The half-yearly meeting was positive and productive as usual. Our National President, Ron Johanson ACS, was in fine form and we achieved a lot.
The Society is in great shape. Membership numbers are up (over 1700 members across the country) and National sponsorship funds are up too. Our branch recently received around $1,500 as our cut of that sponsorship pie. The extra cash will help us fund local events in the year ahead. AC Magazine continues to be the flagship publication of our society and online versions of some of the articles are bringing the ACS to a whole new audience. For example, the latest edition of AC featured an article on Star Trek Beyond (shot by NSW member Steve Windon ACS ASC). The online version has had over 25,000 views.
One of the key things discussed at the meeting was updating ACS membership categories to better reflect our modern industry and make it easier for members to accurately identify which membership type reflects their current role in the industry. It's a definite improvement and you’ll see the new membership levels and descriptors appear on the ACS web page as soon as the Articles of Association have been amended and ticked off by the lawyers.
Anyway enough waffle – take some time to read the contributions from Tasmanian ACS members below. You’ll be amazed to see the diversity and interesting work being done here and elsewhere.
Peter Curtis ACS
I am one of the newer members of the ACS in Tasmania, having recently moved here with my Australian wife Frances, who is an educational publisher. For about 30 years we lived in Bath in the south of England. Luckily it’s near Bristol, home to the famous BBC Natural History Unit and a large group of related production companies. For me, it all started after taking redundancy from a mundane job.
I decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown. I’d always been a keen naturalist and an enthusiastic filmmaker so this was my opportunity to combine those passions and join the ‘big boys’.
Filming wildlife is one of the more difficult forms of cinematography in that none of these critters can hit a mark or read a script, so you need to know your subject. A great deal of patience is also required. Sitting in hides 14 hours straight is not uncommon. After a very shaky start and many hours pestering producers, I finally got a break providing inserts for a national wildlife programme. They liked what I did so they kept using me.
At that time all wildlife was still being shot on Super-16 film, thanks mainly to the instant start of the Arri camera. Sony was constantly trying to tempt wildlife cameramen to change over to their new Digi-Beta format. The problem was its start up time. It can take 5 seconds to lace the tape and roll and in that time all the animal action could be completely over. In those days battery life was also a big problem. An Arri film camera used no power at all while at rest.
The biggest hurdle I had was how to afford an Arri SR2 plus all the lenses and kit required, so I did what we all do, I went into debt, big-time. It was a gamble that paid off as I ended up putting thousands of feet through that camera (which I still have today) filming for all the major players at the time, Nat Geo, Discovery, Canal Plus as well as the NHU for the BBC.
I built a reputation with good field-craft and self-reliance.
Only when Sony had invented the buffer memory system and battery technology improved significantly did Nat His cameramen start to change over.
After doing this for years there was a gradual wane in interest for Natural History programmes, so work became more sporadic. I diversified and started shooting more general documentaries. It was difficult at first because I was known as a wildlife cinematographer. I got there in the end. Along with corporates, music promos (a lot of which were shot on film as they loved the look) and some local commercials now and then, I was kept busy and managed to pay the bills.
Eventually, I got a break in drama and gained my first DoP credit in 2000. I had learned to light on wildlife sets and loved the skill involved, so this was a dream come true. From then on I went for as many drama jobs as time would allow. I love lighting for film but more and more productions are shot on digital these days, which is great to work with and easier to light. Lighting to a well set up monitor certainly takes the pressure off but no matter what I am doing, my light meter is always with me. It’s my security blanket.
When time allowed between productions I was lecturing at media classes or dreaming up ideas for single programmes or series and then pitching them to broadcasters. I certainly got to know the meaning of “no thanks” as most of them were rejected. I found that some broadcasters want an idea on 2 A4’s at the most, while others want an outline budget, cast and crew suggestions and location ideas, all properly bound in no more than 10 pages. I kid you not.
However, despite all these various hoops to jump through, some ideas were taken up, so I found myself wearing the producers and directors hat. It was a steep learning curve and more high-pressure than I was used to but I thrived on it and found it great fun. I can now look at a job from both sides of a budget sheet.
