2006 12:05 PM, By Michael Goldman

An Insider’s Look at the Animation Industry with the VES Honoree and Animation Pioneer.

As John Lasseter stepped to the podium to accept the Georges Méliès Award for Pioneering and Artistic Excellence from the Visual Effects Society in February, he couldn’t resist reflecting on his initial steps through the Walt Disney company – steps that launched him to this point in his career. He explained to the crowd, “[Disney had been] the place I dreamed of working my entire life … but when I got there, it was a little disappointing in that it felt like they were doing the same thing over and over – it had all reached a plateau.”

Lasseter said his search for something more began that very day. He quickly realized the potential role computer animation might play in achieving that goal after being impressed by some tests for Disney’s Tron. He realized his friend and future business partner Ed Catmull felt the same way, and off they went – first moving on to the seminal creative laboratory at Lucas Film, and then launching Pixar.

Millimeter: Cutting the Cord

Apr 1, 2006 1:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

New Wireless Technology Brings Roving HD Broadcast to Major Events

After years of waiting for wireless/RF-based HD camera systems to become practical for use as roving cameras in live broadcast situations, the sudden deployment speed of such systems at major events is noteworthy. Prior to late last year, manufacturers, vendors, and broadcasters were still struggling with bandwidth limitations, serious latency issues, signal interference concerns, power consumption challenges, and a host of other obstacles on various embryonic systems. Therefore, they were usually settling for either shooting HD and downsampling it considerably for RF transmission, or shooting SD and up-rezzing it as best they could for broadcast.

Millimeter: Tight Ship


Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
A Clever DP, Efficient Effects, and a Subtle DI help Serenity Stay on Budget.

Joss Whedon Chuckles at the question, “How did the filmmakers behind Universal’s Serenity produce a high-end, science-fiction epic for the big screen without access to Star Wars-type money?”
“We did have Star Wars money – the money they had in the 1970’s for the original Star Wars, that is,” he laughs. “Actually, it’s true – this is a low-budget film relatively speaking, but we had the advantage of using fresh actors who did not command half our budget for salaries; a DP in Jack Green who works unbelievably fast and efficiently; a very clear understanding of what we were trying to do; and the advantage of a digital intermediate [at FotoKem, Burbank, Calif.], which helped us tremendously. That, in essence, helped us turn our small budget into a bigger one – or made it look like we did, anyway.”

Millimeter: A Blustery DI

Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Painting a Wintry Palette on The Weather Man.

Late last year, just prior to sailing off to shoot the next two Pirates of the Caribbean films, director Gore Verbinski finished up what he refers to as his so-called “little, low-budget” movie starring Nicholas Cage – The Weather Man. Verbinski and his crew shot the movie in 2004 and wrapped up the digital intermediate and production of other deliverables at the end of that year. Paramount delayed the theatrical release twice, finally greenlighting it for October, in part to match the timing of the release to the film’s subject matter and look, which can be summed up in one word – blustery.

Millimeter: Legato’s Laboratory

Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Masterminding a unique filmmaking pipeline

Rob Legato ignores the African elephant lumbering past his Ford SUV during the brief ride up a dusty mountain road leading from “Africa” to “China.” Legato wants to get an Eymo camera rig placed and ready to shoot pickups of the SUV’s wheels bouncing along the dusty road so that he and his crew can move on to “Greece.”

Millimeter: Playing With Fire

Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Denis Leary and the Rescue Me team on the HD reality of episodic TV.

Denis Leary joined the ranks of high-definition acquisition afficianados long before his award-winning FX Network series about the lives of firefighters, Rescue Me, now in its second season, went into production. His first experience with the HD format took place in 1999 when he co-starred a low-budget feature thriller, Final, directed by Campbell Scott and released in 2001.

Millimeter: The Bay Method

Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Optimizing production and post on The Island.

Michael Bay freely admits that he broke a few longstanding rules while making The Island for a new studio, DreamWorks, after years partnering with Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney. Among those rules: Never show an unfinished film to studio executives without an audience present, and never screen parts of the movie for the press before it’s finalized. Bay says, however, that, while making the movie, he remained committed to his own creative process. “[DreamWorks was] very good overall about it,” he concludes, “even when I caught them off-guard.”

