Magazine article American Cinematographer

President's Desk

Magazine article American Cinematographer

President's Desk

Article excerpt

Cinematographers have been called a lot of things over the years, but prognosticator might not be among them. Nevertheless, Leon Shamroy - a legendary ASC member if there ever was one - certainly qualified as our own Nostradamus. While not busy earning one of his four Academy Awards (out of 18 nominations!), he somehow found the time to publish the following statement in the October 1947 issue of this magazine:

"Not too far off is the 'electronic camera.' A compact, lightweight box, no larger than a Brownie Kodak, will contain a highly sensitive pickup tube, WO times faster than present-day film. A single-lens system adjusting to any focal length smoothly by turning a knob will replace the cumbersome interchangeable lenses of today. ...The camera will be linked to the film recorder by coaxial cable or radio.... Electronic monitor screens connected into the system will make it possible to view the scene as it is being recorded. Control of contrast and color will be possible before development. "

It's amazing that someone could have been that precise so far ahead of time. The only way to improve upon what he said would have been to note manufacturers' names - but you've got to forgive him that. Even allowing for his far-reaching genius, how was he to know the manner in which international commerce would play out some 70 years later?

Seriously though, what prompted my noting of Shamroy's prediction was something expressed by another of our organization's eternal elite: the late, great William A. Fraker. Having earned six Oscar nominations as well as the ASC and Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Awards, Fraker was no slouch in the credibility department, either. Shortly before he passed away - and during the era Shamroy had so brilliantly imagined - he said to me:

"Regardless of any new technologies or what might happen in the future, cinematographers have always found ways to adapt and to get the best out of whatever equipment they're using. What's most important is that you get the image you want onto the screen so other people can share it. The tools only matter in that they allow you to get your feelings up there. So, in essence, it's really only the artistry that matters. "

I can't think of a more appropriate addition to Shamroy's musings, especially when I look back over the past decade and so much of what has passed for conventional wisdom. …

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