Magazine article American Cinematographer

What's New

Magazine article American Cinematographer

What's New

Article excerpt

A Pocketful of Sunlight and Shadows

Tom Barron of lkonographics of Hollywood has spent years developing the programming for his new pocket pal (TM), a hand-held computer for the cinematographer. According to Barron, it replaces charts, tables and computational nomograms with a set of easi Iy accessed routines.

Director/cameraman and inventor Barron admits that his is not the first nor the last cinematographer's computer, but it does have some very interesting features that make it a useful tool and a complement to the light meter. The computer itself is made by Casio; it is marketed by Casio as the FX-795P and through the Tandy corporation as the PC6. A true computer with 16K of Basic programming in memory, it is small enough to slip into a shirt pocket and it is easy to use. The program is available separately and can be loaded into certain Psion and Sharp computers as well.

The nine basic routines include framing, depth of field, exposure, split focus, F-stop calculations and others. The most unusual one is called Solar. It predicts the position of the sun and corresponding shadow for any given location, day and time. Or, given the desired sun or shadow condition at a certain latitude and longitude, it will find an appropriate date and time.

Each of the routines is set up as a series of questions. An enormous amount of information can be accessed quickly byansweringthequestions posed by the computer with either a "yes" or "no" or with a fill-in-the-blank value. For example, to answer the question, "What is the total depth of field for a 50mm lens focused at 8' 8" with the stop set at F8?" you simply answer three questions. The computer comes back with the information: "7<9>12 5.06 ft." Five feet six inches is the total depth with the near focus at seven feet and the far focus at about 12 feet.

In addition, to contribute to speed and accuracy, once information is entered, it stays-even if the computer is turned off. This means that when a cinematographer in the field tells the computer what film format, lens, or ASA he is using, it will remember that value until a new value is entered.

Why would a cinematographer want the pocket pal? According to Barran, "The pocket pal gives high precision with convenience and that, in effect, is what is expected of the cinematographer. He must be precise, confident and quick."

A hefty manual comes with the computer and an optional accessory package called The Nerd Pack (which contains a compass and inclinometer) is also available. Barron expects to have an instructional video completed very soon and all owners are put in touch with a loosely-knit users group. The pocket pal is available from lkonographics, 953 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, CA, 90038. Telephone (213) 461-0636.

Film/Electronic Interface

There is a long standing sentimentamong many cinematographers that film is film and video is video and when the twain meet the results usually spell disaster. Their fears, too often, are justified, but this may pass sooner than many expect. Great strides are being made toward alleviating the agony cinematographers often experience when theirfilms are transferred electronically.

A promising breakthrough is Eastman Kodak's experimental CCD HDTV telecine for transferring images recorded on motion picture film to HDTV. Kodak unveiled a new film/electronic interface technology in Los Angeles at the annual conference of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) last October.

At the same time, the company also proposed the development of a high-resolution electronic intermediate system for motion picture film. Kodak already has developed experimental models of key high-resolution electronic intermediate system peripherals, a solidstate CCD film scanner and an infrared laser film recorder.

"The technology will redefine image quality standards for the film/ electronic interface," according to Joerg D. …

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