Millimeter: Rodriguez and 3D Post

Better Anaglyphs and Revised Workflow

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Robert Rodriguez says that even as production of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D entered the 11th hour, he decided to make a major change in the postproduction process. His goal was to improve the left-eye/right-eye anaglyphs that transform the movie’s images into stereoscopic 3D. The process involved moving production of the anaglyphs to Montreal-based, 3D cinema technology company Sensio as time was running out. But what the heck, Rodridguez recently suggested to Millimeter – his goal for the movie was always to “make 3D really pop, without sacrificing color. I think there is a lot more we can do in 3D now that we have the process down a lot more than when we did Spy Kids 3D (in 2003).”

Millimeter: Bat Au Natural

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Director Chris Nolan Keeps It Real For Batman Begins

Chat with director Chris Nolan, winner of the ongoing, eight-year sweepstakes to helm a new version of the Batman story with this month’s Batman Begins, and he will repeatedly stress a simple theme behind his philosophy for making the movie: “a realistic, naturalistic, rich, high-quality look.” That meant that Nolan did not want to make the proverbial “big effects film.” Early on, in fact, he vetoed an opportunity to perform a digital intermediate on the movie, and he also insisted digital effects be used primarily to extend wide shots and enhance certain other shots, and that all CG mimic real-world camera movement and subtle imperfections from principal photography.

Millimeter: Cinematic Sluggers

May 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Shooting and Editing in the Ring

“There have been some great fight films, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on,” says Ron Howard of his hesitation to direct Cinderella Man. “I found it daunting to face the challenge of trying to present boxing in a more compelling fashion than has been done in the past.”

Millimeter: Fade to Black: Catherine Hardwicke, Director

Apr 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Following her ultra low-budget success with Thirteen, production designer-turned-director Catherine Hardwicke says her second feature – Lords of Dogtown, a June release from Columbia about the 1970s skateboarding subculture in Los Angeles – was “mostly a great experience.” The header Hardwicke took into an empty swimming pool while filming the movie’s final scene was an exception to the otherwise positive experience. The accident left her with a broken orbital bone under one eye, a broken jaw, and a nasty concussion, and it delayed production for 10 days.

Millimeter: Breaking the Comfort Zone

Mar 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

How HD workflows paid off for Battlestar Galactica and Enterprise

Marvin Rush points with pride to twin Apple Cinema HD Display monitors ablaze with colorful imagery from a scene he’s directing for an upcoming episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. Rush, a longtime Star Trek franchise veteran, has served as the show’s DP since its inception four years ago. Today, however, he’s directing an episode titled “Through the Mirror Darkly, Part 2” while his A camera operator, Doug Knapp, takes over his DP duties. However, Rush still monitors his precious HD imagery closely.

Rush points to the image on the monitor, cabled from a handheld Sony HDW-F900/3 camera run by operator Joe Chess, who stands on a catwalk filming actress Jolene Blalock. Rush explains how the image runs through an eCinema Systems HD scan converter box to the monitors, giving him a pristine HD view to tweak color himself in realtime during production. Using a Sony RCP-7930N paint box, Rush brings the scene very close to final color long before it enters the postproduction world.

Millimeter: Scorsese’s Color Homage

Jan 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Director Enters Digital Realm to Craft The Aviator’s Vintage, Dye-Transfer Palette

If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Martin Scorsese’s private screening room discussing the history of color feature film processes, he will no doubt school you on such movies as Follow Thru, an obscure 1930 film about golf that illustrates the limitations of the early Technicolor two-strip, dye-transfer process by showing golf courses with blue grass. He might also show you clips from other two-strip films, like 1934’s La Cucaracha and three-strip movies such as The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Blithe Spirit (1945), and Leave Her to Heaven (1945).

Millimeter: Marionette Madness

Nov 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

The Opposite of Wire Removal

The controversies surrounding Paramount’s Team America: World Police threaten to completely over-shadow the movie’s stars. In this case, the stars won’t mind, what with them being marionettes and all, but it would be a shame since the artistry, technical achievements, and logistical headaches involved with making the movie deserve examination. After all, Team America is the most technically complex marionette movie ever made.