While I was going through a slack period I got in touch with a crewing company that dealt exclusively with Sky Sports and all of a sudden I was a sports cameraman. I was sent out shooting all sorts of subjects, cycling, archery, soccer, rugby, golf, pitch-side, interviews, live OB’s etc and I found it great fun at first but then it became relentless. I also found this was getting in the way of my drama/doc path so I took on less and less until they stopped ringing me. I was happy to do less, it always hurts turning down work.
In 2013 Frances was diagnosed with breast cancer and from that day forth everything changed. It certainly concentrates the mind on what is important in life and Frances decided she would like to return to her home. So in 2015 we did just that. I am happy to say she’s made a great recovery and we now live a contented life in Blackmans Bay.
I’ve learnt quite a bit over the years and I am now trying to pay it forward by running some courses in Tasmania for up and coming film makers. Whether they take off only time will tell.
Hi all. 2016 has been another busy year on the OB Golf circuit for me.
The major highlights have been working on my first British Open in Scotland and the Olympic Games in Rio.
The Open was a great event with so many of the world’s best golfers in action. My camera position for the duration was on top of the massive grandstand housing the crowd. The advantage of this particular high position was I could see all the 1st hole, then swing over and cover all of the 18th hole. This made for long days battling all the weather elements that Scotland could throw at me.
In August it was off to Brazil to be part of the NBC coverage of the Olympic Golf competition. I was working one of the RF camera's. It was great to meet all the American operator's and see the very latest HD trucks in action. Rio itself was great, but sadly I only had one day off to play tourist.
I was back in Hobart briefly, but now I am back on the Asian Golf Circuit right up to the end of the year and bringing in 2017.
In early August I took a call from an old colleague, asking if I knew any PA’s to work with a unit manager flying into Hobart to work on a Red Bull team special assignment. I put my own hand up, as it sounded interesting and different to anything I’d done in a while.
My first task was to collect a two tonne delivery van and three 8-seater minivans from a rental company. Then I discovered why.
At Hobart airport forty-two Pelican cases were loaded into the van while the crew filled the people-movers and we hit the road for Port Arthur. They checked into the hotel with one room booked solely for the gear. All the batteries and chargers were first to be set up. There were at least fifty batteries of all sizes going onto the chargers. Then the cameras were unpacked: four Reds; a high speed camera; three Canon 5D’s; three 7D’s; heaps of Go Pros; two Phantom drones and two bigger drones.
Finally a high-end 360 degree camera was unpacked which was very heavy. This camera was to be mounted under a drone supplied by Magnum Productions in Brisbane. There were also 2-metre long remote camera sliders, programed for time lapse shots of sunrises, sunsets and night skies.
The ‘B-Roll’ cameraman, Mike, was out all day and night shooting time lapses. I took him to locations that us locals take for granted, but he was in awe. On the second day, he jumped into a boat at Fortescue Bay to shoot the main action that was about to unfold. As they were motoring out of the bay, a pod of Killer Whales started hunting. Mike put his drone up and couldn’t believe what he was seeing and shooting.
Next I joined the rest of the team loading backpacks with batteries, tripods, lenses, drones and food. There were five cameramen, an audio op, someone to copy the media from the camera cards, eight from Red Bull plus Toby the drone pilot, a producer and two PA’s. Then there was a boat driver and the two main talent flown in from overseas.
The crew had just completed another similar shoot and flown in directly from Mongolia. They looked a bit tired but when all the gear was packed for the walk in, they all looked for the heaviest packs to carry, and some even took two packs. They were a team that did whatever was needed to get the shots. After a long slog out to Cape Hauy the gear was unpacked. Two-way radios were handed out with a range of about 12 km. They were shooting all day till about 6pm only to walk back to Fortescue Bay in the dark. This walk was repeated three days in a row. The boys had knees iced up at night because of injuries, but they all arrived day after day, not letting the team down.
Dougie was one of the cameramen. He’d previously shot the TV show called The Worlds Dirtiest Jobs. He climbed down a rock face to shoot the main talent and was one very fit bloke. A boat was positioned below and rode the huge swells surging up onto the cliffs. Mike the cameraman then jumped out of the boat with a huge camera in a housing to grab a few shots of the main talent jumping into the massive seas from the cliff, and then swimming over to another. Mike was smashed onto the rocks but got some great footage of the talent trying to pull herself out of the water and then losing her grip and being washed back into the ocean. It was a tense time for every one looking down from a 100m above, unable to do anything.
