Magazine article American Cinematographer

A New Micro-Computer for Optical Houses

Magazine article American Cinematographer

A New Micro-Computer for Optical Houses

Article excerpt

A multi-purpose micro-computer no bigger than a pocket calculator designed to cut optical printing drudgery by 200 to 300 percent

A new multi-purpose micro-computer has been developed which, its designers claim, can cut costly drudgery at optical printing and animation houses by as much as 200 to 300 percent.

The small keyboard, no bigger than an ordinary pocket calculator, and optional printer can be used in two different programs-for solving line-up problems and for calculation of camera movements.

It's designed to chop off 85 percent of the time usually needed to figure out lineup problems. In a job like line-up, where one mistake can cause weeks of delay and cost thousands of dollars in reshoots, the little box can practically eliminate all mathematical errors, claim developers Chris Dierdorff and Paul Jaffe.

As an aid in plotting camera movements, it can be used with an animation stand or optical bench to achieve the identical look of $50,000 to $100,000 worth of motion-control equipment, according to distributor Cinecomp of Santa Monica, CA.

No, "Rosebaud," as the unit is named, won't actually move the camera and artwork for the animation stand or optical printer operator. That's motion control proper. A computer generates mathematical curves for each axis of camera and artwork movement and then "walks" the stepping motors through those curves. With this system, a sort of human-assist motion control, the computer still plots out the requested curves, but the camera operator does the walking -no pun intended.

Hollywood-based Cinema Research Corporation (CRC), one of the oldest optical houses in the country, has used the gadget on such major projects as: OUTLAND, BLOW OUT, THE LONE RANGER, BEATLEMANIA, THE GREAT DIVIDE, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, S.O.B. and THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, says Peter Donen, CRC vice-president and creative director.

"The basic thing that it does is save you a tremendous amount of time," Donen explained. "And because it saves so much time, it allows us to produce more complicated moves for more clients."

Added Ernie Arcella, who originally began with CRC and has been its animation cameraman for 34 years, "It's a great thing to have ... Makes my life a whole lot easier. I wish I'd had one of these 20 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time."

Bill Taylor, Universal Studio's matte department Director of Photography, independently developed a similar system along with his friend, math-whiz Keith Robinson. That system, designed for their personal use only, is admittedly "less sophisticated" than Cinecomp's but, Taylor says, it's still "an enormous time saver."

"Ten minutes versus eight hours ... That's a hell of a percentage," he added. "A program like Cinecomp's has already saved me thousands and thousands of dollars -chopped days off the schedule, and I've only been using it for six months.

"It has been invaluable. The users have been pretty enthusiastic. I mean, Al Whitlock, my boss, sees that the moves are much better now. There are no glitches in them from human error, from writing down the moves. The Cinecomp programs do what mine do and more. Believe me, if I had known that their programs existed, I wouldn't have invested all the time and effort in developing my own. Theirs is much more sophisticated."

Cinecomp's unit can aid camera operators doing either pans or zooms.

Besides figuring out pan runs in about a quarter of the time it would take with a "normal" pocket calculator, it provides the operator with a print-out of all the numbers and steps. The operator doesn't have to write it out in longhand as he figures it out. The print-out can be referred to during shooting. The gadget also keeps accurate track of camera-specific frame counts, Cinecomp claims.

But, one of the main advantages of Rosebaud in either its pan or zoom function, is its programmed ability to compute mathematically-perfect in-and-out cushions, Jaffe pointed out. …

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