Millimeter: Exclusive: The Lucas POV

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Insight into the Producer/Director’s Passion for Digital Filmmaking

Even though he has received more than a few Lifetime Achievement awards, George Lucas isn’t ready to view his career in terms of his “legacy” just yet. The awards on his resume range from the Irving B. Thalberg Award in 1992 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his accomplishments as a movie producer to the first-ever Visual Effects Society Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to him last month by his friend, James Cameron, at the 2nd Annual VES Awards Ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium.

Rather than viewing his work in digital filmmaking and visual effects as a legacy, Lucas prefers to consider it an act of necessity, designed to propel him along his chosen storytelling path. Therefore, with this in mind, Lucas paused carefully when asked to explain his contributions to the visual effects industry.

Millimeter: A Pretty Peter Pan

Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Constructing a Storybook Look

When director/writer P.J. Hogan’s five-year-long obsession with making Universal’s Peter Pan into a faithful representation of J.M. Barrie’s classic story began, the first problem was how to visually represent the famous storybook world on the big screen in a unique way. This question led Hogan on a research project to help communicate the look of the film to his collaborators long before preproduction began.

Millimeter: Making Samurai

Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

The Look and Logistics of The Last Samurai

If the devil is in the details, then there was plenty of devil in The Last Samurai. As director Edward Zwick explains, his decision to commit the film to historically accurate visuals at an epic-like scale meant an almost unending research and logistical management project for him and his collaborators. At the end of the day, everything combined to directly impact the look and feel of his movie.

Millimeter: Finishing Cold Mountain

Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Minghella’s Team Innovates in Postproduction

Director Anthony Minghella decided early in prepa-ration for Cold Mountain that the production and postproduction of the movie would be unorthodox in several respects. He decided principal photography on the Civil War-era piece would take place in Romania, and he agreed to editor Walter Murch’s plan to edit the entire movie on Apple’s Final Cut Pro in Romania. This made Cold Mountain the highest profile studio feature film to date to be edited entirely in Final Cut Pro.

Millimeter: Walter Murch on His Nonlinear Leap of Faith

Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Somewhere, perhaps inside a dusty, forgotten file cabinet at Paramount Studios, there might still lie a paper co-authored by Walter Murch and Francis Ford Coppola in the early 1970s proposing a method of editing The Godfather digitally, in nonlinear fashion. According to Murch, a three-time Academy Award winner and eight-time nominee for both film and sound editing, he and Coppola were pursuing the notion of nonlinear editing as far back as the late 1960s. (And perhaps not surprisingly, Murch would be the first editor to win an Oscar with the Avid Film Composer for his cut of The English Patient).

Millimeter: Making Angels

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

How Production and Post Sold a Fantastical Tale

HBO’s epic seven-hour miniseries, Angels in America, is not only unorthodox in terms of its content, but also in terms of how it was made. The show, directed by Mike Nichols and based on two award-winning Tony Kushner plays (Kushner also wrote the teleplay for HBO), is split into two, 3 1/2-hour parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. The miniseries revolves around a severely ill AIDS patient named Prior (played by Justin Kirk) and his encounters with a mystical angel (played by Emma Thompson), who declares him a prophet in a world where AIDS challenges the existence and purpose of God.

Millimeter: Roger Returns

Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

After a black-and-white, photochemical detour with The Man Who Wasn’t There in 2001, cinematographer Roger Deakins steered the Coen brothers back into the digital intermediate suite at EFilm, Hollywood, for consecutive feature films – their recent Universal release Intolerable Cruelty and the upcoming The Ladykillers (a Buena Vista 2004 release). Deakins and the Coens thus renewed their acquaintance with a rapidly proliferating process they helped pioneer at Cinesite Hollywood in 2000 for O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Millimeter: The DI Dimension

Oct 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Extending Escoffier’s Cinematography

Oscar-winning director Robert Benton was devastated at the death of cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier earlier this year from heart failure shortly after the two had completed working together on Benton’s new film for Miramax, The Human Stain. This was the first time the pair had worked together, joining forces on shoots in Quebec and Massachusetts and then taking a “further journey,” as Benton puts it, in working with artists at Technicolor’s Burbank-based digital intermediate division Technique, on the first digital intermediate for both men. By the end of that journey, Benton felt he had finally found a DP and creative partner to replace Nestor Almendros (who passed away in 1992), with whom Benton made five films, including Kramer vs. Kramer, which Benton won an Oscar for directing in 1979.