After each day they all were saying this is the most amazing location they had been to. The weather was great- clear blues sky every day and it was brilliant ……oh and I did get to shoot!
Earlier this year, I was invited to shoot a short film produced by Paul Moran and directed by Pauline Marsh called the ‘Conquest of Emmie’. The main shooting location was the Woodvine Nature Reserve, a few kilometers from Forcett in SE Tasmania.
The 4-day shoot was always going to be a challenge, as the location was amid some old farm buildings on an open hill-top (with no power), and exposed to strong prevailing winds. That said, nobody could have imagined 4 days of the wildest weather Tasmania could throw at us.
With everyone pulling their weight, under the difficult conditions, we ended up turning the weather to our advantage and were fortunate enough to complete the shoot, with some wonderful performances coinciding with gorgeous Tassie light safely in the can!!
The crew was a mix of full-time industry professionals like Peter Curtis and part-time up-and-comers like our 3 very helpful Rosny students. It was unanimously agreed, that working with first time Director Pauline Marsh and Producer Paul Moran, was a wonderful experience - setting the bar for a friendly, productive and supportive film set.
‘Conquest of Emmie’ premiered at the Wide Angle Theatre Royal event in July and has recently been chosen to screen at BOFA 2016.
In July I was commissioned to shoot underwater vision for a new Sony Bravia 4K TV Commercial. The shoot was on Vava’u Island in the Kingdom of Tonga and the subject was humpback whales. I was really excited about Tonga because it’s not too far from Australia. It offers breath-taking scenery, friendly people, crystal clear warm water and, of course, an abundance of humpback whales which visit the islands every year to give birth and mate.
The schedule was extremely tight with only a week on the water and a long shot-list of breath-taking shots that can sometimes take years to get! It was a big ask and we’d need lots of luck.
The Commercial will be mastered in 4K, 60p and most shots were shot over-cranked at 120 fps. The idea to over-crank was to make the whales feel epic: associating Sony Bravia’s brand image with something that is big, majestic, friendly and beautiful…something that demands respect, inspires awe and something that will be an eye candy at the point of sale. I can’t think of a better subject than humpback whales!
It was my first 2D shoot for 5 years! Not having to worry about things like “volume”, “card-boarding”, “parallax” or “depth budget” gave me a fair bit of extra freedom in framing. I especially wanted to get some unusual, previously unseen, angles of the whales that would catch the eye and also convey their enormity, elegance and grace.
I chose my DeepX housing, RED Dragon camera, TrueBlue OLPF filter and the Nikonos 15mm submersible lens. It’s still the only underwater lens system capable of resolving full UHD from corner to corner. The client loved the crisp, detailed and vibrant look it produced. It’s also the only underwater lens that produces absolutely no distortions and flat image plane – a recipe for immersive images which has been my passion when filming for IMAX and
Giant Screen. The small size of the DeepX allowed me to get all of the shots on breath hold – no more cumbersome tank or a rebreather and more time in the water before exhaustion sets in. Some days I would jump in 30 to 40 times.
The highlight of the shoot was a young adult female whale, which exhibited a very unusual behaviour that I haven't seen from any whale before: she sought physical contact! When a 25-ton animal comes in for a cuddle, it can be tricky. Luckily for me, she was very gentle (for a whale)! I spent a total of 4 hours with her in the water and escaped with only minor cuts and bruises, mostly attained while trying to keep enough space between us to fit the camera.
Swimming away was completely useless. She would just come underneath and pick me up on her head like raising an island…about 30 times. After that, I would just slide down her nose and slip back into the water and try to line up a shot again.
At the end of the shoot I was greatly relieved. The Sony team was extremely happy with the footage, both in terms of the technical quality as well as the coverage. We not only ticked off every single shot from the very ambitious shot-list, but we perfected every take and we managed to get enough material for one-hour network special! We only needed one and a half minutes! Good luck to the editor choosing the best shots.
I can't wait to see the final edit to be screened on new Sony 4K TVs at retail outlets by Christmas.
It’s been a reasonably busy time for me these last few months. I have recently returned to Melbourne after a few weeks on a shoot in South America, filming some content for the Paralympics, in and around Rio. There are many tougher places in the world to call home for a few weeks! To show how tough it was, here’s a photo of the difficult conditions........
