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This Minute at Runco

Game-Changing Live Action Cinematography

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Those of you who are following this blog or Runco’s Facebook page, know that we have asked for recommendations of what I should watch on the new QuantumColor Q-750d projector going into my new home theater.  Our own cinema expert, Jeremy Sternhagen, told me today that his recommendation from my list was definitely Sam Mendes’ latest installment to the James Bond series, SkyFall.  “It’s the best looking of the three,” he said and then added jabbingly, “Plus, cartoons don’t count.”  Of course, Cars and Avatar are mostly computer generated animation (CGI) without the use of traditional cameras. 

I asked Jeremy why he preferred Skyfall, beyond the fact that it was live action, and his response was insightful, as always.  “This movie was shot digitally with the Arri Alexa camera.  Anything I have seen shot with that camera is stunning on BluRay.  In fact, this was the first movie I ever saw that wasn’t shot with 70mm film that I thought could give 70mm a run for its money.” 

He went onto explain that Roger Deakins, who was the cinematographer on Skyfall, is a huge and vocal fan about the Alexa camera.  In a November 2011 article, he told the American Society of Cinematographers that “the Alexa is a game-changer.  This moment has been coming for a long time, really, but with the Alexa I believe digital has finally surpassed film in terms of quality. What is quality? It’s really in the eye of the viewer, but to me, the Alexa’s tonal range, color space and latitude exceed the capabilities of film. This is not to say that I don’t still love film — I do. I love its texture and grain, but in terms of speed, resolution and clarity of image, there is no question in my mind that the Alexa produces a better image. There is a beautiful roll-off between highlights and shadows [on the Alexa] that I haven’t seen before. There’s a subtlety in color rendition that is fantastic. I tested it in candlelight, and it was beautiful how the camera picked up variations in skin tones and texture. If you shot that same scene with film, you’d get a very monochromatic feel — just a color wash — but the Alexa can read subtleties that film cannot.”

Deakens has 10 Academy Award nominations, including this past year, but not a single win.  “A cinematic crime in my opinion,” Jeremy asserted.  This year’s winner was the Life of PI which was beautiful, but heavily used digital effects, which are difficult to accurately compared with live action.

 

So, I asked Jeremy what other movies, shot on an Alexa, are worthy of screening in a Runco theater?  “There are too many to list, but The Avengers and Hugo are a few that are demo worthy.” We’ll definitely add these our list, especially since some of these are among my children’s favorites.  To see other movies shot with the Arri Alexa, see the filmography.

 

What other movies would you recommend us watching on opening night (or shortly there after)?  Leave your comments and ideas on Runco’s Facebook page.

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