Millimeter: Riding the Digital Range

Sep 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Costner and Muro on Digital Intermediate

Kevin Costner wasn’t exactly itching to do a digital intermediate on his new film – Touchstone Pictures’ Open Range – when the project got underway last year. He didn’t even know, or care, what exactly a digital intermediate was. However, as the film’s producer/director and star working with a modest budget for a studio film (just over $20 million), Costner did care about how to best use visual elements to tell the story about a pair of aging cowpokes and their search for frontier justice. His goal: “To use angles, colors, wide open spaces, and interesting framing to show the total experience of being on the open range, and showing the reality of a major gunfight.”

Millimeter: Beyond the Morph

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

Terminator 3 Evolves Historic Effect

While 1991’s Terminator 2 is largely recognized as a seminal step for the visual effects industry because of its then-groundbreaking morph effect, it is largely forgotten that the movie featured fewer than 50 digital effects shots total. Its long-awaited descendent, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, on the other hand, has approximately 650 digital effects shots, virtually all of them far more complex than anything seen in T2.

Millimeter: Shooting Horses on Courses

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

In-Camera for an In-Post Age

When director Gary Ross insists, “I’m not hung up on saying Seabiscuit is my vision – it was a total collaboration in every sense of the word,” his DP on the film, John Schwartzman, ASC, immediately contradicts him.

“It is your vision,” Schwartzman says, reminding Ross that he is both the director and the writer of the piece. “My success on this movie came from getting inside your head.”

Millimeter: Fade to Black, John Singleton, Director

May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

John Singleton doesn’t mind being viewed as an “action director” by film aficionados. In fact, he likes the label. Singleton, who as a boy genius fresh out of USC Film School wrote and directed 1991’s inner-city drama/critical hit, Boyz N the Hood, has taken over the frenetic Fast and Furious franchise helm with 2 Fast 2 Furious, and he’s “really into this action stuff.”

Millimeter: Spielberg Goes Retro

Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Director Returns to Traditional Form

Steven Spielberg decided to direct Catch Me If You Can because the script landed on his desk and, he says, “I loved it.” At that time, it was well into development at DreamWorks. Still, to hear Spielberg talk, it sounds like the project came along right at a point when the director wanted to exit, at least for now, the world of high-end visual effects and dark, futuristic stories of great complexity.

Millimeter: Spike Lee’s New  York

Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Post-9/11 NYC in 25th Hour

Although Edward Norton stars in Spike Lee’s new film, The 25th Hour, a Buena Vista release, the real star is Lee’s beloved city of New York. The director points out that “New York is always a central character” in any of his films that take place in the city, particularly Do the Right Thing and Summer of Sam. But in this case, New York – past and present – was specifically filmed, framed, and featured by Lee and DP Rodrigo Prieto to be a lurking and important presence throughout the narrative.

Millimeter: In the Rings

Nov 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Andrew Lesnie’s Second Round

Andrew Lesnie insists he was “shocked” to learn he had won the Academy Award for cinematography earlier this year for his work on Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Lesnie, like many prognosticators, fully expected Roger Deakins to win the award for The Man Who Wasn’t There. He says the only reason he even “mustered” words for a thank-you speech during the Oscars was the fact that he wanted to pay tribute to his late friend and colleague on the project, chief lighting technician Brian Bansgrove, who passed away in Thailand last December just as Fellowship was released.

Millimeter: The Man Who HATES Film

Aug 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

The kinetic ball of filmmaking energy known as Robert Rodriguez doesn’t merely respect George Lucas, he calls him “my guru, my Obi-Wan.” He’s referring to Lucas’ much-ballyhooed decision to migrate permanently to the world of all-digital filmmaking for his Star Wars films and beyond, and the impact that decision had on his own filmmaking career. Yet, as much as Rodriguez admires Lucas and credits the director for convincing him in 2000 that there is no longer any reason to use film to make movies, Rodriguez sees his back-to-back 24p HD movie projects – current Miramax release Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Columbia, planned for an early 2003 release) – as, potentially, more significant in terms of “paving the way” for the feature film industry to finally embrace HD as its primary acquisition medium, while “abandoning its fears.”