I have also been busy doing some advertising content this year... which is a welcome challenge for me. But documentary work is still the thing that keeps the wolf from my door.
Earlier this year I was asked by Warwick Field (ACS Vic President) to present an ACS workshop about how to go about filming interviews in a dynamic environment. It was part of the ACS involvement in the St Kilda Film Festival. It was a packed room and I found the experience very rewarding. For something cinematographers often undertake in autopilot mode, the chance (and challenge) to explain our thought process to a group of interested people was a very rewarding one. Overall, it was a successful day.
I’m looking forward to catching up with you all soon – hopefully at the ACS Vic/Tas Awards in November.
I moved to Tasmania from the madness of Sydney in 2008. Partly to have a life without debt and also to be in a position of paying back to my chosen profession.
At fifteen I was pretty sure I wanted to be in the film & TV industry. I had been making student films on Super 8 since I was thirteen but I had no idea what the professional industry was like or how to get onto a set to find out.
Through a series of coincidences, Philip Noyce rang Sue Milliken and got me onto the set of a feature film – The Removalists. I didn't know Phil and he barely knew of me but he generously made that call and I was in. What a set to walk on!
In an old gutted cinema at the back of Bondi in Sydney, they had built an enormous set – a block of flats two stories high and a street with houses on the other side. Lighting this massive set was the job of gaffers Brian Bansgrove and Tony Tegg. They needed a scaffold monkey to race up and change the bulbs in the five 10K soft lights that Tony had made. It was hot and the bulbs were going off at a fairly regular rate. I was their monkey.
Little did I realise what a stellar cast and crew were making that film. DOP was Graham Lind, a gentle bearded giant of a man who patiently showed me how to use a Spectra light meter. Camera operator was Peter James who explained how to do figure eights with geared head wheels and let me sit on his dolly stool and peer through the eyepiece of a Panavision camera. Gillian Armstrong was in the Art Department. Out in a back room, editor Tony Buckley patiently explained syncing double system sound on a Moviola.
Back on set, actors John Hargraves and Chris Haywood patiently tolerated my endless questions even though it was their first big film and were nervous. Kate Fitzpatrick and Jacki Weaver were also making breakthrough career moves but still found time to sit next to this naïve fifteen year old and extoll the virtues of finishing school rather than diving into the industry straight away. Everyone was relaxed, tolerant and abundantly generous.
I tried not to be that pain in the arse kid, bumbling around the set tripping over expensive kit or ruining a sound take. Young boom swinger Max Hensser would give me 'the look' if I was in danger of tangling with the mic cables and recordist Ken Hammond helped me understand how pilot tone sync worked on a Nagra. Again and again, these busy pressured professionals showed patience and generosity. I must have been a nuisance but perhaps they remembered their first time on set and cut me some slack.
Everyone was generous but the icing on the cake was the amazing Tony Tegg who not only managed to teach me about lighting but at the end of the production, he secretly shouted me to a two-year subscription of American Cinematographer magazine. So many gestures of generosity plus the gift of the magazine subscription decided me. My career path was chosen.
A decade later as a location sound recordist I turned up on set and there was Tony, still patiently setting up lights, cutters and reflectors with the same enthusiasm and care. He was absolutely thrilled that I had made it into the industry and he fessed up that he had bought the magazine subscription.
When I now find myself in a position to pay back those selfless acts of generosity through mentoring young film makers doing Raw Nerve, I hope to be like Tony and help tip someone into a lifelong rewarding career.
Recently, after nine years with CNNI (CNN International) in London, my wife Brooke and I jumped at an opportunity to move to Los Angeles. We’d won Green Cards after entering the Diversity Visa lottery and were both craving a lifestyle change. We knew that California offered the sun-soaked surf life that we’d missed so much since leaving Australia.
Sadly I was giving up my staff features position at CNNI London, but I knew that I could take advantage of a niche that existed in the US to service the needs of CNNI in the States. It may come as a surprise but CNN (US) and CNNI operate as two separate entities, and there are currently no CNNI cameramen based in the US.
So Brooke and I set ourselves up as an ‘S Corporation’ – CineBeau Productions, and often work together as a producer/cinematographer unit. I’ve purchased a Sony FS7 kit, which matches CNNI’s production cameras. It’s proved to be a cost-effective and versatile option for the type of work I’m pursuing.
