Band Pro Film and Digital sat down with Los Angeles-based cinematographer Cira Felina Bolla, ICG, to discuss her impressions following a Sony F65 camera test; and to learn more about her cinematic influences.
Q: Recently you and your crew came down to Band Pro’s Burbank office to shoot a scene. Can you tell us about the project?
Amnon Band invited me to kick off Band Pro’s “F65 CINEMATOGRAPHER'S SERIES” and test the SONY F65 at their Burbank office. There were no parameters, simply an opportunity to explore further. Our only limitation was the space available to perform our test, approximately 15’ x 15’ foot enclosed by a trellis in the center of the showroom floor.
I had called in Elizabeth (Beth) Van Dam, a brilliant Production Designer and First AC Sebastien Thibeau to join me for the day.
Beth and I had discussed the initial inspiration to approach the camera test. Together we pulled our resources and made it happen. The intention behind the look for this world (of our camera test) was to create a mix genre titled, "Neo Gothic: Magic." It is past, present and future with classic elements & hard light.
In this case, there was just an idea for an image that would allow for a test and simultaneously look at the performance of various elements of the F65 format all at once in a series of shots. Working with Beth allowed for the perfect elements and colors in the frame, background, coloration, depth, contrast and texture.
First I set out to determine how this camera would conform to my working style and artistic sensibility; then to observe the results of the Sony F65 performance in the D.I.
F65 was rated at 800 ASA
I tested for:
- Chromatic Aberration
- Dynamic Range: How much information would this format hold in the highlights (with my preference for hard light)
- Performance in Mixed Lighting HMI & TUNGSTEN (given the tonal retention of each color temp)
- Color space (all channels with emphasis on reproduction of the color RED)
- Noise in the Blue Channel (See Black & White)
- Overall Latitude- where does the image fall apart?
- No chromatic aberration. Found in this exploration that both the front element of the Leica Prime and the sensor performed with precision.
- Held information up to: 2 ½ stops *over* in the Highlights.
- Retained subtle detail in the tonal retention of a mixed lighting set up.
- RED reproduction was stunning. Even a strand of Red (auburn) hair in front of a true red backdrop retained its definition and clarity.
- No noise, specifically in the blue channel
- And another happy accident was this image reproduced beautifully in Black and White.
- This opens the realm of possibility for work in Black and White.
Second Look: Black and White
This second test was to further a glimpse we discovered in the first test by isolating each channel/ layer in Black and White. This gave us an accurate visual of gray scale tonality reproduction to determine if there was noise; and if so where?
While we did look at the test in Monochrome, the monochrome produced highlights that bloomed slightly more and overall contrast was minimized visually. By mixing the channels, the contrast was creatively balanced when we mixed the ratios and were able to look for potential problems in each layer. Here again, in Black & White, the dynamic range of this sensor exceeded my expectations, even as it was put to the test to achieve great tonal balance.
The following are levels per color channel:
Third Look: Stylized, Technicolor 3- Strip with a slight “Bleach Bypass”
Inspired by the use of an early photographic process using “Subtractive Color” to achieve a Technicolor 3 strip look, the “Red” was isolated to maintain the true red reference and the auburn hair color of our subject. This version of the test showed the F65’s sensor ability to articulate all variances in color space, dynamic range, resolution and tonal detail while capturing neutrality in the highlights and keeping skin tones relevant in our mixed lighting conditions. ··This look was achieved by pulling back the Cyan and isolating the Red channel.
DI: DAVINCI RESOLVE
DI in 4K
MONITORING in 2K- BARCO
Added an overlay of properly exposed film grain: 64D FUJI (scanned at 2K)
Q: How was it working with Band Pro’s resident technical guru, Randy Wedick?
Randy is fantastic! He was there to help answer questions with my First AC, Sebastien Thibeau, and gave me and my team the floor to set up "a world within a world" to perform our tests.· Randy also attended the Digital Intermediate at Hollywood DI and we were collectively amazed with the results that we viewed projected in 2K. It was dreamlike!!
Q: What new gear did you get a chance to use?
We used the Sony F65 with Leica Primes and Tiffen Glass (Glimmer Glass 1)
Q: What impressed you the most?
First off, I want to be upfront about this. I LOVE film and I did not expect the results we achieved with the Sony F65 test.
I’m most impressed with the F65's color-space, sensor and latitude. I'll explain: its ability to hold information in the highlights up to 2 ½ stops over and up to 3 stops under in the shadows without degradation; no noise in the Blue channel; or any of the other layers. No other HD camera has been capable of this until now. This is how today's properly exposed film behaves. I was able to shoot this like I would a dense negative even with pushing its boundaries. There was lucidity; and voila, this test proved its ability to create a "cinematic" image versus a "realistic" image.
The intention was to approach the F65 test with my working sensibilities not the other way around. Could it be used as a creative tool the way I work with a 35mm Motion Picture Film, or would I be concerned with altering the creative process to navigate its technology? The test was approached authentically to challenge and understand its limitations.
In the end, it’s a lot like working with a film camera.· The only way to determine the results of the F65's performance with 100% certainty is in the DI. ·There was no way to tell while working on set, regardless of monitoring and setting LUT's. ·For this reason, it’s a similar process to working on film and seeing your dailies for the first time, uncorrected. Once in the DI, to see the image projected allowed the eye to determine all of the results which are listed above. The technology is moving forward exponentially and I foresee a time in the future when we will have accurate monitoring as part of our work flow. ·This will help our directors and producers sleep better at night.· But regardless of monitoring, as Cinematographer's we must have the ability to view the image projected and review channels in the DI to make our own determinations.
Q: Whose work are you currently amazed by?
Cinematographer Ben Smithard, BSC, and his work on "My Week with Marilyn". It was visually stunning, classic, and transported me to another time and place with light and composition.
Q: Any advice for folks who are just getting started, or want to?
Advice: "ART and CREATIVITY"
Study art history. It's the single most important teacher for anyone pursuing a cinematographic path, to embrace the intangibles of art and apply them to one’s own work in an authentic way. I think the notion of art is not as emphasized in contemporary film schools. If you ask students about the greats in cinema, many have not even studied the pillars of cinema, which in my opinion are: Italian Neo-Realism, The golden years of Hollywood, German Expressionism.· These periods are influences in my work.
Become proficient with technology but challenge it. Use it as a tool & know: it’s not the camera... it’s the creativity. That's the Cinematographer's "raison d’être" to serve the story, create & capture beauty, and be the conduit for the director's vision.
Q: What’s the best way for readers to learn more about you and your work?
Via my website: www.cirafelinabolla.com or for work related inquiries, my agents at: The Mirisch Agency in Beverly Hills.
Additionally: My sincere thanks to Amnon Band, Randy Wedick and the team at BAND PRO! Beth Van Dam, Production Designer extraordinaire! www.bethvandam.com. First AC, Sebastien Thibeau and "LIGHT IT UP LA" for Grip and Electric: www.lightitupla.com as well as "Hollywood D.I.", www.hollywooddi.com CEO, Neil W. Smith and Colorist, Aaron Peak. Thank you!!!