Millimeter: Remaking History

Jun 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Andrew Hardaway recalls John Frankenheimer’s sharp warning at the first pre-production meeting for Frankenheimer’s newest effort – the HBO historical drama, Path to War, about the Johnson administration’s plummet into the Vietnam War.

“John told us, “this will be a very difficult picture,’” says Hardaway, Frankenheimer’s visual effects supervisor on the film. “He was talking about the fact that it was a period piece and that we’d be working with a large cast, extensive sets, archival footage, and visual effects. But his words took on a new meaning after September 11.”

Millimeter: Fade to Black, Sam Raimi, Director

May 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Despite his experience as a feature film director (The Gift, A Simple Plan, two Evil Dead films, Darkman) and television producer (Xena, Hercules), Sam Raimi calls Spider-Man “a huge learning experience.” In fact, the logistical challenge far outpaced anything he’d previously been associated with, and consumed almost three years of his life. Raimi’s method of bringing all the disparate threads together? Mastering the art of collaboration with effects guru John Dykstra, production designer Neil Spisak, DP Don Burgess, costume designer James Acheson, and editors Bob Murawski and Arthur Coburn, among others.

Millimeter: Spirit’s Dimensions

April 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

DreamWorks’ five-year investment in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron typifies the studio’s philosophy regarding so-called “traditional” animated feature films. The movie, after all, is hardly standard fare – it’s essentially a painterly, epic tale about a young horse coming of age, featuring non-speaking lead characters, long stretches without dialogue (only a narrator and a few human characters speak), extensive scenes that highlight stylized landscapes, and a hybrid animation approach that combines hand-drawn and CG images to a far greater extent than most animated features.

Millimeter: Beyond the Bake-Off

Mar 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

At this year’s visual effects award nominations screening – more popularly known as the Visual Effects Oscar Bake-Off – Rob Legato found himself introducing the effects’ reel for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to his peers within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Effects branch. Legato, a previous Oscar winner and Bake-Off veteran, boldly sang Harry Potter’s digital praises.

“You won’t see anything like this ever again, or at least, not for the next 21 minutes, until Lord of the Rings makes its presentation,” he said, chuckling.

Legato’s comment alluded to the fact that all the visual effects’ work in all eight films competing for this year’s three Visual Effects Oscar nomination slots could well be considered “amazing,” with much of it similar in scope, quality, cost, technical breakthroughs, and story contribution.


Millimeter: Fade to Black, Peter Jackson, Director

Feb 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Peter Jackson is planning his next vacation, two years down the road.

“I should be able to get a cheap trip in 2004, if I book it now,” he chuckles. “Can’t go sooner – right now, I’m a little busy.”

Millimeter: Ridley Scott Makes War

Jan 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

In his zeal to recreate the 1993 firefight between U.S. Special Operations forces and Somali militia fighters accurately for his new film, Black Hawk Down, director Ridley Scott found himself engaged in “the most grueling shoot I’ve ever directed, by far.” As that effort wrapped up, Scott insisted he was “extremely satisfied” with his attempt to illustrate the horrors of unconventional, modern combat in the film version of the best-selling book about the tragic battle of Mogadishu, during which American forces were ambushed while trying to capture a Somali warlord.

Millimeter: The 24p Wave?

Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Although the arrival of 24p high-definition camera technology in the last year has garnered technical Emmys and intrigued episodic television producers, it has hardly flooded into production. Such camera packages, after all, were scarce in the United States until recently, and they still tend to cost slightly more to rent than equivalent 35mm or 16mm film packages, according to several producers. Nevertheless, a steady, and growing, 24p production trickle has begun, and some producers insist that trickle will eventually become a tsunami.

Millimeter: Featuring Stock


Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

During production last year of Spy Kids, director Robert Rodriguez insisted on “magical” time-lapse clouds for the film’s “virtual room” sequence. Rodriguez, however, didn’t particularly care whether his crew filmed the clouds or utilized existing footage for the Dimension Films release. In fact, he didn’t really know how to describe his clouds, but he certainly knew them when he saw them.

