ASC's Technology Committee Helps Shape the Future

By Clark, Curtis | American Cinematographer, April 2006 | Go to article overview

ASC's Technology Committee Helps Shape the Future


Clark, Curtis, American Cinematographer


Cinematographers have formed the cornerstone of the filmmaking process since its inception by persistently using their mastery of evolving motion-picture technologies to create expressive images, while endeavoring to ensure that those images are faithfully reproduced. Since its founding in 1919, the ASC has consistently played a leading role in influencing an array of motion-picture technology developments - film stocks, cameras, lenses, lighting, lab processes and film projection among them - and has in many cases contributed to the establishment of industry standards.

The ASC Technology Committee, which had its inaugural meeting in January 2003, represents the continuation of a well-established ASC tradition of working diligently to ensure that motion-picture technology developments advance the art and craft of filmmaking. Our action agenda over the last three years has demonstrated our determination to thoroughly understand how new digital technologies are radically transforming the traditional motion-imaging process. Our objective is to influence the development of these technologies in ways that best serve the creative needs of cinematographers and their filmmaking collaborators. In this new era of hybrid film and digital motion imaging, cinematographers must understand how the convergence of these technologies impact the new tools they need to master so they can better manage the integrity of their images within the new workflow practices.

An early challenge and major, success for our Technology Committee was the well-known collaboration with Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) to produce original film material designed for testing digital projection for digital cinema (see Tomorrow's Technology, AC Jan. '04). Known as the StEM (Standard Evaluation Material), the results have become the industry's definitive film-origination reference source for evaluating digital projection and compression of digital motion images. The remarkably positive, collaborative experience we had with DCI gave our Technology Committee invaluable working experience with project-driven goals and results. The enthusiasm and dedication from our members, associates and invited contributors set a high standard for our future activities.

To serve the committee's agenda more efficiently, we created several permanent subcommittees whose tasks are to focus on defined aspects of the workflow. These subcommittees include camera, digital intermediate, digital display, advanced imaging, archiving, and workflow. The workflow subcommittee, our newest, has become the principal working group where the ASC has extended its involvement with other organizations representing key positions in the filmmaking process; these include the Art Directors Guild, the Producers Guild of America and the Technology Committee of American Cinema Editors. Our Technology Committee has developed a close, project-based working relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Technology Council. At IBC in 2005, an important collaborative relationship between our Technology Committee and the prestigious German Fraunhoffer Institute for Integrated Circuits was announced. Quoting from the press release, the two groups "have decided to work closely together to advance and intensify technological research in the area of professional cinematography. The main objective is to ensure a smooth integration of new technologies in the field of professional cinematography while identifying and protecting the needs and requirements of cinematographers . . . . The overall approach is to establish seamless workflow solutions from image acquisition through postproduction to archiving."

To effectively deal with the scope of challenges facing our Technology Committee, it was deemed imperative that we include the best film and television industry technology experts along with our ASC members and ASC associate members. This strategy has created a unique industry forum that has generated a successful dynamic of constructive contributions from diverse and complimentary areas of expertise. …

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