I’ve geared it towards the most ENG-like set-up possible, allowing me to work quickly whilst maintaining a large-sensor production standard. I’ve also found it to be highly desirable with outside production companies, as it has the same sensor as the F5 and only lacks a small amount of bit-depth, in comparison.
Getting started as freelancer in the US has been challenging at times. For as much as it may appear to be progressive country, many of the US business and banking systems seem behind the times. After some trying moments, we’ve become used to the quirks and our business is running smoothly!
Thankfully we’ve been busy enough to enjoy some of the wonderful sights America has to offer, including shoots in amazing locations. From the scenic national parks of the Mid-West, to the ghost towns of the Salton Sea, and the rolling green vineyards in Napa, we’ve loved exploring the diverse landscapes.
We work on a range of exciting productions, including shows on travel, business, sport, cuisine, and property for CNNI. Australian production companies also often use us for factual documentaries, as they are comforted by the fact that they have a reliable go-to Aussie production team based on the West Coast!
If anyone is interested in getting in contact, you can reach me through my website! www.cinebeau.com
Writing for Clips has set me thinking on 25 years in the industry.
There’s been many rewarding jobs to look back on and be proud of. They range from things like the many Targa Australia documentaries, Big-Screen productions for V8 Supercars, Discover Tasmania TV travel series, Hobart International Tennis OB’s and our own ACS National Awards at MONA, to name a few. The two major highlights would have to be a Live Concert DVD I produced and directed for the Southern Gospel Choir and Big Australia, a documentary series, which is still being aired on Channel 7 and overseas.
The Hobart International Tennis has been a great annual project for me to manage. It’s a challenge every year, and one I really look forward to. Months of planning and preparation culminate in 7 days of competition and when it’s over I look back on it with a great sense of relief and achievement.
As the event has grown I’ve needed to grow the production with it. What began as a simple coverage of the 3 finals matches has incrementally expanded and now includes - live web streams of all centre court matches, vision feeds to corporate areas at the tennis centre, provision of match DVD’s for players, uploading game highlights packages to YouTube, providing the on-court PA system and finally, live coverage of all 3 finals on Fox Sports and International networks.
With a very limited budget, my two boys and I put the whole 9 camera outside broadcast together over 3 days prior to the event. In the first days of competition, we run a 4-camera web coverage using locked-off cameras. As the finals near we bring a full production crew on to deliver the live TV coverage. The job has become much easier recently as my son, David and I rebuilt the Southern Cross OB van – a job we powered through over a very hectic 3- week period.
Along with my regular daily camera shifts at Southern Cross, I’ve recently taken on my largest project to date - responsibility for all match-day production at Blundstone Arena. The ground only had basic infrastructure in place and needed work to bring it up to the required standard. Designing and installing production facilities for local, national and international cricket, plus AFL matches, has been very exciting and rewarding. On match days I oversee the technical operation of the on-ground vision and PA, as well as direct and switch the cameras for the big screens. The whole job has been a huge learning curve for me but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve found it particularly satisfying solving each problem along the way and bringing innovative solutions that take the production to a higher level.
In addition to the Blundstone work my wife Fiona and I travel regularly with a national organisation of women singers. They hold annual competitions in different states of Australia and we provide the coverage.
Easy job you may say, but a 4-cameras coverage is required to produce the in-house screen video content, plus a live web stream of competition days. We also have to provide recordings of all performances and individual video and audio copies on USB for each competitor, immediately after the competition concludes. With over 30 performances each day plus ISO feeds to record this gets very busy and keeps us on our toes. We’ve also have traveled our ‘flyaway’ HD OB rig to the Gold Coast, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne, Launceston and Wollongong for event recordings in recent years.
Amongst all this, there’s still time to keep the camera rolling!
Shooting TV commercials and on-air content fill up my days along with live crosses for the 7, 9 and 10 networks.
Despite the constantly busy life, I wouldn’t change a thing.
There’s nothing like the satisfaction you get when you sit back and finally get to watch the production you’ve played a major role in creating!
Work is booked solid for the next few months with the Royal Hobart Show, local and international cricket matches at Blundstone, CCU gigs for national OB’s, plus local program production and more TV commercials… I wouldn’t have it any other way.
© 2017 Australian Cinematographers Society