Millimeter: Fade to Black, Tim Burton

Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

The day after Planet of the Apes premiered, a fried Tim Burton had no clue where his career would veer next. Is Burton committed to an Apes sequel, or any other project, for that matter?

“The only thing I might be committed to is a mental hospital,” Burton cracked, adding, “I’m most interested in jumping off a building right now, to be honest.

Millimeter: Planet Hollywood

Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Rick Baker didn’t need to do much research when he agreed to do the ape makeup for Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. After all, he’s done apes for years in dozens of movies. And he had been plotting his improvements for Planet’s apes since his childhood.

“Without being disrespectful, I thought I could do a better job with the apes’ even back then,” says Baker of his reaction to the 1968 original.

Now, at Tim Burton’s behest, Baker has finally made his contribution to the franchise.

Millimeter: Fight or Switch?

Feb 1, 2001 12:00 PM, BY Michael Goldman

On Stage 22 at the CBS lot in Studio City, a TV film crew is spending a seemingly ordinary day shooting flashback and insert segments for the Fox sitcom Titus. Those segments will be rolled in two days later in front of an audience, during a live shoot of the entire episode, titled “The Last Noelle,” in which the show’s lead character reminisces about his relationship with a psychotic, now-dead, ex-girlfriend.

Jack Kenny, one of the show’s executive producers doubling as director of this episode, is about to film a scene in which Titus’ ex-girlfriend punches him in the face. “A” camera operator John Dechene, however, asks Kenny to “hold on,” trots over to actress Danielle Weeks, and removes two tiny specks of lint from her black slacks. Shooting resumes.

Millimeter: A Seussian Logic

Nov 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Ron Howard calls his latest project, Universal’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, nothing less than “a huge responsibility, a major emotional investment.”

Howard feels that way because of the Grinch’s pedigree. Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) published the children’s story about the fun-hating Grinch in 1957, and famed animator Chuck Jones turned it into a beloved TV cartoon special in 1966. Howard’s film, starring Jim Carrey in Rick Baker-designed makeup and body costume, represents the first attempt to bring Seuss to the big-screen in a live-action format. Howard says his movie was secondarily influenced by Jones’ cartoon, in terms of the Grinch’s greenish hue and the licensing of songs. But, he insists, Seuss’ illustrations were the primary visual reference for the feature.

Millimeter: The Real Survivors

Oct 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

With the second season of Survivor currently in production somewhere on the Australian Outback, the frenzy surrounding the smash CBS reality series continues. Aside from raising various social, creative, and business issues, Survivor’s first 39-day shoot on a remote island off the coast of Malaysia offers interesting technical lessons, as well.

Millimeter: Dark Angel: Behind the Pilot

Sept 1, 2000 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

The Two-hour pilot for Fox’s newest action series, Dark Angel, debuts in October with inevitable fanfare, largely because the program was co-created by James Cameron, who also co-wrote and co-produced the show with partner, Charles Eglee. The pilot and the series, which take place in Seattle in the year 2020, focus on the adventures of a genetically enhanced young woman as she battles the mysterious forces behind a major economic disaster.

Millimeter: John Woo’s Mission: Shooting Action with a Romantic Eye

Jun 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Although his film budgets are getting bigger, director John Woo still harkens back to his Hong Kong action roots. With this summer’s Mission Impossible 2, he continues the tradition that he established through his earlier films, such as 1989’s The Killer, of weaving a romantic subplot into a stunt-laden action tapestry.

“I disagree strongly with those people who say that romance doesn’t belong in action films,” Woo says. “A good action film revolves around relationships, and a romantic relationship is an excellent way to build plot points that lead to action. These developments gave me great set-ups to create big action sequences.”

Millimeter: The Politics of Post: Lobbying Congress For HD Relief

May 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

The FCC mandate that requires broadcasters to completely switch to digital TV programming by 2006 has wide implications for the post production industry. Yet until recently congressional representatives heard little from their post-production constituents. Industry members who have found their voice believe it’s not too late to secure government help with the complex and costly fallout from the mandate. And they are taking their message to Washington.

