Magazine article American Cinematographer


Magazine article American Cinematographer


Article excerpt

The Vatican is at once a place well known and unknown, a place both familiar and mysterious. On This Rock . . . a Look Inside the Vatican is a new 30-minute film that takes the viewer inside the world's smallest and most unusual country. Some unusual methods were used to put the story on film.

Cineco-Centrill Media Productions, which is based in Springfield, Illinois, produced the picture. It was financed by the 30-member Vatican Film Partnership, which was formed to raise the $210,000 necessary for production. George Little, writer and director, and Dan White, producer and director of photography, took a six-man crew to Italy in the spring of 1986. They were determined to depict the Vatican as it has never been seen by the public.

"The film shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a very extraordinary place," White said. "There is no place on earth like Vatican City, and I think On This Rock . . . does an effective job of communicating that fact."

Little added, "From the beginning to the end of the project, our goal was to combine creative and technical excellence into a film that would educate and inform viewers and generate an emotional response." The important thing, Little felt, was to capture on film "the contrasts of Vatican City: the human and the spiritual, the humble and the grand, the traditional and the modern.

"With the amount of information we wished to include, a documentary approach was most appropriate," Little noted. "Still, we did not want the film to have the grainy look associated with the classic documentary style, or the appearance of a video news feature. We worked with two camera crews almost all the time, with both crews receiving their assignments and shot lists and going their separate ways each day. Ed Krol and Dan White were the cinematographers, and the three of us spent considerable time on pre-production and carefully reviewed our dailies to make certain we did not lapse into those styles when we were forced into situations with limited set-up time and limited lighting possibilities."

Little found that his directorial work offered "both a creative and logistical challenge, and a pure pleasure. A film which is done in the midst of nearly 2,000 years of living history, and one which includes some of the world's greatest artistic and architectural masterpieces, must be worthy of its subject. Each of the more than 500 shots in the film were carefully planned and filmed from several angles to achieve the best possible look and 'feel.' "

Although the picture was photographed on film, it was done so with the knowledge that it eventually would be released on video. It was photographed, therefore, at 30 fps using two specially modified Arriflex SR 16s.

"We have shot several industrial films and commercials at 30 fps," said White, who is enthusiastic about the technique. "At first, we tried it to allow frame-to-frame video editing, but we began to see other benefits. Thirty frames per second is six more frames in each second, which doesn't seem like a big deal until you stop and think that it means giving the viewer 25% more information in each second of film. Not only that, but after making side by side comparisons with 24 and 30 fps film transferred to tape, the 30 frame photography is far superior. Anyone who tells you that they can't see the difference must be having a bad day.

"We used Eastman's 7291 and 7292, purchased in Rome for the job. The lab work was also done in Rome, by Technicolor. …

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