Millimeter: Filmmakers on Visual Story Points

Apr 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

At its simplest level, the art of filmmaking revolves entirely around the creation of what many filmmakers call “visual language”: a system of specifically designed images that express thematic or story points, irrespective of what other plot or character development is going on verbally. The creation of this language often involves manipulating film stock, lighting, camera angles, and production design, among other techniques. But while it draws from these familiar wells, it is a creative journey that often lacks rules or precedent and differs from filmmaker to filmmaker and project to project. However it is realized, visual language is a piece of the filmmaking equation that brings out deep passions in many high-profile filmmakers and often results in breathtaking imagery.

Millimeter recently spoke to the directors and DPs of three recent films who employed distinctive visual languages. The three films are David O. Russell’s Three Kings; Mike Nichols’ new comedy, What Planet are you From?; and Julie Taymor’s Titus.

Millimeter: From Sprints to Marathons: What Feature Films Taught Four Spot Directors

Nov 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

When Rupert Wainwright started his most recent feature film, MGM’s Stigmata, he pondered the best way to relate his creative vision to his crew. He decided to create an animatic out of professional storyboards, a technique rarely used for live-action films. It was, however, similar to the ripomatics that ad agencies frequently use to visualize commercial concepts.

Millimeter: Behind the Blair Witch Project

Aug 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

The marketing material and Web site for The Blair Witch Project imply that the film consists of actual documentary footage shot by three missing student filmmakers in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, during their investigation of a supernatural legend known as the Blair Witch. Supposedly, the three students disappeared without a trace, and their black-and-white, 16mm film and color Super 8 video footage was located a year later.

In reality, The Blair Witch Project is no documentary. It is a low-budget, 87-minute, independent feature film made by Haxon Films of Orlando, Florida, and distributed by Artisan Entertainment. The project’s unique method of production and postproduction-meant to resemble unrehearsed, documentary footage-may seem more unusual than any supernatural phenomenon, real or imagined.

Millimeter: The Camera Changes Everything: Video Takes A Starring Role in EDtv

Apr 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Rob Reiner turned to Ron Howard and John Schwartzman during the early days of filming on Universal’s EDtv and reportedly asked, “What the hell are you guys doing?”

Reiner’s question, according to Schwartzman, the film’s DP, was a legitimate one. Reiner, a veteran director, was acting in EDtv and was blissfully uninvolved in the film’s technical maze. He had never seen a motion picture shoot that required both a full-time film crew and a full-time video crew. Neither had anyone else on the set, since Howard’s latest film unites the mediums of film and video to an unprecedented degree. As a result, although it might appear on-screen as “merely” a comedy about an ordinary guy who lets a TV crew film his daily life, EDtv traveled one of the most complicated production paths of any film in history.

Millimeter: A Touch of Evil from Beyond the Grave

Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

The much ballyhooed re-edit and re-release of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil amounts, in some ways, to a director’s cut from beyond the grave. After all, the new version, pieced together by famed editor Walter Murch, faithfully adheres to instructions issued by the great director. In late 1957, Welles issued a 58-page memo to Universal Studio executives requesting changes when he learned they were about to release his film in a form that strayed from his original vision.

Millimeter: John Lasseter: Director, VP of Pixar Animation Studios

Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

industry, co-director of Disney’s new CG film, A Bug’s Life, and VP of Pixar Animation Studios. He is a two-time Oscar winner for his creative use of CG imagery.

John Lasseter sometimes sounds like a proud father who beams over his child’s accomplishments and speculates about his bright future. While Lasseter is hardly a single father when it comes to the rise of the all-CG feature film, one could easily call him the genre’s godfather.

Millimeter: A Piece of Pi: The Descent Into Madness Is Not a Black-and-White Affair.

Aug 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Director Darren Aronofsky says the budget restriction imposed upon (Pi)-his critically acclaimed, black-and-white thriller about a mathematician’s descent into madness-was the best thing that could have happened to the movie.

“This film was constructed entirely out of its limitations,” he says. “We knew and understood them from the beginning, and it allowed us to make choices about how to create the stylized look we wanted and examine the (lead) character, Maximillian Cohen, from a completely subjective point of view.”

Millimeter: Ready for Combat: The Crew Of Saving Private Ryan Shares Grit and Glory

Aug 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

DreamWorks’ Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg, is not the first movie set against the historic Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, but filmmakers worked hard to make it the grittiest. The 20-minute opening sequence emphasizes the slaughter that took place on Omaha Beach in early June of 1944 with detailed historical accuracy, and the film later climaxes with a brutal battle scene set in a bombed-out French village.

Millimeter: Close-up On Armageddon: Bruckheimer and Bay Hurl Asteroids and Break New Ground

Jul 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

Touchstone’s Armageddon is a typical Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay collaboration (they teamed up on 1995’s Bad Boys and 1996’s The Rock) in that it features a spectacular orgy of non-stop, camera-close action. Only this time, producer Bruckheimer and director Bay did it on a larger scale: Bruce Willis as the lead, outer space as the environment, and a $140 million budget.

The end result is a “rollicking big movie,” in Bay’s words, with a feast of visual effects. There are close to 300 shots (both CG and physical) in the film, created by 13 different effects houses, including Dream Quest Images, Simi Valley (owned by Disney), and Digital Domain, Venice.

Mix Magazine: The Wireless Reality

Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman

Broadcasting’s current soup du jour, otherwise known as reality television, offers a plethora of nightmares to torment audio crews. Take a recent challenge posed by NBC’s Fear Factor. For some reason, contestants agreed to crawl through a rat-infested drainage tunnel while water flowed over them, in keeping with the show’s format requiring players to participate in bizarre stunts. Those logistics, in turn, required the audio crew to transmit wireless signals from contestants’ stunt mics inside the tunnel up to field mixing stations.

Mix Magazine: Piano Celebrates 300th Birthday

Dec 1, 2000 12:00 PM, MICHAEL GOLDMAN


When the Italian craftsman Bartolomeo Cristofori built three pianos in 1722 under the patronage of the Medici government, he couldn’t have predicted that one of them would be featured 278 years later in full-blown, High Definition (HD) and 5.1 surround sound on PBS. But one of Cristofori’s pianos – believed to be the oldest piano on Earth – survived long enough to participate in the instrument’s birthday celebration. That piano, on loan from an Italian museum and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute as part of an exhibit marking the invention of the piano in 1700, is briefly spotlighted in “Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration,” which aired on PBS in late November.

Mix Magazine: Firesign Theatre Returns: Comedy for the New Millenium

Feb 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

After a 17-year break, the four original members of the legendary Firesign Theatre comedy troupe returned to the recording studio last year. Their mission: to record a new, original comedy album-Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death-released last fall by Rhino Records. Since the group had not put out an original album since 1982, and since most of its classic recordings were created between 1967 and 1971, one might presume a touch of audio culture shock washed over Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor-now in their late 50s and early 60s-when they first entered Sunburst Studios in Culver City to record Immortality under the guidance of veteran engineer Bob Wayne. However, “It’s not like we spent the last 17 years in a time warp,” says Austin. “We’ve been working individually in the audio business all this time, doing commercial, TV and film work. We’re all well aware of the wonders of modern technology.”

Animation World Network: Stan Lee: Comic Guru

By Michael Goldman, July 1997

Stan Lee can’t understand it. “What is taking the Pulitzer Prize Committee so long to call me?” he wonders. “They know where I am. They know how to spell my name. Their letter must have gotten lost in the mail.” Lee then breaks into a robust laugh at the thought that his writing career, as prolific as it has been, should merit a Pulitzer. But for a legion of middle-aged adults and teenagers alike who have grown up on a steady diet of Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, among others, some sort of prize for Lee most certainly would be in order. After all, Lee is not only the person who created or co-created many of the most popular comic book characters of all time, he is also godfather to the modern comic book industry. Over the course of his 50-plus-year relationship with Marvel Comics, he has created a new methodology for writing and producing them. Lee has also been a central player in bringing Marvel super-heroes into the animation realm.

Animation World Network: Nickelodeon Goes Global

By Michael Goldman, Sept. 1996

To become a global animation powerhouse, a company needs to be part of a global entity. Nickelodeon International certainly fits that definition, falling under the umbrella of parent media giant, Viacom, Inc. And, although it may be argued that Nickelodeon is not yet a global animation powerhouse, it most certainly is a children’s entertainment powerhouse generally, with animation serving as the foundation of the company’s growing international presence